Return to Transcripts main page


Republicans Capture Critical Georgia Race; Senate Republicans Set to Unveil Health Bill; Jared Kushner in Israel; Failed Terror Bombing at Brussels Train Station; Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp to Donate Brain. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2017 - 05:00   ET



KAREN HANDEL (R), WON GEORGIA HOUSE RACE: Thank you. God bless you.



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A body blow for Democrats. The Republicans win a closely watched special election in Georgia. What does it mean for the president's agenda and can Democrats ever regain their footing in Trump country?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START this Wednesday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

First day of summer.

BRIGGS: First day of summer?

ROMANS: First day of summer.

BRIGGS: That makes me happy.

ROMANS: It's still dark outside but it is going to be a long day.

[05:00:00] I promise you this will be the longest day of the year.

BRIGGS: It will for Democrats.

I'm Dave Briggs. It's Wednesday, June 21st, the first day of summer, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Democrats searching for a new strategy after suffering defeat in a high stakes and very high cost special election in Georgia. There are the numbers.

CNN projects Republican Karen Handel beats Democrat Jon Ossoff by four points in a district Republicans have typically won by 20-plus points. Still, enough to provide a big morale boost to Republicans who are worried about President Trump's potential to drag down GOP candidates in midterm elections next year.

ROMANS: Last night, after declaring victory, Handel did not minimize this president. She and her supporters embraced him. Listen.


HANDEL: And a special thanks to the president of the United States of America.




ROMANS: Jon Ossoff falling short despite raising $23 million in the most expensive House race in U.S. history. In conceding, he tried to paint a hopeful picture of Democratic victories to come.


JON OSSOFF (D), LOST GEORGIA HOUSE RACE: This is not the outcome any of us were hoping for. But this is the beginning of something much bigger than us. It's extraordinary what you have done here. The fight goes on.


BRIGGS: Republican Ralph Norman also won a special election in South Carolina's fifth district, the Frank Underwood seat for you watchers of Netflix. That means Republicans are plow 4-0 in special elections to replace Trump appointees.

ROMANS: All right. Let's break this down and bring in again CNN political analyst, David Drucker, senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", and "Bloomberg News" White House reporter, Shannon Pettypiece.

Good morning.

You know, David Drucker, I wonder if the assumption among Democrats that Donald Trump is a liability is a false assumption.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it depends on what district you're talking about and how you want to look at this. I mean, I think Donald Trump has clearly created political turbulence for Republicans. It has made it more difficult for them I think to move their agenda on Capitol Hill and I think there are districts out there where he could be a liability next year.

But I also think and I discovered this in talking to Republicans in the district earlier this month that Republican voters look at this as a choice between a Congress led by Nancy Pelosi who is the House minority leader and would be speaker if Democrats recapture the House next year, and what they've got and what they have as a Republican president who's willing to sign tax cut bills and health care reform bills that a Republican Congress will sign them. It's early in his administration even for Republicans in this district that weren't as high on him and that's always why this among all the special elections was the target Democrats focused on because this was a district that had resisted Trump. He had barely won the district even though Tom Price was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote.

These Republicans are willing to give Donald Trump a chance to perform and see if he can get it done. Let's see where Republicans and Democrats are next year. Let's see where Donald Trump is, the president, next year.

Too early to make assumptions but I do think one thing that Democrats should understand is that however Republicans feel about the president's behavior and his tweeting and -- and various investigations and I found a lot of unease and unhappiness about that, there's -- voters are sophisticated.


DRUCKER: And for them, it's a choice, and right now, they're going to stick with the president and his agenda, which they very much are in support of.

BRIGGS: And to that point, an op-ed in President Trump's favorite newspaper, "The New York Times", reads this. So, a party sorely demoralized in November is demoralized yet again and left to wonder if the intense anti-Trump passion visible in protests, marches, money and new volunteers isn't just some theatrical, symbolic abstract thing.

Wow. Shannon, what should Democrats take away from the most expensive House loss in U.S. history?

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: That you need a message and you need a candidate that people want to vote for. And that just running on an anti-Trump platform and an anti Trump agenda is not enough to get it done.

You know, if you are a Republican who cares about low taxes, less government, pro-life issues, you're not voting for the Democrat. You know, if you're an independent who wants to see someone with experience or someone who shares your values, you're not going to vote someone because they're against the president.

I think it's a wakeup call for the Democrats. I think though for Republicans, I don't think they should get too comfortable because as Dave was pointing out, it's a long way until November 2018.

[05:05:01] A lot can happen between now and then. But, you know, they can't get too comfortable in this, but I think they needed to win this -- the Republicans needed this more than the Democrats just to hold sort of the base and hold things steady, but I think it definitely is a wakeup call to Democrats.

ROMANS: Shannon, what did you make yesterday of Sean Spicer and that comment about heart in the health care reform that's secretly in front of the Senate, you know, the president famously last week said that he thought that the House version was mean. He wanted heart in the Senate version. This is all happening behind closed doors. There's a lot of hand wringing. Some senators don't know what's happening there.

You know, the president really wants to get some stuff done, right? Where are we on that? And what do you make of this idea that the president wants more?

PETTYPIECE: I don't -- yes, I think that he does not want to be running in 2020 and doesn't want to see his party running in 2018 with a health care bill that forced millions of people to lose their health insurance which if you -- you know, if you believe in the CBO's estimate on the house bill, 23 million people would lose their health insurance, he doesn't want to see that, you know? And he doesn't, you know, buy into sort of some of these Republican ideologies about health care of, you know, personal responsibility and you know, your neighbor shouldn't be paying for your health care and free markets. He's not really a fundamentalist free market type of Republican.

So, I think, you know, he would like to see something where you know, even more sort of toward universal health care. You know, he doesn't want anyone to lose coverage. He wants to see more people get coverage and he's not comfortable with telling his base -- well, you lost your insurance because of me, but don't worry, we're going to make a free market system that will lower it in the long run and people will take more responsibility.

ROMANS: I mean, Trump supporters would be disproportionately affected by what we saw in that House bill, there's no question, you know? And, clearly, the president knows that.

BRIGGS: Right. But as to the process, the snarky John McCain blasted the secretive process the Republicans have used, David, and Mike Lee even more interestingly on Facebook, the conservative Senator Mike Lee said I haven't seen it either. He's one of the people supposed to be on this committee writing this very bill.

Where are we headed with a bill the Republicans are supposed to get a glimpse at tomorrow?

DRUCKER: Well, look, the bill will be unveiled and they'll start to try and hash out a deal to try and get to where they actually have the votes to pass this thing. And we'll see how successful Senate Republicans are in doing this.

Look, I think the important thing to understand with the president is that he just wants to sign anything that will get to his desk and he preferably would like people to like it. What we haven't seen so far is the president willing to take ownership of the process and use the pulpit to tell people what they should like about it.

And so, I found this whole exercise about the president doesn't want it to be mean and he wants it to have heart to be a whole lot of semantics. I mean, if the president believes in the bill, as president, what he should do is go out there and tell Americans why they should believe in a bill, why it's going to fix an Obamacare system that does have a lot of trouble and does need to be fixed.


DRUCKER: Most of the president's -- the president's base doesn't like Obamacare. They don't necessarily realize that a lot of things they like about Obamacare are Obamacare. But that gives the president an opportunity to tell them why this is going to be better and what Republicans on the Hill have to do is try and put together a bill that once it starts to be implemented people are going to like.

What Democrats found over the past seven or eight years as they were implementing Obamacare, a lot of people were unhappy. Notwithstanding where we are today, where the law is unpopular than it's ever been, ironically.

ROMANS: Right.

DRUCKER: When they implement Obamacare and people lost doctors and they lost plans, they didn't much care about the preexisting conditions protections and everything else. They were upset at the bill and it never caught on.

ROMANS: Shannon, quickly, yesterday, the House speaker stood in front of the National Association of Manufacturers and said there's time right now for transformational tax reform, once in a generation, he can get it done, they can get it done by the end of the year.

Do you think he can do it? Was that a pep talk or was that reality?

PETTYPIECE: I think it depends on what happens with health care in the next few weeks. If they can get health care off the table, you know, get something passed, get priority come together, I think they do have a realistic chance. If health care drags into September, past August recess, I think tax reform gets incredibly difficult to get done this year.

ROMANS: All right. I know, I've been hearing people about tax cuts and tax cuts for business and doing the middle class piece later, and it sounds like Paul Ryan is focusing back in on no, we're talking about tax reform, everybody. The real big deal. Let's do that.

BRIGGS: All right. Shannon, David, we'll talk to you in about 20 minutes. Thank you.

Terror strikes in Europe again. An explosion at a Brussels train station. How did the attacker end up the only one dead? We're live in Belgium ahead on EARLY START.


[05:14:16] ROMANS: Breaking overnight, the Uber founder Travis Kalanick resigning as CEO after months of scandal. Investors demanded he go. That's just a week after Kalanick took a leave of absence, citing the death of his mother.

Travis Kalanick helped found Uber in 2009. He built it into a transportation and tech powerhouse. But he also fostered a work place culture that is causing this current crisis at Uber including accusations of discrimination, sexual harassment, that typical Silicon Valley culture that does not embrace everyone.

The investigations that followed led to the firing of 20 employees and the exodus of top executives. Great talent leaving there.

Kalanick's departure deepens this leadership crisis. He says in a statement he's leaving for the good of the company, so that Uber can go back to building instead of enduring another fight.

[05:15:07] BRIGGS: Big news there.


BRIGGS: All right. President Trump's senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner is in Israel this morning. His mission: to revive the Mideast peace process. Kushner will participate in a round of shuttle diplomacy meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem.

Oren, any idea what new process he might bring to the table here?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, perhaps he's looking for some concrete steps, but so far, there's been little information put out about these meetings. What we do know is he's trying to keep President Trump's momentum going on trying to restart some sort of peace process and make some kind of progress here.

Now, historically, you have to be skeptical, but would Kushner's visit means especially right now is that Trump is absolutely serious. He wants to restart a peace process and Kushner being here raises the stakes for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Now, Kushner's trip is short. He's on the ground for less than 24 hours, but he has meetings with the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinian president, and the U.S. embassy had said those meetings will be, quote, long and intense.

So, we'll see what comes out of it and if he makes any demands for concrete steps with his meetings here. So far it's been a different presidential advisor who has essentially done the leg work, who's had the meetings, who's been to the region three or four times. But now, it's Kushner shoved into that main role here.

Remember, he was here a month ago with President Trump's visit. Now, he's in the spotlight and we'll see what comes out of his meetings and if there are any concrete steps or even any sort of progress here. As this is happening, Israel just announced its first new settlement or actually broke ground on its first new settlement in the West Bank in 20 years.

Both the U.S. and England have said it's not helpful to peace. So, tension as this visit happens. BRIGGS: A tall task even for the man nicknamed the secretary of everything.

Oren, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Belgium's national security council meeting this morning following a failed terrorist bombing at the central train station in Brussels. Authorities say they now know the identity of that suspect. He was fatally shot by soldiers after what officials called a small explosion in the busy transportation hub.

I want to go live to Brussels this morning and bring in CNN's Erin McLaughlin.

And, Erin, we understand you have some new information for us.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. We are getting new details about the suspect, as well as about the sequence of events of this failed terror attack. The federal prosecutor just minutes ago giving a press conference.

We now know that the suspect that was shot and killed by soldiers inside the station was 35 years old, of Moroccan nationality. He was not known to authorities for terrorism.

We also have a clearer picture in terms of what exactly happened, the timetable of this failed attack. At 8:40 in the evening, according to the prosecutor, a man entered the station just behind me. At 8:44, there was a partial explosion and screams, the suspect yelling Allahu Akbar.

Troops opening fire, killing him. He had left luggage on the platform according to the federal prosecutor. The bag exploded partially. Inside that bag, nails, small gas bottles, really designed to cause maximum damage.

Thankfully though, no one was injured in all of this. Authorities saying there is no links to the Paris or Brussels attacks. There was a raid in the overnight hours of the suspect's home, continuing into the morning in the Molenbeek area of Brussels. You may remember Molenbeek is a neighborhood tied to the Paris and Brussels attacks where Salah Abdeslam, one of the Paris attackers, was arrested and found in a raid.

But again, authorities saying at the moment, this attack is not tied to the attacks that unfolded in Brussels and Paris -- Christine.

ROMANS: Fortunately, no one was hurt and the attempted attacker shot by police. Thank you so much for that, Erin in Brussels.

BRIGGS: All right. We'll talk some sports ahead. NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp says he's donating his brain to science, but not yet. Needless to say, the football great hoping to aid research on concussions and CTE.

Andy Scholes with details in the "Bleacher Report", next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:23:50] BRIGGS: New York and Los Angeles, Major League Baseball's two largest markets with two rookies taking this league by storm.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


You know, the Yankees didn't have to wait long after Derek Jeter retired for another superstar to come along. Rookie Aaron Judge, the best young Yankee slugger since Mickey Mantle. Yes, I've said.

The 6'7" Judge continuing his assault on baseball last night with another blast. His league leading 24th home run of the season and Judge's teammates having some fun how tall he is, picking each other up to give him high fives right there. And the Yankees, though, they would lose their seventh straight on his one. Final 8-3 to the Angels.

Meanwhile, out west, another rookie also dominating. Last night, the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger became the first rookie ever to hit ten home runs in ten games. He's only two home runs behind Judge for the league. Both players virtual locked to be in this year's all star home run. There'd be contest in Miami. Should be a fun one.

Now, Bellinger's teammate Corey Seager also having himself quite the night, crushing three home runs and L.A.'s 12-0 blowout win over the Mets.

[05:25:00] Now, the Seager family, plenty to cheer about last night. Corey's brother Kyle who plays for the Mariners coming through with the game winning hit in extra innings for Seattle.

So, the question is, what's better? Three home runs or a walk off hit? I'll take the three home runs.

All right. Former Patriots and Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan O'Callaghan revealing publicly to Outsports that he is gay. O'Callaghan says football was his way to hide his sexuality from his family and teammates. O'Callaghan says the pressure though of hiding that he is gay led to him abusing painkillers and he said he had planned to kill himself after his football career came to an end, but a counselor for the Chiefs helped talk him out of it. O'Callaghan says he hopes his story helps others and he thinks the NFL is ready for an openly gay player.

All right. Finally, former FBI star Warren Sapp says he suffers from memory loss and plans to donate his brain to the concussion legacy program once he dies. That says, e now forgets simple things like how to get to a friend's house he's been to a thousand times. He says he actually has to put reminders in his phone.

In 2015, researchers at Boston University said they found that the brain disease CTE in 87 of the 91 brains that they studied belonging to former NFL football players.

And finally, guys, you know, the wild week in the NBA continues. Dwight Howard was traded last night from the Hawks to the Hornets. D'Angelo Russell from the Lakers to the Nets.

Dave, I want to say I know you're a big NBA fan. It's going to be an interesting 48 hours as we lead up into the draft as teams just moving pieces around like crazy as they try to compete with the Cavs and the Warriors.

BRIGGS: Yes, all eyes on Paul George. But Dwight Howard actually tweeted, hey, let me get your thoughts on trades right before being traded. That was an awkward moment for him. Five teams in seven years, I think. Great players don't get traded like that.

All right. Scholes, thank you, man.

SCHOLES: All right. Have a good one.

ROMANS: All right. Democrats staring at a cold reality this morning.


OSSOFF: We showed the world that in places where no one thought it was even possible to fight, we could fight.


ROMANS: They can fight. Can they win? A devastating loss in a race that was supposed to slow the Trump machine.