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Trump Pushing For Mueller Interview; President Trump Calls On Attorney General Sessions To End Russia Probe; TSA Might End Screening At Smaller Airports; OSA Football Coach Urban Meyer Put On Administration Leave. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 2, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Kaylee Hartung.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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 a presumably off-the-rails rally, then a 10-day vacation.

We start with 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 answers in person.

The president's lawyers had offered written answer 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.

HARTUNG: "The New York Times" reporting overnight the president is pushing his lawyers to let him do an interview. The resources tell the "Times" the president believes he can convince Mueller's team their own inquiry is a witch hunt, as he so often likes to call it.

But earlier on Wednesday, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was not on board -- not just yet.


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


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

BRIGGS: And it didn't take long after President Trump was briefed on the Mueller investigation for him to fire up the 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.

HARTUNG: This tweet may be his most scathing criticism yet of the special counsel and it raises new questions about whether he's 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.

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 campaign 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: All right, let's discuss this with "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan, live with us from D.C. this morning. Good to see you, my friend.


BRIGGS: Any reaction from the Hill on the direction of all of this? KOPAN: Well, Dave, as is so often the case, the reaction from the Hill isn't great to the notion --

BRIGGS: Right.

KOPAN: -- that the president is openly asking Jeff Sessions to somehow stop what he calls this witch hunt -- the probe.

And, of course, some of your moderate Republicans, especially many of the ones who are involved on the Judiciary Committee are saying first of all, the attorney general has recused himself so he doesn't even have the authority to do this.

And second of all, you hear words like troubling or concerning. And you still have the Republicans who say oh, it will never happen so we don't actually have to discuss this seriously.

But at the same time, even -- obviously, Democrats -- there are some up in arms on it. But even for Republicans, this makes them uncomfortable. It starts to wade into territory that's really not in their comfort zone that they want to be talking about heading into the midterms.

And if for some reason this were to become true -- this were to become a specific presidential order, it would put them in a very, very difficult position defending that move from the president.

BRIGGS: Yes. Susan Collins, Republican senator, called it entirely appropriate what the president is tweeting about Jeff Sessions.

HARTUNG: Yes, Tal, I want to read a clip from an editorial from "The Wall Street Journal."

This is from their editorial board saying quote, "We can appreciate Mr. Trump's frustration that what began as an FBI counterintelligence probe in 2016 has now stretched past two years. But the damage from firing Mr. Mueller is so predictable that it's hard to believe even Mr. Trump would tempt such fate."

Your reaction to that?

KOPAN: I'm not sure that anyone, Kaylee, should be in the business of predicting exactly where Trump will and won't go. There are several things that people thought he would never do that and yet, here we are, so you can't say for certain what he will do.

But certainly, the Justice Department as an institution is set up to promote as much independence. It is an incredibly important foundational part of our democracy that our criminal justice system is immune from any sort of political whim. It just simply cannot be used that way and shouldn't be used that way.

[05:35:15] So you have to imagine that if the president were to try to sort of unilaterally do this he would meet some resistance. You can imagine as the famous story that James Comey was involved in, you can imagine some threats of resignation, you can imagine various parts of the administration trying to pull him back from that.

But at the end of the day, this president -- if he's shown us one thing it's that he does what he wants to do. And at a certain point, if he has the authority he very well may use it.

BRIGGS: All right. The point that you're all making is that the Democrats would love him to try and end this investigation. They -- the "Journal" saying it would be a big win for Democrats come the midterms.

Let's turn towards immigration. That's an issue the president clearly wants to run on in the midterms.

He talked Sunday about a shutdown and reiterated it alongside the Italian prime minister. He talked about it again with Rush Limbaugh yesterday, talking about a shutdown if he doesn't get his wall, perhaps taking the focus off the separated children.

What is the status of the hundreds of kids still separated from their parents in detention centers?

KOPAN: Well Dave, as you put it, there are still hundreds of kids who remain separated. The government has reunified somewhere upwards of two-thirds now of the children that separated from their parents at the border but those last several hundred are going to be the most difficult of all.

And upwards of 500 of those children -- their parents are no longer in the country. And those deported parents, it's not even clear how they're going to be tracked down. I mean, that is what the court is sort of looking at this week as we move into the next phase of this which is trying to reunify those trickier cases.

How do you even go about finding these parents, trying to figure out did they actually mean to leave the country without their children as the government insists each and every one of them did? But their attorneys say many of them did not understand the papers and choices put in front of them and ended up back in Central America or wherever they came from without their kids.

So tracking them down, trying to figure out what they actually want, trying to figure out what's in the best interest of them and their children is going to be a monumental task and there's really no clear time line for when all of these hundreds of children or as many as possible are going to be reunited and put back in contact with their families.

BRIGGS: And the last update was 429 children remain in government custody, still separated.


Tal, we've heard an ICE official compare these detention centers to summer camps. Now, hearing from a Republican who's essentially backing that up. Listen to Congressman Jeff Denham from Fox News last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS HOST, "FOX NEWS AT NIGHT": All right, I read an account here that said in the place that you visited it was clean, it was orderly. The kids were taking field trips, including to a university.

They've all been -- or most of them -- reunited with the adults that they had come here with.

That doesn't fit the narrative we're hearing from some media outlets.

REP. JEFF DENHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: No. And first, let me say we should not need any of these facilities at all. We should be securing our borders, stopping the catch and release program, and fixing our overall broken immigration system, including an earned pathway.


HARTUNG: Tal, what is your understanding of the truth between two different versions of what we're hearing is happening inside these facilities -- one from the government and the other from people released from them?

KOPAN: Well, I think in a way, Kaylee, both are true.

So these facilities run up to a certain code. They're required to provide certain amenities, they provide recreation time. The sort of nuts and bolts of it on paper not necessarily alarming in that regard.

But the question is the nature of these children's stay in these places and that is where you start to see some of the more troubling accounts.

First of all, there are various accounts of lack of oversight in certain cases, abuse of children, or potentially, the children harming the other children. There are hundreds of these reports dating back years and years and years well before this administration that various people have looked into over time, so there's that concern.

But there's also the simple fact that -- and this is the thing when one of the government attorneys invited the judge who ordered these families reunified in court -- invited him to come see one of these facilities.

The judge says that's a nice offer but that's not the point. He says it's not how well these kids are treated in the facility, it's the fact that they were separated from their parents when they got here and put into --

BRIGGS: Right.

KOPAN: -- these facilities.

3And I've spoken with some of these families once they've been reunified. They say their kids are not the same. They are terrified of simple things -- their parents even just leaving the room.

Clearly, it's not a good situation for these children.


And for the president, as a political issue, he's got to get his own party lined up behind his proposals first before taking aim at Democrats. They haven't found the votes in the House or the Senate for that 4-pillar plan but we shall see if this emerges as a midterm issue.

[05:40:07] Tal Kopan, thanks for being here.

KOPAN: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right.

Beer sales are slumping but one brewer thinks he's found a new ingredient that might spark higher revenues. We'll explain, next.


HARTUNG: 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 security risk. A TSA spokesman tells CNN the documents reflect an ongoing debate within the agency.

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

[05:45:04] CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh has the latest from Washington.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION 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 disagree.

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, thank you.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning at 5:46 eastern time.

Wall Street looking at a lower open. Stock futures are down following mixed results yesterday. Strong corporate earnings have been in a tug of war with concerns about trade and it seems investors are still trying to sort through the implications of both.

Tesla suffered the biggest quarterly loss in its history but the stock is set to pop this morning because investors had actually feared worse results.

The company burned through more than $400 million in cash reserves last quarter, in part to ramp up production of the Model 3. But, Tesla still has more than $2 billion of cash left over so investors see more of a sustainable path forward.

That is pushing the stock up as much as 10 percent in the premarket trading and investors, they'll take the gains. The stock is down for the year and has lost 11 percent this month.

CEO Elon Musk has apologized for the bizarre earnings call he hosted earlier this year when he called some analysts' questions boring and refused to answer others.

A joint venture, if you will, between Molson Coors and a marijuana company called Hydropothecary is bringing a new beverage to Canada.

The company says a cannabis-infused drink will hit store shelves in Canada following the legalization of marijuana there. The beverage will not contain alcohol.

And, Molson Coors expects to start selling it next year as part of an effort to boost sales after revenues from beer have been slowing. Other companies are also including marijuana drinks, including Corona brewer Constellation Brands.

HARTUNG: Who stopped drinking beer?

BRIGGS: The young kids -- in particular, 21 to 27. "The Wall Street Journal" has a good piece about it this morning. They're drinking the hard stuff. They like the tequila, it seems.

HARTUNG: You like the tequila. BRIGGS: Guilty as charged. Yes, this is true.

HARTUNG: That's OK, we'll allow it. We'll allow it.

You know, it's never too late to make things right. I call those guys who need to start drinking more beer.

Twenty years after stealing from her job a woman repays her debt with cash and an apology.


[05:52:43] BRIGGS: Former President Barack 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 Newsom for governor of California, Stacey Abrams for governor of Georgia, and Jacky Rosen for Senate in Nevada.

One name notably absent from this list, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrats socialist from New York. Her primary win has some Democrats 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 Missouri investigating a possible sighting of Mollie Tibbetts, the missing 20-year-old Iowa student.

Officials say there was an unconfirmed sighting last week at a truck stop in Missouri. Police responded, conducting a search of the area, speaking with witnesses, and reviewing potential surveillance video. The location is more than 230 miles away from where Tibbetts was last seen in mid-July.

BRIGGS: Ohio State University placing head football coach Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave while it investigates whether he knew about domestic violence allegations against a fired assistant coach, Zach Smith. The allegations against Smith were made by his ex-wife Courtney.

Meyer says he was aware of an incident involving the Smiths back in 2009 but did not know about a 2015 allegation of domestic violence.

HARTUNG: But, Courtney Smith says she told Meyer's wife about it and she believes the head coach also knew.

Here's what she just told the Stadium sports network about the alleged 2015 abuse.


COURTNEY SMITH, ALLEGES ABUSE BY EX-HUSBAND ZACH SMITH: He came to my home. He wasn't happy, we got into an argument. When I stood up to him he didn't like it and he took me and shoved me

up against the wall with his hand around my neck, something he did very often.

My daughter was clinging to my leg and he obviously -- it registered with him what he was doing so he took my son and left.


HARTUNG: You can watch that full interview at And a hat tip to Brett McMurphy for breaking this story.

Urban Meyer says he and Ohio State's athletic director agree that Meyer being on leave during the investigation will facilitate its completion.

Zach Smith's attorney tells CNN once Smith gets his chance to tell his side it will be corroborated by police.

BRIGGS: Houston police believe a 20-year-old grudge is the motive in the murder of a prominent cardiologist. A man whose mother died on the operating table has been named the suspect.

[05:55:07] The mother of 62-year-old Joseph James Pappas was a patient of Dr. Mark Hausknecht, who was killed as he rode his bicycle to work nearly two weeks ago.

Police say Pappas has not been seen in two days and evidence in his home links him to the killing.


ART ACEVEDO, POLICE CHIEF, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, HOUSTON, TEXAS: He's very dangerous and we need to get him into custody. Again, we think he's suicidal and we should assume that he's armed.

We need to go find this man. This man is dangerous, this man's capable. This man has some skills.


BRIGGS: CNN called a phone number for Pappas' real estate company on Wednesday but it went to voicemail. That same phone number also linked to recent listings on a firearms auction Web site for several guns, ammunition, and tactical vests.

HARTUNG: Fire officials in Northern California hope they've turned a corner battling the deadly Carr fire, but fire crews are expected to face unstable conditions and high temperatures at or near 100 degrees today.

The Carr fire has burned more than 121,000 acres and is 35 percent contained. It is now the sixth-most destructive fire in the state's history.

BRIGGS: More than 1,000 homes have been burned. Everyone who was reported missing in the Carr fire has now been accounted for but six people have died.

Redding's police chief says many arrests have been made in connection with looting.

HARTUNG: Health officials in Ohio now say more than 500 people 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 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: A former waitress trying to make amends 20 years after stealing from her employer. Carlotta Flores, owner of El Charo Mexican restaurant in Tucson, Arizona received a surprise envelope with $1,000 in cash and a handwritten apology.

The anonymous sender, a woman who says she worked for Flores in the 1990s while attending the University of Arizona.

HARTUNG: She wrote, "It's been 20 years but I still carry great remorse. Please accept my apology plus this money as a repayment, plus 20 years of interest. May God forever bless you and your family."

The restaurant owner was floored.


CARLOTTA FLORES, OWNER, EL CHARRO RESTAURANT, TUSCON, ARIZONA: We're usually a first-time employer for a young person being away from home going to school. So not only are they coming to school, they're learning a little bit about life as well. And I think it's one of those life lessons that our family tries to instill in our employees.

And it's a good feeling to know that she felt that she needed to take care of this and I really respect her for it.


HARTUNG: The woman who sent the letter added she was a terrible waitress and glad she was fired before she could pocket more than a few hundred dollars.

BRIGGS: Great stuff -- all right.

Two New Jersey brothers just knocked it out of the park while searching through their collection of old baseball cards. They found five Topps cards from 1952 featuring that guy, Yankee legend Mickey Mantle.

Heritage Auctions just put up a value of $1 million on one of those cards. The brothers turned down an offer of $8,000 for the entire collection around 1980.

The most valuable cards are currently part of an auction that runs through August 19th.

It's time to sift through my old cards but I think nothing from 1952.


BRIGGS: Great stuff.

HARTUNG: Well, I can't say I have any.


HARTUNG: Sorry, no.

BRIGGS: Love my old cards. Far too many of them.

HARTUNG: And thanks for joining us. I'm Kaylee Hartung.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


GIULIANI: He's always been interested in testifying. We haven't stopped negotiating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The special prosecutor has every right to subpoena him and get his testimony whether he likes it or not.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: It's obstruction of justice. It's an instruction to Jeff Sessions that he should get rid of Bob Mueller.

SANDERS: It's not an order. It's the president's opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seconds after take-off, impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When it was happening I really just thought like this can't be true. This can't be true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a group effort by all of us to get out of there alive.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And we're going to be speaking to two of those passengers who survived that fiery plane crash. All of them survived. That's remarkable.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: And the video, to keep watching it over and over again is remarkable. Thank God they were close enough to the ground and there wasn't a lot near the airport. That's a key point. CAMEROTA: That's true, but we're also going to have Mary Schiavo on to talk about tips for how to survive. Things that you can actually do that are very practical that you can survive a plane crash.

All right.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, August second, 6:00 here in New York.

John Berman is off. David Gregory joins me.

GREGORY: And we've already been talking.


GREGORY: This is really a show already in conversation.

CAMEROTA: Fantastic.

Here's our "Starting Line."

The negotiations between Robert Mueller and team Trump continue. Sources tell CNN that the special counsel offered to reduce the number of questions about obstruction of justice.