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Foreign Fights; Bill O'Reilly Out at Fox News; Officials: Syria Moves Combat Planes. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 20, 2017 - 04:30   ET


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration says it will not blink in the face of threats from global adversaries, Iran, North Korea and Russia all in focus today.

[04:30:04] We have the latest.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the crown has been taken from the now former king of cable news, Bill O'Reilly ousted at FOX. What's next for him and the network following another rough departure?

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

KOSIK: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

KOSIK: I'm Alison Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

And this morning, the Trump administration is not backing off the tough talk in several fights. It is waging around the world with Iran, North Korea and with Russia, too.

On the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump has asked for a multi-agency review to determine whether lifting sanctions in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear program is really in the national interest.

BRIGGS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the deal forged by the Obama administration and U.S. allies, quote, "completely ignored all the other serious threats that Iran poses."


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining U.S. interests, in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Israel. An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it.


BRIGGS: Tillerson's comments coming a day after he certified Congress that Iran is complying with the deal, but questions whether sanctions shouldn't be re-imposed because of Iran's alleged sponsorship of terrorism.

KOSIK: Now, you we heard secretary Tillerson mentioning North Korea, which already has sky high tensions with its neighbors and the U.S. Well, today, American and South Korean forces are conducting their annual Max Thunder Drill. That's the second largest military aviation exercise on the Korean peninsula.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is at the Kunsan Air Base in Seoul with an up- close look.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, this is Max Thunder. This is a massive air operation between the United States and South Korea here in South Korea. There is more than 80 aircrafts involved in this. That's more than 1,500 people.

We know that it's routine. We know that it's annual. We are told by the lieutenant colonel in charge that they weren't actually carrying out these drills, they don't have a specific enemy in mind. But, of course, given the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, this is inevitably going to be more in the spotlight.

This kind of massive firepower being seen by North Korea as well. It is not what North Korea likes to see. Every single year when these drills happen, they become angry, infuriated. They believe that this is actually a dress rehearsal for an invasion, even though the United States say that they are defensive in nature.

But just bear in mind what's happening on the peninsula at this point. North Korea have said that the U.S. pushed the situation to a point where a nuclear war can break out at any time. China as well suggests these military drills should not be happening, saying that if the U.S. halts these military drills, potentially, North Korea could suspend the nuclear and missile program.

It's not a new situation. It's not a new suggestion and it's not one the U.S. welcomes.

Dave and Alison, back to you.


BRIGGS: Indeed. Paula Hancocks, thank you.

The White House is denying it misled the public when it announced last week the USS Vinson was heading to the Korean Peninsula when it was actually sailing in the opposite direction. It was President Trump who informed the nation a powerful armada was on the way. But the aircraft carrier group was actually thousands of miles to the southwest in the Indian Ocean at the time.

Listen to White House spokesman Sean Spicer disputing the notion that the American people, let alone our adversaries and allies, were misled.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The statement that was put out was that the Carl Vinson group was headed to the Korean Peninsula and it is headed to the Korean Peninsula. It will arrive there.

REPORTER: It's headed there now. It wasn't headed there last week.

SPICER: Sure. No, no, but that's not what we ever said. We said it was heading there. It was heading there. It is heading there.

REPORTER: The president believed he might have spoken too quickly on this location of the vessel.

SPICER: The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact. It has happened, it is happening, rather.


BRIGGS: The Pentagon has still not provided a clear explanation for failing to correct the actual location of the USS Vinson for at least a week now.

KOSIK: Meantime, Russia has derailed the United States' proposal to condemn North Korea for its latest nuclear missile test. A no vote from the Kremlin killing the motion even though the other 14 Security Council members were all onboard, including China. The statement called on North Korea to immediately halt further nuclear tests. The rogue nation has already conducted at least five nuclear tests in defiance of the U.N.

BRIGGS: The White House still hoping against odds to get a health care deal done during President Trump's first 100 days in office. Now, two factions of the Republican Party are in talks as we speak.

[04:35:02] Mark Meadows of the Conservative House Freedom Caucus and Tom Macarthur of the more moderate Tuesday Group trying to find some common ground on repealing Obamacare. So, the freedom caucus, they want it gutted. The Tuesday group favors keeping key elements.

KOSIK: A senior Republican official telling CNN reaching a consensus will be a long shot. Vice President Pence onboard the USS Ronald Reagan telling CNN's Dana Bash he is confident an agreement will be reached by next week and the president is determined to keep his promise on health care reform.

BRIGGS: Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the powerful chairman of the House Oversight Committee, announcing he will not seek reelection in 2018. The Utah Republican insisting he has no ulterior motives and simply wants to return to the private sector back home in Utah. Chaffetz is best known for heading up the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state. He has in the past expressed an interest in becoming the governor of Utah.

KOSIK: Todd Ricketts is withdrawing his nomination as deputy commerce secretary. Ricketts spent about $1 million of his own money helping to get President Trump elected. His family owns the Chicago Cubs. His father founded TD Ameritrade. And sources close to Ricketts say he struggled to reconcile his family's complicated finances with the Office of Government Ethics. It's the latest wave of high ranking staff elections who stepped aside before their confirmation hearings even got started, all of them citing conflicts of interest concerns.

Ricketts follows three other mega-rich nominees who have dropped out of consideration for Trump administration posts. You see them there. Vincent Viola, who Trump nominated for secretary of the army, Andy Puzder who was to join the cabinet as secretary of labor, and Philip Bilden who Trump nominated for the secretary of navy.

Watchdogs and some Democrats will say this is the result of appropriate ethics law. But there is a flipside, are those laws helping keep successful qualified people from taking top government posts? Hmm. You can ponder that question.

BRIGGS: Yes, we can. Yes, there is a lot of conflicts when you have that kind of money. There is a lot of complex ties.

KOSIK: And then you have those who will say, listen, I'm not willing to cut those ties. I rather bow out. And you have others who say, you know what, we're going to intermingle and maybe see what we can get away with.

BRIGGS: Plenty of wealth left in that cabinet.

Another major piece of the FOX News puzzle is out. What's next for Bill O'Reilly? What's next for FOX News now the two have parted ways?


[04:41:49] BRIGGS: Well, in a decision rocking the world of cable news, Bill O'Reilly, the long-time host of FOX News flagship show "The O'Reilly Factor", is out. The network finally yielding to public pressure as years of sexual harassment claims piled up.

KOSIK: Joining us to talk about this, Joe Concha, a former FOX News writer and now, a media reporter for the Capital Hill journal "The Hill", and from Los Angeles, CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin. Good morning to you both.

Joe, I'm going to start with you to walk us through what the final straw was, because it seems like this sexual harassment by O'Reilly was sort of the worst kept secret at FOX. Was it money? Was it the advertisers? Or was it how he made FOX appear? Was it a PR thing?

JOE CONCHA, THE HILL: You are a business gal once, right?


CONCHA: You know follow the money. So, when 50 advertisers, more than, leave and aren't coming back and any company that even thinks about advertising on "The O'Reilly Factor", Media Matters and left wing groups will shame them out of existence, how could you support somebody who is accused of sexual harassment by multiple women and paid out $13 millions.

Fox saw that scenario and more women coming forward, whether the claims are valid or not, as constantly dominating their news cycle saying, you know what, Megyn Kelly left, no problem. We took our Tucker Carlson and filled that role, increased ratings, actually. We could do the same with Carlson again. He has been in three time slots now -- time slots at that network in three months. We can do it again with O'Reilly. We can move "The Five" to 9:00 and he is expendable.

Amazingly, that seems to be the thought process. Check out next week when this new schedule comes out. If they're down 20 to 30 percent, FOX has a big problem. If they kind of stay around the green, so to speak, to use a golf term -- 10 percent off -- then you know what? They survive this I think.

BRIGGS: Just about impossible to match the ratings. You are right. But somewhere close they survive it.

All right. Areva, Wendy Walsh who played a key role perhaps in this ouster saying, today, we have entered a new era in work place politics. Have we?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think so. I'm really concerned about what's going on at FOX. We still have this lawsuit from Julie Roginsky against Bill Shine and against other executives, claiming that they were complicit, that they knew about the Roger Ailes harassment of her and that they took no action. In fact, she claims they retaliated against her.

So, when we think about the culture here, we have to ask, is getting rid of Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes enough to change the culture at FOX if the harassment was as widespread as we are learning from all of these allegations? It's going to take more than two terminations to change that culture.

Look, it's very difficult to change any corporate culture and one as entrenched as this one at FOX, it's going to take a lot more than these terminations.

KOSIK: You know, one thing that is expected to change, Joe, the ratings, because, you know, you look at O'Reilly, "The O'Reilly Factor," that was a ratings monster. It will be hard to match that. How does FOX recover from that? They are putting their trust in Tucker Carlson, but their bench is not that deep.

[04:45:05] Where did they go? How do they compete like they did a week or two ago?

CONCHA: Let me tell you how hard it's going to be to replace Bill O'Reilly, because he has been on the air for 21 years there. He has been number one for 16 of those years. He is not only a host that people like. He is a part of people's families. They eat dinner and they watch O'Reilly.

I know this I can go back to when I was home. My father would put on "The O'Reilly Factor" and he sent me a text, just today, last tonight, as soon as I got up. He said, "Here's the difference on O'Reilly, he's not on tonight. I would rather watch the Yankees. O'Reilly was must-watch TV."

That's the difference. That's what the people have to keep with Tucker Carlson.

KOSIK: People have to look beyond what he did behind the scenes.

CONCHA: Absolutely, because they're selfish, because they like the show. He wasn't charged with anything. He paid them off. He was protecting his kids by paying people off like you said.

BRIGGS: We'll get to that next hour, because you've got some insight on this story.

CONCHA: He's a better looking guy than me and he's 6'3". I'm 5'9". I got screwed.

BRIGGS: All right. So, Areva, perhaps a little pushback. You know, again, full disclosure. I worked there, as did Joe. It may not be corporate culture as a couple isolated incidents, broadcasters, and Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly may have been separate from the corporate culture as a whole.

But what is the next legal battle there at FOX?

MARTIN: Well, there is a pending lawsuit against Roger Ailes. What we are hearing from FOX is there is this investigation. We know they hired Paul Weiss, the law firm, to investigate the claims made against Bill O'Reilly. I would hope what's next is that they keep moving forward in terms of building the trust of its employees.

We heard FOX say that not one person called that hotline that was supposed to be available for people to call if they felt like they experienced harassment in the work place. It's a little strange for a company that size to say not one person used that hotline. That says to me as a lawyer, a civil rights lawyer, that there is no trust amongst those employees.

So, hopefully, they move forward in building that trust so that if people do feel like they have been harassed, they can come forward, talk to H.R., talk to individuals in the work place and it can be eliminated.

Look, one thing that's good about all of this is that, hopefully, that secretary, that administrative assistant, that woman is sitting there that may feel like she suffered harassment, she is empowered and emboldened to come forward.

CONCHA: Actions speak louder than words, guys. In this case the Murdochs, at least, they took the sports analogies, this is personal, let's go through the past. Right? Basically, Roger Ailes was Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots. And O'Reilly is Tom Brady, imagine that owner getting rid of both of them.

So, I understand there is still some work to do. But they brought from an outside firm to do investigation, instead of doing their own. And now, two of the biggest names the brains of the organization, Ailes and the face of cable news, O'Reilly are out. Those are positive steps.

BRIGGS: Patriots look pretty good with Jimmy Garoppolo. I'm just saying.

Joe Concha, Areva Martin, thanks for your insights this morning.

KOSIK: All right. More bad headlines for Wells Fargo this morning. Federal regulators had 700 chances to stop the fake account scandal, but failed. We'll explain when we get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.


[04:52:30] KOSIK: Welcome back.

Developing this morning, tens of thousands taking to the streets of the nation's capital of Caracas and the biggest anti-government protests they've seen in years. A Venezuela national guard sergeant killed during the protests. A second guardsman hit by a bullet.

Protesters, as you can see, are demanding elections, and they're denouncing critical food shortages, and what they say is increasingly authoritarian government.

Police using tear gas to disburse the crowd. Hundreds of people were arrested. Two people were killed during the protest, but the circumstances remain unclear. The public prosecutor's office is calling for an investigation into the fatal shooting.

BRIGGS: The Syrian government now seeking shelter for its combat planes following the U.S. missile strike earlier this month. That strike in retaliation nor the chemical weapons attack the U.S. says Syria launched on its own people.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the details.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Alison, the U.S. missile strike in Syria now reverberating across the Syrian military.

That missile strike took out about 20 percent of Syria's operational fighter jets. And now, the Syrians have apparently moved most of the rest of their inventory to a base along the coast, quite close to the Russians, looking for that Russian umbrella of protection with Russian anti-air systems, Russian missiles. And they keep the Syrian aircraft safe. But they can still launch additional attacks using their helicopters, artillery and rockets.

So, while the Syrians may think that they have solved their problem, there's no indication, yet, that the Trump administration is calling it a day on any future attacks against the Syrians if they use chemical weapons again -- Alison, Dave. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: OK. Barbara Starr, thanks for that.

And the U.S.-led coalition reporting a dramatic increase in ISIS' use of chemical weapons in Iraq. According to U.S. defense officials, there have been at least four incidents in the last week of ISIS fighters using chemical weapons including mustard gas in Mosul. No deaths or coalition casualties have resulted from the attack.

BRIGGS: New military conduct regulations ban Navy and Marine personnel from distributing nude photos without the permission of the person depicted. The new rule effectively makes any violation a crime that can be enforced by a military court. This comes on the heels of a nude photo sharing scandal that has rocked all four branches of the military with photos of naked female service members being posted on Marines United and other websites.

[04:55:09] Also this morning, an attorney hired by the family of Aaron Hernandez says he will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the disgraced former NFL star. Corrections officials say Hernandez was found hanged in his prison cell in an apparent suicide. His death coming just days after he was acquitted in a double murder case.

Hernandez, of course, was already serving, though, a life sentence without parole for the killing of Odin Lloyd. The Massachusetts chief medical examiner is conducting an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

KOSIK: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. Stock futures pointing higher this morning. Shares in Europe are mixed. And stock markets in Asia closed mostly higher overnight. We are seeing lingering unease from tensions in Asia, plus more profit reports coming in this morning.

This corporate earnings season, first quarter earning season kind of off to a rocky start. You look at shares of IBM falling off a cliff, sinking almost 5 percent. That was after the company's profit beat estimates.

But here's the thing that investors didn't like -- revenue missing badly, investors dumping the stock as a result. IBM is one of the first big tech companies to report. So investors are going to be closely watching that sector over the next few weeks.

Big Blue weighed on the Dow, though, dragging the average to its second straight triple digit loss. The NASDAQ is actually up for the week. The S&P 500 is sitting flat.

KOSIK: A troubling government report on Wells Fargo showing regulators failed to act on hundreds if not thousands of red flags. An internal review published by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, one particularly alarming red flag that went unheeded, in January of 2010, the regulator was aware of 700 cases of whistleblower complaints about Wells Fargo's sales tactics. The report says regulators failed to confront executives or the

company's board of directors. It says the board knew about its sales practices as early as 2004. Wells Fargo declined to comment on the new findings. That's really disheartening.

BRIGGS: How in the world did they miss that?

KOSIK: Apparently they looked the other way.

BRIGGS: Institutional failure there. Well, the Gronk feeling at home at 1,600 Pennsylvania Ave. The fun loving New England Patriots star visiting the White House on Wednesday when he decided to crash the briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Check it out.


SEAN SPICER, WIHTE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will see what pans out in negotiation, but I think there is an option -- can I just --



SPICER: I think I got this, but thank you. Maybe. All right, thanks, man. I'll see you.

Hold on. All right. That was cool.


BRIGGS: It was. It would have been a whole lot cooler had he waved Gronk to the podium let him take a few questions.

KOSIK: That's the one thing that those briefings need, a little levity here and there.

BRIGGS: Everything needs a little Gronk.

KOSIK: He should come every day.

BRIGGS: No question.

KOSIK: All right. Facing a slew of adversaries, the Trump administration is standing firm -- and EARLY START is continuing right now.


KOSIK: Facing a slew of adversaries, the Trump administration is standing firm. Iran and North Korea, Russia, all on notice. We have the latest on the diplomatic stare-downs.

BRIGGS: And the king of cable news dethroned. Bill O'Reilly is out at FOX. We have his reaction. What's next following another black eye for the network?

Good morning, everybody. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's Thursday, April 28th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And this morning, the Trump administration not backing off the tough talk in several fights it's waging around the world, with Iran, North Korea and with Russia. On the Iraq nuclear deal, President Trump has asked for a multi-agency review to determine whether lifting sanctions in exchanger for Tehran curbing its nuclear program is really in the national interest.

BRIGGS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the deal forged by the Obama administration and U.S. allies, quote, "completely ignored all the other serious threats that Iran poses."


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining U.S. interests, in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Israel. An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it.


BRIGGS: Now, Tillerson's comments came a day after he certified to Congress that Iran is complying with the deal, but questioned whether sanctions shouldn't be re-imposed because of Iran's alleged sponsorship of terrorism.