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Questions Persist About Helsinki Summit; Suspected Russian Agent Pleads Not Guilty; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:24] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Certainly as the leader of the country you will have to hold him responsible. Yes.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president finally holds Vladimir Putin responsible for election interference. Now it's reported that the president was told before the inauguration about intel linking Putin to the attacks.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The president calls it an incredible offer. Well, now the White House is weighing Vladimir Putin's offer to let the Russians interrogate Americans. Hear what those Americans have to say.


ALY RAISMAN, AMERICAN GYMNAST: Your truth does matter. You matter and you are not alone.


BRIGGS: Powerful moments on stage. 141 victims of Larry Nassar unite to send their Time's Up message to the world. An emotional night at the ESPYS. We'll recap it for you shortly.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour and the "New York Times" reporting this morning that two weeks -- two weeks before his inauguration, President-elect Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating Vladimir Putin personally ordered complex cyber attacks in an effort to sway the 2016 election. The report says evidence included texts and e-mails from Russian military officers, including information gleaned from a top secret source close to Vladimir Putin.

James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, he was at that meeting as well. He seemed to confirm the report on CNN last night.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This is his refusal to accept information that he doesn't want to hear.


KOSIK: Clapper says his biggest fear in the wake of President Trump's summit performance is that it essentially allows Putin to do just about anything he wants.

BRIGGS: After days of criticism and repeated clarifications, President Trump now says he holds Vladimir Putin personally responsible for Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2016 elections.


JEFF GLOR, ANCHOR, CBS EVENING NEWS: You haven't condemned Putin specifically. Do you hold him personal responsible?

TRUMP: Well, I would because he is in charge, just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So certainly as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible. Yes.

GLOR: What did you say to him?

TRUMP: I'm very strong on the fact that we can't have meddling. I let him know we can't have this. We're not going to have it. And that's the way it's going to be.


BRIGGS: The president also says he accepts U.S. intel assessments Russia interfered and continues to do so. That's something the president would not say when he was standing there next to Putin in Helsinki and that he appeared to question it as recently as yesterday.

For more we turn to senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, three days after that Helsinki summit, the White House and President Trump still talking about Russia, still trying to explain exactly what the president believes Russia's involvement was and still back pedaling and trying to clean up his language from throughout the week.

In a new interview with CBS News taped last night, this is what the president finally said if he thinks Russia is a threat in the upcoming election.


GLOR: Coats says the threat is ongoing. Do you agree with that?

TRUMP: Well, I'd accept -- I mean, he's an expert. This is what he does. He's been doing a very good job. I have tremendous faith in Dan Coats. And if he says that, I would accept that. I will tell you, though, it better not be. It better not be.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: The White House believes they have moved beyond all of the controversy or they hope they have from that Helsinki summit. But there are still so many questions here about what the president and Vladimir Putin talked about in that closed-door meeting that was nearly two hours long in Helsinki.

The White House released a -- you know, a vague list of topics. They said they talked about Syria, about China, about Crimea, other matters. But still no specifics about what the president talked about with Vladimir Putin.

Now we are still hearing calls on Capitol Hill to subpoena the interpreter to have her come in and talk about what the president said. Most people believe that's unlikely it will happen. They said it will set a bad precedent for leaders. But still so many questions about that summit, still on damage control. Clearly not the summit the president hoped -- Alison and Dave.

BRIGGS: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Thank you, sir.

The White House confirms it's entertaining a proposal from Vladimir Putin for Russia to interrogate prominent Americans. Yes, interrogate prominent Americans. Among them, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and American born financier Bill Browder who successfully lobbied the U.S. to impose new sanctions on Moscow.

[04:35:04] In exchange, the Kremlin would provide assistance in the ongoing probe of Russia's election interference.

KOSIK: Putin raised the idea during the Helsinki summit with President Trump who called it an incredible offer. Browder and McFaul, they responded last night. Listen.


BILL BROWDER, AMERICAN-BORN FINANCIER: The whole thing is as corrupt as you could possibly be the fact that the people who passed the Magnitsky Act and people who are investigating money laundering are being targeting to be interviewed and the president of the United States says that's an interesting idea?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin has been after me for a long time even when I was ambassador, harassing me in ways that no other U.S. ambassador there has ever experienced.

I'm an American citizen. I worked for the government for five years. And it would have been so easy to bat it back.


KOSIK: OK. While the White House is considering the proposal a State Department spokeswoman offered up a forceful rejection calling Russia's assertion, quote, "absolutely absurd."

BRIGGS: Heather Nauert there.

FBI director Christopher Wray says Russia is still trying to interfere in U.S. politicians.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The intelligence community's assessment has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in maligned influence operations to this day.


BRIGGS: Wray was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum Wednesday. Also defended the Mueller investigation, challenging President Trump's characterization of it as a witch hunt.


WRAY: And I do not believe Special Counsel Mueller in on a witch hunt. I think it's a professional investigation conducted by a man that I've known to be a straight shooter in all my interactions with him in my past life in government and certainly since then. So I don't think it's a witch hunt.


BRIGGS: The FBI director refused to say if he ever considered resigning. But said people should not interpret his low-key manner for him being spineless.

KOSIK: Accused Russian agent Maria Butina ordered by a judge to remain behind bars until her trial. Prosecutors alleged her life in the United States has been built on deception including attempts to exchange sex for political access.

We get more now from CNN's Sara Murray in Washington.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Dave and Alison. Maria Butina, the Russian national the U.S. government says is a spy will await trial in jail without bond. That was a ruling from a federal judge in Washington on Wednesday who agreed with government prosecutors that it was too risky to release Butina because she could flee to Russia.

Butina pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent in the U.S. Her lawyer argued unsuccessfully that his client was not a flight risk and disputed the government's charge that she is a covert agent. In court, 29-year-old Butina sat stoically cladding an orange prison jumpsuit as the government flushed out her alleged ties to Russian intelligence. They argued her stint as an American University graduate student was little more than a cover for her aim of infiltrating GOP political circles as well as the National Rifle Association.

In court filings, the government described Butina's romantic relationship with a 56-year-old American as a sham. CNN has identified that man as South Dakota political operative Paul Ericson. He helped provide her with political access and she treated the relationship as a, quote, "simply a necessary aspect of her activities," according to court filings.

Prosecutors said she was preparing to leave Washington. Her lease was up and she bought moving boxes prompting her arrest over the weekend. But Butina's lawyer says she merely wanted to move to South Dakota to be with her boyfriend. Back to you, guys.

BRIGGS: Sara Murray, thanks.

Breaking news now. British police have identified two suspects in the poisoning of a former Russian spy. A source says investigators have been combing through months of surveillance footage from UK airports from Salisbury where the poisoning happened. Authorities discovered two individuals not previously known as spies by using facial recognition technology. Police have not yet revealed their names. Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned back in March. Both are at home and doing well.

A fast reversal from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He defended holocaust denying material on his site because they're not intentionally getting it wrong. An update ahead.


[04:43:42] HARLOW: Welcome back. President Trump may try to deflect from what's going on with Russia and Putin. Developing the U.S. work force, that could be the focus today on the White House agenda later today. The -- this afternoon, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order. It will call for outlining immediate steps to address the vocational crisis and setting up a work force council.

So what is this really about? Well, it's about retraining workers in the skills that they need, even though the unemployment rate is just 4 percent. Millions of jobs remain unfilled. Employers are having a tough time finding the workers that they need to fill those jobs. So this afternoon, the president will call on industry leaders and the private sector to step up retraining efforts to better match workers with the jobs that are available.

BRIGGS: A possible stumbling block for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Two years ago he told a conservative group he'd like to see the independent counsel's statute overturned. His comment on a three-decade-old Supreme Court ruling is bound to get renewed scrutiny in the midst of the Mueller probe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you think of a case that deserves to be overturned?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you volunteer one?


[04:15:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pending confirmation hearing, yes, sir, right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

KAVANAUGH: Actually I was going to say one, Morrison v. Olson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the independent counsel statute case.

KAVANAUGH: It's been effectively overruled but I would put the final nail in.


BRIGGS: A lot of laughter there for a Supreme Court talk. Kavanaugh actually worked under the Independent Counsel law when he was part of Ken Starr's Clinton investigation.

KOSIK: And it's unclear what Kavanaugh thinks of Special Counsel Mueller's investigation since there is a difference here. A special counsel answers to the Justice Department while an Independent Counsel effectively answers to no one. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, he's already demanding Kavanaugh commit to recusing himself from Mueller-related cases.

BRIGGS: Republican Congressman Jim Jordan confirms he has been interviewed in the investigation of sexual abuse by Ohio State University team doctor Richard Strauss. Jordan says he told investigators the same thing he's been saying publicly that he did not turn a blind eye to wrestlers' allegations of abuse while he was an assistant coach at the university from 1987 to 1995.

A former OSU wrestler now says Dr. Strauss molested him in the late 1970s. That is the earliest allegation against the now deceased team physician. Former wrestling team captain David Mulvin tells CNN he did not report the molestation to his coaches.

KOSIK: The expected cost of President Trump's planned military parade in Washington about $12 million. The price tag, while not crazy, it is drawing criticism because it's nearly as much as the now cancelled military exercise with South Korea which the president called tremendously expensive. An administration official says the number is a planning figure and cost estimates could change. The parade intended to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It's scheduled for November 10th.

BRIGGS: And the founder of Papa John's resigned after admitting he used the N word on a conference call, but now says leaving was a mistake.


[04:51:53] KOSIK: Welcome back. We are following breaking news. A tent collapsed during a Blackhawk training exercise at California's 400th Liggett. The base says the landing helicopter picked up wind causing a tent to come down on a group of soldiers. 22 people were hurt. Most were treated on the sight there. Two were airlifted to the hospital. Thankfully there are no fatalities in this accident.

BRIGGS: Mark Zuckerberg backtracking after some controversial comments about Holocaust deniers. The Facebook CEO defending leaving their content on the site claiming in an interview with Recode's Kara Swisher that some deniers aren't intentionally getting it wrong.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: There's this set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened.


ZUCKERBERG: Right? I find that deeply offensive.

SWISHER: Mm-hmm.

ZUCKERBERG: But at the end of the day, I don't believe that our platform should take that down because I think that there are things that different people get wrong. Either -- I don't think that they're intentionally getting it wrong but I think that they --

SWISHER: In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be, but go ahead.

ZUCKERBERG: It's hard to --


ZUCKERBERG: -- impugn intent and to understand the intent.


BRIGGS: Within hours Zuckerberg e-mailed Kara Swisher to say he got it wrong. His comments coming one week after Facebook confirmed it would allow InfoWars, a site that traffics in conspiracy theories, to remain on its platform. Facebook now says it will soon begin taking down content that could contribute to imminent violence. But the company will rely on third party partners to make that determination.

KOSIK: A measure to break California into three states will not be on the November ballot. An order by the state's Supreme Court says significant questions have been raised about Proposition 9. The measure would have asked voters whether California should separate into Northern California, California and Southern California. Backers say splitting California allows regional communities to make better and more sensible decisions. The proposition could appear on a future ballot if the state's high court ultimately signs off. The split would be subject to approval by Congress.

BRIGGS: An emotional night at the 2018 ESPY Awards. Athletes who were sexually abused by disgraced doctor Larry Nassar honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for making their stories heard. Olympic gold medalist gymnast Aly Raisman among the 141 survivors who took the stage together.


RAISMAN: Whether you act or do nothing, you are shaping the world that we live in, impacting others. All we needed was one adult to have the integrity to stand between us and Larry Nassar.

To all the survivors out there, don't let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter. You matter. And you are not alone.


BRIGGS: Good stuff. Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly who has battled throat cancer for the last five years received the Jimmy V Award for perseverance. Just this week Kelly learned of an unexpected development concerning his health. His message Jimmy V's never give up.


[04:55:06] JIM KELLY, HALL OF FAME QUARTERBACK: Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow. If you have someone out there suffering, it doesn't have to be cancer. It could be someone not having a good day. It could be your mom, your dad. It could be your grandparents. What you say to them and the smile that you have on your face that can be the difference in them making it to the next day.


KOSIK: Tear-jerker for sure.

BRIGGS: Kelly tough. The ESPYS also honored three coaches who died protecting students during the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel, and Chris Hixon, all posthumously received the Best Coach Award.

BRIGGS: All right. Switching gears. Records could be broken in Texas as an extreme heat wave stretches into another day. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has more.

Good morning.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning to you both, Alison and Dave. Yes, we've got a pretty interesting pattern shaping up here mainly across portions of Texas where the temps are running 10 to almost 15 degrees above average for this time of year. And of course you check your calendar. 96 to almost 100 is what normal in places like Dallas and Houston. And we're shooting up to 108, 109, maybe in a few areas 110 degrees. So needless to say a dangerous setup here for at least the next couple of days.

And really much of the country here remaining rather hot. The Midwest gets a little bit of a break. The color contours represent that well, and you can thank some of the wet weather slated across that region to keep these temps at least at bay a little bit there but severe weather generally the concern across portions of Iowa, on into areas around Minnesota and Wisconsin. The biggest threat for this is for some hail and certainly some damaging winds into the afternoon hours.

About three million people impacted by it with the highest area of concern around Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, just west of St. Louis there, also could see some strong storms by this afternoon. And the northeast, one of the nicest places to be so far this weekend. How about this? Upper 70s in places like Boston, lower 80s for New York City by this afternoon -- guys.

BRIGGS: All right. My friend, thank you.

President Trump's would be--wouldn't be flip on Russian interference got some nostalgic treatment last night on the late show.


TRUMP: It should have been "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia." Sort of a double negative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president isn't in Putin's pocket. The president isn't not in Putin's pocket. Let's try it again. The president wasn't owned by Kim Jong-un. The president was owned by Kim Jong-un. Not. Or how about the president isn't trustworthy. Well, let's just let that one stand.


KOSIK: All right. That is a good beat.

BRIGGS: Wow. That is a catchy tune.

KOSIK: Schoolhouse Rock.

BRIGGS: Classic. Yes.

KOSIK: Got to love it.

All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money this morning. Global markets are flat, just slightly lower this morning. So are futures. And that could put the Dow's winning streak in danger. The blue chip index has been higher for five straight sessions and yesterday the Nasdaq closed just shy of a record.

Shares of eBay could be under pressure today. The online option missing quarterly sales estimates. And investors were disappointed by its guidance going forward as well. Shares of eBay have struggled this year. They're pretty much where they started.

The founder of Papa John's now says it was a mistake for him to resign. Last week, John Schnatter stepped down as chairman of the pizza chain. That's after he admitted using the N word on a conference call with a marketing agency. But in a letter to Papa John's board, Schnatter accused the members of not doing any investigation. And he says its decision to remove him as chairman was based on rumor and innuendo. Schnatter has hired an attorney to represent him. So this could be headed for litigation. Papa John's has distanced itself from its founder since the scandal erupted. It's removed his image from its pizza boxes and pulled ads that featured him.

There were some glitches early on, I'm talking about Amazon Prime Day. Amazon says Prime Day ended up a huge success. The company calls it the biggest shopping event in Amazon history with sales topping Cyber Monday, Black Friday and last year's Prime Day. People got more than 100 million products. Infant pots, personal water filters and the 23andMe DNA test -- wow, I didn't know you get it there. Those are some of the biggest sellers in the U.S. Amazon stock has been on fire.

Yesterday, its market value briefly touching $900 billion for the first time. Whoa. And of course, I contributed to that --

BRIGGS: We are taking over the planet.

HARLOW: I bought a pair of Puma sneakers.

BRIGGS: I got golf some gear myself. Guilty as charge.


BRIGGS: EARLY START continues right now with the incredible offer from Vladimir Putin to President Trump.