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The President's Assault On NATO Allies Has Diplomats Scratching Their Heads Ahead Of Today's Trip To The UK, FBI Agent Peter Strzok Testifies Publicly Today And Former FBI Lawyer, Lisa Page Could Be Alongside Him; , Thousands Of Asylum Seekers Maybe Turned Away At The Southern Border Because Of A New Trump Administration Policy, Stormy Daniels Arrested At A Strip Club In Ohio; The Former Wrestling Coach At Ohio State Is Coming To The Defense Of Congressman Jim Jordan; Papa John's Founder Is Trouble Again. Aired: 3:30-4:00a ET

Aired July 12, 2018 - 03:30   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, HOST, EARLY START: The President's assault on NATO allies has diplomats scratching their heads ahead of today's trip to the UK. The President calling for defense spending to double.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST, EARLY START: There are text fuelled claims of bias at the FBI. Could peter Strzok and Lisa Page testify side by side later today?

BRIGGS: And the founder and the face of the Papa John's, someone who you all know. He has resigned as Chairman of the Board. What he said on a company conference call that brought him down - some stunning racist remarks.

ROMANS: Company conference call with an image consultant, a PR consultancy about how to put on a better face for sensitivity.

BRIGGS: Not his first blunder. Papa John's pizza in big trouble this morning. Welcome back to "Early Start." I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour. Let's begin here with diplomats dumbfounded by President Trump's barrage of attacks on NATO allies. Right out of the gate, the President accused Germany of being a "captive of Russia." He called NATO members delinquent on their defense spending. Insisting they increase it immediately. The President's tone rattling the alliance.

BRIGSS: One senior European diplomat telling CNN quote, "It's like the world has gone crazy. Trump's performance was beyond belief." On policy, the President demanded member countries double their commitment for defense spending from 2% to 4%.

For the latest, let's turn to international diplomatic editor, Nick Robertson at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Good morning, Nick. What's the reaction there? We shouldn't be surprised by harsh rhetoric from this President. Is anyone there?

NICK ROBERTSON, INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR, CNN: Dave, I was just about to say the same thing to you. I think the diplomats and the leaders here, they knew something was coming. They couldn't predict precisely what it was going to be, but I don't think President Trump failed to deliver on their expectations.

But at the same time, I'm told he didn't deliver on their worst fears. Look, they knew he was going to come in tough and hard about the money, this suggestion to raise defense spending to 4% of GDP. President Trump over playing the United States' own commitment saying it was 4.2%, when in reality, it's about 3.5 something percent of GDP spent on defense spending which is a NATO commitment of 2%.

But the suggestion that it should go up to 4% and the heavy slap down of Germany as well, is something here that some officials are saying, "Look, this is not the unity that NATO needs to present to Russia right now." This is not the kind of disunity that we should be showing President Putin on the eve of President Trump's trip to go and meet him in Helsinki on Monday.

But another diplomat here told me that, "Look, President Trump is doing what we want him to do which is get more money from all these NATO allies into NATO's defense spending," because this was a Baltic state leader I was talking to because we're on the front line. We want NATO's pockets to be full of change when it comes to defense spending because we need that money. So, I think you've got views on both sides of the fence there, Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, the theme going in of this summit was strength and unity. It's more now in-fighting and division. But the President heads for UK for this long awaited visit there, and besides a blimp with a Trump baby, flying above the skies in London. What should we expect?

ROBERTSON: Ruckus street protests outside the residence where he'll be staying in London. He may not see that. He will likely fly on Air Force One, so he won't have to drive through it, but the concern is among British politicians that President Trump maybe dismayed and greatly upset would be the even bigger fear if he sees the scale of the protest. There's a possibility to have fortifications going up in London, but he won't be there. He won't be in Central London. Most of the time, he's going to have a big sumptuous dinner at Blenheim Palace, not quite a state dinner, but this was the residence - a country power - a huge country estate where Winston Churchill grew up.

So, that they are hoping - the British are hoping that that will appeal to President Trump, but then on Friday, he'll have tea with the Queen that's been high on his list of things to do as well, as well as lunch with the British Prime Minister, not one of his favorite politicians, but ...


ROBERTSON: ... this important messaging about Brexit and the special relationship, Dave.

BRIGGS: Right, a lot of questions. Will he reaffirm his support for Theresa May with all that's happening there, all the turmoil she is facing. Nick Robertson live for us in Brussels. Thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right, two countries closely watching the President - Germany and Russia. Europe is learning what the President meant when he said his meeting with Vladimir Putin could be easier than talks with America's friends. For more on the reaction from Germany and Russia, let's bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live from Moscow, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hi, Christine, yes, certainly the Russians are saying, look, they never would have expected the turmoil that they saw at that NATO summit. It was interesting to see on Russian government state run TV, I should say some pundits there saying, "Look, they never would have thought that President Trump would do Vladimir Putin's job for him rattling the NATO alliance."

The Russians have been fairly low key about that NATO meeting. They've said, "Look, the turmoil in NATO is none of our business," but at the same time, they have repeatedly been saying, obviously, they don't like the NATO alliance. They feel that NATO has been infringing on them and is a threat to Russia. So certainly, they don't mind seeing that.

And for them obviously, they believe that the optics of the Trump- Putin summit are going to be a lot better than the optics that you're seeing out of the NATO summit. So, the Russians certainly gearing up for that. One of the things that they quite concerned though, Christine is President Trump's talk about the pipeline between Russia and Germany because they do say it's a very, very important project to them. They say, it's an economic project, not a political project. So, that's one thing where they are saying that could be a real issue at that Trump-Putin summit coming up.

ROMANS: Yes, that summit is on Monday. Any reaction from the Kremlin and how all of this could effect that summit?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think at the moment the Kremlin is really trying to be fairly low key about all of this. They're saying, "Look, right now, it's good that these two Presidents are talking." It's the first time in a very long time. They believe that this could be a steppingstone for better relations, but it still is too early to tell. However, then if you look at some of the pundits and other politicians here in Russia, they are saying, they believe that this could be the dawn of new relations between President Trump and the Russian federation.

They believe that Russia could almost step into the role that Europe has had in the past as being one of the main partners of the United States, probably still very early to tell all of that. But, obviously they see that there could be some hitches along the way and Vladimir Putin, Christine, we have to always keep in mind is someone who is very, very good and very, very smart at negotiating. That's going to be a very tough one for President Trump.

ROMANS: I mean, step into the role of Europe. I mean, it's got an economy the size of smaller than Italy, but it is a nuclear power so it's kind of a unique situation in terms of its role on the world stage. All right, Fred, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: All right, President Trump's confrontational comments at NATO provoking a notably mixed reaction among Republicans here at home. Let's bring in White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond traveling with the President, Jeremy, good morning to you, what are you hearing?

JEREMY DIAMOND, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, CNN: Well, the President showed up just a little while ago for his first meetings of the day at NATO and he showed up conspicuously late for his first working session. It was a meeting with Georgia and Ukraine and the North Atlantic Council, the primary working body here at NATO. The President strolling in very leisurely about a half hour after that meeting began after most leaders were already seated and engaging in the session, which was focusing really on Russian aggression.

This comes of course just after the President rattled many of the US's NATO allies yesterday with some of his comments about defense spending and his comments in particular about Germany being a captive of Russia, but Washington has already tried to send this signal that the President is not necessarily speaking for the entire United States. The House and the Senate both passing non-binding resolutions expressing support for NATO and Senator Bob Corker, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also sounded off expressing some concern about some of the President's comments. Listen in.


BOB CORKER, US SENATOR, TENNESSEE, REPUBLICAN: The rhetoric to me is just damaging to us and damaging to others unnecessarily. I absolutely agree on the substance, but I think there are ways of communicating with your friends and sometimes, it feels like we punch our friends in the nose and hold our hand out to people that are working strongly against us.


DIAMOND: And so far, the President has not made any remarks today at NATO, but we will of course be standing by to see if he makes any similar comments as he did yesterday and later in the day of course, he'll be heading to London where he'll see some very visible signs of protest even if he may not from some of these NATO leaders here today.

BRIGGS: Not saying much, but strolling in casually 30 minutes late to a meeting about Russian aggression making quite a statement. Jeremy Diamond live for us this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, back here, FBI agent Peter Strzok testifies publicly today and former FBI lawyer, Lisa Page ...


ROMANS: ... could be alongside him. Their text messages have fuelled Republican claims of an anti-Trump bias at the bureau. Strzok and Page were having an affair during the Presidential campaign. Strzok appears before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Page defied a subpoena to appear privately before the Committees yesterday. BRIGGS: House Freedom Caucus leader, Mark Meadows said the Judiciary

Committee plans to give Page two options: Appear for a closed door interview later this week or testify alongside Strzok in public today. No confirmation yet whether she plans to take up either offer, even the President tweeting about this at 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time on his way to NATO meeting asking rhetorically when Attorney General Jeff Sessions would get involved.

ROMANS: Breaking over night, thousands of asylum seekers maybe turned away at the southern border because of a new Trump administration policy. Border officers who evaluate asylum and refugee applications have new guidance now. It orders them to reject claims based on fear of gang and domestic violence. Officers also now allowed to reject asylum claims by immigrants who cross the border illegally even if they have a legitimate fear of persecution.

BRIGGS: Administration officials say they expect reunifications to be finished by this morning for children under five separated at the border that excludes the 27 parents deemed ineligible because of criminal backgrounds or other issues, and a reunion appears imminent for the girl in this audio.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Foreign language).


ROMANS: The recording, a big part of the events that forced the President to reverse his border separation policy. Six year-old, Allison's mother, Cindy Madrid was released from a South Texas Detention Center last night. She now heads to Arizona where she hopes to see her daughter as early as tomorrow pending DNA results.

BRIGGS: All right, Stormy Daniels back in the news, arrested over night. We'll tell you why and what her lawyer is saying about this, next.


BRIGGS: Breaking over night, Stormy Daniels arrested at a strip club in Ohio. Michael Avenatti, the adult film star's attorney tweeted his client was taken into custody for allowing a customer to touch her while on stage. That appears to be a violation of an obscure Ohio law. Avenatti calls Daniel's arrest politically motivated. CNN has reached out to the Columbus Police Department for additional information.

ROMANS: America trade war with China is hurting American farmers. Last week, China slapped 25% tariffs of on soybeans pointed retaliation after the US hit China with tariffs worth $34 billion. Yesterday, the price of soybeans hit a ten-year low. It's down 13% now since the beginning of the year.

China is the world's largest buyer of American soybeans. US farmers sell about a third of their harvest there. They have warned the Trump administration, this tariff will hurt them at an already rocky time for the farm economy and those tariffs are designed to hurt them. Eighteen states grow the majority of US soybeans, all but two voted for President Trump. The Trump administration pledges to protect US farmers, but has not provided details.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote in a June OpEd, there are tools quote, "To protect farmers faced with losses," that could mean using government money to boost crop prices, that's a tactic the "Wall Street Journal's" editorial board slams writing that Trump wants taxpayers to bail out farmers hurt by his trade war. How about not hurting them in the first place?

BRIGGS: The former wrestling coach at Ohio State is coming to the defense of Congressman Jim Jordan. Jordan accused of ignoring allegations of sexual abuse against the team doctor when he was an assistant wrestling coach at the University. Russ Hellickson, the former head coach says he finds the whole situation disheartening, adding quote, "Athletes who I cherished and a coach who I respect to the highest possible level are being torn apart by semantics. Jim Jordan gave his heart and soul to the athletes. This is being driven by hysteria and politics."

ROMANS: House Speaker Paul Ryan, now the most high profile Republican to publicly support Jordan.


PAUL RYAN, HOUSE SPEAKER: I have always known Jim Jordan to me, a man of honesty and a man of integrity. I also want to make sure that Ohio State conducts the review of this doctor and what he did. That's important so that campuses are safe and I'm glad Jim is supporting that review. The Ethics Committee here investigates things that members do while they are here, not things that happened a couple of decades ago when they weren't in Congress.


ROMANS: Congressman Jordan denies knowing or being told about the team doctor's abuse while he worked at the school.

BRIGGS: In Arizona, a huge fire destroys the Safe Way Supermarket in north Phoenix. Billows of black smoke and flames roughly 30 feet high could be seen shooting from the roof. The three-alarm fire broke out just before 6:00 p.m. Wednesday. Firefighters immediately began clearing the store of customers and employees when the roof collapsed. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

ROMANS: Thank goodness no one was hurt. Also, thank goodness no one was hurt here. This is the video now of George Clooney's crash in Italy showing the very moment his scooter hit an oncoming car. Security footage obtained by an Italian newspaper shows the actor riding his scooter up a road in Sardinia on Tuesday. You can see he collides head on with a dark colored car. The impact sent Clooney high into the air, then smashing to the ground. The 57-year-old was taken to the hospital. He was later released with some bumps and bruises. He's recovering at home.

BRIGGS: Tough guy, Clooney.


ROMANS: Papa John's founder is in trouble, apologizing now for using a racial slur on a call designed to stop future PR disasters. Oh the irony. CNN news next.

BRIGGS: Joyful tears flow as family members of the rescued Thai soccer team get to see the boys through protective glass. The boys recovering in a hospital isolation unit after spending 18 days trapped underground. Some details of their harrowing rescue only now coming to light. Matt Rivers has the latest from Thailand.

MATT RIVERS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, a lot of new video here that we're seeing for the first time coming out in northern Thailand of videos released by the Thai government.


RIVERS: Let's start with the rescue attempt the Thai government releasing clips from the video they shot inside that cave, which show just an absolutely treacherous path for rescuers to try and carry these kids out.

What you see in that video is rescuers braving very dangerous conditions, carrying boys out on stretchers. At some points, they actually have to hoist the stretcher up onto a pulley system because parts of that cave were so steep that rescuers couldn't carry the stretchers safely, so they actually had to hoist the stretchers up to get the boys out. You see running water, you see how murky it is, just an incredibly difficult task for rescuers.

You also see them giving initial medical treatment inside that cave, so really good insight that we didn't have before into how difficult this rescue operation turned out to be for the brave volunteers and the Thai military and the international military. They came here to get these boys out.

So between the video of the rescue attempt and video of the hospital, we are getting more and more insight into this situation over all here in northern Thailand. Christine, Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Matt, thank you for that.

BRIGGS: Yes, some more great reporting from Matt. Croatia will make its first trip to the World Cup finals. They just seated England 2-1 in extra time in yesterday's semifinal in Moscow. Mario Mandzukic scoring a deciding goal in the 109th minute. After the match, he called the ump count a miracle. Croatia will meet France which last won the World Cup in 1998. Sunday 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.

ROMANS: Let's go check on CNN Money Stream this morning. US stocks fell yesterday, the Dow down more than 200 points after the US announced new tariffs on China worth $200 billion. Beijing vowed to fight back. Escalating trade tensions outweighed optimism for a strong earnings season. That kicks off this week.

Look at that, S&P 500 profits, they forecast to be 20% higher than last year. Right now, global stocks in US futures are recovering a bit. If you are on Twitter, don't be surprised to see your follower count drop. Twitter is purging tens of millions of suspicious accounts. Most people are only going to lose about four followers, but big accounts will see a more significant drop. Twitter says this move is worth it to make Twitter a more trusted service for public conversation. It's part of a broader effort to fight trolls, fake news and disinformation on the platform.

Papa John's founder is trouble again. John Schnatter is resigning as Chairman for using a racial slur on a call designed to stop future PR disasters. That's right, a conference call about PR strategy. "Forbes" says Schnatter used the "N" word during a role playing exercise. He complained that Colonel Sanders used the term without facing backlash, and said when he was growing up in Indiana, racists dragged black people to their death from their trucks.

Schnatter's comments were supposed to show he was against racism, but there were people on the call who were pretty offended at the use of the language and way it was used. Schnatter later apologized saying that quote, "Racism has no place in our society regardless of context." He stepped down, remember as CEO last year after he said Papa John's sales hurt by how the NFL handled the National Anthem protest. That pizza sales were down because players were kneeling.

BRIGGS: And they are in deep trouble. Investors - the stock is plummeting.

ROMANS: Yes ...


BRIGGS: The story continues to explode all over Twitter trending at this hour. "Early Start" continues right now with the latest on the President's visit to the NATO summit and his forthcoming visit ...

The President at the NATO summit in Brussels meeting with world leaders this morning and some harsh words for our ally, Germany. We will have live reports this morning from Brussels.

ROMANS: Their texts fueled claims of bias at the FBI. Could Peter Strzok and Lisa Page testify side by side later today?

BRIGGS: And Croatia overturned early to topple England at the World Cup. The final against France awaits this weekend. The President coming to England just as their team exits the World Cup, now it's all eyes on Theresa May and President Trump. Good morning, everyone, welcome to "Early Start." I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, July 12th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, 9:00 a.m. in London and 10:00 a.m. in Brussels. Diplomats dumbfounded by President Trump's barrage of attacks on a NATO allies. Right out of the gate, the President accused Germany of being quote, "a captive of Russia." He called NATO members delinquent on their defense spending, insisting they increase it immediately. The President's tone rattling the alliance.

BRIGGS: One senior European diplomat telling CNN quote," It's like the world has gone crazy.