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The President's Shifting Tone; White House To Issue Guidance On Transgender Military Ban; Russian Ex-Diplomat Kislyak Downplays Trump Campaign Contacts; Kushner Tries To Revive Mideast Peace Talks. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 24, 2017 - 05:30   ET





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.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Hard to believe but that is the same President Trump less than 24 hours after that 70-minute rant in Phoenix, back on prompter, on message. Is there any chance he'll stay there?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: If the president wants to heal wounds he could start with his Senator Majority Leader. The discord with Mitch McConnell threatening to derail the Republican agenda. Can they get on the same page or even in the same room?

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Five thirty-one in Watertown, Massachusetts where somebody's awfully rich --


BRIGGS: -- this morning. More on that in a moment.

But first, President Trump affecting a new and drastic shift in tone after a divisive 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.


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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us to discuss this morning is CNN contributor Salena Zito, reporter for the "Washington Examiner," columnist for the "New York Post," and happy Pittsburgh Pirates fan this morning.

Good morning to you, Salena. Quite a walk-off win it was.


BRIGGS: It was good stuff.

Let's talk about the president -- two very different presidents in two very different speeches -- and let's go back to the campaign which we do quite often, Salena, to talk about the president once criticizing the people running against him for their use of the teleprompter -- listen.


TRUMP: These other guys, they go around, they make a speech in front of 21 people. Nobody cares. They can make the same -- they read the same speech. They have teleprompters.

I say we should outlaw teleprompters for anybody, right, for anybody -- for anybody running for president.

I've always said if you run for president you shouldn't be allowed to use teleprompters. You shouldn't be allowed because you don't even know if the guy is smart.

Maybe when you run for president you shouldn't be allowed to use a teleprompter because you find out what you're getting.

Oh, would I like to go up and stand and read a speech for half an hour and just leave.

You know how easy that would be? Instead of this, I'm working my a** off, OK?


ZITO: (Laughing).

BRIGGS: OK, Salena, should we ignore teleprompter Trump, given all that? ZITO: No, because I think when you see him do the -- you know, when he was giving those clips that you ran most of them were during campaigns --


ZITO: -- and he was talking about campaign speeches, right? At least that's my impression of his clips, right?

He was talking about, you know -- President Obama was incredible at delivering these sort of soaring speeches, right, and he eloquently and effectively was able to use a teleprompter to help him, you know, be able to reach people in a very broad way.

[05:35:10] Trump does not do that in a campaign speech. But he has found it to be in his advantage to do it in events that are serious and important, like the speech about Afghanistan and like the speech in front of the American Legion in Nevada.

He understands the tools that he needs to do -- to use to be effective governing.

Look, I think we're probably going to find a treasure trove of instances where he has said one thing and now that he's president it's a completely different story. Sort of like when he said in his speech the other day about being behind a Resolute desk that, you know --

ROMANS: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, we all -- and I often wonder as a journalist, and you've been -- you're a journalist, too. You know, we work with words and words and facts, and they have to mean something. That's what you do in journalism.

But the president changes his mind. The president sometimes tweets and says things without knowing all the facts. The president sometimes thinks he knows facts that are not facts. That's what makes it so difficult to cover him.

But, for his supporters it's very clear this a show. He's producing a show that they are avid consumers of, right? His -- the numbers in his demo are very, very good right now as other reporters have noted because he is producing exactly what his base wants, right?

ZITO: Yes, absolutely. And his voters, like you said, last year, right, take him very seriously but they do not take every word that he says literally. Where we as reporters, we have to follow every single word that we use and that we're reporting on. So we take him literally --


ZITO: -- and it causes us, at times, to not take him seriously because we look at his tapes. He's saying blah, blah, blah about, you know, teleprompters and then he uses them -- you know, he sandwiches three events with two bookends on either end using a teleprompter.

So, it's very difficult and challenging as a reporter to cover someone who flip-flops and is completely comfortable with it, and his supporters are completely comfortable with him doing it.

BRIGGS: OK, but his job is to govern, to lead. And when you take on Jeff Flake and meet with his primary opponents ahead of that Phoenix rally, criticize John McCain who is suffering with brain cancer -- when you criticize Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada, who's vulnerable in 2018, when you publicly feud with Mitch McConnell, how do you govern?

ZITO: Well, I mean, it makes it incredibly challenging and difficult and what's unforeseen is how that -- how his style impacts what happens come September.

You know, he may have underestimated or misread his base in understanding who the enemy is. He probably is better served to use that firepower on people like Claire McCaskill in Missouri, who is a vulnerable Democrat running for reelection in the -- in the -- in the midterms.

You know, those are the types of people and the people that, you know, maybe he could get to vote on tax reform or infrastructure spending. You know, nudge them more than you are nudging the Republicans. But, you know, I think we'll just find out in September.

ROMANS: It's so fascinating to me that, you know, one day this week there was whispers that tax reform was moving forward. And then yesterday, the president, you know, after the threat of shutting down the government for the border wall, then people thought oh, no, it's not.

You know, day by day we're wondering we are on the -- where the president is on this, you know.

I think also Paul Ryan, this week, the House Speaker -- he was careful, Salena, not to criticize. I think he was careful to not really overtly criticize the president, you know.

He said he --

BRIGGS: He tried.

ROMANS: -- messed up post-Charlottesville. But, you know, they need to work with him if they're going to get any of the Republican agenda done.

Do you see them being able to heal these wounds?

ZITO: Yes, here's why.

Paul Ryan wants to be successful. He wants -- tax reform is the be- all to end-all. He wants to get that done. That has always been his thing.

Mitch McConnell, he does not want -- just because he's having a public fight -- or the president's having a public fight with him, does not mean that he's not going to get things done to serve his interest in not only of himself but of his conference, right?

You know, he's run forever, eight years, on being this leader that can get policy and legislation done that impacts the economy --


ZITO: -- and moves the economy forward.


ZITO: It's been about the economy, it's been about our pocketbooks, and McConnell is not going to let this fight get in the way of that.

[05:40:05] All three men want to be successful. It's just going to be a little interesting getting to the finish line.

BRIGGS: It sure is, my friend.

Salena Zito, great to have you this morning.

ZITO: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right.

The White House, meanwhile, is expected to send guidance to the Pentagon in coming days on President Trump's transgender military service ban. That's 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, 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.

BRIGGS: It's 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 its implementation.

CNN has reached out to the Defense Department and the White House, no comment.

Next, a CNN exclusive as we hear from the former Russian ambassador to the U.S., also an alleged spy.


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? (END VIDEO CLIP)


[05:45:37] BRIGGS: One of the key players in the U.S.-Russia relations the last decade has been Sergey Kislyak. He's now the former Russian ambassador to the United States. U.S. intelligence also considered him one of Russia's top spies and spy recruiters in Washington.

CNN spoke exclusively to Kislyak on Wednesday about that allegation and contacts with the Trump campaign.

Frederik Pleitgen joins us live from Moscow with the latest.

Matthew Chance went a long way to get this interview, huh, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was -- it was about a 12-hour train ride out to the town of Saransk to be able to track Sergey Kislyak down. He's actually running as a politician there to try and get into Russia's version of the Senate.

It certainly was quite a testy exchange between Matthew and Sergey Kislyak. Kislyak vehemently denying that there were any attempts to try and get together a back channel between the Trump campaign and then later, the Trump White House and Russia, and also saying he doesn't recall whether any secret information was involved in a meeting he had in the Oval Office with President Trump.

Now, Sergey Kislyak became quite unsettled when the question of whether he really was a spymaster came up. Let's listen in.


CHANCE: What about this allegation that you're a spymaster, 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. It's nonsense.


PLEITGEN: So there -- so there you see some criticism there from the former Russian ambassador. Of course, Matthew did point out that it was actually U.S. security officials who are saying that he was a spymaster, and not CNN.

But, Kislyak also pointed negative on the prospects of U.S.-Russia relations, saying he doesn't see them improving anytime soon, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Fred Pleitgen live for us in Moscow. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

The House Armed Services Committee will investigate two recent deadly collisions involving the Navy's 7th Fleet at a hearing on September 7th. The review comes after the USS John McCain collided with a merchant ship near Singapore on Monday, leaving 10 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 now confirm the identities of five of the 10 missing sailors from the McCain.

TEXT: Logan Palmer, Jacob Drake, Kenneth Smith, John Hoagland, Dustin Doyon.

BRIGGS: You see their names there.

The 7th Fleet says its search is expanding as they search for more remains.

ROMANS: Such a sad story.


ROMANS: All right, 48 minutes past the hour.

Someone snagged the winning $759 million Powerball ticket beating some very long odds. We've got that next.


[05:52:40] BRIGGS: President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner 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.

Let's bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann. He's live in Jerusalem.

Oren, I understand the foreign minister canceled the meeting because of that snag but the Egyptian president didn't seem to mind much. Good morning.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Those meetings did happen in the end but there certainly may have been some awkward moments there because the U.S. just cut $100 million in aid from Egypt. But that U.S.-Egypt aid wasn't the point of these meetings.

This was Kushner and the White House delegation trying to establish a regional framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. From that perspective, it's very smart to try to get all the critical players involved here before meeting with the Israelis and Palestinians.

But in Kushner's meetings today with Netanyahu and with Abbass he'll face some very different challenges.

Netanyahu is under criminal investigation and to shore up his own base while he's under investigation he has shifted sharply to the right attacking previous Israeli-Palestinian accords and leaving him little room for flexibility on concessions to Palestinians and on a peace process, so that will be difficult.

On the Palestinian side, Palestinian leaders are waiting for Trump to commit to a two-state solution -- waiting for the White House to agree to what the international consensus is and what the future of the region should be, the state of Israel and the state of Palestine. Without that clear vision -- without, essentially, a goal and some sort of timeline, the Palestinians find it hard to fully commit to this.

Those are the challenges Kushner faces as he arrives here. On top of that, of course, it's incredibly complex to try to make progress here.

But, Dave, and this is important to point out, the fact that Kushner is here, again, means this is still important to President Trump.

BRIGGS: Indeed, it is, but some massive hurdles ahead.

Oren Liebermann live for us. Thank you.

ROMANS: A new arrest overnight by Dutch authorities after a terror threat forced the cancellation of a concert in Rotterdam. The suspect is a 22-year-old arrested in his house in the southern part of the Netherlands.

Rotterdam police also now say a driver of a van found carrying gas cylinders near the venue had no connection to the threat. Officials say he was driving erratically under the influence of alcohol.

[05:55:04] BRIGGS: The white supremacist who organized the Charlottesville rally earlier this month has turned himself in to the University of Virginia police.

Chris Cantwell facing arrest warrants on two counts of illegal use of tear gas and one count of malicious bodily injury in connection with the August 11th march. He's being held awaiting transport to Charlottesville.

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

ROMANS: All right.

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

This is the largest lottery prize with a single winner ever in North America.

The winning numbers, by the way, six, seven, 16, 23, 26 and Powerball, 4.

Would you take the lump sum or the annuity, Dave Briggs?

BRIGGS: Lump sum, no question about it. But what does my financially prudent co-host say?

ROMANS: I would take the lump sum. But if you have a problem with finances the annuity might be, you know, forced discipline.

BRIGGS: I have a problem with my finances but my wife irons them all out.

ROMANS: Does she? All right.

BRIGGS: All right.

It was a no-no turned oh, no. The pitcher for the Dodgers, Rich Hill, throws a nine-inning no-hitter against the Pirates but neither team could score so the game goes to extra innings.

At the bottom of the ninth, Josh Harrison -- it's a walk-off home run, the first time in Major League history that a pitcher has lost a no- hitter by giving up a walk-off home run.

Rich Hill, another tough luck night, but a great ending if you are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan this morning.

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

Global stock markets are higher right now, brushing off worries on Wall Street. The Dow fell about 90 points yesterday because the president threatened to shut down the government if they don't fund his border wall.

This is just a day after the best session for stocks in months. On that day, it was rumors that tax reform is moving along. Of course, the promise of tax cuts has fueled stocks' rise since the election.

But some big banks think the rally may be over. Analysts from HSBC, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley all see evidence a bull market -- the end is near, including a breakdown in the traditional relationship between stocks and bonds and investors, they say, ignoring economic data.

After a series of terror attacks scared away visitors last year, tourists are returning to Paris. The city is on track for its strongest tourism year in a decade -- vive la France. Hotel stays jumping 10 percent in the first half of 2017.

France has been in an official state of emergency since the 2015 attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 130 people and Paris has worked hard since then to counter the tourist slump, including reducing attraction wait times and introducing discount passes.

All right, this is a deal that could change the way Americans shop for food. The government is giving the Amazon-Whole Foods merger the green light. The FTC approving Amazon's $13 billion takeover bid. It says it won't hurt competition.

But, you know, Amazon is a disruptor and this merger opens up a $700 billion grocery market to the company. For example, Amazon could let customers buy groceries online and then pick them up at one of the 465 Whole Foods stores. In fact, the company is already experimenting with a similar click and collect system.

BRIGGS: You know, I used to say I'd never buy clothes online --

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: -- I want to try them on -- but now I do it.

ROMANS: It's about convenience.

BRIGGS: Groceries, does it change our buying habits?

ROMANS: If you can save me 10 minutes wandering through those middle aisles, I'll take it.

BRIGGS: Hard to believe it won't hurt the competition, though.

ROMANS: All right, 58 minutes past the hour. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

President Trump back to being the uniter in chief. Will he stay that way when he's off the teleprompter?

"NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


TRUMP: It is time to heal the wounds that divide us. These are bad people and I really think they don't like our country.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: He'll make a scripted teleprompter speech and then turn around and negate it by unbridled, unleashed Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To threaten government shutdown a month before and he'd even toy with it, is dangerous for our role in the world. We wanted a president to break the system, to break Washington.

REP. TOM COLE (R-AZ), MEMBER, BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS AND RULES COMMITTEES: Don't make it personal and remember, these are members of your team. You're going to need every vote you've got.

BRIGGS: Someone beat the odds to win the Powerball lottery jackpot.

ROMANS: That is the largest lottery prize with a single winner ever in North America.