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Trump Revokes John Brennan's Security Clearance; Hundreds of Newspapers Send Coordinated Message Today; U.S. Sanctions Hitting Ordinary Iranians; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:43] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: In desperate need of a distraction, the president targets a critic. Now he is admitting he pulled John Brennan's security clearance because of his role in the Russia probe.

Editorial boards across the country sending a message to the White House. Stop calling us the enemy of the people.

And nearly 75 years to the day after going under, part of a World War II ship has been discovered off Alaska.

Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ryan Nobles. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

President Trump all but admitting he revoked former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance as payback for the Russia investigation. The president spoke to the "Wall Street Journal" hours after following through on his threat to pull Brennan's clearance.

Brennan was among the officials who presented evidence to Mr. Trump that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. Speaking to the "Journal," the president drew a direct connection between Brennan and the Russia probe. He said, "I call it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham and these people led it." He added, "So I think it's something that had to be done."

Hours earlier, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders claimed that Brennan lost his clearance because he, quote, "leveraged his status with wild outbursts on the Internet and television."


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mr. Brennan's lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation's most closely held secrets.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How can Americans not interpret that as a -- getting back against his critics?

SANDERS: Well, the president has a constitutional responsibility to protect classified information and who has access to it.


NOBLES: Brennan himself says Americans should be gravely worried about efforts to silence critics and suppress freedom of speech, but he says that he won't be muzzled.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It's not going to affect my speaking out, my criticisms of Mr. Trump. I'm going to try to do it in a professional way. But I don't know what recourse there is and so I'll just take things one day at a time.


NOBLES: The White House says the clearances of nine other current and former security officials are all under review. All of them were appointed by or served under President Obama. One man's clearance, though, not being reviewed is former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He of course pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Another whose clearance is under review is former NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden. He tells CNN yanking clearances this way is dangerous.


MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NSA AND CIA: The White House just messaged the entire American intelligence community if you stand up and say things that upset the president or with which he disagrees, he will punish you. And that is a horrible message to be sending to folks who are there to tell you objective truth.


NOBLES: The president told the "Journal" he was prepared to take action against Brennan last week but things were too hectic. Remember, last week he was on a working vacation at his Jersey golf club.

"The Wall Street Journal" editorial board scolding the president saying he should instead declassify election-related documents subpoenaed by Congress. Quote, "We're all for challenging Mr. Brennan's partisan motives and for investigating his behavior. But absent the full story that would provide missing context, the revocation of Mr. Brennan's security clearance looks petty without accomplishing anything useful."

Republican reaction to the yanking of Brennan's security clearance has been mixed. Senator Susan Collins said that Brennan has been, quote, "too political" in his statements, but doesn't see grounds for revoking his clearance unless there was a disclosure of classified information. Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana was all for stripping Brennan's clearance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think most Americans look at our national intelligence experts as being above politicians. Mr. Brennan demonstrated that that's not the case. He's been totally political. I think I called him a butthead and I meant it. I think he has given the national intelligence community a bad name.


NOBLES: Never one for loss for words. Senator Kennedy. Just last month, House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the idea that President Trump would actually strip anyone's security clearance.


[04:35:07] REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I think he is trolling people honestly. This is something that's in the purview of the executive branch. I think some of these people already lost their clearances. Some people keep their clearances. That's something that the executive branch deals with. It's not really in our purview.


NOBLES: According to the most recent report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, nearly 4.1 million people have security clearances.

Hundreds of newspapers from coast to coast are sending a coordinated message to their readers today. The press is not the enemy of the people.

The "Boston Globe" organized this series of editorials. Its own editorial board saying, quote, "It is an essential end point to Trump's deluge of dishonesty that he now contests objective reality and urges his supporters to do the same. The greatness of America is dependent on the role of a free press. To label the press the enemy of the people is as un-American as it is dangerous to the civic compact that we've shared for more than two centuries."

And it's not just big city newspapers sending this message. We get more now from CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Now our viewers might spot these editorials in their morning papers because they're appearing in about 350 newspapers across the country. Some big papers, like the "Dallas Morning News," and a lot of smaller papers as well.

Every editorial is different but the overarching message is that hey, it's great to criticize the media and that makes the media better. But calling us names, like the enemy of the people, can be downright dangerous.

Now let me show you a few examples from these local papers. I think they have more impact, you know, coming from local communities where the journalists and the writers know the readers. Here's one from Belen, New Mexico. The "Valencia County News- Bulletin" saying "We are not the enemy. We are the people."

And here's one from Athens, Ohio, pointing out, "It's not just President Trump attacking the press, it's also local officials increasingly going on the attack." And one more here. This is from Benson, Minnesota, the "Swift County Monitor News," saying, "Attacks on journalists will lead to violence."

Now there has been some criticism of this effort. Here's an example from the "San Francisco Chronicle." This paper is saying, we are not participating because, quote, "It plays into Trump's narrative that the media are aligned against him."

I think this effort is proof that journalists and editorial writers across the country feel under threat right now. They feel a need to speak out and defend the very profession of journalism, the very existence of the news media.

Back to you.

NOBLES: All right. Thank you, Brian.

Back to normal this morning at Reagan National Airport after a power outage last night pulled the plug on operations for more than an hour. The Washington Metro Airport Authority telling CNN one of the two main power feeds to the airport supplied by Dominion Energy went down temporarily. The FAA says air traffic control automatically switched to back-up power. Flights continue to arrive at the airport but departing planes were held at the gates.

CEO Elon Musk may be in trouble with Wall Street's top regulator. The "New York Times" reports that the SEC served Tesla with a subpoena. That sent Tesla's shares tumbling 2.6 percent. Last week Elon Musk tweeted that he may take Tesla private and that he'd secured funding. That statement triggered a rise in Tesla stock and some scrutiny, including investor lawsuits and an SEC probe into the accuracy of his statement.

Now companies can disclose that information to shareholders on social media, but they can't give misleading information. Musk is in trouble if there is evidence that he made the statements to boost Tesla share price. Since last week, Musk has worked to add credibility to his proposed buyout. For example by naming his financial backer. A Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

A pregnant Colorado mom and her two young kids are missing. Now her husband is under arrest. What we know, next.


[04:43:16] NOBLES: Pope Francis is facing mounting pressure to address a widening sex abuse scandal. So far the Vatican has not commented on an explosive grand jury report detailing decades of abuse and cover-ups by hundreds of priests and bishops in Pennsylvania.

Robert Masters, the solicitor for Children and Youth Services of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, has been fired. The grand jury report says that Masters stopped priest investigations when he was Beaver County's district attorney in 1964. His reason then? To prevent unfavorable publicity. Here's his explanation now.


ROBERT MASTERS, FORMER BEAVER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Really I didn't do too good of a job of explaining it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could explain now. What happened?

MASTERS: Well, the alleged violations did not take place in Beaver County.


NOBLES: Democratic lawmaker Mark Rosey of Pennsylvania was abused by a priest. He has introduced a bill to eliminate statutes of limitations for children of childhood sex assault claims. The Pennsylvania Catholic Church, though, says the time to discuss legislation will come later.

One suspect in police custody after 71 people overdosed in New Haven, Connecticut, in just 24 hours. Authorities say as many as five dozen people OD'd in the area of New Haven Green. That's a large park and recreation area that's located in the city's downtown.

The overdoses are believed to be linked to some form of K-2, which is also known as synthetic marijuana. K-2 is often laced with other drugs. The troubling incident coming the same day as preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control finds the drug overdoses killed a record 72,300 Americans last year.

[04:45:05] The husband of a pregnant Colorado mom has been arrested after she and her two little girls went missing. Police say 34-year- old Shannan Watts, her 4-year-old Celeste and her 3-year-old Bella have not been seen at their home in Frederick since Monday. Charges against Chris Watts haven't been announced. Authorities went to the home after a call from a concerned friend.

The husband of a pregnant Colorado mom has been arrested after she and her two little girls went missing. Police say 34-year-old Shannan Watts, her 4-year-old Celeste and her 3-year-old Bella have not been seen at their home in Frederick since Monday. Charges against Chris Watts haven't been announced. A news conference will be held this morning. Authorities went to the house after getting a call from a concerned friend.

A rural Oklahoma school system forced to shut down for two days this week after a group of adults threatened a 12-year-old transgender girl on Facebook. The threats started when the student used the girls bathroom at the local middle school. One post suggesting it was open hunting season on transgender people. Others called for the 12-year- old to be stabbed or beaten up. The girl's mother says that her daughter is in fear for her life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRANDY ROSE, MOTHER OF THREATENED CHILD: That's scary. And these are adults making threats to a child. I don't understand it. To see any kind of fear in her like that because other people, and especially adults, just -- I can't explain how bad that hurts me.


NOBLES: The Achille Public School System resumed classes yesterday. The transgender student's mother has filed a protective order against one of the parents who made those Facebook comments.

The Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple is once again claiming persecution. Masterpiece Cake Shop owner Jack Phillips has filed a new $100,000 lawsuit against Colorado's governor. The suit says the state informed Phillips he broke Colorado law by refusing to create a cake to celebrate a gender transition. Phillips claims the state is, quote, "been on a crusade to crush him" because it despises how he practices his faith. In June the U.S. Supreme Court cited with Phillips when the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown hostility to his religious beliefs.

In California, all evacuations for the Carr Fire have been lifted. The wildfire burning in two counties in the northern part of the state has scorched more than 200,000 acres. The inferno left seven people dead. At last check it was 67 percent contained. Residents in the city of Redding are rallying around the couple whose trailer started the fire when a flat tire rim showered sparks. A Redding woman's Facebook appeal drew about 100 letters to the couple with residents saying that they forgive them.

A search team has located the sunken stern of a World War II destroyer that hit a mine off the coast of Alaska. The USS Abner Read was hunting for Japanese subs near the Aleutian Islands early on the morning of August 18th, 1943 when a huge explosion blew the rear section right off the ship. The bodies of 70 men were never found.

Last month the team funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the stern using modern search equipment. Most of the Abner Read remained afloat that night 74 years ago. It was actually repaired, sent back into battle until 1944 when a Japanese Kamikaze plane sank it in the Philippines.

While you were sleeping, the "Late Show" took on President Trump's decision to revoke the security clearance of one of his critics.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": For the first time ever, a president has used the power of his office to punish members of the intelligence community who have criticized him. Specifically former CIA director and father of them all watching you try to use jumper cables.

(LAUGHTER) COLBERT: John Brennan. The official reason Trump gave for revoking Brennan's clearance, Brennan, quote, "leveraged his status to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations including wild outbursts on the Internet."


COLBERT: Yes. Yes. Yes. I'd say that's the pot calling the kettle black. But there may be tapes of it calling the kettle something much worse.


NOBLES: Google making good on a promise to Congress providing transparency into political ads.


[04:54:02] NOBLES: The Trump administration's renewed sanctions on Iran have kicked in and now ordinary Iranians are starting to feel the pinch.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Tehran with more on this story -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump hopes that the more you put economic pressure on Iran, the more likely its people are to turn against its moderate government. But that is what we saw really on the ground.


WALSH (voice-over): Tehran stood proud for centuries but now life here changes by the week. Everyone loves a Toyota until it breaks down. Yet renewed American sanctions on cars and their parts kicking in a week ago mean a few can afford repairs, as spares are drying up. So they sit here for months.

(On camera): It's three times as expensive. So this is just in the last few months. This is now three times as expensive.

(Voice-over): These would normally be full, owner Nabiullah says. You never think that a spark plug would become such valued currency.

[04:55:06] (On camera): Donald Trump thinks that he is pushing the Iranian people to rise up against their government. Do you think that's likely to happen because of what's happening here?

(Voice-over): No, he says, because the hungrier the people get the more they are going to hate him. If Trump acted properly, people might even have liked him.

Behind every car is a family and Davood Taraji is at the heart of the matter. He can't afford the parts to repair his taxi, but hasn't stopped the monthly repayments on it. And that led to stark changes at home for Davood's family, Artin, 7, and daughter Asal, 13. As the local currency also plunges in value their fancy refrigerator in their plush but tiny two-room apartment is suddenly emptier.

The price of an egg has doubled, he says, just like the price of fresh fruits, vegetables. Milk is about 40 percent more expensive.

These are the middle class that Barack Obama wanted to win over by lifting sanctions under the nuclear deal, but on to whom Donald Trump wants to pile pressure hoping to force political change. Yet instead it's Artin's English lessons that may go first and perhaps Asal's guitar tutor, and then perhaps even the family home will go on the market.

The U.S. says Iran's government not its people are the target, but it's far more personal and painful here.


WALSH: Now really we've yet to get into the really difficult bits and that's when in early November the second wave of U.S. sanctions kick in against the oil and banking sectors. That could really hurt the economy even more and cause families like, you saw there, to really feel the pinch even harder.

Who do they choose to blame? Well, so far it pretty much seems U.S. commander in chief is in their sights, but there's doubt, too, here the people realize there's an economic crisis and that the government has its part to play in trying to fix that -- Ryan.

NOBLES: Nick Paton Walsh, with a view of the sanctions of Iran that most Americans don't get to see.

Nick, thank you for that report.

No foreign buyers wanted. That message from New Zealand lawmakers trying to cool off a red hot housing market. They just passed a law banning foreigners from buying most of the country's residential property. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern campaigned on a promise to claim down on foreign buyers blaming them for soaring housing prices that are shutting out many New Zealanders looking to buy a home.

Let's get a check on CNN Money this morning. Global stocks are mostly higher right now. Rebounding overnight on renewed trade talks between the United States and China. The Chinese Commerce Ministry says the delegation will travel to the U.S. later this month.

Wall Street fell yesterday thanks to tensions between the U.S. and Turkey and disappointing earnings. The Chinese tech giant Tencent reported its first profit decline in almost 13 years. That sent the entire tech sector down more than 1 percent.

Retail stocks also fell after Macy's tumbled nearly 16 percent. Macy's struggled to grow sales last quarter.

Uber stemmed its losses last quarter but it's still a long way for making a profit before going public next year. Uber is a private company, but still releases financial results and while revenue increased 63 percent from last year, it still lost almost $1 billion overall. Uber is investing in markets beyond cars like bike sharing and food delivery. But its growth faces challenges like new regulation. Last week New York became the first U.S. city to cap the number of ride sharing vehicles.

Google is making good on a promise to Congress, providing transparency into political ads on its platform. Google will now provide weekly data on political ads. The public database shows who buys the ads and how much they spend. The current data shows spending since May 31st. And so far the biggest ad spender is the president's re-election campaign followed by conservative political group One Nation and Planned Parenthood.

EARLY START continues right now.

In need of a distraction, the president targets a critic. Now he is admitting he pulled John Brennan's security clearance because of his role in the Russia probe.

And the Trump administration's renewed -- and editorial boards across the country are now taking aim at President Trump and his complaints about the enemy of the people. How they are fighting back.

And nearly 75 years to the day after going under, part of a World War II ship has been discovered off the coast of Alaska. This fascinating story coming up this morning.

And good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ryan Nobles. It is Thursday, August 16th. 5:00 a.m. in the East. Dave and Christine are off. We appreciate you joining us.