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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 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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: Now 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 whose clearance is not being reviewed is former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who has 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 and 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 the 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.


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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: Now just last month, House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the idea that President Trump would actually strip anyone's security clearance.


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 from CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

[05:05:02] 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: Brian, thank you.

Jury deliberations are set to begin this morning in the bank and tax fraud trial of Paul Manafort. During closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutors described the former Trump campaign chairman as a liar. But Manafort's defense team hammering away at the credibility of key prosecution witnesses. A guilty verdict would likely send shockwaves to the president's orbit of aides, friends and outside advisers. If Manafort walks, it would certainly increase the chorus of calls for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation to end.

Back to normal this morning at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. 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 just temporarily. The FAA says that air traffic control automatically switched to back-up power. Flights continue to arrive at the airport but departing planes were held at their gates.

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


[05:11:40] 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 sexual 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, he's been fired. That's after 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 is a priest sex abuse survivor himself. He has introduced a bill to eliminate statutes of limitations for childhood sex assault claims. The Pennsylvania Catholic Church 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, a large park and recreation area located in the city's downtown.

The overdoses are believed to be linked to some form of K-2, 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.

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.

And 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.


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.

[05:15:03] The suit says the state informed Phillips that he broke Colorado law by refusing to create a cake to celebrate a gender transition. Phillips claims the state has been, quote, "on a crusade to crush him" because it despises how he practices his faith. In June the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Phillips saying 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 a couple whose trailer started the fire when a flat tire rim showered sparks. A Redding woman's Facebook appeal drew hundreds of letters to the couple with residents saying 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 repaired and 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-in-law watching you try to use jumper cables.


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: Well, it didn't take long for thing to get chippy between the Braves and the Marlins. Benches clearing after one pitch. Andy Scholes with this morning's "Bleacher Report" coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:22:14] NOBLES: A day after taking responsibility for the death of one of their players, Maryland's interim coach says player safety is their number one concern.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Andy, good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Ryan. Maryland's Board of Regents is scheduled to hold a special meeting tomorrow to discuss how the school handled the death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

In the meantime, the team is back at practice. It's the first time since being named interim coach, Matt Canada speaking with the media. And he says the Terps are doing their best to get ready for the season.


MATT CANADA, MARYLAND INTERIM HEAD COACH: The focus of our players' health and safety is number one and our players are feeling that and understanding that. And that's our primary focus.

Our culture right now is great. Our culture right now is awesome. Our kids are excited to practice, excited to play. They're loving each other. At times are we grieving for Jordan? We are.


SCHOLES: Now Maryland's head coach DJ Durkin remains on administrative leave while the school continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding McNair's death. The 19-year-old died in June after suffering a heat stroke at a grueling practice on May 29th. ESPN reported that Maryland had a toxic culture detailing allegations of verbal abuse, bullying and a general disregard for the players' well being under head coach DJ Durkin.

All right. Coming in last night's Braves game against the Marlins, rookie sensation Ronald Acuna had hit a lead-off homerun in three straight games and the 20-year-old also the youngest player ever to homer in five straight. Everyone was all excited for this opening at bat of the game. And when he came up to the plate, Marlins pitcher Jose Urena drilled him with a 97-mile-per-hour fastball. It was the fastest opening pitch of the season for Urena. Clearly intentional.

The Braves were furious. They all come out on the field in Acuna's defense. Now there was not fighting, but the umps did get together and decided to eject Urena from the game. Acuna would end up leaving the game in the second inning with discomfort in his elbow.


FREDDIE FREEMAN, BRAVES FIRST BASEMAN: I don't understand it. It makes no sense just because a player is having fun playing the game and swinging the bat incredibly well obviously. That it just makes no sense. Completely classless on Jose Urena's part. DON MATTINGLY, MARLINS MANAGER: I mean, he's a great player. And

he's going to be great for a long time. And for us, he's beaten us up. But the way that -- this is not the way we want to handle that situation.


SCHOLES: According to the rule book, Acuna's five-game homerun streak is actually still active. He didn't have an official at bat of the game. His streak is going to be alive the next time he plays. When that is we don't know considering his elbow got drilled last night.

[05:25:01] But, Ryan, you know, the Marlins and the Braves they play again a week from today in Miami. And we could definitely see some more fireworks, though, because these two teams now have some bad blood considering what happened last night.

NOBLES: And the way it went down, Andy, pretty clear which team is in first place and which is in last place.


NOBLES: The way that was all handled.

All right. Andy Scholes, thank you for that.

SCHOLES: All right.

NOBLES: The president cited wild outbursts from John Brennan as he stripped the former CIA director of his security clearance but overnight the president blaming Brennan's role in the Russia probe as the reason to punish him.


NOBLES: 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.

And 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. Thank you so much for starting your day with us. I'm Ryan Nobles, it is 30 minutes past the hour.

President Trump all but admitting he revoked --