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EARLY START

Signs North Korea is Building New Missiles?; Paul Manafort on Trial; Deadly Carr Fire Spreads in North Carolina; Trump Willing to Meet with Iran; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 31, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:23] LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: New revelations overnight that North Korea could be building new missiles. The work picking up in the weeks after the Singapore summit. We're live in Seoul.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Paul Manafort's trial on financial crimes begins today. A lot riding on the special counsel's case against the president's one-time campaign chief.

JARRETT: And the Carr Fire in California now chewing up over 100,000 acres. 19 people remain missing in what is now one of the most destructive fires in state history.

Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I am Laura Jarrett, in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good to have you, my friend. Good morning, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs. July 31st. 4:00 a.m. in East. 1:00 a.m. in Redding, California. 100 degrees again today as it will be in the next five days. An update on that fire straight ahead.

But there are new signs this morning that North Korea could be building more missiles. "The Washington Post" reporting satellite images and other evidence show work is under way on a intercontinental ballistic missile in the suburb of Pyongyang. If true, news about these liquid fueled ICBMs would be a serious blow to President Trump's diplomatic efforts with dictator And Kim Jong-un.

For the latest, let's bring in Paula Hancocks live in Seoul.

Paula, it's been what? Six weeks since the president declared no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. What does this latest development mean?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, even at that time, I think many observers thought that tweet was slightly premature. What we hear from "Washington Post" at this point, though, is they are quoting officials with information on this matter, saying that one, potentially two ICBMs are currently being built. These are the liquid fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles which effectively mean that they take longer to set up because the liquid fuel is not easily stored inside the missile.

So what it does mean, according to a U.S. official, is it gives the United States a head's up when one is being mantled. So what they believe is that it is not such a great threat but a U.S. official telling CNN that this report from "The Washington Post" is really consistent with what they believe at this point. The U.S. and intel community and around the world has been saying that Kim Jong-un is continuing his production activity.

A U.S. official say that Kim Jong-un did not fully agree to denuclearization. That he had said that he would work towards denuclearization. Those were the words in the Singapore summit. So really this isn't much of a surprise. But of course the big challenge for the United States is at this point to try and find out exactly what North Korea has before Kim Jong-un gives his inventory, so that when he says or if he said I am willing to give this amount of warheads up, they know whether or not that is exactly what he has -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes. The strategy also part of this "Washington Post" reporting. Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul this morning. Thank you.

JARRETT: Jury selection begins later this morning in the federal trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for alleged financial crimes. It is the first public test for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors even though Russia will not be the focus of the proceeding.

We get more from CNN's Evan Perez in Washington.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Laura, Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, is going on trial today in Alexandria, Virginia, on federal tax and bank fraud charges.

Now this is the first trial to come from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation but don't expect this three-week trial to be about Russia or collusion or even about President Trump. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have said that they plan to stick closely to the issues in the charges which have to do with the government's accusations that Manafort used secret foreign bank accounts to hide millions of dollars that he earned working for the Ukrainian government and that he failed to disclose that money in his tax filings with the IRS.

Now Manafort has pleaded not guilty to these charges. In the hours before jury selection begins, the two sides are still squaring off over what evidence jurors will be allowed to see. Manafort's lawyers asked the judge to block the government from showing some 50 pieces of evidence including e-mails and photos that they say are irrelevant and prejudicial. Mueller's prosecutors responded Monday that the evidence is important to show how Manafort earned $60 million working as a political consultant for the Ukrainian government.

Manafort also faces another federal trial later this year on separate charges in Washington, D.C. - - Dave, Laura.

BRIGGS: All right. Evan, thanks.

A White House official confirming the obvious. The president's press team is not coordinating with Rudy Giuliani concerning his comments on behalf of Mr. Trump's legal team.

[04:05:05] That was apparent Monday when Giuliani made a series of bizarre claims on CNN's "NEW DAY" including the fact that he is not sure collusion with Russia is even a crime. For context, the Criminal Code does not include the word collusion, but it is generally understood as a broad term that could include more specific crimes like conspiracy.

JARRETT: Giuliani also suggested before the infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russians in 2016 several Trump aides met for a pre- meeting to discuss their strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Lanny Davis has said that there was a meeting two days before the meeting took place with Donald Jr., Jared, Manafort, and two others -- Gates and one more person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Now it's important to know, Rick Gates, the right-hand man to Paul Manafort, is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. After repeated requests for clarity Giuliani later said the meeting never even happened and insists his description came from questions by reporters.

BRIGGS: The former head of the human resources at FEMA accused of trading sex for jobs. CNN has reviewed a summary of FEMA's preliminary investigation. It finds Cory Coleman engaged in sexual relationships with female subordinates. Witnesses alleged he pressured the women and demoted them if they try to deny him. The first thrown accusations today from 2015 Coleman's name does not actually appear in the summary, but a source confirms he is the subject of the report. Investigators say Coleman resigned when they approached him for an interview. FEMA administrator Brock Long calls the allegations deeply disturbing. CNN has been unable to reach Coleman for comment.

JARRETT: And a federal court in California ordering broad changes in how the U.S. government detains and treats migrant children in its secure facilities. The orders range from getting consent before giving kids psychotropic medications to requiring the government to stop imposing conditions that delay releasing minors to their parents or relatives. The judge said the government violated a 1997 settlement that dictates how refugee children are to be treated in the system. The Justice Department declined to comment.

BRIGGS: Progress is slow, but it is being made as crews battle the Carr fire raging in northern California. This monster blaze has consumed more than 103,000 acres. And right now is 23 percent contained. At least six people have died, 19 are still missing. More than 1100 structures have burned, making it the seventh most destructive fire in California's history.

One little girl doing what she can to help. Chelsea Lutz recording video of her 2 year old daughter, Gracie, handing out burritos to firefighters working the Carr Fire.

We get more now from CNN's Nick Watt in Redding, California.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Laura, firefighters fighting this fire have described it as chaotic and unpredictable. So they talk about how much of it is contained, but at any moment, a gust of wind and ember can create a problem.

Remember, this fire started more than a week ago and it was under control for a few days until the weather conditions turned. Temperatures soared, humidity dropped and this fire using fuel, dead vegetation from California's four-year drought, just spread through this area.

And it's interesting to note that of the top 12 biggest fires in California, seven of them have taken place since 2015, and the personal cost here has been huge. Six people have been killed, two firefighters. What will happen next with this fire? Well, the forecast is for 100-degree temperatures for the rest of the week and no rain in that forecast, and that could make this fire tricky to get ahold of.

Back to you, guys.

BRIGGS: Devastating. All right. Nick Watt, with the update, thank you.

JARRETT: Republicans relentlessly attacked President Obama when he offered to meet rival leaders without pre-conditions. Now President Trump says he'll do the same for Iran.

We're live in Tehran.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:13:18] BRIGGS: At 4:13 Eastern Time. A check on CNN Money. The Trump administration looking to cut another $100 billion in taxes mainly for rich Americans. That according to "The New York Times." Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told "The Times" earlier this month at the G-20 Summit in Argentina that his department was considering overhauling how the capital gains tax is calculated. That would allow taxpayers to adjust the initial value of an asset like a home or shares of stock for inflation when selling it.

Mnuchin went on to say that the Treasury Department is considering bypassing Congress to make the tax cut happened. A recent analysis from the Wharton School shows that over 97 percent of the benefits would go to the top 10 percent of income earners in the United States.

JARRETT: Senate Republicans are rejecting President Trump's threat to shut down the government in September if he doesn't get his funding for his border wall. At least for now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Finish up your set of appropriation measures. We've been considering for several days and take four more big steps toward our goal of completing a regular appropriations process and funding the government in a timely and orderly manner.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: If the president wants to shutdown the government, you know, that's his prerogative. I don't -- I think it would be a mistake and I don't think it's going to be necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Even a number of the president's own party are learning to shrug off or simply ignore his sporadic legislative impulses. Still the president persists, reiterating his shutdown threat on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown. It's time we had proper border security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:15:03] JARRETT: Now according to a White House aide, Chief of Staff John Kelly is trying to soothe anxious members of the White House Legislative Affairs Office. Kelly telling them the president is still on board with an agreement struck with Republican leadership at a meeting that did not include threats of a government shutdown before the midterm elections.

BRIGGS: The super rich Koch brothers and their influential political network sending shockwaves through the Republican Party. They've announced they will not support Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer in his race to unseat Democratic Senate Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.

This is the latest sign the conservative group is frustrated with the state of the GOP and feels taken for granted. The president of Americans for Prosperity, Political and Policy arm of the Koch Network says its members are raising the bar. And if you want to know how influential they are they plan to spend some $400 million in the two- year election cycle. So that is a dramatic for the party.

Ahead, LeBron James taking on the president's attitude toward athletes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, FOUR-TIME NBA MVP: He is trying to take on our sport. But at the end of the day sport is the reason why we all come together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: What else King James tells CNN about the national anthem protest. Ahead on EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:20:40] TRUMP: I'm ready to meet any time they want to. And I don't do that from strength or from weakness. I think it's an appropriate thing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have pre-conditions for that meeting?

TRUMP: No pre-conditions. No. They want to meet, I'll meet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: The president's words on Iran. A sharp departure from the threats he tweeted against the regime last week. Remember the all caps "you will suffer the consequences" and "be cautious"? Well, the president has long been a harsh critic of Tehran with his administration pursuing a strategy many see as essentially regime change.

CNN's Oren Liebermann live for us in Jerusalem -- Oren.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Laura, it is a stunning about face. As you rightly point out it was nine days ago that Trump sent that all-caps tweet saying, "Never ever threaten the United States again or you'll suffer the consequences the likes of which few in history have ever suffered before. Now it sounds like it's almost suddenly a reconciliatory tone offering to meet without preconditions, especially after Republicans have blasted former President Barack Obama for the same idea, the idea of meeting with Iran.

We haven't seen too much of a Republican response now to the idea of Trump doing so. Trump did appear to offer a very slight hedge saying he'd be willing to meet as long as they can, quote, "work out" something that's meaningful. Well, it was up to former Secretary of State -- rather Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to offer some of those preconditions saying there would have to be a way of showing that Iran was denuclearizing. It was working towards the goals and the steps that President Trump had set out.

As for Iran, how have they taken this sudden about-face? Well, not well, it seems. An Iranian parliamentarian saying backing out of the Iran nuclear deal is worse than any precondition. And he said that Washington's hostile measures against Tehran and efforts to put economic pressure on the country and impose sanctions there will remain no possibility for talks. So even if Trump is suddenly willing to meet without preconditions, it seems that Iran is very far away from being willing to do the same at this point -- Laura.

JARRETT: Oren, thank you.

BRIGGS: CBS CEO Les Moonves will remain in his job while the network investigates sexual misconduct allegations against him. The company's board of directors is lining up an outside law firm to investigate claims made by six different women in a "New Yorker" magazine story. The board says no other action was taken at Monday's meeting. It has postponed the annual stockholder's meeting scheduled for August 10th. Moonves responded to the allegations with a statement saying he has

promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees but admitting there were times, decades ago, when he may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances.

JARRETT: Twenty-one states trying to stop the release of plans for building 3-D printable guns. They've written to the Trump administration asking to withdraw from the settlement with the plan's designer. Eight states have filed suit, arguing the Trump administration's action would allow criminals and terrorists to access downloadable, untraceable, undetectable weapons.

Under the settlement, people aren't supposed to be able to legally download plans for 3-D printed guns until Wednesday, but because the designs have already been posted online, by Sunday more than 1,000 people already had downloaded the plans to print an AR-15-style semiautomatic assault rifle.

BRIGGS: Scary.

No more snow days in one South Carolina school district thanks to technology. Officials in Anderson County School District 5 announcing appropriately on social media that when roads are too treacherous for travel teachers will send assignments to the kids on their school- supplied Chrome Books. The superintendent tells the "Washington Post" only a small percentage of students attended the snow make-up days tacked on at the end of the school year. Worth noting South Carolina has very little snowfall each year.

JARRETT: LeBron James believes that President Trump is using sports to sow division in the country. LeBron speaking to CNN's Don Lemon after the opening of his I Promise elementary school for at risk kids in his native Akron, Ohio, on Monday. He pointed to a number of instances in which the president, he says, has taken advantage of displays of dissent to stir discord.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES: Kaepernick, who was a, you know, protester in something that he believed in and he did it in the most calm fashion. If you look at a lot of the NFL players that are still kneeling, that makes you look at stuff. You look at, you know, Marshawn Lynch. You look at all these instances, why he is trying to divide our sport. But at the end of the day sport is the reason why we all come together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:25:10] JARRETT: LeBron says his voice has to be about more than just sports.

BRIGGS: Yes, a lot of socially conscious athletes out there today. In particularly King James and Curry, the two mentioned there. But the NFL and the NBA really letting their voices be heard.

JARRETT: Absolutely. BRIGGS: Ahead, new signs the North Koreans are building more missiles

outside of Pyongyang. What it means for diplomatic efforts? Live from Seoul.

JARRETT: And the first trial stemming from Robert Mueller's investigation starts today. But don't expect a lot of focus on Russia at Paul Manafort's trial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: New revelations overnight that North Korea could be building new missiles. The work picking up after the Singapore summit. We're live in Seoul.