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USS John S. McCain Collides with Merchant Ship; Trump to Announce Path Forward for U.S. in Afghanistan; Icahn Steps Down as Trump Adviser; North Korea Warns of Merciless Strike on U.S.; Manhunt for Van Driver in Barcelona Attack; Remembering Jerry Lewis; The Eclipse of the Century. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 21, 2017 - 4:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news overnight. Ten sailors are missing after a U.S. Navy destroyer collides with a merchant ship near Singapore, the latest on a search.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, President Trump will outline the path forward for the U.S. in Afghanistan tonight. What it means for America's longest war.

BRIGGS: And a total solar eclipse that sweeps from coast to coast. What you can expect from this once-in-a-lifetime event and when it will look best for you.

It starts about 9:00 A.M. on the Pacific Time zone.

ROMANS: Fascinating.

BRIGGS: And people are jacked up for this from coast to coast.

ROMANS: I know they really are. I guess -- I mean it's really is once in a lifetime.


ROMANS: Last time it was a total eclipse that you could see on the east coast to the west coast all across the country. It was 100 -- 99 years ago.

BRIGGS: It's very exciting. Good morning everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, August 21st, eclipse day. It's 4:00 A.M. in the east. We begin though with breaking news.

Ten Navy sailors are still missing after the guided missile destroyer -- destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant vessel near Singapore. And Navy officials say five crew members were injured. The McCain was headed for a routine port visit in Singapore.

BRIGGS: It's the fourth incident this year involving a U.S. ship based in Japan. That includes the fatal collision involving the USS Fitzgerald in which seven sailors died. Right now, search and rescue efforts are on their way.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Tokyo with the latest. Good morning to you, Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. We're just getting this update from the U.S. Seventh Fleet. We're hearing that the USS John McCain has now made it back to port in Singapore.

But earlier we did watch as the McCain made it slowly across the water. And you see that giant, gaping hole in its side, that is the point of impact where there was a collision with the oil tanker.

According to the Seventh Fleet, the McCain took on some flooding, in the crew compartments, as well as the machinery rooms and the communication area. We are hearing also from the Malaysian authorities.

According to a news conference there, the Malaysians say that they are conducting an exhaustive search over an area of 100 nautical miles. They are looking for ten missing sailors. They believe that during the collision, they may have gone overboard.

As far as the conditions of the water, the waves are about two to three feet high. According to the Malaysian authorities, the seas are quite rough. Five people were also injured -- five other soldiers.

Four of them were airlifted by helicopter off the McCain, taken to a Singaporean hospital. Their injuries are considered non-life- threatening. One did remain aboard the McCain.

It's just too early to know according to the Malaysians as to exactly why this occurred. They do point out that this particular channel though is quite busy, 80,000 vessels go through this area, Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: A tanker more than three times the size of the McCain. Kyung Lah, live for us in Tokyo. Thanks.

ROMANS: The reaction in to the news from the president -- President Trump being criticized for his initial reaction, the USS McCain collision. Listen to the commander-in-chief respond to a reporter's question about the incident after arriving back at the White House last night.




ROMANS: The president made that comment at 8:34 P.M. The Navy released the statement about the crash 28 minutes later. It is not clear whether the president had been briefed before making his initial remark.

Shortly after 11:00 P.M. last night, he did tweet, thoughts and prayers are with our U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS John S. McCain, where search and rescue efforts are underway.

BRIGGS: Our other big story this morning, President Trump set to unveil the new U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan. Now, he'll do it in a primetime address tonight. The president has a lot of options on the table.

The speech coming after an extensive review in which White House and Pentagon officials considered a more aggressive role for U.S. military. U.S. forces have been engaged in Afghanistan since 2001, making it America's longest war. We get more now from CNN's Boris Sanchez.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, we are set to hear from President Trump tonight at 9:00 P.M. He'll be addressing the nations from Fort Myer in Virginia on the strategy moving forward in Afghanistan.

This is something that the president tweeted about over the weekend on Saturday, writing that after a very important meeting with top military brass in Camp David, they came up with the strategy. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was actually asked about this on Sunday.

[04:05:00] He gave no indication except to say that he wanted to allow the president to explain the decision to the American people himself. Here's Secretary Mattis.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I was not willing to make significant troop lifts until we made certain what was the strategy, what was the commitment going in.

In that regard, the president has made a decision, as he said. He wants to be the one to announce it to the American people. So I'll stand silent until then -- until that point.

SANCHEZ: So it will be interesting to see what the president emphasizes moving forward. This is something that the White House has been working on for months.

And finally tonight, we will get to know what the president has decided to do with that war that has gone on for so long and cost so many lives. Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: Boris Sanchez, so many lives. In Afghanistan, 2,216 service members killed, 20,049 injured in that longest war. As Boris mentioned, the president has many options on the table. The plan for moving forward in Afghanistan has been a long time coming. CNN's Elise Labott has more on what is being considered.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, Christine, on Friday the president met at Camp David to review his options with his national security aides, including Secretary Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Vice President Mike Pence.

And the White House has been taking an exhaustive months' long review of U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and has been accused by many in Congress of dragging its feet.

Now back in February, General Nicholson, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan requested a few thousand troops to break what he said was essentially a stalemate with the Taliban. Now Defense Secretary Mattis said all options are on the table, ranging from a surge in troops to a complete withdrawal.

Now one proposal former White House Strategist Chief Bannon argued for involves a shifting of responsibilities to private contractors or mercenaries, if you will. Now we're hearing a bump of about 4,000 troops, mostly advisers that would embed with local units of the Afghan National Army is probably likely.

Not a major departure from the current strategy being pursued in Afghanistan but a decision on troop levels is just one component of the strategy.

Secretary Mattis noted this was a full South Asia strategy including the need to pressure Pakistan to stop providing safe haven to the Taliban and other extremist groups operating in another country, Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Elise, thanks. CNN will have special, live coverage of the president's address at 9:00 Eastern time tonight. That's followed by an exclusive town hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan hosted by CNN's Jake Tapper, a lot of people wondering if he'll call out the president by name given his Charlottesville response.

ROMANS: All right, tune in. All right, one of the biggest names in business is quitting on President Trump. This time it's not over Charlottesville. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn is stepping down as an adviser for regulatory reform.

It is though with the president's blessing, stating in a letter that he doesn't want partisan bickering over him to cloud the administration. Democrats have long bickered over him, criticized his role as a conflict of interest.

That's be because he still runs his business, and for months Icahn has called all of these claims absurd. So it's unclear what prompted his decision to leave now. But it is another crack in the uneasy alliance between America's CEOs and the president.

Corporate America disagrees with Trump on climate change, on NAFTA, on immigration but it was the president's response to Charlottesville that caused the collapse of his business councils and top executives distancing themselves from Trump.

Wall Street worries what that means for Trump's economic agenda. Corporate America is a powerful ally to push for tax reform and infrastructure. There's a lot of buzz on the street right now after a 20 percent rally in the Dow since Election Day. BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: If this president is so isolated, can he get tax reform or even just plain tax cuts for business with Republicans in Congress.

BRIGGS: What about Icahn though -- I mean you heard about him daily, weekly...

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: ... throughout the campaign. Is it a coincidence that this comes at the same time as all these CEOs and advisory boards bail?

ROMANS: One of the things in the icon later was that he regretted that the two hadn't been -- hadn't more time to spend together to talk about regulatory reform. So it sounds though I'm not sure how much back and forth there was between the president and Carl Icahn but the timing is interesting.

BRIGGS: All right. The United States and South Korea set to start joint military drills today. And it's got North Korea furious, lashing out. We're live from Seoul with the latest next.


BRIGGS: North Korea ramping up the rhetoric once again in the response to military exercises by the United States and South Korea which begin today.

The Kim Jong-un regime threatening a merciless strike, the official government newspaper warning the joint exercises are quote, driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.

U.S. officials say that ten-day military drills are proceeding as scheduled. CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul with the latest. But Paula, these are not typical in terms of how they will appear, correct?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, these particular military drills are very different to what we see in the springtime between the U.S. and South Korea. There you have thousands of troops landing on South Korean beaches.

You have massive live-fire drills which are extremely dramatic -- very dramatic pictures that North Korea is provoked by. This time the ones in the autumn, in the fall, are a computer simulation.

So you have, according to the U.S. military, around about 17,500 U.S. troops involved alongside South Korean soldiers, alongside soldiers from seven other countries of the U.N. command, as well. And it's according to the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, effectively soldiers sitting over a computer.

[04:15:00] So we're not going to see those dramatic pictures that we often do with these military drills. Now of course North Korea is still reacting to them. They have said, of course as you said, that they think it's reckless

behavior. It's pushing the peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war. Something they have said many times before. Dave.

BRIGGS: Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, thank you. >c

ROMANS: All right, 15 minutes past the hour. An international manhunt underway right now, police scouring rubble for clues. All of this part of an investigation into deadly terror attacks in Spain. We're going to go live to Barcelona next.


ROMANS: An international manhunt is underway for the driver of a van who ran over and killed 13 people in Barcelona last week.


ROMANS: Police now pouring over the wreckage from a suspected bomb factory for any clues about the terror cell behind this attack and they're looking for this man, 22-year-old Moroccan national, Younes Abouyaaqoub.

The interior ministry of Catalan confirming over night, he is that man right there, is the suspected driver. Again, he is on the loose.


ROMANS: CNN's Isa Soares joins us live from Barcelona. Bring us up to speed, Isa.

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very good morning to you, Christine. That's right, in the last few hours, the Catalan interior ministry confirming to CNN that the man on the run is Younes Abouyaaqoub. He is 22-years of old -- of age, considered to be from Morocco, Moroccan national.

He's was -- he's the man behind the white van that, Christine, that plowed into Plaza Catalunya where we are and killed more than 14 people and continued on to Las Ramblas, plowing people down.

Police tightening the net on him, saying they are looking for him, they have reinforced the border with France. But they also cannot say whether perhaps he's already escaped into France, so a lot of attention looking into his whereabouts.

But also, police circling one man in particular, and that is an Imam -- an Imam from Ripoll. Ripoll is just north here of Barcelona. The city has eight of the 12 suspected attackers. And now they want to know whether he, the Imam, was a suspected ringleader. Christine.

ROMANS: Interesting, all right, trying to piece all of that together for us this morning. Isa Soares in Barcelona, thank you, Isa.

BRIGGS: The world of showbiz and the nation mourning the death of Jerry Lewis this morning. Lewis best known for Slapstick comedy and his commitment to fund rising as a telethon host for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

He died Sunday after a brief illness at 91. CNN's Stephanie Elam takes a look back at his life and legendary career.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was born Joseph Levitch in 1926 but he became known to the world as Jerry Lewis, the zany but lovable fool in film such as The Bell Boy and The Nutty Professor. Lewis hit it big at age 20 when he teamed up with another young entertainer, Dean Martin.

JERRY LEWIS, LEGENDARY COMEDIAN: Dean was the virile, macho, and I was the monkey. And I knew we had lightning in a barrel.

ELAM: Martin and Lewis became one of the most popular comedy teams in history. Thousands of sold-out performances, 16 hit movies, and dozens of radio and TV appearances.

On his own, Lewis signed a seven-year, $10 million contract with Paramount in 1959. At that time, it was the largest contract ever between a studio and performer. Lewis went on to act in or direct shows and movies for several decades. He later offered this advice to fellow entertainers.

LEWIS: Be a hit, score. Get the audience laughing and happy. That's the secret of success in this business.

ELAM: He didn't just make audiences laugh. Lewis used his fame to make a difference, taking up the fight against muscular dystrophy.

For more than four decades, his annual Labor Day telethons helped raise more than $1 billion for research and treatment and almost always ended with his signature song, You'll Never Walk Alone.

LEWIS: Walk alone with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone

ELAM: Lewis struggled with his own health problems over the years including prostate cancer, type-one diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis, and heart disease.

LEWIS: It's been a long, long, grueling ride. I've ingested more than 24,000 pills.

ELAM: But through it all, he kept his sense of humor.

LEWIS: You better laugh at it because the alternative is not funny.



BRIGGS: Good stuff. He raised more than a billion dollars for muscular dystrophy.

ROMANS: Unbelievable, yes. BRIGGS: It's unreal. What a legacy it is.

ROMANS: All right, so will the weather cooperate today for a little tiny event you've never heard off, being called the eclipse of the century. It's a very big day, guys. Let's get to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dave and Christine, the big day here. And we're watching the forecast very carefully because very easy to see what's going on here, at least across the northwestern corner of the country, Oregon, Idaho into Wyoming, generally clear skies, some wildfires across the region but making it pretty hazy across the region.

So incredibly that ash could enhance some of the colors when it comes to approaching totality in the last few minutes before the sun is completely obscured for those couple of minutes. That notice around the central portion of the country, plenty of cloud cover, some storms, some of which that could be severe.

[04:25:00] And then once again toward the southeast, namely around, say, portions of South Carolina, around Charleston, also looking at some cloud cover. Maybe 80 percent of the sky could be covered by clouds across Charleston, still watching that very carefully, as well.

It's really interesting to think about the light and the complete totality because if you think, say, you're in an area that have 95 percent, 96 percent, 97 percent of coverage of the sun, it's going to get pretty dark, and really not so the case.

In fact, even at 99 percent, it is still about 10,000 times brighter than once the sun is completely covered at 100 percent. Really an analogy to use here is to think about say, a hotel with a blackout curtain.

If a little bit that curtain is open, you're going to let a tremendous amount of light in. But once you cover it completely, it gets dark, that could be the case across some of these areas with the 100 percent totality guys.

ROMANS: Wow. You can see the planets in the middle of the day.

BRIGGS: It's 2:45 Eastern Time, I think we peek.


BRIGGS: Time to go a little after 10 for those...

ROMANS: And I think it's like 71 percent eclipse. So I'm trying to figure out where to take the kids.

BRIGGS: Take them to just Oregon. You can make it there in the net couple of hours.

ROMANS: Too Late. Too Late. BRIGGS: All right, some breaking news this morning, ten sailors missing in the Pacific after a U.S. Navy destroyer collides with an oil tanker. We'll have the latest on the search on EARLY START.