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Second Talk with Putin Revealed; Who Was the 8th Person in the Room?; Trump: Let Obamacare Fail; Saudi Police Detain Woman in Miniskirt Video. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A second meeting between President Trump and President Putin. New revelations causing new questions this morning about why the White House didn't disclose this pull aside.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. The Republicans are not going to own it.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: #leadership. With Another plan to repeal Obamacare nixed by his own party, President Trump says he's ready to let the law fall apart. Despite long odds of passing a repeal, Senate leadership says the motion to proceed will do just that.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Nice to see you this morning, Wednesday morning.

BRIGGS: And you.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, July 19th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. Good morning early birds.

The White House is pushing back on criticism this morning after it emerged President Trump had a second, a second previously undisclosed discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It happened July 7th at a dinner for world leaders at the G20 in Germany. The White House only going public after they were asked about the discussion.

White House also acknowledging the only witness to this one-on-one chat with Russia's translator, just Russia's translator. The U.S. translator at the dinner only spoke Japanese.

BRIGGS: Now, the conversation raising some big questions about what exactly was discussed and why the meeting was never disclosed. President Trump responding to coverage of the revelation with a fiery series of tweets.

Our reporting begins with Sara Murray at the White House. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


Another meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin coming to light yesterday. This one was after they held their formal bilateral meeting at the G20. Later, there was a dinner for world leaders and their spouses. A senior White House official says that President Trump and President Putin spoke for nearly an hour.

And Trump is already chafing at the coverage. He took to Twitter in a late night tweet storm, calling the coverage sick and saying the fake news is becoming more and more dishonest. Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister.

Very clear that even as other big priorities are playing out here in Washington, even as President Trump is struggling to move forward with his domestic agenda, the Russia cloud looms large over White House.

Back to you, guys.


ROMANS: All right, Sara Murray.

To be clear, it's not the dinner, it's not a G20 dinner with all of those leaders that is the new revelation here. It is that the president spent a great deal of time talking to the Russian president without the benefit of anybody from his national security team or a U.S. translator.

So, the White House is offering its perspective on this Putin dinner chat. We'll call it a chat. Officials acknowledge it lasted almost an hour, 55 minutes, even though the White House statement calls it brief. So, a brief pull aside, but it was 55 minutes.

First Lady Melania Trump was seated next to Putin at the dinner, the White House says. Near the dinner's end, Trump got up from his seat elsewhere, went over to his wife and began speaking with Putin in full view of other world leaders.

BRIGGS: The White House statement concludes that the insinuation that the White House is trying to hide a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd. It is not merely perfectly normal. It is a part of president's duties to interact with world leaders. President Trump has demonstrated American leadership by representing our interests and values on the world stage.

ROMANS: All right. So, that's the world view from the White House on that.

As for the Russia probe, special counsel Robert Mueller giving the Senate Judiciary Committee the all-clear to interview Don Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in a public session, that according to ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein.

We're also learning the identity of the eighth person in Don Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting. He is the senior vice president of a company founded by a Russian oligarch. That oligarch, a Trump friend initiated the meeting.

CNN's Pamela Brown is in Washington with more on how the newly identified eighth person fits into the puzzle.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, good morning to you. We have learned the mystery eighth person in the Trump Tower meeting was Ike Kaveladze. He was born in the Soviet Union, studied in Moscow and goes all the way back to 1989 with Aras Agalarov, the Russian oligarch and business associates of Donald Trump as an employee of his company.

Now, he appeared in a video exclusively obtained by CNN, standing in the background right next to Donald Trump in the Agalarovs in Las Vegas back in 2013 and then, of course, three years later, he would come back into the spotlight as an attendee at the meeting at Trump Tower with Don Jr., then campaign chairman Paul Manafort, top adviser Jared Kushner and Rob Goldstone, and music publicist representing Emin Agalarov, who had promised Don Jr. incriminating information on Hillary Clinton before the meeting in that e-mail exchange.

[04:05:04] Now, Kaveladze's attorney, Scott Balber, says that his client attended that meeting as a representative of the Agalarov family and thought that he would needed as a translator but knew nothing about it really beforehand and has never had any involvement with the Russian government. And we should point, the attorney also says special counsel investigators have already reached out seeking information and he says his client is cooperating.

Back to you, Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Pamela, thank you.

The White House also making it official, naming Jon Huntsman as the president's choice for ambassador to Russia. This had been expected for sometime, despite Trump's sometimes tense relationship with the former Utah governor. Huntsman served as U.S. ambassador to China during the Obama administration. He ran for president, remember in 2012. When the nomination is formalized, Huntsman will require Senate confirmation.

BRIGGS: Turning now to health care. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to concede defeat on the Republican effort to get rid of Obamacare. That's despite the latest effort for outright repeal now, replace eventually -- failing almost as soon as it was announced. McConnell announced last night Republicans will hold a first procedural vote on the health care bill early next week. It's a move that will force GOP lawmakers to go on the record ahead of the 2018 midterms, if you will, walk the political plank.

ROMANS: And today, the White House has invited every Republican senator to lunch, to talk health care and other issues. With a straight up repeal apparently dead, the president says his new plan is only to -- is simply to let Obamacare fail.


TRUMP: Let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier. I think we're probably in that position where we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you, the Republicans are not going to own it.

We'll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they're going to say, how do we fix it, how do we fix it? Or how do we come up with a new plan?


ROMANS: The president also says his party's advantage in Congress isn't strong enough and voters need to elect more Republicans in '18.

But given the sharp divisions revealed by the failure of Obamacare repeal, even that might not solve the party's problems.

More on that from CNN's Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Christine and Dave, it's the thing they have campaigned on for seven years. They've negotiated on for more than six months. They own both the Senate and the House in terms of the majority and also, the White House. And now, it appears like they are going to fail. That's repealing Obamacare, the thing we've heard Republicans talk about year after year after year.

Now, if you track back from Monday throughout Tuesday, it was kind of a harried 15 to 20 hours as the initial draft plan collapsed, with two new Republican no votes. And then, Senator Mitch McConnell announced that he would move to another plan, not a repeal and replace plan, as it initially been drafted, but a repeal only plan.

One problem: senators had already discarded that plan in January; bringing it up also cause problems. Three Republican senators coming out opposed to the new plan, seemingly scuttling that as well. And it's something Senator Mitch McConnell made very clear, the whole process has just been a very difficult one for Republicans. Take a listen.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: A lot of people have been involved in a discussion, very passionate discussions, but everybody is giving it their best shot and as of today, we just simply do not have 50 senators who can agree on what ought to replace the existing law. MATTINGLY: Now, guys, an interesting element here is Senate leaders

are still planning to push forward with that vote, at least on the procedural motion, and even though at this moment, they don't have the votes. Essentially, they would be putting it up to fail.

Now, there are a couple reasons, for that, according to Senate aides that I've been speaking to. They want to get all their members on the record. They have a lot of members that made it very clear that even if this isn't going to pass, they want to be able to vote on something. This is as I noted, something that they have campaigned on repeatedly.

But the question becomes, if they fail in this vote as it looks like they are going to, what are the next steps? Is this officially done? Well, that's an open question. Clearly, they don't have the votes to replace. Clearly, if the repeal only effort fails, they don't have the votes for repeal.

So, is there some type of next step, some type of pathway forward? It's something only leaders can answer. But at least at this moment, it appears like no -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks, Phil.

So, could Obamacare really fail? Experts don't think it will collapse nationwide next year, but it could begin to fail in certain areas, particularly rural counties where all insurers have left. That includes 25,000 people in Nevada, Ohio, and Indiana, while another 2.7 million Americans could have just one option next year.

For example, right now, 94 of the 99 counties in Iowa, my home state, only have one insurer.

The problem is uncertainty. The quest to dismantle Obamacare has fueled its instability and insurers aren't sure if Congress will help. There are two ways it can, though. Sharing the costs for lower income Americans and enforcing the individual mandate.

[04:10:04] That one is key to getting younger, healthier people to enroll. The bigger the pool, the better for everyone.

Both measures offset the cost for more expensive customers, lowering premiums. But so far, lawmakers have not committed to either of those solutions for Obamacare. So, many insurers plan to hike rates next year. Forty-three percent of carriers say they'll hike rates by 20 percent or more. However, those in more stable markets only plan on smaller increases of less than 10 percent.

So, in some of those Obamacare markets, things are actually stabilizing and showing some improvement and slower growth of premiums. But it's uneven.

BRIGGS: And again, to your point, stability is what these companies will need if they are going to stay in the exchanges, and that vote would be a frightening one for those companies.

OK. The failure of Obamacare opens up a new path for Russia sanctions to pass Congress. Last month, the Senate passed a bill to slap new sanctions on Russia, and give Congress power to block any administration effort to ease them. Both parties itching to get the bill to President Trump's desk before the August recess.

But the bill has been stalled in the House amid objections from the White House. A series of procedural snafus and a push to add North Korea sanctions to the Russia sanctions bill. Now, Senate leaders say with the health care bill dead. There is time on the Senate calendar to deal with the Russia bill after all.

Ahead, new details this morning about what may have led a police officer to shoot Justine Ruszczyk. It comes as Minnesota police try to ease concerns about lack of early information on this case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our goal not speed, but we do recognize the public's desire and right to know as much as possible as soon as possible.



[04:15:55] BRIGGS: Arizona Senator Jeff Flake coming to the defense of his Democratic challenger after she became the target of online hate for being Muslim. Democrat Deedra Abboud wrote a Facebook post about the Founding Fathers and the separation of church and state. Abboud and her words were met with harsh, extremely harsh, vitriol, which we're not going to share because of the hateful content.

But last night, Senator Flake, the Republican incumbent, posted this on Twitter: Hang in there, Deedra. Sorry you have to put up with this, lots of wonderful people across Arizona you'll find.

ROMANS: New details emerging this morning in the death of a Minnesota woman shot and killed by police. State investigators say two officers Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity responded to the 911 call placed by Justine Ruszczyk about a possible sexual assault by driving to an ally near her home with their squad car lights off. Officer Harrity, who is driving the vehicle, says he was startled by a loud second.

Seconds later, Ruszczyk approached the window, that's when Harrity says his partner Officer Noor fired at Ruszczyk from the passenger's seat. The officers exited the vehicle and provided medical attention until help arrived.

BRIGGS: Officer Noor is so far refusing to speak with investigators, one of many frustrations for Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges


BETSY HODGES, MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS: We do have more information now, though it's frustrating to have some of the picture but not all of it. We cannot compel Officer Noor to make a statement. We can't compel him by law. But I wish that he would make that statement.


BRIGGS: It could be several months before state investigators are able to explain what happened. The city is fine-tuning its body camera policy and notes the cameras on the two officers were not turned on in this case. The officers have been placed on administrative leave.

ROMANS: In another high profile police shooting case, the family of Samuel DuBose lashing out after the prosecutors decided not to retry the officer for the third time. University of Cincinnati Officer Ray Tensing shot and killed Dubose in a 2015 traffic stop and was charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter. After jurors from the first two trials told the prosecutor he would never win a conviction partly because some jurors just couldn't convict an officer, he decided to drop the case. The family says pursuit of justice was abandoned. The case has been referred to the U.S. attorney for possible civil rights charges.

BRIGGS: A self-proclaimed drug dealer in Florida busts himself. The sheriff's office says David Blackman called them to report that someone broke into his car, stole 50 bucks in cash and a quarter ounce of cocaine. The sheriff's office says the responding deputy easily solved the case, finding cocaine still in the car, a crack pipe on the floor board and crack rock on the center consul. Nothing better than the world's stupidest criminals in these cases.

ROMANS: Oh my.

Right. There is outrage after the arrest of a woman in Saudi Arabia. Her crime? That's her crime -- basically wearing a skirt. All this coming as Saudi Arabia struggles to balance its history and its future. We're live with more, next.


[04:23:34] ROMANS: A video of a woman wearing a mini skirt and crop top in public in Saudi Arabia sparking fierce worldwide debate. Police have detained her and a hashtag was created that pushes for her to be put on trial. The incident is drawing international attention as Saudi Arabia struggles to shake off rules from the past as it tries to move into the future.

CNN's Becky Anderson is live in Abu Dhabi.

And, you know, to most looking at this video, this is just an attractive young woman, nothing really even that revealing. But in Saudi Arabia, this is a big deal.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You're absolutely right, Christine. It looks normal enough, right? Young woman wearing a short skirt and crop top, strolling through the empty streets of what is an historic city. The city as you rightly point out is in Saudi Arabia, specifically, this city is in a province of the kingdom that is the birthplace of the country's ultra conservative Wahhabi school of Islamic thought.

Now, it's no secret that Saudi modesty laws dictate that women must be suitably covered in public. Most wear long loose robes. They're known as abaya. Most covered their hair and some covered their faces Exceptions are made for visiting dignitaries, and I'm going to come to that.

But so far as this case is concerned, authorities tracked this woman down, detained her for questioning and released this statement saying and I quote: She admitted to visiting the site in question with a male guardian and that the viral videos were published by an account attributed to her without her knowledge.

[04:25:13] That's a statement from the Riyadh police.

Now, in a country which is a veracious consumer of social media, Christine, this thing went nuts. From comments like people who don't respect the kingdom's rules don't reserve to live in it, to suggestions that if she were from the West, and, by the way, nobody knows where this woman is from as of yet, they haven't released any details on her, the assumption is that she is a Saudi woman. If she were from the West, people would be falling head over heels for her was one comment.

And many people digging up the images of Melania and Ivanka Trump's recent trip to Riyadh with the U.S. president during which they got rave reviews for their, quote, style despite both foregoing head scarves.

Now, this is the deal. Under the leadership of what is a very young crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, the country of Saudi Arabia is undergoing major change. It's introduced a massively ambitious plan for social, for economic and for cultural reform. This is a plan that's called Saudi Vision 2030.

And the government rolling back at the same time some of the powers of its religious police not letting them detain people they think have broken some of the extremely strict standards of moral conduct. But the difficulty here is that there are long held beliefs by conservative segments in Saudi, and those will take a long time to change.

Back to you, guys.

ROMANS: Wow, it is remarkable. I mean, just totally different world view there for women.

All right, thank you so much. Nice to see you, Becky.

All right. President Trump had a second discussion with Vladimir Putin at the G20. Somehow the world never found out about that until now. What's going on here?

BRIGGS: And Mitch McConnell won't abandon plans for a vote to repeal Obamacare despite enough opposition in his own party to block it. The president not pleased.


TRUMP: For seven years, I've been hearing repeal and replace from Congress and I've been hearing it loud and strong and then when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don't take advantage of it. So, that's disappointing.