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President Trump's Questionable Comment; New Obamacare Fix?; Fall of Raqqa: What's Next in ISIS Fight?; Cubs on the Brink. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 18, 2017 - 05:00   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.

[05:00:01] We'll tell you why.

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

Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START this Wednesday morning. It is Wednesday, isn't it? I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I do believe.

ROMANS: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

BRIGGS: It takes you a while at this time of the morning to recall what day it is.

I'm Dave Briggs. It is October, 18th, it's Wednesday. It's 5:00 in the East.

Thirteen 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 overheard this call.

ROMANS: 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 was in the car, she listened to part of that call on a 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.


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 there's still are a lot of questions that are not answered. Why are they out there? Why do they have such light armaments? Why didn't intelligence know that -- I mean, they were surrounded by 40 or 50 quite quickly.

BRIGGS: And let's hope that is the focus as we move forward.

But let's bring Zach Wolf, CNN politics digital director.

Good morning to you, Zach.

ROMANS: Hi, Zach.

BRIGGS: It's a tough situation no one wants to determine what ought to be said to the widow of a soldier.

All right. So, let's talk about I think what the president said about General Kelly's son when pressed on this issue. Listen.


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: Now, General Kelly lost his son on the battlefield. He is fiercely private, as you might imagine anyone would be. But what does that answer reveal to you about this president?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think it suggests that probably General Kelly or White House chief of staff Kelly and President Trump have talked about this and that Trump feels he's in the right or, you know, in some way he is putting himself up against the experience of General Kelly as informing him on how he's going to treat this going forward.

You know, it clearly got under his skin a little bit, this idea that he should have called the soldiers and didn't. So, you know, and he's come back to this a couple times now over the last couple of days. So, this is clearly an issue that really gets at him and he has talked about it with his staffers, including Kelly.


WOLF: So I find that really interesting. But let's start with the fact that this should not be a competition.

BRIGGS: That's -- thank you.

WOLF: It's a weird, weird thing, I think, that we're even having this discussion.

ROMANS: And it's so is hard --

BRIGGS: We completely agree with you there, Zach.

ROMANS: Because Dave and I have talked about this. I mean, these families are grieving and the focus should be on them, or maybe there shouldn't be a focus on them. They should be allowed to do this in private, but it has become a political issue in part because of the president's own reaction and the president's need to make it a competition.

But also, because the president's record on talking about the military, the Gold Start Khan family, the criticism and insults he's had about John McCain being captured. The president's own multiple deferments. He did not serve, you know?

So that is sort of why I think it is relevant here. But one hopes that this whole issue, Zach, is not politicized or these families are not politicized because of this.

WOLF: That's right. It's amazing and heartbreaking to hear the congresswoman's, you know, comments earlier. So, I think there will be more life to this story as we go forward.

But, you know, the way you framed it there in terms of his political attacks on the Khan family, in terms of his own attacks on McCain, I think those are probably easier conversations to have than to involve these grieving families.

[05:05:05] BRIGGS: Yes. And to button this up, I'm sure Trump supporters will tell you, the president's efforts have been to increase military spending across the board, and to clean up the mess of the V.A., something he has done and should get credit for doing.

ROMANS: All right. Stick with us for a second, because we want to talk about the mixed reaction on 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 in principle that would restore cost-sharing for two years. And in exchange, give states greater flexibility in Obamacare. More on that policy in just a moment.

BRIGGS: President Trump appears to support to the 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.

And that's where we return to Zach Wolf.

Zach, earlier in the week, the president said there is no such thing as Obamacare anymore. It is virtually dead. It's in its final legs. Now, what is it?

WOLF: Yes, that's a good question. He has been all over the map on the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, whatever you want to call it. He doesn't want to call it Obamacare anymore. Just the idea of President Obama seems to frustrate him.

But, you know, he is trying to sabotage it by ending payments that are unconstitutional or illegal. He is trying to, you know, move on in another direction. There were some suggestions that maybe he liked the bipartisan plan. Maybe he doesn't like the bipartisan plan. So, he has not settled on a place for that.

It would extend I think the current situation. But all of this gets to the point that the Republicans and President Trump don't really have a strategy to get beyond Obamacare at this point.

So -- go ahead.

ROMANS: We were just showing sort of the details of the Alexander- Murray deal. And they're still working on this up. But one thing I think is interesting it keeps the core requirements for what the plans must cover. That is essentially Obamacare, right?

Customers 30 plus can buy catastrophic copper plans. So, that's a nod to people who just wanted to get something cheap and simple.

BRIGGS: Yes, bare bones.

ROMANS: Bare bones. And it restores the $100 million for Obamacare outreach. Something the White House had been starving the open enrollment process, the advertising and the -- you know, last year they had navigators to help you call in or go physically talk to an Obamacare navigator who would help you figure out what was best for you.

So, there was help from the federal government to figure out the best plan. That's missing here. It comes back in in this deal.

So, does the president hate Obamacare, the subsidies, or does he now like the subsidies? I mean, he seems to have gone back and forth on this.

WOLF: Well, yes. I mean, he ended the subsidies. So, you know, we have to start there. And, you know, moving forward, he is essentially -- you know, one of our colleagues, Ron Brownstein, referred to it as took a hostage, except he is harming the hostage as part of the negotiating tactics. And, you know, basically sabotaging a law but suggesting it would be OK to keep the law, it sort of bespeaks this difficulty that Republicans are having.

And it's so important. You mentioned the open enrollment. That's coming up. And it's been in this uncovered story that if people don't sign up for Obamacare again, that could really jeopardize it too.

BRIGGS: Yes, and you fast forward to 2018, these exchanges will be propped up. And so, Republicans will be running on repeal and replace and propping up exchanges. It's going to be hard for voters to figure this out.

ROMANS: It's a Frankenstein. It's a health care Frankenstein.

WOLF: Right.

BRIGGS: Nice analogy. Zach Wolf, we'll see you in about 30 minutes.

ROMANS: Just in time for Halloween.

BRIGGS: Indeed, indeed.

All right. 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 emoluments 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 businesses any time he wants. Lawyers from the Justice Department asking the judge to dismiss the case.

ROMANS: All right. Nine minutes past the hour.

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


[05:13:40] ROMANS: All right. What's next in the fight against ISIS? 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 still working now to clear remaining threats. How does this all change the battle as ISIS loses physical territory and moves underground?

CNN's Arwa Damon is near the Iraq/Syria 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.

[05:15:09] 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.


BRIGGS: Great reporting from Arwa Damon.

Two Chicago airport security officers after forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked united flight back in April. Cellphone footage, as you remember, 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 bruised. Two other security officers have been suspended. Investigators found the officers made misleading statements and deliberately removed material facts from their reports.

ROMANS: All right. Growing fallout for a noted investor over his racist remarks. Marc Faber, he's often referred to as Dr. Doom, he said in 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.

BRIGGS: 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, he is standing by his comments. Despite at first saying he's not a racist, Faber now tells CNN by e-mail quote: If stating some historical facts makes me a racist, then I suppose that I am a racist.

ROMANS: All right then. Sixteen minutes past the hour.

One win away, the Dodgers put the defending champion Cubs on the brink of elimination in the NLCS. Coy Wire has the latest on "Bleacher Report", next.

BRIGGS: They've got their ring.


[05:21:20] BRIGGS: After debate rages over protests during the national anthem before NFL games, the league's policy remains unchanged.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report". Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Good morning to you, Dave.

I talked to one NFL executive who told me there would be a lot of discussion to catch up on. Also discussing possible next steps for allowing the players to use their platform and the league to create change in their communities. Well, both parties know, this is not a one month, six month or year long solution. It's going to take a long time to create changes in these communities.

Possible rule changes, to make players stand during the national anthem wasn't even discussed. Here's what Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins had to say coming out of the meeting.


MALCOLM JENKINS, EAGLES SAFETY: We will continue to brainstorm. Like I said, players will continue to do the work on the ground, that they've been doing in their communities as well as the teams, and I think will continue to talk over the next few weeks about how we can collaborate and make sure we tell the stories, that we take ownership in the narrative, and we clearly express to our country what the work is we're trying to do.


WIRE: Now, Colin Kaepernick's attorney said the former 49er who first started the movement of protesting during the national anthem was not invited by the league. But Jenkins said he was invited by players and didn't know why he did not show up.

The NBA's opening night came to a crashing halt. Warning, this is a graphic injury. New Celtic star Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome broken leg, and dislocated ankle. His new teammate Kyrie Irving called it one of the worst injuries he has ever seen.

How about this sportsmanship? LeBron James walking over and encouraging him. Dwyane Wade and Kevin Love. Hayward is expected to have surgery today. Hayward in Boston hurting today.

Playing on baseball's biggest stage, Yankees rookie Aaron Judge shows the poise of a trusty veteran. With his team down to 4-0 to the Astros in the 7th, Judge ignited Yankees faithful, sparked an epic comeback, launched in this tape measuring signature home run in center field there. This is an all rise moment.

He lifted his teammates to the occasion again in the eighth. Judge doubled to get the game back on track. The Bronx Bombers score four runs in the eighth. And Aroldis Chapman came and then it was a wrap. This was 6-4 win for the Yankees. Series now tied. Game five this afternoon at 5:00 Eastern.

The Dodgers now just one win away from eliminating the defending champions and reaching their first World Series in 29 years. Yu Darvish pitched a gem against the Cubs, which is exactly what L.A. expected when they traded for him in July. Seven strikeout, the native of Osaka, Japan, also getting it down at the plate, kind of.

Bases are loaded. He gets a walk. That's worthy of a bat flip there. Dodgers win 6-1. Los Angeles can wrap up it up with a win tonight on our sister channel TBS at 9:00 Eastern.

Let's an early start on your odds for your Cubbies, Christine. There are 34 teams since they have gone to a best of seven series in post- history who gone down 3-0. Great news, you have almost a 3 percent chance says history of coming back and getting it done for the Cubs.

BRIGGS: See? So you are saying there is a chance.

ROMANS: Better than a lottery ticket. Better than a lottery ticket.

All right. Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: You're welcome.

ROMANS: A Democratic congresswoman is seething this morning after President Trump told the widow of a slain American soldier her husband knew what he signed up for.

[05:25:05] 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.


ROMANS: That's a Democratic congresswoman angry after President Trump's phone call to a grieving military widow. We'll tell you what he said.

BRIGGS: And days after the president moved to end Obamacare subsidies to insurers, a new plan is coming together to keep them in place. What else is in the bipartisan proposal and can it pass Congress? They'll need 60 in the Senate. Of course, the House might be the biggest problem in this one. Some conservatives not on board.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's about 30 minutes past the hour on this Wednesday morning.

Thirteen 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 on of those calls is drawing outrage from a Florida congresswoman who said she heard it.