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Trump Mulls Canceling Security Clearances; North Korea Dismantling Key Site?; Georgia Lawmaker Embarrassed. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 24, 2018 - 04:30   ET




[04:31:04] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they politicize and in some cases monetize their public service.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's the White House take. But is the president distracting from the Russia investigation by silencing his critics?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: New satellite imagery appears to show North Korea dismantling a key satellite launch facility. The site plays a big role in development for Pyongyang's missile program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have three seconds to attract attention. Go!



ROMANS: Drop your pants and scream the N-word to protect yourself from a terror attack. A Georgia state lawmaker bought into that argument on camera. What he is saying to defend himself this morning, just bizarre. Sacha Baron Cohen strikes again.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, 4:31. He was clearly punk'd.

All right. The president saw a rally one week from tonight and he has some new names for that crowd to boo. It would be an extraordinary use of presidential power but the White House says President Trump is considering stripping a half dozen former national security officials of their security clearances. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders cites their public criticism of the president in the midst of the Russia investigation. ROMANS: The list includes former officials from the FBI, CIA and other national security jobs. Strangely, sources say two of them, James Comey and Andrew McCabe, no longer have security clearances anyway. They were fired from the Trump administration.

Normally, former top officials keep their clearances so their successors can consult with them on a volunteer basis. Take the case of Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser. He was fired by the Obama administration but he kept his clearance even as he led lock her up chance at Trump rallies.

BRIGGS: The president's plan seems to be unplanned likely at the suggestion of Senator Rand Paul. Paul considered a pivotal vote the upcoming Supreme Court battle scene.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny with more from the White House on what "The Wall Street Journal" is calling the dumb idea of the week.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump taking that unprecedented step of talking about revoking security clearances from old Obama administration officials. Of course, these officials have been critical of him and his presidency. Now, this has never happened before, but it is something we are told the White House is considering it.

In fact, right here in the White House briefing room just yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders acknowledged the president was considering it when she said this.

SANDERS: The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they politicized and in some cases monetize their public service and security clearances, making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate.

ZELENY: So, the White House is considering it, but it's unclear if they will actually do it. A senior administration official tells me the president likes this conversation, likes the debate, but has not decided whether he is going to go ahead with this or not. But it certainly served to change the subject.

But certainly, the Russian investigation in all its entirety is still weighing heavy on this White House and that security clearance is just the latest sign -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

Critics quick to seize on the threat of retaliation by the White House, even as those on the president's enemies list downplayed the impact that losing their security clearance might actually have.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think it's off the top of my head, that's kind of a sad commentary where for political reasons, this is a kind of a petty way of retribution I suppose for speaking out against the president, and if he chooses to do it for political reasons -- well, that's -- I think that's a terrible president and it's a very sad commentary, and it's an abuse of the system.


[04:35:01] BRIGGS: Former NSA Director Michael Hayden says being stripped of his security clearance would have no effect on what he says or writes. Hayden and James Clapper are both CNN contributors. There has been no comment thus far from John Brennan or Susan Rice.

ROMANS: Federal prosecutors now have their hands on 12 audio recordings seized by the FBI from President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen. At least some of the other eleven contained conversations between Cohen and members of the media. Court filings do not specify who those parties are. A former judge who reviewed the material says all parties involved have waived attorney-client privilege, privilege prosecutors must now determine whether any of the recordings might be useful in a criminal case.

BRIGGS: New satellite images appear to show that North Korea has started dismantling facilities at a key nuclear test site. The Sohae location has been the main site for North Korean satellite launches since 2012.

Will Ripley is joining us live from Hong Kong.

There has been a search for something, anything concrete from the North Koreans. Is this finally it, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a step, according to analysts because the Sohae launch site was significant in that North Korea always claimed they were just launching satellites from there but a lot of military analysts believe that it was actually a testing facility for a long-range ballistic missile, the kind of which could deliver a nuclear warhead to the mainland U.S.

Remember, it's back in 2012, just literally weeks after North Korea leader Kim Jong-un had a denuclearization deal with the Obama administration that they attempted to launch a satellite then successfully launched one later last year -- later that year that scuttled the deal because people thought the North Korea was saying this is just for peace, but in fact they were launching things into space that could carry warheads.

I spoke with the scientists at Sohae just a few years ago if their satellite control center and they insisted back then that their work was peaceful.


RIPLEY: What can you say to the world to prove that this is not a ballistic missile program in disguise?

HYUN GWANG II, DIRECTOR OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH & DEV. SOHAE SATELLITE TESTING SITE (through translator): Why on earth would we drop nuclear bombs on the people of the world, including the United States?


RIPLEY: Of course, since then, they've made many threats to drop nuclear bombs on the United States.

One important note though, the Sohae launching site relies on liquid fuel technology. You pull those missiles out they sit on the launch pad for a long time, you can see them from satellites. North Korea has since moved on to more advanced solid fuel technology where you can roll those missiles out on mobile launchers and put them into the sky with very little notice. That's what we've seen North Korea launching in recent years. They haven't launched anything significant, you know, with the liquid fuel.

So, yes, this is a step but it's a small step toward a very long road of denuclearization.

BRIGGS: All right. Will Ripley live for us, 4:37 there in Hong Kong. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The president travels to Kansas City today to address the annual VFW Convention. Greeting him there, a stinging editorial in "The Kansas City Star", responding to the president's rhetorical combat with world leaders, both friend and foe. It says this, the president should take this opportunity to do something he's not known for, and that's to listen, and we mean really listen to some of the heroes who will be on hand to hear him.

They surely will have something to say to him about the realities of war and the horrors of combat those insights would be good for Trump to hear now as he continues to rattle his saber at foes around the globe. Ahead of his trip, the Senate confirmed the new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Willkie. The vote 86-9. It was the first time since V.A. secretary became a cabinet position that any senators voted against confirmation.

BRIGGS: The Trump administration says 463 parents who were separated from children aged five and older have been deported from the United States without their kids. Administration officials claim those parents an opportunity to bring their children with them but immigrant advocates question whether the parents fully understood what was happening. Federal judge has ordered all families separated out the border to be reunited by Thursday. The administration says there have been 879 families reunited, nearly doubling the overall total since Friday.

ROMANS: In Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler is warning demonstrators to peacefully leave the ICE facility they've occupied for the past five weeks or face removal by police. Wheeler says now is the time to focus instead on a sustainable immigration policy. It is unclear when police will begin enforcing orders to vacate. BRIGGS: Thousands of pages of emails show Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides dismissing tourism benefits and archaeological discoveries in favor of shrinking national monuments for logging, ranching and energy development. "The Washington Post" cites documents the Interior Department released this month then retracted a day later. Following Zinke's four-month review and despite pushback from interior officials, President Trump significantly reduced two of Utah's largest national monuments.

ROMANS: All right. Just about 40 minutes past the hour. Are you looking to buy a house? Prepare to face record high prices existing home sales fell in June. Sales fell the third straight month in a row.

The problem is tight supply. For months, there's been a shortage of homes on the market.

[04:40:02] Not enough new homes built to make up the difference, and that is driving prices to record highs, locking out many potential buyers, especially for starter homes. Sales fell 18 percent from last year. But as prices and mortgage rates rise, there is concern demand may slow, making the housing market a possible weak spot in an otherwise strong economy.

Unemployment is at an 18-year low. Economists expect second quarter growth to exceed 4 percent. We're going to get that number on Friday, the GDP for Q4. And all indications are it's going to be a hot quarter.

BRIGGS: North of four.


BRIGGS: Massive growth.

All right. President Trump's all caps tweet on Iran is just silly diplomacy and the thoughts of a corrupted person, says a top official in Tehran. How the president responds after warning Iran of severe consequences.



[04:45:02] SANDERS: The president's been I think pretty strong since day one in his language towards Iran. He was responding to comments made from them and he's going to continue to focus on the safety and security of American people.


ROMANS: The White House is defending president's all caps tweet to Iran, warning of dire consequences if the U.S. is threatened again. The president is calling on the Iranians to be cautious. Iran's foreign minister firing back with this, color us unimpressed. The world heard even harsher bluster months ago. Javad Zarif concludes his tweet by channeling President Trump's

warning: be cautious.

Let's bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, live from London.

Dueling capitalized messages between world leaders threatening war, just unheard of.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is not the high art of diplomacy. Five or six years ago, John Kerry was talking to Javad Zarif in coded messages in some degree, in secrecy, trying to establish a lengthy and complicated nuclear agreement. The Trump administration pulled out of that and developed a 12-point wish list of what it'd like to see Iran to do.

This is all about trying to pressure the Iranian government concession. Sanctions are being slowly wound up again. European allies pressured to honoring them as well since the U.S. pulled out of the nuclear agreement. But Iran I think to some degree is struggling to work out how to respond to President Trump's all capitals message.

Yes, President Trump was responding to Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, saying they should not pull the lion's tail and mother of all wars if they provoke Iran. And Sarah Sanders came forward and said, look, it was Iran that started it. I cannot imagine almost how we are dealing with this kind of level of simplicity when it comes to matters quite strategically important as Iran.

But that, too, was backed up by Donald Trump himself saying he had no concerns at all about potentially inflaming the situation with Iran. And then John Bolton, the ambassador, who is now national security adviser, said if anything negative was tried by Iran that would eventually spur, provoke military consequences.

We've heard Iran today talk about this being silly diplomacy. The speaker of its parliament, we heard the foreign spokesperson say this is the sign of the utter helplessness of U.S. policy here. But the 48 hours bluster, the region is no calmer, and we're not clear if any kind of diplomatic solution as to what comes after the U.S. pulling out of a nuclear agreement -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh for us in London, thank you, Nick.

BRIGGS: Toronto police have identified the suspect in a shooting rampage that left two dead and 13 others injured. The suspected gunman Faisal Hussain was killed by police. Authorities still don't have a motive, if no ruled out terrorism. One shooting victim is identified as 18-year-old Reece Fallon. The family of a second victim, a 10-year-old girl, does not want her name released.

Gun violence is a growing concern in Canada's most populous city. In 2017, Toronto police reported 205 shootings with five months still left in 2018, the totals have already exceeded last year.

ROMANS: All right. You want to make Chick-fil-A at home? Chick-fil- A is the first fast food chain to launch meal kit. Dave's favorite story in the morning.

CNNMoney, next.


[04:52:56] BRIGGS: Rattled nerves in the Bay Area after three people were killed in attacks on public transit in less than a week. John Cowell was taken into custody Monday night on the death of 18-year old Nia Wilson. She was walking on the subway platform with her sister's Sunday night when Cowell allegedly stabbed her in an unprovoked attack. Demonstrators held a vigil for Wilson drawing, nearly 1,000 people to downtown Oakland.

ROMANS: Early Saturday morning, 47-year-old Don Stevens was found on the platform at the Bay Fair Station just south of Oakland. Authorities right now searching for a suspect there.

And last week, 51-year-old Gerald Bisbee died. He was assaulted at the Pleasant Hill Station in Walnut Creek. The suspect in that case is in custody.

BRIGGS: If you're packing a snack for your children today, listen up, Pepperidge Farm recalling four varieties of Goldfish crackers over possible salmonella risk. One of the company's suppliers says whey powder and the Goldfish seasoning could be contaminated. Out of an abundance of caution, Pepperidge Farm is voluntarily recalling flavor blasted extra cheddar, flavored blasted sour cream and onion, Goldfish baked with whole-grain and extra cheddar and Goldfish mix with extra cheddar and pretzel.

ROMANS: All right. Protests erupt in Florida after a man gunned down another person in a heated argument may not face charges. The shooter may be protected by the state's stand your ground law. The sheriff's office say Michael Drejka approached 24-year-old Britany Jacobs angry she parked in a handicap spot. They say her boyfriend Markeis McGlockton then confronted Drejka.

Surveillance video shows McGlockton pushed Drejka to the ground, Drejka then pulls out the handgun and shoots McGlockton in the chest, killing him. Police say Drejka did have a valid Florida concealed weapons license. Efforts by CNN to reach Drejka were not successful.

Half of editorial staff of "The New York Daily News" is looking for work this morning. Cuts by the paper's owner, Chicago-based Tronc, including most of the photo department, even though "The Daily News" logo is a camera, and about 2/3 of the sports department.

[04:55:04] Today's online edition has Yankees and Mets recaps from "A.P.", not "Daily News" reporters. Editor in chief Jim Rich also among the now unemployed.

ROMANS: Before the cuts were announced, he posted this ominous tweet: If you hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you.

The model for Superman's "Daily Planet", "The Daily News", has battled shriveling ad revenue as journalism moved to online distribution, the paper reportedly lost $90 million over the past three years.

Top Georgia Republicans are calling on a state lawmaker to resign after he dropped his pants and screamed racial slurs on camera.



UNIDENTIIFED MALE: Good. One more time, but louder with America.




ROMANS: Jason Spencer featured on Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime series "Who is America", Spencer said he was punked, tricked into believing he was making an anti-terrorism training video and he started screaming the n-word as a form of self defense.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of who you are, you could be the victim of kidnapping by ISIS. You have two seconds to attract attention. How do you attract attention?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Start screaming. Take your clothes off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In America, there is one forbidden word. The "N" word. Now, I am going to be the terrorist. You have three seconds to attract attention.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you crazy? The "N" word is no need. Not this word. This word is disgusting.



ROMANS: Spencer has not returned CNN's calls, but he told "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" the series convinced him to participate by playing on his fear that he or his family would be attacked. Fears, he said, were sparked by death threats after he proposed legislation barring Muslim women from bearing burqas.

Spencer lost the latest state primary. He'll be out of office by year's end one way or another. Just bizarre story there.

A look -- get a check on CNNMoney this morning.

Global stocks are higher today after U.S. stocks closed mixed. The Nasdaq, S&P 500 rose on a rally in tech, the best performing sector, of course, this year. Big tech companies report earnings this week. Companies like Alphabet, shares of the Google parent jumped 4 percent overnight, ad sales were higher than expected. That offset that $5 billion fine from the E.U. Europe claims Google pushed its app on smartphones users, looking out competition.

Today's day two for a busy week in corporate earnings, more than a third of S&P companies are set to report. Today, we'll hear from 3M, JetBlue, Verizon and Harly-Davidson.

Nike will raise wages for 10 percent of its workforce following claims of inequal, unfair pay. The pay bump comes after an internal review by Nike prompted by claims of discrimination against women. Nike says it wants a corporate culture where employees feel included and empowered. This is not the first time Nike has dealt with allegations of inequality in its corporate ranks. In April, several executives resigned due to widespread complaints of sexual harassment and widespread gender discrimination within the company.

All right. Do you want to make Chick-fil-A at home? Chick-fil-A is the first fast food chain to launch meal kits. It is testing out kits like the one you see here in Atlanta this month.

They contain pre-measured ingredients, takes less than 30 minutes to assemble the meal. It can be ordered at Chick-fil-A restaurants. Chick-fil-A currently offering five different recipes including chicken parmesan, chicken ensaladas, chicken flat bread. Chick-fil-A not the first food company to take the meal kit industry. Walmart and Kroger are developing their own.

You know, I have to say that looks delicious. But when I watch Chick- fil-A -- I just want Chick-fil-A. I want Chick-fil-A.

BRIGGS: You want the number one, number one combo? My personal favorite. The problem is that drive-it thru in my neck of the woods, you have to wait 30 minutes. So, it's a long line.

All right. EARLY START continues right now with the president's new enemies list. Why he's stripping security clearance or wants to from former intel officials.



SANDERS: The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they politicize and in some cases monetize their public service.


ROMANS: That's the White House take with the president being accused of distracting from the Russia investigation by silencing his critics.

BRIGGS: New satellite imagery showing North Korea dismantling a key satellite facility. The site plays a big role in Pyongyang's missile program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have three seconds to attract attention. Go!



ROMANS: Drop your pants and scream the "N" word to protect yourself from a terror attack. A Georgia state lawmaker put that argument on camera, punked, tricked -- what he's saying to defend himself this morning?