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Trump Campaign Analytics Contractor Contacted WikiLeaks; Trump in His Own Words; Officials: Military Still Working to Arm Drones; North Korea to World: Take Nuke Threat "Literally". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:31:51] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: A Trump campaign contractor reached out to WikiLeaks during the election, trying to secure Hillary Clinton's private e-mails. Now, the campaign is distancing itself despite paying the firm millions of dollars.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a disgrace. I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. I'm a very negligent person. No hesitation. One of the great memories of all time.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: It was quite the spur of the moment news conference at the White House. What President Trump said about his intelligence, his relationships on the Hill and much more, and the unity in the Republican Party?

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

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Alisyn Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

And the closest connection yet between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks prompting many new questions this morning. "The Daily Beast" first to report that the head of a data analytics company that worked for the Trump campaign emailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

BRIGGS: Four sources telling CNN Cambridge Analytica CEO was seeking the tens of thousand of e-mails that Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server while she was the secretary of state.

For more, let's turn to CNN's Pamela Brown in Washington.



Sources tell CNN, the head of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm working for the Trump campaign reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the campaign, asking about Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails. Julian Assange acknowledged on Twitter that did happen and says he rejected the request. The head of that firm, Alexander Nix, sent an e-mail to several people, including top Republican donor Rebecca Mercer, relaying that he had e-mailed Assange, but sources say no one from the actual Trump campaign was on that email chain.

But for context here, WikiLeaks was responsible for releasing hacked emails from the DNC, and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's e- mails last year. Not Hillary Clinton's e-mails -- we don't even know if a third party ever obtained them. But WikiLeaks was directly connected to Russia by the intelligence community. So, this new revelation, I should say, established the closest known link between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. We should note, "The Daily Beast" is first to report the email outreach -- Alison and Dave.


KOSIK: OK, Pamela, thanks very much.

And after "The Daily Beast" published its story, the Trump campaign responded in a statement downplaying the role of Cambridge Analytica, without denying the company's outreach to WikiLeaks.

Here's what it says in part. After President Trump locked up the nomination, one of the most important decisions we made was to partner with the Republican National Committee on data analytics. We were proud to have worked with the RNC and its data experts and relied on them as our main source for data analytics.

Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory are false.

Fact check here, according to the Trump campaign's own FEC filings, it paid Cambridge Analytica almost $6 million between the Republican Convention in July and mid-December of last year.

[04:35:02] BRIGGS: All this as the law firm representing Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee confirms its client paid for opposition research on then candidate Donald Trump, and that research helps fund the now infamous dossier of allegations against the president and Russia.

President Trump claiming the Russia hoax, in his words, has now turned completely around.


TRUMP: Hillary Clinton always denied it. The Democrats always denied it. And now only because it's going to come out in a court case, they said, yes, they did it, they admitted it. And they're embarrassed by it. But I think it's a disgrace. It's just really -- it's very sad commentary on politics in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KOSIK: A source now tells CNN Hillary Clinton was not aware of Christopher Steele's dossier until "BuzzFeed" actually published the document earlier this year. Clinton said to be disappointed the research was not made public before the 2016 presidential election.

BRIGGS: Trump's comments on Wednesday coming as part of an impromptu news conference on the White House South Lawn, with the presidential chopper Marine One waiting to whisk him away, Mr. Trump said the media has been underplaying his intelligence.


TRUMP: I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. You know, people don't understand. I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I'm a very intelligent person. You know, the fact is, I think -- I really believe -- I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.


KOSIK: Well, bragging about his intelligence is practically a habit for President Trump. Just two weeks ago, he suggested he and his secretary of state should hold an IQ contest after Rex Tillerson privately called him a moron.

BRIGGS: The president still unable or unwilling to stop sparring with the widow of fallen U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson. He insists his condolence call to Myeshia Johnson was handled appropriately and denies her claim that he fumbled her husband's name.


TRUMP: I was really nice to her. I respect her. I respect her family. I certainly respect La David, who I, by the way, called La David right from the beginning just so you understand. They put a chart in front. La David, says La David Johnson.

So, I called, right from the beginning. There's no hesitation. One of the great memories of all time.


KOSIK: The president accused the media of not reporting on other phone calls he made to military families and he insists everyone else he spoke to couldn't have been nicer.

BRIGGS: President Trump also trying to balance attacking Republican senators he's mad it with keeping them in his political corner. It comes on the heels of harsh takedowns from Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. In a span of just seconds, the president slammed Senator Jeff Flake as unpopular in his home state of Arizona, and then claimed Flake and Corker would stand with him on tax reform.

Here's the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Actually, great unity in the Republican Party. Yesterday, I was -- that's OK. Look, you know, they have to do their thing. I think I'm probably helped greatly in Arizona by what happened with Senator Flake. I don't know Flake very well, but I know Bob Corker. I think they really would do it. I think they feel they have to do it for the country.


BRIGGS: Republican unity facing a new challenge with an establishment super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planning to attack Trump confident Steve Bannon personally. "The Washington Post" reporting the Senate leadership fund will spend millions highlighting Bannon's hard-line populism and attempting to link him to white nationalism. It's all part of an effort to protect GOP incumbents in tough primary races.

KOSIK: The bipartisan bill to stabilize Obamacare would cut the U.S. deficit. That's according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office. The deal actually reduces the deficit by $3.8 billion over the next decade and wouldn't change the number of insured Americans. Now, the bipartisan bill is authored by two senators Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Lamar Alexander. It actually restores cost sharing subsidy payments, shoring up the marketplace, and it allows states more say in how they carry out Obamacare.

Insurers rely on subsidy payments to help pay for almost 6 million low income Americans. Trump stopped them earlier this month, calling them a bailout for insurers. But Alexander and Murray said in a joint statements, the report proves otherwise that restoring benefits, taxpayers and low income Americans not insurance companies. I mean, the bottom line here is that there's this bipartisan bill sitting there and the ball is in the White House's court but the president doesn't seem to be interested in supporting those subsidies.

BRIGGS: Well, what you hear a lot is they want guidance from the White House.

[04:40:00] What kind of bill will they sign? That's what Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly. We need leadership on these issues.

KOSIK: They're not getting that --


All right. Ahead, the U.S. military had been looking to arm drones in Niger before the deadly assault on American soldiers. That and new details about what the American troops were doing before the attack. CNN live in Niger, next.



TRUMP: It's dangerous business I have to say. It's a dangerous business. So what? No, I didn't. Not specifically. But I have generals that are great generals. These are great

fighters. These are warriors. And I gave them authority to do what's right so that we win. That's the authority they have. I want to win.


BRIGGS: The president saying he did not specifically green light the mission in Niger that left four American soldiers dead in an ambush. President Trump had already empowered U.S. military leaders to train and assist partner governments in the fight against ISIS and other terror groups in the region.

[04:45:05] Now, new details are emerging about the ambush and the efforts before the attack to upgrade military assets in the region, including the authority to use armed drones.

We're very fortunate to have CNN's David McKenzie live in Niger with the latest.

Good morning to you, David. What are we learning?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, yes, that's right. Good morning.

Here in Niamey, the capital, you get a sense of just how insecure this region is. Though it's peaceful in the capital, any local you speak to here will say this ambush took place a few hours from where I'm standing on that volatile border between Niger and Mali.

Now, new questions still emerge being what happened and how it was that these four American soldiers were killed. And we're told this was a routine mission, because several attacks have happened against Nigerien soldiers in the past year, so it's known to be an area where these kind of ambushes do happen.

Also, new details emerging about how U.S. officials have been asking for the capability to arm their drones. They have a big drone base here but they haven't been armed. They used to be used in intelligence gathering and reconnaissance.

Now, it doesn't mean it would have made a big difference in this because even the French jets that was scrambled to the scene were unable to engage with the enemy I because of the close quarters of that fighting. We're also hearing from a senior U.S. official that new details are emerging on exactly who they were gathering intelligence on during this patrol. And it's a high level target, terror suspect who's linked with attacks in the region, particularly in neighboring Burkina Faso.

Now, that points to the regional threat that is posed by these groups that are loosely affiliated with ISIS and al Qaeda. That's exactly what the senior generals have said. They need to stamp out these groups before they develop territory like ISIS did in Iraq and Syria -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Still a lot of questions remain there. David McKenzie, live for us in Niger, thank you.

KOSIK: North Korea ramping up its threat to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. A senior North Korean official telling CNN's Will Ripley that the world should take the warning, quote, literally.

Will is the only western TV journalist in North Korea. He has more now from Pyongyang.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On the ground here in Pyongyang, a North Korean diplomat confirming what I've been hearing for a couple of weeks now. It is increasingly likely North Korea will go through with its threat to detonate a nuclear device aboveground, a test that could have far reaching implications.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The U.S. is talking about a military option and even practicing military moves. They're pressuring us on all fronts with sanctions. If you think this will lead to diplomacy, you're deeply mistaken.

RIPLEY: So then I asked what needs to happen for diplomacy to resume.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The U.S. needs to understand our new strategic power and fundamentally eliminate its hostile policy towards the DPRK.

RIPLEY: Should the world prepare for North Korea to detonate a nuclear device aboveground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader. So, I think you should take his words literally.

RIPLEY: If North Korea does go through with this, it would be the first atmospheric thermonuclear test in nearly four decades, since China did it back in 1980. And while the North Koreans say that nukes will actually keep the peace by preventing other countries from, in their view, bullying them, there's deep concern, especially among some circles in Washington, the Trump administration's response could lead this region down a very dangerous path. And also, there's the big question right now of timing with President Trump due to visit Asia in less than two weeks.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


KOSIK: It's amazing that he's there and I don't know if anybody's following his Instagram feed. I highly recommend it. Some great pictures from inside North Korea that you just won't see anywhere.

BRIGGS: No. You don't get his context. I'm on it. Thank you.

KOSIK: All right. 2017 is a record year for retail. Not a positive one. We're going to tell you why on CNN "Money Stream", next.


[04:53:54] KOSIK: A sheriff's deputy in Palm Beach county resigning after being charged with robbing the empty home of a dying man. The incident taking place while Hurricane Irma had South Florida in a state of emergency.

You're looking at surveillance video showing former Deputy Jason Cook actually going through the home of 85-year-old Moe Rossoff. Earlier in the evening, Rossoff fell, he hurt his head during a power outage. He was transported to a local hospital but did not survive.

BRIGGS: Officials say Deputy Cook came to the home later and entered through the garage using a security code he heard from previous police calls. Rossoff's sons were alerted to movement in the house by a surveillance camera.

Cook has confessed of taking drugs from the home and faces burglary and larceny charges. The Rossoff family calls the officer's actions outrageous and disgusting.

KOSIK: Just awful.

BRIGGS: It is indeed.

KOSIK: A cold front moving into the plains and tropical disturbance in the Caribbean. When they meet, it could mean for some very, very rough weather for the East Coast early next week on the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.

BRIGGS: That's right.

[04:55:00] KOSIK: Yes.

BRIGGS: Anniversary.

KOSIK: The timing is everything.

All right. Meteorologist Julie Martin, she joins us now with the forecast. Good morning.


JULIE MARTIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Alison and Dave, two shots of cold air coming into the country, all the way from the Plains over into the Northeast. We're looking at temperatures, certainly the coldest of the season. In fact, we could see snow piling up in Minnesota.

Eventually, that cold plunging all the way down to the Texas Panhandle. So, cold days ahead for many of us. Right now, take a look at the temperatures. Here in Chicago, the high 59 for your Thursday. That's going to be only 47 degrees by the time we hit Sunday. Thursday in Atlanta, 70 all the way down to 54 degrees on Sunday and

so on. So, definitely going to be seeing that cold filtering down to the South.

Also watching this tropical disturbance here off Central America, about a 40 percent chance of development with this. Basically what this will do is bring some more moisture to South Florida before getting picked up by this front. Once it does, it's going to race up the east coast likely stall out and we could be looking at a pretty coastal storm by Monday of next week. We'll keep you posted.


BRIGGS: Julie, thanks.

The U.S. Air Force briefly playing the Grinch that stole Christmas in a tweet denying the existence of Santa Claus. The Whiteman Air Force in Missouri and the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota had been bickering on Twitter Wednesday over which was better. That's when the official Air Force account tweeted this stern warning: We didn't want to have to do this, but if you two can't get along we must, Santa will bring you nothing this year because he isn't real.

KOSIK: Oh, my gosh. Keep the kids off Twitter.

BRIGGS: Come on, Air Force.

KOSIK: So, the headquarters also threatened to take away the base's TV privileges for a week. Hours later, the Air Force retracted the grinchly claim after "The Washington Examiner" picked up the story saying this, Santa is real, bluffing to get Whiteman Air Force Base and Team Minot in line. Tracking him in December.

But I think at this point, guys, the cat is out of the bag. I think they let it out.

BRIGGS: No, look, I don't know if any kids are attack at 4:56 a.m. If they are, Santa is real, kids.

KOSIK: So is the Tooth Fairy.

BRIGGS: OK, that's right.

Game 2 of the World Series, meanwhile, a true Fall Classic. Astros beat the Dodgers, 7-6 in 11, to tie the series with a game apiece. While, the theatrics, after Houston tied at the game in the ninth on a home run, second became Jose Altuve and short stop Carlos Correa, they went back to back in the tenth to give the Astros a 5-3 lead.

The rollercoaster just beginning, Dodgers come back. L.A. scores two in the bomb of the tenth on Yasiel Puig home run and Hernandez single ties it up again. Then, we go to the 11th, George Springer, a two run homer lifting the Astros to their first World Series win in franchise history. These two combined hit five home runs in extra innings, first time ever been done on a regular or post season.

World Series heads for Houston. Game 3 is on Friday. Unbelievable, heart stopping drama. What a game.

KOSIK: I'm getting into it now.

BRIGGS: Oh, you better. Friday night.

KOSIK: All right. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

Global stocks mostly higher after Wall Street pulled back records. In fact, the Dow and S&P 500 suffered their worst day in seven weeks. Why is that? Well, rising bond yields and soft earnings.

But overall, earning season has really been strong, 72 percent of the S&P 500 companies that have reported so far have beat expectations, and this is the busiest week of the earning season. Today, expect reports from big names like Alphabet, Microsoft, Intel, Ford and Amazon.

A Tesla factory is at the center of several discrimination lawsuits. Four lawsuits described a toxic culture at Tesla's electric car plant in California. Three workers compare the treatment of black workers to Jim Crow. While a female engineer says she was fired for suing over gender discrimination.

Tesla is just the latest Silicon Valley company to have workers allege discrimination. Tesla told CNN they take it seriously but there has never been a single proven case of discrimination against the company, not once.

OK, 2007 is a record year for retail. The industry just set an all- time high for store closures, more than 6,700 U.S. stores have closed since January 1. That beats the previous record of 6,163 which happened during the financial crisis.

We did see Walgreens to help push 2017's tally to a new high. It announced plans to close about 600 locations yesterday. We're seeing these retailers' woes being caused by online shopping. Others chains with big closing this year include Kmart, Sears, JCPenney, and Staples. We're seeing Amazon kind of pushing for that world domination.

BRIGGS: Amazonification. It's happening.


BRIGGS: More than the financial crisis. That is a staggering number.


BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START continues right now.