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U.S. Navy Destroyer Collides with Merchant Ship near Singapore; President Trump to Announce Plan for U.S. and Afghanistan; Total Eclipse of the Sun; North Korea Threat If U.S. and South Korea Hold Joint Military Drills; Manhunt for Driver of the Van in Barcelona; Mystery Sonic Attacks Against Diplomats in Cuba. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 21, 2017 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our breaking news this morning, 10 sailors missing, five are injured after a U.S. Navy destroyer collides with an oil tanker near Singapore.

DAVID BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, the president's decision on the path forward for America in Afghanistan. His explanation to the American people tonight in primetime.

ROMANS: And get your special glasses ready or your homemade shoebox. What you need to know about today total solar eclipse.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: It's got five hours away from the west coast starting. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

We'll be live from Tokyo, Seoul, and Barcelona ahead. And we start with breaking news as 10 Navy sailors are still missing after the guided missile destroyer "USS John S. McCain" collided with a merchant vessel near Singapore. Naval officials say five crew members were injured. The damaged destroyer arriving at port in Singapore overnight.

ROMANS: Yes, that's our latest development into this. It has gotten back to port here. Now, this is the fourth incident this year involving a U.S. ship based in Japan. That includes the fatal collision involving the "USS Fitzgerald." Seven tailors died there. Right now, search and rescue efforts are underway.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Tokyo with the latest. And Kyung, you just reported to us that we do know that the vessel is back in port.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is back in port and that's where they hope to learn just a little bit more about exactly what happened, Christine. They're going to try to figure out looking at the actual point of impact. And you can see it in the video that we saw as the "McCain" was making its way back to port.

There is a giant, gaping hole. That is the point of impact where it collided with that oil tanker. So, let's talk about what's happening as a result of that. Ten sailors are missing. There is a large search area happening right now at sea, of 100 nautical miles according to Malaysian authorities. They're trying to find those sailors. It is the U.S. authorities, Malaysians, Singaporeans, they are trying to sort of comb that water to see if they can find anybody, but the seas are quite rough. The waves are about three feet high.

Five were also injured, four were transported by helicopter to Singaporean hospitals with nonthreatening life injuries. But you mentioned that this is the fourth incident this year alone. If you look at the timeline here, what just happened with the "USS McCain," then you look at the "Fitzgerald" two months ago.

There was another incident in May and then one in January. That ship in January did go aground. It was not a collision. But these collisions and incidents at sea, Christine, are considered rare. This year though has been unusually bad. Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Kyung Lah, keep us up to speed if you hear any new developments on the search for those missing sailors. Thank you.

BRIGGS: Criticism this morning for President Trump after his initial reaction to the "USS McCain" collision. Listen to the president respond to a reporter's question about the incident after arriving back at the White House late last night.





BRIGGS: That's too bad. The president made that comment at 8:34 p.m. The Navy released a statement about the crash 28 minutes later. It's not clear though whether the president had been briefed before making his initial remark. Shortly after 11:00 p.m. last night, he did finally tweet, thoughts and prayers are with our U.S. Navy sailors aboard the "USS John S. McCain" where search and rescue efforts are underway.

ROMANS: Our other top story this morning, President Trump set to unveil the new U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan. He'll do it tonight in a primetime address. 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 the U.S. military. U.S. forces have been engaged in Afghanistan since 2001. This is America's longest war.

We get more this morning 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 nation from Fort Meyer 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. He gave no indication except to say that he wanted to allow the president to explain the decision to the American people himself.

[04:35:06] Here's Secretary Mattis.

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I was not willing to make significant troop lifts until we make certainly new 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 for so long and cost so many lives, Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: It did More than 2,200. Boris, thanks.

As Boris mentioned there, over 2,200 deaths. Over -- if we continue there, 20,000 wounded. The plan for moving forward in Afghanistan has been a long time coming. CNN's Elise Labbot with more on what's being considered.

ELISE LABBOT, 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. Now the White House has been taking an exhaustive months' long review of U.S. policy toward 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 the 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: All right, Elise thank you. C

NN 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. One would assume Paul Ryan will weigh in on the president's response to Charlottesville.

ROMANS: All right, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has a message for his Yale classmates -- I stand by President Trump. Mnuchin releasing a strong defense of the president over the weekend. It's a response to a letter from nearly 300 of his former Yale classmates asking him to resign in protest to the president's Charlottesville response. Mnuchin calls their concerns misconceptions, assuring them that he in no way believes neo-Nazis are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful way.

It is the strongest defense of Trump yet by anyone in the administration. Mnuchin and economic adviser Gary Cohn face intense pressure to resign over the president's remarks. Both men are Jewish. Both of them were standing behind the president while he made those controversial remarks. And while the White House denies rumors from last week that Cohn will leave, Mnuchin says he's staying put, writing that, highly talented men and women surrounding the president should be reassuring to all the American people.

BRIGGS: North Korea threatening a merciless strike if the U.S. and South Korea hold joint military drills starting today. The Trump administration says the drills are happening. We're live from Seoul with the latest here on EARLY START.


ROMANS: Forty-three minutes past the hour. North Korea ramping up the rhetoric again in response to military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea. Those exercises beginning today. The Kim Jong-un regime threatening a "merciless strike." The official government newspaper warning the joint exercises are "driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war."

U.S. officials say the ten-day military drills are proceeding as scheduled. CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul with the very latest, and maybe the imagery of these routine exercises will be a little bit different this time.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. These are very different drills to what we saw in the springtime where you saw massive live fire drills. You saw thousands of U.S. troops landing on a South Korean beach. This time around, this Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, they are computer simulated for the most part, working on communication, on command posts to make sure that everyone can get to where they need to and communicate with who they need to.

So there's an awful lot of a different feel to these drills. You're not going to see those images, that footage that North Korea find so provocative. But of course you still have the reaction from North Korea. The fact that these drills are going ahead, they say that they are reckless and it is reckless behavior. But we have heard from the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and he says that defensive in nature, they are wholly defensive. North Korea knows that they are defensive no matter what they say to public consumption.

A very similar thing we heard from the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in saying that in no way though are they to raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula. But the fact that we don't see these very dramatic pictures, whether or not that will plicate North Korea, we'll have to see. Drills go on for the next 10 days, Christine.

[04:45:00] ROMANS: All right, Paula Hancocks, this evening in Seoul. Thank you so much for that Paula.

BRIGGS: An international manhunt now underway for the driver of the van who ran over and killed 13 people in Barcelona last week. Police now pouring over wreckage from a suspected bomb factory for any clues about the terrorist cell behind the attack. They're looking for this man, a 22-year-old Moroccan national Younes Abouyaaqoub. The interior minister of Catalan confirming overnight he is the suspected driver.

CNN's Isa Soares joins us live from Barcelona. Good morning to you.

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you Dave. That's right, the interior minister confirming to CNN that Younes Abouyaaqoub, the 22-year-old Moroccan national, is the man on the run, still on the loose. And he's the man behind the white van that plowed into 13 people here in Placa Catalunya that leads to Las Ramblas.

Police also looking and questioning one man, and that's an imam, an imam from Ripoll. Ripoll is the city just north of Barcelona, just believed eight of the 12 attackers, suspected attackers, were from Ripolls. So police wants the area. Police want to know what exactly was the imam's role in this operation. Was he the mastermind behind this operation? Focusing on him, focusing of course on the manhunt, the man who they say perhaps could have gone into France but critically in the house in (INAUDIBLE) where they found traces of explosives. Dave?

BRIGGS: Isa, thank you.

The scope of mystery sonic attacks against diplomats in Cuba much greater than was initially reported. CNN has now learned more than 10 American diplomats and family members were treated for symptoms like nausea, headaches, and hearing loss. Five Canadian diplomats and their family also had symptoms consistent with the attacks.

In some cases, an inaudible sonic weapon was deployed. In others, it was a deafening loud, buzzing or scrapping sound. The State Department says despite the incidents and staffing changes, the U.S. embassy in Havana is fully operational. U.S. officials suspect a third country is involved, possibly as part of an effort to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Cuba.

BRIGGS: Four confederate statues removed from the University of Texas campus in Austin overnight. The monuments depicting Robert E. Lee, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, and Post Master General Reagan will now be part of a study collection. A statue depicting former Texas governor James Stephen Hogg, not a confederate but part of the display has also been pulled.

U.T. officials say the deadly violence in Charlottesville prompted the move noting quote, Confederate monument have become symbols of modern white supremacy and ne-Naziism. A small group protested when the statues came down.

ROMANS: All right, Tesla's founder Elon Musk says killer robots aren't sci-fi. They area a real possibility and he is sounding the alarm. Killer robots. CNN Money Stream, next.



ROMANS: Total eclipse of the heart, is that like when your lungs go over? What is that exactly? I just could never.

BRIGS: I have long wondered that question.

ROMANS: I've long wondered what a total eclipse of the heart is.

BRIGGS: We may never get the answer to that but that song never more fitting than it is right now. We're just hours away from this total eclipse of the sun. The sun will disappear for a short time all across America today. The last time there was a total eclipse of the sun across the United States, 99 years ago. People from Tennessee to Oregon will be in the path of totality, as they're calling it.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Salem gearing up for this once-in-a- lifetime event.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine Dave, it is countdown to total totality, totality is that shadow of the moon, about 70 miles wide that will race across the U.S. Twelve states in all will see this eclipse, the total eclipse. But you cannot stare at the sun directly, of course, unless you have solar filters on your binoculars or those special glasses everyone's talking about.

I want to show what they look like. Kind of like mirrored sunglasses except when you try to see through them, literally, you can't see a thing. Complete black unless you are staring at the sun. Now, people from around the world are pouring in to this path of totality that this eclipse will take. It is the first time since 1918 that we've had an eclipse cross through the U.S. continent coast to coast.

It's even more interesting, it's the first time since 1257, about 200 years before Christopher Columbus was born, that an eclipse only hit the U.S. So, one for the record books here, towns across the country, little towns, we went to Independence, Oregon. They are preparing for their size of population, 9,200, to maybe quadruple overnight, basically turning this into an astronomical festival for this once-in- a-lifetime event. I will see you guys at the eclipse. Dave, Christine?

ROMANS: Totality.

BRIGGS: Good look.

ROMANS: And Miguel, thank you.

At Nashville right in the path. They're not concerned -- the small towns, but millions of people live within driving distance of Nashville

[04:55:00] so, it could be an interesting experience there. So will the weather cooperate today? Let's get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dave and Christine, it's the big day and here's the national map. And very easy to pick out the northwest who looks to be the place to be, especially around Wyoming into Idaho. And outside of the coastal region of Oregon looks pretty good, as well. But once you get toward the central portion of the country, some isolated storms, some of which that could be severe just north of that 100 percent line.

And then work your way towards the Carolinas. Charleston on into coastal South Carolina, looks a little unsettled, as well. Here's what it looks like for Nashville. We think into the early morning hours where the eclipse begins, approaching noon at least. Fair visibility. Mostly sunny skies.

But as you approach max eclipse there, potentially could see some clouds scattered about the region. And again, as you go toward the afternoon, you see some isolated clouds, but not too bad. Good visibility expected to return so watching that carefully as well. But really fascinating to think about the distance and also the difference that it makes with the sun.

The sun is about 400 times wider than the moon. At the same time, it's about 400 times farther away. So from an earthling's perspective, it looks it is the exact same size and the perfect coverage occurs on days like today. So when getting out there, be safe, have fun and enjoy the moment, guys.

BRIGGS: Indeed we will, my friend. If you can't get outside for this eclipse, CNN will be broadcasting it live on air, on Facebook and the CNN mobile app and via virtual reality. Just head to for the details. Remember, don't look directly at the sun.

ROMANS: It's true.

BRIGGS: And get the right glasses as well.

ROMANS: Or make that little shoebox. You can go to the Boy Scouts of America website. You can make your own shoebox. You could still do it.

And let's go check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning. Global stocks lower right now following Wall Street's lead, U.S. stocks closed lower., Friday. It was the second week in a row down despite a slight rebound Friday after news broke that Steve Bannon was leaving the administration.

Markets have soared to records for months, but as business leaders break ties with the president, investors worry an isolated President Trump has an economic agenda in peril. Investors tuning in this week for the end of earnings season, retailers Lowe's, Staples, Sears, all report. And the Federal Reserve's annual Jackson Hole Conference begins Thursday. Watch to see if Fed chief Janet Yellen says anything about future policy especially interest rate hikes.

All right, the first round of NAFTA talks just wrapped up. That was quick, right? Some issues already signal tough bargaining in the future. For example, the Trump administration proposal requiring substantial portions of auto parts be made in the U.S. and negotiators expect a great deal of effort in negotiation especially since they aim to rewrite NAFTA by the end of this year. That is a blinding pace for trade negotiations.

It just doesn't happen that fast. But again, this is an administration that's trying to rewrite the way we do business here. Negotiating NAFTA was a core campaign promise for this president. He blames NAFTA for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs. Round two of talks begins September 1st.

Elon Musk is sounding the alarm on killer robots. The Tesla founder along with 116 artificial intelligence experts are asking the U.N. to ban autonomous weapons, warning in an open letter that once developed they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever and that they can hacked to behave in undesirable ways. Unlike other forms of A.I., autonomous weapons are close to being developed. More than a dozen countries including the U.S., China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and Britain are currently working on autonomous weapons. Artificial intelligence weaponized. Wow.

BRIGGS: He's the only one really sounding this alarm.

ROMANS: Well, he's talking about getting the U.N. and getting global organizations to start to talk about a framework for this kind of stuff because, you know, he's right in there and he says it's happening very quickly.

BRIGGS: Let's get him here on CNN, let's talk about it.

EARLY START continues right now with the latest out of Singapore.

ROMANS: Our breaking news this morning, 10 sailors are missing after a U.S. Navy destroyer collides with a merchant ship near Singapore. The latest on the search.

BRIGGS: Plus, President Trump will outline the path forward for the U.S. and Afghanistan tonight in primetime. What it means for America's longest war.

ROMANS: And a total eclipse of the sun. It will sweep from coast to coast, what you can expect from this once-in-a-lifetime event. No pressure, but what are you doing this afternoon?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: We do have to have plans, you can't just hang out. I'm Dave Briggs, Monday, August 21st, 5:00 a.m. in the east. 5:00 p.m. in Singapore. That's where we're following breaking news this morning as 10 Navy sailors are still missing after the guided missile destroyer "USS John S. McCain" collided with a merchant vessel near Singapore. Naval officials say five crew members were injured, the damaged destroyer arriving at port in Singapore overnight.

ROMANS: It's the fourth incident this year involving a U.S. ship based in Japan.

[05:00:03] You'll recall the fatal collision involving the "USS Fitzgerald" in which seven sailors died.