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NFL's Show Of Unity; Trump Slams NFL Players' Anthem Protests; Republican Obamacare Replace Bill At Risk; Travel Ban 3.0 Unveiled; Trump Steps Up "Rocket Man" Attacks; New Quakes Challenge Recovery Effort In Mexico. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 05:00   ET



RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ryan Nobles in this morning for Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to see you this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, September 25th. It's 5 a.m. in the east. Good morning. Rise and shine.

Up first, a league wide show of solidarity. NFL players and owners united in protest against President Trump after a weekend of relentless attacks. He condemned players who choose not to stand for the national anthem.

In stadiums across the country Sunday, even in London, players locked arms, kneeled, they raised their firsts during the national anthem. Some teams skipped the anthem entirely. The whole team staying in the locker room.

NOBLES: This was remarkable. Even some national anthem singers were bending a knee in a game in Detroit and one in Nashville. Singers actually joined the protest kneeling along with the players on the sidelines.

This, of course, all began when the president made these remarks at a rally in Alabama on Friday night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a (inaudible) off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired.


ROMANS: And he did not stop there. The president tweeting nearly a dozen times about protest by pro-athletes including this, "If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag and country, you will see change take place. Fire or suspend."

In response to the player demonstrations Sunday, the president tweeted, "Great solidarity for our national anthem and country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings."

NOBLES: Mike Tomlin, who is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the three teams that remained in their locker rooms during the national anthem said that his players acted in unison.


MIKE TOMLIN, HEAD COACH, PITTSBURGH STEELERS: We didn't ask for this. This was placed upon us by circumstance. I heard rumblings of guys talking during the course the day yesterday. My contention was that we will not allow politics to divide us with football players, with football team. If many of them felt like something needed to be done. I asked them to discuss it and whatever they discussed that we have 100 percent participation or we do nothing.


NOBLES: Now many say President Trump is capitalizing on the politics of racial division. This is how he responded to that criticism.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: It has nothing to do with race. I've never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and flag.


NOBLES: It's not just the NFL. The president going after Lebron James and Steph Curry, two of the world's most popular athletes. Trump withdrawing Curry's invite to the White House.

Let's bring in CNN's Andy Scholes for more on the NFL's day of mass protest. Certainly, was an odd day in the NFL to say the least -- Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, it was, Ryan. It was clear that players on nearly every team had a plan on how they were going to show that they were unified after President Trump's comments. Some players took a knee.

Some many locked arms during the national anthem and for the first time, we saw owners from teams around the league, some who donated to President Trump's campaign standing arm and arm with their players during the anthem showing that they had their backs.

And after the games yesterday, players around the league explaining why they decided to do a show of unity.


JOSH NORMAN, WASHINGTON REDSKINS: You mess with one, you mess with us all. Don't nobody's divided in this. It was in unity. We want to stand for something. Just telling you right now. This man's not welcome here. MICHAEL THOMAS, MIAMI DOLPHINS: As a man, as a father, as an African- American man, I take it personally. I got a daughter. She going to have to live in this world. Do you know what I'm saying, I got to do whatever I got to do. She can look at her dad and be like hey (inaudible).

DREW BREES, NEW ORLEAN SAINTS: I think I'd very unbecoming of the office of the president of the United States to talk like that to the great people like that. I will always feel that if you are an American, that the national anthem is the opportunity for us all to stand up together to be unified, and to show respect for our country.


SCHOLES: The Steelers decided to remain in the locker room during the national anthem yesterday. All the players except for one the Steelers, Alejandro Villanueva, who is a former Army Ranger. He did three tours in Afghanistan after graduating from West Point.

You can see he stood in the tunnel alone with his hand on his heart. So clearly, he did not agree with the team's decision to remain in the locker room during the national anthem, and it is a league rule that you're supposed to be on the sidelines for the national anthem.

But we reached out to the NFL and they said they are not considering any fines or punishment for players that did not go out onto the field for the national anthem.

[05:05:03] ROMANS: All right. Andy Scholes, thanks so much for that this morning.

Let's bring in Eugene Scott, staff writer for "The Washington Post" and a friend of the program. You know, one of the things that I think is interesting about this debate is that the president frames this as these athletes who kneel during the national anthem are against America, that they are against the country.

And what these athletes have said again and again is they're against racial inequality. They're against police brutality, a whole host of things and some have different reasons.

The White House has tried to cast this as these people are against American military. Listen to what the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, how he framed it yesterday with Jake.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: This is about respect for our military, this is about respect for our first responders. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. Players have the right for free speech off the field. On the field, this is about respect for lots of people.


ROMANS: So one of the things that so many of these athletes have said starting with Colin Kaepernick that they feel disrespected. This is about respecting everyone. It has nothing to do with the military.

EUGENE SCOTT, STAFF WRITER, "WASHINGTON POST": Right. When you're protesting systemic discrimination or racism, what you are saying is that I feel disrespected and I feel devalued and I want to speak out against that. Colin Kaepernick has been very vocal in fact saying I am not anti-American.

I love America. The fact when some people hear I hate racism, the fact that they hear I hat America, I think speaks to what they are bringing to the table in terms of not actually listening to the protest of the athletes want to highlight.

NOBLES: I think also lost on all of this is that up until yesterday, the vast majority of NFL players stood for the national anthem. It wasn't until the president made these comments that we saw this wide and mass protest of athletes of both black and white.

SCOTT: Yes. And I think it was intentional, right, the reality is when the president has a bad week in terms of policy, he switches to the culture anxiety issue. Last week was not great for health care. We had new findings with Russia and Paul Manafort.

The president was called a dotard, and so he went to Alabama and talked to these voters who got on board the Trump train early and propelled his campaign and reminded them of the things that they in polling we have say they don't like most about America.

ROMANS: The president says this doesn't have to do with race. He was very animated. But the optics here are that the president was slow to criticize white supremacists in Charlottesville, but very quick to condemn sons of bitches on the football field.

SCOTT: Right. This was the first time this has been an issue. The reality is if you look at the campaign from day one, like the president has tapped into some people's cultural anxiety and their challenges that they were having with the people of new race and ethnicities coming into the country.

I don't know if that was him being dishonest or if there's a full disconnect. But the fact you could say me calling anti-racist protests sons of bitches is not about race is quite the shot.

NOBLES: And you mentioned it already, Eugene, it's not as if the president doesn't have a full plate --

SCOTT: Right.

NOBLES: -- dealing with the fallout from natural disasters, a number of legislative items on his docket including the fight over health care. This is what the president had to say about health care over the weekend. Take a listen.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I've been watching for seven years as the Republicans have been saying repeal and replace then you have John McCain voting no for whatever reason. By the way, Arizona is one the biggest beneficiaries, even the governor, Doocy, is totally in favor of it.

It's also great for Maine, for Alaska, every state you're talking about, it happens to be particularly good for. So, I don't know what they're doing, but you know what? Eventually we'll win, whether it's now or later.


NOBLES: Having spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill, I can tell you there are very few people who think they're going to win on health care. Is the way he responded over the weekend a way to kind of avoid this topic? Because it's clearly an area where he is a little deficient.

SCOTT: Well, absolutely. I mean, there was far more attention on these protests this weekend than the fact that this legislation could harm millions of people, according to its critics and the president's team has not put forward an idea that communicates that the number of people with preexisting conditions will not be thrown off as much as some of his critics think.

And so, he goes to the people who are supportive of him and rallies them in a way that will keep them on his team. I think the reality is you want more Americans on your team and focusing on health care and putting forward something that would get them there would be beneficial.

NOBLES: And the question is inflaming people's passions, does that give him anymore votes in the health care debate?

SCOTT: It doesn't seem like it. I don't know how. I mean, it would keep people who are on the train on the train, but certainly bring someone with so many groups approving of him so poorly on his team.

ROMANS: Eugene, come back in about a half hour. Thank you, sir.

[05:10:01] Tonight, CNN presents a town hall debate with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy facing off on health care against Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate. That is tonight 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

NOBLES: Travel ban 3.0 and three nations are added to the U.S. travel ban list including North Korea. We'll get reaction from that region when we come back. Stay here.


ROMANS: Breaking overnight, the Trump administration rolling out a new travel ban. The measure imposes restrictions on certain individuals from eight foreign countries. They are Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

This new list targets several non-Muslim nations, North Korea and Venezuela. In most cases travel will be broadly suspended. In others, passengers will have to undergo enhanced screening.

We get more from CNN's Laura Jarrett in Washington.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, the Trump administration has unveiled travel ban 3.0.

[05:15:03] New travel restrictions on certain foreign nationals from eight countries, Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen as a replacement to the central portion of that controversial travel ban which expired on Sunday morning.

Now the new restrictions vary by country and they include a phased-in approach. So most of the limitations you won't see go into effect until mid next month on October 18th.

For the last three months, the Trump administration has used an executive order to ban foreign nationals from six-Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. unless they have a so-called bonafide relationship with a person or entity in the country.

Now individuals with that bonafide exception, like a grandparent can still apply for visas to come to the U.S. until October 18th. But after that date, these new restrictions will begin.

On a call with reporters, a senior administration adviser called the new restrictions tough but tailored and quote, "vital to national security." The Supreme Court is also set to hear arguments on the merits next of this travel ban month and the Justice Department will be filing an update with the Supreme Court soon.

NOBLES: Laura, thank you. No let-up, it seems in the war of words between the United States and North Korea, President Trump tweeting over the weekend, "Just heard foreign minister of North Korea speak at U.N., if he echoes thoughts of little rocket man, they won't be around much longer."

The president's latest salvo comes as the U.S. military flew bombers in international airspace near North Korea. The Trump administration adding North Korea to the list of nations on the new travel ban.

Let's bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman. He is live in Tokyo. Ben, there are a number of U.S. allies in this region, South Korea, Japan, where you are. How are they responding to this rhetoric between the United States and North Korea?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, South Korea, we heard from a spokesman for the ruling party in Seoul, saying that rhetoric -- and he was really referring to both the United States and North Korea, is raising anxiety. Anxiety frankly was already very high.

Let's keep in mind, there are two countries threatening to, in theory, fire nuclear weapons at one another and South Korea as well as Japan are caught in the middle. Japan has been fairly quiet about the threats going in both directions. In fact, it's a little -- the moment where in fact the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling for new elections, new elections that he's hoping he'll be able to take advantage of the fact that there's been sort of a rally round effect around him as a result of the crisis with North Korea.

As far as for instance, China is concerned with certainly isn't a U.S. ally, but it is in some ways trying to work with the American effort to persuade North Korea to stop in some form its nuclear program.

We heard -- saw for instance there was an opinion piece in the "People's Daily" which is one of the main mouth pieces of the Chinese Communist Party in which it said that Trump's chest thumping is not helpful.

So, I think many of the countries who want to be part of a solution are a bit rattled by the fact that for the first time in many U.S. administrations, in fact as far back as anybody with remember, you have a U.S. president, who is speaking in many ways very like the leaders in Pyongyang. So, it's a confusing new situation that they're trying to get used to.

NOBLES: All right. Ben Wedeman live in Tokyo. Thank you, Ben.

ROMANS: All right. It's 18 minutes past the hour this Monday morning. Two major aftershocks in Mexico this weekend with the country still reeling from that deadly earthquake. We're going to go live to Mexico City next.



ROMANS: The death toll in Mexico rising to 319 following last week's 7.1 magnitude earthquake and a new challenge for search and rescue efforts over the weekend as two powerful aftershocks hit Southern Mexico.

CNN's Ivan Watson live in Mexico City with the very latest. What's happening there?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. That's right. There were more tremors over the weekend and they sent at this location, the rescue workers having to get off the pile of rubble behind me, a former six-story office building that's collapsed.

Now one the problems that shows you how difficult this work is, it's pouring rain here shortly after 4:00 a.m., and so we've seen all of the teams that were on the pile of rubble ordered to get off, because, of course, the water can kind of change the situation up there.

It's already very dangerous, very difficult work that they're doing. They believe that there are more than at least 40 people missing in that office building. They're trying to tunnel down to staircases in the second and third floor. And we've been told that in some cases they have found bodies of victims that they could not remove over the weekend because it was simply too instable. Now all around this site that I'm at, Christine, there are relatives of missing loved ones sleeping in tents and on sidewalks.

As this rain has started coming down before dawn, there was a very tender moment where a volunteer came over and laid a plastic tarp over one person conducting this agonizing vigil who was just sleeping out in the open being rained on.

[05:25:08] So that gives you a sense of the mood and the atmosphere here. The death toll has risen to, at least ,319 dead. One of the victims was found from the site of a collapsed school on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Mexico City authorities say more than 100 other schools will be back in class on Monday, and the public transport system is still free for all residents of this city -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. That's very good news there. Thank you so much for that and keep us posted. Thanks, Ivan Watson.

NOBLES: NFL players defying the president with anthem protests taking a collective knee in a major show of solidarity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calling our players, you know, sob's and all that kind of stuff, that's not the men that I know. Men that I know in the locker room I'm proud of. I'm proud to be associated with those people.



ROMANS: The NFL fighting back in a show of unity after President Trump called on team owners to fire players who just kneel during the national anthem.