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Slow Response to Puerto Rico?; North Korea Says It Has Right to Shoot Down U.S. Planes; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 26, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:34] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Heightened emotions over the national anthem controversy. In private the president suggests he's quite pleased. And on national TV, an entire team, including their owner who has supported the president, take the knee while one player expresses regret for standing during the anthem.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A third senator comes out against the Republicans' latest repeal and replace effort. So with the bill all but dead how can Republicans follow through with their biggest campaign promise?

BRIGGS: And growing desperation in Puerto Rico. Nearly the entire island remains without power and the president finally weighs in on the devastation. But not without taking a few shots at Puerto Rico.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is -- it's 31 minutes past the hour. 4:00 a.m. here in the East -- 4:30 a.m. in the East.

Trump versus the NFL. Neither the president nor the players backing down from this controversy ignited by the president's strong criticisms of players kneeling during the national anthem. Mr. Trump appearing quite satisfied with reaction to his comments telling conservative leaders at a White House dinner that it's really caught on, adding he said what millions of Americans were thinking.

BRIGGS: It comes as the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals staged the latest protest during Monday Night Football. Cowboys' players along with owner and Trump supporter Jerry Jones taking a knee before the national anthem. During the anthem both teams stood linking arms or holding hands.

ROMANS: The culture war that has erupted since President Trump called players who kneel during the anthem sons of B's, SOBs, who should be fired. Not sitting well with White House chief of staff John Kelly. We're told Kelly, a four-star general, was not pleased by the fight that Trump started with his remarks.

The controversy created Friday night when the president made those comments but Kelly also tells CNN he's appalled by the lack of respect for the flag and the national anthem. This is what he say, quote, "I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed. Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes."

BRIGGS: White House officials say they believe this will blow over but don't know how long the president will keep the controversy alive. Sarah Sanders telling the press corps it is hypocritical of players protesting police brutality to protest the American flag. And she adds this.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we certainly respect the rights that people have, but I think we also need to focus. Again, this isn't about the president being against something, which is what everybody wants to draw.

This is about the president being for something. This is about the president being for respecting our country through symbols like the American flag, like the national anthem, and the hundreds of thousands of people that actually stand versus the few hundred that may have knelt.


ROMANS: Meantime, Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva is apologizing to his teammates. You might recall -- there he is -- he stood alone during the anthem while the rest of the squad remained in the locker room Sunday.

Villanueva is a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star with Valor. He says he is not offended by people kneeling.


ALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA, PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Every single time, you know, I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed to a degree because, again, like I said, unintentionally I left my teammates behind.

It wasn't me stepping forward. I never planned to boycott the plan that the Steelers came up with. I just thought that there should be some middle ground where I could stay in the tunnel, nobody would see me, and then afterwards I just wouldn't talk to the media, like I do all the time.


BRIGGS: The plan was for the team to stay in the locker room but Villanueva said he asked Steelers captain and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if there was a way to watch the national anthem from the tunnel. Roethlisberger agreed.

There's also new reaction overnight from the widow of Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who was killed in a friendly fire incident in 2004 in Afghanistan. The president has re-tweeted images of Tillman in the last few days.

ROMANS: But in a statement to CNN's Brian Stelter, Marie Tillman says, quote, "As a football player and soldier Pat inspired countless Americans to unify. Pat's service along with that of every man and woman in service should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that."

Strong reaction also coming from the NBA with top players and coaches weighing in.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: We have to figure out a way how we come together and be as great as we can, be as a people, because the people run this country, not one individual. And damn sure not him.


[04:35:11] ROMANS: Some athletes say they're not --


GREGG POPOVICH, HEAD COACH, SAN ANTONIO SPURS: This is an individual who actually thought that when people held arms during the game that they were doing it to honor the flag.


ROMANS: So many of these folks say that they're not protesting the military.


ROMANS: The military has nothing to do with it. They're not protesting the losses on the battle field. They're simply saying -- and these players have different reasons, many of them, but they're simply saying that life is not equal under that flag and under that anthem, and they just are recognizing it quietly.

BRIGGS: But you make an important point. None of these players are anti-military. Colin Kaepernick may not have been the best messenger to start this but now the president has given them new meaning and given this movement really allowed it to coalesce.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Around him.

ROMANS: The "Wall Street Journal" editorial board not pleased with politics seeping into sports, pointing fingers at everybody basically, saying, quote, "American democracy was healthier when politics at the ballpark was limited to fans booing politicians who threw out the first ball. But now the players want to be politicians and use their fame to lecture other Americans. The losers are the millions of Americans who would rather cheer for their teams on Sunday as a respite from work and the other divisions of American life." BRIGGS: And they added that's the kind of rant from the president

you'd hear in a lousy sports bar and they called it ignorant.

ROMANS: Certainly has resonated, though, hasn't it?


ROMANS: All right. Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy vowing to fight on even though their plan to overhaul Obamacare appears to be dead in the water. During a live town hall debate on CNN last night the senators offered no new initiatives to win support for their measure, simply making the argument that Obamacare is failing, change is needed.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, it's not working and it's never going to work. And I'm not going to spend more money, good after bad, fixing the system that can't be saved. We need to find a better way. So we're going to press on and it's OK to vote. It's OK to fall short, if you do, for an idea you believe in.


BRIGGS: Last night's debate coming just hours after the Congressional Budget Office released a partial score for the GOP plan saying it would cut the budget deficit by at least $133 billion but of course millions of Americans would lose comprehensive health insurance. That was the final straw for Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins.

ROMANS: She is now officially a no vote, potentially killing this bill because it doesn't do enough to protect people with preexisting conditions. It cuts Medicaid too deeply. The state of Graham-Cassidy could be decided when Republicans meet in the Senate today.

BRIGGS: President Trump expected to get a briefing today on the apocalyptic hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico. White House officials say he'll meet with Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert who just returned from the island along with FEMA chief Brock Long.

The president tweeting about Puerto Rico late Monday finally, his first direct comment on the dire situation there, saying the saying the island is in deep trouble following Hurricane Maria but choosing to focus on Puerto Rico's financial troubles and infrastructure issues while millions are essentially cut off from the world.

ROMANS: It comes as the administration faces growing criticism for appearing to ignore Maria's aftermath in Puerto Rico. Singer Mark Anthony's tweet reflecting that anger. He says, quote, "Mr. President, shut the blank up about the NFL. Do something about our people in need in Puerto Rico. We are American citizens, too."

BRIGGS: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defending the federal response to Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico, calling it anything but slow. Either way without power and communication the situation in this U.S. territory is dire. CNN's Bill Weir has more.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'd like to show you around what is left of what once was one of the most scenic neighborhoods in Aguas Buenas , the Good Waters, a town of about 28,000 south of San Juan.

First of all, the first thing you see as you drive up in the highlands it looks like a bomb went off. This is lush tropical greenery. Imagine the flowers and the foliage. It's like a lawnmower in the sky came down. And it's like that across the island. But this house is in a neighborhood put right on a ridge. It's so beautiful up here. And this is Diana and her husband, Miguel.

Say hi.



WEIR: She's OK. She's OK. Her son, Miguel, and the little dog, hello, hello, he's doing OK. So they survived, thankfully, but they're very worried because her husband, Miguel, who is a Vietnam war veteran, is bedridden inside. And he needs insulin and so refrigeration is a matter of life or death. And the power is out for most of Puerto Rico.

And here's why. Look at this. One of the main transmission towers that goes to San Juan crushed this home. Thankfully the man who lives here evacuated before the storm. He's in a shelter. But only about 50 people in this town of 28,000 evacuated.

[04:40:02] Most rode it out. And so search and rescue teams aren't available to check on everyone because the roads are impassible, as you see right now. This is not something you fix with a bucket truck. This will take helicopters. This will take months. But as we follow the line across, imagine this scene is being replayed across Puerto Rico. And the need is so desperate. If this is any indication, Puerto Rico may rise again but they are going to need a ton of help and a lot of time.


ROMANS: All right. Bill Weir, thank you for that.

Maria now posing a threat along the North Carolina coast line. Let's get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

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


ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Pedram.

BRIGGS: OK. North Korea starting to boost defenses along its east coast after warning it has the right to shoot down American planes. We're live in Seoul next.


[04:46:02] ROMANS: All right. The SEC chairman says his agency didn't do enough to prevent a 2016 cyber attack. SEC chairman Jay Clayton testifies on Capitol Hill today. The topic, a 2016 hack at America's top markets regulator.

According to prepared testimony seen by CNN, Clayton is expected to tell lawmakers the agency is fully investigating the attack and will promise to shore up cyber security, writing, "We must remain on top of evolving threats when it comes to securing our own networks and systems against intrusion."

The SEC revealed last week a breach of its Edgar System, that's a huge database of company earnings, sales, corporate activity, just the bible for information about public companies. It's still unclear what information was stolen but the SEC says that information may have been used for insider trading.

This hack was announced right after another big financial cyber attack at Equifax. That breach exposed the data of millions of Americas and the accounting firm says Deloitte said yesterday its e-mail system has been hit. Deloitte told CNN it only affected very few clients.

BRIGGS: Voters in Alabama heading to the polls in just a few hours to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Now the race pits President Trump's pick, Alabama Senator Luther Strange, against Judge Roy Moore, the choice of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Bannon says Moore would help save the president from himself. A Moore victory, which is looking likely, according to the polls, could give momentum to other anti-establishment candidates looking to unseat Senate Republicans.

Also Anthony Weiner's political and personal fall from grace reaching a new low. The former New York congressman will report to federal prison on November 6th after being sentenced to 21 months for sexting with a teenager. Weiner also sentenced to three years of supervised release. The judge saying Weiner committed a serious crime that deserves serious punishment. And that sentence carried more importance because of his notoriety.

ROMANS: Weiner cried when the sentence came down. His attorneys had pushed for probation. The 53-year-old pleaded guilty back in May to transferring obscene material to a minor. The charges stemming from communications, social media communications Weiner had with a 15-year- old girl on social media sites. Weiner will now have to register as a sex offender.

BRIGGS: A massive wildfire forcing more than 1,000 evacuations in southern California. Fire officials say winds are fuelling the fire which has already burned more than 2,000 acres in the Santa Anna mountains near Anaheim. Crews are dropping water on the tall flames from the air and using bulldozers to assembly containment lines on the ground. No reported injuries. An area high school has been set up as a shelter. No word on what sparked the fire which so far only 5 percent contained.

ROMANS: Look at those whipping that fire around.

All right. First daughter Ivanka Trump is spearheading a multi- million dollar campaign. The topic STEM. Details on the CNN Money Stream next.



[04:53:33] SANDERS: We've not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd.


BRIGGS: The White House rejecting claims by North Korea that President Trump's weekend tweet amounts to a declaration of war. The president tweeting North Korea's leadership, quote, "won't be around much longer." Pyongyang's Foreign minister says that gives North Korea the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. fighter jets.

Let's go live to CNN's Paula Hancocks live in Seoul, South Korea with the latest.

Good morning, Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Dave. Well, we've had an intelligence briefing from the NIS. They have briefed lawmakers who have briefed us. And what they have said is that they have noticed over the weekend a build-up of North Korean airplanes and other military assets on the east coast of the country. They believe, according to the intelligence agency, that this was following the flyover from U.S. B1B bombers. They carried out that show of force over the weekend in international waters off the east coast of North Korea. And the Pentagon said it was the farthest north of the DMZ this century that they have flown.

So we understand from the NIS also that North Korean soldiers along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, have been ordered to report an incident first and then take measures second. Now this is crucial because this shows that they do fear there could be an accidental clash and they appear, according to intelligence agencies here at least, to be taking measure to try and prevent that.

Now of course the war of words has been heating up between the U.S. president, Donald Trump, and also Ri Yong-ho, the Foreign minister, as we heard there.

[04:55:10] We have also heard from the South Korean Foreign minister. She is trying to de-escalate the situation. Speaking in Washington she said it is inevitable that there will be another provocation from North Korea that said it's very important for the U.S. and South Korea to work together, to try and de-escalate the situation -- Dave.

BRIGGS: That aforementioned Trump tweet forcing Twitter to clarify its threat policy. Extraordinary times.

Paula Hancocks, live for us in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. We have breaking news from the Middle East this morning. Israeli police say three people were killed in a shooting attack at a crossing this morning between Israel and the West Bank. Authorities say a Palestinian gunman opened fire at the Har Adar Israeli settlement, claiming the lives of two security guards and a border policeman. One other person was injured. Police say the attacker and two others traveling with him were killed. Security is being increased in nearby Jerusalem today in the wake of that attack.

BRIGGS: Iran's claim that it tested a new ballistic missile last weekend appears to be false. U.S. intelligence's radar systems and sensors picked up no indication of a launch. And if there had been a missile launch it would have been detected by a number of U.S. assets in the region according to a White House official.

President Trump tweeted about the suspected launch right after the Iranians released footage on Saturday. It's not known if the president receives an intelligence briefing about the launch before tweeting, one would hope. A spokesperson for the National Security Council declined to comment to CNN.

Dozens of conservative Catholic scholars and clergy charging Pope Francis for spreading hearsay. It's a bold and likely feudal attack on the Pope's agenda of reform. In a letter with 40 signatures delivered to the Pope last month and 22 more scholars and clergy have signed on since them. The conservative members say they speak for a large number of Catholics who lack freedom of speech. They accuse Pope Francis of supporting heretical positions on marriage, the moral life and more. Francis has not responded and the Vatican is not commenting.

ROMANS: Interesting.

All right. 57 minutes past the hour, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. Global stocks lower today following a drop on Wall Street. Two reasons. Big sell-off in tech and North Korea. North Korea's Foreign minister called a tweet by President Trump a, quote, "declaration of war." Tension between the two countries has been one of the few geopolitical events to shake markets this year.

Big tech stocks also fell Monday. Facebook, Microsoft, Apple. Look at this. Apple is down 10 percent over the past two weeks. That's nearing correction territory. Blame mediocre demand for its newest iPhone -- excuse me. There are reports of short lines and low sales for the iPhone 8.

Target is giving its workers a raise. The retailer plans to raise its minimum wage to $11 next month eventually offering 15 bucks an hour by the year 2020. Higher wages is one way to fill jobs in a tight labor market, especially during the busy holiday season. Retailers add tens of thousands of workers. Target plans to offer its new wage to its 100,000 seasonal hires this year. That's important when a big retailer raises that minimum wage like that.

Ivanka Trump spearheading a multi-million dollar campaign to promote STEM. President Trump signing a memorandum yesterday allocating $200 million to expand STEM education in schools. Ivanka Trump has worked on this initiative since the transition, along with the Education Department, the Labor Department, business leaders and others. The first daughter will travel to Detroit today to announce additional money from the private sector. The program is designed with gender and racial diversity in mind.

In 2016 President Obama proposed $4 billion for computer science education in American public schools. Congress didn't give it to him.

BRIGGS: We've waited for the long awaited impact of Ivanka. Is this it?

ROMANS: This is one of them. I think -- look, she's been behind the scenes working on a lot of kid and family issues. I think this is just one of those in her suite.

BRIGGS: A lot has been behind the scenes indeed.

All right. EARLY START continues right now with the latest on this Trump versus the NFL controversy.

ROMANS: Heightened emotions over the national anthem controversy. In private the president suggests he is quite pleased and on national television an entire team takes a knee while one player from a different team expresses regret for standing during the anthem.

BRIGGS: And a third senator comes out against the Republicans' latest repeal and replace effort. So with the bill all but dead how can Republicans follow through with the central campaign promise for seven years.

ROMANS: And growing desperation in Puerto Rico. The entire island remains without power. Nearly the entire island as the president now finally weighs in on the devastation there. 3.2 million American citizens on that island.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Tuesday September 26th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Just a few Puerto Rico tweets but 20 about sports over the weekend for President Trump. And that's where we start. With Trump versus the NFL --