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EARLY START

President Trump Close to Making Supreme Court Pick; Rescue Teams Prepared to Evacuate Trapped Soccer Team; British Couple Exposed to Deadly Nerve Agent; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:14] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A full scale lobbying effort on both sides of the aisle, as the president narrows his short list for the Supreme Court.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The secretary of State on his way back to North Korea. Now Mike Pompeo has the task of finding a more concrete plan for denuclearization.

BRIGGS: And a July 4th protest at the feet of Lady Liberty. Police had to coax down a woman who said she was staying until all the children are released.

Outstanding fireworks last night here in New York City. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. We were asleep.

ROMANS: I know. I went to bed before that. But it's beautiful.

BRIGGS: It's always nice to see them on the 5th because we missed them.

ROMANS: I love to see -- I love to see the grand finale.

BRIGGS: Yes. Beautiful.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, 5th of July, 4:00 a.m. in the East, 5:00 p.m. in North Korea, and 3:00 p.m. in Thailand. Good morning, everyone.

President Trump expected to make a final decision on his pick for the Supreme Court as soon as today. His choice expected to be a closely guarded secret in an otherwise leak prone White House. An 11th hour lobbying campaign in full swing in Washington. Conservatives hoping to see their choice nominated while liberals are pushing moderate senators against supporting a hard right pick.

BRIGGS: So far the president has interviewed seven candidates, sources tell CNN. The president has narrowed it down to two or three options. All appeals court judges. Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge.

For the latest we turn to Jeff Zeleny at the White House. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and

Dave, President Trump is nearing a final decision on that pick for the Supreme Court. White House officials tell me that he is likely to make that decision either today or Friday. But of course not announce it until Monday evening here in a primetime address from the East Room of the White House.

Now the president of course has been interviewing at least seven contenders here at the White House this week. Vice President Mike Pence also talking to more than one contender, although we don't know how many. Now going into the weekend, the White House war room here that's been established, a group of aides to essentially start fighting the summer confirmation fight is going to have a list I'm told of two or three possible names.

They are not going to know who the president has decided. But they are going to gear up for this, you know, epic fight that is going to unfold across Washington. Now the president of course could always change his mine. It's one of the reasons also there will be two or three potential contenders. But he is narrowing in on a list.

Now one thing is interesting. A behind-the-scenes lobbying push also going on at the 11th hour with the president taking phone calls even as he was on the golf course or driving to the course on the 4th of July from some senators and from some conservative activists, clearly trying to persuade the president or have a final word of say -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Thank you for that, Jeff.

The "America First" president repeatedly floated the notion of invading Venezuela. A senior administration official tells CNN the president asked top advisers about it last August. Aides including then National Security adviser H.R. McMaster strongly urged him against the idea of invading Venezuela. They warned such a dramatic response to Venezuela's political and economic crisis could back fire.

Our source chalked up the president's comments to, quote, "thinking out loud." But the following day the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to rule out a military option and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they're dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Now over the next month, the president kept pressing Latin American leaders about invading Venezuela, including on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. All the leaders firmly opposed the idea. President Trump has repeatedly tried to ratchet up pressure on the socialist government of Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro. Overnight Maduro ordered Venezuela's armed forces not to lower their guard. He said no empire is going to choose for us.

ROMANS: All right. DNA testing is being conducted on separated migrant parents and children as part of the family reunification process. A federal official says it is a precaution against children being trafficked or smuggled by adults who claim to be their parents. But one immigration group calls the practice deplorable.

All those border visits by members of Congress could be slowing down the reunions. Homeland Security officials say visiting lawmakers are draining resources that would be dedicated to the separated families.

BRIGGS: One immigration attorney telling CNN nine clients received bond on Wednesday. A big step toward being reunited with their children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:05:04] JODI GOODWIN, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: One of them fell down on her knees and just cried. She couldn't believe it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Those clients will still have pay an immigration bond of $1500 to $$2500 before they are released. Then they have to figure out where their children were taken and work with Department of Health and Human Services to reunite them with their children.

ROMANS: All right. A woman who climbed to the robes of the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of those migrant families, she is in federal custody this morning. Authorities tried to talk Therese Okoumou down for three hours but she refused to leave until all migrant children she said in government custody were released. Earlier in the day other members of Okoumou's group unfurled a banner at the base of the statue, calling for the abolition of ICE.

At least seven people were arrested. Statue cruises that provide trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island had to turn away as many as 3,000 customers because of the police activity.

BRIGGS: Congressman Jim Jordan maintained he knew nothing about a team doctor abusing athletes at Ohio State University while he was assistant wrestling coach. The Ohio Republican says he is willing to speak to authorities and insists he does not have any record of investigators trying to contact him even though they say they have.

ROMANS: Jordan did receive e-mails over the course of several months from alleged victim Michael DiSabato. A source in the congressman's office says he did not respond because the volume of e-mails made him feel like -- the congressman, made him feel he was being bullied. His office will be contacting Capitol Hill Police over the e-mails, one of which came as late as 4:30 yesterday morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Mike wrestled for us, was a -- you know, was a friend. But something's changed. You know, it's -- you know, things he said are just not true. We knew of no abuse, never heard of abuse. If we had we would have reported it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: DiSabato denies bullying Congressman Jordan. Listen to what he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL DISABATO, FORMER OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY WRESTLER: Jim Jordan is a world caliber athlete who is very aggressive in his -- in his actions on -- I mean he is a bulldog. Let's be honest. And for him to say he was being bullied by Mike DiSabato is somewhat laughable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Congressman Jordan did acknowledge the team doctor would sometimes shower with the wrestlers but he claims the showers were open to faculty and staff and not merely student athletes.

ROMANS: All right. Rescue teams do now have an emergency plan to evacuate those boys trapped in a cave, if the situation worsens. For now crews are looking for another way in and weather is their biggest concern. We're going to go live to Thailand.

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[04:11:49] ROMANS: Tariff time. U.S. and China are gearing up for their next trade battle. Now Beijing says it will not take the first shot. At midnight tonight the U.S. will hit China with tariffs on $34 billion in goods. China vows to retaliate at the exact same time, hitting the U.S. with tariffs of equal value. But here's something really interesting. Beijing is 12 time zones ahead of Washington, meaning midnight there is noon in D.C.

Today Chinese officials have long said publicly they won't start a trade war with the U.S. so Beijing will have to wait 12 hours to put its tariffs into effect. The Finance Ministry writes, "We absolutely will not fire the first shot." The U.S. and China called a brief trade truce, remember, in May after several rounds of talks. But since then the Trump administration has ramped up trade actions against China, a punishment for stealing tech and trade secrets.

The U.S. tariffs target the high-tech industries China vows to dominate, aerospace, robotics, autos. China plans to hit high value American exports, crude oil, and cash crops like soybeans. Now those farm goods are strategic. They hit states that voted for President Trump.

All right. One suspect in custody this morning and a nationwide manhunt is on for three others accused of raping two teenage sisters in northern Ohio. Police say all three of these men are dangerous. It is unknown whether they are traveling together. Authorities in Bowling Green say the sisters were staying at a motel with their parents last week when the four men attacked them. One suspect arrested the next day. He is being held on a $50,000 bond. Officials say all four suspects had fraudulent paperwork claiming they are -- authorities say they are immigrant workers. ICE also involved in the manhunt.

BRIGGS: Authorities in Arizona say a 92-year-old woman shot and killed her son because she did not want to be sent to an assisted living facility. Anna Mae Blessing faces first-degree murder and other charges. Documents say the son's girlfriend heard Blessing tell her son she was tired of the way he treated her. Officials say after shooting her son on Monday Blessing pointed two guns at the girlfriend who disarmed her. Then they say Blessing sat on a recliner until deputies arrived. Information on Blessing's attorney was not immediately available.

ROMANS: The third largest wildfire in Colorado's history has now grown to over 95,000 acres. A cold front passing through the area on Wednesday slowed down the Spring Creek Fire. But it's still only 5 percent contained and more evacuations could be coming.

Moving west to California's County Fire has charred nearly 83,000 acres. It's only 25 percent contained this morning. Officials are warning dry vegetation and gusting winds could fuel the fire's growth. There are about 70 fires burning across the country right now covering 700,000 acres.

BRIGGS: Rain and lots of it dampening 4th of July celebrations in Houston. The National Weather Service reporting up to eight inches of rain fell in 24 hours leaving streets in the Houston area under water. Fire crews had to drive through flooded roads to respond to emergency calls. Look at this video. The rising water stopping a Houston city bus in its tracks. The water coming all the way up to the door and on to the floor of the bus. A flash flood watch in Houston expired overnight.

[04:15:04] Texas governor says the state is offering assistance to those affected by the flooding in Houston.

ROMANS: All right. A cool-down finally on the way but not just yet. The rest of the holiday week forecast is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: All right. The latest now on that trapped soccer team in a cave in Thailand. The prevailing wisdom among experts is having the trapped boys dive out of the cave is a last resort. Twelve days into the ordeal of the regent['s governor saying this morning that weather is the big worry and pulling those 12 boys and their soccer coach to safety.

[04:20:03] They went on to say even though they are pumping water out of the cave monsoon season is just beginning and water continues to flow in. No matter what.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Darkness, cold, rushing wear and time. Rescuers have to deal with all these elements to bring these young men back into the sunshine and right now it's not at all clear how they're going to do that.

Let's bring in a model of the mountain that holds this cave to talk about the challenges they face. This is where the boys went in, here. They traveled more than a mile into the mountain, more than a half mile down. And although there are no really detailed maps of the interior of this cave we can explain what happened in sort of a hypothetical sense with a cross-section of a make-believe cave here.

When the boys came in and traveled into the cave, obviously there were sections that went up and sections that went down. Then when the water rushed in behind them it filled in many of those gaps, some to the point where they could not be passed. How many, we don't know. Are they as long as a house, long as a football field? We don't know.

But we know that experienced divers were taking a lot of time to go from here to there and would have to bring the boys back through it and there are several challenges. First of all, some of these boys are unable to swim. Now that's not necessarily a big deal because the diver could grab them and simply tow them through the water. But they would have to go for considerable periods of time breathing through scuba gear which could be very disorienting.

It is murky, hard to see things and heavy current. There are many cramped passageways. All that of have very difficult to manage especially if the kids have been on a ledge with no food, and the cold and the dark. And lastly all of that can lead to panic, which could be dangerous for both the rescuers and those who are being rescued.

But what are the alternatives? Well, they could try to dig through the ground as they did in Chile back in 2010 to rescue those miners, you may recall. But that took three different tunnels one of which finally broke through, and more than two months before they were able to finally have these very happy scenes.

They could take supplies to the boys sitting on the shelves down there. They could try to just keep them healthy while they pumped water and waited for the rains to ease up. But that could be a very long process. Remember the monsoon season has just starred there and it could go on for months.

ROMANS: And it could be dangerous if there is all that water they have to pumping it all out.

All right. Thanks, Tom Foreman.

Police say a couple in southern England was exposed to the same military grade nerve agent used against a former Russian spy and his daughter back in March. Now investigators are trying to determine if the two cases are somehow connected.

Erin McLaughlin live from Amesbury, England.

This is just fascinating, all that decontamination that they did in Salisbury after that event in March. And now a new event.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. Serious questions that have yet to be answered by authorities. This is a mystery that has this entire area of England on edge. Just how did a seemingly ordinary British couple, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, in the mid-40s, suddenly become exposed to a military grade nerve agent that's been described by British officials as a weapon of mass destruction.

The same nerve agent that was used to poison a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter not far from here, about nine miles away in Salisbury four months ago. Now authorities have cordoned off a number of areas that this couple thought to have visited including a Baptist church, a local pharmacy as well as a park in Salisbury that the couple visited a day before they fell ill.

Authorities say they do not believe this couple was targeted. They are looking at the possibility that they somehow accidentally came across this nerve agent which again has people here in this tiny village extremely nervous. At this point authorities are saying that the risk to public health is low. They are urging, though, people here who visited any of the sites that have been now cordoned off to wash clothes and other items. But that is small comfort for people here -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes. Terrifying. All right. Thanks so much for that.

BRIGGS: All right. The Indonesian government says the captain of the ferry that capsized off its coast on Tuesday deliberately crashed the vessel into shallow waters when he realized it was sinking. Officials say the captain was trying to save as many lives as possible. The ferry had a maximum capacity of 139 people. But there were 189 onboard. Chilling video here showed the passengers in orange life vests clinging to the side of the stricken ship as it was tilting into the water. 34 people died.

ROMANS: All right, 25 minutes past the hour. Another day of oppressive heat ahead but then a much needed cool-off in the Midwest and northeast.

[04:25:01] Here's meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good Thursday morning, Dave and Christine.

Our big weather stories today continue to be the heat on both of the coasts. The East Coast continues to be hot and humid. The West Coast starts to see the mercury in the thermometer climb but without the humidity. We'll explain both in just one moment.

But look at this. We have over 80 million Americans under a heat advisory, watch or warning. When you factor in the humidity on the East Coast, temperatures will feel in excess of 110 degrees, especially in parts of Arkansas and into western sections of Tennessee.

Now the southwest, that's a different story. Triple-digit heat expected this weekend but it's without the humidity. Places like Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Phoenix, this will be a big story for us here. High temps ranging anywhere from 110 degrees upwards.

Here is today's heat index. St. Louis, 104; 89 for New York. D.C. and Charlotte both at 97. You can see a brief cool-down before more warmth starts to settle in for the second half of next week. A seven- day forecast for New York City calls for comfortable temperatures by Saturday, finally.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: All right. Thank you, my friend.

If you haven't had breakfast, folks. Brace yourself. Joey Chestnut, nicknamed Jaws and for good reason devoured a record breaking 74 hotdogs and buns.

ROMANS: I can't even watch the video. It's so gross.

BRIGGS: It's just plain nasty, Romans. That happened in 10 minutes to win the 4th of July Nathan's hotdog eating contest. For the 11th time in 12 years, folks. That's more than 22,000 calories in 10 minutes. It's the third time straight year that Chestnut has broken his own hotdog eating record. Well done, Joey.

In the women's contest Mickey Pseudo won her fifth straight title downing 37 dogs and buns.

How many do you think you could do? How many can you get down in 10 minutes?

ROMANS: In 10 minutes? I mean, I could eat four or five hotdogs in 10 minutes.

BRIGGS: Four or five?

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: That ain't bad.

ROMANS: I couldn't gorge on it like that and I wouldn't feel good.

BRIGGS: Not sure I could get down four or five.

ROMANS: You could eat four hotdogs, couldn't you? Yes, you could.

BRIGGS: Yes, you're right. You're right.

ROMANS: All right. All right.

BRIGGS: I could do hotdogs.

ROMANS: This is a challenge. I'm going to challenge you. That's a Friday afternoon challenge.

BRIGGS: After the show. OK?

ROMANS: All right. No shortage of headlines this post-holiday morning. The secretary of State en route to North Korea. In the UK two more people poisoned with a nerve agent. The president could decide his Supreme Court nominee as soon as today. And in Thailand rescue teams looking above ground for ways to rescue a soccer team from an underwater cave.

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