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EARLY START

President Trump Attempts Damage Control And Walks Back His Helsinki Remarks; Former President Barack Obama Warns "Strongman Politics Are Ascendant"; Las Vegas Shooting Victims Facing Lawsuits; American League Wins All-Star Game Classic In Extra Innings. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 18, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:30:41] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

The sentence should have been I don't see any reason why I wouldn't -- or why it wouldn't be Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FOX NEWS: Let's say Montenegro joined last year's attack. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

BRIGGS: Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody.

As the conservative "New York Post" put it, "Whoopski!"

I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Let's begin there. More than 26-27 hours after President Trump sided with Vladimir Putin over his own Intelligence Community, the president did something almost as astounding. He actually 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 strong enough so he invited cameras into the cabinet room to record him backing the Intel Community, but even that came with a caveat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. It could be other people, also. There's a lot of people out there.

There was no collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: And just in case he forgot to say no collusion, he wrote it onto his script in black Sharpie (minus an "L".) Also noted, he crossed out a line about bringing anyone involved in the election meddling to justice.

As for why it took so long to launch the damage control, well, 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 backed up his original statement by saying Putin was quote "extremely strong and powerful" in his denial.

Jeff Zeleny has more from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the White House still in clean-up 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 page 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 -- we'll 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny.

Joining us this morning from Washington, "CNN POLITICS" digital director Zach Wolf.

Zach, you know -- OK, so let's give the president his mulligan on the 'wouldn't-would'. Then, there's 90 other minutes of press conference that were hair-raising for NATO -- for NATO countries and for American national interest.

Let's get a little bit of context around this -- some of the other things the president said at that press conference -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:35:05] ROMANS: The president is standing by all of the rest of that press conference, so does this clean-up clean it up?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, "CNN POLITICS": No, not at all, I don't think. And you played -- there is so much more to the press conference --

ROMANS: I know.

WOLF: -- as you said, that does -- you know, one key sentence -- oh, and you guys misheard me or I sort of misspoke a little bit, I don't think that's going to do much to undo what happened in Helsinki.

It could give some of his -- the mountain of people who are sort of turning against him on this, it could give them some breathing room to say well, he walked it back and that makes things different a little bit.

But it's not going to change essentially, what happened or the passivity he showed next to Putin. That's not going to go away.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Romans and I picture our kids cleaning up a pitcher of spilled juice with a Kleenex. It's something similar to that.

And then, there's Republicans. What can -- what are they willing to do?

Here is Mitch McConnell, far more forceful than the president, yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: So, Mitch McConnell doing what we would have liked the president to have done, which is draw a line, say what happened, and warn the Russians not to do it again.

But what can Republicans do and what do you expect them to do moving forward?

WOLF: And that was about as stern and forceful as you will see Mitch McConnell get. He is a cool customer and chooses his words very carefully.

So for him to be, number one, warning Putin outside of -- outside of Trump is something very interesting. And also, for him to be saying they could be doing things in the future, some of those have been thrown out there.

There's the idea of sanctions if Russia meddles or attacks the U.S. election in 2018 -- coming up. I think there's some evidence of that already. If that happens, they could do additional sanctions.

And don't forget, Russia is the one place where Congress has essentially already stood up to President Trump and they forced early -- an earlier raft of sanctions on him about a year ago.

ROMANS: The president sat down with Tucker Carlson from Fox in a really fascinating interview that will probably make the Russians happy because the president, again, questioning the U.S. commitment to NATO -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Let's say Montenegro joined last year's attack.

TRUMP: Right.

CARLSON: 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.

CARLSON: Yes, I'm not against them or Albania.

TRUMP: Right -- no. By the way, they're very strong people. They're very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and congratulations, you're in World War III.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And you could say there's a fundamental misunderstanding what NATO is supposed to do by being together --

BRIGGS: Or the interview is (ph).

ROMANS: -- you prevent -- your prevent --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- exactly what they're talking about there when you have this collective security agreement.

What does that say to you -- that interview?

WOLF: I think number one, that he doesn't understand exactly what NATO means. Number two, he doesn't understand that NATO -- the members have only come to the defense of the members one time and that was to defend the United States, so we benefit from it as well.

And number three, that he might not understand that Russia has taken land from countries in the region. They annexed Crimea. They've moved -- taken portions of land from other countries who are non-NATO members.

So, NATO is demonstrably constraining Russia in the region.

BRIGGS: And to that point on Crimea, again, no line was drawn at that press conference in Helsinki about that either.

Zach Wolf, thanks for being here from D.C. this morning.

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right.

Confusion this morning after Russia announced it was ready to pursue security agreements reached in Helsinki by Presidents Putin and Trump. 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 and it's not clear what they talked about. A spokesman says National Security Council officials are still reviewing the discussion.

ROMANS: Several Democrats calling for the president's interpreter at that one-on-one to testify before Congress.

Former President Barack Obama in South Africa this morning.

Right now, at this hour, he's giving a town hall speech. There he is, live. He's taking questions from students at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that, right away, is going to, I think lead to some better policies. So, all right, let's see, let's see --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The former president, 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 repudiated the politics of fear and resentment.

[05:40:08] Let's go to CNN's David McKenzie. He is live in Johannesburg where the president is holding a -- David.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

Yes, Barack Obama making a swing through the African continent. He is, right now, giving that town hall to young African leaders as part of his Obama Foundation. This is, in part, about his legacy as a former president.

But certainly, though he didn't name President Trump by name, he criticized a lot of those politics in a major speech in South Africa in front of thousands of people, really criticizing the take on climate change, on border control, and also just the way that leaders carry themselves in front of the people and the press.

Take a listen at a particularly pointed remark.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and 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 it -- that these people who are so intent on putting people down and pumping themselves up that they're small-hearted. That there's something they're just afraid of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKENZIE: Well, President -- former President Obama also said that he kind of doesn't understand how leaders today or politicians can ignore objective truth. So far, he's been careful, as many ex-presidents have been, not to directly criticize the current administration. But throughout his speaking engagements here he's throwing some barbs President Trump's way even if he's being typically oblique about it -- Christine, Dave.

ROMANS: All right, David McKenzie in Johannesburg. Thank you for that.

Former FBI director James Comey is urging 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. Police differences don't matter right now. History has its eyes on us."

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

BRIGGS: All right.

Ahead, 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.

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[05:47:14] BRIGGS: A sight you rarely see -- a funnel cloud over New York City, part of big storms that rolled through the northeast bringing temps down sharply.

More from meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

Yes, yesterday's storms -- big-time storms in place on Tuesday afternoon. We're talking about 1,500 flights being cancelled, some 4,000 flights being delayed almost exclusively as a result of a line of storms that pushed through into the early afternoon hours.

It prompted over 100 wind damage reports and about 18 hail reports, but it was all about the wind across the northeast that really caused the major disruption.

And with all of this, cooler air filtering in, at least slightly cooler because look at Washington. It's goes from 92 yesterday to 84 degrees today. In Boston, 91, down to 82. Even New York City a couple of notches cooler.

And certainly felt across parts of the Midwest where in places like Cleveland, even Morgantown, temps a good 10 degrees cooler. So at least we have that to look forward to.

The severe weather risk has shifted well back in towards the Plains. Omaha, one of the areas of concern.

Large hail and wind, once again, are the main concerns across this region. Isolated tornadoes certainly going to be left into the forecast but again, remaining very isolated.

And big-time heat still the story. In fact, parts of Texas, parts of the south really begin to warm up, among the warmest temps we've seen in years across this region. Dallas up to 108 degrees by Friday afternoon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Pedram. Thank you so much for that.

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.

President Trump made the return of remains a key pledge at the Singapore summit last month.

BRIGGS: Republican Congresswoman Martha Roby survived a primary runoff in Alabama. CNN projected Roby 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.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a quick check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Global stocks mixed right now after Wall Street closed higher. The Nasdaq notching a record high thanks to solid earnings and optimistic comments from the chair of the Federal Reserve.

Jerome Powell said the U.S. economy is on solid ground. He told lawmakers the Fed plans to keep raising interest rates but not too quickly.

Netflix fell five percent after it failed to add as many subscribers as suspected. Now, don't feel too bad -- it still added five million new customers last quarter. Most companies would kill for that kind of growth.

But the stock is already up 98 percent this year.

The Texas Instruments CEO is resigning over personal behavior. After less than two months on the job, Texas Instruments says Brian Crutcher violated the company's code of conduct. It did not elaborate.

[05:50:08] Best known for is graphing calculators, Texas Instruments is one of the largest chip manufacturers in the U.S.

And it isn't the only chipmaker whose boss left for conduct reasons. Last month, Intel's CEO resigned due to a past consensual relationship with an employee. That's against the rules.

Goldman Sachs officially named its next CEO, kicking off a new era for the Wall Street bank. Company president David Solomon will take over in October.

He is a traditional pick. He has been at Goldman for almost 20 years, leading its investment banking unit for a decade.

But, Solomon has some non-traditional extracurricular activities -- you see it there -- working part-time as an electronic deejay under the name "DJ D-Sol."

This also marks the end of an era for the current CEO Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs since 2006. He is the man who led the bank through the financial crisis and the heightened regulation afterwards.

BRIGGS: There is some "DJ D-Sol" here on YouTube. We'll take a listen --

ROMANS: Is there? All right, way to go.

BRIGGS: -- at the break.

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

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[05:55:28] BRIGGS: All right.

The company that owns Mandalay Bay filing suit against 1,000 Las Vegas massacre survivors, part of a strategy to shield itself from lawsuits. MGM Resorts 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 threatened lawsuits. The attack last October left 58 dead and hundreds more injured.

An attorney for hundreds of 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.

ROMANS: In Texas, a death row inmate executed despite objections from his victim's family. Christopher Young shot Hasmukh Patel during a robbery in November 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 in the world know I'm being executed, and those kids I've been mentoring, keep this fight going."

BRIGGS: Ohio State University says it remains actively (audio gap) -- abuse by late team doctor Richard Strauss. He's accused of abusing athletes from 1979 to 1997.

OSU now saying, "We are aware of reports that individuals at the university did not respond appropriately during that era. These allegations are troubling and are a critical focus of the current investigation."

Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan was then the assistant coach at OSU and is among those accused of turning a blind eye, which he denies.

OSU's statement is a response to two class-action lawsuits filed by former wrestlers claiming officials ignored repeated complaints.

ROMANS: The Thai soccer team and coach rescued from that cave last week will be released from the hospital today, a day ahead of schedule. And 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 the coach are healthy, physically and psychologically. They spent 18 days trapped underground.

BRIGGS: Well, it was a dream ending for what started as a nightmare.

The night before Walter Carr's first day on the day with a moving company his car broke down 20 miles from work. He decided to walk. 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 of this and gave Carr a new car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUKE MARKLIN, CEO, BELLHOPS: 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 HIS EMPLOYER: Walk a mile in my shoes. I swear, that phrase means a lot to me.

People that think that it's too far I'm just saying just look at this story and be like hey, if Walter can do it, I know I can do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

BRIGGS: The American League wins one of the wilder All-Star Games in recent memory, this one, a slugfest from start to finish. Ten home runs overall -- that's a record.

The A.L. led in the bottom of the ninth when Cincinnati's Scooter Gennett tied the game at five with a two-run shot there.

But the American League got the lead back quickly. In the top of the 10th, back-to-back jacks from the Astros Alex Bregman and George Springer.

The American League never trailed and held on to win 8-6.

This game had the record 10 homers, but 25 strikeouts. This is the first Major League Baseball season that's on pace to have more strikeouts than hits, so a fitting All-Star Game.

ROMANS: Awesome.

All right, thanks for joining us this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I said the word would instead of wouldn't. I think that probably clarifies things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's reading the statement like he's a hostage.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: It's 24 hours too late and in the wrong place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us will misspeak. He's corrected it which is what matters.

MCCONNELL: The Russians need to know that it really better not happen again in 2018.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be a time in history where people ask where did you choose to stand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, July 18th, 6:00 here in New York.

John Avlon here with us this morning.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello.

BERMAN: We're going to begin with a moment of clarity.

AVLON: Ah.

CAMEROTA: Please.

BERMAN: Ready?

CAMEROTA: I look forward to this.

BERMAN: Apostrophes have no magical powers. Double negatives do not inoculate you against international embarrassment.