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Did Trump Dictate Meeting Response?; Kelly Ousts Scaramucci; Venezuela Crisis Intensifies After Vote; North Korea Submarine Activity Detected. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 1, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:31:50] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Did President Trump dictate the initial response from his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer? A major new report this morning that could spell further trouble for the commander in chief.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Well, 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.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik sitting in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, and it has been a long week of news.

KOSIK: And it's only Tuesday.

BRIGGS: It is Tuesday, a day that began with the president tweeting that no White House chaos ended with this. Instead of chaos, it was a great day at the White House, which makes you wonder what exactly are we making America again if that was great.

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

Now, 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 story before that broke in "The New York Times."

Now, the "Post" citing people with knowledge of the deliberation says the president dictated a statement saying his son and the Russian lawyer discussed adoption of Russian children. The statement was worked out on Air Force One on the flight home from the G20 summit in Germany where, mind you, the president just sat down for several hours with Vladimir Putin.

KOSIK: 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 the record denying the president had anything to do with crafting the statement.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So 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, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's -- no, that was -- the statement that Don, Jr. put out -- are you talking about yesterday's, Chris?

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

SEKULOW: That was written -- oh, no. That was written by Donald Trump, Jr. and I'm sure with -- in consultation with his lawyer. That wasn't written by the president.

CUOMO: Because "The New York Times" is reporting that the president okayed 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?


BRIGGS: That will come back to haunt you.

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 that CNN was first to report concern that White House aides involved in the Trump, Jr. response may have exposed themselves to special counsel scrutiny.

KOSIK: Oh, so much to get to.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

KOSIK: Let's bring back David Drucker, CNN political analyst and senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner." Good morning, again.

BRIGGS: Your sigh says it all, my friend.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I know. Never a dull moment.

BRIGGS: No, no.

KOSIK: Let's sort of rewind back to that misleading statement just to remind everybody what it said, and here it is. This is the first statement about Don, Jr.'s meeting in July with the Russian -- with the Russian lawyer.

[05:35:00] "It was a short introductory meeting" -- this is the statement -- "I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up."

OK, so that is the statement that "The Washington Post" article is referring to that the president dictated according to this article from Air Force One.

You said earlier that you don't think there's any legal jeopardy here for the president, but Bob Mueller most likely is looking into this -- the special counsel.

DRUCKER: Right, so he'll have the final word on this, and the other people involved in the investigation.

But I was looking at the political implications of a president purposely misleading the American public and it's one thing for somebody in the administration to spin -- make things up, even. And obviously, as we learned from Anthony Scaramucci, if you're too honest that can also get you into trouble.

But if the president was involved personally in crafting a statement designed to deflect attention or the facts away from a meeting with Russian individuals given the ongoing special counsel investigation, that is a political problem at the very least because it shows direct presidential involvement in trying to ward investigators off of what they might want to look into.

And look, the American public can accept a lot from a president. They often -- they often do not like if they find out or believe that a president did not tell the truth.

BRIGGS: But like most things, there's a 60-40 split on this thing and 40 percent of the American public doesn't want to hear about the Russia story. Sixty percent of the country feels it's legit.

But maybe that's the same as this Mooch story. Anthony Scaramucci is out. Eleven chaotic days in the administration as the comms director.

What do those 11 days teach us about the new chief of staff John Kelly and about working in this administration if you are someone coming into this administration? What have you learned?

DRUCKER: Well look, I think what we learned is John Kelly is not going to take any B.S. and he's going to try and do what he can to quell the chaos and create a chain of command where he's the gatekeeper to the president, and that's how it needs to be in a well- functioning White House. You can't have a bunch of freelancers with direct authority that report directly to the president.

I mean, look, the whole -- the interesting thing and the whole problem with Scaramucci from the beginning was not necessarily that maybe he wouldn't be a good communications director despite having no political experience in doing this for a living.

It was when he announced that he reports directly to the president but he'd be happy to work with Reince Priebus who was still chief of staff. You cannot have a situation where junior positions can bypass the chief and go directly to the Oval Office. There needs to be order, there needs to be a flowchart, and everybody needs to follow it.

And the key player --

BRIGGS: Does any of that matter with President Trump and the way he flies off the handle on Twitter?

DRUCKER: Well that -- and that's what we're going to find out. I think that his Twitter habit tweeting about all things at all hours is going to be a problem for Kelly because if he can get everybody on staff to fall in line, he can rid of people who don't fall in line. At the end of the day, he's still working for somebody who likes to freelance, who is not disciplined about his message, who is very entrepreneurial in how he decides to lead.

And it's very hard to accomplish big legislative deals and drive a sustained disciplined message that's focused on an agenda when you have the president doing that, especially in the midst of this Russia investigation where on any given day the president will get very upset about some new reporting -- stay tuned later this morning --

KOSIK: And go right to --

DRUCKER: -- and decide just to send the news media that covers the president specifically, like that's our job. And so, he sends us off covering his comments on Russia and other things as opposed to, you know, what he might think about health care.

KOSIK: Very quickly, who's going to control the message then? As you know, expectations are high with John Kelly coming in.

DRUCKER: No, no, no. President Trump is the communications director. He will control the message --

KOSIK: And it's going to be same old, same old.

DRUCKER: -- but the question is will he, at least for a period of time, empower Kelly to maybe rein himself in. But that's going to be a decision of the president which means there's no reining the president in. It's just the president deciding to try something new.

He's 71 years old. He was elected president being the way he is so I don't think he's going to change, but this is what to watch for.

BRIGGS: And also to watch how Republicans play this because that new sanctions bill clearly sent a message -- 419 to three in the House, 98 to two in the Senate.

And now, Sen. Jeff Flake from Arizona with a new interesting op-ed in "Politico" where he goes right at the president.

"Where should Republicans go from here? First, we shouldn't hesitate to speak out if the president plays to the base in ways that damage the Republican Party's ability to grow."

[05:40:05] And it goes on. He lays out a whole case of second and third points and how we should push back against this president, how the party should push back and check the president.

One, will he be the only? Will there be senators that follow his lead? And two, do you think the president sees himself as a leader of the Republican Party?

DRUCKER: No, I think he sees himself as the boss and there's a difference, you know. If you're the leader of the party then you're of the party and you feel a responsibility to the principles and just the political prospects of the party. And I think the president sees the party as a vehicle for him to be the president. He doesn't see himself as the protector of the party's values or its structure.

The Jeff Flake op-ed was interesting because he has a Republican primary in his Senate reelection campaign next year. And even though this actually may not play that badly in his general because Arizona has been changing politically, this could give fuel to a Republican challenger and allow that person to raise a lot of money when they wouldn't otherwise because the president has a lot of fans on the right and among the populist right they might be upset with Flake for doing this, so this is really interesting.

And that sanctions bill, by the way, really, really key. The Congress has not rebuked a president on a major foreign policy matter since 1986 when President Reagan was vetoed -- his veto was overridden on South African sanctions.

This is a really big deal. Congress is empowering itself to check the executive over this Russia issue because they didn't trust Trump to negotiate with Putin. So that's something that's been obscured but very important.

BRIGGS: Of course, the president hasn't said a word about it, nor about the Russian retaliation, and has not signed that sanctions bill yet.

KOSIK: We're waiting to hear, and if he's going to do it in public.

BRIGGS: That --

DRUCKER: Yes, stay tuned.

BRIGGS: That will be an interesting story. And, Jeff Flake -- this is all part of a book he's written about what it means to be a conservative.

KOSIK: It could be -- it could be part of it. And also, part of it could be trying to sell some books as well.


KOSIK: Just saying.

BRIGGS: David Drucker, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

DRUCKER: Anytime.

KOSIK: Take care.

BRIGGS: All right. A troubling pattern overnight in Venezuela. Opposition leaders taken from their homes in the dark of night. Is an embolden Nicolas Maduro responsible for all of this?

We're live in Caracas.


[05:46:29] KOSIK: OK, time for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo joining us right now. Chris, you know, not a lot going on today, huh?


BRIGGS: Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": That -- those are words, my friends, that literally almost never seem to apply these days.

This "Washington Post" report is so important about how the administration contrived the response where Donald, Jr. in those initial allegations about that Russia meeting.

You know about the Russia meeting by now if you're watching CNN, but we have been told by White House officials and by counsel to the president that the president didn't even know about. Forget about a role in figuring out how to respond or how to spin it. He didn't even know about it when Jared Kushner's lawyers found out.

Well now, "The Washington Post" has a report saying that that is just not true.

Why does it matter? Is this about mendacity, telling the truth? No, because everything that is done in any way to conceal, to spin, to shade, to not fully disclose takes on an entirely different context in light of a special counsel doing a criminal investigation, including obstruction.

Now, do we have a smoking gun? I don't think so. We'll discuss it this morning about what's happening and what the president's role was in drafting his son's response to these allegations about the meeting. We'll go through it.

We'll talk about Anthony Scaramucci being out after only 11 days -- what that means. Is this progress? Is this further signs of dysfunction in the White House?

And we do have headlines, as well, from all over the world.

BRIGGS: And who knows, the Mooch might just call you, Chris, so I am hanging on every minute of "NEW DAY."

CUOMO: I would be a seller of that proposition, my friend, and we'll see.

BRIGGS: All right.

CUOMO: You never know.

BRIGGS: All right, looking forward to it, my friend.

KOSIK: Me, too.

BRIGGS: All right. Some 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 Nicolas Maduro even more power.

CNN's Leyla Santiago live in Caracas. What do we know?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, we're still trying to find out more about what happened here. We have video that has been shared by the families via social media, but why they were taken from their home, where they are right now remains unclear. The government has not answered our questions on that front.

But let's take a look at what surveillance video and cell phone video captured -- pretty dramatic video.

We'll start with Leopoldo Lopez who, by the way, is a very well-known leader of the opposition. His name often comes up in protests. When you see people at the protests sometimes they're wearing a shirt with his face on it. His face is on the posters.

His wife is very outspoken against the government. She has had meetings with President Trump.

And in the surveillance video you see him. It's timestamped at 12:27. You see that he is taken away by a group and placed into a car with the acronym SEBIN, and that is the intelligence agency here for the Venezuelan government.

Now, a bit more of dramatic video coming from the second person taken into custody, Antonio Ledezma. He's a former mayor of Caracas. And in that video the audio is captured and you can just hear as a man is yelling for help as a woman who is filming this is yelling dictatorship and making sure that everyone knows what's happening. She continues to repeat they're taking Ledezma, they're taking Ledezma. [05:50:18] So, very dramatic video as we watch those moments that

unfolded just a matter of hours ago and as the family, and as we continue to ask questions about where things stand at this hour. Where those two opposition leaders are and why they are being held -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Leyla, thanks.

H.R. McMaster making clear his thoughts that Nicolas Maduro is now a dictator.

Thanks for that live report.

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.


[05:55:00] BRIGGS: The U.S. military picking up, quote, "highly unusual and unprecedented levels" of submarine activities being conducted by North Korea. This comes just days after North Korea's second ICBM launch this month.

Let's bring in CNN's Alexandra Field live from Seoul. Good morning to you, Alex. What's the latest?


The whole world's still trying to figure out how to react to the second ICBM launch coming from North Korea. You've heard President Donald Trump in just the last days say he'll handle it, we'll handle it.

What exactly does that mean? Is the U.S. still looking to China to deal with the crisis in North Korea? The U.S. has been leaning heavily on China trying to rein in that rogue regime using the economic leverage that they have in the region, but Beijing is now pushing back.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying they did not create the problem in North Korea, and China's ambassador to the U.N. saying that Pyongyang and D.C. need to work to de-escalate the level of tension on the peninsula.

China has condemned North Korea for that latest ICBM launch but they say that rhetoric coming from the States has also contributed to tension. They say there needs to be a de-escalation as the U.S. continues to say that all options are on the table when it comes to dealing with North Korea -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Alexandra Field live for us in Seoul. Thank you.

KOSIK: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning. Looking at stocks, global stocks and U.S. futures are in the green this morning after the Dow hit another record high. The Nasdaq and S&P, though, they fell after we saw a drop in tech stocks like Facebook and Google parent Alphabet. Still, all three major indices closed the month with the best gains since February.

Tesla stock, though, dropped 3.5 percent after founder Elon Musk warned about manufacturing hell -- that's his words. The electric carmaker is ramping up production of its new mass market car, the Model 3, but Musk is already saying that production is going to be challenging and that's worrying investors.

As the company loses cash, Wall Street is betting on the Model 3's success. That propelled the stock up 53 percent this year. The question is will it deliver? That will keep the stock continuing to go up.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

KOSIK: Thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

New reporting the president dictated the response after his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer. That could spell big trouble.

"NEW DAY" -- a full slate after a great day at the White House. We'll see you tomorrow.


SEKULOW: I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president.

BRIGGS: A new report finds the president personally dictated the initial misleading statement about his son's meeting with the Russian lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be evidence of a pattern of obstruction of justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump's legal team is failing him and Donald Trump's staff is failing him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The special counsel is going to get to the bottom of this.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president certainly felt that Anthony's comments were inappropriate.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Kelly in and Scaramucci out is nothing but good for this White House and for the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Donald Trump thought Anthony Scaramucci was doing good for his image right now, Scaramucci would still be there. SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I hope this is a sign that his new chief of staff is going to try to bring a little more order to the White House.


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

CUOMO: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, August first, 6:00 here in New York, and here's the "Starting Line."

The White House facing another bombshell revelation in the Russia investigation. White House officials and counsel for the president said the president had no role in developing a response to Don, Jr.'s meeting with a group of Russians.

But now, "The Washington Post" reports that President Trump personally dictated his son's initial and misleading statement on that meeting with the Russian lawyer despite these repeated denials.

Again, the president's attorney, the White House all said he had nothing to do with it. Is President Trump now putting himself in a position where the special counsel will have to review his actions?

The president's son-in-law Jared Kushner raising eyebrows by saying the Trump campaign was quote "too disorganized to collude with Russia." Kushner making the bizarre defense in a private meeting with congressional interns.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. All of this and just hours after President Trump said that there was no chaos in his White House he ousted the mooch, Anthony Scaramucci, his new communications director. The president's new chief of staff John Kelly apparently reining in the free-for-all inside the West Wing.

So all of this as a scathing op-ed was published by a Republican senator who unleashed on fellow conservatives for giving President Trump a pass. This was Arizona's Jeff Flake.

He describes an Executive Branch, quote, "in chaos" and a president who has, quote, "seeming affection for strong men and authoritarians," end quote. So what impact will those words have?

We have all of this covered for you this morning.

Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House. Another busy morning, Joe.


The question here is whether there was concealment at the highest level at the White House.