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President Trump Weighs Stripping Critics Of Their Security Clearances; North Korea Begins Dismantling Key Nuclear Test Site; Georgia Lawmaker Punked By Sacha Baron Cohen. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 24, 2018 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:35] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they've politicized and, in some cases, monetized their public service.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: That's the White House take, but the president is being accused of distracting from the Russia investigation by silencing his critics.

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


SACHA BARON COHEN, BRITISH ACTOR, COMEDIAN, SCREENWRITER, AND PRODUCER: You have three seconds to attract attention -- go.

STATE REP. JASON SPENCER (R), WOODBINE, GEORGIA: N-word, n-word, n- word, n-word.


BRIGGS: So that happened. Drop your pants and scream the n-word to protect yourself from a terror attack. A Georgia lawmaker bought that argument on camera. What he's saying to defend himself.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody, on an extraordinary Tuesday. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Thirty-one minutes past the hour right now.

Let's begin with what "The Wall Street Journal" calls the "dumb idea of the week." The White House says President Trump is considering stripping a half-dozen former national security officials of their security clearances.

Press Sec. Sarah Sanders cites their public criticism of the president in the midst of the Russia investigation.


SANDERS: The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they've politicized and, in some cases, monetized 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.


BRIGGS: The list includes former officials from the FBI, CIA, and other national security jobs. Oddly, sources say two, James Comey and Andrew McCabe, no longer have security clearances anyway, having been fired from the Trump administration.

Normally, former top officials keep their clearances so they can consult their successors on a voluntary basis.

Take the example 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.

ROMANS: The president's plan seems to be unplanned, likely at the suggestion of Sen. Rand Paul. Paul is considered a pivotal vote in the upcoming Supreme Court battle.

BRIGGS: Critics quick to seize on the threat of retaliation by the White House, but officials on the president's hit list, if you will, downplayed the impact of potentially losing their security clearance.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I think it's -- off the top of my head, it's kind of a sad commentary where for political reasons this is 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 precedent and it's a very sad commentary. And it's an abuse of the system.


BRIGGS: Former NSA director Michael Hayden says being stripped of his 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.

Let's bring in "Washington Examiner" commentary writer Philip Wegmann this morning, live in D.C.

ROMANS: Good morning.


BRIGGS: All right. So besides giving the president a few new names for the crowd to boo in Tampa one week from tonight, what would it actually accomplish to strip the security clearance of these former officials because after all, the reason for it is so current officials can seek advice from former officials?

ROMANS: Continuity, right.


WEGMANN: Well, I mean, I think you're absolutely right.

First and foremost, it demonstrates the pettiness of this president. I mean, let's be clear, this is the guy who wants to make certain that his own son-in-law has a security clearance but yet, he doesn't want to extend those to former members of the intelligence committee.

That said -- and while I don't think that issue should be discussed in political terms that President Trump has stirred up -- I think it's a question worth asking.

I mean, why should Michael Flynn or Andrew McCabe -- guys who are former members of the intelligence committee, guys who are in the self-promotion business, not in the defend the United States from all threats, domestic and foreign business -- why should they be able to hold onto these or to hold onto the eligibility for these?

I think that this is a discussion worth having without a lot of the media hysteria that President Trump purposely stirred up when he did this.

ROMANS: The continuity thing, I think, is pretty interesting because you have these totalitarian regimes where they sweep out the old guard, right, and sweep in the new guard. And so, it's sort of a mark of getting rid of your political enemies.

[05:35:08] The United States, who has long enjoyed this tradition of continuity -- of some of these folks working for Republican and Democratic presidents --

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: -- and just following through on that is one of the things that is sort of unique about the United States.

But "The Wall Street Journal" calls this the "dumb idea of the week."

"Sometimes we wonder what kind of discussions take place inside the Trump White House. On Monday, press secretary Sarah Sanders disclosed that President Trump may revoke the security clearances of people who have criticized him.

Someone should have said that's a dumb idea. It will make us look petty and it won't accomplish anything."

"The Wall Street Journal" editorial board coming out strong on this.

WEGMANN: Yes, but it's too late for this administration not to look petty. I mean, come on, we're 500 days in. We know the nature of the current White House.

Look, though, I think it's interesting, for instance, that someone like Brennan, a former CIA spook, who definitely lied to Congress about spying on Senate staffers, someone who probably should not still have eligibility for the security status --

That's a question that we should be asking because remember, absolutely, other regimes clear out the old guard but we know that administrations and the people in power change but human nature doesn't. And I don't think that we should pretend for a moment that people in the intelligence committee -- once they leave the intelligence community are no longer self-interested.

So this is a discussion worth having. Again, though, that doesn't do anything to do away with the pettiness of this administration by pushing it now.

BRIGGS: Well, you also -- you just have to point out here if a reporter asked a question with incorrect information the way Sarah Sanders did from the podium, she would hammer them as fake news. As this is what the press -- this is why the people don't trust the press.

She came out with a prepared list, two of whom already had their status -- their clearance taken away, so that mistake shouldn't go unnoticed.

But I want to ask you about the president today in Kansas City speaking with veterans of foreign wars. He'll be greeted by an editorial in "The Kansas City Star" that says "The president should take this opportunity to do something he's not known for and that's to listen to some of the heroes who will be on hand to hear him."

This all because of the all-caps Twitter exchange of war between the --


BRIGGS: -- U.S. and Iran.

Are we headed for military action there or is this just more Twitter bluster from the White House, Phil?

WEGMANN: We definitely saw this Twitter bluster from the president when he was confronting North Korea. The world did not end.

At the same time though, when you're dealing with a nuclear threat, I don't think that this is the way to go. This approach is something unconventional and this approach is very dangerous. But the ironic thing here is that if the president employed this approach when he was dealing with Russia -- if he told them not to meddle in our elections and promised fire and fury, I think that this would be a tremendous boost for him.

Instead, though, he picks and chooses his enemies and it seems like he's picking and choosing them based on political reasons, not necessarily national security reasons.

ROMANS: It will be really interesting to see what his tone is like today because if he's talking about war, I mean these are people who know firsthand what war does, what war is like. But it's also a group of people who presumably love this president.

BRIGGS: He's done very well --


BRIGGS: -- relating to the veterans --

ROMANS: He really has.

BRIGGS: -- and championing their causes.

ROMANS: He really has -- all right.

Phil Wegmann, nice to see you. Thank you, sir.

WEGMANN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: All right.

New satellite images appear to show what 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. Walk us through the significance here of what this imagery is showing.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, North Korea has always maintained, Christine, that the Sohae launch site is purely for scientific purposes.

They said when they launched the satellite in 2012, which scuttled the very short-lived denuclearization deal that was negotiated with the Obama administration, because the U.S. said you say you're launching satellites but this same kind of ballistic missile technology could be used to deliver a warhead, the North Koreans said no, this is all for peace.

In fact, I spoke with some of the scientists who are overseeing the entire operation at Sohae a few years ago -- listen.


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

HYON KWANG IL, DIRECTOR OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, SOHAE SATELLITE TESTING SITE, NORTH KOREA (through translator): Why on earth would we drop nuclear bombs on the people of the world, including the United States?


RIPLEY: Well, we know that since then there have been a lot of threats to drop nuclear bombs on the United States and elsewhere.

And the North Koreans are now, as part of their pledge to take steps towards denuclearization, taking apart this Sohae launch site which they've launched a couple of satellites from this site. They used liquid fuel technology there, so you roll the missile out. You can see them preparing the missile for a pretty significant amount of time before it's actually launched.

And this is what is crucial because North Korea has since moved on from Sohae. They haven't launched anything from there in a long time.

They've moved on now to solid fuel technology. Those solid fuel missiles can be rolled out very quickly, they can be launched from mobile launchers, and that's what North Korea has been doing in recent years.

[05:40:06] So this is symbolic that they're taking this apart -- the work happening -- these images just from the last couple of days. But it's just one small step down a very long road towards denuclearization. And the big assets -- they key assets -- they're still in place, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Will Ripley for us in Hong Kong. Thanks, Will.

BRIGGS: The Trump administration says 463 parents who were separated from toddlers at the border have been deported from the United States without their kids. Administration officials claim those parents had an opportunity to bring their children with them but immigrant advocates questioned whether the parents fully understood what was happening.

A federal judge has ordered all families separated at the border to be reunited by Thursday. The administration says 879 families have been reunited, nearly doubling the 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's unclear when police will begin enforcing those orders to vacate.

All right. If you have kids, Goldfish are in your pantry. Which ones are being recalled this morning and why, next.


[05:45:29] BRIGGS: Breaking news at 5:45 eastern time.

Hundreds are missing after a dam collapse in southern Laos. State media reports a hydro-powered dam failed, flooding six villages. The official news agency says flash flooding caused by the dam collapse killed several people and left more than 6,000 people homeless.

ROMANS: Toronto police have identified the suspect in a shooting rampage that left two dead and 13 others injured. Faisal Hussain was killed by police.

Authorities still don't have a motive. They have not ruled out terrorism.

One of the shooting victims in the gunfight is 18-year-old Reese Fallon. The family of the 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 this year, the totals have already exceeded last year.

BRIGGS: At least 50 people killed by wildfires burning right now near Athens, Greece. More than 150 others have been injured.

Fires are burning along three main fronts in the Attica region. Seven hundred-fifteen people have been evacuated.

A combination of intense winds and several parallel fires creating an unprecedented challenge for firefighters.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Global stocks are higher today after U.S. stocks closed mixed. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 rose on a rally in tech. That's the best performing sector this year.

Big tech companies report earnings this week, like Alphabet. Shares of the Google parent jumped four percent overnight.

Ad sales were higher than expected. That offset a $5 billion fine from the E.U. Europe claims Google unfairly pushed its apps on smartphone users, locking out competition.

Today is day two for a busy week in corporate earnings. More than a third of S&P 500 companies report today. Expect to hear from 3M, JetBlue, Verizon, Harley-Davidson.

Nike will raise pay for 10 percent of its workforce after claims of unequal 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.

It's not the first time Nike has dealt with allegations of inequality. Back in April, several executives resigned due to widespread complaints of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. All right. You want to make Chick-fil-A at home? Chick-fil-A is the first fast-food chain to launch meal kits. It's testing out kits, like the ones you see here, in Atlanta this month.

They contain premeasured ingredients. They take less than 30 minutes to make. They can be ordered at Chick-fil-A restaurants -- pick up the kit there.

Chick-fil-A is currently offering five different recipes including chicken parmesan, chicken enchiladas, chicken flatbread.

Chick-fil-A is not the first food company to enter the $5 billion meal kit industry. Walmart and Kroger are currently developing their own.

That story makes me very hungry.

BRIGGS: So they are testing beginning August 27th in the Atlanta area, says their Web site. I want to volunteer to cover the rollout.

ROMANS: As a guinea pig?

BRIGGS: Yes, just in case --

ROMANS: A guinea pig.

BRIGGS: -- we need a reporter.

Ahead, a Georgia lawmaker with a display you have to see and hear to believe.


COHEN: If you want to win, you show some skin.


COHEN: OK, show it to me.


BRIGGS: This man convinced to fight off terrorists by -- yes, dropping his pants -- and it actually gets worse.


[05:53:11] BRIGGS: Top Georgia Republicans calling on a state lawmaker to resign after he dropped his pants and screamed racial slurs on camera.


SPENCER: America.

COHEN: Good -- one more time, but louder with America.

SPENCER: America. COHEN: Good.


BRIGGS: America, meet 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, in a matter of speaking, as a form of defense.


COHEN: 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?

SPENCER: Well, you start screaming, take your clothes off.

COHEN: In America, there is one forbidden word. It is the n-word.

Now, I am going to be the terrorist. You have three seconds to attract attention -- go.

SPENCER: N-word, n-word, n-word, n-word.

COHEN: Are you crazy? The n-word is nooni, not this word. This word is disgusting.

SPENCER: Got it.


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 wearing burkas.

Spencer lost the latest state primary. He will be out of office by year's end, one way or another.

BRIGGS: Rattled nerves in the Bay Area after three people were killed in attacks on public transit in less than a week.

[05:55:02] John Cowell was taken into custody Monday night in the death of 18-year-old Nia Wilson. He will be arraigned tomorrow.

Nia Wilson was walking on the subway platform with her sister 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.

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

BRIGGS: A search is underway right now for a missing University of Iowa student. Twenty-year-old Mollie Tibbetts has been missing from Brooklyn, Iowa since last Wednesday. There are reports she had gone out for a jog that evening.

Her boyfriend telling CNN affiliate KCRG he texted Mollie Thursday and got worried when she didn't respond. He immediately alerted her family who created a Facebook page to help find her. So far, no breaks in the case.

ROMANS: All right.

Protests erupt in Florida after officials say a man who gunned down another person during a heated argument may not face charges. The shooter may be protected by the state's Stand Your Ground law.

Sheriff's detectives say Michael Drejka approached 24-year-old Brittany Jacobs, angry she had parked in a handicapped spot. Police say her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, then confronted Drejka.

Surveillance video shows McGlockton pushed Drejka to the ground. You can see Drejka then pulls out a 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.

BRIGGS: And if you're packing a snack for your kids today, listen up. Pepperidge Farm recalling four varieties of Goldfish crackers over a possible salmonella risk. One of the company's suppliers says whey powder in the Goldfish seasoning could be contaminated.

Out of an abundance of caution, Pepperidge Farm is voluntarily recalling Flavor Blasted extra cheddar, Flavor Blasted sour cream and onion, Goldfish baked with whole grain and extra cheddar, and Goldfish Mix, extra cheddar and pretzel.

ROMANS: All right.

The House voting 397 to one to move toward a national 3-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 3-digit dialing code, like 911 for emergencies. It would also evaluate the effectiveness of the current suicide prevention lifeline, including how well it addresses veterans' needs.

The FCC will send a report of recommendations to Congress. All right, get your hopes up and your wallets out. Tonight's Mega Millions jackpot has jumped to $512 million. The cash option, a paltry $303 million. The jackpot is the fifth-biggest in Mega Millions history.

And what do I always say?

BRIGGS: Don't do it. Don't be a wet blanket this morning.

ROMANS: Unless you are fully-funded in your 401(k) and your kids' 529, you have no business buying lottery tickets.

BRIGGS: I say spend the money and skip the Starbucks.

Meanwhile, an incredible comeback story in Major League Baseball.

Cardinals' pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon was struck by a comebacker a little over a year ago while pitching in the minors. He had to have emergency brain surgery and spent weeks in intensive care. Poncedeleon missed the entire rest of the season recovering.

After impressing in the minors this season, Poncedeleon made his big league debut last night in Cincinnati. After seven no-hit innings, his pitch count was at 116, so the Cards pulled him from the game.

They would eventually lose in the ninth but it didn't take away from an incredible debut for Poncedeleon.


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


BRIGGS: Poncedeleon the fifth pitcher to carry a no-hit bid through seven innings in his MLB debut since 1961. And he is a guest with John Berman on "NEW DAY" this morning --

ROMANS: Oh, very cool.

BRIGGS: -- and that could be spectacular.

ROMANS: Very cool.

All right, that's it for us. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Have a great day. "NEW DAY" right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think U.S. intelligence agencies are out to get you? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Certainly, in the past. You look at Brennan, you look at Clapper.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Donald Trump is talking about building an enemies list.

SEN. MARCI RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: They are not actively contributing to our national security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that now going to become a criterion -- a pledge of deity or loyalty to President Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Investigators now have their hands on 12 new audio recordings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did they withdraw their claim of privilege?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY: It's clear that Michael Cohen did not trust Donald Trump. That's why he recorded him.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, July 24th, 6:00 here in New York.

If you are keeping score at home, launch an attack on America, you get invited to the White House. If you warn that the U.S. is not doing enough to defend against such an attack, you lose your security clearance.