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Van Slams into Crowd Outside Mosque in London; Confusion and Contradictions in the White House; Senate Shutdown on Health Care Plan; Navy Identifies Seven Killed Sailors; Mistrial on Bill Cosby; Aftermath of the Grenfell Tower. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 19, 2017 - 04:30   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, one dead, at least eight injured after a van plows into a crowd of pedestrians outside a London mosque. Police treating the deadly incident as a potential act of terrorism.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's own lawyer contradicting his boss.


JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: It's that simple. The president is not under investigation.


ROMANS: But the president claims he is under investigation. How the Trump legal team is explaining yet another mixed message from the White House. There they are on their way to Camp David this weekend.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:32 Eastern time, 10:30 in London

In breaking news, at least one dead, eight others injured after a van ran over Muslim worshippers outside a north London mosque. It is now being treated as an act of terrorism. Take a look at these pictures of the aftermath taken just after midnight London time. Witnesses describing a chaotic scene with people screaming for help from police and medics.

At least one person has been arrested. A 48-year-old man described as the driver of the van. You can see him in the video. He was detained at the scene by members of the public.

ROMANS: Listen to this witness, Saeed Hashi, describing the carnage and how he personally pulled the driver of that van out of his vehicle.


SAEED HASHI, WITNESS: Suddenly he turned right to the mosque so I was shocked and we were screaming and he hit first a woman, old Somalian woman, in her 60s, and another two Moroccan or Algerian guy, Then he drove a bus, he hit another three, four, five, six, seven and suddenly the car stopped. So we went after him. We managed to get him out of the car.


ROMANS: Authorities are not saying if Muslims were specifically targeted, but London's mayor is calling this incident a horrific terror attack. Let's go live to London and get the latest developments from CNN's Phil Black. Good morning, Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Once again, a car has been used seemingly as a deadly weapon in London. It's why police are treating this as a likely terror attack because it bears all the hallmarks of the recent attacks the city has seen that houses the Parliament on London Bridge when cars were used to bowl people over. That's what happened here just after midnight last night as crowds of people were leaving a local mosque following prayers.

This is the holy season of Ramadan. People were attending late-night prayers. They came on to the streets and that was when witnesses say this white van swerved into the crowd. Now, witnesses as you've heard, some of them, intervened, wrestled the driver to the ground and held him there for about 10 minutes until police arrived. The people who fought him say that he resisted the whole time. He punched and scratched and swore at them and said things like, "you deserve this, you guys deserve this."

[04:35:04] It has left the community here, the Muslim community here in no doubt they were the deliberate, specific targets in this attack. They do not think that was a coincidence. The police have acknowledged that all of the injured, eight people, plus a person who has died, they are all Muslims, but so far he is being held for attempted murder. Not under the terror act. Police say they're still investigating, keeping an open mind. Back to you.

ROMANS: Still investigating, keeping an open mind, you know, but all of those people leaving a mosque last night, Ramadan, horrific. All right, thank you so much for that, Phil Black. Come back to us when you have more details.

Here at home, more confusion and contradictions from the White House over whether President Trump is being investigated for obstruction of justice. Now the president's lawyer says he is not under investigation. That directly contradicts the president who is tweeting that he is being investigated. CNN is reporting Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether enough evidence exists to launch a full-scale obstruction probe. The "Washington Post" is reporting such a probe is already underway. Who's right? Would the president even know necessarily?

We get more from CNN Athena Jones.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. Mixed messages are something that have come to define this White House. Numerous times we've seen the president contradict not only his aides or others who work for him but also himself. And this is a case in point.

On Friday, he tweeted what seemed to be a confirmation of a "Washington Post" report from Wednesday that he is under investigation for obstruction of justice. It's the same report that the president on Thursday called a phony story, yet on Friday he seemed to confirm it.

Now one of the president's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, is saying, no, he is not, in fact, under investigation. The president was citing that "Washington Post" report when he sent out that tweet on Friday. Here's more of what Sekulow had to say about all this on "STATE OF THE UNION." Watch.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Should we take that tweet from the president as confirmation that the president is under investigation?

SEKULOW: Let me be clear. The president is not under investigation.

TAPPER: The president said, "I am under investigation" even though he isn't under investigation?

SEKULOW: That response on social media was in response to the "Washington Post" piece.

TAPPER: You're saying that the president when he said that was not accurate?

SEKULOW: No, the president was -- it was 141 characters, there's a limitation on twitter.

TAPPER: So the president thinks --

SEKULOW: So there should be no confusion. The president is not under investigation.

TAPPER: But it is confusing.


JONES: So, after months of White House officials telling us we should take the president's tweets at face value, we should consider them presidential statements, now his lawyer is arguing something different. It's also important to note here that the president's allies, his lawyers and the folks at the Republican National Committee who have been defending him, have repeatedly pointed to now fired FBI director James Comey's testimony that he told the president on three separate occasions that he was not personally under investigation.

The problem there is that Comey has not been in charge of the FBI since the beginning of May, nearly six weeks ago, which is a very long time in Washington and in the news business. The other thing that's important to note is that the president himself and his legal team wouldn't necessarily know whether he's under investigation because the FBI and the special counsel's office wouldn't necessarily notify the president of his -- and his lawyers of that fact. So, you have one of the president's lawyers here asserting as fact something that he's not really in a position to know. Christine, Dave?

BRIGGS: Athena Jones, thank you.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are threatening a blockade as early as today to protest the GOP health care plan and specifically its tactics because right now the bill is being crafted behind closed doors by Republicans. Democrats demanding a fair and open hearing. If they don't get one, the plan is to bring the Senate to a crawl by mucking things up with speeches and parliamentary procedures. Don't you love congress?

CNN's Ryan Nobles has more.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, good morning. Democratic senators want to make it hard for Republicans to schedule votes on even bills that are considered noncontroversial. They'd also keep nominees from the Trump administration from getting confirmed. That could create a glacial pace of work in the senate, in a body that's already pretty slow. Among the techniques they may employ, preventing committees from conducting routine business and even stopping committees from extending their hearings when the Senate is in session.

The goal here would be to force Republicans to open the debate on the health care bill which at this point's been done behind closed doors. All Democrats and even quite a few Republicans have yet to see what is in this new bill, despite the fact that Republican leadership has promised a vote before the fourth of July holiday.

[04:40:00] On Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION," Senator Bernie Sanders, who is an independent but who caucuses with the Democrats, endorsed this move.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I'm in favor of the American people and members of Congress doing everything that we can to defeat that horrific piece of legislation that will hurt tens and tens of millions of people in our country.

What kind of process is it that when you deal with an issue that impacts tens of millions of people in this country Republicans don't even have the guts to allow it to go to a committee where we can have an open hearing, where questions can be asked.


NOBLES: And Democrats are prepared to put this plan in place as early as today. They could potentially hold the floor of the Senate through midnight tonight. And during that time, members could come up and give speeches where they talk about their constituents who benefited from the Affordable Care Act.

Now Democrats would prefer not to go down this route especially in the wake of unity displayed at the congressional baseball game after the shooting last week. And Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for an all-senators meeting to hash out their differences. This a last- ditch effort to make the process more bipartisan. At this point, the Republicans have not agreed to participate. Dave and Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much for that.

As Senate Republicans craft a health care bill behind closed doors, news flash, Obamacare is still the law of the land for 2018. And many Americans will pay for Washington's uncertainty. The Affordable Care Act was in trouble before President Trump took office, but the quest to dismantle it is causing many insurers to hike rates or leave the exchanges entirely.

Companies hate uncertainty and they're not sure if the government will keep two key rules that everyone must have health insurance, the mandate, and that it will share the cost for lower income Americans -- those are the subsidies. And that uncertainty is responsible for two- thirds of the 2018 rate hikes.

Some insurers will charge as much -- as high as 50 percent more to offset the cost of sicker than expected policyholders. Many insurers don't even want to risk it. Humana, Aetna, and Anthem have already pulled out of the exchanges. They blame lack of information on top of millions of dollars in losses. And more insurers may pull out this week. Companies have until Wednesday to let state regulators know if they plan to stay.

I would encourage everyone to go to our top story at "CNN Money" this morning, sort of laying all this out exactly how county by county even you could have vastly different offerings and one thing really notable about this story, as well, it says that some companies are starting to find that it's stabilizing where they are. The Obamacare --

BRIGGS: Still need some fixes.


BRIGGS: It's surprising that the Democrats haven't stepped forward with those fixes and put Republicans in a difficult spot.

ROMANS: And you wonder what the politics are of that, you know. So we'll see.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: All right, Bill Cosby's team cheering a mistrial.


ANDREW WYATT, SPOKESMAN FOR BILL COSBY: Mr. Cosby's power's back. It's back. It has been restored. The jurors, they used their power to speak. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Prosecutors say they will try Cosby again. What his defense attorney is saying, ahead on EARLY START.


ROMANS: Welcome back. The Navy has now identified the seven sailors who were killed when a U.S. guided missile destroyer collided with a container ship off Japan on Saturday. The collision ripped a gaping hole in the USS Fitzgerald, flooding sleeping berths where divers found those bodies.

These are the men who lost their lives in that incident. The sailors range in age from 19 to 37 years old. They were from all over the country. Kaori Enjoji is live for us in Tokyo with the very latest on those incidents. By all accounts it was really something they could get even get those wounded vessel back into port with how it was being flooded under the water line.

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Yes, Christine, it was a severe emergency, according to the U.S. Navy when this collision took place in the early hours of Saturday morning. The seven missing sailors were all found as divers had to wait until the ship was towed back into their home base in Yokosuka to get under there and into the areas that were severely flooded and the missing bodies -- missing were identified earlier on in the day.

The ship's quarters smashed into as this major collision occurred between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship on Saturday. And the commander of the USS Fitzgerald had to be airlifted out and taken to a hospital, but he has been released we are told, earlier on in the day. We still don't know how this collision could have happened.

It was a very clear night that Saturday morning off the waters of Japan. And there will be a number of investigations to try and get to the bottom of that. There will be a number of investigations going on at the same time by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and a number of Japanese authorities, and it's really unclear yet who was going to have the jurisdiction in leading this investigation, Christine.

ROMANS: Certainly so many questions, how such a high-tech piece of equipment could have just been, you know, rammed by a container ship. Thank you so much for that, Kaori. We know there are a lot of questions to be answered still.

BRIGGS: Bill Cosby's legal team preparing for round two after a judge declared a mistrial in the comedian's aggravated indecent assault trial. Jurors in the first trial deadlocked after six days of deliberations. A result Cosby spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, considers a major victory.


WYATT: Mr. Cosby's power's back. It's back. It has been restored. The jurors, they used their power to speak. The legacy didn't go anywhere. It has been restored. And for all those attorneys who conspired like Gloria Allred, tell them to go back to law school or take another class.


[04:50:00] BRIGGS: Gloria Allred, of course, one of the attorneys representing Cosby accusers. CNN's Jean Casarez spoke with the entertainer's lawyer about the trial and the road ahead.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPPONDENT: Christine, Dave, Brian McMonagle has been the lead attorney for Bill Cosby since the very beginning and tells me he was prepared for a hung jury.


CASAREZ: The judge has declared a mistrial. Is that a win for you? Is that a loss for you?

BRIAN MCMONAGLE, LEAD ATTORNEY, BILL COSBY: It can't be a loss. Having said that, there are no winners here. We tried a case for a week. A jury deliberated for 50-some hours without a verdict. But you know, as I've said many times before, as long as you can leave that courtroom with your client presumed innocent as he began, then I'm satisfied.

CASAREZ: This was a drug facilitated sexual assault case. Did you pause at all?

MCMONAGLE: I never pause when I have the opportunity to defend someone like him who maintains his innocence and I'm a trial lawyer. My job is to go in and defend people who are accused of a crime and require that the prosecution be put to the test. No matter what's written, no matter what's said outside of a courtroom, I require people who are going to make accusations to be put to the test, and I welcome that opportunity here. I've been a fan of Mr. Cosby's forever, and now I get the opportunity to call him my client and my friend.


CASAREZ: McMonagle tells me that when the jury filed in on Saturday morning sat down, he saw actually two female jurors crying. The night before, one of those late nights when there was all the read-back testimony, saw one juror sleeping and says that if Bill Cosby asked him to be part of this retrial, he will consider it. Christine, Dave?

ROMANS: All right, Jean Casarez. Thank you very much. Fifty-one minutes past the hour. Rising housing costs squeezing family budgets. Do you pay more than you should? I have the magical number that you need to stay below. (INAUDIBLE)


BRIGGS: Shocking new images from inside London's burned out Grenfell Tower this morning -- the charred, gutted remains of the 24-storey high rise -- leading police to conclude the 58 people missing from the building are likely dead. That's prompting the government to offer emergency payments to grieving families. Angry residents claiming the tragedy could have been prevented years ago. CNN's Nic Robertson live for us from London with the latest. Why is it that they say this could have been prevented, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the residents have complained about many aspects of that building, not least their concerns about fire risk. The building was supposed to, according to local authorities, be designed to compartmentalize a fire, not to allow it to spread this way.

Over the weekend, a senior government official said that it was possible that the cladding that had recently been put on the building last year, that that cladding did not meet current fire regulations for a building of that height, that that type of cladding could be used on buildings lower than about 50-feet high.

Now, that is something that is still subject to an investigation here. The country will mark a minute's silence in about an hour's time as a moment of respect. Theresa May, the prime minister, is under a huge amount of pressure. She was criticized last week for not showing enough emotion, for not connecting with the anger and concerns of the local residents.

She is expected to be making a speech here at Downing Street perhaps in the next hour or so. That will likely be connected to the incident overnight where a van was driven into a crowd of people outside a mosque in the middle of the night. Eight were injured, one person who was being treated already at the scene died. That person is in custody, but that is the type of pressure the British prime minister is under today. The country of course feels as it is going into Brexit negotiations that this is a very, very difficult time politically. Dave?

BRIGGS: Sure is indeed. Nic Robertson live for us in London. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, just about the top of the hour so let's get a check on money right now. Our global stock markets higher today after a mixed ending last week on Wall Street. Still the S&P and the Dow finished with gains. The Dow hit a new record high. Investors have been shrugging off the turmoil around the world and in Washington. Today investors will tune in to the start of Brexit negotiation, and they'll be watching for a meeting of all these folks. Major tech leaders come to the White House.

The guest lists includes Apple's Tim Cook, IBM's Ginni Rometty, and Amazon's Jeff Bezos. Silicon Valley has been at odds with many of the Trump administration's decisions, particularly the passage of the travel ban and its break with the Paris Accord on climate. Very key to watch this evolving relationship this president has with business leaders.

Amazon helped kill the American mall, and now it's coming for grocery stores. Amazon's effect on retail has been dramatic, and department store sales are down while retail bankruptcies are rising. And now that the company is buying Whole Foods for $13 billion, grocery retailers will have to compete with this behemoth, Amazon.

Until now, Wal-Mart has been the biggest threat to grocers. It's become the biggest seller of groceries in the U.S. in fact. Wal-Mart's stock fell 5 percent on the news. Amazon rose 3 percent. That's great news for CEO Jeff Bezos, by the way. This latest surge in Amazon shares puts his net worth just $5 billion shy of becoming the world's richest person. And that Amazon/Wal-Mart food fight literally is going to be one of those epic business stories for the ages.

All right, 39 million households pay more on housing than they can afford -- 39 million -- that's according to a new report on the state of U.S. housing.

[05:00:03]Experts recommend spending only 30 percent of your income on housing. But a third of American households spend at least that much and nearly 19 million pay more than 50 percent.