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U.S. Intel Chief Dan Coats Taken by Surprise Over White House Invitation to Putin. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2018 - 05:00   ET



[05:00:06] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Those poor people.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight. A summer adventure turns deadly in Missouri. 11 people are dead, 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.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Surprise. Even the director of National Intelligence surprised by the president's invitation to Vladimir Putin. Discussions with Moscow underway, but there is very little support in Washington.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. It's Friday. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Friday, July 20th. 5:00 a.m. in the East, it is 4:00 in the morning in Missouri. And that's where we start this morning with breaking news.

At least 11 people are confirmed dead near Branson, Missouri, after their duck boat sank in rough waters at Table Rock Lake. The final moments of the tragedy caught on video. A warning, you might find these images disturbing.

You can see the boat being rocked in all directions as the wind picks up. The area was under a severe thunderstorm warning at the time with winds reaching over 60 miles an hour. There were 31 people on board including two crew members when the boat sank. There are children 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.


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

BRIGGS: In Washington, a new stunner capping off a week where one surprise simply 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 of rebuilding relations with Russia. That's in the face of bipartisan criticism over the Helsinki summit and questions about what he agreed to at that private meeting with Putin.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats at a security conference in Aspen 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.


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

BRIGGS: Joining us this morning live from Washington CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood and here in New York CNN Politics senior writer and analyst Harry Enten.

Good morning to both of you.

ROMANS: Hi, guys. BRIGGS: It is not every day that you get to break national

intelligence news to the director of National Intelligence. That is what happened with Andrea Mitchell yesterday in Aspen, Colorado. Watch.


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.


BRIGGS: "That's going to be special." The director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. Some bad movies get sequels. Adam Sanders' "Grownups," Sarah Westwood. Should this sequel, what happened in Helsinki get a part two?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a big part of why President Trump's performance in Helsinki was so problematic was that disregard that he showed to the intelligence community. So it was pretty remarkable that we had such a public That is why we had the demonstration yesterday of just how marginalized his intelligence chief with him learning from a journalist that Vladimir Putin is coming to the States and acknowledging that he hasn't been looped in as to what President Trump and President Putin discussed in Helsinki.

Obviously the timing of this coming in the fall is probably not going to make Republicans happy. They have just been sort of treading water trying to position themselves correctly around the controversy following the summit trying to criticize the president without drawing his ire.

[05:05:08] A lot of Republicans were put in a bad position. If this meeting comes in the fall before the midterms in November, you could see Republicans forced to have to discuss some of the most controversial aspects of the Trump presidency and it gets into bringing up the issues of his impulsivity, his lack of nuance when it comes to foreign policy. Obviously he's very vulnerable legally on the issue of Russia. These are not things Republicans are going to want to be discussing in the fall, and if Putin's visit comes before the elections. That's what they're going to have to do.

ROMANS: You know, the president clearly is willing to go it alone without his intelligence community on how he proceeds with Vladimir Putin. He thinks he is rebuilding relations. Critics say he is getting played by Vladimir Putin.

But Harry Enten, let's look at the polls here. The Helsinki summit, in particular. The handling -- Trump's handling of Helsinki summit, 55 percent disapprove, 32 percent approve. We can drill down even more narrowly. Approve of Trump's handling of the Helsinki summit, 68 percent of the Republicans approve of his handling. Look at this poll.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: I mean, look, 68 percent of Republicans is a pretty high percentage. But if you look at his overall approval rating it's in a high 80s among Republicans. So there's a significant chunk of the Republican base that even couldn't go this far with the president.

And indeed as I watched Dan Coats, I remind myself, that laughter felt awkward. It felt almost like the laughter at the funeral or something along those lines where you're just like, what is this? What is going on here?

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: His facial expression, I think, told you enough. But that poll, though, Sarah, 68 percent of Republicans approve of what happened in Helsinki. Does that tell you that Republican senators and House Republicans just have their hands tied when it comes to criticizing this president.

WESTWOOD: Well, that's true. Not just on this Russia issue, but on most issues. A lot of times when you do see Republican lawmakers coming out and criticizing President Trump, the ones who are most forceful in their pushback are the ones who either aren't up for re- election in November or who are retiring. And there are dozens of House Republicans and some Senate Republicans who are not coming back after November. And they're really the only ones who feel empowered to speak out against Donald Trump because President Trump does still command a large portion of the Republican Party.

So even though the summit was problematic writ large for President Trump, it obviously puts Republicans who know full well just how troublesome his first performance was, in a terrible position because they don't want to anger their constituents, they're not coming out too strongly against President Trump.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: You know, this is what's dominating the news flow and rightly so.

But, Harry, really interesting editorial in the "USA Today" about where Democrats stand here. Called Trump and Republicans can count on Democrats in the midterm elections. "If Republicans have reason for cheer, it is in the Democrats' long history of undermining their own cause. This history includes an ongoing failure to develop a clear message. A seeming inability to get their base out to the polls in nonpresidential years. And a growing affinity for far-left candidates."

It goes on to talk about what's happening in California -- with Democratic Party in California. You know, where do Democrats stand in the middle of this?

ENTEN: I mean, look, I think that they'd be wise just to step back and let the president do the talking. The more the president talks on issues in which perhaps he doesn't know as much as he should are issues in which Democrats win. And I should point out that yes, obviously Democrats need to make sure that their voters turn out in the midterm election. But it should be pointed out that this isn't 2010 or 2014. And midterm cycles in which the president is a Republican, historically speaking Democrats turn out in higher numbers. And that is what most of the polls are indicating this year.

BRIGGS: Well, speaking of Democrats, next half hour, we're going to talk about the definitive list of 2020 candidates for the Democrats.

Harry Enten wrote the list. And Sarah, President Trump will be thrilled with who number one on that list.


BRIGGS: We'll talk about that in about 20 minutes.

ROMANS: All right. But for right now time for an EARLY START on your money. Futures are down after a lower the close yesterday. The Dow was down 135 points, snapping a five-day win streak. The S&P 500, the Nasdaq close lower as well. The U.S. dollar dipped after 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: Like a lot of things like Trump, you don't hear presidents, you know, criticize the Federal Reserve. They have historically avoided criticizing the Federal Reserve. The Fed is designed to be independent from political interference. The president appoints the Fed chief and then that's it. The agency is charged with keeping prices stable often by raising rates to prevent the economy from overheating. [05:10:02] So far the Fed has raised rate twice this year. There's at

least one more Fed interest hike we're expecting.

BRIGGS: Now he has to do it, right?

ROMANS: I mean, the economy is very, very strong. If you don't raise interest rates, you risk overheating in the U.S. economy.

BRIGGS: Paul Ryan -- two hours before we heard the president said that, Paul Ryan said the last thing I want is to get politicians involved in meddling with interest rates. It's if he knew that was coming.

Major cleanup after a string of tornadoes hits the heartland. Parts of Iowa left reeling with buildings literally torn apart.


BRIGGS: Cleanup is just beginning after a series of tornadoes pummeled parts of Iowa. It was part of the same weather system that sank a duck boat in Missouri. A large chunk of this roof of an industrial and agricultural equipment company ripped right off. 400 people were inside at the time. Seven taken to local hospital in central Iowa.

[05:15:02] A state of emergency has been declared in Marshall Town. That's a city of about 27,000. In the distance there you can see the top of that courthouse building blown right off by a twister. Trees also toppled over on to roads there. At least 10 people treated at the hospital. Many customers still without power this morning.

ROMANS: All right. Police in Texas say a 3-year-old boy died after he being left in the back of a sweltering daycare bus for more than three hours following a field trip. The child was found unresponsive when his father came to pick him up at the Discovering Me Academy in northwest Houston. The temperature inside the bus was 113 degrees. Deputies are interviewing the driver and a chaperon on that field trip.

Now records show the 3-year-old little boy was listed as accounted for when that group returned to the daycare facility.

BRIGGS: Randi Zuckerberg denouncing her brother Mark's controversial comments about holocaust deniers. The Facebook CEO was widely criticized for saying some holocaust deniers aren't intentionally getting it wrong and that Facebook would not remove their posts.

In a statement exclusively to CNN, Randi Zuckerberg calls holocaust deniers and their rhetoric hateful and disgusting. She says her brother could have chosen his words more carefully, but says banning such people from social media will not make them go away.

ROMANS: She says 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 how people fee is helpful either. She emphasized the importance of a healthy debate over the role of 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.

Sixteen minutes past the hour. Target is offering a back-to-school special just for teachers. The retailer is giving educators a 15 percent discount on school supplies through tomorrow to help teachers who often stock their classrooms using their own money. And guess what, that's a lot of teachers. Federal data shows nearly all public school teachers dip into their own pockets for supplies spending nearly $500 a year.

Education advocates say the discount shows the systemic problem inside the classroom and why the push to pay teachers more has sparked walkouts across the country. Teachers qualify of course for $250 tax credit when they buy their own supplies. That credit survived the chopping block in last year's tax bill. But until tomorrow 15 percent discount at Target for teachers I say good job.

BRIGGS: Yes. Great policy.

OK, ahead, the NFL putting its new policy requiring players on the field to stand for the national anthem on hold. Andy Scholes with details in the "Bleacher Report" next.


[05:22:09] BRIGGS: The NFL and the players union putting the league's new national anthem policy on hold for now.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, back in May, the NFL owners voted to put a national anthem rule in place that stated that teams would be fined if their players didn't stand and show respect during the national anthem. It did allow for players to stay in the locker room if they chose to. And the NFL leaving it up to the teams on how they would punish their own players. Well, the players association has opposed this new rule since its announcement.

The training camps on the horizon. Teams were required to submit their plan to the league on how they would be punishing players who didn't abide by this anthem rule. But both sides feel they need more time to sort this out. The NFL and the players association coming to agreement on Thursday to put the anthem policy on hold while they continue to work on a resolution. In a joint statement, they said no new rules related to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing. The NFL preseason, it kicks off in less than two weeks.

All right. Golf's third major of the year is underway. The British Open. Uncharacteristically warm and sunny for round one. Tiger Woods playing in the tournament for the first time since 2015. He hung in there. Shot even par for the day. Five shots off the league. And check out this shot by Sergio Garcia. He is in a ditch. But the water is shallow enough for him to hit it out. And amazingly, he ended up with just a bogey on the hole. Nice save there by Sergio.

Now golfers normally ready for major days beforehand to practice. Well, Jhonattan Vegas arrived at the British Open just two hours before his tee time. Why? His visa had expired and he had to apply for a new one, then he applied for the wrong one. Well, Vegas is from Venezuela. Eventually got it all sorted out on Wednesday. Had to go from Houston to Toronto then to Scotland. He had arranged for this chopper to get into the course for him to make his round one tee time.


JHONATTAN VEGAS, GOLFER: To me, it almost seemed like it was a horror movie happening, you know, for the past week because even if somebody tried to do that on purpose, I think you could not really do it.


SCHOLES: Yes. And Vegas' clubs didn't make it to the course with him, guys. So he ended up having to find some spares. He shot five over in round one so he's got some work to do if he wants to make the cut. I'm guessing he really does considering the trouble he went through to get there.

BRIGGS: Yes, it ain't cheap to charter a helicopter to get to the golf course.

ROMANS: I know. But planes, trains and automobiles.

BRIGGS: Good stuff. Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. A duck boat -- this is a tragic story in Missouri. A duck boat ride just turns traffic. 11 people are dead, six are missing.

[05:25:03] Rough waters sinks a boat with more than 30 on board. At first light, they will go searching for those missing in that lake.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Those poor people.


ROMANS: Breaking overnight. A summer adventure turns deadly in Missouri. 11 people including children are dead this morning. Others are missing -- 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.


BRIGGS: Even the director of National Intelligence shocked by the president's invitation to Vladimir Putin. Discussions with Moscow are underway, but little support in Washington. It's not every day you break national intelligence news to --

ROMANS: The national --

BRIGGS: The director of National Intelligence.


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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour this Friday morning. Let's begin with this breaking news this morning. At least 11 people are confirmed dead near --