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EARLY START

Donald Trump Vows Evidence Against Accusations; The First Lady Trump Takedown; Trump Accuser Speaks to CNN; North Carolina Reeling From Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew; Boko Haram Releases 21 Chibok Girls. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 18, 2016 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Emotional speech going after Donald Trump without once mentioning him by name.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Thirty minutes after the hour now. Christine Romans, she had airplane trouble. Seriously.

This morning, Donald Trump says there is a conspiracy to defeat him. He launched a defiant defensive, scathing assault against the media and the list of women -- the growing list of women who accuse him of kissing and groping and sexual assault.

Overnight, one of Trump's accusers spoke out in her first television interview adding some new details to her claims. She sat down for an exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper. And she says it was Donald Trump's statements about sexual misconduct to Anderson at the second debate that inspired her to go public to "The New York Times."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA LEEDS, ACCUSES TRUMP OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: When you specifically asked Trump had he ever groped a woman or I forget how you phrased it, and he said no, and I literally wanted to throw something at the TV or punch my hand in the TV. And that -- that was Sunday night. And Monday morning, I found myself writing an e-mail. A letter to the editor to "The Times."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: We're going to have much more from Anderson's interview a little bit later. But first, Donald Trump's remarkable defense against these claims and what he considers the conspiracy to defeat him.

In Florida and Ohio, he blasted the accusers and the accusations. The accusations that he groped and kissed women. He called them pure fiction. He promised to produce evidence that these accusations are false, though he didn't really do so yesterday.

CNN's Sara Murray has the latest.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: With less than four weeks until Election Day, Donald Trump spent most of yesterday denying allegations from multiple women from different parts of the country who say they were sexually assaulted by Donald Trump. Trump clearly agitated and angry by these accusations insisted they were outright lies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false. And the Clintons know it. And they know it very well. These claims are all fabricated. They're pure fiction and they're outright lies. These events never ever happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: But Donald Trump didn't just take aim at the veracity of their claims. He took aim at the women who were making them. Questioning why they had taken so long to report these and in one instance even seeming to suggest that the woman was not attractive enough to warrant Donald Trump's attention.

Now all this comes at an interesting point for the Trump campaign. Not only is he sliding in the polls but they've pinned their strategy on taking both Hillary and Bill Clinton to task for women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct in the 1990s. And the Trump campaign has insisted repeatedly that all those women deserved to be believed.

Now he will be back on the campaign trail today in North Carolina. And if last night is any preview, he is trying to transition away from these accusations and back to the issues. We'll see if he's successful. Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. You heard Sara Murray talked about the idea that Trump sort of floated during his speech that the "People" magazine reporter, he hinted maybe she's not attractive enough to have received the attention he is accused to have given her. Let's play that clip for you here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Think of it. She's doing this story on Melania, who is pregnant at the time, and Donald Trump, our one-year anniversary. And she said I made inappropriate advances. And by the way, the area was a public area. People all over the place. Take a look. You take a look, look at her, look at her words, you tell me what you think. I don't think so. I don't think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: "Look at her. I don't think so." That's what Donald Trump said.

This morning, Melania Trump is calling out "People" magazine to retract one part of the story. Not the part where the writer alleges that Trump sexually assaulted her. Mrs. Trump is only calling on "People" to withdraw the writer's description of a friendly conversation she allegedly had with Trump's wife after bumping into her on the street. Mrs. Trump says that never happened.

As for the "New York Times," it is telling Trump that he can go ahead and sue. The newspaper is standing by its story. The paper issued a scathing rejection letter. The lawyer notes that a libel claim is about protecting one's reputation and then ticks off Trump's on-the- record bragging about sexual matters. The attorney writes, "Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump through his own words and actions has already created for himself."

This morning, President Obama campaigns for Hillary Clinton in an early voting event in Ohio. But it was his wife, the first lady, Michelle Obama, who really sent shockwaves through this campaign. It was an arresting speech in New Hampshire. The likes of which she's really never given before. It was an all-out-takedown of Donald Trump without once mentioning him by name.

[04:35:02] CNN's Jeff Zeleny has that story.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: As Hillary Clinton continues her West Coast fundraising swing, the bench of Democrats is out campaigning for her. First and foremost, Michelle Obama making an impassioned plea, a personal and pointed message against Donald Trump.

She was speaking in New Hampshire yesterday in one of the most interesting political speech that she's given. She was emotional. Her words broke at times as she said people of all parties should be disturbed by what Donald Trump has said about women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Too many are treating this as just another day's headline. As if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted. As if this is normal. Just politics as usual.

But New Hampshire, yes, be clear, this is not normal. This is not politics as usual.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

M. OBAMA: This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn't matter what party you belong to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: In their fight to hold the White House, Democrats believe it is Michelle Obama who speaks with the most moral authority and on the most moral high ground or what's left of it in American politics. She will be campaigning more over the next four weeks to make this case to men and women. And she said everyone who is concerned with basic decency.

Now of course the Trump campaign pushing back on all of this. And Hillary Clinton is seizing on Michelle Obama's comments as well, asking her supporters to watch them. And Hillary Clinton is going to Seattle later today to another fundraiser before flying back to New York to prepare for that third debate which is next week in Nevada.

BERMAN: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

As we mentioned before, President Obama, he is in Ohio right now. He had an event there last night. He's got one this morning. He had a message for Republicans who have only now begun -- some Republicans only now begun to disavow Donald Trump. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know better. A lot of these folks who ran and they didn't say anything. And so they don't get credit for at the very last minute when finally the guy that they nominated and they endorsed and they supported is caught on tape saying things that no decent person would even think, much less say, much less brag about, much less laugh about or joke about, much less act on, you can't wait until that finally happens and then say that's too much, that's enough. And think that somehow you are showing any kind of leadership and deserve to be elected to the United States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: New revelations this morning about Hillary Clinton's e-mail practices. She submitted written answers to the conservative watch dog group Judicial Watch. She said she relied on advisers to manage her server. She claims she does not recall being contacted by the State Department about preserving her e-mails. She also said hacking concerns were never raised and that she chose to use personal e-mail server for convenience. She has since said that was a mistake and she apologized.

The Trump campaign wants to know why now, why did Donald Trump's accusers wait until the final weeks of the race to come forward. You're going to hear from one in her own words next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:42:47] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You say his hands were everywhere. Can you be specific?

LEEDS: Well, he was grabbing my breasts and trying to turn me towards him and kissing me and then after a bit, that's when his hands started going -- I was wearing a skirt and his hands started going toward my knee and up my skirt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That was Donald Trump accuser Jessica Leeds speaking exclusively to CNN, telling Anderson Cooper that Trump groped her, quote, "wherever he could find a landing spot." Now her story was first reported by the "New York Times." Trump has vehemently denied these accusations. It alleges that it took place on an airplane in the 1970s and the question a lot of people are asking this morning is why is she coming forward now. Just a few weeks before the elections. This is what she told Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEEDS: I didn't start telling my story until about a year and a half ago when it became apparent that he was making a serious run for the presidency. And I would have an occasion to say to a group of friends, let me tell you my Trump story. Now most of these friends were women. It was my book club. It was this club. It was -- it was neighbors and friends and everything. But a couple of men. My son- in-law, my son, friends, my nephew. The whole thing. And over the year and a half that I've been telling this, it's like it doesn't change it at all. It's still infuriates me when I think about it. But I'm -- you know, it was a long time ago.

It wasn't until Sunday night and all of them, all of my friends would say, you've got to write this story up. You've got to publish it. You've got to contact somebody and make it known. It's too long ago.

COOPER: You didn't want to do that?

LEEDS: No, not particularly. I mean, it was too long ago. So -- but when you at the debate -- well, the Friday night tapes, that whole bus scene, was really annoying.

[04:45:02] And then the debate when you specifically asked Trump had he ever groped a woman or I forget how you phrased it. And he said no.

COOPER: Yes. I asked him if he had ever -- if he was just bragging about sexual assault or if he had actually done what he said.

LEEDS: Right.

COOPER: Had he kissed a woman without consent?

LEEDS: Right.

COOPER: Has he ever groped a woman?

LEEDS: Right. And he said no. And literally wanted to throw something at the TV or punch my hand in the TV. And that was Sunday night. And Monday morning, I found myself writing an e-mail letter to the editor to the "Times."

COOPER: Something about him actually denying it on that stage.

LEEDS: Yes. Yes. As far -- yes. Yes. That's it exactly.

COOPER: What do you think it was about that moment that made you want to go public?

LEEDS: Because I really would like for the fact that he's lying and he lies about so many things, really brought out. And yes, you did. You asked a very good question. But he's very good at all of a sudden he was talking about ISIS and he was talking about defense and he was talking about this, that and the others. So he manages to change the conversation. And I -- sometimes I think I don't think he's even really aware of -- that he's lying. He's built up his defenses in his head to the extent that he doesn't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That was Anderson's interview with Jessica Leeds overnight.

All right. United Airlines suffering widespread delays. So bad they even ensnared EARLY START star Christine Romans. We will tell you what caused the hold-up and if Christine Romans will ever get back. When we get an EARLY START on your money stream. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:51:10] BERMAN: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plans to appeal a court ruling that says there is probable cause to pursue a complaint of official misconduct in the bridgegate scandal. A judge issued a criminal summons for Christie. The complaint stems from the ongoing bridgegate trial and allegations the governor knew about the politically motivated scheme of lane closures that caused traffic jams for days on the George Washington Bridge. Christie has denied any knowledge of it beforehand.

A week after Hurricane Matthew pounded North Carolina the state is still reeling from its aftermath. The death toll is on the rise along with the flood waters. Evacuations are now underway in the eastern part of the state. Thousands of people being forced to take refuge in shelters. And officials fear the worst may be yet to come.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more from Lumberton.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hurricane Matthew may have come and gone but the effects of that massive storm still being felt here in North Carolina. You only have to look behind me to actually see that. Even some of the first responders here in the city of Lumberton, North Carolina. They've forced out of their firehouse and it is still partially submerged, as are so many homes.

We know at least 4,000 people woke up in area shelters this morning. In fact some of the neighbors that we ran across here gave us an opportunity to actually join them on their boat as they were going out to help some of their neighbors remove some of their belongings from some of their homes.

That closer look will give you a better idea, a better perspective of just how much damage was left behind in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. And sadly, the worst may not be over for so many more as there are evacuation orders in effect right now, in the eastern portion of the state. For example, in Kinston, North Carolina, where the Neuse River is expected to reach record flood levels tonight into tomorrow.

Also in Greenville, North Carolina, at least 9,000 residents have already evacuated their homes. That's roughly one in 10 residents now that will be spending the night in shelters as again the effects of Hurricane Matthew still being felt in the southeast.

BERMAN: And they have some tough days still to come. Our thanks to Polo for that.

Hurricane Nicole is weakening as it moves out to sea away from Bermuda. This is what the storm looked like from space when it was passing over the island. Huge storm. It brought 125-mile-an-hour winds. It never officially made landfall which was a good thing for Bermuda, though it did drop a lot of rain. As much as eight in Bermuda by the time it's all over.

Big storms in the west this morning. I want to turn to meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John.

(WEATHER REPORT)

VAN DAM: Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, Derek, thanks so much.

Boko Haram militants have released 21 of the missing school girls as well as a baby born to one of them. This happened after a series of negotiations with Nigeria's government.

I want to get to CNN senior intentional correspondent Nima Elbagir who's covered this story so much for us over the last year or so.

Nima, what's the latest?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, it has been an excruciating and torturous journey just to get this far.

[04:55:04] But 21 girls -- over 200 we believe still remaining in Boko Haram hands. But 21 finally on their way to see their families. And you mentioned that little baby boy. And that gives you a sense, perhaps, of the deprivations that these girls have faced over the last two and a half years of captivity. Forced marriage, forced to bear the babies of their captives. Many of them saying that those who were taken alongside them didn't survive captivity.

But for the families still desperately seeking to find out if their daughters are amongst them because the identification process isn't yet complete, John. Even if their girls are amongst this first trench of released captives, the government has assured them that this is only the beginning, that these negotiations are continuing and that now hope and optimism finally can take root within those homes -- John.

BERMAN: It's good news, but too long in the coming. Nima Elbagir, thanks so much.

Let's get an EARLY START on your money stream right now. Dow futures up just slight this morning, following a dip yesterday. Stock markets in Europe and Asia are higher, helping to fuel some of the optimism. Oil prices are back above $51 barrel. United Airlines suffered a system wide flight delay issue last night.

Ensnaring Christine Romans in Washington, D.C. where she is still -- I'm sure she's awake and watching right now. A spokesperson for the airlines says the issue is now resolved. The airline's wait reporting system was the cause. United apologizes for the delays, but wouldn't say how many flights or passengers were affected beyond Christine Romans.

It was a policy debate that finally happened and our own Christine Romans was the moderator. That is why she's in Washington, D.C. She was joined at the moderators' table by Greg Ipp from the "Wall Street Journal." On the other side, Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore and Gene Sperling, a Clinton economic adviser. The debate was hosted by the National Association of Business Economics. The sides have different visions and promise for the U.S. economy. Romans asked how a Trump administration would achieve their goal of 4 percent economic growth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MOORE, TRUMP ECONOMIC ADVISER: First of all, if Trump wins, he's going to have a Republican Congress. And we will be able to pass at least our business tax cut, I think, within the first 100 to 150 days. We will have a stack of executive orders that he can sign that can undo a lot of the executive orders that Barack Obama has put in place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: But Gene Sperling says that Hillary Clinton is the one who knows how to get the economy moving because he says she has done it before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GENE SPERLING, CLINTON ECONOMY ADVISER: Hillary Clinton was part of the administration that I was part of that had the four-year -- the only four-year surplus and had a strategy very much like hers which was raising taxes on those who could afford it the most and having the strong public investment strategy. And that led to the -- that was part of the last time we had 4 percent growth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: It's interesting. Gene Sperling said she was part of the administration. I think he was talking about her husband's administration, Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

We're going to have much more on that economic debate at CNNMoney.com.

All right. Chico, here they come. The Los Angeles Dodgers, they will play the Cubs for the National League pennant. How well, in a dramatic Game 5 victory over the Washington Nationals. They prevailed and Dodgers used starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw in relief to get the final two outs in the 4-3 win. They are leaning on that man, Clayton Kershaw, to get them through the playoffs. Will it work against the Cubs? I'm not sure it's going to be enough. Game 1 Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

EARLY START continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We already have substantial evidence to dispute these lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump digs in and lashes out. He flat-out denies all the sexual assault allegations, but his accusers not backing down either. One of them spoke exclusively to CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Is that what we want for our children?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Michelle Obama like you have never seen her before, really unprecedented speech. A scathing speech about Donald Trump without once mentioning his name.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman. Christine Romans, stuck in Washington, D.C. because of the United flight delays. It is Friday, October 14th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And this morning, a defining moment in the race for president. Donald Trump, he launches a defiant, defensive, conspiracy laced diatribe against the media and the list of women who accuse him now of kissing, groping and sexual assault.

Overnight, one of Trump's accusers spoke out in her first television interview adding new details to her claims. This in an exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper. She says it was Trump's claims about sexual misconduct to Anderson in the second debate in St. Louis that inspired her to first go public to "The New York Times."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA LEEDS, ACCUSES TRUMP OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: When you specifically asked Trump had he ever groped a woman or I forget how you phrased it.

(END)