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President Trump Could Strip More Security Clearances in Coming Days; Remembering Aretha Franklin; Husband Arrested for Murder of Colorado Mom and Kids. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 17, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:12] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: The White House undeterred by criticism for stripping John Brennan's security clearance. Others intel officials could lose theirs in coming days.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's military parade, it will have to wait until 2019. The Pentagon delaying the parade as the cost reportedly soars.

NOBLES: And the world is paying tribute to a musical icon. Aretha Franklin being remembered for her voice, her spirit and her soul.

Inspiring way to start the morning.


NOBLES: Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I am Ryan Nobles.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. I can't get enough of it actually. Her voice. It's Friday, August 17th, it is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin here, though, with politics. It appears President Trump is not done using security clearances to punish political adversaries. An official confirms the White House is thinking of stripping more clearances in the coming days despite the furor over the president's retaliation against John Brennan. Several of the former CIA director's intelligence colleagues are rallying behind him now. Several issued a new statement. Among them, six -- six former CIA chiefs including all five from 1997 until Brennan came in.

NOBLES: They write, quote, "The president's actions regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances, and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech. This action is quite clearly a signal to other former and current officials and that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable."

ROMANS: The statement came hours after the architect of the bin Laden raid, retired Admiral William McRaven published a stunning rebuke of President Trump. In a "Washington Post" op-ed, he wrote, "Brennan is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Therefore I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency." NOBLES: But despite the criticism, most Republicans don't think --

seem to think that revoking Brennan's clearance is really that big of a deal.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I don't know former government employees continue to carry their security clearance with them anyway. I don't see Mr. Brennan attempting to help the Trump administration.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. Brennan has gone way over the line in my view. And I think restricting his clearance -- pulling his clearance makes sense to me.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: The fact that he's out there every single day acting in a very partisan way probably doesn't help his cause.


NOBLES: Former top government officials are generally allowed to keep security clearance so they can advise future administrations.

ROMANS: President Trump will have to wait until next year for his military parade. It was originally scheduled for November, but the Defense Department now says it will explore dates into 2019. The parade would have been held on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the first World War.

NOBLES: An administration official telling CNN the planning estimate for the parade is up to $92 million. Tens of millions of dollars higher than originally expected. But on a flight to Colombia, Defense Secretary James Mattis disputed those numbers.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Whoever told you that is probably smoking something that is legal in my state, but not in most states, OK? I'm not dignifying that number with any reply. I would discount that. And anybody who said that almost guarantee you one thing -- the question, I need to stay anonymous, no kidding because you look like an idiot and number two, whoever wrote it needs to get better sources.

I'll just leave it at that. And I don't know who wrote it. I haven't seen it. And -- but I guarantee you there's been no cost estimate.


NOBLES: So why? The president called for a military parade in Washington after being impressed by the Bastille Day Parade that he attended in France last year.

ROMANS: All right. The "New York Times" reports White house aides are worried Omarosa could have as many as 200 recorded conversations and that they could be on them. Omarosa released a new recording Thursday. It was taped after she was fired from the White House in December. She and Eric Trump's wife, Lara, can be heard discussing a job with the president's re-election campaign that would have paid Omarosa $180,000 a year.

Listen to Lara Trump raise concerns with Omarosa about turning on the president.


LARA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: Listen, obviously with like "The New York Times" article and stuff.


TRUMP: The one that -- the one that -- it was in the "New York Times" today. I guess you didn't -- with Maggie Haberman, or they wrote about you. It sounds a little like obviously that there is something you got in the back pocket to pull out.

[04:05:06] Clearly if you come on board the campaign, like, we can't have -- we got to --


TRUMP: Everything -- everybody positive, right?


NOBLES: Now Omarosa says that she considered that job offer a hush agreement. Lara Trump claims the recording has been edited and she called it a fraud. She says, quote, "Woman to woman, I shared a connection with Omarosa as a friend and a campaign sister. And I am absolutely shocked and saddened by her betrayal and violation on a deeply personal level." Lara's husband Eric also tweeting, quote, "I truly hate disloyal people."

Meantime, Omarosa's publisher Simon and Schuster says it will not back down from selling Omarosa's tell-all book despite legal threats from the Trump campaign.

ROMANS: This morning jurors return for a second day of deliberations in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. On day one deliberations no verdict but jurors did send a note asking Judge TS Ellis four questions. One asked him to re-explain the meaning of reasonable doubt.

Manafort faces 18 counts of financial crimes including alleged bank and tax fraud. If he is acquitted, Manafort still faces another federal trial next month. Court filings show the special counsel's office has almost three times as many exhibits lined up for that trial as this one.

NOBLES: Nothing but love, admiration and of course respect from fans and friends for the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

Those are mourners, although they do look like they're celebrating a little bit the life of an amazing woman. Gathered outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Thursday to celebrate Aretha's life. She succumbed to pancreatic cancer Thursday morning at her Detroit home at the age of 76.

Check this out. This is the Apollo marquee paying one final tribute to Franklin The theater proudly called itself Aretha's home.

ROMANS: Fans also flocking just to her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame leaving flowers, photos, and even a queen's crown. Aretha Franklin's life and career earning her more than her share of respect.

"Respect" was written by Otis Redding. Aretha made it a civil rights call to arms. And there was "Natural Woman" written by Carole King. It turned into an earthy expression of sexuality by the legendary queen of soul.


GLADYS KNIGHT, LONGTIME FRIEND OF ARETHA FRANKLIN: She was the breaker. She was the person that went out front, stepped on out there and did what she was supposed to do and set the pace for the rest of us.

BERRY GORDY, FOUNDER OF MOTOWN RECORDS: The ABCs, she could sing it and it would become a classic because of the way she did it and how she did it, and the feeling that she had and the -- her soul came out in everything.


NOBLES: Aretha Franklin was the first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She had 88 Billboard chart hits during the rock era. She won 18 Grammys. She started singing of course at her father's church in Detroit.


ARETHA FRANKLIN, QUEEN OF SOUL: He did say at one point that one day I would sing for kings and queens. He did say that and I have.


ROMANS: And presidents. Aretha Franklin is being remembered by political figures on both sides of the aisle.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well. She worked for me on numerous occasions. She was terrific. Aretha Franklin on her passing. She's brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come. She was given a great gift from God -- her voice -- and she used it well. People loved Aretha. She's a special woman.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Of all the things Aretha Franklin did, I think worked for Donald Trump is not really high on the list.

NOBLES: It's not high on the list. No.


ROMANS: One of Aretha's most memorable performances came at the 2009 inauguration of President Obama. The Obamas releasing this statement. "She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human, and sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance."

NOBLES: Thirty seconds alone.

Thirty seconds alone with a heartless psychopath. That's what one family member of Shannan Watts says she wants with her husband.

[04:10:04] He of course accused of killing Watts and their two young girls.


ROMANS: All right. The president's economic adviser Larry Kudlow is psyched about the U.S. economy.


LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Our economy, our investors, our workforce are crushing it right now. We are crushing it. And people say this is not sustainable, it's a one-quarter blip, is just nonsense. Absolute -- any business economist worth his or her salt will look at these trends and tell you we're going for a while.


ROMANS: Really excited about what he's seeing these numbers. Kudlow is right that the economy is strong, supercharged by big government spending and lower, super lower taxes. But is that going to be more of a sugar rush than a permanent fix? That's the concern. Just look at the second quarter. The U.S. economy grew an impressive 4.1 percent. The recent tax cuts boosted spending and investment.

[04:15:03] And the living threat, though, of tariffs prompted a rush in exports. Particularly soybeans. So that was kind of a sugar rush in that number. Economists expect both to slow -- slowing down growth for the rest of the year.

Here is what the CBO says. The CBO is not as optimistic as Larry Kudlow about the future. It predicts the U.S. economy will grow 3.1 percent this year. That is fine and dandy, But look, that slows 2.4 percent next year and then 1.7 percent, that's an annual growth rate by the year 2020. By then the effects of tax cuts will have faded and higher interest rates could cut into consumer spending leaving the U.S. to face climbing deficits and a national debt of more than $21 trillion. NOBLES: The breaking news tonight out of Phoenix. That's where a

police officer is in critical condition at this hour after he was shot last night. According to police, a man in a parked vehicle in North Phoenix fired at the officer twice. He returned fire. The officer and the suspect are both in critical condition. The officer who is not being identified has been with the department for about a year.

We'll bring you more information when it becomes available.

ROMANS: A grim end to the search for a pregnant Colorado mom and her two children. Shanann Watts' body discovered on property owned by her husband's former employer. The remains of her 3- and 4-year old daughters, Bella and Celeste, found nearby. Shanann's husband accused of killing all three of them.

We get more this morning from CNN's Paul Vercammen.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Ryan, that husband, Chris Watts, walked into court in an orange jumpsuit and reading glasses, his expression blank. This is the same man who earlier in the week had pleaded for the return of his wife, 15 weeks pregnant, and their two little girls.

During that interview he had also said, when asked about a possible confrontation, that they had an emotional conversation. Authorities are saying very little about his arrest on suspicion of three counts of murder.

But who is sounding off? The victim's brother. He said in a social media post, "I just want 30 seconds alone with this heartless psychopath," and went on to say, "May Satan have mercy on his soul."

He has not been formally charged. Chris Watts will be back in court on Tuesday and prosecutors have until Monday to bring charges against him.

Back to you now, Christine, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. Paul, thank you.

The Vatican says it unequivocally condemns the sexual abuse of minors. Pressure had been building on the Pope to address a grand jury report describing the crimes of 300 predator priests in Pennsylvania. The Vatican says the church must learn hard lessons and adding, "The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith."

Pennsylvania's attorney general says he appreciates the remorse expressed on behalf of the Pope. He says he hopes the church will embrace the grand jury's recommendations, including eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children.

ROMANS: A Salvadoran woman has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to be reunited with her infant daughter who needs to be breastfed. Leydi Duenas-Claros also wants the government to reconsider her denied asylum claim. In May, she came to the U.S. with her then 11-month- old. They were separated after she and the girl crossed the border. Duenas-Claros was set to be deported Thursday but the proceedings were postponed.

Meantime, a California federal judge has temporarily halted deportation of families that have been reunited so the children can have parental assistance on their asylum claims.

NOBLES: Al Qaeda's master bombmaker may be dead according to a U.N. team that tracks terrorist groups. Ibrahim al-Asiri, long regarded as one of the most dangerous terrorist operatives alive may have been killed in Yemen last year. He was behind the so-called Underwear Bomber attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

The U.N. report gave no indication of how al-Asiri died or who may be responsible. The U.S. military and CIA, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have conducted counterterrorism strikes to root out al Qaeda and other terrorists in Yemen.

ROMANS: An alarming report from the Pentagon reveals China is actively developing its fleet of long-range bombers and is likely training its pilots for missions targeting the U.S. The report also says that China is pursuing a nuclear capability on its long-range bombers. The deployment would for the first time provide China with nuclear delivery systems across land, sea, and air. The report goes on to say China is looking to build additional military bases in countries it is both friendly with and that share its strategic interests.

NOBLES: Well, this sounds pretty good. Med school for free?


NOBLES: One prominent school making that a reality. We'll tell you why when we come back.

ROMANS: We got to get in.



NOBLES: An 87-year-old grandmother using a steak knife to cut dandelions was taken down by a police taser. This happened in Chatsworth, Georgia. Authorities say Martha al-Bishara was arrested on criminal trespass charges in a wooded area near her home after ignoring police commands to drop the knife.

ROMANS: She's 87 years old. At one point, she walked toward the officers with the knife but her granddaughter thinks police should have acted differently.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grandmother did not look violent. And I think with the three, four officers that were here, I think they could have controlled her in other ways.


ROMANS: Chatsworth police chief Josh Etheridge tells WTVC, he believes his officers' actions were justified. He says most people can understand the universal command for stop.

[04:25:07] NOBLES: And this morning a warning for parents whose children use EpiPens. A widespread shortage across the country could send kids who have serious allergies back to school unprotected. The shortage which has been an issue for months has been caused by manufacturing issues and local supply disruptions. Sales of EpiPens typically spike during the back to school season. It's not clear how many children could be affected. And the shortage can vary among pharmacies.

ROMANS: The New York University School of Medicine plans to offer a scholarship to pick up the full tuition, regardless of financial need or academic performance. This is just north of $55,000 per student this year alone. The offer designed to boost interest and alleviate concerns about debt. Extends to every new, current or future medical student. About 75 percent of medical students graduate across the country graduated with debt last year. By one measure they owe an average of $191,000.

Free medical school. But you've got to be smart and get in.

NOBLES: Is it too late for me to go back? Probably. Probably.

ROMANS: I'd like to see you take the MCATs. I dare you.


ROMANS: All right. 26 minutes past the hour. More longtime intel officials coming to John Brennan's defense. Now we've learned some of those same officials could have their own clearances stripped within days.