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EARLY START

Warmbier's Death Angers U.S. Leaders;Democrats Wage War On Secrecy; Decision Day In Georgia;200M Voters Exposed In Data Leak; Discrepancy In Timing Of Destroyer Collision. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 20, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


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[05:31:40] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Otto Warmbier has just passed away. He spent a year and one-half in North Korea. It's a brutal regime and we'll be able to handle it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. vowing to hold North Korea accountable after the death of an American detained for more than a year. Otto Warmbier's family is in mourning, lawmakers are seething. How will the White House respond?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Senate Democrats vowing to bring business to a crawl. This, over Republican secrecy on health care. Now, GOP leadership is demanding a vote by late next week.

BRIGGS: And, a big special election in Georgia today seen as a referendum on the first month of the Trump presidency. Can Democrats nab a seat that's been Republican since 1979? Polls open in about 90 minutes.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: It's a big day down there.

ROMANS: It really is.

BRIGGS: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you all this morning. It's 32 minutes past the hour. Up first, North Korea facing outrage -- American outrage over the death of Otto Warmbier. The American college student has died less than a week after his release by Pyongyang. His family believes he was tortured into a coma while being held in captivity for 17 months.

Warmbier's passing quickly sparking anger in Washington. Senator John McCain, a former prisoner himself, making his anger very clear. He said, "Let us state the facts plainly. Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong Un regime." BRIGGS: High-level talks between the U.S. and China begin tomorrow in Washington. There's growing pressure on President Trump to take a harder line with Beijing to help rein in North Korea. Listen to the president's reaction to Warmbier's death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Otto Warmbier has just passed away. He spent a year and one- half in North Korea. A lot of bad things happened but at least we got him home to be with his parents where they were so happy to see him even though he was in very tough condition, but he just passed away a little while ago. It's a brutal regime and we'll be able to handle it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: So, what does the president mean by 'handle it'? Let's go live to Seoul and bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks. Good morning to you, Paula. What are the options for the White House?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, the options today are exactly the same as the options were yesterday. It is not an ideal situation. Of course, there are sanctions and we could see the White House and the U.S. officials that are going to be meeting with Chinese officials in Washington pushing for more help from Beijing. Donald Trump has insisted all along that it's Beijing that holds the key to this problem -- that they can pressure North Korea into dismantling the nuclear missile program and potentially helping with detainees in North Korea.

But there is a problem. There are still three Americans being held in North Korea at this time. There are two academics who were working at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology and one businessman who North Korea claims was a spy and they have already tried and convicted him of many years of hard labor, so it's a very difficult and tenuous situation. The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying last week when asked about these detainees, "It is a delicate situation and we are working on it."

[05:35:06] Now, we know that the tour group that took Otto Warmbier into North Korea has now, this Tuesday, decided it will no longer accept U.S. citizens when traveling to North Korea. Other tour groups are reviewing their options. The State Department, at this point, still saying they strongly advise against but there is no full ban at this point -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Paula, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The family of Otto Warmbier releasing a statement in the hours after their son's passing. It reads, "It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost -- future time that won't be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time that we're given to be with this remarkable person. When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see, and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable, almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed. He was at peace, he was home, and we believe that he could sense that." It's tragic.

BRIGGS: It is, indeed. Let's turn to "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan, live for us in Washington this morning. Good morning to you, Tal. So, the White House clearly concerned about this. John McCain, Marco Rubio making clear North Korea murdered this young American college student, but what are the options for the Trump White House?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, as Paula was saying, Dave, there aren't many and that's part of the problem here, you know. There are many things that haven't changed, including the fact that North Korea is pursuing a missile program that could do damage to the U.S. but also potentially do damage to some U.S. allies that are right next door to North Korea. You know, the citizens that are still there and still detained. It's a very delicate situation here as many presidents have discovered.

And, you know, the president -- President Trump ran on a platform that he was going to get real tough on China and part of that was going to be to deal with the problem in North Korea. We've already seen him be less aggressive than advertised against China to begin with and now this is sort of a moment where his campaign talk is being put to the test a little bit. And there's certainly pressure from those in Washington to be a little tougher but, unfortunately for the administration, there's very little that can be changed here.

ROMANS: But this -- there is a change in that we have an American student -- an American citizen who is dead. We've had 15 -- I think 15 -- a dozen or 15 imprisoned. There are three still in prison now -- who are there now -- American citizens who are still there, but this changes the game. I mean, this is someone who was a healthy young man who went to this country, spent months and months maybe in a coma there, and has now -- has now passed away. I mean, that takes it to a new level, I would think, and I'll be interested to see how the White House responds.

Meantime, we've got his health care fight going on behind closed doors in the Senate and we know the House had some pretty stringent rules and expectations for what they -- for what they want -- some demands, you know. They wanted to end federal funding for new states to expand Medicaid. They wanted to get rid of those essential health benefits. They had a long list of things that were important for the House. And now the Senate, behind closed doors, is trying to craft legislation that if it doesn't contain all of these it may not be able to pass the House. Where are we in terms of an impasse between trying to put the House and the Senate here together?

KOPAN: We're in a very difficult spot if you are Republican lawmakers in the Senate and House. Like, I mean, negotiations are continuing. The last we heard from some of our colleagues who report on this every day is that the Senate bill was moving closer to conservative demands but, of course, that's a problem in the Senate because you do have some moderate senators on the Republican side of the aisle who aren't necessarily comfortable with that. And there's a very small margin for Republicans in the Senate that can't lose three members of their caucus to get that 50 votes they need to pass this, so negotiations are very delicate at this moment.

And, you know, keep in mind they still need a Congressional Budget Office score on this bill --

BRIGGS: Right.

KOPAN: -- before they vote on it and that's going to take time once they finalize what they're trying to do. And so, despite continued optimism from leadership that it will have some sort of vote before July fourth, it's looking exceedingly unlikely.

BRIGGS: And there's reporting that Republicans are going to take a harder line on Medicaid which is going to be tough when President Trump called the House bill "mean."

KOPAN: Mean.

BRIGGS: But let's move now to Georgia. Polls open in less than 90 minutes. It is clearly tight between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff, the most expensive House race in U.S. history. A win by the Democrats means what?

KOPAN: A win by the Democrats would put so much wind in their sails at this point and it's almost that a win is better because of what a loss would mean. If the Democrats lose this race they have nothing to show for the special elections after a lot of attention was thrown into these races. There will be a tremendous amount of second guessing. Were we too progressive, were we too moderate?

[05:40:05] You know, the massive amount of money that came in -- honestly, the candidates couldn't even spend it all because the, you know, media market is such that advertising doesn't even cost that much. And so, you know, the questions of how did we campaign, did we turn out the base, was money spent effectively -- you know, it would go from Democrats potentially having a momentum-giving win going into midterms to yet another loss and more soul searching and, you know, continuing to be on your back foot going into midterms.

ROMANS: Tal, the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, is expected to give a big speech today where he's going to say transformational -- a tax reform is achievable -- it's achievable this year. We can do it. When you talk to business leaders, Republican business leaders in particular and folks and the Trump administration -- advising the Trump administration -- they've been saying maybe short-term tax cuts is what we should be talking about here just to goose business and get our three percent growth. Maybe a big transformational tax reform is not doable. It sounds like Paul Ryan is really going to try to sell the big enchilada today but relatively speaking, is work being done, consensus being made on tax reform here in the near term? They're running out of time.

KOPAN: Well, you asked two questions. Is work being done, sure? I mean, there are people working on this. It's consensus being achieved, it doesn't sound like it, you know -- ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: -- and Paul Ryan has continued to push this notion of a border adjustment tax that plenty of Republicans have signaled are -- is DOA. You know, there's still lines in the sand and I think that the conversation you've seen changing to tax cuts, even from the White House --

ROMANS: Yes.

KOPAN: -- it's been slipping in that direction more and more.

ROMANS: Yes.

KOPAN: That's incredibly telling and, you know, Republicans -- even some Republicans are frustrated. They don't want pure cuts that could increase the deficit, they really want some sort of reform. But it's really hard to believe it's doable this year. It's not impossible, technically, but it's really hard to believe it gets done.

ROMANS: And then you hear them talking about, you know, because it would only be able to pass with Republicans so they would have to do a reconciliation, so then would it be tax cuts that expire after 10 years or do you leave middle-class tax relief out of it to try to do it later, and all of that is a slippery slope that starts to look like a giveaway for business and not the tax relief --

BRIGGS: Who knew taxes could be so complicated?

ROMANS: And guess what, they are. All right. That's the reason '86 was the last time they were able to reform it because nobody can do. All right, thank you so much, Tal. Nice to see you.

KOPAN: Thank you, guys.

ROMANS: All right. It may be the largest leak of voter information in history. The data of almost 200 million Americans was exposed. That's more than half the U.S. population. The source, a national -- a Republican National Committee contractor. The info was accidentally made public during a security upgrade. It was left unprotected for two days. The data includes names, birthdates, voter information, even social media posts. The information is now password protected and the RNC says it cut ties with the contractor, but this incident proves any political party can be hacked.

The president has tweeted that the RNC has stronger defense than the Democrats. The Democratic National Committee was also hacked during the 2016 campaign.

BRIGGS: All right. How long did it take for the Japanese to report a collision with a U.S. destroyer? Now a discrepancy on the timing here raising questions. We're live in Japan, ahead on EARLY START.

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[05:47:30] ROMANS: Serious questions this morning in that deadly U.S. destroyer collision. Japan's Coast Guard now saying it took nearly an hour before the crew of the Japanese ship involved in the collision reported the deadly incident, and it's not exactly the same timing that the U.S. has. Let's get right to CNN's Alexandra Field live at the Yokosuka Naval Base. Alexandra, what do we know about this discrepancy over the timing -- over the sequence of events here in this terrible accident?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, there are a couple of investigations going on into why this crash happened, some being carried out by the Japanese Coast Guard, also another investigation being carried out by the U.S. Navy. We know that reaching that answer could take months if not longer but, already, there's a question of when the crash actually happened. Initially, you had authorities on both sides agreeing it happened around 2:20 on Saturday morning.

The Japanese Coast Guard said that that assessment was based on the fact that that's when they got a distress call from the container ship involved in the crash. But they say after interviewing the crew on board, they believe the crash actually happened nearly an hour earlier and they say it isn't unusual that the crew didn't phone it in -- call in that distress call earlier. They say they could have been employing other emergency procedures at that time so there is a discrepancy here. It does matter because both sides of this investigation will certainly want to look into the movements of the two ships that were involved.

This was a deadly crash, seven sailors killed. Their remains are now being transported back to the United States. Tributes beginning to pour in for this loss of life. Sailors aboard the USS Cole making formation with the number 62 on their deck. Sixty-two is the sign for the USS Fitzgerald. And the family members of those sailors killed obviously grieving, obviously mourning at this point. The family of one of those sailors, Sheila Douglas, putting out this statement. "We would also like to commend the crew of USS Fitzgerald for their efforts to save the ship and many lives. We know now why Shingo was proud to serve with you."

Navy officials here saying that that ship was, in fact, in danger of sinking and that the quick work of the crew is credited with saving many lives and getting that ship back here -- Christine.

ROMANS: By all accounts. About 16 hours it took to get back to the port. Amazing, heroic work by that crew. Thank you so much for that, Alexandra Field.

Tech leaders sat down with President Trump. There they are. Look at that lineup. Tech stocks were moving markets all the way to record highs. That's on CNN Money Stream, next.

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[05:54:05] ROMANS: Russia is threatening to treat American fighter jets as targets after the U.S. shot down a Syrian warplane over Raqqa. The White House says it is working to keep the lines of communication open with the Kremlin in order to avoid any conflicts but the president's spokesman, Sean Spicer, says the escalation of hostilities among many factions in the region is not helping all this, so what does it mean moving forward? We want to go live to Moscow this morning and bring in CNN's Diana Magnay. Good morning.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Well, there's going to need to be some pretty vigorous diplomacy to try and keep lines of communication open between the Russians and the U.S. to avoid an escalation of hostilities here. It's not in Russia's interest to have severed this communication line which is designed to do just that. They don't want to see any direct conflict with the U.S. over the skies in Syria, which this deconfliction line, it's called, was designed to prevent.

[05:55:00] But at the same time, you have a very different situation now to what happened last time that line was severed. Now you have pro-regime Assad forces moving towards Raqqa as the coalition is trying to put ISIS -- push ISIS out of Raqqa. They all have a view to the post-ISIS carve-up of eastern Syria. There is a big question mark over how much control the Kremlin actually does have over Assad's forces whether, as the U.S. said, you need to calm down this situation whether the Kremlin would be able to. And, of course, you have Iran also flexing its muscles on the border, sending in ballistic missiles over the weekend.

So it is a very, very volatile situation and it is one that Russia, too, knows it would be better if it is able to talk rather than threaten the United States about it.

ROMANS: All right. Diana Magnay in Moscow, thank you so much for that.

Five minutes to the top of the hour. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. As tech titans sat shoulder-to-shoulder with President Trump, tech stocks were moving markets, sending Wall Street to new highs. The Dow and the S&P 500 notching fresh records as tech rose one percent. Global stocks are also higher. There are the markets around the world. The tech sector fell last week over concerns some companies were overvalued but these big tech names, they're still the best-performing this year. They all closed higher.

The holidays are coming up -- months away, actually, but UPS is planning ahead and it will charge retailers extra fees to deliver packages. The company's volume doubles during the holiday shipping season and that forces UPS to hire additional workers and extra delivery vehicles. This year it will add a surcharge to offset its costs. The fees start Thanksgiving week. The move will force retailers to decide if they will eat the costs or pass those costs on to you, the consumer.

All right. Polls open in Georgia in one hour. A lot of people watching today's special election, including the president. He's already tweeting about it. "Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn't even live in the district." That's what the president's saying. He's up early. About an hour until the polls open. "NEW DAY" has more on that race starting right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN HANDEL (R), CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA'S SIXTH DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION: I feel really, really good -- very optimistic.

BRIGGS: A big special election in Georgia today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is almost like a referendum for Trump.

JON OSSOFF (D), CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA'S SIXTH DISTRICT SPECIAL ELECTION: It is the homestretch, you all. You can feel it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is go time on the battle to save American health care.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: We cannot allow America's health care to continue on its current downward trajectory.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The Republicans are writing their health care bill under the cover of darkness because they're ashamed of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of broken hearts for the Warmbier family.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are not going to stand by while they do this to our citizens.

TRUMP: It's a brutal regime and we'll be able to handle it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, June 20th, 6:00 here in New York, and we have a lot to get to.

Here is your starting line. All eyes on Georgia today. A special Congressional election there could be a referendum on the Trump presidency. Democrats hope for a big win in the most expensive House race in history. The implications of that race could have consequences for the president's agenda and Senate Republicans are pushing for a vote on their secretive health care bill as Dems tie up the Senate floor in protest.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Meanwhile, President Trump comments on North Korea after a potential homicide involving American student Otto Warmbier, who died just days after they released him from 17 months of captivity. The president's response more measured than muscular. And, new questions about fired National Security adviser Michael Flynn. Why did he fail to disclose trips to the Middle East on security clearance forms? We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Jason Carroll live in Marietta, Georgia. The president already tweeting about that race this morning, Jason. JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You knew he would be. I mean, when you see about how important this race has been and how many people have been paying attention to it. The most expensive race of its kind so far, $50 million spent by both of these candidates -- any indication of how important it is. The president was tweeting about it yesterday. He tweeted about it again this morning.

Here's what you have here in the Sixth Congressional District. This has been a district that has been reliably Republican for decades but Trump narrowly carried the district in 2016 so Democrats saw an opening here. Enter Jon Ossoff, a political novice. He's just 30 years old but he really, early on in his campaign, made this race very much about Donald Trump. That's why he got so much attention and some of his supporters say so much momentum. He's running against a political name here, Karen Handel. She's the former Georgia Secretary of State. She says Jon Ossoff is just, basically, your typical liberal. That's how she's, basically, portrayed him.

So here's what this race means for both sides.