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President Reverses Course; Trump Questions Defending NATO Allies; American League Wins All Star Slugfest 8-6. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 18, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

I said it should have been, I don't see any reason why I wouldn't or why it wouldn't be Russia.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump trying to clean up the mess he made at the Helsinki summit, but now a new question -- did he negotiate a new security deal in private with Vladimir Putin?


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Let's say Montenegro joined last year, was attacked, why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?

TRUMP: I understand what you're saying. I've asked the same question.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: In another shot to the longstanding alliance, the president appears to be questioning the commitment to defend NATO allies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fall further back over the next couple weeks --


BRIGGS: Instant classic at the Major League Baseball all-star game. Ten home runs in ten innings. Who came out on top? We'll tell you in just a bit. The home run derby part two, it was.

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, July 18th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Good morning, everyone.

Twenty-four hours after President Trump sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community, the president did something almost as astounding, he admitted he made a mistake. Influential voices were telling the president he had to do something. It became clear, walking back his Helsinki remarks via Twitter would not be powerful enough. So, he invited cameras into the cabinet room to record him backing the intel community, but even that came with a caveat.


TRUMP: Let me be totally clear in saying that, and I've said this many times, I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. There's a lot of people out there. There was no collusion.


BRIGGS: Just in case he forgot to say no collusion, he wrote it right there onto his script in black sharpie complete with one "L."

As to why it took so long to launch into damage control, one official told us the president is surrounded by aides who don't disagree with him or are simply too afraid to. So, as the White House scrambled to respond to the overwhelming criticism, President Trump decided to say he had misspoken, even though he had backed up his original statement by saying Putin was, quote, extremely strong and powerful in his denial.

We get more now from Jeff Zeleny at the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the White House still in cleanup mode and damage control mode after the Helsinki summit earlier this week. President Trump, we are told, realized that this was a massive problem after, of course, seeing many of his friendliest advisers, from "Fox & Friends" to the conservative editorial pages of the "Wall Street Journal" to many supporters on Capitol Hill saying that he had to do something to address it.

So, we saw the president yesterday here at the White House trying to clean up what he said in Helsinki.

TRUMP: I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.

I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn't. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word would instead of wouldn't. The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why I wouldn't or why it wouldn't be Russia.

ZELENY: I am told by some people close to this administration that the president decided to go out and talk about this because he was hearing that it was unpatriotic, that he sounded unpatriotic. That certainly got to him.

So, the White House will find out if all the fallout is over or if it lingers. So many questions here at the White House and on Capitol Hill -- Dave and Christine.


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

Congress weighing next steps and possible responses to the Trump/Putin summit. Some Republicans saying the president's decision to walk back or try to walk back his Monday comments is a good first step. The big question now, whether pushback against Russia goes beyond rhetoric.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: There's a possibility that we may well take up legislation related to this. In the meantime, I think the Russians need to know that there are a lot of us who fully understand what happened in 2016, and it really better not happen again in 2018.


ROMANS: Marco Rubio is pushing a measure to impose sanctions on any country that interferes in the U.S. elections, and Senator Jeff Flake is working on a resolution reaffirming support for the intelligence community.

BRIGGS: Confusion and concern this morning after Russia announced it was ready to pursue security agreements reached in Helsinki by Presidents Putin and Trump.

[04:05:04] A Russian military spokesman said the agreements related to nuclear arms, Syria, and other topics, but the White House and Pentagon would not confirm any agreements had been reached.

The leaders met for about two hours with only translators present. It's not clear what they talked about. A spokesman says National Security Council officials are still reviewing the discussion.

ROMANS: The secrecy around the president's one-on-one meeting with Putin is not going over very well on Capitol Hill. Anderson Cooper asked Republican Congressman Will Hurd, a former CIA officer, whether he trusted the president to represent America's best interests.


REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: He didn't have a strategy, and I don't think he should be doing one-on-one meetings with heads of state because too much is at stake.


ROMANS: Several Democrats calling for the president's interpreter at that one-on-one to testify before Congress. That interpreter, Marina Gross, has translated for the State Department and other government entities.

BRIGGS: New information this morning about the timing of charges against those 12 Russian intelligence officers. Sources tell us the White House could have kept the announcement of the indictment quiet until after the summit but chose not to, despite the clear possibility it could impact the Helsinki meeting. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had been mindful of the upcoming summit and briefed Mr. Trump before he left for Europe. Sources say after Trump consulted with top aides, the White House told justice not to hold off.

ROMANS: Now that the summit and the World Cup are over, U.S. and British intelligence agencies are concerned Russia will ramp up its aggression once again. A U.S. intel official tells us that Russia did not want any high-profile incidents to mar the prestige of hosting the world's biggest sporting event.

BRIGGS: Former President Barack Obama in South Africa this morning, just about an hour from now he gives a town hall speech and takes questions from students at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg. Yesterday, giving the Nelson Mandela annual lecture, Mr. Obama did not mention Donald Trump by name, but he did lament the loss of shame in political leaders and repudiate the politics of fear and resentment.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections in some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. Don't you get a sense sometimes by -- again, I'm ad-libbing here -- that these people who are so intent on putting people down and pumping themselves up, that they're small-hearted, that there's something, something they're just afraid of.


BRIGGS: President Obama also speaking of the, quote, head-spinning and disturbing headlines we are seeing in these strange and uncertain times.

ROMANS: The former FBI Director James Comey is urging, quote, all who believe in this country's values to vote for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. The lifelong Republican tweeting last night: This Republican Congress has proven incapable of fulfilling the founders' design. That ambition must counteract ambition. Policy differences don't matter right now. History has its eyes on us.

Comey continues to be the target of harsh criticism by the president and allies over his role in the Clinton e-mail probe.

BRIGGS: Republican Congresswoman Martha Roby survived a primary runoff in Alabama last night. CNN projecting Roby has defeated former Democratic congressman turned pro -Trump conservative Bobby Bright. Roby had been viewed as vulnerable since the 2016 election. She insisted then nominee Trump step aside after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, but since then, Roby has been a reliable vote for the Trump agenda and the president endorsed her on Twitter last month.

ROMANS: The Trump administration is expecting North Korea to return the first group of remains of U.S. service members a week from Friday. July 27th is 65 years to the day after the signing of an armistice establishing the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Sunday the U.S. and North Korea agreed to restart the search effort to find the Americans who never returned home from the Korean War. President Trump made the return of remains a key pledge at the Singapore summit last month.

BRIGGS: More than 1,000 survivors of the Las Vegas massacre are being sued. Why the company that owns the hotel the shooter used as his perch is filing suit against the victims.


[04:13:58] ROMANS: All right, the U.S. keeps putting up trade barriers with key allies, just as the E.U. and Japan sign a free trade deal affecting a third of the global economy. Now, this deal eliminates tariffs on nearly all goods, European cheese and wine, cuts barriers for Japanese cars and electronics. Japan and the E.U. exchange about $150 billion in goods each year.

The European Council president calls this agreement the largest bilateral trade deal ever and says both the E.U. and Japan stand together against protectionism. That's a stark contrast to the policies of President Trump. The administration has hit America's biggest trading partners with tariffs and say more are on the way. Both the E.U. and Japan were affected by U.S. tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. The E.U. retaliated with tariffs on classic American goods like blue jeans, motorcycles and denim.

BRIGGS: New signs of concern this morning over President Trump's commitment to NATO allies. Fresh off his European visit, which included the latest NATO summit, the president spoke with Tucker Carlson of Fox News. He seemed to waver on whether the U.S. would come to the defense of all NATO member countries.


[04:15:03] TUCKER: Let's say Montenegro who joined last year, was attacked, why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that --

TRUMP: I understand what you're saying. I've asked the same question. You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people.

TUCKER: Yes, I'm not against Montenegro, or Albania.

TRUMP: By the way, they have very strong people. They have very aggressive people. They may get aggressive. And congratulations, you're in World War III.


BRIGGS: Hard-hitting interview.

The NATO treaty requires all neighbors to help defend others in the event they're attacked. Just last year, President Trump said he agreed with that commitment.

ROMANS: All right. The company that owns Mandalay Bay filing suit against a thousand Las Vegas massacre survivors. Now, this is part of a strategy to shield itself from lawsuits against the hotel. In the lawsuit, MGM Resort International argues it has no liability of any kind for the deadliest mass shooting in American history. The company is not seeking monetary damages. More than 2,500 people have filed or threaten lawsuits.

The attack last October left 58 dead and hundreds were injured. An attorney for hundreds of the victims says MGM is absolutely liable, claiming Mandalay Bay was negligent for letting Stephen Paddock inside with so many weapons. Nine months later, police have still not found a motive.

BRIGGS: In Texas, a death row inmate executed, despite objections from his victim's family. Christopher Young shot Hasmukh Patel during a robbery in 2004. The Patel family supported clemency to spare Young's life. The victim's son even came to Young's defense, saying he's a changed person.

In Young's final statement, the 34-year-old said this: I want to make sure the Patel family knows I love them like they love me. Make sure the kids and the world know I'm being executed and those kids I've been mentoring, keep this fight going.

ROMANS: Yes, forgiveness is a powerful thing.

The Thai soccer team and coach rescued from the cave last week will be released from the hospital today, a day ahead of schedule. Great news. In a few hours, they will make their first public appearance during a televised news conference. A Thai health official says all 12 boys and their coach are healthy physically and psychologically. They spent 18 days trapped under ground.

Can't wait to hear from them later today.

BRIGGS: Indeed. Fantastic news.

What would you do if your car died and you were 20 miles from work? One Alabama man decided to walk and got quite the prize for his adventure.


BRIGGS: President Trump left in the dark on intelligence, literally, as the lights went out Tuesday right as he said he had full faith in U.S. intelligence. The internet had some fun, as you might imagine, as did the president.

CNN's Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It wasn't nearly as dramatic as the time the lights came crashing down.


MOOS: While Bill and Hillary Clinton were preparing for a "60 minutes" interview.

But when President Trump spoke, it was as if the lights were listening.

TRUMP: I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies. Whoops, they just turned off the light. That must be the intelligence agencies.

There it goes. OK. You guys OK?

MOOS: The president stayed calm, but Twitter got excited.

Putin turned out the damn lights at the White House, read one tweet. The intelligence community has spoken read another.

Even the president allowed that it was --

TRUMP: Strange.

MOOS: Strange.

Evangelicals, do you need any more signs from a god, asked one critic?

Then the Twitter account identifying itself as god chimed in. Did you like it when the lights went out on him? That was me.

But it's not the first time this has happened.

TRUMP: So that we put them in our jails, because to put them in our jails, they didn't pay the electric bill. Oh, I like that much better!

MOOS: Then candidate Trump lit up when the lights went off at an Atlanta rally.

TRUMP: No, get those lights off! Let's go, ready? Turn off the lights! Turn off the lights!

MOOS: The chanting worked. Too much light, not enough light, nothing to do but make light of it.

TRUMP: As I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

TRUMP: Get those lights off!

MOOS: -- New York. TRUMP: There it goes. OK.


ROMANS: A little Jeanne Moos to start your morning.

BRIGGS: Always need that.

ROMANS: I know.

It was a Hollywood ending for what started as a nightmare. The night before Walter Carr's first day on the job with a moving company, his car broke down. Out of options, 20 miles from work, he decided to walk. His journey started at midnight to ensure an 8:00 a.m. arrival. Halfway through, Carr was stopped by police, who gave him a ride, breakfast, and a lift to work.

The CEO of the moving company found out about all this, walking 20 miles to work, and gave Carr a new set of wheels.


LUKE MARKLIN, GAVE EMPLOYEE A CAR: There's decisions in your life that are sometimes big that you make pretty quickly because they're the right thing to do, and this was one of them.

WALTER CARR, RECEIVED A CAR FROM EMPLOYER: I swear, it means a lot to me. There are people to thank. I'm just saying, to look at this story and be like, if Walter can do it, I know I can do it.


ROMANS: The family Walter Carr helped move started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Carr, which now tops $30,000.

BRIGGS: All right, the American League wins one of the wilder all- star games in recent memory, this one a slugfest from start to finish.

[04:25:02] Ten home runs overall. The A.L. led in the bottom of the ninth, when Cincinnati's Scooter Gennett tied the game at 5 with that 2-run shot there. But the American League got the lead back in the top of the tenth on back-to-back home runs and Alex Bregman and George Springer. The American league never trailed and held on to win, 8-6.

What a game, 25 strikeouts to go with those record home runs. Some of the biggest news of the night, though, came off the field. Orioles all-star Manny Machado on the verge of being traded to the Dodgers. Bad news for everyone else in that division.

In Helsinki, the president said he doesn't see any reason Russia would interfere in U.S. elections, but now --


TRUMP: The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia. I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.


BRIGGS: Does it? Is that enough to quiet critics, as members of Congress consider a more direct response to Moscow?