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Washington Post: Trump Dictated Son's Misleading Statement on Meeting with Russian Lawyer; Kelly Ousts Scaramucci; Venezuela Crisis Intensifies After Vote; North Korea Submarine Activity Detected; Pence: U.S. Will Not Tolerate Russian Aggression. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 1, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:43] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Did President Trump dictate the initial response to his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer? A major new report this morning that could spell further trouble for the commander-in-chief.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And it didn't take long for the new chief of staff to make his mark. Anthony Scaramucci is out as communications chief. John Kelly putting a quick end to a whirlwind 11 days and a whirlwind 24 hours it was at the White House.

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

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

And we begin with new reporting that suggests President Trump himself personally dictated the initial misleading statement about Don Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.

According to the "Washington Post," the president insisted on a change in strategy after advisers planned to issue a truthful statement to get ahead of the original story before it broke in "The New York Times." "The Post" citing people with knowledge of the deliberations says the president dictated a statement saying his son and the Russian lawyer discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children. The statement was worked out on Air Force One on the flight home from the G20 summit in Germany.

BRIGGS: The adoption claims were later shown to be misleading. Trump Jr. even acknowledged he took the meeting because he was promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. President Trump's lawyer already on the record denying the president had anything to do with crafting this statement.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he didn't have anything to do with the statement that Don Jr. put out, that was being worked on with his team?

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: That's -- no. The statement that Don Jr. put out -- you talking about yesterday's, Chris?

CUOMO: The one over the weekend that the president's team was helping with.

SEKULOW: That was written -- no, that was written by Donald Trump Jr. and I'm sure in consultation with his lawyer.

CUOMO: Because "The New York Times" is reporting that the president OK'd the statement.

SEKULOW: Well, they're incorrect.

CUOMO: "The New York Times" is wrong?

SEKULOW: Yes, I know. Is that shocking that sometimes they make a mistake?


KOSIK: The extent of the president's personal intervention adding to a series of actions Trump has taken that advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy. There's concern that his direct involvement leaves him vulnerable to allegations of a cover-up. We should also note CNN was the first to report concern that White House aides involved in the Trump Jr. response may have exposed themselves to special counsel scrutiny.

BRIGGS: The president's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner offering up a new defense to knock down claims that members of the Trump election team colluded with Russia. On Monday, Kushner spoke privately to a group of congressional interns and told them collusion could not have occurred because staffers were barely talking to each other. Quote, they thought we collided, Kushner told the interns, but we couldn't even collude with our own local offices.

ROMANS: OK. We know what Kushner told the interns because a source provided a copy of his written notes to the publication "Foreign Policy." Kushner also downplayed his failure to report more than 100 instances of travel and contacts with foreign officials on his security clearance forms which he had to update twice to include meetings with Russian officials. Kushner claims he didn't track the meetings because he didn't expect to get into politics.

BRIGGS: The days of tolerating B.S. in this White House are over, end quote. That from a source close to the Trump White House. If you don't believe it, just ask Anthony Scaramucci. His tenure as communications director ending before it really began, technically his start day was August 15th.

Scaramucci lasting exactly 11 days. A White House statement saying: Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give chief of staff John Kelly a clean slate and ability to build his own time.

ROMANS: Sources say Kelly delivered the news in a face-to-face meeting with Scaramucci after being sworn in. They say the retired marine general thought Scaramucci lacked discipline and severely damaged his credibility after a profanity-laced tirade in "The New Yorker". And President Trump apparently agreed.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president certainly felt that Anthony's comments were inappropriate for a person in that position. I don't think that it's complicated to understand that the president felt the comments were inappropriate.

[04:35:04] I can't really explain it any further. I'm not sure what's hard.


BRIGGS: Sarah Huckabee Sanders also telling reporters that all White House staff will now report to Kelly. The president had no official comment on Scaramucci's departure but tweeted last night: A great day at the White House. Earlier, Mr. Trump had also tweeted: no chaos at the White House. Nothing to be seen here, Alison.

KOSIK: If that was a great day, I would hate to see what a not-so- great day looks like.

BRIGGS: Well, it's funny, the word great, right? If you're making America great again, what do we mean by that if that was a great day yesterday?

KOSIK: All right. New chief of staff John Kelly was so upset with how President Trump handled the firing of FBI Director James Comey in May that he called Comey afterward and told him he was considering resigning. That's according to two sources familiar with a conversation between the two men. They tell CNN it is not clear how serious Kelly was about stepping down from his post as secretary of homeland security. He's described as angry and hurt by the way Comey was treated.

BRIGGS: The former FBI director learned he was fired from TV news reporters as he was addressing staffers at the agency's L.A. office. Comey took a call from Kelly while he was traveling back to Washington and told him not to step down. Comey has declined to comment. The White House and Department of Homeland Security have also not responded to CNN's request for a comment.

KOSIK: Obamacare's outlook in 2018 just got a little brighter in Ohio at least. Insurers agreed to sell policies in 19 of the 20 counties that had zero options next year. That's according to the state's department of insurance. And regulators are working to bring coverage to the last county. This cuts the number of so-called bare counties in half, ones who lack insurers on the Obamacare exchange.

Eighteen counties in Nevada and Indiana are still at risk of having zero Obamacare providers next year. But the deadline is coming soon. Carriers have until late September to commit to participating in 2018.

Roughly 11,000 Ohio residents were at risk after Anthem and Paramount Health Care exited the exchanges earlier this year. The insurers blamed huge losses and uncertainty of the future of Obamacare, including the continuation of federal subsidies that helped pay for low-income Americans. However, the president is currently threatening to end those payments as he pushes for the repeal of Obamacare.

BRIGGS: Yes. The key word there that you said is uncertainty. And that's what's facing the entire health care system in the United States until we see some leadership on this issue.


BRIGGS: Ahead, friends of Anthony Scaramucci aren't the only ones sad to see him leave the White House.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: I guess it's time to say goodbye, Anthony Scaramucci. We hardly knew-chi.


BRIGGS: As you might imagine, a field day for the late-night hosts. Much more next.


[04:42:11] KOSIK: Breaking news overnight in Venezuela. Two leading opposition figures who had been under house arrest taken from their homes. It follows the controversial vote this past weekend that handed the Venezuelan president even more power.

CNN's Leyla Santiago live for us in Caracas with the latest. You know, this is a really disturbing turn of events.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And this is something that has happened just in the last few hours. Venezuelans will be waking up to this news. Much of it over TV and much of it over social media as the family of Leopoldo Lopez is tweeting that they are still waiting to find out where he is, why he was detained.

And, you know, just to put this into context, this is one of the leaders really of the opposition, of this movement that has been so critical of the government. Oftentimes when you're out at protests, you'll see his face on T-shirts of those speaking out against the government. And that is one person that has been detained overnight -- that was taken from his home overnight. The other person who was also taken, also on house arrest, the former mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma.

And so, many questions out there now as to where they are, why they were taken. I have reached out to the government of Venezuela to ask those two questions because at this point, much of the information is actually coming from surveillance video or cell phone footage that show that they were taken by individuals in a car that was marked by SEBIN, which is the abbreviation for intelligence officers. That video being watched and shared over social media again and again as many wonder if this is part of the uncertainty that is now playing out on the streets of Venezuela. Many wondering what else will happen today. This is two opposition

leaders, two very critical people of the government that were on house arrest. And now, nobody knows, Alison, where they are at this moment and why, where and why. Those are two key questions that have yet to be answered for these families or by our questions to the government.

KOSIK: And all of this, of course, happening as the U.S. slaps sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. And it's questioning whether sanctions will get things under control in Venezuela.

All right. CNN's Leyla Santiago live for us in Caracas, thanks very much.

BRIGGS: The U.S. military picking up, quote, highly unusual and unprecedented levels of submarine activities being conducted by North Korea. Also detected evidence of an ejection test. These activities coming just days after North Korea's second intercontinental ballistic missile launch this month.

[04:45:03] KOSIK: And if the Trump administration is counting on China to rein in Kim Jong-un, it's not happening any time soon. Chinese officials now suggesting the burden for finding a peaceful solution to the crisis on the Korea peninsula is on the U.S. and South Korea.

Let's bring in CNN's Alexandra Field live for us from Seoul.

You know, it's interesting, you see what president Trump said yesterday saying we will handle North Korea. We are going to be able to handle them. It will be handled. We will handle everything.

Are you getting a sense of confidence where you are that this will be handled?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an incredibly complex situation that certainly hasn't been handled before, despite the messages that you've heard from Washington over the last few months. What has been clear is that North Korea has rapidly accelerated its program in terms of missiles and its nuclear program.

You've seen 12 ballistic missile launches since just the start of the year. Now, two ICBM tests. Now, you're seeing a flurry of submarine activity and further testing of a component that is critical for missile launches from submarines. The missile launch program aboard submarines is still in its early stages, according to U.S. intelligence estimates.

But certainly North Korea has defied the expectations of the world before in terms of working to advance faster than a prescribed timeline given from the rest of the world. So, you do hear President Trump coming out and saying things like we'll handle North Korea. The question remains how. And he didn't expound when he said this is something that the U.S. would take care of.

Is the U.S. still looking at China to solve this problem? That has been the Trump administration's policy. Lately, you have seen an incredible venting of frustration from Washington geared toward Beijing. They say that Beijing hasn't done anything to rein in North Korea.

And, of course, they see China as having the economic leverage over North Korea in order to curb the regime's intentions to accelerate both the missile and the nuclear program. Now, you've had a lot of criticism from Washington, D.C.

You're also now getting some pushback from Beijing. The ministry of foreign affairs saying frankly about the North Korea problem that they did not create it, that China didn't create it. And now, you've got the Chinese ambassador to the U.N. saying that the U.S. and North Korea both need to do more in terms of deescalating the growing tension on the peninsula. They have condemned Pyongyang's missile launches, but they also say the rhetoric coming from Washington, D.C., this response that we've heard over and over again that all options are on the table, is not helping to deescalate the tension.

So, they're looking at both Pyongyang and the U.S. while Washington is looking squarely at Beijing -- Alison.

KOSIK: Right. Beijing is saying not in my backyard.

All right. Alexandra Feld, thanks very much.

BRIGGS: Vice President Mike Pence overseas in Georgia this morning reassuring Baltic leaders of U.S. support and delivering a warning to the Kremlin. And now, the process is underway, evicting hundreds of personnel from U.S. diplomatic properties in Russia after retaliatory measures following American sanctions.

CNN's Claire Sebastian following developments. She's live for us in Moscow this morning.

Good morning to you, Claire.

No comment from the president on the Russian retaliation. He's also not signed the sanctions bill. What's the latest there?


Well, another strong tirade against Russia from the vice president, Mike Pence, this morning in Georgia, on Russia's southern border. A former Soviet state that nine years ago this month put a wall with Russia.

The vice president delivering a very similar message to what we saw over the last couple of days in Estonia, on Russia's western border. He said that, you know, the U.S. stands with Georgia against Russian aggression. He reaffirmed that President Trump does intend to sign that sanctions bill and they hope this will cause Russia to alter its path when it comes to the situation in Ukraine and supporting rogue nations like Syria and Iran. Now, President Trump, as you say, has not yet signed that sanctions

bill. But the issue of Russian retaliation against that, those two measures that they undertook confiscating two diplomatic properties and cutting the size of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Russia by about 60 percent, that is playing out before our eyes. The confiscation of the properties is effective today.

We've already seen trucks moving out of one of them, a country house outside Moscow. And that even as the State Department and the U.S. embassy here continue to assess the impact of that very large cut to their diplomatic mission here, 755 people we know will be cut. The U.S. gets to decide who. It seems to all be shaking out.

Now, Mike Pence did say today that he does hope relations with Russia may improve in the future. But taking all this together, Dave, is difficult to see a path to that right now.

BRIGGS: Indeed that is.

All right. Claire Sebastian live for us in Moscow -- thanks.

KOSIK: Tesla just released its first mass-market car. But new information about the electric car is sending the stock plummeting. CNN "Money Stream" coming up next.


[04:54:10] BRIGGS: OK. So, it turns out Anthony Scaramucci won't be the gift that keeps on giving for late-night hosts. But his ouster was pure comedy gold. Here's a sample.


COLBERT: He said he was going to fire everybody. I got to admit, he delivered.


COLBERT: The Mooch lasted as communications director for only ten days! Ten. That's not even a whole pay period.


His going-away party can serve what's left of his welcome cake.


On Friday, Donald Trump hired new White House chief of staff and grandpa who doesn't do hugs, General John Kelly. Kelly let the Mooch go because he wanted more structure, less of Game of Thrones.


That's not fair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. COLBERT: That's not a fair comparison.

[04:55:01] With "Game of Thrones," you have to wait a whole week for a new beheading.

At 8:30 a.m. this morning, Donald Trump tweeted that there was no White House chaos.


Six hours later, Scaramucci is out. Evidently, no chaos wasn't bragging, it was complaining.


And in the White House press briefing today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke, I think, for many Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's happening?


COLBERT: Looks good.

SETH MEYER, COMEDIAN: Man, that was fast. If Scaramucci was Viagra, it wouldn't even be time to call your doctor yet.


Trump removes Scaramucci at the request of incoming chief of staff John Kelly. And when he heard that, Reince Priebus laughed for the first time in 18 months.



KOSIK: Yes, who knows, maybe there's a blessing in disguise for him.

BRIGGS: But remember, it was a great day at the White House, folks. You keep that in perspective.

Meanwhile, a special gesture from the Chicago Cubs to the team's most infamous and vilified fan. Who could forget Steve Bartman, the young fan who tipped the foul ball in the 2003 playoffs crushing the Cubs' post-season hopes? At least in the eyes of fans that failed to see everything that followed after that. And the team's World Series curse kept going.

But after winning the series last year for the first time in 108 years, the Cubs trying to make amends for all the anguish Bartman has endured by giving him his own personalized World Series ring. The team hopes it brings closure to an unfortunate chapter in its history.

KOSIK: Now, Bartman's been hiding for most of the last 14 years. He put out a statement saying this, although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful. I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations.

Bartman added he still will not be conducting interviews. Wah-wah.

BRIGGS: Theo Epstein can do no wrong, but maybe we need to educate fans on what happened after that.

KOSIK: Let me do that -- if you have the time --

BRIGGS: It wasn't the deciding moment in the loss. But anyway, we don't have time. It's only a two-hour program.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics again in 2028. The announcement clearing the way for Paris to get the 2024 Games. Earlier this month, the IOC broke with tradition by awarding two summer games at once. But members did not announce which city would host which year.

This is the first time an American city will host the Summer Olympics since Atlanta in 1996. The Los Angeles planning committee estimates the event will cost $5.3 billion. Historically, though, those estimates wind up being very low.

KOSIK: All right. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning. Global markets are higher this morning after the Dow hit yet another record high. We did see the NASDAQ and S&P fall after a big drop in big name stocks like tech stocks like Facebook, Google parent Alphabet, as well, dropped.

Still, you look at the three major indices, they closed the month with the best gains that we've seen since February. Strong earnings, that is what is keeping stocks close to their records. In fact, you look at the S&P 500, profits are expected to rise 11 percent for the second quarter. That will mean 2017 had the best two consecutive quarters in six years because there was a 15 percent return in the first quarter.

BRIGGS: Huge. Yes.

KOSIK: And more earnings today. Apple, the most valuable company in the world, it is reporting. We're going to keep an eye on that.

Tesla stock, though, dropping 3.5 percent after founder Elon Musk is warning about manufacturing hell. The electronic -- electric carmaker is ramping up production of its new mass-market car, the Model 3. And Tesla already has a half million reservations. But Musk is already saying that production will be challenging. That's worrying investors. As the company loses cash, Wall Street is betting on the Model 3's success, propelling the stock up 53 percent this year.

Two lifestyle cable channels are coming together. Discovery Communications which owns TLC and Animal Planet is buying Scripps Networks, the parent of the Food Network and HGTV. The deal is worth almost $12 billion. And together, they make up 20 percent of cable viewers. Combined, these two are going to have more muscle in negotiations with TV distributors and streaming services. So, that's necessary as the cable biz faces increasing pressure from online video.

BRIGGS: All right. A lot to get to because, again, it was a great day at the White House and a chaotic one.

EARLY START continues right now.


KOSIK: Did President Trump dictate the initial response to his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer? A major report this morning that could spell further trouble for the commander-in-chief.

BRIGGS: And it didn't take long for the new chief of staff to make his mark. Anthony Scaramucci is out as comms chief. John Kelly putting a quick end to a whirlwind 11 days. And, boy, the New York tabloids are having a field day.

KOSIK: They're having a field day.