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Revocation is Under Consideration; North Korea Dismantling Key Site?; Georgia Lawmaker Embarrassed; Pitcher Debuts 14 Months After Brain Surgery. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 24, 2018 - 05:00   ET



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 with the president being accused of distracting from the Russia investigation by silencing his critics.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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!



[05:00:00] 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?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Not a good moment, Mr. Spencer.

ROMANS: That is bad.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Tuesday, July 24th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

What "The Wall Street Journal", the conservative journal calls the dumb idea of the week, that's where we start. 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 the security clearance. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders cites 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. Sources say two of them, James Comey and Andrew McCabe, actually no longer have security clearances anyway. They were already, of course, fired from the Trump administration.

Normally, former top officials keep their clearances so their successors can consult with them on a volunteer basis. Sort of American tradition, this hand over of knowledge and power. Take the case of Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser. He was fired by the Obama administration but allowed to keep his clearance even as he led lock her up chants at Trump rallies.

BRIGGS: I remember those.

The president's plan seems to be unplanned likely at the suggestion of Senator Rand Paul, who may have taken it from Tucker Carlson at Fox News. Paul is considered a pivotal vote in the upcoming Supreme Court battle scene.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more from the White House.


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.


ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you for that.

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


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.


ROMANS: Former NSA Director Michael Hayden says being stripped of his security clearance would have no affect on what he says or writes. Hayden and James Clapper are both CNN contributors. There has been no comment so far from John Brennan or Susan Rice.

BRIGGS: Paul Manafort's bank and tax fraud trial has been delayed until next Tuesday, were supposed to start tomorrow. The federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, granting a delay to the former Trump campaign manager, allowing Manafort's lawyers to review more than 120,000 pages of documents turned over by prosecutors in just the last month. The judge also granting immunity to five witnesses who are expected to testify in the trial, all of them work for banks or financial firms linked to Manafort.

ROMANS: Brand 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.

CNN's Will Ripley joins us live from Hong Kong. What do we know here, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know is that North Korea is the beginning the process and relatively recently, these images are just from a couple of days ago, 38 North believe the work began within the last two weeks. They are taking apart the Sohae launch station, which they launch a satellite from it in 2012, and that launch actually scuttled a very short lived denuclearization deal that Kim Jong-un in his first weeks of taking power and negotiated with the Obama administration.

And so, now, they're dismantling this location, which they have insisted for years has nothing to do with their nuclear or ballistic missile program.

Listen to what some of the scientists in charge of the whole operation in Sohae told me back in 2015.


RIPLEY: What can you say to the world to prove that this is not a ballistic missile program in disguise? [05:05:04] 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: But, of course, many military analysts believe that even North Korea was launching satellites from Sohae. That same launch technology could be used to deliver a warhead to the U.S. or elsewhere.

Here's the thing though: Sohae missiles relied on liquid fuel. The missiles would sit there, they have to bring the fuel in. You could spot the activity for quite sometime before the actual launch itself.

North Korea has since moved on to a new technology, solid fuel, which allows their missiles to be rolled out with very little notice on those mobile launchers and those missiles, those ballistic missiles can travel just as far. No evidence, Christine, that North Korea is dismantling any of their solid fuel facilities. So, while this is a symbolic step, it's a very small step on a very long run toward denuclearization.


All right. Will Ripley for us in Hong Kong this morning, thanks for your expertise, Will.

BRIGGS: All right. President Trump travels to Kansas City 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 Wilkie, the vote 86-9. It was the first time since V.A. secretary became a cabinet position that any senators voted against confirmation.

ROMANS: 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 have 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 at the border to be reunited by Thursday. The administration says there have been 879 families reunited, nearly doubling the overall total since Friday. BRIGGS: 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.

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. President Trump threatening European cars at his made in America event yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The European Union's been very tough on the United States but they're coming in to see me on Wednesday and we'll see if we can work something out, and otherwise, we have to do something with respect to the millions of cars that they send in every year.


ROMANS: President Trump meets with E.U. leaders tomorrow. The aim is to de-escalate the current trade fight. But European leaders, they failed to stop the president's tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Now, he's threatening tariffs of up to 20 percent on foreign cars.

The president says the current tariffs, the current rules are simply unfair. Europe puts a 10 percent tariffs on American made cars. U.S. only slaps a 2-1/2 percent tariff on European cars.

Automakers around the world even in the U.S. have criticized possible tariffs. Every car sold in the U.S. does contain some imported parts. U.S. automakers would have to absorb higher costs or raise prices. They say a car with imported parts would cost two grand more.

The E.U. also vowed to strike back. It already imposed retaliatory tariffs on things like bourbon and motorcycles that caused Harley- Davidson to shift some production overseas, could hurt Harley's bottom line. Harley reports earnings this morning. Experts expect tariffs to cut into profits.

BRIGGS: Is the president alone on this one or is there agreement on this?

ROMANS: You know, there are those who said for some time it is unfair that some of these trade -- the difference is unfair. When it is all said and done, you know, tariffs will be lower for everyone. But the way, you know, going after American allies at the same time you're going after China, that's what people are taking umbrage with. BRIGGS: Here's to strike a Trump country.

Ahead, if you have kids, you have Goldfish in your pantry. Which ones are being recalled this morning and why? Next.


[05:13:55] ROMANS: Breaking news: Hundreds are missing after a dam collapse in southern Laos. A state media reports a hydropower dam failed, flooding six villages. The official news agency says flash flooding caused by the dam collapse killed several people, left more than 6,000 people homeless.

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, they have not 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: Yes, still looking for a motive there.

At least 50 people killed by wildfires burning there near Athens. More than others have been injured. Fires are burning along three main fronts in the Attica region. There have been hundreds of evacuations.

[05:15:00] A combination of intense winds and several parallel fires creating an unprecedented challenge there for firefighters.

BRIGGS: A search is underway right now for a missing University of Iowa student, 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts has been missing from Brooklyn, Iowa, since last Wednesday. There are reports she had gone for a job that evening. Her boyfriend telling CNN affiliate KCRG he texted Mollie Thursday and became worried when she didn't respond. He immediately alerted her family who created a Facebook page to help find her.

ROMANS: All right. If you are packing a snack or lunch for your children today, listen up, folks. Pepperidge Farm is recalling goldfish crackers for a 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.

BRIGGS: The House voting 397-1 to move to the national three digit hotline for mental health and suicide prevention. The proposal led by Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah directs federal officials to study a new easy-to-remember three-digit dialing code, like 911.

It would also evaluate the effectiveness of the current national suicide prevention lifeline, including how well it addresses veterans' needs. The FCC will then send a report with recommendations to Congress. The Senate already passed a companion bill in November.

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.




BRIGGS: Jason Spencer featured on Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime series "Who is America'. Spencer says he was punked into believing he was making an anti-terrorism training video and started screaming the "N" word when suggested to as a form of 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 for comments, 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.

So, Sacha Baron Cohen strikes again I guess. I mean, he's been doing this kind of stuff for years. Is he an equal opportunity trickster? I mean, is it Democrats and Republicans? BRIGGS: He has fooled both Republicans and Democrats. Nancy Pelosi included. But it does seen the majority of them are Republicans. But, yes, clearly punked and at the end of the political career.

Ahead, a line drive nearly ended his life. Now 14 months later, Daniel Poncedeleon makes a remarkable major league debut. Andy Scholes has this in the "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:10] BRIGGS: Fourteen months after emergency brain surgery, a Cardinals pitcher nearly throws a no-hitter in his Major League debut.


Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hi, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, this is just an incredible comeback story. Cardinals pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon, he was struck by a comeback a little over a year ago while pitching in the minors. And we're going to show you the video from that game in May of 2017. The ball striking Poncedeleon on the side of his head. He had to have emergency brain surgery and then he spent weeks in intensive care.

Poncedeleon missed the entire rest of the season recovering. But after impressing in the minors this season, Poncedeleon making his big league debut last night in Cincinnati after seven no hit innings, his pitch count up to 116, so the Cardinals pulled from the game. They would eventually lose in the ninth, but it certainly didn't take away from the incredible debut for Poncedeleon.


DANIEL PONCEDELEON, ST. LOUIS CARDINALS PITCHER: That journey was not drawn up by me or myself. Obviously there is greater one drawing up this plan and this story. It's God's plan.


SCHOLES: The awesome comeback. Poncedeleon, the fifth pitcher to carry a no-hit bid through seven innings in this MLB debut since 1961.

All right. Swimmer Ryan Lochte has been suspended 14 months by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Now, Lochte didn't take illegal substances. He is being punished for taking too large of a volume IV infusion in a 12-hour period of time. And the only reason doping agency even knew about this is because Lochte posted a picture of himself doing it on Instagram.


RYAN LOCHTE, 12-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST: I wasn't taking anything illegal. Everything was legal. You can get it at CVS, Walgreens, Publix. Like you name it, you can get it. They are just vitamins. But there are rules and you have to obey by them.


SCHOLES: Despite the suspension, Lochte says he still plans on trying to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Games which start exactly two years from today.

All right. Finally, "Bleacher Report" unveiling its 50 most influential people in sports culture. The BR Power 50 acknowledges a mix of athletes and celebrities who have most influenced sports culture in 2018. They're broken up in a five categories, and the essays are written by mix of writers and athletes and fans.

You can check out how NBA legend Steve Nash compares Ronaldo to Michael Jordan. You also read about how quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo thought he was better than Brady the day he got to the Patriots, interesting read there.

And for more on those, guys, you can check them all out on

BRIGGS: You want another interesting read. Read who Jimmy Garoppolo went out on a date with. That's for TMZ.

SCHOLES: I saw that headline.

BRIGGS: Well played by Garoppolo.

Hey, Poncedeleon, that cardinals pitcher, will be on "NEW DAY." So, that should be a fantastic guest for them straight ahead.

Thank you, Andy Scholes.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. The conservative editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" calls it the dumb idea of the week. But the White House is standing by this move to strip former intel officials of their security clearances over the Russia probe.