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EARLY START

White House Cannot Guarantee Trump Didn't Use the "N" Word; Hundreds of Priests Accused of Abuse in Pennsylvania; Search Intensifies After Italy Bridge Collapse; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 15, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:31:12] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A historic night for diversity in America. A transgender woman and a Somali-American among those securing a spot on the November ballot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people will never hear Donald Trump utter the N word?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can't guarantee anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: The White House cannot rule out the president used the N word. The racial undertones of the president's tweets a persistent problem for the White House.

ROMANS: Three hundred priests accused of abusing 1,000 kids dating back to the 1940s. A damning, disturbing report casting a long shadow this morning over diocese across Pennsylvania.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

NOBLES: And I'm Ryan Nobles. 31 minutes past the hour.

It was a historic night for diversity in America. Christine Hallquist becoming the nation's first transgender major party nominee for governor. CNN projecting the former energy company executive won last night in the Democratic primary in Vermont. She will face Republican governor Phil Scott in November. Hallquist telling CNN's Don Lemon this is a critical time for all oppressed Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE HALLQUIST (D), VERMONT GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: I think we should be talking about all marginalized communities. You know, it's certainly, if I look at what's happening certainly at the national level, you know, there's a systematic attack, and it's going to start -- you know, it's going to start with the most marginalized of the communities. So the fact that our president has gone after the transgender community is no surprise, and I think everybody should be afraid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: In the Connecticut primary, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year could become the state's first black Democrat in Congress. Jahana Hayes defeating Mary Glassman in the 5th congressional district primary. She takes on Republican Manny Santos, the former mayor of Meridian, in November.

NOBLES: And in Wisconsin, CNN projects that Senator Leah Vukmir has captured the GOP Senate primary, defeating former Democrat and Marine Kevin Nicholson. Vukmir will take on Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin in November. And in Wisconsin's governor's race, Democrats select the state's schools chief Tony Evers to challenge the Republican incumbent Scott Walker.

ROMANS: History also made in Minnesota, Democrats in the 5th District nominating state representative Ilhan Omar. A progressive Somali- American woman for a congressional seat there. And Congressman Keith Ellison won the Democrat nomination for Minnesota attorney general despite allegations of domestic abuse coming out against him. He denies those allegations, but the DNC will begin a review.

NOBLES: And finally, a delayed win but a big win for President Trump after the Kansas primary, Kris Kobach now officially the winner of the Republican nomination for governor. The incumbent governor Jeff Colyer conceded the race last night after absentee and provisional ballots extended Kobach's lead to 345 votes out of more than 315,000 cast.

ROMANS: The Trump campaign is filing for arbitration, claiming that Omarosa Manigault-Newman breached a 2016 nondisclosure agreement. It is the first legal action since Omarosa published a tell-all book about her time as a senior adviser to the president. And it comes less than 24 hours after Mr. Trump declared there are no tapes of him using the N word on that show, "The Apprentice," a claim the White House is not backing up.

We get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Ryan, President Trump looking forward to another day with at least no public events on the White House schedule. The second day in a row here he's not scheduled to be seen in public, but boy, in private, so much conversation still about those explosive charges in that book by his former top staffer here, African-American staffer here at the White House, Omarosa Manigault Newman.

Now, of course, the president yesterday just being slammed for some of his responses to her, calling her, of course, a cruel word in a tweet in the morning but then also going throughout the day, just going after her specifically.

[04:35:05] But it was in the White House press briefing in the afternoon where White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about the president and if he has ever said the N word, that racial slur, on tape. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people they'll never hear Donald Trump utter the N word on a recording in any context?

SANDERS: I can't guarantee anything, but I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I've never heard it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Of course, the president has given thousands and thousands of hours, if not more than that, of radio interviews, other things, other programs, so she did not want to say that it's simply not true that he could have never said that -- Christine and Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you.

In Pennsylvania, a grand jury report reveals a jaw-dropping amount of child sex abuse by priests. It says there are credible allegations against more than 300 priests suspected of abusing more than 1,000 children, dating back to the 1940s. The report investigates clergy sex abuse in six diocese across the state, covering 54 of 67 counties.

Emotional victims spoke out in a video provided by the state attorney general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was groomed, starting young.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The day I met him, I was around 18 months old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They targeted me because I was fatherless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in my diaper, and I ran out and ran right to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were taught -- I mean, the priests and the nuns are God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just think, like the word God makes me think of him, and I just --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: We get more now from CNN's Jean Casarez.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Ryan, officials say that this report written by 23 Pennsylvania grand jurors is the largest, most comprehensive into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church that has ever been produced in the United States.

The report states that there were credible allegations found against over 300 priests, over 1,000 child victims were identifiable from the church's own records, but they believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid to come forward is actually in the thousands.

This 884-page report took two years to put together, and there are many redactions. The attorney general's office is going to court next month to fight for those redactions to be revealed, saying, quote, "Every redaction represents an incomplete story of abuse that deserves to be told."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The members of the grand jury wrote in their report, we need you to hear this. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church, but never on this scale.

For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else. Now we know the truth. It happened everywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CASAREZ: Because of the cover-up, almost all of the abuse is too old to be prosecuted. The grand jury has issued presentments against two priests who allegedly assaulted children within the statute of limitations, and there also may be more indictments in the future because the investigation is continuing -- Christine, Ryan.

ROMANS: Jean Casarez, thank you for that. Troubling story there.

Turkey ramping up tensions with the U.S. Turkey announcing heavy, new tariffs on American goods. Turkey doubling tariffs on some U.S. imports, including cars, alcohol, and tobacco. Turkey calls it a response to the, quote, "deliberate attack of the U.S. administration on our economy." Relations between the two NATO allies have soured recently over Turkey's detention of an American pastor.

On Friday, President Trump authorized plans to double tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey. In response, the Turkish president called for a boycott of American electronics. Erdogan accused the U.S. of stabbing Turkey in the back. U.S. tensions have pressured Turkey's currency, the lira, sending it near record lows. It's down about 40 percent against the dollar this year, thrashed by a mix of Erdogan's autocratic policies, U.S. interest rate hikes, and Turkey's overall economic instability. Watching that one very closely, though.

NOBLES: So have you noticed more animals on planes lately, Christine?

ROMANS: Yes, I have, actually.

NOBLES: Well, it's about to get reined in. Another airline putting --

ROMANS: Reined in? Very good.

NOBLES: Reined in? You like that?

ROMANS: I like it.

NOBLES: Talk about horses, maybe?

What pets you can bring as emotional support animals. And apparently there's a distinction. We'll talk more about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:43:44] NOBLES: Closing arguments today in the bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The defense rested on Tuesday without calling a single witness. Manafort spoke in court for the first time since the trial began to confirm he will not testify. His attorney chose not to present a case, claiming the government has, quote, "not met its burden of proof." But Judge T.S. Ellis denied Manafort's request to have the charges thrown out. The judge called on each side to limit its closing argument today to two hours.

ROMANS: The Pentagon's chief spokeswoman under investigation this morning. CNN reporting exclusively that the Defense Department internal watchdog is looking into allegations Dana White misused her staff for personal errands and retaliated when they complained. Sources say staffers claim White ordered them to fetch dry cleaning, run to the drugstore, and fill out mortgage paperwork.

White did not respond to CNN's request for comment. The final report may recommend next steps, but Defense Secretary James Mattis could make the final decision on punishment.

NOBLES: The Department of Homeland Security's watchdog says it will review a TSA program called "Quiet Skies." The recently revealed program uses federal air marshals to track U.S. citizens flagged by computer software as possibly posing a threat. The passengers are not suspected of a crime, not under investigation, they're not on any terror watch list.

[04:45:04] Investigators will look into whether the program allows privacy laws -- follows privacy laws and whether it is effective.

ROMANS: Students in Parkland, Florida, go back to school today, but things are hardly back to normal. Six months after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history left 17 people dead, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High now features newly installed 20-foot fences. Broward County investing $26 million in security at all of its schools, including double doors, cameras, and security personnel.

NOBLES: A University of Maryland football player who died of heat stroke this summer did not receive proper medical care. That's according to the preliminary results of an independent review, which also found members of the training staff made mistakes. 19-year-old Jordan McNair died on June 13th, two weeks after a workout at the school's outdoor practice field.

ROMANS: Head coach DJ Durkin and members of the athletic staff were placed on administrative leave last week. The university also parting ways with head strength coach Rick Court. Athletic director Damon Evans and university president Wallace Lowe met with McNair's family. Lowe says the university accepts legal and moral responsibility.

NOBLES: This is an odd story. Two sisters who worked in a school cafeteria in Connecticut apparently had an appetite for cash, and we're not talking small potatoes here. The pair are accused of stealing nearly $500,000 at a scam that authorities say dates back to 2013.

CNN affiliate News 12 reports that Joanne Pasquarelli and Marie Wilson were arrested this week and charged with larceny and defrauding a public community. Authorities say the missing cash was noticed last year when the school district installed an enhanced accounting system. Both suspects are due in court next week.

ROMANS: Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones suspended for one week from posting to Twitter. A spokesperson says Twitter pulled Jones' personal account for seven days after he tweeted a link to a video calling for supporters to get their, quote, "battle rifles" ready against the media and others.

Last week, a CNN investigation found Jones' personal and InfoWars feeds repeatedly violated Twitter rules. As latest as Friday, Twitter said the accounts would remain online. Recently, much of InfoWars' social media presence has teetered on the brink of collapse with iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms yanking his posts.

NOBLES: And if you're headed to the airport this morning and you got your pet in tow, listen up, starting next month -- this isn't going to impact you this morning, I guess -- Southwest will only allow cats and dogs on board as emotional support animals. Passengers will need to present a letter from their doctor. Only one service animal will be allowed per customer, it got to be on a leash or in a carrier.

Since the beginning of the year, American, JetBlue, Delta and United have all introduced similar rules. Fliers have become increasingly bold in bringing animals on planes. You'll remember in January, there it is, a woman tried to board a United flight with what she called an emotional support peacock.

ROMANS: All right, friends and fans rallying around Aretha Franklin as she fights for her life. The 76-year-old queen of soul is now in hospice care. A source tells CNN that Franklin is being visited by those closest to her. They are reading her messages from friends and loved ones and holding her hand. Stevie Wonder and Franklin's ex- husband, Glen Turman, visited on Tuesday. Reverend Jesse Jackson will be visiting today.

NOBLES: A flash flood emergency hitting parts of the Midwest overnight. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Christine and Ryan, good morning to you both. Yes, we are watching the flooding concern really across the Midwest here and you're your way towards portions of southeast Kansas and eastern areas of Oklahoma. We do have a flood warning in place. The town of Independence, which is right there in portions of southern Kansas, had over seven inches of rainfall in the past 24 hours, which, by the way, is a 1 in 50-year event taking place there, so certainly shows you why a flash flood emergency was in place.

When you have somewhat of a densely populated area dealing with quite a bit of rainfall and ongoing flooding across that region. But we're following these storms as they push off towards the east later this morning in places such as Springfield, out towards Branson, getting in on some of these showers as we go in towards the late morning hours today and then beyond that should begin to see conditions there, at least, begin to improve. And around the northeast, giving way to a few residual showers that kind of gave us the cooler temps yesterday, but today with the showers departing.

We'll bump you up close to 90 in New York, 92 in Washington. And you'll notice where the cool weather is, right around St. Louis, around Chicago and Kansas City. That's where we have some of the heaviest rainfall in the forecast today -- Guys.

ROMANS: All right, Pedram, thank you so much for that.

Americans are borrowing more money than ever. Household debt now sitting at a record high. There's good news, though, if you have student loans. More on "CNN Money," next.

[04:49:56]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Nearly 11 months after Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, PREPA, says power restoration is now complete 11 months after the hurricane. The utility tweeting a photo of what it claimed was the last family to have power restored following the largest blackout in U.S. history.

Now residents of El Yunque National Forest, though, say they are still in the dark. They tell CNN they don't have power yet, many relying on generators because of a back-and-forth between PREPA and the U.S. Forest Service. PREPA says the issue should be resolved soon.

[04:55:06] NOBLES: Well, you may recall President Trump refusing to say John McCain's name Monday as he signed a Defense funding bill bearing the senator's name. This even as McCain fights brain cancer. Well, while you were sleeping, "The Late Show" weighed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The National Defense Authorization Act is the most significant investment in our military.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Singing) Say McCain, say McCain. Why won't you say his name?

TRUMP: We would not be here for this signing ceremony without the dedicated efforts of the members of Congress who worked so hard to pass the National Defense Authorization Act.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Singing) Say McCain, say McCain. It says that in the prompter. Read the stupid prompter. Why won't you say his name?

TRUMP: In a few moments, in honor of that sacred obligation, I will put my signature on the National Defense Authorization Act.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Singing) Say McCain, say McCain. It's on the bill you signed. Why won't you say his name?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Wow. All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning, this Wednesday morning.

Global stocks are mixed right now. You know, U.S. stocks rose yesterday, breaking a four-day losing streak after the lira rebounded from record lows. That's right, U.S. stocks looking at the Turkish currency. Turkey's currency has been under pressure lately, worrying investors. It's down about 40 percent against the dollar this year. Turkey faces U.S. sanctions and tariffs. That's only the most recent drag, though, on the lira, it's long been thrashed by a mix of autocratic policies, U.S. interest rate hikes and Turkey's economic instability.

The founders of Tinder are suing the dating app's owners, claiming they were cheated out of at least $2 billion. The co-founders and eight other early employees filed a suit against Tinder's owners, Match Group, and its parent company IAC. They claim IAC deliberately undervalued the company, denying the founders billions of dollars they were owed. IAC calls the suit meritless and will vigorously defend itself.

OK. Americans are borrowing more than ever. U.S. household debt hit a record $13.3 trillion last quarter. Debt is still climbing after four years, even with rising interest rates driving up borrowing costs. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the increase was driven by higher mortgage, credit card, and auto loan balances. But the number of delinquent loans fell to the lowest rate since 2003, primarily because of student loan debt. The report credits an improved labor market for less delinquency on student loans. Americans currently hold $1.5 trillion in student debt.

NOBLES: The search and rescue effort only beginning in Italy after that highway bridge collapse that killed dozens of people west of Genoa.

CNN's Ian Lee is live in Genoa now, and he has the very latest.

Ian, what's the scene like now?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, Ryan, this search-and-rescue operation is still ongoing. We spoke with the chief of the fire services. He said that there are still a number of people who are in that rubble. They don't know if they're dead or alive, but they're assuming right now, they're operating as if they could be alive. And so there is that urgency right now.

Let me just step aside to show you kind of what they're working with here. You have these two huge cranes that are trying to lift just tons of concrete and twisted steel that collapsed onto some buildings down below. 35 cars were on that section of bridge, which is about 400 yards. So, you can imagine, that's like four football fields of highway falling down.

Last night we were talking to one of the rescuers who was able to get there on the scene quite quickly, and he described driving rain, heavy winds, and people screaming for help. He said one thing really stuck in his mind, and it does for us as well, when he came across a family there was the mother and the father in the front seat. They were crushed. And in the back, there was a child. He said at first they thought the child was alive, but when they reached for him, the body was limp. They knew then that he was dead.

Thirty-six people have been killed. They expect that death toll to rise. You know, today is a national holiday. You could imagine, if this bridge collapsed today, that death toll could have been a lot higher as people are going on their holidays.

NOBLES: All right. Ian Lee in Genoa, thank you for that report.

And EARLY START continues right now.

ROMANS: A historic night for diversity in America. A transgender woman and a Somali-American among those securing a spot on the November ballot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people they'll never hear Donald Trump utter the N word?

SANDERS: I can't guarantee anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: The White House cannot rule out the president used the N word. The racial undertones of the president's tweets, a persistent problem for the White House.