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Trump's Questionable Comment; New Obamacare Fix?; Fall of Raqqa: What's Next in ISIS Fight?; Putin "Chef" Believed To Be Behind Fake News. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 18, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:12] REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: There's no reason for the president to be so insensitive. So, I wanted to speak with him. And I was going to curse him out.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president, President Trump, makes a phone call to a grieving military widow, and that has one congresswoman, a Democratic congressman angry. You heard her there. We'll tell you what the president says.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And days after the president moves to end Obamacare subsidies to insurers, a new plan is coming together to keep them in place. What else is in this bipartisan proposal? And can it pass Congress?

Obamacare essentially back from the dead, because the president said it was dead 24 hours before this deal from Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray. Extraordinary.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you all this morning.

BRIGGS: And you.

ROMANS: It is Wednesday, October 18th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, 13 days after four U.S. service members were killed in an ambush in Niger, President Trump reached out to the families of those slain soldiers. One of those calls this morning is drawing outrage from the Florida congresswoman who said she heard it.

BRIGGS: The body of Sergeant La David Johnson arrived home in Florida Tuesday, where his widow met the caskets. Moments earlier, she received a call from the president.

Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson says she listened to part of the call on speakerphone. She recounted part of that call to CNN's Don Lemon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILSON: We were in the car together in the limousine headed to meet the body at the airport. So, I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: What did he say?

WILSON: Well, basically he said, well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurts.


ROMANS: Congresswoman Wilson telling "The Washington Post" the remark made the widow break down in tears as you might imagine any remark from the president might.

The White House only saying, quote, the president's conversations with the families of American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice are private. CNN has been unable to reach the family for comment.

BRIGGS: Meantime, the Defense Department is conducting an initial review of the mission in Niger, and the deadly ambush by ISIS affiliated fighters. Officials say the investigation is an investigation to, quote, get all the facts correct. There are the four U.S. service members killed in Niger. They are the most important part and shall remain the most important part of this story.

ROMANS: That's right. The investigation will look into why they were so lightly -- light armaments, why there wasn't a medic, why they weren't able to be extracted, and just how long they were on the battlefield.

BRIGGS: That's a big one.

ROMANS: That's a really troubling, troubling part of that story.

President Trump's remarks to the widow of La David Johnson coming just hours after the president stood by his claim that past presidents did not call families of fallen service members. Defending himself, Mr. Trump referenced chief of staff, General John Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? You could ask other people. I don't know what Obama's policy was.


BRIGGS: There's been no comment so far from General Kelly. He has remained quiet concerning the death of his son. As for whether Obama ever called, we are told General Kelly and his wife were invited to the White House for a Gold Star family's event in 2011. The Kellys were scheduled to sit with Michelle Obama. It is not known, though, if they actually attended. ROMANS: All right. Mixed reaction in Capitol Hill after a new

bipartisan agreement that would preserve Obamacare subsidies the president planned to end, reaching a deal in principle that would restore cost sharing payments and in exchange give states greater flexibility on Obamacare.

BRIGGS: President Trump appears to support this move. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer tweeting the plan has broad support in his conference. Still, there are serious doubts whether the plan can pass muster. Some GOP leaders in the House and Senate are not sold on it.

CNN's Sara Murray has more from the White House.



The health care debate is back in the spotlight today. That's after President Trump seemed to throw his support behind a bipartisan plan emerging in Congress to reinstate those cost sharing subsidies for Obamacare.

TRUMP: I'm pleased that the Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their Obamacare disaster and work with Republican to provide much needed relief to the American people. While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray and I do commend it, I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess.

MURRAY: Now, those are payments President Trump wanted to end just days earlier. And once he was decrying minutes earlier yesterday in the Rose Garden, saying the unnecessarily lined the pockets of insurers, when in reality those subsidies go to helping low income enrollees in Obamacare offset their health care payments.

[04:05:13] Now, it's unclear if this health care agreement could pass Congress. It's unclear even if the president's support for it will hold. We know that Trump is trying to move forward on another number of legislative priorities, including passing a budget deal through Congress, and ultimately moving on to tax reform. So, we will see if the latest crack in health care sticks.

Back to you, guys.


ROMANS: All right. Sara Murray, very busy day in Washington.

The health care deal restores subsidy payments shoring up the marketplace and allow states more say in how they carry out Obamacare. How? By giving more flexible federal waivers, the waivers let states customize Obamacare and they've long complained the process is lengthy and complicated. This deal speeds up approval. However, it doesn't lose any of Obamacare's regulations, that was a key goal of repeal and replace.

The agreement also allows more Americans to sign up for catastrophic plans, bare bones health plans with low premiums and high deductibles. It restores more than $100 million for Obamacare outreach. That is a critical addition.

Open enrolment begins in two weeks, and the Trump administration had slashed 90 percent of ad funding.

BRIGGS: Third time not the charm for the travel ban. A federal judge in Hawaii blocking the travel ban 3.0 which was supposed to go into effect today. The judge says the revised plan, quote, suffers from the same maladies as its predecessor and plainly discriminates based on nationality. The new restrictions cover eight countries.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calls the ruling dangerously flawed. The Justice Department will repeal.

ROMANS: This morning, an ethics watchdog group who slapped President Trump with a civil lawsuit heads to court. They're accusing the president of violating the foreign emolument clause in the Constitution since his businesses accept cash from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Before the inauguration, the president refused to sell his business holdings, instead placing them in a trust. That means Mr. Trump can technically withdraw cash payments from his business any time he wants. Lawyers for the Justice Department are asking the judge to dismiss that case.

BRIGGS: Tensions are mounting between President Trump and John McCain. The president firing back after the Arizona senator's not-so- subtle dig slamming half-baked spurious nationalism, without naming President Trump.

The president saying in a radio interview he heard the criticism and added this warning.


TRUMP: People have to be careful because at some point I fight back. You know, I'm being very nice. I'm being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back, and it won't be pretty.


BRIGGS: McCain's response, a senator and war hero telling CNN, quote, I've faced far greater challenges than this. He went on to say, I will not vote no on any particular bills because some petty squabble with the president. He is dedicated to his constituents in Arizona. He's above all those squabbles.

ROMANS: All right. Eight minutes past the hour. The self-declared ISIS capital Raqqa no longer in ISIS hands. That city now liberated by U.S.-backed forces. We're going to tell you what's next for the city and for ISIS as it tries to rebuild.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:12:21] BRIGGS: What's next in the fight against ISIS? That is the big question this morning after a major victory by U.S.-backed forces driving ISIS terrorists out of their self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria. Syrian Democratic Forces are still working to clear remaining threats.

How does this change the battle as ISIS loses territory and moves underground?

CNN's Arwa Damon near the Iraqi-Syrian border with more.



Well, a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces, that is the fighting force on the ground that is backed by the U.S.-led coalition says that the clearing operations are still ongoing. They're still trying to come through the city and root out any potential remnants of ISIS fighters that the coalition estimates to be at around 100. They're suspected to be hiding out in the rubble, in the burnt out building, and then, of course, they're trying to undertake the monumental task of clearing Raqqa from any sort of improvised explosive device that ISIS may have left building in buildings, roads or alleyways.

We did see some footage, exclusive drone footage obtained by CNN of the SDF already celebrating, especially in one of Raqqa's main square. This is where we saw some of the worst ISIS atrocities unfolding, the public beheadings, executives, the crucifixions and what you also see is the sheer scale of the destruction, trying to even restore a false sense of normalcy to the city is most certainly something that lies well ahead in the future.

And the population that fled right now languishing in refugee camps and while this is a blow to ISIS territorially speaking, let's not forget that its ideology is still very much alive.


ROMANS: All right. Arwa Damon for us this morning, thank you for that, Arwa.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer now the third Trump official to be interviewed by investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Spicer was interviewed Monday.

BRIGGS: And this CNN exclusive. We're learning about an ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin believed to have financed a Russian troll factory that spread fake news during the 2016 election.

CNN's Jim Sciutto has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that the company of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch dubbed chef to President Putin by the Russian press, financed a Russian troll factory that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. This according to multiple officials briefed on the investigation.

Prigozhin, who owns several companies, is one of the Kremlin's inner circle. Putin even had him cater birthday parties and visits by U.S. President George W. Bush. His company believed to be the main backer of the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency or IRA, a secretive technology firm that created and distributed fake news.

[04:15:10] Prigozhin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in December of 2016 but this for providing financial support for the military occupation of Ukraine. My colleague Tim Lister, Mary Ilyashina and I examined scores of documents leaked from Prigozhin's companies. The monthly budget for IRA was around $1 million in 2013. That's every month split between departments that included in Russian language operations departments and the use of social media in English.

One part of that factory had a really intriguing name. It was called, quote, department of provocations, dedicated to selling fake news and social divisions in the West. This according to internal company documents obtained by CNN. And its mission, as stated in those documents, was, quote, how do we create news items to achieve our goals?

We should note that several e-mails and calls from CNN to Concord Consulting, that is Prigozhin's firm, went unanswered and the IRA no longer exists since the U.S. election.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: You know, in the Russian playbook for years, for decades has been disinformation campaigns. This is sort of taking it to a new level.

BRIGGS: For just a hundred grand.

ROMANS: You know, fake information campaigns meant to really rile people up and undermine American democracy. Amazing.

Sixteen minutes past the hour.

OK, this outrageous stock market call rocking Wall Street. Thank God America was populated by white people. That's a quote from a noted investor. He's facing major blowback this morning.

What Dr. Doom, Marc Faber, is saying now? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:21:06] BRIGGS: Growing fallout for a noted investor over some racist remarks. Marc Faber, often referred to as Dr. Doom, said on the October edition of his newsletter, it's a good thing white people colonized America. Quoting here, he said: Thank God white people populated America and not the blacks. Otherwise, the U.S. would look like Zimbabwe, which it might look like one day anyway. But at least America enjoyed 200 years in the economic and political sun under a white majority.

ROMANS: So, Faber has now resigned from three boards. CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg TV all confirming to CNN Money they do not plan to book Faber in the future. Meantime, Faber is standing by his comments. despite at first saying he's not a racist, he now tells CNN by e-mail quote: If stating some historical facts makes me a racist then I suppose that I am a racist.


Two Chicago airport security officers fired after forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight, you remember this, back in April. Cell phone footage from April shows Dr. David Dao being dragged down the aisle by his arms and legs before the flight took off from O'Hare Airport. Dao was left bloodied and bruise bruised. Two other security officers have been suspended. Investigators found they made misleading statements and deliberately moved material fact from their reports.

ROMANS: All right. Opening night in the NBA marred by a gruesome leg injury to Boston's Gordon Hayward. It happened just minutes into Hayward's first game with the Celtics on this play.

We're not showing it up close because of the nature of the injury. Players and fans on both sides were just distraught over this. Coach Brad Stevens says Hayward suffered a dislocated ankle and broken leg. Reports say he will have surgery today.

BRIGGS: Look at the players there, look at the fans. It was stunning. It was gruesome, indeed.

All right. It's baseball, the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs now on the brink of elimination in this year's playoffs. Los Angeles Dodgers beating Romans' Cubs 6-1 to take a demanding 3-0 lead in the NLCS. The Dodgers could punch a ticket to the World Series by sweeping the Cubs in game four tonight at Wrigley. L.A. is perfect this post-season, 6-0. Longest post-season winning streak in franchise story.

Meantime, the ALCS now tied at two games apiece. The New York Yankees with a thrilling comeback, beating the Houston Astros 6-4 last night. The Yankees erased a four-run deficit four times in the eight.

The Baby Bombers led by who else, Aaron Judge, who hit a second home run two nights. Pivotal game five in the series today at Yankee Stadium and this team is thrilling to watch. It's just incredible.

ROMANS: OK. Sports nerd, down 3-0. What's the likelihood of coming back from that?

BRIGGS: One team has done it. The Boston Red Sox in 2004, good night. But, look, the Chicago Cubs have defied logic many a time. But this Dodgers team is --

ROMANS: Oh, that goat, Billy goat.

All right. A rainy day on tap in the Southeast, stormy weather in the Northeast. Let's get more from our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


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

Watching what's happening across the country right now, the temperature trend rather uniform -- comfortable, mild for most, but notice, down across the Southeast, a little blustery at times, also watching a stationary frontal boundary about this region that will bring in a few showers, some areas could see brief periods of heavy rainfall and certainly could see some localized flash flooding associated with that as well.

But that's really the main story on the eastern half of the country. Beyond that, again, it's as nice as it gets, the nicest time of year when you're talking low 70s and sunny skies in Chicago, much the same. Notice, 62 is the average. Could make it up to as much as 70 degrees by later in the week.

But on the other side of the country, a different story, and I mean, it's a different as it gets. We have tremendous moisture streaming right across the Pacific Northwest. With it, strong winds up to 40 to 45 miles per hour.

Any flights to Portland and Seattle, you can see some delays with this and notice this, taking you through Monday, some areas, a lot of areas, frankly, could see as much as six to eight inches of rainfall.

[04:25:05] Get up into the mountains as much as two feet of snowfall so the first big storm of the season looks to be here -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

All right. A congresswoman is seething after President Trump told a widow of a slain American soldier her husband knew what he signed up for. More next.



WILSON: There's no reason for the president to be so insensitive. So, I wanted to speak with him. And I was going to curse him out. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: A Democratic congresswoman is angry and upset after President Trump's phone call to a grieving military widow. We'll tell you why.

ROMANS: And days after the President moved to end Obamacare's subsidies to insurers, calling them bailout, a new plan is coming together to keep those very subsidies in place. What else is in this bipartisan proposal and can it pass Congress?