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Mike Pompeo Clashes with Democrat and Republican Lawmakers; Explosion Outside U.S. Embassy in Beijing; Violence Escalates in Southern Syria. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:14] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president and the EU stepping back from the edge of a trade war. Both sides say they'll hold off on new tariffs. They're trying to resolve other issues as they work on a larger deal.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The predicate of your question implied some notion that there was something improper about having a one-on-one meeting. I completely disagree with the premise of your question.

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I just -- I didn't ask you a predicate, I asked you a simple question.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The secretary of State on the defensive. Both parties demand answers about the president's private meeting with Vladimir Putin.

BRIGGS: And breaking news. A scare at the U.S. embassy in China. An explosion just off the compound. A live report just moments away.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, July 26th. It is 4:00 a.m. exactly in the East. Good morning, everyone.

The U.S. and the EU easing the threat of a Transatlantic trade war at least for now. Stepping back from the brink. Both sides agree to work to eliminate trade barriers. In an impromptu press conference with the European Commissioner president Jean-Claude Juncker, President Trump called it a big day for free trade.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agreed today, first of all, to work together towards zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods.


ROMANS: It was essentially a deal to make a deal. The two leaders agreed to resolve their biggest issues on trade, like the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum and the E.U.'s retaliatory tariffs on things like denim, bourbon, and motorcycles. In return, the E.U. promised to buy more U.S. natural gas and soybeans, while both sides agreed to hold off -- hold off on further tariffs while these negotiations are going on. That includes Trump's threat to slap tariffs on imported cars.

The president thinks the barriers on auto imports are uneven. The U.S. -- E.U., rather, charges 10 percent on U.S. cars. Higher than the 2.5 percent the U.S. stocks and the Europeans cars. Both sides promised to reduce trade barriers overall. The U.S. and the E.U. have the largest economic relationship in the world. $1 trillion in trade there.

A lot of questions still.


ROMANS: But moving now in a direction that seems to be fruitful.

BRIGGS: At least quieting down.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: The trade war for the time being.

Well, the president back on the road today talking about trade. His first stop in Dubuque, Iowa, a state where farmers have been hard hit by retaliatory tariffs from China and the European Union.

The administration's $12 billion bailout this week was not warmly received. Even by Iowa Republican governor Kim Reynolds who will be at the president's side today. An Iowa farm group told CNN the president is using a sledgehammer. "We need a scalpel."

An editorial in this morning's "USA Today" says Trump has turned productive farmers into supplicants, pushed government deep into the business of picking winners and losers and shamelessly politicized the process of spending taxpayer money." The paper calls for lawmakers to take action on trade on rather than just attack the president.

ROMANS: All right. Leaders of the far-right House Freedom Caucus introducing a resolution to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Ultraconservative Republicans and President Trump have had Rosenstein in their sights now for months, mainly for his role supervising the Mueller investigation and what they call Justice Department stonewalling on congressional subpoenas for thousands of documents.

Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows says the impeachment measure could be brought up for a vote at any moment to what's called a privileged motion.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: It would require a vote on the House floor within two days. Quite frankly, it's either we hold him in contempt or we get the documents, or we impeach him.


BRIGGS: In reality, impeachment is very unlikely. Top House leaders don't support it. Rosenstein himself has pushed back forcefully against House Republican critics. In May, he said the Justice Department is not going to be extorted. And there's not much time to do anything. The House leaves for a month-long recess after today.

ROMANS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo clashing with Democrats and Republicans at a Senate hearing that turned out to be high on drama and low on substance.

Pompeo trying to project toughness when it comes to the administration's Russia strategy, insisting the U.S. will not recognize Crimea as part of Russia even though the President Trump himself is unwilling to make that same commitment.

BRIGGS: The secretary of State refusing to provide details about the secret meeting in Helsinki last week between the president and Vladimir Putin, as the White House announces a second summit between Trump and Putin won't take place until next year.

More now from Michelle Kosinski on Capitol Hill.


This was a chance for senators to finally get their questions answered about what exactly was said in this two-hour closed-door meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

[04:05:10] But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, often with a snarky attitude, simply would not answer many of them, saying they were private conversations. I mean, even the simplest question, did Trump tell you what went on in that meeting? This was contentious from the start.


MENENDEZ: Has the president told you what he and President Putin discussed in their two-hour, closed-door meeting in Helsinki?

POMPEO: The presidents have a prerogative to choose who's in meetings or not. I'm confident you've had private one-on-one meetings in your life as well. You've chosen that setting as the most efficient way to --

MENENDEZ: I just asked a simple question. Did you --


POMPEO: Yes, I just -- I'm giving you a simple answer, Senator. MENENDEZ: You can't eat up my seven minutes, Mr. Secretary. Did you

-- did he tell you whether or not -- what happened in those two hours?

POMPEO: Yes, Senator. The predicate of your questions implied some notion that there was something improper about having a one-on-one meeting. And I completely disagree with the premise of your question.

MENENDEZ: I just -- I didn't ask you a predicate, I asked you a simple question, I hope we're going to get to it. Did he tell you what transpired in the two-hour meeting?

POMPEO: I've had a number of conversations with President Trump about what transpired in the meeting. I was also president when -- present when he and President Putin both gave us a sense of what they discussed in the meeting that followed immediately after.


KOSINSKI: A couple of remarkable moments. The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, had this striking criticism.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It's the president's actions that create tremendous distrust in our nation, among our allies. It's palpable. From where we sit, it appears that on a ready, fire, aim fashion, the White House is waking up every morning and making it up as they go.


KOSINSKI: Pompeo did state clearly that President Trump does accept the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election, that he has a complete understanding of what happened. But remember, Trump himself would not say anything like that, not even close when he was there side-by-side with Vladimir Putin -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Michelle, thanks.

Michael Cohen's legal problems could get more complicated, now that one of his secret recordings has been leaked. It contains a conversation between Cohen and then candidate Donald Trump. On it they discussed a proposal to buy the rights to a former Playboy Playmate's story she had an affair with Trump. Cohen's legal team failed to notify the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan that it was taking that tape to the media. That could hurt his ability to get a cooperation deal. A former federal prosecutor from the same office telling CNN they don't like to be part of any media circus.

On Wednesday, the president lashed out at Cohen tweeting, "What kind of lawyer would tape a client?" While the president did not comment on the substance of the tape.

ROMANS: CNN's effort to get Trump to comment on the Cohen recording led to our reporter being banned from a White House event. Kaitlan Collins is in the Oval Office as the TV pool reporter at that photo- op, you can hear her asked three questions about Michael Cohen.


TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody.



COLLINS: Did Michael Cohen betray you?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.


COLLINS: Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors? Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?


ROMANS: Business as usual for a photo-op. She was the pool reporter meaning she was representing the entire press corps there. The White House took offense. Kaitlan Collins says minutes later communications chief Bill Shine disinvited her from an upcoming press availability in the Rose Garden.

BRIGGS: She says Shine told her the questions she -- were asking there was inappropriate for that venue and they told her when she was shouting. As you saw, other reporters were pitching questions as well. CNN did send different reporters to the Rose Garden event. The White House Correspondents Association issued a statement condemning what it calls misguided and inappropriate decision. We should add FOX News themselves issued a statement in support of CNN and Kaitlan Collins' ability to ask questions in that venue.

ROMANS: Yes. And most media organizations and the reporters who cover the White House -- you know, it's an incredibly competitive job there, and to have all of those other people competing would come together and say hey, that was inappropriate on the White House part.

I will point out, too, the president was tweeting about this subject earlier in the day. The president of the United States --

BRIGGS: These very questions she was asking.

ROMANS: -- raising this to the level of the White House. That the White House reporter would ask that question, the president is the one who started the news of the day.

BRIGGS: It's an unusual and some say authoritarian move.

ROMANS: News of the days. BRIGGS: Today is the deadline for the government to reunite migrant

families separated at the border by the president's zero tolerance policy toward illegal border crossing. But it is clear the federal effort will fall short. We know as many as 914 parents will not be reunited with their children for various reasons. Parents cannot be found or have criminal records, need further investigation or in some cases were deported without their kids.

We spoke with the head of a program trying to help parents ejected from the U.S. without their children.


[04:10:06] EFREN OLIVARES, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: They talked to their son a couple of times. But it's also -- those are very hard conversations because the son is crying all the time. They get on the phone, it's like, why did you leave me? Why can't -- how come you won't come and get me? When's he going to understand about zero tolerance policies, right?


ROMANS: The judge in the case has commended the government for its progress on reunifications but says he finds the effects of the policy deeply troubling.

A "Washington Post" editorial today says, "Hundreds of bureaucrats have spent weeks trying to match separated children with their parents, hamstrung by the absence of data that was either never recorded or inadvertently destroyed. The fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the lieutenants who serve them never anticipated this eventuality speaks to their callousness."

BRIGGS: And breaking overnight the U.S. embassy in Beijing says one person detonated an explosive device outside the embassy compound.

CNN's Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing with the latest. Matt, what do we know?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dave, this did create quite a scene here in Beijing earlier this afternoon. There's was a lot of smoke in a video that made its way around Chinese social media which prompted a lot of different speculation about what was going on outside the embassy. That's the embassy right there over my left shoulder. What ended up happening according to the U.S. embassy inside is one individual actually detonated a small device. Beijing police are calling it a firecracker like device.

No motive yet given but you can see right here those are the scorch marks down on the ground. Two different areas. One to the left there and one to the right. And apparently this was a 26-year-old man who only injured himself in this incident. No one else, thankfully here at the scene outside the embassy was injured. It's right over there to my left that that's where people line up to get visas to come to the United States. This is quite a crowded area so there was certainly the risk that this

could have been worse than it was. Thankfully there were no other injuries.

But, Dave, the big question, what's the motive here? And that's something that police are keeping very close to the vest at this point.

BRIGGS: Some good news, though. No other injuries.

Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. More than 200 people now dead after a series of attacks in southern Syria. We go live to the Middle East with why the area is suddenly facing this escalating violence.


[04:16:36] BRIGGS: All right. 4:16 Eastern Time. ISIS taking responsibility for a day of unimaginable carnage in Syria. At least 216 people killed, another 180 wounded in a suicide bombing at a market and other attacks. The struggle for the people of southern Syria worsening by the hour.

Jomana Karadsheh checking the latest for us live from Istanbul.

Jomana, good morning. Why the uptick in violence?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, this was a very rare kind of attack in this part of the country in Sweida province. That area has been spared much of the violence we've seen in other parts of Syria over the past few years. It was a very brazen attack. Really coordinated and complex.

And just to give you an idea, this was not just a number of suicide bombers targeted the city of Sweida. You had dozens of ISIS gunmen who also stormed villages around that area and also hearing reports from local officials there that they went into homes and killed families while they were sleeping. But the majority of the 216 killed are local fighters and regime forces. That is according to local officials there.

If you look at the area of southwestern Syria, what has been going on there next door in the provinces of Quneitra and Daraa. That is where we've seen this regime offensive for more than a month. They've re- captured almost all that area with the exception of one ISIS pocket there that they have been battling to try and recapture for days with intense bombardment and fighting.

So perhaps this attack that we saw on Wednesday, an attempt by ISIS to divert regime troops away from that ISIS pocket, but also a reminder that the group, while it may have lost more than 98 percent of the territory once controlled the Iraq and Syria as U.S. officials say, it still possesses the ability to carry out such devastating attacks -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Jomana Karadsheh live for us in Istanbul, thank you.

ROMANS: And just days after a mass shooting left two people dead. The Toronto city council votes overwhelmingly to push the Canadian's federal government to ban the sale of handguns in the city. City officials also want the government to consider tougher penalties and more resources to handle firearm trafficking as well increase mental health screening. Gun violence is a growing problem in Toronto. Canada's most populous city has already had more shootings in the first seven months of this year than all of last year.

All right. Today could be a very rough day for tech stocks.


ROMANS: Brace yourself, folks. Facebook puts privacy first and the stock plunges more than 20 percent.


[04:23:39] ROMANS: All right. Facebook shares, ouch, plunging more than 20 percent overnight. And that could mean a rough day for stocks today. A 20 percent drop is technically known as a crash. A crash in Facebook shares. Right now, Facebook has lost more than $100 billion in market value. Its sales were lower than expected last quarter. But it's the future that really spooked Wall Street. Facebook's plans to put privacy first spending millions -- get that -- billions on security and that will cut into profit for years.

This is the direct result of Facebook's data privacy scandal where at least the info of 87 million users. It is also combats the spread of fake news or election meddling. It is important. It is a responsibility for this company. It is little late and it's going to cost it money. Investors worry Facebook's problems are not unique and the entire tech sector sold off overnight including Twitter, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple.

Tech stocks, though, for some context here, have been on fire this year. The NASDAQ is up 15 percent mainly because tech companies have been largely immune to these trade tensions, trade Trump trade war worries. Other companies aren't so lucky. U.S. automakers say steel and aluminum tariffs are hurting profits. That's also true for manufacturers like Whirlpool and Harley-Davidson. We're getting these earning supports. We're hearing how trade battles are affecting these different parts of the economy. But wow, watch tech today. Facebook, a real big decline.

[04:25:05] BRIGGS: Mark Zuckerberg lost some $18 billion in net worth. According to Forbes. What will he do with just the $60 billion he has left?

In California, authorities have arrested a man linked to the Cransten Fire which has scorched 4700 areas. At this point no containment at least 500 firefighters are battling the flames. More than 2,000 homes evacuated.

Brandon McGlover is facing arson charges for allegedly setting this and other fires in southwest riverside county. Meantime, the Ferguson fire charred more than 41,000 acres. Parts of Yosemite Park closed due to the fire and what would be its busiest season.

Addison Barnes who sued his Oregon high school after getting suspended for that shirt touting Trump's border wall will get $25,000 for his trouble. The money is to repay his legal fees. Barnes graduated this year from Liberty High School in Hillsborough, Oregon. He claimed the school violated his First Amendment Rights by punishing him for a shirt that said "Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Company." Barnes also gets a formal apology from the school's principal who wrote, "Please accept my apologies for charging you with a suspension. Best wishes to you in the future."

ROMANS: All right. President Trump steps back from the brink of a trade war with Europe. He is agreeing to hold off on new car tariffs while he work with the EU to resolve trade disputes.