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Anthem Controversy Grows; Latest GOP Repeal Effort Appears Doomed; Desperation In Puerto Rico; North Korea's Foreign Minister Accuses U.S. Of Declaring War. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 26, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:40] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Heightened emotions over the National Anthem controversy. In private, the president suggesting he's quite pleased.

And on national T.V., an entire team and Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones taking a knee.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A third senator comes out against the Republicans' latest repeal and replace effort. So with this 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 as the president finally weighs in on the devastation. Boy, those scenes are just difficult --


BRIGGS: -- to see, right? Over three million Americans.

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

ROMANS: And, I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour this Tuesday morning.

Neither the president nor the players backing down from this controversy, a controversy ignited by the president in his strong criticism of players kneeling during the National Anthem.

Mr. Trump 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 stayed the latest protest during "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL." Cowboys players, along with their owner Jerry Jones, who has been a Trump supporter, taking a knee before the National Anthem. During the Anthem both teams stood, linking arms or holding arms.

ROMANS: The culture war that has erupted since President Trump called players who kneel during the Anthem SOBs who should be fired, it's not sitting well with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Now, we are told Kelly, a four-star general, was not pleased by the controversy -- by the fight Trump started with his remarks.

Kelly also tells CNN he is appalled by the lack of respect for the flag and the National Anthem, adding "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 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 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 drive.

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: 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 retweeted images of Tillman in the last few days.

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's service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that."

BRIGGS: For more on the "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL" protests and reaction from the sports world, Andy Scholes with us for this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning, Andy.


You know, all eyes were, of course, on "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL" to see what the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals were going to do in response to the events over the weekend, and both franchises displaying a show of unity as a team last night.

The Cardinals locking arms while standing together for the National Anthem. The Cowboys, meanwhile, with owner Jerry Jones, walked onto the field with locked arms and then took a knee together before eventually standing for the National Anthem.

After the Cowboys' win, Jones explained why the team did what they did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY JONES, OWNER, DALLAS COWBOYS: We want to stand and respect the flag. Let' make no mistake about that. Nothing we've done, nothing we did tonight says anything other than that.

But we also, as a complete team and those players and organization, want to be able to, when we can, demonstrate that unity is important and equality is important.

DEZ BRYANT, WIDE RECEIVER, DALLAS COWBOYS: That was a clear shot at Trump, you know, sitting on a knee like that because, you know, you just can't do that. That's super disrespectful.

EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RUNNING BACK, DALLAS COWBOYS: We just wanted to show unity. We don't agree at all with what the president said and we just wanted to show that we weren't going to be divided by that.


[05:35:07] SCHOLES: On Sunday, Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva was the lone player on the team to come out for the National Anthem. Villanueva is a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan.

His jersey, on many Websites, became the best-seller overnight.

But Villanueva says he's actually embarrassed when he sees the image of him standing alone for the Anthem because he didn't mean to leave his teammates behind in the tunnel.


ALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA, OFFENSIVE LINEMAN, PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Whether I wanted or not, whether it was my intended plan or not, the reason that I went out there by myself is the reason that is causing all this distress and is making the organization look bad, my coach look bad, and my teammates look bad.

And for anybody who thinks that Coach Tomlin is not as patriotic as you can get in America, or any one of my teammates or the owner, I take offense to that.


SCHOLES: Now, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, meanwhile, says he regrets not coming out on the field for the National Anthem and going forward the team will be out there on the field.


BEN ROETHLISBERGER, QUARTERBACK, PITTSBURGH STEELERS: I wish that we would have been on the field. It's just my personal feeling on it. I'm entitled to that opinion. That's what's great about this country and what the troops are for.

I wish we could have stood out there but what was important was being united as well, and that's what we showed. We showed unity.


SCHOLES: Now, NBA training camps opening around the country yesterday and LeBron James spending a good amount of time during his media session criticizing President Trump's recent actions.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: He used the sports platform to try to divide us. And in sports -- in sports it's so -- it's so amazing what sports can do for everyone no matter the shape or size or race or ethnicity or religion or whatever.

No matter if you voted for him or not. You may have made a mistake and that's OK if you voted for him. It's OK.

I mean, I've done things for my kids and realized I shouldn't gave my daughter that many damn Skittles. Maybe I shouldn't have done that. She won't go to sleep now.


SCHOLES: And Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, meanwhile, has never held back when speaking his mind on President Trump. Popovich, who graduated from the Air Force Academy, said the president is confused by the demonstrations in the NFL over the weekend.


GREGG POPOVICH, COACH, SAN ANTONIO SPURS: For the country it's an embarrassment, and the world. This is -- this is an individual who actually thought that when people held arms during the games that they were doing it to honor the flag. That's delusional -- absolutely delusional.


SCHOLES: And guys, Popovich spoke for about 15 minutes on President Trump and race relations in the country and how we can be better as a country. And he also added that his players have the right and ability to do whatever they want when it comes to the National Anthem when the NBA season tips off next month.

ROMANS: He didn't really --

BRIGGS: He spent five years in the Air Force, so --

ROMANS: Yes, he --

BRIGGS: -- you know, he knows of what he speaks.

ROMANS: He is a veteran and he talks about, you know, how the onus is on white people to understand what's happening here. That there is white privilege that is coloring this whole -- this whole debate, no question. And he said you can be a patriot and say we need to have a better

conversation about race in America. Those two things do work together. They're not mutually exclusive.

Andy Scholes --

BRIGGS: Andy Scholes, thank you.

You have not heard the last of this as far as the NBA goes. You will see this play out through the entire season.

SCHOLES: Yes. Have a good one.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy vowing to fight on even though their plan to overhaul Obamacare appears dead in the water.

ROMANS: During a live town hall debate on CNN last night, the senators made the argument 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 with millions of Americans losing comprehensive health insurance.

And that was the final straw for Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

ROMANS: She is now officially a no vote, potentially killing this bill because it does not do enough, she says, to protect people with preexisting conditions and cuts Medicaid too deeply.

The fate of Graham-Cassidy could be decided when Republicans meet in the Senate today.

BRIGGS: All right. The president's been busy tweeting about the National Anthem but there's a long rebuilding effort ahead in Puerto Rico. Has the president ignored the plight of millions on the U.S. territory to serve up some red meat to his base?


[05:44:03] 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.

ROMANS: The president tweeting about Puerto Rico late Monday, his first direct comment on the situation there in days, saying the island is in deep trouble following Hurricane Maria.

He also chose to focus on Puerto Rico's financial troubles and its infrastructure problems. Millions of people are essentially cut off from the world.

BRIGGS: This comes as the administration faces growing criticism for appearing to ignore Maria's aftermath in Puerto Rico.

ROMANS: Let's bring in Greg Valliere, political economist --


ROMANS: -- and chief strategist with Horizon Investments.


ROMANS: I mean, Puerto Rico is a real problem there. Three million Americans -- more than three million Americans on that island, $74 billion in debt, the largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

Is there a fix from Washington for what will be a very big problem?

[05:45:00] VALLIERE: There may be a fix, Christine, but I think it's going to take an awful long time.

Interesting that Trump and the government very aggressively went to Texas and Florida, two states that voted for him. And in Puerto Rico, a state where's he not popular, yesterday he finally commented on it to lecture them about their debt problems.

BRIGGS: He has been awfully busy, though, talking about Alabama, tweeting about Alabama --


BRIGGS: -- spending time in Alabama. That is today.

Is it his candidate Luther Strange or does Moore win, and what are the implications on 2018 in terms of who wins there?

VALLIERE: What a fascinating story, Dave.

So you've got the likely winner, Judge Moore, probably in a landslide, who is the candidate that Steve Bannon supports and who Mitch McConnell really doesn't want. So I think this could further discombobulate the Senate.

I think Republicans in the Senate who already, as we've seen this week, are divided, I think they might be even more divided with Judge Moore in the Senate. So for a party that has a big agenda -- tax cuts, infrastructure -- I think the divisions will persist. BRIGGS: You wonder if how much you're going to fight Mitch McConnell is the new Republican litmus test. Odd times we are in.


ROMANS: I will say so.

Let me ask you about health care reform. I mean, it looks -- I mean, it looks dead to me but I've seen --


ROMANS: -- crazier things happen in Washington, let's be honest.

Where do you think -- is it dead and what does it portend for tax reform because they're going to need a win?

VALLIERE: Well, it's dead but maybe not dead and buried. I think that it could be resurrected later this year, maybe as part of a deal that would help insurers. But I think any flat-out abolition of Obamacare is a non-starter, at least for the foreseeable future.

Now, as far as taxes go, I think the Republicans have been so embarrassed by this that it will probably unify them. And I think support for tax reform, tax cuts will be easier, ironically, than health reform.

So I do think starting tomorrow with the rollout and the Trump speech in Indiana we're going to see a full-court press on taxes. I think we'll get something. It won't happen until next year but I do think we'll get something on taxes.

BRIGGS: You use the work unify in there. That's one thing the president has not been able to do -- almost shows zero interest in doing that and that is why he's dove into this NFL issue. Let just take the SOBs line that should be fired --


BRIGGS: -- and put it in its own basket of deplorables which is where it belongs, and talk about the financial part of this story.

Here is a Republican president telling private businesses how to run their businesses. Why is that messaging gelling with Republicans, or is it?

VALLIERE: Well, I think with Trump's base, that 35 percent or so, this really got people agitated, and I think even more than 35 percent feel very strongly about the flag. So I think it's a political winner for him in some respects.

But at the same time, I think businesses, which are increasingly inclusive and diverse, are going to shy away from this fight with the NFL.

So, once again, as he alienated business after Charlottesville, I think he's going to have a problem with business leaders who can't side with him on this.

ROMANS: Right.

Dave, you had some interesting context about when they started coming out for the Anthem, and they haven't always done that.

BRIGGS: No. I mean, a decade ago --


BRIGGS: -- the policy wasn't involving players coming out for the Anthems.

ROMANS: Well, they were in -- they were in the -- in the locker room getting ready for the game.

BRIGGS: They were getting ready for a football game.

In 2009, after the military started paying the NFL to promote patriotism was when the change started here.

Greg, is this about the military or is this about race for the president?

VALLIERE: It's about both, but I also would add a third thing, Dave. I think this is about a diversionary tactic.

You've got Puerto Rico, Alabama, health care, a possible war with Korea. So what are we talking about? The NFL. So, Trump's had a rough week -- might have a few rough days to come and he diverts attention to the NFL.

ROMANS: Very interesting.

Greg Valliere, nice to see you.

VALLIERE: All right.

ROMANS: Thanks for stopping by this morning bright and early.

VALLIERE: You bet.

ROMANS: All right.

Ivanka Trump -- first daughter Ivanka Trump spearheading a multi- million dollar campaign for STEM -- science, technology, engineering, math. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:53:42] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: We've not declared war on North Korea and frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 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 to CNN's Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, South Korea with the latest. What's the reaction there, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, there's certainly concern of this increase in the rhetoric here in the region, specifically.

Now, we do know from the intelligence agency here in South Korea they've briefed lawmakers saying that they believe there's been a buildup of North Korean planes and military assets along the east coast of North Korea. They believe this happened over the weekend.

They say it was probably in return for those U.S. B1B bombers which is a show of force in international airspace along the east coast on Saturday. Now that -- according to the Pentagon, they actually flew further north of the DMZ than they have for the entire century so certainly, that getting a reaction from North Korea.

According to the intelligence agency as well, soldiers from North Korea along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, have also been told to report a situation first before taking measures against it. Potentially, the NIS says this is because they appreciate there could be some kind of unaccustomed or unintended clash that they're trying to prevent that from happening.

[05:55:18] There is some diplomacy going on, though. We know there's a top North Korea diplomat in Moscow right now meeting with Russian officials -- diplomacy going on. Obviously, not between the U.S. and North Korea, though. That war of words is still continuing.

One North Korean defector I spoke to today said he's particularly concerned because the U.S. President Donald Trump is now making personal insults against the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and that, in North Korea, is very insulting -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Some of those Trump tweets forced Twitter to even clarify their threat policy over the weekend.

Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. 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 attackers and two others traveling with him were killed.

Security is being increased in nearby Jerusalem today in the wake of this attack.

BRIGGS: Iran's claim that it tested a new ballistic missile last weekend appears to be false. U.S. intelligence 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 announced it Saturday. It's not known if the president received an intelligence briefing about the launch before tweeting. A spokesperson for the National Security Council declined to comment to CNN.

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

Global stock markets mixed right now following a drop on Wall Street. Two reasons -- a sell-off in tech and because of North Korea.

North Korea's foreign minister called a tweet by President Trump a declaration of war. Tension between the two countries has been one of the few geopolitical events to shape markets this year.

Big tech stocks also fell yesterday, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple.

In fact, Apple is down 10 percent over the past two weeks, near correction territory. You can blame mediocre demand for its newest iPhones. There are reports of short lines and worries of low sales for the iPhone 8.

Target is giving its workers a raise. The retailer will hike its minimum wage to $11 next month, eventually offering $15 an hour by the year 2020.

Higher wages is one way to fill jobs in a very tight labor market, especially during the busy holiday season. Retailers add tens of thousands of workers at the end of the year.

Target plans to offer this new wage to its 100,000 seasonal hires this year.

You have seen wages in retail rising as these retailers try to keep the best talent.

Ivanka Trump is spearheading a multi-million dollar campaign to promote STEM -- science, technology, engineering, and math. 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, we're told, 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.

President Obama sought $4 billion for computer science education back in 2016 and Congress --

BRIGGS: Four billion?


BRIGGS: So, $200 million not nearly enough.

ROMANS: But Congress didn't -- Congress didn't do it so --

BRIGGS: Yes, all right.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

President Trump finally tweeting about the situation in Puerto Rico. Is help any closer, though, for the millions of desperate Americans on the territory? "NEW DAY" has it all covered for you right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The administration's response to Puerto Rico has been wholly insufficient.

ROMANS: President Trump's tweeting about Puerto Rico for the first time since Hurricane Maria made landfall.

SANDERS: The federal response has been anything but slow on this.

RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR, PUERTO RICO: This has been an unprecedented catastrophe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's too much to ask to stand for our National Anthem.

SANDERS: The president's not talking about race. The president's talking about pride in our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we should be judged as un-American because we believe in equality.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The Graham-Cassidy bill was not the answer.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: This is not repeal, this is a reshuffling of the money.

GRAHAM: It's OK to fall short for an idea you believe in.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.