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Florida Democratic Representative Says Trump Told Soldier Widow He Knew What He Signed Up For, But When It Happens It Hurts"; New Obamacare Fix?; Fall of Raqqa: What's Next in ISIS Fight?; Putin "Chef" Believed To Be Behind Fake News. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 18, 2017 - 04:30   ET



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.


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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

[04:30:02] What else is in this bipartisan proposal and can it pass Congress?

BRIGGS: Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

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

Let's begin here this morning with 13 days after four U.S. service members were killed in an ambush in Niger. President Trump reached out to the families of the slain soldiers and one of those calls is drawing outrage from a Florida congresswoman who heard it.

BRIGGS: The body of Sergeant La David Johnson arrived home in Florida Tuesday where his widow met the casket. Moments earlier, she received a call from the president. Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson says she listened to part of that call on a speakerphone and recounted part of that call to CNN's Don Lemon.


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.


BRIGGS: Congresswoman Wilson told the "Washington Post", the remark made the widow break down in tears as you might imagine any remark from any president might do.

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.

ROMANS: 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.

And I can tell you right now, there are a lot of facts missing. What happened to those men out there, the special operations forces? You know, why were they ambushed? Why wasn't there intelligence to show them how dangerous the situation would have been? And how chaotic was it on those finding moments when they were actually, you now, the help came from French air patrol?

BRIGGS: Those are the key questions as we moved forward, in remembering those four brave soldiers, their names, which you just saw on screen.

ROMANS: When you lose people on the battlefield, you need to find out what happened, to make sure it never happens again.

BRIGGS: All right. 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. In 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.


ROMANS: There has been some comments from General Kelly. He has been quiet through the years 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.

BRIGGS: Mixed reaction in Capitol Hill after a new bipartisan agreement that would preserve Obamacare subsidies the president planned to end. Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray reaching a deal that would restore cost-sharing payments for two years, in exchange give states a greater flexibility in Obamacare. We'll have more on the policy in just a moment.

ROMANS: 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 about 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.

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 at health care sticks.

Back to you, guys.


ROMANS: All right. Sara Murray at the White House, thanks, Sara.

[04:35:00] The health care deal restores subsidy payments shoring up the marketplace and also allows states more say in how they carry out Obamacare by giving them more flexible federal waivers. The waivers let states customize Obamacare. And they've complained. They long complained that the process is lengthy and complicated.

This would speed up approval. However, it doesn't loosen any of Obamacare's regulations. That was a key goal of repeal and replace. It keeps that part of Obamacare intact.

The agreement also allows more Americans to sign up for catastrophic plans, bare bones health plans with low premiums and high deductibles and it restores more than 100 million bucks for Obamacare outreach. That's pretty critical here. Open enrollment begins in just two weeks. The Trump administration has 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 would have covered eight countries.

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

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 asking the judge to dismiss that case.

ROMANS: All right. The president once again framing his tax plan as a gift for everyday Americans.


TRUMP: You understand that lower taxes mean bigger paychecks, more jobs, and stronger growth. At the heart of our plan is a tax cut for everyday working Americans.


ROMANS: Now, most Americans do get tax cuts in this plan. But the biggest cuts go to the healthy and to business. So, the White House is trying to sell what is essentially corporate tax cuts as a raise for the middleclass. They say a lower tax rate will spur overseas cash home and that money could boost worker pay. But a new survey most companies will use tax savings on share buybacks or debt.

And economic adviser Gary Cohn, he says he's OK with that.


GARY COHN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: If they buyback stock, OK, so they buyback stock. That means the government collects a tax on the capital gains or the ordinary income from whoever they buyback stock from called 23.6 percent. The government gets 23.6 percent.


ROMANS: Cohn added that the administration wouldn't put conditions on the returning cash. That was the case for similar tax holiday in 2004. And most of that money went to shareholders, not business investment.

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 mentioning the president by name, though.

The president telling a radio interviewer he's heard the criticism and added this one.


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? The senator and war hero telling CNN, quote: I've faced far greater challenges than this. Indeed, he has. He voted for the Trump budget. He's not going to make these votes part of this personal squabble.

Ahead, the self-declared ISIS capital no longer in ISIS hands. The city now liberated by U.S.-backed forces. But what's next for the city and for ISIS as it tries to rebuild?


[04:43:08] ROMANS: Welcome back. Forty-three minutes past the hour.

What is next in the fight against ISIS? That's the big question this morning after a major victory by U.S.-backed forces driving ISIS terrorist out of their self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria. Syrian Democratic forces still working to clear remaining threats.

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

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Dohuk, Iraq, for us, near the border with Syria. She has 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 in Dohuk, Iraq.

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

[04:45:03] Spicer, we're told, was interviewed Monday.

BRIGGS: And in this CNN exclusive, we're learning more 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 with more.


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.

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: All right. Great reporting from Jim and that team. Thanks for that.


ROMANS: All right. Google Maps facing backlash online. The concern is about cupcakes. Details on CNN "Money Stream", next.


[04:51:36] 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.

BRIGGS: He got that last part right.

Two Chicago airport security officers after forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked united flight back in April. You remember this. Cellphone footage shows Dr. David Dao being dragged down the aisle by his arms and legs before the flight took off from O'Hare. Dao was left bloodied and bruised. Two other security officers have been suspended. Investigators found they made misleading statements and deliberately removed material facts from their reports.

ROMANS: All right. Opening night in the NBA marred by a gruesome leg injury of Boston's Gordon Hayward. It happened just minutes into his first game as a Celtic on this play. We're not going to show it close up pause it is some gruesome. But players and fans on both sides distraught about this. Coach Brad Stevens said Hayward suffered a dislocated ankle and broken leg. Reports say he will have surgery today. But you can just see everyone there feeling for the guy. BRIGGS: There's LeBron just can't believe what he saw. That is one

of those injuries if you saw it, and I'd seen it several times, you will not soon forget. What it looked like what his ankle looked like going the wrong direction.

All right. The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs, your team on the brink of elimination. The Dodgers beating the Cubs to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the National League Championship series. The Dodgers can punch their ticket to the World Series with a sweep in game four tonight at Wrigley.

Meanwhile, ALCS now tied at two games a piece. The Yankees with the thrilling comeback beating the Astros 6-4 last night. The Yankees erasing a four-run deficit, scoring four in the eight.

The Baby Bombers led by Aaron Judge's massive home run, the second in two nights. Game five today at Yankees Stadium. It's been a hugely entertaining postseason in Major League Baseball.

ROMANS: I know. I feel bad for the Cubs. Last year --

BRIGGS: Now, you don't feel bad for them, they just won the World Series.

ROMANS: I know. I mean, last year, I wore my Harry Caray glasses on the air and they won. I wonder if I need to bring my Harry Caray glasses back.

BRIGGS: You better get going.

ROMANS: I know. I've waited too long.

A rainy day on tap for the Southeast. Stormy weather in the Northwest.

Let's get more from meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dave and Christine, watching what's happening right now across Florida history. Blustery weather, breezy weather, and definitely seeing some showers scattered about this region as well. But beyond that really north of this region, it is generally dry. You noticed a few pop-up thunderstorms enter the forecast into the early morning hours of Wednesday. And that is about as far as the significant weather on the East Coast.

How about these temperatures? Enjoy it, my friend. In Boston, lower 70s, room temperature on Thursday afternoon. New York City as uniform as it gets when you're talking about 71 degrees each of the next three days.

[04:55:03] Look at the Western U.S., we have much cooler air in place around parts of say, San Francisco, eventually down to 62 for a high. In Los Angeles, you see a shift as well. More of a marine influence brings temps into the middle 70s. But the Santa Anas tick up right back come Saturday afternoon. Temps

back up into the middle 80s potentially, up around 90 Sunday. And around the Pacific Northwest, the storm the door, it is prop wide open here. We're watching a tremendous source of moisture coming with a lot of rainfall, upwards of eight inches over an expansive area, and potentially, up to a couple of feet of fresh snow into the higher elevations as well -- guys.


BRIGGS: All right. Thanks, Pedram.

Forbes announcing the president's next worth took a big dip last year. What does the president think of that?

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump has a rich vocabulary when it comes to counting his wealth.

TRUMP: I'm rich really. I'm very rich. I'm much richer than anybody ever dream. Nobody knows how rich I am.

MOOS: Actually, Forbes says it does, and though the rich maybe getting richer, President Trump isn't. Last year, his net worth was estimated at $3.7 billion. Now, it's down to $3.1 billion.

(on camera): President Trump's not going to like this.

(voice-over): He fell 92 spots. Last year, he was 156th on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Now, he's skidded to 248th.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.

MOOS: Michael Bloomberg, by the way, is 8th on the list. The top three are Bill Gates, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet.

Trump has estimated his own net worth --

TRUMP: Well over $10 billion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's laughable. It's comical. It's comical.

MOOS: Critics scoff at Trump's estimates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Forbes, we won't have a -- the Donald Trump rule, which is whatever Donald Trump says we usually then have to divide by three to what the real number is.

TRUMP: When I say about the 10 billion, I'm not doing that to brag. Who cares?

MOOS: The same day the list came out, Trump tweeted, so much fake news being put in dying magazines and newspaper. Fiction writers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, Trump is not a rich man. Donald Trump is like what a hobo imagines a rich man to be.

TRUMP: It turned out that I'm much richer than people think.

MOOS: And no one seems to think about it more --

TRUMP: I made a fortune --

MOOS: -- than Donald Trump.

TRUMP: A vast fortune.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: A good cabaret reference at 4:57 in the East.

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

Global stock markets are higher after the Dow cruised past another milestone, rising above 23,000 for the first time ever. It closed just below that, but still a record high. The Dow has hit three other milestones this year spurred lately by strong economic data and renewed hope for tax reform for business.

The focus this week: earnings. Stocks driven higher yesterday by strong reports from United Health and Johnson & Johnson. Today, expect reports from American Express and United.

Facebook's stock also hit an all-time-high after buying a polling app aimed at teens, TBH, to be honest, in case you don't know.

BRIGGS: I did not know.

ROMANS: Investor George Soros has given way the majority of his wealth, speaking of rich guys, Soros gave $18 billion of his $24 billion fortune to his foundation, the Open Society Foundation. The group combats authoritarianism and promotes human rights. Soros has been heavily involved in philanthropy for years. He's donated more than $30 billion to various causes.

Google finds itself in this uproar over cupcakes. Google Maps removing a new addition. It's a calorie counter. It shows users how many calories they burn if you walk. It converts those calories into mini cupcakes. For example, 300 calories is almost three mini cupcakes. Sounds pretty straightforward.

Goggle intended the feature to promote healthy living. But then it ignited this backlash online. Users claimed it triggered those with eating disorders, or shamed those who didn't walk. A Google spokesman told CNN it pulled the feature due to the strong feedback. And I knew you would like that.

BRIGGS: Come on! Does anything not enrage people these days? Give me a break.

ROMANS: Cupcakes are a snowflake safe zone thing. I didn't know that.

BRIGGS: You can't do anything more.


BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START continues right now with the latest fallout from the president's remarks to a family of those who lost a soldier.


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.


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 subsidies to insurers, a new plan is coming together to keep them.