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EARLY START

Mike Pompeo Grilled on Russia Talks; Explosion Outside U.S. Embassy in China; Violence Escalates in Southern Syria. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 04:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:30:50] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Trade truce. The president and E.U. stepping back from the edge of the trade war. Both sides say they hold off on new tariffs and try to resolve other issues as they work on a larger deal.

BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Secretary of State on the defensive. Both parties demand answers about the president's private meeting with Vladimir Putin.

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

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

ROMANS: Happy Thursday. That's right. I'm Christine Romans. 31 minutes past the hour. Nice to see you all this morning.

We begin with this truce here. The E.U. and the U.S. easing the threat of a transatlantic trade war at least for now as both sides agree to work to eliminate trade barriers. In a press conference with the European Commissioner president Jean-Claude Juncker, President Trump called it a big day for free trade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: It was essentially a deal to make a deal. The two leaders agreed to resolve their biggest issues on trade, like 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, buy more soybeans, while both sides agreed to hold off on further tariffs during negotiations. That includes Trump's threat to slap tariffs on imported cars.

Now The president thinks that barriers on auto imports are uneven. The E.U. charges 10 percent on U.S. cars. It's way more than what the U.S. slaps on European cars. But both sides promised to cut trade barriers. The U.S. and the E.U. have the largest economic relationship in the world. $1 trillion in trade there.

BRIGGS: So a truce, time-out, as we parents sometimes call it.

ROMANS: A timeout. That's right.

BRIGGS: Well, hopefully there is a deal.

The president back on the road today talking about trade. His first stop is Dubuque, Iowa, a state where farmers have been hard hit by retaliatory tariffs from China and the E.U. The administration's $12 billion bailout this week was not warmly received. Even by Iowa Republican governor Kim Reynolds who said nobody wins in the trade war. 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 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: In reality, impeachment is highly 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.

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 on the administration's Russia policy, insisting the U.S. will not recognize Crimea as part of Russia even though the president himself is unwilling to take that same commitment.

ROMANS: The secretary of State refusing to provide details about that secret meeting in Helsinki last week between the president and Vladimir Putin.

[04:35:08] As the White House announces a second summit between Trump and Putin will not take place until next year. More now from Michelle Kosinski on Capitol Hill. 2

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave and Christine.

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. 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 --

(CROSSTALK)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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: Yes, Corker calling Trump submissive and differential to Vladimir Putin. Thank you, Michelle.

Remember that soccer ball Vladimir Putin gave to President Trump at their press conference in Helsinki last week? Well, it turns out it did have a transmitter chip. Markings on the Adidas World Cup soccer ball indicate it contained a chip, part of a standard feature with a tiny antenna that transmits to nearby phones. The company says the technology gives users access to information about the product. The Secret Service in a statement says all gifts given to the president are subject to thorough security screening.

Senator Lindsey Graham, for one, had speculated the ball might be bugged. He said via Twitter he would never allow it in the White House.

ROMANS: All right. 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. 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. The parents can't be found, they have criminal records, they need further investigation or in some cases these parents were deported without their children.

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

EFREN OLIVARES, RACIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE DIRECTOR, 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?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: 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 that 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 have never anticipated this eventuality speaks to their callousness."

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight the U.S. embassy in Beijing says one person detonated an explosive device outside the embassy compound.

CNN's Matt Rivers is there for us live in Beijing with the latest. You've seen some images of this circulating on Chinese social media. What can you tell us about this?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, we were first alerted to this by situation through a lot of postings on Chinese social media where you can see a lot of smoke on the corner that I'm actually standing on right now. That's the U.S. embassy just behind me, behind that fence.

[04:40:03] And that apparent explosion happened right where I'm standing. It's been causing a bit of a scare so we came over here to the scene pretty quickly thereafter. The U.S. embassy said that it was one person, a male who detonated what they called a small device outside of -- near a police car that was parked here outside the embassy.

Shortly after that Beijing Police came out with their own statement saying this was a 26-year-old male who lit off what they apparently called a firecracker, quite a large firecracker like device is what they're saying. So we don't have a motive yet but I can show you. I mean it did leave some marks here in the street right there. No injuries except to the man who lit off that firecracker or firecracker-like device as it was called. So no injuries thankfully.

This could have been a lot worse. This is a very crowded area and normally this is where people line up hundreds each day to get visas to go to the United States. This could have been a lot worse. But thankfully it was not. The motive here, that's the big outstanding question. We do not know what caused this individual to do this. But thankfully no one was injured except for that 26-year-old -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Matt Rivers for us in Beijing. Thanks so much for that, Matt.

BRIGGS: All right. More than 200 people now dead after a series of attacks in southern Syria. We are live in the Middle East. Why this area is suddenly facing escalating violence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:45:26] ROMANS: Forty-five minutes past the hour this Thursday morning.

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 tracking the latest developments for us. She is live from Istanbul. And why the renewed violence?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you look at this area, Christine, this is a part of Syria, Sweida Province, where attacks like this are rare. It has been spared much of the violence we've seen in other parts of the country. It's normally under the control of the Syrian regime.

But that all changed at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday where we saw this brazen attack that's being claimed by ISIS. You saw this complex, coordinated attack on several front. You have suicide bombers striking in the heart of the city, the provincial capital of Sweida. And then dozens of gunmen storming villages around that area and clashes that took place for hours. Air strikes by the regime.

And now according to local officials, they say 216 people at least were killed in this attack. Now the majority of them are regime troops and also local fighters. But also dozens of civilians killed in this attack according to some local officials. They say that those civilians were asleep in their homes when ISIS went into these homes and killed people while they were sleeping.

Why is this happening right now? You just look at what has been going in southwestern Syria. The regime has reclaimed almost all of that part of the country from rebel forces over the past month. But they are still battling ISIS in a pocket around the Yarmouk river basin, very close to this area. It has been fierce fighting there for more than a week right now. And perhaps this is an attack by ISIS fighters nearby to try and divert attention away to try and drive regime forces away from that fight. But also possibly a message here that ISIS while it has lost almost all the territory once controlled in Iraq and Syria, the group still possesses the ability to carry out such devastating attacks -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul. Keep us -- keep us posted. Thank you.

BRIGGS: Chinese state media reporting the country's food and drug administration has ordered a comprehensive nationwide check on vaccine production as outrage grows over faulty vaccines. The government turning to censorship and appeals for calm after CNN reported that hundreds of thousands of vaccines provided to Chinese children have been faulty. President Xi Jinping has called the crisis vile and shocking. Police detaining the chairperson of the company at the center of the scandal along with 14 others.

ROMANS: All right. Would you take a chauffeured ride on your next trip to Walmart? How about a ride to Walmart without a driver? Walmart teaming up with a self-driving car company to make that a reality. CNN Money is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:53:16] BRIGGS: In California, authorities have arrested a man linked to the Cranston Fire which has scorched 4700 acres. At this point there is 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 has charred more than 41,000 acres. Parts of the Yosemite National Park are closed due to the fire which started almost two weeks ago.

A 41-year-old in North Carolina drowned in dangerous surf conditions. Red flags remain in place in Emerald Isle along the town's entire 12- mile beach. Dangerous surf conditions are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. In the distance you can see beachgoers forming a chain to pull people out of the rough waters. Emergency crews were dispatched to four water rescue calls in less than an hour Wednesday. Officials reminded everyone to stay out of the water.

BRIGGS: More than a dozen FBI agents are now investigating the disappearance of Iowa University student Mollie Tibbetts. Tibbetts has been missing for about a week. Her mother tells reporters more agents are being added to the case. According to CNN affiliate KCRG, investigators have received information from Fitbit, the maker of a fitness tracker Tibbetts may have been wearing. The missing 20-year- old student was last seen jogging in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, on July 18th.

ROMANS: Houston Police believe former President George H.W. Bush's former cardiologist was deliberately targeted when he was shot and killed last week while riding his bicycle to work. The gunman still at large. The chief of police says he is confident the suspect will be caught because there were several witnesses to the shooting.

[04:55:02] He will not say why he believes Dr. Mark Hausknecht was targeted. Police have released an artist's sketch and surveillance images of the suspected gunman.

BRIGGS: Well, reports of Stormy Daniels' arrest at an Ohio strip club earlier this month was preplanned by police. A whistleblower from inside the Columbus Police Department provided a chain of e-mails to "Lafayette Advocate" newspaper. They show one of the lead arresting officers, Detective (INAUDIBLE), had in her account news clippings and videos of Daniels and a map to the club where Daniels would perform two days before she arrived. Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, says the e-mails are very disturbing. The porn star was arrested for touching strip club patrons and released a short time later.

ROMANS: All right. Addison Barnes who sued his Oregon high school after he was suspended over a shirt touting the border wall will receive $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."

BRIGGS: Los Angeles police arresting a 24-year-old man who allegedly destroyed President Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a pickaxe. Austin Clay being held on suspicion of felony vandalism with bail set at $20,000. No word of a possible motive. The president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce says he hopes people will project their anger in more positive ways moving forward. Mr. Trump's star has been the repeated target of vandalism and protests since he entered politics.

ROMANS: All right. Where there is water there is a possibility of life. Scientists say there is now evidence of a vast liquid water lake on Mars. A team of Italian researchers found signs of a briny lake buried beneath the ice surface near the red planet's south pole. Their findings published Wednesday in the "Journal Science." How deep the body of liquid water is or whether there are any others like it still remain to be seen. But this could be a giant shot in the arm in the ongoing search for life on Mars.

BRIGGS: Very cool. The audio of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen discussing a payoff to a Playmate as you might imagine got some reaction from late-night comedians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, " THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": The audio confirms the president knew about the payments during the presidential campaign. Donald Trump lied. So now they have to reset the sign on the White House lawn.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL LAWYER: You never know whether that company, you never know what he's going to --

TRUMP: Yes. Maybe he gets hit by a car.

COHEN: Correct.

COLBERT: Yes. Getting hit by a truck is a real risk. Have you seen the idiots they let drive those things?

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Michael Cohen released the recording of a conversation he had with Trump about paying off a Playboy model. And sure it's lurid because it involves Playboy but I'm only in it for the articles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Very funny, guys.

All right, 58 minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on CNN Money this morning. Global stocks higher right now but Wall Street is another story. Tech stocks set to fall just a day after hitting a record high. Problem here, Twitter, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, all of them selling off overnight. And the catalyst Facebook.

Facebook plunged more than 20 percent after hours. A move like that is technically a crash in the price of a stock. Facebook says investment in privacy will hurt its profit for years.

Tech stocks have been on fire this year. Nasdaq is up 15 percent. One reason the tech companies have been largely immune to the Trump trade tensions.

American car companies, though, are not so lucky. The big Detroit automakers GM, Ford, Fiat, Chrysler all say tariffs are cutting into profits. Particularly U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum are raising costs for American automakers. That sent all three stocks lower. But carmakers aren't the only companies being hurt by U.S. trade policy. Manufacturers like Whirlpool and Harley-Davidson are also taking a hit. As is Coca-Cola. That's right. It plans to raise soda prices to combat rising aluminum costs because of Trump's tariffs.

Would you take a chauffeured ride on your next trip to Walmart? How about a ride in a car without a driver? Walmart is testing a pilot program with self-driving car company Waymo. It shuttles customers to its stories to pick up grocery orders placed online. The program is only in Arizona right now. Walmart says the purpose is to learn how improve grocery delivery, but also to take a slice at Amazon. Amazon recently introduced two-hour prime delivery in certain cities.

You're not on the self-driving bandwagon?

BRIGGS: I'm a hard pass on that. But, you know, for the elderly in particular, that would be a great program.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: Who need assistance there.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START continues right now. The trade truce between the E.U. and the United States.

ROMANS: The president and E.U. stepping back from the edge of a trade war.