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Dominica Slammed, Puerto Rico Braces for Maria; CNN Exclusive: Manafort Wiretapped; Trump to Address UNGA; Giants Struggle in Monday Night Loss to Lions. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 19, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: EARLY START continues right now with the latest projections for Hurricane Maria.


[05:00:11] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Overnight, Hurricane Maria slamming the Caribbean island of Dominica. The storm intensifying so rapidly as it heads to Puerto Rico, where the governor says it is unlike anything the island has ever seen. A new update from the National Hurricane Center is just moments away.

BRIGGS: The president's former campaign manager wiretapped under secret court orders, includes a time where Paul Manafort was known to speak with President Trump.

ROMANS: And President Trump getting ready for his first speech at the U.N. Officials saying it will be deeply philosophical after some blunt talk on day one of the general assembly. We have all of these stories covered from the Caribbean and Washington this morning.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Tuesday, September 19th, 5:00 a.m. in the New York, where the president speaks later this morning.

Also 5:00 a.m. in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That's where we begin with Hurricane Maria battering the Caribbean island of Dominica with a category 5 force and heading straight for Puerto Rico. It's now a category 4 storm. Maria went from category 1 to category 5 in a mere 15 hours. And that makes it the most powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in Dominica.

Initial reports from the Caribbean island are grim. The prime minister posting on Facebook that there is, quote, widespread devastation.

ROMANS: Yes, 72,000 people on that island and it was a direct rough hit. The governor there says his greatest fear is finding out about injuries and fatalities later today when they can get out there and secure the procedure medical assistance for residents. Now, Puerto Rico bracing for its own direct hit on Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center warning Maria is likely to cause life threatening flash floods and mudslides. I want to get right to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri in the CNN

weather center. I mean, you look at the path of that storm, the Virgin Islands are in its path too. It's just a really awful, awful kind of echo of what we've already seen.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. You know, it's the storms we've seen from Jose to Irma, to Harvey and now, of course, with Maria. These are storms that you would see potentially once a decade and we're essentially seeing them one after another, four storms reaching such magnitude and, of course, with this particular one, we see this sitting as a strong category 4.

It has kept the winds at 155 miles per hour, which is just two miles per hour shy of a category 5, but they are showing the central pressure of the storm has dropped 8 millibars. What does in a mean? It means the storm is actually strengthening. We think it will be a category 5 inside the next few hours. But you noticed, going from 80 miles per hour on Sunday to 160 miles per hour on Monday. An incredible upper intensity, the storm up from a one to a five.

And again, we think this storm could approach the category 5 as it approaches areas of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on early Wednesday morning. Initially, it looked like it could be a Wednesday afternoon landfall. It appears more of an early morning landfall on Puerto Rico.

And you notice, we do have storm surges concerns up to 11 feet. That is 11 feet above what it typically dry ground for areas around San Jose, it could be six to nine feet above what is typically dry ground. So, essentially, water would easily get into the first floor of homes potentially push up close to the second floor of homes. That's the storm surge threat and then you talk about rain coming down on the order of 10, maybe 15 inches. This is far more rainfall than Irma brought across its entire life cycle around the Caribbean.

So, this is what we're watching and you notice the track confidence here on a push towards Puerto Rico. And then eventually, we see them spread apart a little bit with the European, pulling this away from the United States. While the American, by early next week, wants to bring it to the north. But we are seeing that gradually shift to the east, as well. So, if there's any good piece of news potentially out of this is that it wants to get through the Caribbean, it could potentially shift away from the United States if it continues to verify.

ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thank you so much for that. Keep us posted please. I know there's a lot going on in the weather world.

BRIGGS: Indeed. Thanks, Pedram.

All right. As Hurricane Maria barrels towards Puerto Rico, President Trump approving an emergency disaster declaration just as he did earlier for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Only once has Puerto taken a direct hit from a category five hurricane. That 85 years ago.

Let's bring in CNN'S Nick Valencia live in San Juan, where still, tens of thousands without power from Irma. Good morning to you, Nick.


The expectations of what impact Hurricane Maria will play here on this island territory, they are very grim. And so is the announcement yesterday at a press conference by municipality officials, as well as the governor here, Governor Rossello, saying we cannot hope for a miracle that things will change. This storm is expected to be a monster storm. We've already seeing that anxiety and that nervousness play apart here among residents.

We saw a local businesses being frantically boarded up yesterday. It's being reported that even some basic food is being rationed, including baby formula, because the local officials are worried people will run out.

[05:05:03] There is an expectation that power will go out. You mentioned, Dave, that there are still thousands of people here in this territory that are still without power. And that's after Hurricane Irma came here and didn't make a direct hit. Not at the expectation what we -- you know, what Hurricane Maria is expected to bring when it eventually does make landfall here in Puerto Rico sometime in Wednesday afternoon -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Nick Valencia, stay safe. Live there in San Juan.

ROMANS: All right. We'll keep an eye on the weather situation. But let's turn to Russian investigation.

CNN has learned U.S. investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort before and after the November election. Now, sources say the surveillance continued into early this year covering a period in which he was known to be talking to President Trump. The FBI's interest in Manafort deepening last fall when agents intercepted his communications with suspected Russian operatives.

Pamela Brown, part of our team that broke this exclusive CNN report. She has this from Washington.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Dave and Christine.

Sources tell us that the FBI got permission from the secret surveillance court to monitor Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, both before and after the election. This is an extraordinary step for the FBI to do surveillance of a high ranking campaign official. And, of course, Manafort is now the center of the Russian meddling probe.

We're told that there are intercepted communications that raised concerns among investigators bout whether Manafort was encouraging Russians to help with the campaign. Now, other source told us that the intelligence was inconclusive. Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has been provided all of these communications. They have these communications in their hands.

We did not get a comment from Paul Manafort's spokesman but Manafort has previously denied he ever knowingly communicated with Russian intelligence operatives during the election and he's also denied helping Russia undermine U.S. interest.

Now, the secret order went into at least early this year, according to our sources. And what's interesting here, Dave and Christine, is that in the same time frame that there was a FISA warrant, according to our sources, there were communications between the president, President Trump, and Manafort, it's unclear if the president was ever picked up as part of the surveillance.

Back to you, Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much for that.

All right. Ahead of these developments make for an interesting backdrop when President Trump delivers his first speech at the U.N. General Assembly, just about five and a half hours. How will he find a tone officials say will be deeply philosophical? We'll discuss with Julian Zelizer next.


[05:11:46] BRIGGS: CNN with new exclusive revelations former Trump campaign Paul Manafort was wiretapped by U.S. investigators. Sources say the surveillance continued into early this year, with permission of a secret court order. It included a period in which Manafort was known to be talking to President Trump.

ROMANS: Let's discuss this with CNN contributor Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton University.

Nice to see you bright and early this morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning.


ROMANS: "The New York Times" headline basically saying, with a picked lock and threat of an indictment, Mueller inquiry sets a tone here. What is that tone?

ZELIZER: Well, it's a very aggressive investigation. He is going after all the principal players. I'm sure he's going to try to lean on some of them to turn against others. But this is a big story in that here's a principal person of the Trump campaign who was being wiretapped before and after for suspicions of these connections.

ROMANS: At a time when he was talking to President Trump, you know?


ROMANS: The new president of the United States.

ZELIZER: Not as a minor player, as a pretty significant figure in Trump's orbit.

BRIGGS: All right. So, Christine talked about the tone there. How about the tone of this U.N. speech the president delivers in just over five hours' time here in New York to the U.N.? You're hearing things like accountability and sovereignty. It would be deeply philosophical, not the most deeply philosophical man historically.

What does he need to accomplish today?

ZELIZER: Well, he needs to deliver a speech that doesn't simply provoke everyone in the room. It sounds like he's going to stick to his basic America first message that he's been giving since the campaign. And I guess the big question is not the substance. I think I know what it's going to be. Attacking North Korea, attacking Iran, calling for the U.N. to do more and people to contribute.

It's does he turn away from the monitor and just say a few words that basically become the story for the rest of the day. And that could be dangerous, as we've seen with President Trump.

ROMANS: Deeply philosophical, I think is so interesting. You make the point this weekend, you know. I mean, the antics on Twitter were anything but deeply philosophical, more juvenile is the word that you used. And now, this president is speaking about U.S. values, American values, to a world stage.

Will he mention human rights? Will he mention some of these things that are standard fare when the United States has gone before this body before?

ZELIZER: I don't think he will.

ROMANS: I'd be surprised.

ZELIZER: I'd be surprised. That hasn't been a big issue for him. His major issue is in some ways to push for more of a withdrawal of the American commitment to these institutions. To attack the institutions, to be critical of these alliances and it sounds like that part of the speech, the Steve Bannon part of the speech is very much going to be there.

And that's very controversial. That's hard for a lot of countries who are being asked to participate in sanctions, possibly military action against North Korea, to hear themselves being dismissed by the president. So, we'll see how he carries that off.

BRIGGS: Right. Steve Bannon is gone, but Steve Miller still there. Still the speech writer, still speaks in a Steve Bannon-like nationalistic tone.

But when it comes to human rights, they say it will be outcomes-based, not ideological. It tells you human rights might be missing. But let's talk about health care in this country, with a couple of weeks to get this through.

[05:15:02] This new pitch, the Graham-Cassidy bill, which we're still learning about, essentially pushes the responsibility and the money to the states to decide what to do with it. They have to get it through in a few weeks because they need to use budget reconciliation, a majority.

Can they pull this off? And what's the problem judging by what they did wrong the last time?

ZELIZER: Well, there's momentum for it. The Freedom Caucus in the House says, if they get this bill, that's the conservative caucus, if they get this bill, they're willing to go forward with it. But all the problems are still there.

It looks like this bill will produce just as many people lacking health insurance if not more than the previous version. This is not the regular order that John McCain called for. This is in the middle of the night putting a bill back on the floor, and there's not even committee hearings for this. It's not clear they --

BRIGGS: The CBO score.

ROMANS: Yes --

ZELIZER: That Susan Collins, Senator Collins has said she is doubtful this is good. Rand Paul has said he won't vote for it. And my guess is, Lisa Murkowski might also be a no. So, it's not clear the math still works for members of the Republican Party.

ROMANS: Can I ask you as a historian? The president said something yesterday that got a little bit of attention. And as a historian, I want to ask you about the big military parade. Listen to what he said when he was meeting with Emmanuel Macron.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was your guest at Bastille Day and one of the greatest parades I've ever seen. It was a tremendous thing and to a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.


I don't know. We're going to have to try and top it.


ROMANS: So, what do we do? We put our ICBMs on a big flat bed and like roll them down Pennsylvania Avenue? Why don't we do this historically?

ZELIZER: I mean, during the Cold War, we avoided this because this is what the Soviet Union and Soviet-allied countries did. So, symbolically we were not trying to boast the military might on the street.

But President Trump loves this. He loves the spectacle. He loves the theater. He loves associating himself with the military, which he sees as a source of strength.

So, it's not impossible that this is something that's pretty serious on his mind.

ROMANS: There had been some reporting around the time of the inauguration, he was disappointed there wasn't a big military parade for him at the inauguration, also something we don't historically do.

ZELIZER: Yes. But again, what the president probably should think about is not simply the show of force but using force strategically and being careful about the kinds of ideas he promotes through tweets and through speeches. What's that the military actually cares about, much more than walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.

BRIGGS: All right. It will be a fascinating day today at the U.N. We'll talk more about that in about 20 minutes. Julian Zelizer, thanks.

ROMANS: Thanks, Julian. Nice to see you.

All right. Equifax, yes, that Equifax is admitting to a second system-wide hack in March, months before publicly disclosing its huge security fail. The March hack is separate from the more recent breach. It affects 143 million of you. That was in July.

Bloomberg reporting these two are related. The same intruders allegedly carried out both attacks. Equifax denies this. Still, Equifax only announced the data breach two weeks ago.

The timeline is crucial, as the company is under investigation, especially now for insider trading. The Justice Department is launching a criminal investigation to three Equifax executives that concern a $2 million stock sale in early August. That's after the company knew about the breach but before going public.

Equifax previously told CNN the executives did not know about the leak when the shares were sold. The executives involved reportedly including Equifax's CFO and president of information solutions, making it unlikely they couldn't know about it and if they didn't, why not?

BRIGGS: Bungled from the very beginning.

All right. Ahead, speaking of bungling, the New York Giants considered a Super Bowl favorite when the season began. Two games later, anything but. Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:32] ROMANS: All right. Breaking news from the Caribbean: Hurricane Maria back to a category 5 hurricane, intensifying again after slamming the Caribbean island of Dominica. It weakened slightly to a still dangerous and strong category 4, but that was very brief. It is now back to a category 5, with 160-mile-per-hour winds. The storm intensifying rapidly as it heads for Puerto Rico. We'll have more in just a few minutes.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, not a great time to be a NFL fan here in the city of New York. The Giants joining the Jets at 0-2, laying an egg on Monday night football.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


You know, we talk about this stat every year. Teams that start the season 0-2 in the NFL only had about a 10 percent chance of turning things around and making the playoffs. That's where the Giants find themselves now.

Odell Beckham Jr. making his debut after missing week-long with an injured ankle. But it didn't matter. The Lions just all over Eli Manning all night, sacking him five times in this game. Detroit would beat New York 24-10 to improve to 2-0 on the season.

And Giants head coach Ben McAdoo saying after the game that Eli played sloppy and Eli admits he's got to play better.


ELI MANNING, GIANTS QUARTERBACK: I can play better and so, you know, I got to find ways to play better, and get more completions, convert on third down. That's the quarterback's job. He's got to find ways to move the offense and move the ball and score touchdowns.

[05:25:00] So, we're not doing that enough.


SCHOLES: New York fans still have something to cheer about, that Yankees slugger Aaron Judge. The 25-year-old blasting his American League-leading 44th home runs of the season last night. That puts him just five home-run shy of the all time rookie home run record which is held by Mark Maguire. Yankees beat the Twins last night, final 2-1.

Giancarlo Stanton meanwhile doing yards for the first time in six games. This his 55th home run of the season. That's the most anyone hit in Major League Baseball since Ryan Howard hit 58 back in 2006. Stanton's got 12 games left to chase Roger Maris' record of 51 home runs.

All right. Finally, Kobe Bryant's 11-year-old daughter Gianna is as good in basketball as you'd expect. Check her out playing one on one with dad. Apparently, she's already got the jab step back jumper in her game. So, Kobe's nickname, you know, is the Black Mamba. Kobe is apparently

already nicknamed Gigi "Mambacita."

And, guys, I'm going to go out on a limb and say seven years from now, Gigi is going to be dominating the game of women's college basketball, because look at her. She's already pretty darn good.

BRIGGS: You know, they offer scholarships in like 13 now. So, it's time to recruit Mambacita.

SCHOLES: UConn already all over, you know?


BRIGGS: You're not a college recruiter.

Andy Scholes, thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Good for her, 11 years old, and get some confidence there. Nice to see you.

All right. Twenty-six minutes past the hour. Hurricane Maria gaining strength again. It's now back to a category 5 dangerous strong hurricane. Overnight, it became the strongest storm ever to hit the Caribbean island of Dominica. Now, Puerto Rico bracing for impact. We go there.