Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Calls on Sessions to End Russia Probe; Will Manafort's Right-Hand Man Testify?; TSA Might End Screening at Smaller Airports; Mexico Plane Crash Caught on Video; Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 2, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- Urban Meyer who's accused of ignoring domestic violence accusations. What did he know about the actions of his recently fired assistant coach?

The virtual earthquake in the state of Ohio this morning.

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

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kaylee Hartung, in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good to have you.

HARTUNG: Thank you. Happy to be here.

It's Thursday, August 2nd. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Robert Mueller offering President Trump a trade-off this morning. The special counsel suggesting he would slash the number of obstruction- related questions for the president. The caveat, he wants the president to answer those questions in person. The president's lawyers had offered written answers to obstruction questions. The Trump legal team wanted the sit-down interview limited to things that happened before he took office mainly related to collusion.

BRIGGS: "The New York Times" reporting overnight the president is pushing his lawyers to let him do an interview. Three sources tell the "Times" the president believes he can convince Mueller's team their own inquiry is a witch hunt, but earlier on Wednesday, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was not on board just yet.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: He's always been interested in testifying. It's us, meaning the team of lawyers, including me, that have the most reservations about that.


BRIGGS: A source tells us the two sides are still talking but taking only baby steps toward each other.

HARTUNG: It did not take long after President Trump was briefed on the Mueller investigation for him to fire up his Twitter feed. The president calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to, quote, "stop this rigged witch hunt right now." He has repeatedly criticized Sessions' decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia probe. But this tweet may be his most scathing criticism yet of the special counsel and it raises new questions about whether he is attempting to obstruct justice.

So was President Trump just venting or was this an order from the top? We get more now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Kaylee, President Trump has made no secret, of course, of his dislike for the Russia investigation. That, of course, was taken one step further yesterday when he specifically called on the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to bring an end to the Russia probe.

Now the White House quickly responded that this was all about the president's own opinion, not a directive exactly to the attorney general to end this investigation. But we asked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders how does she know it's an opinion or a presidential directive.


ZELENY: If he told you something as a member of his staff, how do you know if it's a directive from the president or just simply his opinion?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president makes it pretty clear when I'm having those conversations with him. The president is not obstructing, he's fighting back. The president is stating his opinion. He's stating it clearly. He's certainly expressing the frustration that he has.


ZELENY: No question this Russia investigation continuing to consume at least some of the president's bandwidth here. The president is traveling to Pennsylvania tonight for one more campaign rally this week. He certainly is ramping up his campaigning for the midterm elections. Then after that, he will end up in New Jersey by late this evening. He'll be starting a bit of a summer recess vacation there. But of course this Russia investigation and all its fallout is sure to follow him -- Dave and Kaylee.

BRIGGS: Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

President Trump monitoring the trial of Paul Manafort very closely. And he's comparing the case against his former campaign chairman to the prosecution of notorious mob boss Al Capone. And for good measure, he is asking once again where is the Russian collusion.

Prosecutors plan to question Manafort's bookkeepers and accountants when his bank and tax fraud trial resumes in Virginia this morning. On Wednesday, Manafort's lavish lifestyle was again the primary focus. And there was a shocker from the prosecution about who may not take the stand. More now from CNN's Jessica Schneider.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Kaylee, this is a swift moving trial that saw a number of developments during day two most notably prosecutors floated the possibility that they might not call Rick Gates to testify. Of course they could have just been bluffing but it definitely sent shockwaves through the courtroom.

Of course Rick Gates was the former associate to Paul Manafort. He also worked as his deputy during the campaign. Rick Gates has already pleaded guilty to two counts in Washington, D.C. and he's currently working with the special counsel's team.

Now the defense team meanwhile has said that they plan to use Rick Gates' testimony against him to discredit him. To say that Rick Gates in fact was the embezzler and only flipped on Manafort to help himself. So quite an interesting development there. Prosecutors also called a flurry of witnesses, including an FBI agent who is part of that pre-dawn raid of Paul Manafort's condo last July.

He also talked about the hundreds of documents they seized including some of those loan applications with Paul Manafort's name on it. There were a number of other witnesses as well. They were called to represent Paul Manafort's lavish lifestyle. They included one employee from a high-end men's clothing store in Manhattan. He talked about the fact that Paul Manafort was one of their top five clients. Prosecutors expect to call some more of those vendors to the stand today.

[05:05:03] This is a very fast-moving trial. In fact prosecutors told the judge that they expect to wrap the trial next week -- Dave and Kaylee.

HARTUNG: Our thanks to Jessica Schneider.

CNN has learned exclusively TSA is considering eliminating passenger screening at more than 150 small and medium sized airports across the country. Internal agency documents suggest the move could save $115 million a year, but they also say the proposal would come with a small, undesirable security risk. A TSA spokesman tells CNN the documents reflect an ongoing debate within the agency.

It's worth noting here two of the September 11th attackers first flew from Portland, Maine, thinking that relatively small airport would be less secure.

CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has the latest from Washington.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave and Kaylee, this would be a major change for air travelers and a huge shift in how TSA uses its resources. The proposal the agency is considering calls for the elimination of TSA screening at small and some medium-sized airports that operate commercial planes with 60 seats or fewer.

Their operating theory is that terrorists just simply aren't interested in targeting small aircraft and that they want a big payoff like hundreds of passengers on a large commercial plane. But national security experts disagreed.


PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: ISIS, their message is attack in any way you can, big or small, against anybody that you can -- you can go after. And so the opportunity to go after a 50-person passenger jet or aircraft is going to be very attractive.


MARSH: So the concern is about the lack of imagination for how bad actors could exploit security weaknesses at these smaller airports.

Well, after our story broke, TSA sent talking points for all of its senior leadership, communicating how to respond to inquiries at airports nationwide. The talking points note that a final decision has not yet been made -- Dave, Kaylee.

BRIGGS: Rene Marsh reporting.

Former President Obama wading into the midterms offering his first round of endorsements. Obama endorsed 81 people up and down the ballot. Among the more high-profile names Gavin Newsome for governor of California, Stacey Abrams for governor of Georgia, and Jackie Rosen for Senate in Nevada. One name, though, notably not on this list, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic socialist from New York. Her primary win has some Democrats concerned the party is shifting too far left. Obama is expected to endorse more people ahead of the midterms and campaign in several states.

HARTUNG: Police in Phoenix have arrested an employee at a facility holding migrant children on charges he molested a 14-year-old girl. Fernando Negrete works at the facility run by Southwest Keys. The victim told police this 32-year-old man entered her bedroom and kissed her. And a witness describes seeing Negrete kiss and touch the victim inappropriately.

Police say Tuesday Negrete admitted to both accusations. A Southwest Keys spokesman says the agency always works with law enforcement to, quote, "bring the full force of the law to bear when it is warranted."

BRIGGS: All right. This week's plane crash in Mexico caught on video from inside the cabin.

So how did 103 people survive all this? More from Mexico City, next.


[05:12:44] BRIGGS: 5:12 Eastern Time. That plane crash in Mexico that 103 passengers and crew members miraculously survived, it was all captured from video from inside the cabin. Watch this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so scared. Oh my god.




BRIGGS: Wow. Ashley Garcia took that video from her seat on the plane. She spoke about the ordeal to CNN last night.


ASHLEY GARCIA, SURVIVED AEROMEXICO PLANE CRASH: Honestly, it was something that I would have never imagined. It's always been such a big fear of mine and for it to like actually have happened is just insane. Like when it was happening, I really just thought like this can't be, true, this can't be true.


BRIGGS: The crash investigation just getting under way. More than 100 survivors trying to explain how they made it out alive.

Leyla Santiago has more from Mexico City.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Kaylee, we're learning more about the plane accident as well as the survivors. We understand more than half of the 103 people on board that Aeromexico flight were from the United States. U.S. citizens. And many of them are already heading home, connecting right here in Mexico City. As we have spoken to them, they have told us that when they got on that flight, it was raining outside. There was wind and something, some sort of wind gust is how they described it, brought that plane down. There was a dash to get off the plane and then they saw flames and smoke.

Many, all actually that we have spoken to say this was a miracle. So now the investigation begins. The investigators have been able to recover the black boxes and say they are in good condition and they will be critical in getting a better understanding of exactly the sequence of events, what led up to that plane coming down.

[05:15:05] Even the NTSB has sent down some investigators to look into this. In the meantime, many of those survivors are saying that they are just lucky to be able to tell their stories -- Dave, Kaylee.

HARTUNG: Thanks, Leyla.

Priceless royal artifacts stolen from a Swedish cathedral in a daring raid. The thieves making off with jewels belonging to former monarchs, Karl IX and Queen Kristina. They were taken from the Strangnas Cathedral west of Stockholm. This is a plot out of a movie as the suspects escaped across the sea from the base of the church in a small open top motor boat. The three items stolen were part of the funeral regalia of the king and queen and would have been buried with the monarchs. While the items do have monetary value, it pales in comparison to their significance to Sweden's culture history. BRIGGS: Wild story.

President Trump ratcheting up the pressure on China as the trade war escalates, but the actions continue to worry investors. Stock futures pointing to loses this morning. Global markets also dropping. U.S. stocks finished mixed on Wednesday. Friday's jobs reports could provide some much relief but for now the worry centers on this new proposal from the Trump administration.

U.S. trade rep will consider raising tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. Both the U.S. and China have imposed tariffs on goods worth tens of billions of dollars, but Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the president's mission here is clear.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the bottom line is the president is going to continue to hold China responsible for their unfair trade practices. This has gone on for long enough. And he's going to do something about it.


BRIGGS: Now there will be a public comment period running until early September. Then the administration will make a final decision.

HARTUNG: Health officials in Ohio now say more than 500 became ill after eating at a Chipotle in suburban Columbus. The cause of the illness not yet identified but samples from a number of people will be tested for four suspected microbes. The first lawsuit in the incident has already been filed by a Chipotle customer who says he ate three chicken tacos on Sunday. The man is seeking more than $25,000 in damages. Chipotle has not commented on the suit but says it's working with local health officials.

BRIGGS: Boy, it's been a tough couple of years for that chain.

Ahead in sports, Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray rocked twice. First on the mound then on social media. Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report" next.


[05:21:59] BRIGGS: Ohio state places football coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave as it investigates what he knew about domestic violence allegations against a former assistant coach.

HARTUNG: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Top of the morning to you, Kaylee and Dave. Wide receiver coach Zach Smith was fired last week after he was served a civil protection order on behalf of his ex-wife. Courtney Smith told the sports outlet Stadium that she told Meyer's wife about -- in 2015 about alleged domestic violence. Here she is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With Shelley being aware of everything that was going on and saying that she was going to have to tell Urban, do you think that he knows about all of this?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he ever directly talk to you about what was going on in your marriage or between you and Zach?

SMITH: Not the abuse. He never spoke to me about the physical abuse. But he had, you know, made a couple comments to me and we have had a couple of conversations very brief. How are you doing, everything OK.


WIRE: The full interview is available on Now Meyer admitted to knowing about an incident involving the Smiths in 2009 but denies knowing about anything that happened more recently. He released a statement yesterday saying in part, quote, "Being on leave during this inquiry will facilitate its completion. This allows the team to conduct training campaign with minimal distraction," unquote. Meantime, Ohio State says quote, "We are focused on supporting our players and on getting to the truth as expeditiously as possible," unquote.

Zach Smith's attorney tells CNN once Smith gets his chance to tell his side, it will be corroborated by police. Ohio State's offensive coordinator Ryan Day will be acting head coach while Meyer is on leave. The Buckeyes kicks off their season September 1st against Oregon State.

Boos from the crowd at Yankee Stadium raining down on Yankee starter pitcher Sonny Gray during the third inning of his team's loss to the Orioles yesterday. He allowed seven runs, eight hits. That's adding to his struggling season already. And surely afterwards, though, racially charged tweet that Gray posted in 2012 emerged. When asked about it after the game Gray called the tweet, quote, "an inside joke." And the tweet has since been deleted. Gray is now the fourth MLB player since the all-star break who have had offensive tweets from the past emerge.

In other news, Kaylee, you missed it here in Atlanta, the MLS all- star game last night set a record for a stand-alone all-star game.



WIRE: 72,000 plus. Packing Mercedes Benz Stadium.

BRIGGS: Seventy-two?

WIRE: Yes. MLS all-stars just barely lost to Juventis. HARTUNG: My gosh. It has been very cool to see the energy Atlanta

has brought for soccer.

BRIGGS: That's unreal.

HARTUNG: You know what today is, Coy?

WIRE: Tell me.

HARTUNG: Thursday, which means the first night we get to see football on television.

WIRE: Yes.

HARTUNG: You know, a version of it. But --

BRIGGS: Preseason football tonight.

HARTUNG: We'll take it.

BRIGGS: Chicago and Baltimore?


BRIGGS: Yes, yes. Good stuff.

HARTUNG: (INAUDIBLE) like football as much as anybody.

BRIGGS: See if anybody takes a knee. That's one of the big questions as we approach this preseason with that policy on freeze.

[05:25:05] Thank you, Coy. Appreciate it.

HARTUNG: Well, the special counsel is willing to limit questions about obstruction of justice, but Robert Mueller has one condition. The president has to answer them in person.


HARTUNG: The president pushing his lawyers to let him sit down with Robert Mueller. The special counsel now willing to limit questions about obstruction if the president meets face-to-face.

BRIGGS: Terror at smaller U.S. airports not a big concern for the TSA? The agency considering eliminating screening at 150 smaller airports nationwide.

HARTUNG: And one of the nation's top college football coaches put on leave. Urban Meyer is accused of ignoring domestic violence accusations. What did he know about the actions of his recently fired assistant coach?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Kaylee Hartung.

BRIGGS: Good to see you this morning, my friend. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 5:29 Eastern Time. The president heads to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, tonight for presumably off the rails rally then a 10-day vacation. We start with Robert Mueller.