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Dem Falls Short of Outright Win in Georgia; U.S. Show of Force... That Wasn't; World at the Crossroads. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:12] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this morning: no decisive winner in Georgia's highly anticipated special election. So, why are all sides claiming victory and what is the White House saying?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Dave Briggs. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East, Wednesday, April 19th.

Certainly, both sides claiming victory. Interesting rhetoric in this election.

KOSIK: We knew they would.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight in Georgia's sixth congressional district. The only thing settled there this morning is that nothing is settled just yet. A special election held for decades by Republicans now headed to a June 20th runoff between 30-year-old Democratic first timer Jon Ossoff, and Republican Karen Handel. This House seat has been a reliable Republican since the Carter administration. It's been held over the years by Newt Gingrich and Tom Price, whose departure to become HHS secretary set off this special election.

KOSIK: Now in a race viewed as a bellwether for how energized Democrats are in Trump country, their standard bearer is already declaring last night's win a victory for the ages.

More now from CNN's Manu Raju at Ossoff's headquarters in Atlanta.



Now, Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate here in the sixth district of Georgia, falling short of the 50 plus 1 percent that he needed to win this seat outright. Meaning that there's going to be now a runoff in two months against the Republican candidate Karen Handel, former Georgia secretary of state, is going to try to consolidate support in this conservative district.

Now, this district has not gone to a Democratic candidate since, for actually the last 37 years. So, the fact that Mr. Ossoff came close gave Democrats some reason to cheer last night even though he fell short.

This is what he said when he addressed supporters.

JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We have defied the odds. We have shattered expectations. We will be ready to fight on and win in June if it is necessary. And there is no amount of dark money, super PAC, negative advertising that can overcome real grassroots energy like this.

RAJU: Now, the question for Ossoff is whether or not he can actually galvanize enough support on the left to get 51 percent and beat Handel. She's going to be able to get support from a lot of those supporters who backed her, the Republican opponents, and also the question, though, the impact that Donald Trump will have as they try to woo swing voters, people who may be disaffected by his presidency -- guys.


BRIGGS: Manu Raju for us in Atlanta -- thank you.

For his part, President Trump sees the Georgia result as a victory for the GOP and he's even taking credit for it. Take a look at this post- midnight tweet from the president. He says, quote, "Despite major outside money, fake media support and 11 Republican candidates, big R win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help."

John Ossoff did raise $8.3 million for his campaign, much of it from out of state. Some say 97 percent. But President Trump spent a lot of political capital on this race over the last few days, even recording a robocall against Ossoff.

KOSIK: We are learning that the U.S. force of show against North Korea wasn't everything it was cracked up to be. Remember that earlier this month, the White House responded to North Korean missile tests by sending what President Trump called an are armada to the Korean peninsula. But it turns out, those ships, the USS Carl Vinson and its strike group, were steaming in the opposite direction actually to join in military exercises in the Indian Ocean, some 3,500 miles away.

A senior administration official is blaming the mix up on a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House.

BRIGGS: Meantime, two major high stakes tests of a system aimed at shooting down North Korean missiles are planned for May. Pentagon officials say the long planned missile defense test will take place at a test range in the Pacific. Vice President Mike Pence continuing his Asian tour with a visit to USS Reagan docked in Japan.

Pence said the U.S. will always seek peace but, quote, "under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready."

For inside analysis on all this and more, we'll have CNN's Christiane Amanpour live for us in just a few minutes. KOSIK: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggesting the U.S. may have

to re-impose sanctions on Iran even though it is complying with the terms of a nuclear deal. In a quarterly letter to Congress required by the nuclear agreement, Tillerson says that Iran has continued to act as a state sponsor of terrorism and that returning to sanctions may be in America's national security interest.

[04:05:11] Note that the nuclear deal does not cover terrorism and that reinstating sanctions would break the U.S. side of the bargain not to mention infuriate America's partners and potentially invite Iran to restart its nuclear program.

BRIGGS: The FBI used a controversial dossier compiled by a former British spy to help convinced the U.S. FISA court to approve surveillance. Last summer, that was of Trump campaign associate Carter Page. Now, the dossier alleges Page, a national security adviser to then-candidate Trump, met secretly with Russian officials on behalf of the campaign. According to U.S. officials, any information from the dossier that was presented to the FISA court had to be first corroborated by the FBI.

Former President George H.W. Bush recovering from pneumonia in a Houston hospital. He was admitted Friday with a cough that kept him from sleeping. The 92-year-old Bush will be kept in the hospital for further evaluation over the next few days. He and his wife did not initially disclose his illness because they didn't want anyone to order headed into Easter weekend. We hope the former president is home and healthy soon.

KOSIK: We certainly wish him well.

A surprise announcement from British Prime Minister Theresa May calling for elections as the U.K. begins Brexit negotiations. We're going to get some great insight from CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, live in London, coming up next.


[04:10:43] BRIGGS: Well, a number of international headlines this morning from the U.S. response to that North Korean nuclear threat, to the surprise announcement of elections in the U.K. with Brexit talks looming, and that's just the start.

Joining us to break it all down, CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour live for us in London. Great to have you on.

KOSIK: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you.

The vice president, Mike Pence, interesting rhetoric regarding North Korean nuclear threats speaking to U.S. troops. Let me let you hear what he said to get your analysis.

Here he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States of America will always seek peace, but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.


BRIGGS: The shield stands guard, the sword stands ready, Christiane. What do you make of our strategy to contain the nuclear threat and where is this ultimately headed?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is the key foreign policy and national security and global security question of the moment. And, obviously, the United States is trying to put, quote, as it often says, "all options on the table".

And right now, U.S. allies in the region are pleased with that. They believe there needs to be a strong deterrence to North Korea. They are very concerned, Japan and South Korea, for instance, where Vice President Pence has been over the last several days, very concerned because they are within range of a North Korean conventional response. Forget nuclear weapons and all the rest, just a conventional response. And so, that is something that's very concerning.

So with that in mind, you know, it's quite -- it's quite clear that one has to play this very, very carefully. To make it clear that negotiations and diplomacy is the first option and very senior American officials for instance the Clinton administration, the last people who actually dealt and made a deal with North Korea say, this could be a moment for what they call coercive diplomacy, in other words, forcing or getting North Korea to abide by international standards at a time when all options are on the table.

So, that is the moment at hand, and I just spoke to a leading Japanese official who said they were pleased with what the Trump administration is signaling right now.

KOSIK: OK. Let's move on across the pond to the stunner from British Prime Minister Theresa May, kind of stunning the country with her call for an early general election. Now, I get that she wants a stronger mandate for Brexit, for her strategy for Brexit, for Britain to leave the E.U. But besides taking away the uncertainty of it all, what other leverage is she gaining with this election moving up?

AMANPOUR: I think the people of the United Kingdom must have their head spinning. We've about to embark on the fourth election in a total span of three years. So, it's very, very stressful and high anxiety times because this is an immensely consequential election.

Brexit has taken up all the oxygen of the political sphere right now. People can't stop talking about what will this mean for me even for people who voted for Brexit. Theresa May, herself, remember, was not elected. She stepped in after party leadership, after Cameron, the prime minister, stepped down when he lost the Brexit vote. So, yes, she wants a mandate. She's coming at it at a time when her

party's popularity in the polls is unprecedentedly high. She's 21 percent, 21 points ahead of her nearest rival the official Labour opposition.

But what does it mean when it comes to Brexit negotiations? Well, the Europeans are saying, well, it may not mean very much, but on the other hand, it may mean that she cannot only, quote-unquote, "crush" the opposition as she wants to do but sideline the very hard-liners on her extreme right flank in her own party. Who say these days that they would rather get out by the prescribed time of March 2019 with or without a deal?

Now, Theresa May knows that getting out of the E.U. without any deal is a catastrophe, it would be suicide for the United Kingdom.

So, some are saying that's the kind of leverage she wants to take, a strong mandate and this is the deal I want to negotiate, a slightly softer Brexit people hope than the very hard-line drop-off the edge of a cliff.

[04:15:05] BRIGGS: All right. From strong mandate to some things -- someone people are calling a strong man, Recep Erdogan, after this referendum in Turkey, who is a key United States ally and partner in the war on terror, some say this moves them further away from democracy, towards dictatorship. And in the wake of this referendum, President Trump calls Erdogan. He's the only Western leader to do so.

What do you make of the referendum, its results, and the fact that President Trump called to congratulate the president?

AMANPOUR: Look, I think it was -- obviously, it's not a surprise that President Trump did that. There are strong men tendencies in the world. President Trump exhibits some of those characteristics. The Turkish president exhibits some of those characteristics, and presumably they see eye to eye on certain authoritarian tendencies.

But, also, of course, Turkey is a NATO ally. Turkey is required for any resolution of anything in Syria and particularly for the fight against ISIS. And as the White House has said, they believed -- their readout of the call was that President Trump is trying to promote democracy. But that's the very thing that Turkish critics are worried about, because they think that this referendum, this constitutional change which takes away the position of a prime minister concentrates all power in the president with many, many fewer checks and balances.

If you look hard at it, it's got fewer checks and balances than the American presidential system. So, people are concerned that Recep Tayyip Erdogan will continue a very authoritarian tendency which has been his path over the last several years.

And we have to go back when he first came to power in the early 2000s. Actually, he brought an enormous amount of democracy to Turkey. He put the military back in its barracks. This was now going to be a civilian government. He made judicial changes. He was even good with the press. And now, the press, so many of them

are in jail and sidelined and fired and silenced. And he also started peace talks with the Kurdish people and the Kurdish party.

All of that has now gone by the wayside. So, yes, people are concerned about the future of a NATO ally.

BRIGGS: Sure. And Erdogan answers those critics who say he's moving towards dictatorship in an exclusive CNN interview. We'll have that for you in about a half hour. And we'll check in back with you. Thanks.

KOSIK: OK, call it consequence, call it conflict of interest, the Chinese government approves two Ivanka Trump brand trademarks on the same day that Ivanka Trump and her father met with Chinese President Xi. The move is highlighting the careful maneuvering that Ivanka Trump must take to avoid potential conflict of interests now that she's a White House employee.

Two trademarks were provisionally approved on April 6th, one for spa service and one for hand bags. Another was approved in February, bringing the recent total to three. Sixteen other Ivanka Trump brand trademarks have full approval in China.

The Trump Organization won preliminary approval of 35 others earlier this year. The CEO of Ivanka Trump's company tells us this is a normal course of doing business in China where trademark infringement is rampant. She says several third-party companies have already tried to file trademarks in the Trump name in recent weeks.

Trump resigns from her management post at the clothing and accessory company to take the job in her father's administration. But she still has an ownership stake in the business. Her attorney says her assets have been moved into a trust but that is just not good enough.


KOSIK: You know, you think that she would go ahead and just sort of extricate herself from her businesses to avoid all of this sort of optics of what could be going on.

BRIGGS: To connect that with the Turkey story, some people say the president called Erdogan because they have important real estate holdings in Istanbul. Ivanka Trump once tweeted, "Thanks to Erdogan" as a prime minister, so the conflicts of interest are everywhere. They need to clean them up.

But, up next is the clock running out on Bill O'Reilly. New signs his time at FOX may be nearing an end. We'll explain.


[04:23:42] BRIGGS: There are increasing doubts Bill O'Reilly will ever return FOX News after his vacation. "The Wall Street Journal" reports the company is preparing to cut ties with O'Reilly and we should note, "The Journal" and FOX News do share the same parent company. "The Journal" reporting lines up with CNN's earlier reporting that to position and O'Reilly are talking exit, something the O'Reilly camp denies. His future is expected to be a focal point of a 21st Century Fox board meeting tomorrow.

KOSIK: Should be an interesting meeting.


KOSIK: Final decision on O'Reilly's fate could come by week's end. Revelations of multiple sexual harassment prompted exodus of advertisers from O'Reilly's FOX News show. Wednesday, we learned another woman is accusing O'Reilly of sexual and racial harassment. Her attorney saying she called the HR hotline FOX News set up to investigate claims against O'Reilly.

BRIGGS: A dramatic end to the manhunt for Facebook murder suspect Steve Stephens who took his own life as police closed in on him Erie, Pennsylvania. The fugitive was spotted Tuesday by an employee of a McDonald's drive thru. Workers tried to stall him until police arrived, but he took off. After a short chase, Stephens killed himself.

He was wanted for killing 74-year-old Robert Godwin, Sr. on Easter and posting video of it on Facebook.

[04:25:03] Godwin's daughter reacting to the news of Stephens suicide, saying, quote, "I wish he had gone down in a hail of 100 bullets." There was a $50,000 reward for Stephens' capture.

KOSIK: Sporting goods giant Adidas is apologizing after putting its foot in its mouth. The company sent a marketing e-mail to Boston marathon runners with the stunning subject line, "Congratulations, you survived the Boston marathon."

Someone think about what they do?


KOSIK: Anyway, this is five years after the terror attack that killed three and left hundreds badly hurt near the finish line. The company is expressing regret for the gaffe, saying in part, "We're incredibly sorry. Clearly, there was no thought given to the insensitive e-mail subject line we sent Tuesday. Every year, we're reminded of the hope and resiliency of the running community at this event."

BRIGGS: I wasn't prepared for that one. Wow.

All right. Meanwhile, the Republicans avoid a big loss, but Democrats can't get the big win they wanted in a closely watched Georgia special election. The race headed to a runoff. We'll get more from Atlanta, next.