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Trump Revokes Ex-CIA Director John Brennan's Security Clearance; Newspapers: The Press Is Not The Enemy Of The People; U.S. Sanctions Hitting Ordinary Iranians. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 16, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: And nearly 75 years to the day after going under, part of a World War II ship has been discovered off Alaska.

Good morning and 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 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, 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 is 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.

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, said that 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 DIRECTOR, CIA: 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 also 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, former NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden. He tells CNN yanking clearances this way is dangerous.


MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA AND NSA: 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: Now, 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."

All right, let's bring in "Washington Examiner" commentary writer Philip Wegmann. He's live in our Washington, D.C. bureau this morning.

Phil, as always, thank you for getting up early with us.

I'm interested in your take as to how this is going to be perceived by Republicans. We know that Democrats across the board are going to be angry that the president took this step.

But I thought John Kennedy's comments yesterday were interesting. He's usually pretty thoughtful on topics like this.

He's called John Brennan a butthead. He brought that up again yesterday.

My guess is that this may actually play pretty well with Republicans across the board, even some that are critics of President Trump.

PHILIP WEGMANN, COMMENTARY WRITER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I think it certainly will show a lot of Republicans that President Trump is actually doing something. A lot of conservatives are going welcome this development.

But regardless of what you think of Brennan -- and personally, I think that there is a good case to be made that he is a partisan spook -- this is not the way to go because two things.

First, Brennan is an expert when it comes to a lot of security issues ranging from topics like Saudi Arabia to the Middle East. When he doesn't have a security clearance he's not as much of an asset to the intelligence community.

And then second, I think Michael Hayden made a very good argument when he pointed out that this is a good way for the president to silence dissent because he's sending a message that if you are a member of the intelligence community and you speak out against his administration you might lose your clearance.

NOBLES: Yes, and that is something that many Democrats are talking about as well. And they're wondering if this move sets the stage for the president to go after someone like Robert Mueller.

Listen to what Mark Warner, who is the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had to say yesterday.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's an attempt to distract the American public from those items that this White House faces on a daily basis. To have clearances revoked or in the process of revoked, to me, smacks of Nixonian-type practices of trying to silence anyone who's willing to criticize this president.

[05:35:05] I worry whether this precedence is going to somehow lead to the president trying to take away Mueller and his whole team's security clearances.


NOBLES: Is that taking to too far, Phil?

WEGMANN: Look, shame on us if we don't understand the Trump playbook by now. Clearly, what he wants to do is distract us from the current issues right now and I think that a lot of us are playing into his hands because we've been chasing after this issue. "The Wall Street Journal" got it right, though, and this is something that should be inescapable. President Trump has called this entire Russia investigation a witch hunt --


WEGMANN: -- and if he really thinks it's a witch hunt then he ought to act.

He's the executive, he's the commander in chief, and he can -- you know, he can declassify the documents that Congress has subpoenaed and that Congress has asked for for so long.

So, yes, this is a distraction, but I think that if Democrats really want to get to the bottom of this I think that they should be pushing Trump to not -- you know, they should be calling his bluff. They should be telling him to declassify these documents.

NOBLES: You mention the distraction and I wonder if perhaps we are making too much of this.

You did raise a great point about John Brennan's wealth of knowledge and how he could be an asset to the administration. Of course, there's the question of how much the administration would lean on his expertise.


NOBLES: But what -- what's really the practical impact --


NOBLES: -- of him losing his security clearance?

There are more than four million people with security clearances. It's not as -- it's not as if you have a security clearance that you're sent a packet every month with all the state secrets.

I mean, at the end of the day, is this really that big of a deal?

WEGMANN: Well, first of all, having a security clearance is incredibly important for a lot of people who leave government work and then work as contractors. It's something that they keep on their resume and makes them an asset not only for the government but for the private sector.

I think what's lacking here though -- you just mentioned that four million number. I think what's lacking is an important review process where the intelligence community and where these agencies actually take a look at whether or not someone needs their clearance once they leave government work. That would be prudent.

But, you know, cherry-picking a political opponent and pulling their clearance that way, that just seems petty.

NOBLES: Yes. Philip Wegmann, commentary writer for the "Washington Examiner."

Great conversation, Phil. Thank you for getting up early with us. We appreciate it.

WEGMANN: Thanks, Ryan.

NOBLES: 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 "It is an essential endpoint to Trump's deluge of dishonesty that he now contests objective reality and urges his supporters do to the same.

The greatness of America is dependent on the role of the 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 have shared for more than two centuries."

And it's not just big-city newspapers sending the message.

We get more from CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": 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.

Let me show you a few examples from these local papers. I think they have more impact 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: Thanks, Brian.

Back to normal this morning a Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. This, after a power outage last night pulled the plug on some of the operations there 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 backup power. Flights continued to arrive at the airport but departing planes were held at their gates.

The sanctions are back. Now, people are starting to feel the bite in Iran. CNN is live in Tehran, next.


[05:44:10] 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 the impact of these sanctions and Nick, this is hitting the middle-class in Iran in a big way.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So this was the broad game plan of the Trump administration. If you tear up the nuclear deal signed by Barack Obama in 2015 that alleviated sanctions and let the sanctions fall back on.

The first trounce against the economy hit last week. The next trounce against the oil industry is a key one. A fifth of the economy here kick in in November -- you'd ramp up the economic pressure and then Iranians would start to blame their government and possibly push for political change here.

Now, as we've seen today, ourselves, that economic pressure is really ratcheting up.

[05:45:01] We went to a repair shop for foreign parts for cars, like Toyotas. There are many Toyotas that sat there unable to be repaired because people can't afford the inflated prices for the foreign car parts that remain inside Iran. You can't get new ones shipped in. And there was one particular family we spoke to -- a taxi driver. He can't get his Toyota back on the road because he can't afford the parts.

That means at home where people are already suffering across the nation with a slide in the value of the local currency -- and you've got to spend three times as many rials as you did this time last year to buy just one dollar -- an extraordinary change.

That means that refrigerators here -- the eggs cost twice as much, the fruit and vegetables cost twice as much. People feel that every time they sit down to eat.

But this particular taxi driver, of course, now has problems with his business. The car can't get back on the road.

That, strangely, means in this middle-class home that the English lessons he used to pay for for his 7-year-old son -- that he can't potentially afford (audio gap) the guitar lessons for his teenage daughter.

Things you'd have thought that certainly under the Obama administration would have been key to hoping a prosperous middle-class Iran would potentially reach out towards the outside world.

It's a different kettle of fish here right now and people, I think, are recognizing that there is economic mismanagement inside the country.

But a lot of the anger, I think, is focused on Donald Trump -- his policy different from what his European allies want and he's carrying on with the idea of ratcheting up the pressure regardless of the impact on ordinary lives here -- Ryan.

NOBLES: All right, Nick Paton Walsh live for us this morning in Tehran. Nick, thank you.

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 and that sent Tesla's shares tumbling 2.6 percent.

Last week, Musk tweeted that he may take Tesla private and that he'd secured funding. That statement triggered a rise in Tesla's stock and some scrutiny, including investor lawsuits and an SEC probe into the accuracy of his statement.

Now companies can disclose information to shareholders on social media, but they can't give misleading information. Musk is in trouble if there's evidence that he made the statement to boost Tesla's share price.

Since last week Musk has worked to add credibility to his proposed buyout, for example, by naming his financial backer, the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Global stocks are mostly higher right now, rebounding overnight under new trade talks between the U.S. and China. The Chinese Commerce Ministry said that a 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. Chinese tech giant Tencent reported its first profit decline in almost 13 years. That sent the entire tech sector down more than one percent.

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

And Uber stemmed its losses last quarter but it's still a long way from 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 regulations. Last week, New York became the first U.S. city to cap the number of ride- sharing vehicles.

Google 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 spender is the president's reelection campaign followed by conservative political group One Nation and Planned Parenthood.

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


[05:53:28] 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.

Now, the solicitor for Children and Youth Services of Beaver County, Pennsylvania has been fired. The grand jury reports that Robert Masters stopped priest investigations when he was their district attorney in 1964.

His reason then, to prevent unfavorable publicity. His explanation now, it wasn't his jurisdiction.


ROBERT MASTERS, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY, BEAVER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: 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 Rozzi, of Pennsylvania, was actually abused by a priest. He's 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. Much of this happening in the area of New Haven Green, a large park and recreation area in the city's downtown.

The overdoses are believed to be linked to some form of K2, also known as synthetic marijuana often laced with other drugs.

[05:55:00] All of this coming the same day as preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control found 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 Shanann Watts, her 4-year old Celeste, and her 3-year-old Bella have not been seen at their home in Frederick since Monday.

Authorities went to the house after getting a call from a concerned friend.

Charges against Chris Watts haven't been announced. A news conference will be held this morning.

An 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 a local middle school. One post suggested it was open hunting season on transgender people.

The girl's mother says her daughter fears for her life.


BRANDY ROSE, MOTHER OF THREATENED CHILD: That's scary and these are adults making threats to a child. I mean, I just -- I don't understand it. To see any kind of fear in her like that because other people -- and especially adults -- it's -- 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 Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips has filed a new $100,000 lawsuit against Colorado's governor. The suit said the state informed Phillips he broke Colorado law by refusing to create a cake to celebrate a gender transition.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Phillips, saying the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown hostility to his religious belief.

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 and is 67 percent contained.

Residents in the city are sending -- of Redding, are rallying around a couple whose trailer started fire -- started the fire when a flat tire rim sent sparks flying.

The Redding woman's Facebook appeal drew 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 where never found.

Most of the Abner Read remained afloat that night 75 years ago. It was repaired and sent back into battle until 1944 when a Japanese Kamikaze plane sank it in the Philippines.

And while you were sleeping the late show took on the president's decision to revoke the security clearance of one of his critics.


STEPHEN COLBERT, CBS 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, 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."

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: All right, thank you so much for joining us. I'm Ryan Nobles. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


BRENNAN: This is not going to deter me at all. I'm going to continue to speak out.

SANDERS: Mr. Brennan has leveraged his status to make a series of wild outbursts on the Internet and television.

HAYDEN: The White House just messaged the intelligence community, if you say things that upset the president he will punish you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy devastated me with his actions.

BISHOP DAVID ZUBIK, DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH: There are simply no words that I can offer to take away the pain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It won't go away. It's going to come in country after country after country.


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, August 16th, 6:00 here in New York.

Alisyn is off; Erica Hill joins me. I understand you still have your security clearance this morning.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: What a moment. But listen, it's early.

BERMAN: It is really -- a long way to go.

This morning, the President of the United States is using his office for retribution against the people who launched the investigation into the Russian attack on the U.S. election. He revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan and threatened to do the same for a list of others.

Again, this is official government action against public servants because they led the probe into Vladimir Putin's influence campaign.

So, how did --