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Trump Versus the Media; California Wildfire Death Toll Rises; Clinton "Shocked" by Weinstein Allegations; North Korea: Trump "Lit the Wick" of War. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 12, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:00:01] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's frankly disgusting the way the press was able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump taking aim at the media and the First Amendment as new reporting reveals major turmoil inside the White House.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Devastating fires ravaging northern California. The death toll is rising. Hundreds are still missing.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was -- I was just sick. I was shocked. I was appalled.


BRIGGS: Hillary Clinton speaking out publicly for the first time about Harvey Weinstein as more accusers come forward.

Every layer you peel back, it's just gets more disturbing on that story. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour this hour.

The president escalating his threat against the free press suggesting news organizations whose reporting he does not like should possibly be shut down in the United States of America. The president tweeting: Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and if appropriate revoked. Not fair to the public.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska punching back at the president with a tweet of his own. Mr. President, are you recanting the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment?

BRIGGS: The president specifically lashing out at NBC News over its report he wants a tenfold increase in the nation's nuclear arsenal. A report Secretary of Defense James Mattis calls absolutely false.

Last night, the president went even further.


TRUMP: The media is bad. They are really dishonest people. These are very, very dishonest people, in many cases. In many cases.

But when you're the one being written about, you know whether it's good or bad, and it's always they try to make it negative. So, the media has turned I call it fake media. It's media. It's so much fake news.


BRIGGS: President Trump's latest feud with the media comes amid reports of turmoil behind the scenes at the White House in a new "Vanity Fair" story. Sources say the president is, quote, unstable and unraveling. Two sources telling Gabe Sherman, the president vented to his long-time security chief Keith Schiller: I hate everyone in the White House. There are a few exceptions, but I hate them.

A White House official denies the president said this.

ROMANS: Meantime, two senior Republicans tell "Vanity Fair" the Chief of Staff John Kelly is, quote, miserable in his job and remains at the White House out of a sense of duty.

"Vanity Fair" also reported former chief strategist Steve Bannon told President Trump months ago that the threat of impeachment isn't his problem. The real threat to his presidency, Bannon reportedly said, is the 25th Amendment. The provision that allows a majority of the cabinet to remove him.

Here's "Vanity Fair": When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, what's that? According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term.

BRIGGS: And CNN has learned more about what prompted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's moron comment. Multiple, multiple senior U.S. officials tell us the comment followed a difficult, intense Pentagon security briefing for the president. One official says participants were ashen at the president's direct questioning of military commanders leadership and his lack of a nuanced world view. That's when Tillerson in a private conversation called had his boss a, quote, moron.

ROMANS: All right. To California now, where the death toll in those devastating wildfires rising overnight. It is 23, 285 people remain missing in Sonoma County alone. Statewide firefighters are battling 22 blazes. Wednesday, they had to cope with shifting winds, blowing up to 50 miles per hour in some places.

BRIGGS: More than 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes, including the city of Calistoga. Residents of the city of Napa have been told to prepare for possible evacuation, in a total of 115 flights cancelled at San Francisco International Airport yesterday.

ROMANS: Look at that.

BRIGGS: Yes, there's just smoke everywhere due to parts of these reduced visibilities you see from the wildfires.

For more, here's CNN's Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, this fire is still going. You can see the smoke behind me. This is one small section of this massive wildfire and the concern is that as the winds pick up, that you can see more devastation.

I was in a Black Hawk helicopter Wednesday afternoon and what we saw was breathtaking. Only with that bird's eye perspective can you get a full appreciation of what things look like. And we saw home after home, street after street, that had been decimated.

The other thing that stuck out is just how much active flame there still is. And that's why authorities are still going door to door, trying to evacuate people, making sure people flee the danger.

[04:35:02] This fire is now the most destructive fire, wildfire in California history. You would have to go back to 1991. Then, you had 2,900 buildings that were destroyed. This time, 3,500 buildings destroyed and, unfortunately, this fire has the potential to become the deadliest as well -- Christine and Dave.


CLINTON: Hillary Clinton is speaking out disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, Clinton pledged to donate the money Weinstein contributed to her past political campaigns. She calls the sexual assault allegations against Weinstein stunning.


CLINTON: I was -- I was just sick. I was shocked. I was appalled. It was something that was just intolerable in every way.

And, you know, like so many people who have come forward and spoken out, this was a different side of a person who I and many others had known in the past.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Would you have called him a friend?

CLINTON: Yes, I probably would have, and so with so many others. You know, people in Democratic politics for a couple of decades appreciated his help and support.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: The Weinstein Company board may have known about confidential settlements paid to several female accusers back in 2015. One board member says he even pushed for a new code of conduct at the company. This board member telling "The New York Times", I don't know what else I could have done.

Meanwhile, the accusations against Weinstein are widening. Twenty- five-year-old actress Cara Delevingne detailing an alleged incident while meeting with Weinstein about the film "Tulip Fever" in 2014.

ROMANS: She says this. As soon as we were alone, he began to brag about all the actresses he had slept with and how he had made their careers and spoke about other inappropriate things of a sexual nature. He then invited me to his room. I quickly declined and asked his assistant if my car was outside. She said it wasn't and wouldn't be for a bit. And I should go to his room.

When I arrived, I was relieved to find another woman in his room and thought immediately I was safe. He asked us to kiss and she began some sort of advances upon his direction. I swiftly got up and asked him if he knew that I could sing and I began to sing. I was so nervous.

After singing, I said again that I had to leave. He walked me to the door, stood in front of it and tried to kiss me on the lips. I stopped him and managed to get out of the room.

BRIGGS: Scary stuff.

All right. President Trump expected to sign an executive order on health care today. The exact details are not known. But the president has said he would act on his own to make it easier for small businesses that join together to buy health insurance.

Here's what he told Fox News last night.


TRUMP: We're going to have great health care across state lines. People can buy it. It will cost the government nothing. They will go out. Private insurers are going to give you incredible health care. And I'll tell you what, this will take -- and I can sign it myself. I don't need anybody. I would have done it earlier except I was hoping that they were going to put this through and I'll have it in the bill.

But we're signing tomorrow a health care package that will cover, I don't know, people say 30 percent, people say 25 percent, and some people say could be 50 percent. It's going to cover a large percentage of the people.


BRIGGS: Still Democrats and some health regulators claim that relaxing standards for association health plans would likely lead to skimpier coverage since they would not have to adhere to all protections.

ROMANS: The NFL pushing back against President Trump, insisting there's been no change to the league's stance on player protests during the national anthem. NFL officials say the president was wrong, wrong when he tweeted this Wednesday. It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players stand for our great national anthem. Respect our country.

BRIGGS: The president reacting to a letter by Goodell that said, quote, everyone should stand for the national anthem yesterday. The NFL suggests that the president's take on that letter was mistaken. Quote: Commentary this morning about the position on the anthem is not accurate. As we said yesterday, it will be discussion of these issues at the owners meeting next week.

Still, the president not backing down attacking Colin Kaepernick, the player who started the national anthem protest. In this FOX interview, he called it terrible and said the league should not have stood for it.


TRUMP: Frankly, the NFL should have suspended him for one game and he would have never done it again. They could have then suspended him for two games and they could have suspended him if he did it a third time for the season and you would never have a problem.

But I will tell you. You cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem. You can't do that.


ROMANS: You hear the cheers in the background in Pennsylvania. All right. The White House says the Chief of Staff John Kelly's principal deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, will be nominated to become the new secretary of homeland security.

[04:40:07] Kelly and Nielsen are close. She was his deputy at DHS and followed him to the White House when he replaced Reince Priebus as chief of staff.

BRIGGS: One White House official tells CNN Nielsen's nomination may shed light on Kelly's future at the White House. The source says she was his eyes and ears as he sought to bring order to the chaos in the West Wing. And the official doesn't see how Kelly could stay too long without her. The source also speculates Nielsen's return to DHS could be a way for Kelly to give a soft landing before he exits the White House.

ROMANS: There's always palace intrigue in administrations. But the palace intrigue in this one is really an all-time high.

All right. President Trump once again selling his tax plan as a middle class miracle. But it really is a middle class mirage.


TRUMP: Our framework ensures that the benefits of tax reform go to the middle class, not to the highest earners. It's a middle class bill. That's what we're thinking of. That's what I want.

I have had rich friends of mine come up to me and say, Donald, you're doing this tax plan. We don't want anything. We don't.


ROMANS: The plan does cut taxes across the board on paper, but the Tax Policy Center estimates the rich will have the largest tax cuts. The tax bill for one in three middle-class families will go up. One in three middle-class families could see their tax bill rise. But the He introduces a new claim. A $4,000 pay raise for the middle class.

Now, the White House provided no evidence, but it echoes what a White House economist said last week. Here's the argument: companies keep profits offshore to avoid a high U.S. corporate tax. A lower tax rate will encourage companies, to bring that money home, which should translate into a $4,000 raise for workers over eight years.

Now, there's no proof that corporate tax will go to workers and not to share buybacks and to dividends for investors. But the theory here, the theory here is that if you bring that money back, the companies will spend it on wages for their workers.

BRIGGS: There was a study on the U.S. Treasury Website that showed evidence more than 80 percent of those would go towards shareholders. That very little would translate to wage truth. That study was removed from the Treasury Website --

ROMANS: Oh, is that so?

BRIGGS: -- conveniently.

ROMANS: I have said for a long time that if you're going to cut the tax rate, or give that repatriation of the lower tax rate, the president should put in strings that the money must be used to build factories to pay workers and hire workers in the United States. That he -- if he is the deal maker in chief, he should cut a deal to make sure it doesn't just go to a share buyback scenario with investors.

BRIGGS: Otherwise, yes, just bringing trillions back and paying offshore holders.

All right. Ahead, North Korea warning the U.S. has, quote, lit the wick of war. And President Trump not backing down.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: What was the calm before the storm?

TRUMP: We can't let this to go on. We just can't. Now, you can say what you want. This should have been handled 25 years ago. It should have been handled 20 years ago, and 10 years ago and five years ago.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:47:19] BRIGGS: Tension is building between the U.S. and North Korea. The president dialing up the rhetoric after weeks of publicly undermining his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his diplomatic approach to North Korea. President Trump admits he sees the crisis through a different lens than most.


TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have. And I listen to everybody. But ultimately, my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it? That's the way it works. That's the way the system is.

But I think I might have a somewhat different attitude and a different way than other people. I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject than other people.


BRIGGS: Feel stronger and tougher.

Let's go live to Seoul and bring in CNN's Alexandra Field.

Alex, North Korea's foreign minister firing back at President Trump. What's he saying?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Dave, we know that the saber-rattling happens on both sides because we watched this happen day in/day out, week after week really with this exchange of a war of words that's continued to escalate.

The foreign minister was speaking to state-run news in Russian saying that U.S. President Donald Trump lit the wick of war with his address to the United Nations. In that address, he touted the United States' ability to destroy North Korea, if necessary. And he talked to the regime's leader, Kim Jong-un, calling him little rocket man.

Now, the foreign minister continuing to blast the U.S. president, blaming him for the escalation, intentions on the peninsula saying, it's directly the United States' fault. He considers the sanctions an act of aggression toward North Korea, and he made clear the point that the regime as they have so often said would not be willing to negotiate on the point of its missile program or its nuclear program, so long as the U.S. maintains a policy which he describes as it aimed at crushing North Korea. Those are the latest round of words from the North Korean foreign minister.

They come after weeks of comments from the U.S. president himself during which he said frankly cryptic messages to North Korea, talking about how only one thing will work but failing to clarify what that one thing could be. He has seemed to publicly undermine his secretary of state's diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis on the peninsula, while Rex Tillerson was in the region just about a week ago. President Trump tweeting that Rex should save his energy, saying that we'll do what we have to do if that again only one thing would work. What we have seen in the intervening weeks from the United States is a

continuing of the position that we've seen over the last few months, really flexing its military muscle. Just two days ago, the United States flying its B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula. That is certainly seen as a provocative measure by Pyongyang, still waiting for their response to that move -- Dave.

[04:50:04] BRIGGS: And all this one day ahead of the president expected to kick the Iranian nuclear deal back to Congress.

Alex, thanks.

ROMANS: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke facing growing scrutiny for his travel habits. The Office of Special Counsel and the Interior Department's inspector general both conducting investigations, but it's not just the cost of Zinke's private travel that has ethics officials examining his schedule very closely. Zinke frequently mixed official business on trips with political activities and fundraising. That could violate the federal Hatch Act. His taxpayer funded travel also drawing attention because on several occasions, it allowed him to visit his personal residence in Montana.

So far, there's no evidence Zinke broke any laws. That's what is under investigation.

All right. Have you checked your credit score in the wake of Equifax's breach?


ROMANS: Many Americans have not. We're going to tell you why they haven't on CNN "Money Stream", next.


[04:55:22] BRIGGS: All right. Welcome back.

Tough weather conditions facing firefighters in California not expected to let up any time soon.

ROMANS: Meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the fire forecast for us.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

Unfortunately, another day of challenging weather for the firefighters battling the fires across central and northern California. We're expecting winds to pick up and also change to a northerly direction, making things all more sporadic across this area. In fact, you can see the wind gusts easily in excess of 20, 25 miles per hour across, especially the central portions of Northern California. In fact, over 5 million Americans under an elevated risk of fire today.

And, unfortunately, the relative humidity is not helping. We're starting to take away all that available moisture in the atmosphere across the Napa and Santa Rosa region. Now, across eastern half of the United States, a whole different weather story is panning out.

We have mild conditions over the East Coast. An area of low pressure that's bringing rainfall to the Mid-Atlantic States today. So, your temperatures impacted by that from New York into D.C. Daytime highs only in the middle and upper 60s, compare that to a very hot and humid 86 degrees for Atlanta.

Back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, Derek.

Louisiana State University police issuing ten arrest warrants for members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity as they investigate the possible hazing death of a freshman pledge. Eighteen-year-old Maxwell Grover died last month with a blood alcohol level of 0.495 percent after a bible study at the frat where according to police who conducted interviews, pledges had to drink alcohol if they answered questions incorrectly.

In Louisiana, anyone under 21 with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent or above is considered intoxicated. His blood alcohol level was almost 25 times that threshold.

BRIGGS: First came acceptance of gay and transgender scouts. Now, girls will be allowed to be Boy Scouts. The organization announcing its decision to allow girls into the Cub Scouts beginning next year, citing years of research and feedback from scouts nationwide, a program for teenage girls is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, a move strongly opposed by the Girl Scouts of America who quickly released a statement touting the advantages of their program.

President Trump also weighing in, saying the decision is strange. I thought that's what the Girl Scouts was for.

ROMANS: All right. Almost top of the hour. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

Global stock markets mixed today after Wall Street hit record highs again yesterday. All three major averages close at record highs. That Federal Reserve signaled a December rate hike. But that didn't affect the stock market. Investors already expected that.

The market jumped after a report broke of a market-friendly candidate succeeding Fed Chief Janet Yellen.

The quarter earnings kick off today. JPMorgan and Citigroup report before the opening bell and lots of folks think this is a very, very good days for banks and bank investors.

All right. Have you checked your credit score after Equifax's historic breach? It turns out, 71 million adults, about 30 percent of Americans, have not. That's because they hadn't heard about the leak. This is interesting new survey. It found only 61 million Americans

checked their credit in the first two weeks. You know, Equifax breach affects 145.5 million Americans. So, checking your credit cards, checking your credit for free, please, don't pay for it, is really something that every American should be doing here.

Bad news for air lines, bad news for travelers. Passengers are paying more to fly. Fares stayed about the same, but Delta reports passengers spent 2 percent more last quarter. Wait, if fares are static, they spend more, all those extra fees, baggage, ticket changes, seat upgrades, extra leg room.

It's not just Delta. American Airlines also expects passengers spent more last quarter. Airlines are benefitting. Delta filled nearly 90 percent of its seats last quarter. And my anecdotal -- yes, I can tell. Can't you?

BRIGGS: I just have to add a correction. We said the president weighed in on this Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., said that. Not the president.

ROMANS: Oh, thank you.

BRIGGS: He said, strange, I though that's what the Girl Scouts was for.

EARLY START continues right now.



TRUMP: It's frankly disgusting the way the press was able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it.


ROMANS: President Trump taking aim again at the news media. The free press in America as new reporting reveals major turmoil inside the White House.

BRIGGS: Devastating fires continue to ravage Northern California.