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JFK Files Revealed; Trump Influenced Lifting of Informant's Gag Order; Niger Ambush Investigation; Defense Secretary Mattis Visits Korean DMZ. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 27, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:51] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The veil is lifted on long held secrets about the JFK assassination. Mob hits on Castro, threats on Lee Harvey Oswald, and the amazing cliff-hanger. Was Oswald an agent of the CIA?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: An FBI informant can now testify about Russian attempts to gain influence in the U.S. But did President Trump push that through for political payback on Hillary Clinton?

Welcome back and good morning. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 31 minutes past the hour. What an intriguing story on this JFK stuff.

KOSIK: It reads like a movie script, doesn't it?

Plenty of intrigue following the release of the JFK files by the Trump administration. Was Lee Harvey Oswald acting as an agent of the CIA? That questioning remaining unanswered this morning. While the White House did release over 2,800 records, roughly 300 others were kept classified because of national security concerns. More on that in a moment.

But, first, some highlights, like the CIA director under LBJ and Nixon suddenly cut short just before answering a critical question and records from a 1975 deposition, Richard Helms, who was the deputy CIA director under JFK is asked whether there was information involved with the assassination of President Kennedy which in any way shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way a CIA agent or an agent?

The document ends suddenly without the rest of Helms' response.

KOSIK: A cliffhanger.

Also in the documents, a 1975 report on the CIA's role in foreign assassination. Robert Kennedy telling the FBI that he learned the CIA hired an intermediary to approach a mobster and that mobster was offered $150,000 to go into Cuba and kill Fidel Castro. One option, poisoning him with botulism pills.

BRIGGS: And there's an FBI memo from the New Orleans field office three months before the JFK assassination. It describes monitoring the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and says the group's activities dropped off considerably after the departure of member Lee Harvey Oswald.

KOSIK: Also the FBI received a telephone threat on Oswald as life the day before he was murdered. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover confirming the call was from a man talking in a calm voice saying he was a member of a committee to kill Oswald. Hoover also on record saying Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby, denied making that call.

BRIGGS: Other highlights include a Cuban intel officer claiming to know Oswald. And two months before JFK's assassination, Oswald was intercepted speaking to a KGB officer in broken Russian.

ROMANS: OK. Back to President Trump, a senior administration official says last minute request from intelligence and law enforcement agencies resulted in what they call a messy process leading up to the release of the Kennedy files. The White House did not receive all of the requests until yesterday that left aides scrambling to funnel all of the information to the president.

BRIGGS: One official says he was unhappy with the level of redactions. That's why the president has directed the agencies to further review their reasons for keeping some of the records secret and report back within 180 days, so we could get more information in six months, including the potential answer to that cliff-hanger about whether Oswald was in fact a CIA agent.

Elsewhere, some serious new ethical questions facing the president and Justice Department this morning after it emerged the president personally influenced the decision to lift the gag order on an undercover informant. All of this circling back to who else? Hillary Clinton. The informant played a critical role in the FBI investigation of Russia's efforts to gain influence in the U.S. uranium industry while Clinton was secretary of state.

KOSIK: Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley publicly called on the Justice Department to lift the gag order blocking the informant from speaking to Congress. The Justice Department can do so but there are rules, limiting White House involvement in criminal law enforcement matters like this one.

[04:35:06] BRIGGS: The informant's lawyer confirming the FBI cleared her client to speak about Moscow's effort to gain influence with the Clintons. The question now: did President Trump improperly exert his influence to punish Hillary Clinton and change the subject?

CNN's Gloria Borger has more from Washington.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Alison and Dave, sources tell CNN that President Trump made it clear he wanted to lift the gag order against an undercover informant who played a critical role in an FBI investigation into Russian efforts to gain influence in the U.S. uranium industry. That was during the Obama administration when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The president directed his senior staff, we're told, to, quote, facilitate the Justice Department's full cooperation in lifting the order, and sources are telling us that the White House counsel Don McGahn then relayed that message to the Justice Department.

Of course, the president has been very interested in this story for some time and the other day, he called it one the biggest stories since Watergate. His staff says he wanted to lift the gag order because he wants to be transparent.

But there's a political backdrop here and this story has been going around for a long time. The story is that the Russians paid what amounted to bribes in the eyes of some to the Clinton Foundation, to garner goodwill from Secretary Clinton to get this uranium deal done. Clinton, of course, has said she has absolutely nothing to do with the decision that she knows nothing about this.

But this is a story the president keeps talking about, and this new testimony from this informant will certainly keep the story going.


KOSIK: OK, Gloria, thanks very much.

And a source tells CNN the president has expressed consistent frustration with the FBI and Justice Department for dragging their heels on the Russian uranium case and other matters. The White House referring all questions about the lifting of the informant's gag order to the Justice Department, the Justice Department refusing to comment.

BRIGGS: That has the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, threatening to launch yet another investigation. Congressman Schiff tweeting if president personally intervened at the DOJ to advance case against political opponent, it's beyond disturbing. I intend to pursue a new probe.

KOSIK: OK, after a long delay and growing bipartisan scrutiny, the State Department has finally issued a guidance on a new round of sanctions against Russian. It was due almost four weeks ago. Lawmakers from both parties have been questioning why the Trump administration missed the deadline and whether the delay reflected reluctance by the White House to implement the sanctions.

BRIGGS: Democratic senator of million and Arizona issuing a statement calling the move a step in the right direction toward holding Russia accountable for its attack on our election. But there are questions, concerns about the State Department's office, shutting down, possibly undermining the agency's ability to implement any sanctions.

KOSIK: OK, big news here. CBS may buy Aetna for $66 billion. "The Wall Street Journal" first reporting the bid. Both companies declining to comment to CNN. But if this merger, if it's approved, it would literally reshape the health care industry.

CVS owns both a huge drug store chain and pharmacy benefits system. Aetna is one of the nation's biggest insurers. Now, CVS was likely spurred to do this because of Amazon. Because Amazon, there's been a lot of talk getting licenses across the country to enter the pharmacy business, to sell pharmaceutical drugs. And it broke reports yesterday that Amazon received pharmacy licenses in several states with Aetna and CVS gained a huge number for its business.

The merger would be a boon for Aetna as well, because it creates a whole new avenue to grow its business and that's been critical for insurers to help offset losses from Obamacare. Aetna lost $900 million since 2014. In fact, it will exit the exchanges completely next year. It's one reason we're seeing Obamacare rating spiking in 2018.

Another reason we're seeing the spikes, because there's got to be this offset of President Trump cutting off these cost-sharing subsidies. Consumers can already check out next year's prices and silver premiums rising an average of 34 percent. You know, this possible marriage --

BRIGGS: It's earth-shattering.

KOSIK: It really is. I mean, you see because it's all because of Amazon sort of having this world takeover.

BRIGGS: Everything, the Amazonification. I'd like to figure out what in means for the consumer. Not a question we can answer right now. But the bargaining power this new conglomerate will have, what does that mean for prices or the consumer?

[04:40:06] KOSIK: That's a big question, and Amazon's really in the mix doing that because right now you're seeing Amazon getting in there and getting those prices down.

BRIGGS: Getting them down. You wonder if this, though, will counteract that. We can talk about this for the next couple of hours.

Exclusive CNN reporting ahead on the Niger ambush, one of the first soldiers on the scene says when he saw the unit the day before it didn't have enough protection in a high risk area. We're live on the ground in Niger, next on EARLY START.


BRIGGS: All right. We're getting new firsthand accounts of the deadly ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger earlier this month. Nigerien soldier whose unit was first on the scene after the attacks spoke exclusively to CNN.

[04:45:03] KOSIK: The soldier says they were ready to fight until the end. That same soldier also saw the Green Beret unit the day before, and was surprised by what he saw.

Let's get more now to Niger and bring in CNN's David McKenzie. So, we're getting some answers but a lot of questions as well.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Alison and Dave. This is coming from a Nigerien soldier who wanted to remain anonymous

and he's giving really striking details about what happened in the after math of the ambush. He was sent to the scene, to scramble to the scene, to try and support what was going on. And he said on the scene, he found American and Nigerien soldiers back-to-back, he said they were ready to fight to the death -- really lauding their bravery.

And given what wounded soldiers told them about the scale of that attack, it's incredible in a way that there weren't more casualties. He said there were several trucks on the scene, SUVs by these ISIS- linked militants that were supported by multiple motorcycle riders also attacking the American and Nigerian forces.

He did say the day before he came across the same patrol and he remarked it was unusual or surprising, he said, that they seemed lightly supported and without major air cover. Also mentioning they were just wearing baseball caps and t-shirts.

We shouldn't read too much into that detail but does raise questions of preparedness for this danger zone where the American and Nigerian forces went in to investigate and gather intelligence. There had been multiple attacks against the soldiers in that zone just this year -- Alisyn, Dave.

KOSIK: It is amazing to get those details from someone on the ground. There are still so many questions open.

All right. David McKenzie, live from Niger, thank you.

BRIGGS: Some great reporting there.

Overnight, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis visiting the demilitarize the zone that divides North and South Korea. Mattis saying the U.S. goal is a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, not war.

CNN's Paul Hancocks is live in Seoul South Korea with more.

Paula, good morning.


Well, standing at the DMZ, Secretary Mattis did once again say the U.S. does not want war. He was effectively quoting the U.S. secretary of the state, Rex Tillerson, saying the goal is not war. It's the complete irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. No mentioned of U.S. president Donald Trump, though, with those off-the- cuff remarks and those tweets, not always seeming to have the same opinion as a secretary of defense and secretary of state.

Now, one interesting thing that happened there, as he was looking across the DMZ, looking into North Korea, he did ask his South Korean counterpart, how many artillery units do you thinking are over there? To that, the South Korean minister said that, in my opinion, a defensive operation against this many is unfeasible, saying, that it's just not possible to defend completely against the sheer number of artillery units that are facing South Korea.

So, once again, pointing out that a military option would be catastrophic to South Korea. Mattis also talking to the troops saying the diplomatic is most important but needs to be backed up by a strong military -- Dave.

BRIGGS: This all ahead of a pivotal trip to the region by President Trump. Paula Hancocks, live for us, thanks so much.

All right. A moment of levity, courtesy, Rex Tillerson. The secretary of state in Geneva at the U.S. mission when he spotted a sculpture tour of two people huddled in the shape of a ball while touring a local park. Rex seemed to relate.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's some days I feel like I need to do that. Curl up in a ball.


BRIGGS: Oh, Twitter remarked, we are all Rex Tillerson. Secretary wrapping up a trip that included stops in Riyadh, Doha, Kabul, Baghdad, Islamabad and New Delhi. The overarching them of his visits -- defeating terrorism. Rex some days just wants to curl up in a ball, as well do, Alisyn.

KOSIK: See, he is human. They are human after all.

BRIGGS: It's nice to see a little relatable moment with the secretary.

KOSIK: Absolutely, yes.

All right. Wal-Mart is bringing something new to its stores: robots. What does it mean for workers? Details on CNN "Money Stream" next.


[04:54:02] BRIGGS: Political journalist Mark Halperin facing career fallout amid new sexual allegations. Penguin Press scrapping plans to publish the 2016 installment of "Game Change", and HBO cancelled a mini-series based on the book. Showtime is re-evaluating its relationship with Halperin, who co-hosts the network series "Circus", and MSNBC putting his political analyst role on hold until questions about his past conduct are, quote, fully understood.

KOSIK: CNN has reported five women claim Halperin sexually harassed them while he was political director at ABC News. Another woman has now gone on record describing an incident in his office in the 1990's. A spokesman for him has declined further comments. Halperin has issued a statement apologizing for his, quote, inappropriate behavior.

BRIGGS: Two women stranded at sea for five months back on land this morning. You can see here the coast guard rushing towards Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba of Honolulu. [04:55:06] one of the women who sees the rescue boat blowing kisses or arms outreach. Fortunately, they were both saved along with their dog. Turns out they set sail this spring from Honolulu to Tahiti. On Tuesday, a Taiwanese fishing vessel found them and immediately alerted officials. Luckily, the women prepared for a long trip with more than a year's worth of food.

KOSIK: I like how the cameras are going, so you felt the excitement. Can you only imagine being out there that along? And then they finally found you.

BRIGGS: The feeling of desperation you might get out there with no engine and just darkness for miles.

KOSIK: Winter storm warnings for the Midwest and a nor'easter in the forecast for the upcoming weekend. Let's get the latest from meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

Good morning.


IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, Dave and Alison.

Our first accumulating snowfall in the Midwest. It's not even Halloween yet. Talking winter storm warnings across northern Minnesota. How much snowfall? Anywhere from four to as much as half a foot. The snow is already falling.

Part of the storm system that will continue pushing east over the next few days on the backside, as you can imagine, big time cold, in fact, coldest temperatures who won't have a cross. Southeast so far this season, and this is going to be a wet system for the Northeast, it's going to be a wet one.

So, we're not talking snow for the northeast, just looking at rainfall and a lot of it. And this will continue Sunday, into the early part of next week. Florida, six inches of rainfall and look at that -- accompanied with some gusty winds anywhere from 30 to 40 miles per hour. That snow flying now for the first time significantly across the Midwest -- guys.


KOSIK: OK, Ivan, thanks very much.

Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning. Look right there global markets' higher after tech giants. Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon reporting strong results, boosting their shares after- hours.

U.S. stocks ended the day mostly higher off of some good corporate report cards. Today is the last day of the busiest week of the earning system. Expect to hear from ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Merck.

Uber is finally adding multiple stops to its ride. The company introduced this new tool that lets users add up to three stops per trip. Before they had to change their destination mid trip costing more overall. Only the latest version of the app will have the new feature. Make sure you download it.

This holiday season could be the best for retailers in years, that's according to a new Gallup poll. Americans plan to spend an extra $906 on gifts this year, the most since 2007, with more than a third planning to spend at lest $1,000. Consumers maybe spending, but more and more of that money is going online. It's causing problems for brick and mortar stores across the board. In fact 2017 just set the all-time record for store closing.

One retailer that's doing well, Wal-Mart is adding something new to its stories, robots. Shelf scanning robots to be exact. The machines move up and down the aisles looking for out of stock items and mislabeled products. Then they flag these to issues.

The company has been testing them for the past three years. It will now expand that test to 50 stores. Still, the company has been careful to pitch them as helping staff, not replacing them.

But many stores are cutting jobs as we see Amazon cutting into the foot traffic. Automation could bring further job loss. I still like the contact with the salesperson. I'm not so keen on robots but that's the way of future.

BRIGGS: It's amazing, every business store seems to have an Amazon element, does it not?


BRIGGS: EARLY START continues right now with the intriguing revelations about the JFK assassination. What we've learned and, frankly, what we have not. Every bit as intriguing.


BRIGGS: The veil lifted on long secrets about the Kennedy assassination. Was Lee Harvey Oswald an agent of the CIA? Amazing cliffhanger in this troll of documents.

KOSIK: An FBI informant can now testify about Russian attempts to gain influence in the U.S. but it President Trump push that through for political payback on Hillary Clinton?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. I'm still trying to get through all these dongs JFK documents since Friday, October 27th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Plenty of intrigue following this late release of the JFK files by the Trump administration. Was Lee Harvey Oswald acting as an agent of the CIA? Now, that question remains unanswered.