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The Tale of Two Trumps; No Meetings Set Between Trump & McConnell; Sources: Trump Campaign Aide Emailed About Effort to Meet Putin; Kislyak Downplays Trump Campaign Contacts; Kushner Tries to Revive Mideast Peace Talks. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 24, 2017 - 04:30   ET




[04:30:58] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, the same President Trump less than 24 hours after an angry rant in Arizona, back on prompter and on message. Is there any chance he will stay there?

BRIGGS: If the president wants to heal wounds, he might start with his Senate majority leader. The discord with Mitch McConnell is threatening to derail the Republican agenda. Can they get on the same page or in the same room? Congress is still on recess for another week and a half.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Thirty-one minutes past the hour this Thursday morning.

President Trump effecting a new and drastic shift in tone after a rally Tuesday that many say incited conflict, was divisive. The president issued a call for national unity less than 24 hours later at the American Legion Convention in Reno.

BRIGGS: The president sticking closely to the prepared script in the teleprompter, choosing not to attack Republican foes in Nevada after slamming two senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, during his Arizona rally.

Today, the president is back at the White House with no public events scheduled.

Our Jason Carroll has more from Reno.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the president is back in Washington, D.C., and he's left a lot of that fiery rhetoric and that awkward defense, inaccurate defense, of his response to Charlottesville back in Phoenix. Here in Reno, the talk was all about unifying the country as he addressed the American Legion Convention. The president was scripted. He read from prepared remarks. He was tied to the prompter.

And certainly a number of people wanted to see him focused just on the script of the day. Many of the veterans that we spoke to basically telling us that they thought the speech was well delivered. Some of them calling it measured and focused.

Here's a listen to part of what the president had to say --

TRUMP: It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us. We are one people with one home and one great flag.

We are not defined by the color of our skin, the figure on our paycheck, or the party of our politics. We are defined by our shared humanity.

CARROLL: There have been many critics of this president who say what they were constantly seeing is one step forward, two steps back. Step forward when the president delivers his speech like we saw in Reno. Two steps back when he delivers a speech like what was seen in Phoenix.

But there are also some of those in the administration who recognize that that speech in Phoenix was not meant for the press, it was not meant for his critics. It was meant for his base -- Christine, Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Jason Carroll in Reno, thanks, Jason.

Still no plans for a face-to-face meeting between President Trump and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. But a White House official says aides are working to get the two together, possibly as soon as Congress returns from the recess after Labor Day. In the meantime, there aren't any phone calls set, though the official says it's possible they'll talk.

BRIGGS: Bitter tension has been growing between Trump and McConnell, including a heated phone call that spiraled into a shouting match. Both the White House and the majority leader issuing statements trying to smooth over the rift with talk of a shared agenda including tax reform and infrastructure.

One Republican senator tells CNN's Manu Raju, the president's attacks on Senators Flake, McCain, and McConnell are, quote, not helpful, and have had the effect of rallying Republican senators behind the majority leader. The White House is expected to send guidance to the Pentagon in coming days on President Trump's transgender military service ban. That is according to the "Wall Street Journal," citing U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The memo reportedly directs the military to stop admitting transgender people for current transgender troops.

[04:35:00] The Pentagon is supposed to consider a service member's ability to deploy when deciding whether to expel them. And the memo says the Pentagon should stop paying for troops' transgender-related medical treatment.

ROMANS: Now, it is unclear right now whether the memo has been finalized. Officials tell the "Wall Street Journal" the guidance would give Defense Secretary James Mattis six months to put the new rules into effect. The president surprised the Pentagon late last month firing off a string of tweets reinstating the transgender ban without a plan in place for implementation. CNN has reached out to the Defense Department and the White House for comments.

BRIGGS: A Cal Berkeley energy professor stepping down from his post as a science envoy for the state department on Wednesday. And he embedded a not-so-subtle message to the president in his resignation letter. Take a look. Professor Daniel Kammen spelled out the word "impeach" with the first letter of each paragraph.

ROMANS: Kammen who is married to a Nigerian American woman goes on to criticize the president for his response to the Charlottesville tragedy, accusing him of enabling racism and sexism. The professor tells CNN he's also frustrated with the president's environmental policies, as well as his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

All right. New home sales hitting a seven-month low as prices rise. The latest sign of a tight housing market. New home sales fell sharply in July, down 9.4 percent. This should be sales down 9.4 percent on the screen. But prices, prices jumped, $313,000 the price of a median home.

New homes are just a small part of a U.S. home sales, but continue the overall trend of high prices and low sales. New home construction also fell in July. More evidence that inventory is in short supply.

The economy is strong. Americans want to buy homes including many first-time buyers. But they're being priced out for two reasons. Many people are renovating existing homes instead of moving into larger homes. That takes starter homes off the market. Construction costs are high. So, new homes are being built at higher price points, limiting who can afford them.

BRIGGS: All right. Up next, two CNN exclusives on the Russia investigation. An e-mail from a Trump campaign aide suggests efforts to meet with Vladimir Putin and the former Russian ambassador to the U.S. faces tough questions from CNN back home.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you met Donald Trump, the president, were you surprised when he disclosed secret information to you about Syria?


[04:41:36] ROMANS: Now a CNN exclusive: new information suggests a previously unreported attempt to arrange a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It stems from an e-mail from campaign aide rick Dearborn, now the president's deputy chief of staff. It dates back to the summer of 2016 around the time of the now-infamous meeting between top train campaign aides and Russians with Kremlin ties.

We get more this morning from CNN's Manu Raju in Washington.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Good morning, Christine and Dave. Now, congressional investigators have unearthed a new e- mail from a top Trump aide that referenced an effort not reported before, an effort to arrange this meeting between Trump officials and the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now, the aide is Rick Dearborn. We are told that he sent a brief e- mail to campaign officials last year, relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump officials with Putin. Now the person that Dearborn, now the president's deputy chief of staff, that person who was identified in Dearborn's e-mail was only identified as being from, quote, "WV," which one source told us clear reference to the state of West Virginia.

Now, it's unclear who that person is, what exactly they wanted, whether or not Dearborn even acted on the request. Dearborn would not response to our request for comment. The White House refused to comment. But one source did say that the individual, WV, had political connections in West Virginia.

That same source said Dearborn in the email appeared skeptical of the meeting. This appears to intelligence experts to fit a pattern of Russians trying to find entry points into the Trump campaign. A big question going forward, whether or not this Dearborn e-mail fits that pattern, expected to be called to Capitol Hill to testify -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: All right. Manu Raju, thank you, sir.

Rick Dearborn's name has not been mentioned previously as part of this Russia investigation. He served as chief of staff for then-Senator Jeff Sessions, and investigators have questions about his potential involvement in two meetings that took place between Sessions and Sergey Kislyak, the former Russian ambassador to the United States.

Now, CNN exclusively spoke with Kislyak in a rare interview on Wednesday.

Fred Pleitgen joins us live from Moscow with the latest. It was a fascinating back and forth between Matthew Chance and Sergey

Kislyak. Contentious at times but certainly interesting. Good morning to you.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Very, very interesting. It took place about 11 hours outside of Moscow, in this town called Saransk, where Sergey Kislyak is actually running to join the local -- what's called the Federation Council, basically the Russian version of the Senate for that area. And, yes, our own Matthew Chance tracked him down.

And Kislyak actually said some interesting things. He says that there were no reports -- or he claims that there were no efforts at trying to establish back channels between the Kremlin and Trump campaign, also claims he doesn't remember whether he heard any secret information in that Oval Office meeting that, of course, he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attended. And then Matthew asked him about these allegations that he was a Russian spy master in D.C. Here's what Kislyak had to say to that.


CHANCE: What about the allegation that you're a spy master, a spy recruiter --


CHANCE: Did you attempt to recruit any members of the Trump administration?

KISLYAK: You should be ashamed because CNN is the company that keeps pointing to this allegation.

[04:45:02] It's nonsense.


PLEITGEN: So, as you see, not much love for our network there on the part of Sergey Kislyak.

Some other interesting things that he also said pertained to U.S./Russia relations. He says he doesn't believe that those are going to improve any time soon. He obviously says the Russians did nothing wrong. He blames the sanctions regime for those relations. So, certainly, it was very interesting to get this man's perspective who, of course, is so important to the whole investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Dave.

BRIGGS: Right, Fred. It's not just CNN asking questions. It's the House. It's the Senate, and it's a special counsel. Fred Pleitgen live for us -- thank you.

ROMANS: The House Armed Services Committee will investigate two recent deadly collisions involving the Navy's Seventh Fleet at a hearing on September 7th. The review comes after the USS John McCain collided with a merchant ship near Singapore on Monday. Ten people missing and feared dead. In June, seven people were killed when the USS Fitzgerald and a cargo ship collided off the coast of Japan.

BRIGGS: CNN can confirm the identities of five of the 10 missing sailors from the John McCain. The Seventh Fleet says the search is expanding as they search for more remains.

ROMANS: Our thoughts and our prayers with their families for their sacrifice.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

ROMANS: All right, 46 minutes past the hour.

There's a winner. Someone snagged the winning $759 Powerball ticket. You told you weren't going to win, Dave Briggs, beating very long odds --

BRIGGS: Still here.

ROMANS: You have to work another day.


[04:50:56] ROMANS: Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, is in Israel leading the U.S. effort to revive long- stalled Middle East peace talks. Kushner set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. On Wednesday, he met with the president of Egypt as a new sore spot in U.S./Cairo relations emerged.

I want to bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann. He is live in Jerusalem. Good morning, Oren.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. And there may have been some very awkward moments in that meeting because the U.S. administration just cut $100 million from its aid to Egypt. But that wasn't what the meeting was all about. Kushner and the allegation are here to re-establish some sort of framework for an Israeli/Palestinian peace process. They visited other Gulf leaders as well. From that perspective, it's smart to get a regional backing for a peace initiative here.

But now that Kushner's in Jerusalem set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he faces a completely different set of challenges. Netanyahu is under criminal investigation, and in response to those investigations, he has shifted sharply to the right to shore up his own voter base, attacking previous Israeli-Palestinian accords and leaving himself very little room for flexibility on concessions with the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, from the Palestinian perspective, Trump and the White House have yet to commit to a two-state solution. The international consensus on what the future of the region should be, a state of Israel and state of Palestine. That means the Palestinians aren't sure what it is they're trying to establish, what it is the Trump administration is moving towards. If not a two-state solution, the Palestinians see little reason to be involved in this entire process.

But the fact that Kushner is still here is indicative of the fact that Trump sees this as important. It's Kushner's third visit to the region. He brings with him some high-powered players from the administration. But this needs to be more substantive than just statements on trying to make some sort of progress here for there to be a real initiative -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Oren Liebermann for us in Jerusalem with that complicated tapestry there. Thank you so much.

BRIGGS: A new arrest overnight by Dutch authorities. After a terror threat forced a cancellation of a concert by American band in Rotterdam. The suspect is a 22-year-old was arrested in his house in the southern part of the Netherlands. Asked if the terror threat was connected to the attacks last week in Spain, Dutch police said not directly, but the investigation is ongoing. Rotterdam police also now say the driver of a van found carrying gas cylinders near the concert venue had no connection to the threat. Officials say he was driving erratically, under the influence of alcohol.

ROMANS: The white supremacist who organized the Charlottesville rally earlier this month has turned himself in to University of Virginia police. Chris Cantwell facing arrest warrants on two counts of illegal use of teargas and one count of malicious bodily injury in connection with the August 11th march. He is being held, awaiting transport to Charlottesville.

Meantime, monuments of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson have been covered up in Charlottesville. A city official tells CNN the tarps will remain on the statues until further notice.

All right. It looks like someone, someone beat those long one in 292 million odds to win the Powerball lottery jackpot. Massachusetts lottery officials say a ticket sold at the Handy Variety store in Watertown is the lone winner of a $758.7 -- $758 million lottery Powerball jackpot.

This is the largest lottery prize with a single winner ever in North America. The winning numbers, by the way, 6-7-16-23-26, and Powerball 4. Your chances of win, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning while drowning than winning --

BRIGGS: Don't be a party popper.

ROMANS: I am a lottery party pooper. Take $20 a week and put it in savings, investments, or 529 for your kid's college.

BRIGGS: I'm still playing every time.

ROMANS: Wah, wah, what.

BRIGGS: Whoa, it's a no, no, turned oh no. Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill throws the nine inning no hitter against the Pirates, but neither could score. So, game with extras. Bottom of the 10th, this happened -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The drive to left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, baby --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Toward the wall --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And -- the Jolly Roger, no hitter, gone! Josh Harrison homers, 1-0, in a classic.


BRIGGS: Aw! Heartbreaking end to an almost perfect game by Rich Hill. First time in Major League history that a pitcher has lost a no-hitter by giving up a walk-off home run. Congrats to the Pirates. Just a tough, tough loss for Rich Hill who deserves the no-hitter.

ROMANS: All right. Tropical Storm Harvey taking aim at the Texas coast, expected to bring dangerous flooding.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

Big story developing in the weather center -- three, two. Good morning, Dave and Christine. Big story developing here in the weather center.

Tropical Storm Harvey has now just formed across the Gulf of Mexico. This storm system has everything it takes to develop into a menacing disturbance across the region. In fact, some 10 million people underneath a tropical storm watch, about 2 million people underneath a hurricane watch, as well.

So you know the National Hurricane Center taking this seriously. All indications are we will have a first hurricane of 2017 approaching the United States. And, of course, the storm system could in sometime Friday night into Saturday morning. And when you look at the model depiction, we think with the high pressure centered across the Southwest, also a high pressure off the central area, this may stall across south and central Texas.

You put this together, could easily see seven to ten inches, some areas potentially up to 20 inches of rainfall when you look at the next five days. So, certainly, a big story developing across parts of Texas that have been very drought stricken. This is way too much to handle. And that is certainly a story to follow as we go into the weekend and early next week, guys.


ROMANS: All right. And you've got a little sneak peek of how we really work around here -- three, two, one.


ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

Global stocks are higher today, brushing off the worries of Wall Street. The Dow fell nearly 90 points after the president threatened to shut down the government it they don't fund the border wall. This is just the day after its best session in months, because there were rumors that tax reform is moving along. Tax reform, yay one day, the next day, shutting down the government for the border wall. Wall Street doesn't like it.

Tax cuts had fueled tax rise since the election. Some big banks think the rally may be over. Analysts from, you know, HSBC, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, all see evidence the bull market end is near, including a breakdown in the traditional relationship between stocks and bonds and investors ignoring economic data.

After a series of terror attacks scared visitors away last year, tourists are returning to Paris. The city is on track for its strongest tourism year in a decade. Hotel stays jumping 10 percent in the first half of 2017. France has been in an official state of emergency since the November, 2015, attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 130 people. Since then, Paris has worked hard to counter the tourist slump, including reducing attraction wait times and introducing discount passes.

I love France. I love Paris. I'm so glad to see those numbers turning around.

The government is giving the Amazon/Whole Foods merger a green light. A deal that may change the way Americans shop for food. The FTC approved Amazon's $13 million takeover bid, saying it will not hurt competition.

But Amazon is a disrupter. And with 465 physical Whole Foods stores, the merger gives Amazon a piece of the $700 billion U.S. grocery market, which could allow customers to buy groceries on line and pick them up. In fact, the company is already experimenting with a click and collect system. Cool, huh?

BRIGGS: Is it likely to change how we buy our groceries?

ROMANS: I think how we buy our groceries is changing no matter what. And Amazon buying Whole Foods wants to be in there shaping how it happens.

BRIGGS: It's a little scary how they've taken over our buying habits.


BRIGGS: But we shall see.

ROMANS: Convenience. It's all about convenience.

BRIGGS: No question about that.

EARLY START continues right now.


TRUMP: It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us.


ROMANS: The same President Trump less than 24 hours after an angry rant in Arizona, back on prompter and on message. Is there any chance he'll stay there?

BRIGGS: If the president wants to heal wounds, he might start with his Senate majority leader. Discord with Mitch McConnell threatened to derail the Republican agenda. Can they get on the same page or in the same room? Still about ten days left in the congressional recess. Time to talk.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, August 24th, 5:00 a.m. in the East, noon in Moscow and Jerusalem.

President Trump effecting a new and drastic shift in tone after a rally Tuesday that many say incited conflict. The president issued a call for national unity less than 24 hours later at the American Legion Convention in Reno.