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Trump Seems To Take Both Sides In GOP Battle; McCain: No Half- Baked Nationalism; Iraq Seizes Kurdish-Controlled City Of Kirkuk. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 17, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:30] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can understand fully how Steve Bannon feels.

We're probably now, I think, at least as far as I'm concerned, closer than ever before.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that was the same day. President Trump walking a very fine line within his own party. A public show of unity with the Senate leader following a show of support for his former chief strategist who's calling for a takedown of the GOP establishment.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.


BRIGGS: And, Sen. John McCain with a pointed message to some of the president's most ardent supporters. McCain warns against the kind of nationalistic attitude he says left others on the ash heap of history.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

Amid growing rancor within the GOP, President Trump is trying to advance his agenda, looking for common ground between Republicans in both the establishment and the populist movement. In a rapid fire series of events on Monday the president seemed to align himself with both sides.

First, the president stood up for his former chief strategist Steve Bannon who just one day earlier said this.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment. This is not my war, this is our war.


And you all didn't start it. The establishment started it.


BRIGGS: In a meeting with his cabinet, President Trump scolded Republican lawmakers and seemed to side with Bannon.


TRUMP: I'm not going to blame myself, I'll be honest. They are not getting the job done. We've had health care approved and then you had a surprise vote by John McCain.

But you had a few people that really disappointed us. They really, really disappointed us so I can understand fully how Steve Bannon feels.


BRIGGS: Then, just a short time later, the White House abruptly called a news conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. There, the president catered to the establishment wing saying he and the face of the establishment, McConnell, are closer than ever before.

Today, the president will welcome the prime minister of Greece to the White House for meetings and a joint news conference. That's 1:30 in the Rose Garden. Perhaps then we'll get a little more clarity on which end of the president's party he's actually backing.

Meanwhile, CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meeting in the White House on Monday to talk about tax reform.

Of course, these two Republican leaders have been at odds for weeks, if not months. They are coming together to push tax cuts, tax reform. They know it's key to keeping the Republicans' agenda.

The president, for his part, said there's no civil war in the GOP. People are working together. Take a listen.

TRUMP: I have a fantastic relationship with the people in the Senate and with the people in Congress. I mean, I have a -- with our House of Representatives. I have a great relationship with political people.

If you read the papers you think I'm like on one island and they're like on the other. Well, it's not the way it is.

ZELENY: Of course, complicating this view for the president is Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to the White House, who says he's waging war with the Republican establishment. Waging war specifically with Mitch McConnell which made their meeting in the Rose Garden all the more awkward.

Senator McConnell said Republican victory is the most important.

SEN. MITCHELL MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The goal here is to win elections in November. You have to nominate people who can actually win because winners make policy and losers go home.

ZELENY: So the president came to South Carolina late Monday evening for a Republican fundraiser for the governor here but he is focused on midterm races but, more importantly, on tax reform.

The challenge, of course, for this Republican majority in the House and Senate is getting some type of legislative achievement. Health care collapsed, other issues have not gone forward. Tax cuts, tax reform are the most important priority on their agenda.

We'll see if the president and the Senate Republican majority can get this passed this year.


BRIGGS: All right, Jeff, thank you.

With the Herculean task of making sense of what happened yesterday, "Washington Post" political reporter and CNN alum, Eugene Scott.

Eugene, good luck to you because before lunch, the president embraced a war against the GOP establishment. After lunch, he embraced the face of the establishment, Mitch McConnell. Said they've never been closer.

[05:35:05] Yes, the president wants his cake and wants to eat it, too. But how do you make such -- what did he have for lunch that --


BRIGGS: -- could reconcile both sides of that debate?

SCOTT: Well, hopefully, he had some self-awareness and personal reflection.

If we think back on the 2016 campaign which now seems like forever ago, this president campaigned against the establishment within the Republican Party, so this division that we see -- this civil war that we see within the GOP isn't a recent one.

I mean, when you look back on the trail there were people who were backing more of Mitch McConnell's vision for the future of the party and then there were the populists. And I think we obviously see that the populists are who won because that's who Donald Trump represents. That's his base when you speak to many of the people who are supporting him. But he has to work with Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell is actually an American politician in D.C.; Steve Bannon is not. And so, he's not going to be able to completely turn his back on McConnell despite how close his relationship with Bannon is right now.

BRIGGS: All right. Highlighting this divide, Sen. John McCain accepting the Liberty Medal last night, made some pointed remarks about this Steve Bannon nationalist movement taking over the GOP.


MCCAIN: To fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half- baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems --


-- is as -- is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad.


BRIGGS: All right, Eugene, Sen. McCain will not go gentle into that good night but will he be the lone voice speaking up against this movement?

SCOTT: I certainly don't think he'll be the lone voice. I think we see the Maine senator, Susan Collins -- one of the reasons she's staying in the Senate was to just continue to partner with John McCain for the vision and for the future of the Republican Party.

The hard truth for many people who see the world the way that McCain does is that the vision that he just put forward, it's the same vision he put forward when he won the Republican primary in 2008 and he lost the general election.

So what he's communicating is not something that I think many people in the GOP today want, at least those who are backing the current president. Whether or not he'll be able to influence them to think more broadly about the legacy that they want to leave on this country and internationally, which is what McCain is addressing, is not yet clear.

BRIGGS: Yes, and Sen. McCain would certainly take issue with the president's characterization of his predecessors having to make the most difficult phone call one could ever make, and that's to --


BRIGGS: -- parents who have lost children in the field of battle. Here's what the president said, getting very controversial comments yesterday in the Rose Garden.


TRUMP: The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens -- soldiers are killed. For me, that's by far the toughest.

So the traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls -- a lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate -- when I think I'm able to do it.


BRIGGS: All right. He backtracked a little bit later and tried to clean that up, to no avail.

Former Obama White House deputy chief of staff made some shocking comments on Twitter about just that. You can read them on your screen there. Eric Holder, as well, the former attorney general, very critical.

TEXT: Alyssa Mastromonaco -- That's a f****** lie to say President Obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA. He's a deranged animal.

Eric Holder -- Stop the damn lying -- you're the president. I went to Dover AFB with 44 and saw him comfort the families of both the fallen military and DEA.

BRIGGS: What do you make of the president's characterization of those phone calls and his predecessor?

SCOTT: We've seen repeatedly that when the president is called out for dropping the ball on something that he goes back to one of the things that many of the people who supported him consider one of the main reasons they sent him to the White House, their cultural anxieties. And when they look at who is responsible for many of their cultural anxieties they look to the Obama administration. So it's been a proven, like consistent fact from Trump when all else fails, blame Obama.

The challenge is this is not something that's accurate in this situation. You cannot say that President Obama did not do something that he actually did when we have proof to show that's what he actually did.

[05:40:02] It also reveals a bigger weakness of the president, a lack of historical context. He's talking about what previous presidents have done in situations like this while given no reason to believe that he's actually studied how previous presidents have responded to these incidents.

I think it would be in the best interest for the American people if this administration led by Trump just took responsibility for not doing what most presidents actually have done, and that's call parents as quickly as possible when something like this happens.

BRIGGS: And for context, the president said he makes those calls when he is able to do it. He's played 54 holes of golf in the last week and has not called the families of those four servicemen killed --

SCOTT: Right.

BRIGGS: --in Niger.

Eugene Scott from "The Washington Post," thank you, sir.

SCOTT: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Tax reform far from over though President Trump, yesterday, previewed what's next on his economic agenda.


TRUMP: We are working very hard to get the tax cuts. We will continue to work hard to get the health care completed. I'm going to be surprising some people with an economic development bill later on but I haven't even told Mitch because I want to focus on tax cuts.


BRIGGS: Mitch didn't look surprised there.

President Trump first mentioned an economic development bill last week. It rewards companies that hire in the U.S. and penalizes those sending jobs overseas.

The president did not give any more information about this bill but the White House says it will come after bills for both tax reform and infrastructure, and possibly welfare.


TRUMP: One thing we're going to be looking at very strongly is welfare reform. That's becoming a very, very big subject and people are taking advantage of the system. And then other people aren't receiving what they really need to live.


BRIGGS: Trump did not give a time line. Welfare reform not a big focus for candidate Trump but President Trump's first budget proposal made huge cuts to welfare programs like food stamps. That budget has not been passed.

An oil-rich Iraqi city ripped away from the Kurds by the Iraqi government. Now, two armies funded by the U.S. are in serious conflict. We're live in Baghdad, next.


[05:46:28] BRIGGS: Two U.S.-funded armies who have nearly succeeded in defeating ISIS in Iraq may now end up turning their sights on each other. The oil-rich city of Kirkuk which had been under Kurdish control is now in the hands of Iraqi security forces and pro-Iranian Shia militia.

The forces entered the disputed city, set up checkpoints, and lowered a Kurdish flag which had been flying over a government building. It's a move that could have lasting impact on the future of Iraq and the wider Middle East.

And overnight, Iraqi forces have just seized control of two more oil fields near Kirkuk that had been in Kurdish hands. All this could have lasting impact on the future.

Let's ask CNN's Ben Wedeman, in Baghdad, what all of this means -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the short-term, Dave, what it means is that ISIS, which was really at the receiving end of the military might of the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga, the Kurdish army, has now been getting a bit of a respite as a result of the conflict between the two sides. We understand that briefly, they were -- ISIS was able to take over two villages outside of Kirkuk.

Now, the implications of this sudden split between Baghdad and the Kurdish areas are huge. Now, the Kurds, who had put faith in the Americans well before the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein, they were its most enthusiastic backers of the American occupation.

No American soldiers were killed in the Kurdish areas of the country. Now, many of them feel they have been betrayed by the United States.

The Americans told the Kurds, in fact, not to hold their independence referendum that was held on the 25th of September. The Americans offered to sponsor negotiations between the Kurds and the Iraqi government for some sort of long-term solution, but the Kurds rejected it and now they find themselves rather high and dry, as you mention.

They've lost control of these critical oil wells around the city of Kirkuk which basically means they've lost their main sources of income.

And, of course, the big winner in all of this is Iran, which since the American invasion in 2003 has gradually gained more and more influence here, and as a result of this current conflict is going to gain even more -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Important context from Ben Wedeman, live in Iraq. Thank you.

Time now for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." My friend, Alisyn Camerota, joining us.


BRIGGS: What's going on today, my friend?

CAMEROTA: Great to see you. BRIGGS: And, you.

CAMEROTA: We have a lot going on.

So we're going to talk about all of the fallout from President Trump's false claims that other presidents did not call the families of fallen soldiers. The backlash to this online has been fierce.

Where does President Trump come up with statements like that and how does his chief of staff Gen. John Kelly, who lost his own son, feel when the president says things like that?

So we have Gen. Mark Hertling here, who has strong feelings and we will dissect them with him, as well as talk about that incredible impromptu press conference for 45 minutes with Mitch McConnell and President Trump. What happens next?

All of that when Chris and I see you at the top of the hour.

BRIGGS: It was an extraordinary day in the Rose Garden.

All right, thanks to much, Ali. We'll see you in just a bit.

It could be days or weeks before some residents are allowed back home in areas devastated by wildfires in California. Firefighters starting to get better control on some of the fires. That's next.


[05:54:35] BRIGGS: Eleven thousand firefighters slowing gaining the upper hand on those deadly wildfires in California. Officials now are cautiously optimistic with two of the largest fires about 60 percent contained. Some areas, authorities have gone from response to recovery, with power being restored and debris removal underway.

The crisis, though, is far from over. Over 15 significant fires still burning across California scorching 217,000 acres while destroying more than 5,700 structures. At least 41 people have been killed, including the driver of a water truck who died Monday when his vehicle rolled over.

[07:55:12] Damage estimates, so far, topping $3 billion in Sonoma County, alone.

The Coast Guard suspending its search for a missing worker following an oil rig explosion on Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans. Authorities have identified the missing man as 44-year-old Timothy Morrison of Katy, Texas.

Eight people were aboard the platform at the time of the explosion Sunday night. Seven were rescued and taken to area hospitals.

Coast Guard officials report no visible signs of pollution from the blast. The Louisiana police hazmat division is investigating the cause of the explosion. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl could spend the rest of his life in prison. Bergdahl pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

He walked off his military post in Afghanistan back in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban who held him captive until 2014. His release negotiated by the Obama administration as part of a prisoner exchange.

Bergdahl telling a military judge Monday that he left his post on his own and understands that doing so was against the law. Bergdahl's sentencing hearing begins next week.

The New York Yankees down but not out. Todd Frazier sparking the offense last night with that three-run homer, lifting the bombers to an 8-1 rout of the Astros in game three of the ALCS.

A big night for slumping rookie slugger Aaron Judge. The Yankees MVP candidate highlighting a five-run fourth with that three-run blast.

Some great plays in the field as well in support of CC Sabathia, the veteran lefty, with six shutout innings to help New York close within two games to one of the Astros.

Game four, 5:05 eastern this afternoon. In the Bronx, Dodgers-Cubs tonight, 9:00 eastern on TBS.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stocks mixed after Wall Street hit record highs. The Dow is now less than 50 points shy of its next milestone, 23,000.

Bank stocks recovered from last week's losses but the real focus this week on earnings. Profits were fantastic in the first two quarters but S&P 500 companies should report lower profit growth in the third.

Today, expect reports from UnitedHealth, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and IBM.

Netflix plans to spend $8 billion on programming next year. That's up from $6 billion this year. The spending boost comes as other tech giants Apple, Amazon, Facebook are using their cash to find original shows and movies.

But, Netflix' investment in content has, so far, paid off. The company added more than five million subscribers last quarter and that sent the stock to a record high. Shares are now up about 64 percent this year.

A scary story. A Wi-Fi network flaw could let hackers spy on basically every device on earth. Researchers discovered a huge vulnerability affecting Wi-Fi connections.

Here's how it works. When connecting to Wi-Fi, an attacker can trick a device into connecting to their Wi-Fi access point. Once linked, they can potentially steal personal data. The operating systems at risk include Google Android, Apple Mac OS, and Microsoft Windows. But there's another silver lining. There are no reports of this flaw just yet and some companies have already issued patches.

All right. Thanks for joining us. I'm Dave Briggs.

The president trying to satisfy all sides in a war in the Republican Party. Now, Sen. John McCain says those promoting half-baked nationalist views are unpatriotic.

Alisyn and Chris with "NEW DAY" right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


TRUMP: My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding.

BANNON: We've cut your oxygen off, Mitch. It's a season of war against a GOP establishment.

TRUMP: I can understand fully how Steve Bannon feels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump is playing Mitch McConnell and Steve Bannon against each other perfectly.

MCCAIN: To abandon our duty for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism is unpatriotic.

TRUMP: If you look at other presidents, most of them didn't make calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does he make stuff up all the time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This should have been about expressing condolences for those fallen heroes.

TRUMP: Most people have said we've done an outstanding job but Puerto Rico is a very tough one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president doesn't have the commitment to the Puerto Rican people.


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

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, October 17th, 6:00 here in New York.

Here's our "Starting Line."

Former Republican nominee Sen. John McCain taking a clear shot a President Trump without ever saying his name. McCain warns the U.S. against turning towards quote "half-baked, spurious nationalism" and he calls America's retreat on the world stage unpatriotic. This comes as President Trump is under fire for falsely claiming that his predecessors did not call the families of fallen U.S. troops. Several aides to President Obama are lashing out at Mr. Trump's baseless attack.