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Trump-Russia Investigation: Did Trump Dictate Meeting Response?; Kelly Ousts Scaramucci; Venezuela Crisis Intensifies After Vote; North Korea Submarine Activity Detected; Cubs Give Bartman 2016 World Series Ring. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 1, 2017 - 05:00   ET


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

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 comms chief.

[05:00:01] 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.

BRIGGS: "Va-mooch" reads "The New York Post". "Adios Mooch-Cacho" reads "The New York Daily News".

KOSIK: I like the recent cover of "Survivor" showing who was voted off --

BRIGGS: Showing a couple voted off the island.

KOSIK: There's a mini one here. Yes, I love that.

BRIGGS: What a day it was. It is Tuesday, hard to believe. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, August 1st. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

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. eventually acknowledged he took the meeting because he was promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. President Trump's lawyer already on 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 intervention leading to a series of actions Trump has take than 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 bringing up a new defense, to knock down claims that members of the Trump election team colluded with Russia. On Monday, Kushner spoke privately to congressional interns and told them, collusion could not have occurred because Trump campaign staffers were barely talking to one another. Quote, they thought we colluded, Kushner told the interns, but we couldn't even collude with our own local offices.

KOSIK: 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. Kushner claims he didn't track those meetings because he didn't expect to get into politics. Well, surprise. You're in the thick of it. BRIGGS: Not much to talk about with David Drucker. He's a CNN

political analyst, senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner."

Good morning to you, sir.

KOSIK: Good morning.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Honestly, I should have stayed asleep, right?

BRIGGS: Oh, man, right?

KOSIK: How can you sleep?

BRIGGS: It's been a long week of news, and it's Tuesday.

DRUCKER: Tuesday.

BRIGGS: So, let's just start with this Russia development, that the president himself may have had a hand in writing this statement on behalf of Don Jr. That was at the least misleading. How does this change the story?

DRUCKER: Well, it definitely fuels the story, and I think that's the thing about the Russia story as it relates to the election and how it may or may not implicate the president in his campaign. Every time we think we've reached a plateau where we've learned all there is to know about the campaign's interaction with Russian individuals or anything of that sort, there's a new wrinkle. There's a new development.

The dangerous part here -- I think it's not so much legal jeopardy for the president, but the idea that a president would purposely craft a statement to be issued that is not truthful or 100 percent accurate is problematic. I think it would be less problematic if it was staff, but at the president's direction, that's something he may have to explain.

KOSIK: Yes. I mean, you're talking about whether or not he's putting himself or his -- his associates in legal jeopardy. But what about the perception -- I mean, if there was nothing going on that was wrong, why craft something that is misleading?

DRUCKER: Right. We know from what we found out about the meeting that Don Jr. held with the Russian individuals, and we know Manafort was there and Kushner was there.

[05:05:03] We know that it looks fishy, if you will. It looks funny, because we now know that Don Jr. was e-mailed, and the person offered dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government essentially. So we know how it looks. So, we can see a motivation to try and obscure the fact that that's what was really going on.

Again, the issue I don't think is necessarily going to be one of legal jeopardy. But the American people I think can accept spin, and they can accept a lot of things. I think it's dangerous if the president is purposely misleading, and there's evidence of that.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's turn to the Mooch. The Mooch is loose, "Va-Mooch" reads the "The New York Post." And you're reporting in "The Washington Examiner", that this was the, quote, "top order of business" for the four-star general, now the chief of staff John Kelly. What did we learn from these 11 days of the Mooch?

DRUCKER: Well, as one former Trump campaign adviser told me, this is -- this is Trump world, welcome to the party. The question with General Kelly is whether or not the president's going to empower him to actually run a staff the way it should be run. And so on day one of John Kelly's tenure, he was empowered to run a staff the way it should be run because you cannot have somebody around Anthony Scaramucci who freelances, and the big deal here is whether or not everybody's going to report to the chief of staff or whether you're still going to have a bunch of different people walking in and out of the Oval Office as they see fit.

So, for people hoping the chaos dies down and a semblance of order is restored or implemented for the first time, Scaramucci's firing should be reassuring that at least at the outset John Kelly's empowered.

I think the question going forward is will he continue to be empowered, or will we see the periodic outbursts and eruptions from the president that we saw during the campaign when at key moments, people would be fired or moved around, more experienced people brought in, Paul Manafort. Then, when he fell out of favor, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, both very capable people. But there was always the next time.

The campaign ended, the election happened, and so, they didn't have to worry about that. The presidency's four years. So, let's see how long John Kelly is empowered by the president to control and run the staff the way it should be.

KOSIK: But what if the president has blinders on? I mean, you look at what he tweeted at 8:28 in the morning, saying there's no White House chaos. And by 6:19, he tweeted, a great day at the White House. In between, he had his head of communications escorted out the door.

And the irony of it is, you look at something that -- that the president tweeted back in 2012 saying -- talking about President Obama saying, three chiefs of staff in less than three years as president. Part of the reason why @BarackObama can't pass his agenda. There's a delicious irony. It's almost like the president has to take blinders off to see what's going on here.

DRUCKER: Well, first of all, there's a tweet for that, for everything the president goes through. That one was particularly delicious.

But, look, what I would say is this -- the president always likes to project that whatever problem he is facing he's not facing.

But that second tweet, a great day at the White House, is believable. He has a clean slate. He has a chief of staff the people respect. And by eliminating Anthony Scaramucci, who the president really is fond of, he gives his -- his staff a chance to actually function again.

The problem with Scaramucci, who is a very bright guy and who, by all accounts, really does care about the president, is that you cannot have any member of the staff freelancing the way he does, speaking about the staff the way he does because it creates a lot of insecurity and is complete -- it's complete distraction from what the president's trying to accomplish.

So, I -- I don't think the president had any choice but to allow Kelly to fire him. The interesting thing is under normal circumstances, A, would never happen in the first place. B, if it did happen, the time Scaramucci was off the phone with Ryan Lizza, he would have been fired.

BRIGGS: Right.

DRUCKER: So, you can see the dysfunction and the problems that existed that we all assumed that, hey, it was a presidential hire. How's he going to work with Kelly? There was no assumption that, how long will it take Kelly to fire him?

Some people may have looked at it that way. That tells you where this White House has been, that a lot of people just kind of were wondering exactly how it would work with the two of them.

BRIGGS: All right. I want to ask you about interesting comments from Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona in about 20 minutes. We'll see you in a bit.

David Drucker, thanks.

A troubling pattern overnight in Venezuela. Opposition leaders taken from their homes in the dark of night. Is an emboldened Nicolas Maduro responsible for this? We're live in Caracas, next, on EARLY START.


[05:13:56] BRIGGS: Breaking news overnight out of 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 in Caracas.

Good morning to you, Leyla. What do we know?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, David, we're still asking questions, the whereabouts of the two individuals, why they were taken into custody.

Let's start with Leopoldo Lopez. This is someone who has become quite the leader of the opposition. When you are out and about, his name is constantly mentioned at these protests. His face appears on t-shirts, on posters. So, this is someone who is very well known, not only among the opposition but in Venezuela when it comes to the back and forth between the opposition and government.

If you look at the surveillance video that was taken overnight, time- stamped at 12:27, tweeted by his wife, you see that he gets into a vehicle with the acronym SEBIN.

[05:15:02] That is the intelligence agency here. His family is still asking where he is, why he was detained.

And then there was also another person, Antonio Ledezma. He is the former mayor of Caracas. A very dramatic video as you hear a man asking for help, yelling for help, a woman in the background filming it all, letting people know that he is being taken into custody, yelling the word dictatorship over and over as he is taken into custody in pajamas, by the way, and put into a vehicle also from an intelligence agency.

So, we're learning much of what has developed overnight through these videos that are posted on social media. The daughter of Ledezma saying he was kidnapped yet again and demanding more answers as we are, as well. We have reached out to the government. We have asked those questions, and we're still waiting to hear back on the whereabouts of the two individuals -- Dave.

BRIGGS: And Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster saying indeed Nicolas Maduro is a dictator. Leyla, thanks.

ROMANS: The U.S. is slapping sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, demonstrating the Trump administration's opposition to his regime.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Yesterday's illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people.


KOSIK: That was Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at the White House yesterday. Now, the U.S. is freezing all of Maduro's U.S. assets in response to a vote that allows him to further consolidate his power. Now, it's unclear what U.S. assets Maduro owns, but the Treasury says this is going to impose real costs on the Venezuelan president.

U.S. sanction often prohibits international business deals. Maduro joins a handful of world leaders sanctioned by the U.S., including sawyer's Bashar al Assad, North Korea's Kim Jong-un, and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. But these sanctions aren't as severe as the ones officials previously hinted at.

Many expected sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry. Oil exports are the country's primary source of income, and the U.S. is a top customer.

BRIGGS: The U.S. military is 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 days after North Korea's second intercontinental ballistic missile launch this month. If the Trump administration is counting on China to rein in Kim Jong-un, it's not happening any time soon.

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

Good morning to you, Alex.


As the rest of the world tries to figure out how you rein in North Korea following a second intercontinental ballistic missile launch in the space of just a moment, it looks North Korea is looking at how they can further expand their capability. You've got U.S. officials who say they are seeing unprecedented levels of submarine activity. They're also, they say, observing a test of a component of a system that would be used to launch missiles from submarines.

U.S. intelligence officials say that the missile launch program from the North Korean submarines is still in its early stages, though is seems clear that North Korea is intent on further developing that program. At the same time, you've got the U.S. Donald Trump saying with regard to North Korea, we'll handle it, it will get handled. The question now, of course, is how?

For months now, the Trump administration has looked at China, wanted China to exercise economic leverage over North Korea to rein in this rogue regime. It seems that China is not willing to do that or not wanting to do that. In fact, officials in Beijing are pushing back against criticism from Washington, D.C., saying that the North Korea problem is not one that China created. The Chinese ambassador to the U.N. is also saying that it falls on D.C. and Pyongyang to work to deescalate the tension on the peninsula.

Beijing saying that condemning Pyongyang's latest launch of an ICBM but also saying that the U.S. needs to deescalate tension, saying that rhetoric like all options remain on the table, has given rise to the tension along with the deployment of a missile defense system that China objects to -- Dave.

BRIGGS: We talk a lot about that sanctions bill, North Korean sanctions is part of that. The president has not signed it.

Alex Field live for us in Seoul, 35 miles from the border, thanks.

KOSIK: The Chicago Cubs trying to right a wrong after 14 years. Coy Wire tells us what the team presented to its most infamous fan, Steve Bartman. That's next in this morning's "Bleacher Report".


[05:24:05] BRIGGS: In the wake of a recent study that found CTE in the brains of 110 out of 111 former NFL players, an NFL rookie makes a stunning statement about the degenerative brain disease CTE.

KOSIK: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alison and Dave.

Jets' rookie safety Jamal Adams, sixth overall pick in the draft, was asked about player health and safety yesterday in front of Jets' fans with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sitting next to him. He made a shocking statement.


JAMAL ADAMS, JETS SAFETY: We live and breathe, and this is what we're so passionate about. Literally, I would -- if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field.


I would be at peace literally. I would be at peace. And that's not -- that's not a lie.


WIRE: Now later that day, Super Bowl champ Martellus Bennett entering his 10th NFL season had a message for younger players like Adams, tweeting, I hope all these young cats that are willing to die for the game of football find a higher purpose in life.

[05:25:06] Look, football is great, but I ain't dying for this blank.

Now, nine years is a lot of experience on the field and in life in general. That's the difference between a fourth grader and a college student.

As a nine-year NFL veteran myself, I can say that I was Jamal Adams at one point. I wanted to impress my coaches and the fans. Show them that I'm tough. Players weren't well educated about CTE and concussions back when I was a rookie. Most of today's players are. For the most part, they understand the severity of the potential consequences of playing football in regards to brain damage.

But Jamal Adams' perspective on this matter is an example of why a culture change regarding concussions must continue to occur. I like Jamal Adams' mental toughness, his willingness to sacrifice, to do that which he loves. But I'm with Martellus Bennett on this one. Yes, football is an incredible game. But in comparison to the other things in this world that are worth dying for, football is not one of them.

All right. Fourteen years after many Cubs' fans said Steve Bartman cost them a trip to the World Series by interfering with this ball, they extended a $70,000 olive branch. They're giving him a World Series ring. Bartman has been one of the infamous and vilified people in Cubs' history. And the team says it hopes the ring closure to an unfortunate chapter in its history. Bartman put out a statement saying, quote, although I do not consider

myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful, unquote. I mean, imagine how he must feel after all those years of mental stress and strain and torment, he's getting that ring and being welcomed into the Cubs family.

BRIGGS: Happy for him. But, Coy, debate will go on about that. If you -- when you have a son, will he play football?

WIRE: Dave, he will if that's what he would choose to do. But I can guarantee you this -- I will have an eagle eye watching over him and the other players on the team, keeping an eye out for any sort of concussion. Making sure they're safe. And the game's going to continue to change. It's safer now today, Dave, than it ever has been.

KOSIK: Coy, I'm glad --

BRIGGS: Dramatically safer now.

KOSIK: I'm glad you what said what you said for the young guys coming into the game.

BRIGGS: That was strong stuff, Coy. Great stuff, my friend. Thank you.

WIRE: Thanks, guys. Happy to join you. Thanks.

KOSIK: All right, The president's lawyer was crystal clear.


SEKULOW: I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all. Nor was the president. To put this on the president I think is just absolutely incorrect.


KOSIK: But did the president change the response when it was revealed that his son met with a Russian lawyer, and could doing so land the president in trouble?