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How will Trump Respond; President Trump Blames Obama For Failing To Stop Assad; Russia Claims Israel Bombed Syrian Air Base; Trump Defends EPA Chief Against New Scrutiny; FBI, DOJ Take New Step To Hand Over Documents; Bus Hits Overpass; Trade Tensions Sink Stocks. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 04:30   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The world awaits President Trump's next move. How will he respond to another alleged chemical attack in Syria?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: And the President for the first time, he is calling out Vladimir Putin by name while Russia calls reports of a chemical attack a hoax.

KOSIK: And the Pentagon has to deny that the U.S. was behind the strike on the Syrian air base overnight. We are now learning more about who may had been behind it. Welcome back to "Early Start." Good morning, I'm Alison Kosik.

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt, it is now 30 minutes past the hour. The big question this morning hanging over Washington is how will President Trump respond to the horrific gas attack in Syria? Before we show you the very graphic video from eastern Ghouta, we want to warn you and suggest, to look away if you don't want to see these disturbing images.

Now CNN cannot independently verify what you are seeing in the footage which was taken by anti-government activists and doctors. The Assad regime for its part denies it is behind the apparent attack. President Trump on Sunday hinting on unspecified consequences to come, calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name. For the first time in two tweets saying, "Many dead, including women and children in mindless chemical attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification, another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. Sick."

KOSIK: The situation, is so intense in the hours after the tweet, that the administration was forced last night to deny Assad regime claims that the U.S. has launched an air strike against a Syrian airbase. Overnight, President Trump spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron. The White House saying after were the two agreed that the Assad regime must be held accountable. And that their governments would coordinate a strong joint response. For more, let us go now to CNN's Abby Phillip at the White House.


ABBY PHILIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: President Trump once again finds himself responding to an alleged chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Assad regime in Syria. This time, he's calling out Vladimir Putin and Russia and Iran for enabling Assad. He says there will be a big price to pay for this latest provocation. But President Trump also criticized his predecessor Barack Obama.

He wrote on Twitter, "If President Obama had crossed the stated red line in the sand, the Syrian disaster would have been ended long ago. Animal Assad, would had been history." But President Trump in the past had actually said that the President Obama should not have responded to Assad at the time. Now, he finds himself having drawn his own redline. And this is what the President's Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, said about the options available to President Trump now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is also possible, there will be another missile attack?

TOM BOSSERT, ADVISER, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: I would not take anything off the table. These are horrible photos, we are looking into the attack at this point.

PHILIP: The President's National Security Council, is expected to meet on Monday about the Syrian issue as is the U.N. Security Council, but President Trump is coming into the situation having said in recent weeks that he wants to pull the United States out of Syria all together. And of course, his national security team is not fully formed. He is so waiting for the confirmation of his CIA Director and his Secretary of State and his new National Security Adviser, John Bolton, he's first day on the job is today.


KOSIK: OK, Abby, thank you.

As we mentioned the Pentagon has to deny Syrian state meeting reports that the U.S. carried out a missile attack on an airbase in Homs. Let's get more now from CNN's ben Wedeman, he is in Beirut. Ben what is the latest that you are learning?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alison, this strike took place on the T-4 Air Base which is about 60 miles northeast of Damascus. Now, according to the Syrian Arab news agency, there were fatalities and casualties in that strike, but they were rather slim on the details.

However, just a little while ago, the Russian defense ministry put out a statement saying this strike was conducted by two Israeli F-15's that flew over Lebanon from where they fired missiles. Eight missiles. Five of which, according to the statement from the Russian defense ministry, were intercepted. Now the Israelis have declined to comment on this reports -- on the

reports of this strike as the French have said they didn't do it. The Americans say they didn't do it. So a good question actually who did?

[04:35:00] But Israel does have a history over the last few years of conducting as many as 100 air strikes on targets within Syria and on the 10th of February after an Iranian drone that was launched from the T-4 Base entered Israeli air space. Israeli planes did strike the T-4 Air Base and one Israeli F-16 was shot down by Syrian defense forces. Alison.

KOSIK: Let's talk about the timing for a second. If it was Israel to conduct this missile strike, what about the timing of this, is this in response to the alleged chemical attack?

WEDEMAN: It is not at all clear. And given the Israelis at the moment are being rather tight lipped, we don't know. We did hear several senior Israeli officials yesterday condemning the alleged chemical attack in Damascus, but beyond that, we don't really have much to go on. Keep in mind, of course, as I mentioned that over the last few years the Israelis had conducted more than 100 strikes within Syria. Often times targeting Iranian targets or Hezbollah convoys and that sort of thing, but in this instance, we simply don't know. Alison.

KOSIK: OK. CNN's Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, in the face of those heart wrenching images of children gasping and convulsing, Russia is calling the reports of these chemical attack a hoax. Russian's Foreign Ministry this morning claims that rebel forces in Syria are fabricating the allegations to provoke an international military intervention. Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Nic Robertson. And Nic, we just heard there from, Ben Wedeman, that Russia is saying that Israel is behind this strike. They put out a short misstatement, though it does have some details and what more are they saying?

ROBERTSON: Well, the Russians are pushing back very strongly on this idea that in their opinion that these allegations, the attack or opening a window for a U.S. or other strikes on Syria. And they have been very clear. France has strongest statement coming from the general military staff here saying it is a very serious and dangerous situation. That they will strike down any U.S. missiles and target U.S. carriers firing those missiles. That is a very strong language.

The Foreign Ministry is approaching this again with tough language calling it a hoax. Saying that this -- the allegations of the chemical attack are things that are propagated stories -- that are propagated by the terrorists on the ground inside Syria. But being very clear in a warning to the United States as well and anyone else who might consider targeting -- attacking targets inside Syria. Reminding the Russian servicemen on the ground in Syria at the invitation of -- at the invitation of the Syrian government.

This is how the foreign ministry words this precise statement about this situation. They say using farfetched and fabricated pre-text from military intervention in Syria by Russian servicemen are deployed at the request of the legitimate government is absolutely unacceptable and can lead to the most serious consequences.

So Russia of course taking this very seriously. Nothing yet from President Putin on President Trump saying that he is responsible for backing animal Assad as President Trump calls him. A rare attack personally on the Russian President by President Trump. Nothing on that yet. Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes. Of course the major fear that if the U.S. does responds, that there could be some sort of escalation between the U.S. and Russian side. Thank you, to Nic Robertson in Moscow.

KOSIK: President Trump is standing behind embattled EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, in the fate of new question about excessive spending for his security detail. A source with direct knowledge says Pruitt's unprecedented 24 hour protective detail, includes 19 agents and a fleet of at least 19 vehicles. That would put the cost well into the millions of dollars. The new scrutiny adds to questions about the $50 a night room Pruitt rented from energy lobbyist and his habit of flying first class on the taxpayer dime.

MARQUARDT: President Trump is responding to the new criticism of the EPA Chief with a tweet as he does, writing, "While security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats, because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean air and water, while saving U.S. billions of dollars. Rent was about market rate. Travel expenses, OK. Scott is doing a great job!" Trump's defense of Pruitt is not convincing for some Republican lawmakers who criticized the EPA chief on the Sunday morning political shows.


SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY, (R), LOUISIANA: Now these are unforced errors. They're stupid, but there are a lot (inaudible), but you can behave. I'm not -- I don't mean demo grade Mr. Pruitt, but don't go as he represents the President of the United States and it is hurting his boss. And he needs to stop.

[04:40:07] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And I think he has done a good job, but I'm looking to see the Oversight Committee is going to say. The one thing I can say, if you are the EPA administrator and two lobbyist change the locks, you got a problem.

SEN SUSAN COLLINS, (D) MAINE: The policy grounds of loan, I think Scott Pruitt is the wrong person to head the EPA.


MARQUARDT: President Trump is also on the defense of now about his Chief of Staff. Denying that General John Kelly's influence in the White House is on the wave. "The Washington Post" has reported that the relationship is tense with Kelly threatening to resign over disagreements with the President. He reportedly grew so frustrated in late March, over the firing of V.A. Secretary, David Shulkin, that he told colleagues, I'm out of here. He had to be calmed down by Defense Secretary, Mattis, and Homeland Security Secretary, Nielsen. President Trump calls the Post's report a hit job.

KOSIK: Today, the Justice Department is set to announce Chicago's top federal prosecutor will head of the effort to respond to a congressional demands for documents. The U.S. attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, will supervise documents production on a set of FBI controversy highlighted by Republicans.

On Saturday, President Trump again accusing the Justice Department of what he calls slow walking documents related to FISA abuse. The Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation in addition to other topics. He asked what the DOJ and FBI have to hide. The FBI recently announced, it was doubling the number of staffers working on the records requests.

MARQUARDT: All right. While Stormy Daniels' lawyer is trying once again to depose President Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen. Daniel's attorney, Michael Avenatti, is filing a motion in Federal Court in California on Sunday. He is seeking documents related to the $130,000 payoff that Daniels received from Cohen before the 2016 election. And he is calling for an expedited jury trial to determine the validity of the Non-Disclosure Agreement that the porn star signed with Cohen compelling her to keep quiet over her alleged affair with Mr. Trump.

KOSIK: I bet you are interested in this. Was your information exposed during Facebook's data leak? Well, you may soon find out. Facebook faces criticism for allowing Trump campaign consultants to access that information of 87 million users without their consent.

And beginning today, Facebook is going to be informing those users with detail messages on their news feeds. I guess, I have to log back on to Facebook, because I haven't been on and found out if I was one of those people. Anyway, the majority of more than 70 million are in the U.S. The rest live in the Philippines, Indonesia and U.K. Last week, Facebook raises the estimate of affected users from 50 million to 87 million, but over the weekend, the Facebook whistleblower warns that number could actually grow.

Either way, CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, accepts responsibility for Facebook's failure to protect user data. A crisis that has clearly angered users, advertisers and lawmakers. And now we are going to hear from Zuckerberg himself, he is heading to Capitol Hill. Beginning tomorrow, he is going to face questions from two congressional panels about how Facebook handles user data.

MARQUARDT: You can actually be able to download your data already --

KOSIK: Right.

MARQUARDT: -- and some people have been shocked of what's in there. No idea that they were revealing so much.

KOSIK: Estimating just liking and putting a comment here and a comment there. MARQUARDT: And mining not just your information, but your friends

information --

KOSIK: Right.

MARQUARDT: -- so a lot of questions for Mr. Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill.

National Guard troops are being deployed to the border by order of the President. CNN is on the ground in Texas.

KOSIK: And a frightening crashed of a bus full of school kids in New York overnight. The story behind this video ahead.


KOSIK: Welcome back. At this hour, Texas officials are deploying the first wave of National Guard troops to patrol the state's 1,200 mile long border with Mexico. Once those troops are in place and mission and requirements and locations are determined, thousands more could be deployed. Longstanding U.S. Laws bar actual immigration enforcement by the military. So the troops will be are limited to support tasks like training, construction and intelligence gathering. Let's get more now from CNN's Kaylee Hartung.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today, 250 National Guard troops will be in place in their operational roles along the Texas and Mexico border. Many of this troops arriving over the course of the weekend though were planners, they walked right into meetings with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol agents to discuss the resources that needed to be allocated in different areas of the border and determine the operational roles that the rest of the troops would be falling into.

At this point, we have no pictures to show you of troops lined up on the border. What we can show you, a look inside some of this meetings that were taking place over the weekend. Again, discussing the resources needed to be allocated. Handshakes shown through various military Twitter feeds, showing this border patrol agents welcoming National Guard troop leaders to their command posts.

Now, there is an important point to be made here. That Federal troops cannot be involved in any law enforcement capacity. So, you won't see National Guard troops apprehending anyone illegally trying to enter the United States rather, they will taking on roles that will allow the customs and border patrol agents to do their jobs better out in the field.

These National Guard troops will be taking over desk jobs, they'll be doing intelligence gathering and surveillance. Again, to allow border patrol agents more flexibility and visibility to get out in the field and secure the U.S. border.

(END VIDEO) KOSIK: OK, Kaylee, thank you and the chairman of the New York City

Council's Housing and Building Committee is calling for new sprinkler requirements at Donald Trump's property.

[04:50:00] One man died in a four alarm fire on it, the tower's 50th floor on Saturday. The new legislation will be announced this afternoon. Trump tower only has sprinklers on the first ten floors. Most of which are commercial.

In 1999, Mr. Trump lobbied heavily against the bill requiring high- rise buildings to install sprinkler systems. He avoided installing them after learning about a clause which exempts buildings put up before 1999. In addition to the one tenant death, six firefighters were injured on the 50th floor in Saturday's Trump tower fire.

MARQUARDT: And authorities are investigating after the roof of the charter bus carrying dozens students was sheared off. Police say the bus slammed into an overpass on Long Island in New York. More than 40 people were injured, at least six of them seriously. The bus was carrying 38 students from various Long Island high schools and five chaperons which has just returned from the European trip.

Investigators say they were heading from JFK Airport to a shopping mall to meet up with their parents. Police say the driver was being evaluated and did not seem to be familiar with the roadway's commercial vehicle height restrictions.

KOSIK: A jury is seated in the retrial of Bill Cosby. It is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. Eastern in Norristown Pennsylvania. The 80-year-old entertainer pleading not guilty to three accounts of aggravated indecent assault. Former Temple University employee Andrea Constand claims, Cosby drug and assaulted her in 2004, at his Philadelphia home. After opening statements this morning, prosecutors will call their first witnesses, they are expected to start with five women who claim Cosby sexually assaulted them in the same way he allegedly assaulted Miss Constand.

MARQUARDT: And later this morning also, Governor Rick Scott, is expected to announce that he is running for the U.S. Senate. Scott has two events scheduled today in Orlando and Fort Meyers in plans to declare his intentions live on Facebook at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

If he does challenges Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson, it will be one of the most anticipated and expensive races in the nation this fall. Nelson is seeking his fourth term in the Senate and plans to make President Trump a central figure in this race as will so many other Democrats over the next eight months.

KOSIK: Absolutely. Are you thinking of hitting the road this time of the year?

MARQUARDT: I think, it is inevitable. It's a big, big year.

KOSIK: You are going to have to dig deeper in your pocket, because you could be facing higher gas prices. In fact, the highest prices at the pump in years. Details on "CNN Money" next. [04:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: OK. Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning, as trade tension between the U.S. and China escalate. Fears of the trade war are shaking markets. The Dow lost 572 points, Friday, 2.3 percent. Led by big exporters like Boeing and Caterpillar. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 also following more than 2 percent. A trade war could be devastating for U.S investors, consumers and companies. It also threatens global growth.

So, this week, investors are hoping earning -- get a kind a turn the tide. First quarter earnings season kicks off Thursday with reports from some big banks site, BlackRock, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo. Analyst express a strong season saying, it is partly to corporate tax cut, but Wall Street can see a rebound today. Right now we are seeing global stocks and U.S. futures higher.

As the summer driving season approaches, Americans face the highest prices at the pump in years. The average price per gallon hit $2.70 last week. The highest level since 2015. I know you are asking why the jump. Oil major (ph), oil exporters continue to cut production. Crude oil prices are rising and that is pushing gas prices higher. Oh, but don't panic yet. Prices are still well below the all-time highs.

OK, so I know this, having a lot of kids, kids love YouTube, but advocacy groups accuse it of illegally profiting off underage viewers and wants YouTube to pay tens of billions of dollars in fines. The group claims YouTube is violating the child online privacy protection act. Asking the FTC to investigate under the law, of that the company has to notify parents before collecting data on kids under 13.

Now YouTube's terms of service say no one under 13 can have an account, but anyone can watch YouTube videos. And research shows 45 percent of kids between 8 and 12 years old, they've got a YouTube account. It is like the Wild, Wild West. They just go on as they -- just watch everything under the sun.

MARQUARDT: I don't have kids. And I cannot imagine what it's like to have kids in this day in age.

KOSIK: Scary.

MARQUARDT: Sure. All right. Well, "Early start" continues right now.

KOSIK: The world awaits President Trump's next move. How will he respond to another alleged chemical attack in Syria?

MARQUARDT: And the President for the first time is calling out Vladimir Putin by name, while Russia calls reports of a chemical attack in Syria, a hoax.

KOSIK: And the Pentagon has denied the U.S. was behind the strike on the Syrian air base overnight. And now we are learning the key U.S. ally may had been behind it. Good morning and welcome to "Early Start." I'm Alison Kosik.

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt. Always good to be with you.

KOSIK: Good morning to you.

MARQUARDT: Good morning. It is Monday, April 9th. It is 5:00 a.m. here in the East. Noon in Moscow and Beirut. Reports from those cities coming up in just a moment. But first, the big question hanging over Washington this morning. How will President Trump respond to the horrific gas attack over the weekend in Syria? Before we show you these very graphic video images from Eastern Ghouta, we want to warn you and suggest you look away if you don't want to see them.