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NY Congressman Chris Collins Indicted; Team Trump Rejects Mueller's Offer; Russia Responds to Sanctions; California Wildfire Arrest. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 05:00   ET



[05:00:01] REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: A sitting congressman indicted for insider trading, creating another midterm headache for the GOP.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: You're trying to trap him into perjury because you don't have a case.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's lawyers rejecting Robert Mueller's terms for a sit-down interview in the Russia investigation.

MATTINGLY: The Kremlin is also responding to brand new round of U.S. sanctions on Russia. We'll go live to Moscow.


REPORTER: Do you know how this fire started?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea. I was asleep.


ROMANS: Police now say that man, despite his on-camera denial just days ago, that man started a destructive California wildfire that is still raging out of control.

Good morning. Welcome, everyone, to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MATTINGLY: And I'm Phil Mattingly, in for Dave Briggs. It's Thursday, August 9th.

Congratulations, you are on the back half of the week, one day closer to Friday. All right. Representative Chris Collins defiantly refusing to step down after his indictment on insider trading charges. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan accused the New York Congress member, his son and another man of securities and wire fraud. They're charged with exploiting secret drug trial information from an Australian pharmaceutical company.

Collins last night vowed in a brief appearance before TV cameras to continue his run for re-election in November.


COLLINS: The charges that have been levied against me are meritless, and I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name. I look forward to being fully vindicated and exonerated, ending any and all questions relating to my affiliation with Innate.


MATTINGLY: The congressman is referring Innate Immunotherapeutics, where Collins was on the board of directors. Now, Collins was the first sitting member of Congress to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump's run for the White House.

Collins' indictment turns another safe Republican seat into a potential general election battleground.

ROMANS: But the White House legal team says it has sent a counteroffer to special counsel Robert Mueller on a possible interview with the president. Sources tell us the president's lawyers are rejecting Mueller's latest terms in countering with the narrower scope for questioning. They do not want the president facing questions about obstruction.

Here is Rudy Giuliani last night talking to Sean Hannity.


GIULIANI: Stop the nonsense. You are trying to trap him into perjury because you don't have a case.


ROMANS: Earlier, Giuliani called the offer a good attempt faith to reach an agreement, claiming the special counsel now has all the information he needs to wrap his case within weeks.


GIULIANI: We do not want to run into the November elections. So back up from that, this should be over with by September 1st.

We have now given him an answer. He -- obviously, he should take a few days to consider it. But we should get this resolved.

(END AUDIO CLIP) ROMANS: Giuliani says the Trump legal team would refer if the Russia investigation wraps up well before the midterm election. But he also told reporters he believes Republicans will benefit if the probe drags into November.

MATTINGLY: I'm going out on a limb and say it's probably not going to be done in three weeks. Just a guess.

All right. Prosecutors in the bank and tax fraud trial of Paul Manafort expect to rest their case against the president's former campaign boss on Friday. Then, the defense will present its side of things.

So far, 18 witnesses have testified. Most notably Rick Gates, Manafort's ex-deputy and former adviser to the Trump campaign. Now, also taking the stand, an IRS agent who told the court how Manafort avoided paying taxes on millions of dollars.

We get more now from CNN's Kara Scannell.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Follow the money. That's what prosecutors asked the jury to do in a document-heavy day of presentation.

Witnesses from the FBI and IRS walked the jury through documents, e- mails and bank account statements to show them the pathway that the money flowed through Ukrainian businessmen to Paul Manafort's accounts. They showed them bank account statements that Paul Manafort had signed. His passport photo that was included in that bank accounts, and how those funds then flew to U.S. vendors, that the jury heard from earlier in the week and last week, detailing that he paid for a Mercedes and ostrich jacket, and bought several expensive real estate properties.

The jury had also heard from prosecutors that in total, that meant Manafort didn't pay taxes on $15 million. That's a key part of the case heading into its final days. Prosecutors told the judge they have eight more witnesses to call and they could wrap by the end of this week -- Christine, Phil.


ROMANS: All right. Kara, thank you for that.

The Trump administration set to slap a new round of sanctions on Russia as punishment for the poisoning in Britain of a former Russian spy and his daughter. The State Department says the sanctions are required under international law, banning the use of biological and chemical weapons.

The first round of sanctions set to go in effect in two weeks.

For the response from the Kremlin, I want to bring in senior international correspondent Matthew Chance live in Moscow. And the response I think is pretty predictable. They say they didn't

do this and the United States is doing this for political reasons.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Kremlin have actually yet to react, but there is a conference call under way and shortly we'll be getting word as to what their official response is. The Russian diplomats certainly have been speaking about this and repeated the Russian line that this is absurd, that they had nothing to do with the Skripal poisoning, of course, which took place with the Novichok poisoning in Britain in March.

And you know that is the line I expect we will hear from the Kremlin as well. Whenever they are confronted with these allegations, they usually deny it. To some extent, these sanctions from the U.S. based on anti-chemical weapons legislation were unexpected. They came somewhere out of the blue in the sense that there's been a heightened expectation here in Russia that there would be sanctions from the U.S., but congressional sanctions to being discussed to punish Russia for its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

So, in that sense, these have sort of come out of the blue. But it all sort of comes out of this febrile, feverish political atmosphere in the United States clearly after the poor performance of Donald Trump in Helsinki with the summit with President Putin where he is perceived as coming off weak compared to the Russian leader, pressure is building in the United States to take a tougher line against Moscow -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance for us in Moscow, thanks.

MATTINGLY: All right. Firefighters in California now making headway on the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest fire in state's history. At this point, the fire has scorched more than 302,000 acres, and officials say more than 100 homes have been destroyed. The inferno at this point is now 47 percent contained.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is on the ground and has the latest from Colusa, California.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're standing on the front edge of the Mendocino Fire. Take a look at this, that blaze right there is actually part of what the firefighters are starting. This is a controlled burn.

And they're doing this to burn out this fuel here because as the winds pick up in the afternoon and humidity drops, that fire on the other side of the ridge behind that fire could spread. So, they are trying to make a stand here to stop this fire from growing any further.

This fire is huge, but why has it been able to grow so big?

CHRIS VESTAL, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION: Well, our first priority is protecting the communities and the homes. Secondly, in building our control lines, we have to use naturally occurring geographical features to help us control the fire.

ELAM: So, maybe like a bulldozer line coming through or along a creek or along the ridge? These are things that you would look for to be your wall of defense to stop the fire there?

VESTAL: Correct. We'll use existing roads, existing ridge lines, other geographic features that help in conducting bulldozing lines, as well as our hand lines.

ELAM: Adding fuel to this fire season, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration says July was the hottest month on record in California history. Those dry and warm conditions creating the perfect storm for wildfires.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Colusa County, California.


MATTINGLY: Thank you, Stephanie.

And just kind of how real the scale is of the fires across the state right now, the Holy Fire in southern California triggering a new round of evacuations overnight, as flames inched closer to residential areas. Twenty thousand people have been ordered to leave as the wildfire explodes in Riverside County.

Officials are battling the blaze from both the air and land. At this hour, the fire is only 5 percent contained. In the meantime, a 51- year-old man accused of setting the destructive wildfire is expected to appear in court today.

Now, watch this. Here is what that man, Forrest Gordon Clark, talking to a freelance cameraman on Monday, just two days before his arrest had to say.


REPORTER: Do you know how this fire started?

FORREST GORDON CLARK: I have no idea. I was asleep. I just woke up, dude. I got burned.



All right. A local fire official tells the "Orange County Register" that Clark sent him an e-mail last week warning, quote, this place will burn. Clark faces an array of charges, including suspicion of felony arson.

ROMANS: All right. China vows to fight back against U.S. tariffs, accusing the White House of having a, quote, mobster mentality. Beijing announced its own tariffs on $16 billion worth of U.S. goods yesterday, a direct response to U.S. tariffs for the same amount. Chinese state media warns the trade conflict will only get worse if the Trump administration cannot marshal its mobster mentality, adding that China is trying to avoid a trade war, but in the face of the U.S.'s ever greater demand for protection money, China has no choice but to fight back. So far, China has threatened up to $110 billion in U.S. goods. Practically, all of its U.S. imports.

President Trump has also threatened to target everything the U.S. buys from China, about $500 billion. Tariffs from either side could hurt U.S. consumers and businesses. That's because the tariffs are paid by U.S. companies who import these goods and those higher costs could mean they have to raise prices or cut jobs.

In fact, tariffs are causing a South Carolina company to layoff nearly all of its workers.

[05:10:03] Element Electronics imports parts from China to assemble TVs. It blames the layoffs and the plant closure directly on those U.S. tariffs.

MATTINGLY: All right. Disturbing details emerge from the filthy New Mexico compound raided by the FBI, where prosecutors say the suspects had its store for the kids found there.

ROMANS: Plus, chilling on-camera confessions from the Parkland, Florida school shooter.


ROMANS: Disturbing details emerging in New Mexico where 11 emaciated children were found living in filthy conditions at a makeshift compound. Prosecutors say the five suspects accused of abusing those kids were training them to commit school shootings. Authorities say the compound appeared to have an improvised shooting range and loaded firearms. An attorney for one of the suspects denied these allegations.

All five pleaded not guilty to child abuse during a court appearance Wednesday. They are scheduled for a pretrial detention hearing next week.

[05:15:03] Meantime, authorities are still trying to determine if the remains they found on Monday belong to a missing Georgia boy. A search for that young child is what led authorities to that squalled compound.

MATTINGLY: Newly released chilling video of the Parkland school shooter's confession. An interrogation video released by prosecutors, the 19-year-old accused of killing 17 students and teachers says he hears voices, punches himself in the case and repeatedly says he wants to die.

CNN's Rosa Flores has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESP[ONDENT (voice-over): Newly released video of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz being interrogated hours just after he shot and killed (AUDIO GAP) barefoot, dressed in a blue hospital gown, answering a detective's questions for several hours.

DETECTIVE: Again, I'm just asking a very simple question, is how you got to the school.

FLORES: The video shows him at times acting erratically murmuring to himself about wanting to die, forming his hand into the shape of a gun and putting to his head.


At the end, you're nothing but worthless (EXPLETIVE DELETED) dude.

You deserve to dies because you're (EXPLETIVE DELETED) worthless and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) everyone. I want to die.

FLORES: At one point, Cruz breaks down and sobs loudly after investigators grant his request to speak to his younger brother Zachary.

But then he appears to laugh.

ZACHARY CRUZ: Why did do you this? Don't even laugh at me.

N. CRUZ: I'm sorry, dude.

FLORES: Cruz told his interrogator that he carried out the mass shooting at the direction of the demonic voice in his head, telling him to do evil things.

CRUZ: Burn, kill, destroy.

FLORES: But the narrative didn't seem to sit well with the Broward County detective.

DETECTIVE JOHN CURCIO: I don't really believe there is a voice, to be honest with you.

FLORES: Growing agitated at that suggestion, Cruz abruptly demanded an attorney, ending the five-hour interrogation.

(on camera): The claim he was directed to carry out mass murder on Valentine's Day at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School by demonic voices in his head is in contrast to the seemingly boastful videos that he made days before the shooting.

(voice-over): Videos in way he laid bare his sinister plans, predicting he would achieve fame and notoriety. CNN chose not to air those videos when they surfaced in the months after the shooting, not wanting to fulfill Cruz's apparent desire for attention. But now that he has introduced a possible line of defense, we believe the videos provide a fuller context to his mindset and motivation.

CRUZ: Location is Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida.

FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, Miami.


ROMANS: Honestly hard to watch.

All right. A California appeals court has rejected the appeal of a former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexual assault. You might remember Brock Turner. Brock Turner's attorney had argued there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction on three counts of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman in 2015.

Turner was ordered by a judge to serve six months in jail, just six months in jail even though prosecutors had pushed for a six-year sentence. In the end, Turner served only three months behind bars because the jail was overcrowded. The outcry was intense. Critics called Turner's sentence too lenient, resulting in a recall that remove the trial judge, Aaron Persky.

MATTINGLY: All right. The NCAA announcing major policy changes in the wake of the FBI corruption probe. Andy Scholes is going to break it all down for us in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:12] MATTINGLY: The NCAA announcing big rule changes on Wednesday aimed at cleaning up the sport of college basketball.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


You know, after recent scandals involving college basketball recruiting, NCAA was determined to do something to stop cheating in the sport. But these new rules announced Wednesday are being criticized for not really solving any of their problems.

The two biggest rule changes are elite high school prospects and college players can now hire agents to advise them, but they can't have any financial relationship. And if a player enters the NBA draft, but then goes undrafted, that player can return to school. Now, the responsibility of who determines who is a, quote, elite player has been put on USA Basketball.

And according to ESPN, they were blind sided by the announcement and want no part of ranking young players. Now, both of these rules won't matter much if the NBA gets rid of the one-and-done rule. They are discussing, but not expected to happen until 2022 at the earliest.

All right. LeBron James was the last great high school player to make the jump to the NBA. And yesterday, he gave us the first look of women wearing the new Lakers uniform. LeBron posting this picture of him doing a photo shoot for NBA 2K in Instagram. Interesting, he is rocking Kobe Bryant's shoe as part of the shoot and not his own.

And we know where and when LeBron makes his Lakers debut. The Lakers are going to open the NBA season October 18th in Portland. That game will be on TNT.

LeBron's first home game in L.A. will be against the rockets on October 20th. And according to ESPN, LeBron is going to make his big return to Cleveland on November 21st.

The full NBA schedule will come out tomorrow.

[05:25:00] Now, Braves and Nationals last night. Here is something you don't see often. Nationals' 19-year-old phenom Juan Soto gets ejected before the ball is thrown in this at bat. Soto told the umpire Greg Gibson to, quote, be better after he struck out in an earlier at bat on the ball he thought was inside.

It was the first ejection of Soto's life at any level of baseball. You see Gibson telling Dave Martinez and Soto you cannot argue balls and strikes with me. Nationals lost that game 8-3.

And finally, here is something even rare than getting ejected before a pitch. Umpire Bruce Dreckman had to leave last night Yankees' wipe out game in the ninth inning to have a trainer checked out a discomfort on his ear.

I want you to see what they pulled out. A giant moth flew in his ear. And look at that moth, still is alive and kicking when they yanked it out of his ear. I get shivers up and down watching that. The Yankees trainer holding it in shock like that came out of his ear.

MATTINGLY: How did that happen? What are you doing? He didn't know what it was? It was just discomfort?

SCHOLES: One of my biggest fears is something flying in my ear. That has grown dramatically after watching this video.

MATTINGLY: I know. That's not a small bug. I don't understand.

SCHOLES: I like how he closes his eye here. Oh, I got something. Oh, a giant moth.



ROMANS: Gross. Best video of the day. Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

MATTINGLY: All right. Another GOP congressional seat possibly in jeopardy after a lawmaker's stunning indictment.

ROMANS: And President Trump's lawyers respond to Robert Mueller's terms for a sit-down interview. Details just ahead.