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Trump Doubles Down on Immigration; Clinton Campaign Responds; Hurricane Warning in Florida; Massive Rescue Operation at Sea. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 1, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:14] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump doing away with any suggestion he is softening his stance on immigration. His fiery speech in Phoenix revving up his base.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The Clinton campaign not holding back, calling Trump's speech his darkest yet. We look at how Hillary Clinton responds.

ROMANS: Hurricane warnings now in effect for the Florida panhandle, as the powerful tropical storm barrels through the path. It's shifting ever slightly. Could this storm now wreck the holiday for millions of Americans?

Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Today is Thursday, September 1st, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And breaking overnight, Donald Trump on immigration. Doubling down on his tough talk, speaking directly to his supporters in Arizona. Trump gave his highly anticipated speech intended to clear up his murky positions on the issue of immigration.

This was a fired up Trump. Very different from what we saw in Mexico. We will have more of that in a moment. Trump laid out a plan point by point, including no amnesty for immigrants living illegally. And the U.S. advocating for what he called the deportation task force focused on expelling criminals, leaving the idea of mass deportation of undocumented immigrants for some later date.

No federal funding for U.S. sanctuary cities like San Francisco and no visas for visitors from countries without adequate security screenings. Here are some other highlights from that speech. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Zero tolerance for criminal aliens. Zero. Zero.

There are at least 2 million, 2 million think of it, criminal aliens, now inside of our country, 2 million people. We will begin moving them out day one as soon as I take office, day one. I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on

identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice. Just like Hillary Clinton has evaded justice, maybe they will be able to deport her.


HOWELL: That was Donald Trump there in Arizona. Though it came in direct contrast to his last minute trip hours earlier, with the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto. That conversation by all accounts seem respectable and seem calm.

But one key question emerged from the meeting, Trump's vow to have Mexico pay for a border wall. Trump says that that was not discussed. The Mexican president tweeted that it was. And he said no.

CNN's Sara Murray is with the Trump campaign, has the very latest for us.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, George and Christine.

Well, anyone who thought Donald Trump was softening on his immigration policies got their answer as he was campaigning last night in Phoenix, Arizona. He said he was going to add 5,000 new border patrol agents. He was going to triple the number of ICE deportation officers. And as for the 11 undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., Trump said those weren't his main priority. That's border security. But he said, if they ever hope to have legal status, they would first have to leave, return to their home countries, and apply through the appropriate channels.

TRUMP: As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities. But unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement and ICE and border patrol officers will be allowed to do their jobs the way the jobs are supposed to be done. Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country.

MURRAY: Now, earlier in the day, he traveled to Mexico where he held a cordial meeting with the president of Mexico. By the time he got to Arizona, he was ready to serve up red meat.

Now, we saw many sides of Donald Trump yesterday. Today, he is campaigning in Ohio. We'll see if he continues to speak to his GOP base or if he aims to expand it.

Back to you, guys.


ROMANS: All right, Sara. Thank you for that.

New details now on the Trump's brief trip to Mexico for that private meeting with the Mexican President Pena Nieto. Now, the main disagreement to go public from the sit-down concerns Trump's promise border wall. At the briefing that followed, the two men did not discuss the subject of who pays for the wall.


TRUMP: We did discuss the wall. We did not discuss payment of the wall. That will be for a later date.

[04:05:00] This was a very preliminary meeting. I think it was an excellent meeting.


ROMANS: But hours after Trump left, President Pena Nieto tweeted in Spanish, "At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall." The Mexican leader also told Trump that NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, benefits both the U.S. and Mexico. He argued that more than 6 million U.S. jobs rely on exports to Mexico. Trump has consistently slammed NAFTA on the campaign trail.

HOWELL: The Clinton campaign reacting to Trump's immigration speech, dismissing any notion that Donald Trump can pivot or evolve. Clinton's response came by way of a tweet that was short and direct. Quote, "There is no other Donald Trump. This is it."

Before that, the former secretary of state mocked Trump's trip to Mexico in a tweet that she wrote herself, saying the following, "Trump just failed his first foreign test. Diplomacy", she wrote, "isn't as easy as it looks." Clinton also slammed Trump during her speech to the American Legion's national convention in Cincinnati.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny was there and has the latest for us.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christine and George, Hillary Clinton is off the campaign trail today, taking a bit of long Labor Day holiday weekend. But they are still watching and analyzing Donald Trump's trip to Mexico on Wednesday.

She talked about it as she gave a speech in Cincinnati. She said simply looking presidential doesn't necessarily mean you are ready to be one.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: People have to get to know they can count on you, that you won't say one thing one day and something totally different the next. And it certainly takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours and flying home again. That is not how it works.

ZELENY: And the chairman of the Clinton campaign, John Podesta, used even stronger language. He said simply, Trump choked. He said this, "What we saw today for a man who claims to be the ultimate deal maker is he doesn't have the courage to advocate for his campaign promises when he is not in front of a friendly crowd." Of course, he is talking about Trump's long held pledge to have Mexico pay for the wall.

Now, of course, this is not going to end, this back and forth between Trump and Clinton. Both will be taking a bit of a respite from campaigning before picking up again on Labor Day Monday, the big start for the long campaign ahead -- Christine and George.


ROMANS: Sixty-seven, sixty-eight days to go. The Clinton campaign will pause all operations on September 11th to honor the 15th anniversary of the 2001 attacks. An aide says there will be no ads or events that day. That decision comes after the nonprofit group 9/11 Day campaign asked all the presidential candidates to suspend activity to honor the day the Trump campaign did not immediately returned a call asking about his plan.

HOWELL: The Supreme Court saying no to a controversial voter I.D. law in North Carolina. The justices are refusing to overturn the decision last month by an appeals court that said the law disproportionately affected African-Americans. As a result of the high court ruling, early voting will be extended now for 17 days and voters won't have to present photo I.D.s of their precincts. Hillary Clinton called it, quote, "great news for North Carolina."

ROMANS: The real reason Donald Trump was invited to meet with Mexico's president -- money. A Mexican government official and a source close to the Mexican government both tell CNN the idea for that invitation came from Mexico's finance ministry. And it also wants Hillary Clinton to come visit.

The sources say the country wants to show it can work with both candidates and here's why: the Mexican central bank registered more than $11 billion in capital in the first half of 2016. Investors pulling money out of Mexico due to uncertainty of trade and immigration policies with the U.S. Finance ministry officials hope that having Donald Trump in Mexico will calm those investors.

The visits are also an attempt to prevent the peso from falling. It is near the lowest level against the U.S. dollar. One peso now worth 5 U.S. cents.

One interesting note, when Clinton leads in the polls, the peso strengthens. The opposite happens when the polls tighten.

HOWELL: So, interesting, though. You know, just one more reminder of how strong, how important the U.S. economy is.

ROMANS: This is the third largest trading partner, Mexico and the U.S. So, that trade relationship is very complex, lots of overlaps. You heard the president of Mexico yesterday say 6 million jobs in the U.S. depend on exports to Mexico, huge ag business on both sides of the border, flows both ways. It's just not cut and dry, that relationship at all. HOWELL: No, it's not.

We are following a situation in the Florida panhandle where a hurricane warning now in effect. Tropical Storm Hermine is gaining strength. We'll look at when it will make landfall and how much the east coast could be affected.

And a quick programming note. On Monday, we'll have to special reports on both presidential nominees with personal stories from those who know them best. Join us for "Unfinished Business: The Essential Hillary Clinton", Monday night at 8:00.

[04:10:03] Followed by "All Business: The Essential Donald Trump" at 10:00.


ROMANS: Breaking overnight: a hurricane warning issued for the Florida panhandle. Tropical Storm Hermine gaining strengths, now forecast to be a hurricane before it makes landfall tonight or Friday.

Look at that path. All right. This path is shifting slightly westward. It could wreck the holiday weekend in the New York area.

I want to bring in meteorologist Pedram Javaheri for the very latest.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, guys. Yes, the wide reaching impacts you're going to be felt across much of the Eastern Seaboard in the coming couple of days. But look at Hermine right now, sitting there just 13 miles per hour shy of becoming a hurricane. Of course, at this point, it really doesn't matter what the storm system does became we do know hurricane warnings have been issued.

Indications are this will become a hurricane right around midnight Thursday, into the early morning hours of Friday. In fact, look at this, even tropical storm watches issued from Charleston south towards Jacksonville, as the storm crosses over into the Atlantic.

[04:15:06] Flood watch is a very concern across this region. We have a Tallahassee area, Jacksonville, Macon, Augusta -- it will be pretty narrow band of heavy rainfall, the outer bands of the storm system producing rains across the region. Of course, the severe weather threat will be in place as well come Thursday afternoon with some isolated risk for tornadoes.

But here is the immediate coastline. Storm surge warning for storm surge threat, where we could see this at times, especially with high tide, up to 7 feet high. And then you take a look at the track, it comes in as a category one. That is the initial indication, rides the parallel of the eastern coastline here. Even by Sunday afternoon and Sunday night, this could be a tropical storm impacting areas of, say, Boston and New York with heavy rainfall.

That point, but the heaviest rain locked in around the Gulf Coast as much as six to ten inches possible into early this weekend -- guys.


HOWELL: Pedram, thank you.

Some good news for thousands of people in the path of those powerful storms. The Social Security Administration has your back. The benefit checks are in the mail. Officials say they are delivered as early as today ahead of the regular 3rd of the month pay date to help people buy items they may need in order to weather the storm.

The nearly 13,000 Social Security recipients in Florida, North Carolina and Hawaii are affected.

ROMANS: All right. Federal investigators are heading to the scene of a midair coalition between two small planes in Alaska. The five people on board the plane were killed. Authorities say the crash happened Wednesday in a remote part of the state, almost 400 miles from Anchorage. Still no details on how those two planes collided.

HOWELL: More people are dying on America's roads and highways. Government statistics show traffic deaths rose more than 7 percent between 2014 and 2015. The biggest jump in almost 50 years. And this year is actually on track to be even worse. Officials say increased smartphone use is the main culprit. It is creating more distracted drivers. They say job growth and lower gas prices are factors with more people spending more time on the roads.

ROMANS: That's a sad twist. The economy is getting better and people take to the roads, and that means there are more crashes.

All right. A new medical study reveals promising results from human trials from an Alzheimer's drug. The researchers say the drug cleared toxic plaque in the brains of early stage Alzheimer's patients. Doctors believe that plaque deposits play a critical role in blocking communications among nerve cells.

The drug has not shown any cognitive benefits. Experts say that would be a game changer. I can tell you folks in the Alzheimer's world are very excited about some of the preliminary results here.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

We've been telling you the story about thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean. Well, many of them saved from the waters there. These pictures -- they are dramatic. We are live in Europe, next.


[04:22:17] ROMANS: All right. More on that huge rescue operation at sea we told you about. More than 6,000 people saved from the Mediterranean, plucked from the flimsy boats and rafts they crammed into, in this desperate attempt to escape violence and conflict.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman live in Rome with more on the dangerous journey and their dramatic rescue. For the past few days, I mean, the tales of the women and children

coming off these boats has been harrowing.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Now, at this point, Christine, we are talking about 12,500 people rescued off the coast of Libya since Sunday afternoon. Of course, the real surge was between Sunday afternoon and Monday midnight when it was more than 6,500.

But we are talking about at this point, more than 12,500 people arriving in Italy since the beginning of this year. And amazingly, that number is slightly down from the year before. But Italian authorities are struggling to deal with the numbers because, of course, the numbers are very much concentrated in this period.

If you look at those pictures put out by the Italian coast guard, the sea is very calm. So, the human traffickers in Libya use this opportunity to cram mostly unseaworthy fishing boats, tug boats or simply dinghies with outboard motors on them, cramming 40 or 50 or 60 people on board, which includes often women, children.

And as we saw, two twins who were just 5 years old were rescued from one of those boats. They're from Eritrea. They suffered from malnutrition, dehydration, and hypothermia. Fortunately, they were flown by a helicopter to a hospital in Palermo, Sicily, where we are told by the doctors there that they are doing better, as well as their 26-year-old mother from Ethiopia, in Eritrea.

But, certainly, what we're seeing as these numbers at the end of the summer, the early autumn, the seas are calm, taking advantage of this last window of opportunity to make the escape, make the dangerous journey to Europe. According to the international organization for migration, there are still several hundred thousand people in Libya waiting to make the crossing.

ROMANS: Ben, those pictures of those babies is just heartbreaking. The pictures of the little children handed off these rickety boats, just terrifying as a parent, as human quite frankly.

[04:25:02] What happens to people when they are received? They are taken to a shelter, they're given a meal, but then what?

WEDEMAN: Once they get off the boat, they checked -- a quick medical check. They are given something to wear on their feet because many of them are bare feet. Many have nothing at all other than the clothing they are wearing.

They then taken to reception centers and given a proper meal, they're given a bed. And they have the opportunity to apply for political asylum. And at this point, Italy has 148,000 people in the reception centers waiting for some sort of resolution of their status. They're either be accepted as refugees or in some cases, they could be flown back to the country of origin.

But it's a long and difficult process that goes on for months and sometimes years. ROMANS: All right. Ben Wedeman, thanks for that.

Hard to watch.

HOWELL: Very hard. It is important to point out with the topic of migration, Europe is struggling, you know, with these many nations there. It's a political hot potato in the United States. But those are the images of the faces of the children, mothers and fathers trying to find a better life.

Donald Trump's softer, respectful tone with the president of Mexico, it became a distant memory by the time he took the stage in Phoenix, Arizona, doubling down on immigration reform. Did Trump do enough to tie up loose ends?

Stay with us.