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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; Violence Escalating in Afghanistan. Aired 4:30- 5a ET

Aired August 17, 2018 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:44] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House undeterred by criticism for stripping John Brennan's security clearance. Other intel officials could lose theirs in the coming days.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: And the president's military parade is going to have to wait for 2019. The Pentagon delaying the parade as the costs reportedly soars.

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

Love some of these vintage clips we're seeing. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

NOBLES: And I'm Ryan Nobles. It's 31 minutes past the hour. Thanks for starting your day with us.

It appears President Trump is not done issuing 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.

Some of the former CIA director's intelligence colleagues now rallying behind him now. They issued a new statement. Among them, six former CIA chiefs including all five from 1997 until Brennan came in.

ROMANS: They write, "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."

NOBLES: This statement comes hours after the architect of the bin Laden raid, the retired Admiral William McRaven, published a stunning rebuke of President Trump. In a "Washington Post" op-ed, McRaven wrote, quote, "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."

ROMANS: Despite the criticism, few Republicans seem to think revoking Brennan's clearance is that big a deal.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I don't know why 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.


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

NOBLES: Meanwhile, President Trump will have to wait until next year for his military parade. It was originally scheduled for November, but the Defense Department says it's now going to 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.

ROMANS: An administration official tells 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, the Defense Secretary James Mattis, he disputed those numbers.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Whoever told you that is probably smoking something that's 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.


ROMANS: Yes, but still, the Pentagon is not saying why they postponed this into next year.

The president called for a military parade in Washington, you'll recall, after he was so impressed by the Bastille Day Parade he attended in France last year.

NOBLES: This morning jurors return for a second day of deliberations in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. On day one of deliberations no verdict but jurors did send a note asking the 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.

[04:35:02] 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 for this one.

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

Those are mourners, celebrating, gathering outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem to celebrate her life. She succumbed to pancreatic cancer Thursday morning at her Detroit home at the age of 76.

Take a look at the Apollo marquee paying one final tribute to Franklin. The theater proudly called itself Aretha's home.

NOBLES: Fans also flocking to her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame leaving behind flowers, photos, even a queen's crown. Aretha Franklin's life and career earning more than her share of R-E-S-P-E-C- T.

"Respect" was written by Otis Redding. Aretha made it a civil rights call to arms. And of course there was "Natural Woman." That was written by Carole King but then 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.


ROMANS: 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 and won 18 Grammy Awards. She started singing 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.


NOBLES: She certainly has. Aretha Franklin is being remembered by political figures on both sides of the aisle as well.


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.


NOBLES: Of course one of her 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."

Thirty seconds alone with a heartless psychopath. That's what one family member of Shanann Watts says he wants with her husband. He is accused of killing Watts and their two young girls.


[04:42:59] ROMANS: Are you trying to buy a house? You probably noticed that mortgage rates are falling. It fell for the second week in a row. You can thank the crisis in Turkey actually for that drop. Mortgage rates follows the bond market. As Turkey faces a currency crisis, investors are moving money into so-called safe havens like the bond market. And as bond prices rise, the yields fall. That pushed the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage lower to 4.35 percent. Lower rates could help jumpstart home buying but there are still few homes on the market right now that many potential buyers are giving up.

Existing home sales have fallen for the past three months in a row. The problem again, tight supply. There's a shortage of homes and not enough new homes being built to make up the difference. That's driving home prices to record highs. That locks out many homebuyers, first-time home buyers in particular. Economists worry the housing market as a possible weak spot in an otherwise strong economy.

NOBLES: Breaking news overnight. A Phoenix police officer 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 the fire. The officer and the suspect 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, were found nearby. Shanann's husband now 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.

[04:45:06] 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 adds, quote, "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 that 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.

A Salvadorian woman has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to be reunited with her infant daughter -- her infant 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.

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: Another tragic turn in America's longest running war. The Taliban's assault on a strategic city of Ghanzi leading to intense fighting with Afghan forces and more than 150 deaths. And the violence in the region is escalating.

CNN's Ivan Watson is tracking the latest development. He's live for us this morning from Hong Kong -- Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Ryan. ISIS has claimed responsibility for two deadly attacks in the Afghan capital on Wednesday and Thursday. Perhaps the more appalling of them was the attack on an education center on Wednesday where you had a room crammed with teenagers who were taking an English course and the Ministry of Public Health says about 40 people were killed there. And a follow-up attack on Thursday went against the national director for Security Training Center.

Now the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, he's been traveling to the city of Ghanzi. And that's where the Taliban, not ISIS, the Taliban mounted an attack last Friday and managed to seize control of parts of that city for days before they were pushed out by Afghan security forces backed up by U.S. air power.

The Afghan president going there making an appeal to the Taliban for negotiations and saying that this should be done in public, in the light of day involving the Afghan people. That's an appeal he's made in the past, but even though there have been some moments of hope, last June, there was a cease-fire between the government and the Taliban for several days where you saw government forces and Taliban fighters actually embracing.

The year has gotten much, much deadlier. The United Nations says that the death toll amongst civilians for the first six months of this year is worse than it's been in 10 years for that same period with some 1,692 dead, and again this is the U.S.' longest running war. According to U.S. military statistics, the Taliban controls or disputes control of at least 35 percent of Afghan territory -- Ryan.

NOBLES: Ivan Watson with the latest on the violence that's increasing in Afghanistan. Ivan, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. 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, remember, on Christmas Day 2009.

The U.N. report gave no indication of how al-Asiri died or who may be responsible. The U.S., Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have conducted counter terror strikes to root out terrorist in Yemen. NOBLES: An alarming report from the Pentagon reveals that 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 China is pursuing a nuclear capability on its long-range bombers. The deployment would for the first time that China was provided with nuclear delivery systems across land, sea, and air. The report goes on to say that China is looking to build additional military bases in countries it is both friendly with and that share its strategic interests.

ROMANS: All right. Med school for free.

[04:50:01] Can you imagine? One prominent school making that a reality. We will tell you why.


ROMANS: Fifty-four minutes past the hour. Welcome back.

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.

[04:55:05] NOBLES: At one point, she walked toward the officers with the knife but her granddaughter thinks that police should have acted differently.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grandma 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.


NOBLES: 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.

ROMANS: All right. 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 of course during the back-to-school season. It's not clear how many children could be affected. And the shortage can vary among pharmacies. The FDA approved the first generic version of EpiPen on Thursday. Nearly six million children in the U.S. -- six million -- have food allergies.

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

ROMANS: All right. While were you sleeping, Stephen Colbert took some shots at the latest tape released by Omarosa.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Omarosa made it very clear she had more tapes ready to drop.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: You know, there are things that I write about and then there are things that I'm going to save to share when the time is right.


COLBERT: And I can tell you exactly when the time is right. Two weeks from now when I'm back from vacation.


COLBERT: OK? Not a moment before. Omarosa not going away.


MANIGAULT NEWMAN: I am not going anywhere. I'm not going to be bullied. I'm not intimidated. And I'm going to go toe-to-toe with him. Everything he throws at me, believe me, my tapes are much better than theirs.


COLBERT: Wow. Maybe, but I bet Russia's got you both beat.


ROMANS: Stephen Colbert. While you were sleeping.

Let's get a check on CNN Money this morning. Global stocks mostly higher right now. China's upcoming trip to the White House is boosting Wall Street. That's right, a Chinese delegation will travel to the U.S. for trade talks later this month. Previous rounds have failed to make any real progress. But investors like that the two countries keep trying. The talks are still on.

The Dow rose nearly 400 points. You know, that's -- 400 points. That's the biggest one-day jump since April. The biggest winners were Boeing, Caterpillar and Walmart. Walmart stocks rose 9 percent. It posted its best U.S. sales growth in more than a decade. Same store sales grew 4.5 percent in the second quarter boosted by its grocery business. Walmart reasserting itself as a supermarket power house. It's been

battling of course Amazon owned Whole Foods for dominance. Digital sales also surged 40 percent. Some analysts were worried that Walmart's digital side has been slowing. But this report puts those fears to rest.

CEO Elon Musk does not regret sending that tweet that Tesla may go private and has no plans to stop using social media. That's from a fresh "New York Times" interview with Elon Musk. Last week, Musk stunned investors by tweeting that he had secured funding for a buyout. That triggered a rise in the stock and it also triggered some regulatory scrutiny. The SEC is investigating the accuracy of Musk's statement. Musk says taking Tesla private removes the pressures, the short-term pressures of Wall Street. Tesla has spent the past year struggling to meet production goals which Musk calls excruciating, tells the "Times," "It has been the most difficult and painful year of my career."

NOBLES: And EARLY START continues right now.

ROMANS: The White House undeterred by criticism for stripping John Brennan's security clearance. Other intel officials could lose theirs in the coming days.

NOBLES: And the president's military parade will have to wait for 2019. The Pentagon delaying the parade as costs reportedly soared.

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

Page of every single newspaper. Aretha Franklin. A voice -- "New York Times" says the voice for empowerment. More than a little bit. And the "Washington Post" says -- what did they say? They have a really good one here, too. They say, what you want. Baby, she had it.

NOBLES: What you want, baby, she had it.

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

NOBLES: And I'm Ryan Nobles. It is Friday, August 17th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We're going to start with politics, though. It appears President Trump is not done using security clearance to punish political adversaries. An official confirms the White House is thinking of stripping more clearances in the coming --