Return to Transcripts main page


White House Invites Putin to Visit; DOJ Report on Cybersecurity Operations; Suspects Few to Russia After Poisoning of Former Spy. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:13] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Those poor people.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. A summer adventure turns deadly in Missouri. 11 people are dead, six others are missing after a duck boat sinks in stormy weather.


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.



COATS: That's going to be special.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Special indeed. Even the director of National Intelligence was rather surprised by the president's invitation to Vladimir Putin. Discussions with Moscow are under way, but there is little support thus far in Washington. That remark stunning to see breaking news in the process there from Dan Coats.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, July 20th. Happy Friday.

BRIGGS: Basking at the moment.

ROMANS: About 10 weeks of news in one week. We have gone through here. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin with this breaking news, though. Just a tragedy here. At least 11 people confirmed dead near Branson, Missouri, after their duck boat sank in rough waters at Table Rock Lake. The final moments of this tragedy caught on video. Warning to all of you there, you might find these images disturbing.

You can see the boat being rocked in all directors as the winds picked up. The area was under a severe thunderstorm warning at the time. Winds reached over 60 miles per hour. There were 31 people on board including two crew members when that boat capsized. Now there are children, we are told, among the fatalities.


DOUG RADER, STONE COUNTY SHERIFF: At this time, we have 11 confirmed fatalities. Of the seven that was transported, only one of them had serious injuries. There was some heavy wind and it was having problems due to -- due to the wind.


BRIGGS: Six people remain missing. The search will resume in the morning. 14 people survived, seven are being treated at a local hospital. There were life jackets on board. Unclear, though, if people were wearing them. A spokeswoman for the Ripley Entertainment, parent company of the Ride the Ducks Branson, said it is in contact with its employees who were at the scene. Other boats on the lake did return to the dock safely. The NTSB launching a go-team to investigate.

ROMANS: In Washington, a new stunner. Capping off a week where one surprise tops the last. President Trump hoping to welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House this fall. The announcement via Twitter. The latest sign the president is sticking by his strategy in rebuilding relations with Russia in the face of bipartisan criticism over the Helsinki summit. And questions about exactly what he agreed to at his private meeting with Putin.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was at a security conference in Aspen. He said he still has no idea.


COATS: I don't know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and the president has already mentioned some things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the president's prerogative. If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way. But that's not my role, that's not my job. So it is what it is.


BRIGGS: The visit to the U.S. this fall would be Putin's first since 2005. In another extraordinary twist, it turns out even Coats was not aware the invitation was extended.

More on that from senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and

Dave, the White House clearly doubling down on the meeting earlier this week with Vladimir Putin scheduling another meeting this fall. National Security adviser John Bolton extended an invitation to Vladimir Putin to come here to Washington.

Now it was clear that this was an attempt from the White House talking to a variety of officials here that the president making the case he did not make a mistake earlier this week in Helsinki. Never mind the fact that they've been correcting and cleaning up reversals all week long here.

But one person at least was surprised by the announcement. That was the top spy chief, the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. Watch his reaction when he was told yesterday about this second invitation.


MITCHELL: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall.

COATS: Say that again?


MITCHELL: Vladimir Putin coming to the White House.

COATS: Did I hear you? Did I hear you --





COATS: That's going to be special.


ZELENY: He also was asked if he has any plans to resign.

[04:05:03] He said as long as he can speak the truth and seek the truth he will stay in his position -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny for us at the White House this morning.

White House aides are concerned President Trump will view the comment by Director Coats as a personal betrayal. That's according to the "Washington Post." One senior White House official says Coats has gone rouge. And aides worry the president is likely to be infuriated if Vladimir Putin does visit Washington in the fall, don't expect him to visit Capitol Hill. A spokesman for Senate leader Mitch McConnell says there is no invitation from Congress.

BRIGGS: Right before news that Putin invitation broke the Senate took bipartisan action against Russia voting 98-0 to oppose Putin's proposal to interrogate U.S. officials. President Trump said yesterday he now opposes Putin's suggestion after calling it an incredible offer earlier in the week.

The president yesterday had this reminder who he blames for the trouble with Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at the sanctions I put on. Look at the diplomats I threw out. Look at all of the things that I have done. Obama didn't do it. Obama was a patsy for Russia. He was a total patsy.


ROMANS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejecting critics' claim that President Trump showed any weakness at his summit with Putin. On FOX News last night, Pompeo called the idea absurd.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: This administration has been relentless in its efforts to deter Russia from its bad behavior. We inherited a situation where Russia was running all over the United States. The president has been very resolute. He understands precisely who it is we're dealing with in Russia. He gets it. He is trying to take opportunities, places where we find we can work together, and put American position to do the things he wants to do on behalf of the American people.


ROMANS: Earlier Pompeo told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Russia has been trying to undermine Western democracy for years. He said, quote, "I don't expect that will stop."

BRIGGS: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also making news in Aspen announcing a new Justice Department policy that would alert the public to foreign operations targeting American democracy. Now it will inform U.S. companies, private organizations and individuals that they're being covertly attacked by foreign actors attempting to affect elections or the political process. Rosenstein also offered a stark warning about Russia's ongoing efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.

More now from CNN's Evan Perez.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, the top official overseeing the Russia investigation says the Russians are still trying to interfere in American elections. He says that the 2016 election was not a one-time event. Take a listen to what he had to say.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign is just one tree in a growing forest. Focusing nearly on a single election misses the point.


PEREZ: And the deputy attorney general announced the findings from a Justice Department cyber digital task force. He says the Russian activity this year takes many form including the attacks on the election infrastructure systems, ballot fraud attempts essentially, and targeting political organizations and campaigns -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you for that, Evan.

Time for an EARLY START on your money this morning. Futures are down right now after a lower close yesterday. The Dow was down 135 points. Snapping a five-day winning streak. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq close lower as well.

The U.S. dollar also dipped. Here's why. The president criticized the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates.


TRUMP: I had a very good man in the Fed. I don't necessarily agree with it because he is raising interest rates. I'm not saying I agree with it. And I don't necessarily agree with it. I must tell you, I don't. I'm not thrilled because, you know, we go up and every time you go up, they want to raise rates again. And I don't really -- I am not happy about it. But at the same time, I'm letting them do what they feel is best.


ROMANS: Presidents historically do not criticize the Federal Reserve. It is designed to be independent from political influence. The agency is charged with keeping prices stable often by raising interest rates to prevent the economy from overheating. So far the Fed has raised interest rates twice this year.

BRIGGS: The Trump administration has less than a week to meet a federal judge's deadline for reuniting hundreds of migrant families. The White House says it has located 1,606 parents who are potentially eligible for reunification with their children but there may be issues with more than 900 of them, most require further evaluation. Others have waived reunification or have criminal records.

ROMANS: According to the government's latest estimate more than 2500 children between 5 and 17 years old were separated from their parents at the border. Thus far only 364 have been reunited.

[04:10:03] Last month, the judge ordered all children 5 and under -- 5 and older rather to be reunited with their parents by July 26th. The administration already missed last week's deadline for children under 5.

BRIGGS: Long way from cleaning up that mess.

Ahead, major clean-up after a string of tornadoes hits the heartland. Parts of Iowa left reeling with buildings literally torn apart.


BRIGGS: Clean up is just beginning after a series of tornadoes pummeled multiple towns in Iowa Thursday. Part of the same weather system that sank that duck boat in Missouri. A large chunk of roof of this industrial and agriculture equipment company ripped right off. 400 people were inside at the time. Seven taken to the hospital in the southeast part of Iowa. The state of emergency declared in Marshall town, a city of about 27,000.

[04:15:03] In the distance there, you can see the very top of that courthouse building blown off by a twister. Trees also toppled over on to roads. At least 10 people were treated at the hospital. Many customers still without power this morning.

ROMANS: Yes. Kids in summer camp had to be rescued in basements. Just a terrifying few moments there in Marshall Town, Iowa.

Let's look at what's in store for Iowa and the rest of the country with meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately, Christine and Dave, it was a devastating day for many across the central U.S. We had 28 confirmed tornadoes on Thursday. Over 100 reports of wind damage as a series of strong to severe thunderstorms moved across the plains. And it really is focused in on central Iowa and parts of Missouri. That was yesterday. Today, now we see the same batch of thunderstorms move further south and east. We're focusing our attention on parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Southern Indiana. Stretching into lower Michigan.

The potential for large hail, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes exists once again. In fact, the Storm Prediction Center has a moderate risk of severe weather across parts of western Kentucky. You can see how those storms fire up this afternoon and evening.

The other story we're monitoring is the millions of Americans across the Deep South impacted by extreme heat in and around Dallas. We have extreme heat warnings in place. Check out these temperatures. Well into triple digit territory for Dallas. Quite the contrary for New York City. Comfortable and temperatures in the low 80s today. Back to you.

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

Terrible story here. Police in Texas say a 3-year-old boy died after he was left in the back of the sweltering day care bus for more than three hours following a field trip. The child was found unresponsive inside the vehicle when his father came to pick him up at the Discovering Me Academy in northwest Houston. The temperature inside the bus is measured at 113 degrees.

Deputies are interviewing the driver and a chaperon on the field trip. Records show the 3-year-old had been listed as accounted for when the group returned to the daycare facility.

BRIGGS: Randi Zuckerberg denouncing her brother Mark's controversial comments about holocaust deniers. The Facebook CEO is widely criticized for saying some holocaust deniers aren't intentionally getting it wrong and that Facebook would not remove their posts. In a statement provided exclusively to CNN, Randi Zuckerberg forcefully calls holocaust deniers and their rhetoric hateful and disgusting. She says her brother could have chosen his words more carefully, but the banning of people from social media will not make them go away.

ROMANS: She says, quote "While it can be appalling to see what some people say, I don't think living in a sterile Stepford-like online community where we simply press the delete button on the ugly side of the ugly reality and how people feel is helpful either." She emphasized the importance of a healthy debate over the role tech companies should play in policing content. The condemnation of Mark Zuckerberg's comments about holocaust deniers prompted him to walk back his statement hours later.

And I think there is a healthy discussion about what is appropriate online. But there is not a healthy discussion about whether the holocaust happened. You know?

BRIGGS: Right. Yes.

ROMANS: I mean, that starts to get into --

BRIGGS: Whether or not they are intentionally getting it wrong.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Yes. Clearly. OK. The NFL and the players union are slamming the brakes on the league's new national anthem policy. The measure requires teams to make sure all personnel stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room or off the field until it ends. The league and the union released a joint statement last night saying they have reached a standstill agreement which means they will reevaluate the policy.

This week Jurrell Casey of the Tennessee Titans revealed his plans to protest during the anthem and there are media reports the Miami Dolphins could suspend players who protest on the field during the anthem for up to four games. NFL preseason games begin in two weeks.

ROMANS: Target is offering a back-to-school special just for teachers. I love this story. The retailer is giving educators a 15 percent discount on school supplies in a move to help teachers who often stock their classrooms using their own money. Federal data shows nearly all public school teachers dip into their own pocket for supplies. Spending nearly $500 a year. Education advocates are applauding the discount. They say it shows the systemic problem inside the classroom and why the push to pay teachers more has sparked walkouts across the country. The discount runs until tomorrow, teachers. So back to school time.

BRIGGS: Is that part of the tax plan? There was a deduction removed?

ROMANS: I got to check. I think so. You used to be able to -- there was a couple hundred dollar deduction for that.


ROMANS: That I don't think is there anymore. I have to check. But this may -- every retailer should do this in my opinion.

BRIGGS: Some relief. Agree there. OK.

Two suspects who allegedly used a Soviet nerve agent to poison a spy and his daughter took a flight to Russia right after the poisoning. We are live in Moscow with an update.



ROMANS: A major new development in the case of a former Russian spy and his daughter poisoned in the UK. A source telling CNN British authorities believe two suspects who used a Soviet nerve agent in that attack boarded a flight for Russia right after poisoning the Skripals.

For the latest let's turn to CNN's Sam Kiley in Moscow. Sam, what do we know?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a dramatic development from CNN sources yesterday. Nina Dos Santos reporting that the British Intelligence and the police have identified two suspects involved in this poisoning and their movements were trackable because of an interception by the RAF listening station based in Cyprus.

[04:25:14] It picked up communication back to Moscow saying that these two individuals were on a flight out of the United Kingdom, back, one assumes, to Russia. Now they are also understood to have been traveling under aliases. So their real names are as yet unknown or at least we have not been given their names. They were apparently tracked using CCTV face recognition technology. But the British authorities have not yet published photographs of them.

And I can also confirm that British intelligence were pretty early on according to my own sources very convinced indeed that the Russians were behind this attack and that they had identified at least those two plus others involved in this, all of them Russian or Russian people associated with Russian intelligence.

ROMANS: Of course the Russians have denied all this and offered up some various other conspiracy theories including that this was somehow manufactured by the UK. Not by them. So the plot thickens.

Thank you so much, Sam Kiley. Nice to see you this morning, from Moscow. BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, some developing news. A duck boat turns

over and turns tragic in Missouri. 11 people are dead, six are missing after rough weather sinks this boat with more than 30 on board. We'll have the latest for you.