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EARLY START

Trump Attacks VP Joe Biden; Clinton Campaigning in Florida; White House Defends Obamacare; Pentagon Says Fight for Mosul Will be Fierce. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2016 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Fight Club election edition. Joe Biden talks bouts taking Donald Trump outside. Trump taunts the vice president right back.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump tries to capitalize on Obamacare's rising premiums, but does he understand how health care works in his own companies?

ROMANS: Hillary Clinton gets help on the campaign trail from a one- time Trump target but a brand new of batch of hacked e-mails from WikiLeaks isn't helping at all.

Lots to go through this morning. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: Nice to see you today. I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, October -- what is it? It is October 26th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, and this morning Donald Trump, he seems sure that he wants to throw down with Joe Biden but less sure about whether or where his own employees get health insurance.

Republicans sees the news of rising premiums for Obamacare recipients as a potent weapon for Donald Trump the final forth night of this campaign, assuming he can get his story straight, which seemed to be a problem so far. Listen to the difference a few hours makes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of my employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare.

We don't even use Obamacare. We don't want it. The people don't want it. And I spend more money on health coverage but we don't use it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Also he apparently wants to beat up the vice president who also wants to throttle him.

CNN's Sara Murray is in Florida.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Christine. Donald Trump wrapped up a three-day sprint through the Sunshine state last night and he spent most of the day hitting Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for rising premiums under Obamacare. But you saw this push and pull between Donald Trump trying to stay on the message his advisers wanted him to hammer home. And fighting his gut instinct to want to settle any fight with anyone who has criticized him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Did you see where Biden wants to take me to the back of the barn? Me. He wants -- I'd love that. I'd love that. Mr. Tough Guy. You know, he's Mr. Tough Guy. You know when he's Mr. Tough Guy? When he's standing behind a microphone by himself. That's when he's -- he wants to bring me to the back of the barn. Oh. Some things in life you could really love doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Yes, that was Donald Trump responding to a comment Vice President Joe Biden made a couple of days ago saying he wishes they were both still in high school and he could take Donald Trump out behind the gym.

Now Trump is back on the campaign trail today in North Carolina. And we'll see what message he brings with him. But first he'll be in Washington, D.C. for a ribbon cutting for his new hotel. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Sara Murray. Thanks for that.

Vice President Joe Biden not backing down. He's connecting his threat to take Trump behind the gym to Trump's self-described locker room talk about grabbing women's private parts. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was a pretty good athlete in high school. Play little in college. And people didn't act in the locker room like he talks about. That's not true. And you and I both know from the locker room in the school I went to, one of the guys said, this is what I'm going to do because I'm the star half back or quarter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BIDEN: I'm the boss and my sister or your girlfriends are out there, I would take the guy behind the gym. The point I was making is, he is trying to dumb down, he's insulting everybody in the neighborhoods I come from and the people who play ball and that's the point I was trying to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The point he wants to make because he wants to take Donald Trump behind the gym. So about this fight? Would it ever happen now? Doubtful but back in junior high, maybe a possibility. This is according to an interview just released by Donald Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio. According to that interview, Trump loved to fight in school. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I was a very rebellious kind of person. I don't like to talk about it actually, but I was a very rebellious person and very set in my ways. And --

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, BIOGRAPHER: In eighth grade?

TRUMP: I loved to fight. I always loved to fight.

D'ANTONIO: Physical fights?

TRUMP: Yes. All kinds of fights. Physical --

D'ANTONIO: Arguments?

TRUMP: All types of fights. Any kind of fight, I loved it. Including physical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right, Donald Trump warning that Hillary Clinton's policies on the Syrian conflict would lead to World War III. The Republican nominee telling Reuters that Clinton's calls for more aggressive stance against Syria's Assad regime would draw the U.S. into a confrontation with a nuclear armed Russia which backs Assad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria. You'll end up -- with her plan you'll end up in World War III with Syria. You're going to end up -- Steve, you're going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton. She's incompetent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The Clinton campaign accuses Trump of, quote, "parroting Putin's talking points, while refusing to lay out his own plan for resolving the crisis in Syria."

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton is now trying to strike a delicate balance following the announcements of the Obamacare rate hikes.

[04:05:04] She is standing by the president's signature legislation while conceding the law is not perfect and she promises she will try to do something to address the skyrocketing premiums.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we're going to make changes to fix problems like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: For the latest from the campaign trail, I want to bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Christine. Hillary Clinton is starting the second day of a two- day swing here in Florida. She is fighting hard for those 29 electoral votes in the state and trying to block Donald Trump from winning them. Both candidates were campaigning yesterday across the state of Florida. She said bluntly that Donald Trump is a threat to the country's democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I think this all started when George Washington refused to become a king. Right? Now Donald Trump probably would have called him a loser. Instead, that was one of the most important decisions any president has ever made. Eight years, it's time to move on. So here's the good news. Americans are coming together. At the very moment when Donald Trump is making an unprecedented attack on our democracy, millions of people are registering, voting early, and volunteering in this campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Hillary Clinton campaigning yesterday in south Florida, Broward County, the most heavily concentrated Democratic counties in all of Florida. She's trying to drive Democrats to the polls through early voting, trying to bank as many votes as possible. She'll be campaigning in Palm Beach County today, always the center of political activity particularly on the Democratic side. And then later in Tampa. That is a swing vote area.

Now she believes that Florida is in hand. She is slightly leading in most polls but Donald Trump campaigning so aggressively in the state. She does not need to win the 29 electoral votes for her path to 270 but she hopes to block Donald Trump from winning them. That would likely keep him from all avenues to the presidency -- John and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Thanks, Jeff.

Khzir Khan will be a presence on the campaign on the final weeks of the race in this campaign. The Gold Star father whose Army captain son was killed in Iraq, he was thrust into the spotlight with a speech blasting Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Khan will take Clinton's appeal to the Muslim community in his home state of Virginia with a visit this afternoon to a mosque in Norfolk.

Hillary Clinton picking up another major endorsement. The former Republican secretary of state, Colin Powell, announcing he is voting for the Democratic presidential nominee. Powell said in part Clinton has more experience than Donald Trump and in a jab at her rival said she has the stamina to lead the country.

BERMAN: This wasn't exactly a full throated endorsement. You know, Powell, did say he was going to vote for Hillary Clinton because he really doesn't like Donald Trump, the other guy as he refers to him. But Powell obviously has that issue with Hillary Clinton over the last several months but he does say he will vote for her.

All right. A new revelation from the WikiLeaks e-mail hack. Clinton adviser Neera Tanden suggested the top Clinton aide did not disclose Clinton's use of private e-mail servers earlier because, quote, "they wanted to get away with it." Tanden currently helps run the Clinton transition team. In an e-mail exchange in March of 2015 with campaign chair John Podesta, she wrote, "Why didn't they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy." Podesta replied, "Unbelievable."

ROMANS: All right. Sticker shock for Obamacare. Huge jump in premiums on insurers, dropping coverage. So what will the next president do to fix it? Hillary Clinton would defend and expand Obamacare. She supports adding a public option. Basically a government health insurer that would compete with private companies. She would expand outreach to younger, healthier people. You got to get those people in the insured pool. That's how you reduce cost.

Clinton wants to lower prescription drug costs mostly by promoting competition. She's also proposing a cap on premiums at 8.5 percent of enrollee's income. That would be a significant break from the current which is almost 10 percent.

As for Donald Trump, one of the biggest applause lines at his rallies, repeal, repeal, repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump's plan would repeal Obamacare and get rid of the individual mandate. It would call for breaking down state barriers so insurance companies can sell policies in any state. He also wants to make premium payments tax deductible and ease regulations on importing prescription drugs.

BERMAN: All right. This Obamacare premium hike, the White House now trying to deal with it. Hillary Clinton now trying to say how she will deal with it on the campaign trail. Donald Trump trying to make it the defining issue of the last two weeks. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:13:47] ROMANS: With Obamacare premiums sky rocketing next year, Republicans believe they may have a winning issue less than two weeks before election day. Donald Trump is telling supporters Obamacare is over, declaring the election is now about the battle to blow up the president's signature healthcare law.

We get more this morning from CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John and Christine. Right, these numbers are surprising. I mean, at 22 percent jump on average overall. States like Arizona are seeing 116 percent increase in premiums. For many Republicans, this is the proof of what they've been criticizing for a long time now.

There's still this real question, though. Because Obamacare reduced the rate of growth of health care costs to the lowest rate in 50 years, would not many people now be paying more for premiums and for health care overall if they could afford insurance overall if Obamacare didn't exist? So Republicans are now calling this a disaster, a train wreck. Listen

to what Mike Pence said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama last week compared Obamacare to the Samsung Galaxy 7 phones that have spontaneously burst into flames.

Well, what a coincidence, Mr. President, because that's exactly what we're going to do with Obamacare. We're going to pull it off the market.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:15:05] KOSINSKI: The White House has been countering this saying the vast majority of people on Obamacare aren't going to feel these premium hikes because they get subsidies. And the vast majority of people are able to find a plan that they can afford on Obamacare.

They also say that, you know, the fixes they see for these problems, which in the White House it would be a public option, a government insurer to compete with the others and fill in the gaps, Congress won't take up. They'd also like to see an expansion of Medicaid in the states, but they say many Republican governors won't do that. And in those states, rates have gone up even more -- John and Christine.

BERMAN: All right, Michelle Kosinski at the White House.

The final foreign trip of the presidency is booked. President Obama will visit Greece, Germany and Peru in mid-November after the election. Those three countries, of course, right next to each other. The visit to Greece will be the first by a U.S. president since Bill Clinton in 1999, then after appearing at the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in Lima, Peru, the president will make his sixth trip to Germany. Leaders from France, Italy and the UK will also be there to discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and the war against ISIS.

ROMANS: The federal government still trying to figure out who launched that cyber attack that crippled Web sites around the world last week. National Security director James Clapper says preliminary evidence indicates it was not done by a foreign government. The attack last Friday infected hundreds of thousands of devices in people's homes. Think Web cam and DVRs. Used them to bring down major sites like Netflix and Twitter.

Your baby monitor, we're going to get you.

BERMAN: Controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been charged with criminal contempt for ignoring the order of a job in a racial profiling case. Arpaio is accused of defying the terms of a 2011 court injunction barring his officers from conducting immigration patrols. He could face up to six months in jail if convicted. The six-term sheriff is up for reelection in Maricopa County in November. His trial now set for December. ROMANS: All right. U.S.-trained elite Iraqi forces now less than a

mile from Mosul. The final stages of this operation to retake the city from ISIS fast approaching now. And that comes with a sobering warning from the Pentagon. We've got a live report from the front lines in Iraq next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:21:46] BERMAN: New advances in the battle to recapture Mosul from ISIS, an elite unit of Iraqi army -- of the Iraqi Amy is now in the eastern edge of the city waiting for reinforcements. But there is also word of ISIS fighters on the move.

CNN's Michael Holmes live on the ground near Mosul this morning.

Michael, what's the latest on the advance?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, we were talking a couple of days ago, you'll remember about Sunni tribal leaders up west of Mosul in ISIS-controlled territory telling us about hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families and some leaders leaving Mosul headed for Raqqa. Well, in the last hour or so, we've had word of traffic going in the other direction.

Witnesses inside Mosul telling us that hundreds of ISIS fighters have been come into the town, into the city of Mosul wearing distinctive uniforms, wearing suicide belts and carrying white weaponry. These are suicide squads. These are men -- and we're told they're mostly foreign fighters coming into town prepared to die for the defense of Mosul.

We also had word from witnesses that something else we've discussed in recent days that ISIS may move from the eastern part of the city across the river and into older western part of the city where the streets are narrow and the fighting would be more difficult for Iraqi forces. Well, we are hearing that that also is now happening. And there are signs that ISIS fighters are pulling back across the river from the east into the western part of the city where clearly they're going to make a stand.

We're also hearing that the four main bridges that cross the river from east to west have been mined for explosion. So obviously ISIS has had two years to plan for the defense of Mosul and it seems that some of those plans are now being put into effect -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. Some of the fiercest fighting still apparently to come. Michael Holmes for us near Mosul. Thanks so much, Michael.

ROMANS: The U.S. Senate stepping into the controversy over California National Guard members being told to repay enlistment bonuses. A Senate committee in a letter asking the Pentagon to seize and desist any further efforts to reclaim the bonuses to thousands of soldiers who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Defense Department says many of the veterans received bonuses that recruiters should not have offered them. Their attempt to claw back those bonuses sparking outrage.

BERMAN: All right, new guidelines from the Vatican on cremation. They say Catholics can still be cremated but the new rules suggest ashes should not be scattered or kept in urns. The church says cremated remains should be kept in a sacred place such as a church cemetery. Cremation has been an accepted practice in the Catholic Church for a while but the Vatican is concerned it involves, quote, "erroneous ideas about death."

ROMANS: All right. The Indians strikes first, shutting out the Cubs 6-0 in the World Series opener. Cleveland catcher Robert Perez belted two homeruns. The second, a three-run shot in the eighth that blew the game open. The Indian pitchers were masterful, I'm told. Starter Corey Kluber setting a World Series record by striking out eight over the first three innings. The Cubs will try to get even tonight in Game Two. The start time was adjusted an hour due to the threat of rain in Cleveland.

BERMAN: You know, the Cubs are really never in this game. I mean, they fell behind 2-0 early and then Corey Kluber, you're seeing there, was just unreal.

[04:25:02] ROMANS: What was the problem? Were the problems for the Cubs the pitcher?

BERMAN: The -- I mean, well, the Indians pitching was just too strong and the Cubs just never got started. They had a couple chances in the late innings against Andrew Miller, the Indians' great reliever, but Miller shut them down. And you know, like the team that wins Game One of the World Series has gone on to win something like 60 percent.

ROMANS: La, la, la, la.

BERMAN: Well, it's the truth. It's math.

All right. Tough talk between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. This is very, very mature in the final weeks of a presidential election. These two people, the Republican nominee and the vice president of the United States, now essentially saying they want to beat each other up.

The latest on EARLY START next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Fight club election edition. Donald Trump calls Joe Biden Mr. Tough Guy and the vice president wants to take Trump behind the high school gym. All this really happened.

ROMANS: Trump tries to capitalize on Obamacare sticker shock. But his own contradictions and understanding of the health care system sort of tripped him up as he tries to attack.