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Russia Investigation; Giuliani, Truth Isn't Truth; Day Three Of Jury Deliberations In Manafort Trial; Iran, U.S. Is Addicted To Sanctions; U.S.-China Want To End Trade War By November; Pittsburgh Bishop Under Fire; Indycar Driver Injured In Spectacular Crash; South Koreans Enter North Korea For Family Reunions. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 20, 2018 - 04:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: The White House Counsel did not fully brief the President's defense team after speaking with the Special Counsel. Don McGahn was concerned he might be the fall guy for obstruction of justice.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN MINISTER OF IRAN: There is a disease in the United States. That is the addiction to sanctions.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: A CNN exclusive. Iran's foreign minister says the U.S. relies too much on sanctions without anything to show for it. We are live in Tehran.

BRIGGS: And a frightening crash at Poconos race way sends that driver to the hospital. Robert Wickens, hit the fence, spun around several times. Not much left from that Indycar vehicle when it was all over. We will tell you the latest from the hospital. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to "Early Start." I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good to have you back from vacation. I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, August 20th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. This morning, the White House is trying to downplay signs of trouble after "The New York Times" reported the White House counsel, Don McGahn has cooperated extensively with the Russia investigation. CNN has learned McGahn's attorney did not give President Trump's lawyers a full debrief after McGahn sat down for almost 30 hours of interviews with Robert Mueller's team. CNN's source saying the President's attorneys did not ask.

BRIGGS: "The Times" said McGahn cooperated so extensively, because he was worried the President planned to set him up as the fall guy for any possible illegal obstruction. Now the president's advisors fear McGahn's statements to the Special Counsel could fill in some key blanks in Mueller's report. For the latest, let's welcome in CNN's Ryan Nobles.


president and his legal team spent a lot of time over the weekend trying to convince the American people that the report from the New York Times is actually not damaging to the President. And that in fact it was his legal team's idea for Don McGahn to sit down with Robert Mueller and the Special Counsel. Listen to what Rudy Giuliani, has become the President's chief spokesperson in terms of his legal defense, had to say about Don McGahn's cooperation with the Special Counsel.


RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: We had a good sense, obviously, of what Mr. McGahn testified to. I can figure it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know 100 percent what he testified to -- to Mr. Mueller?

GIULIANI: I think through John Dowd, we had a pretty good sense of it, John Dowd yesterday said, I'll use his words, rather than mine, and that McGahn was a strong witness to the President. So, I don't need to know much more about that.


NOBLES: But the problem is the mayor ignores a key point of the New York Times article where it talks about how the President's lawyers actually really have no idea the depth of the conversations of Don McGahn had and what topics he covered and that is where the problem is for this White House. Yes, they did agreed to a lot of McGahn to sit for the conversations. Yes, they waived attorney/client privilege. But they had no idea exactly what Don McGahn would say when he sat down with the Special Counsel's team. And there are few people who have this much insight into the President's conduct especially as it relates with the Russia probe over the past year and a half. SO the big problem today is, the White House doesn't know how to handle this and what it could mean for the investigation going forward. Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Ryan, thank you for that.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has a new alternative fact style explanation for keeping the President far away from Robert Mueller. Listen to what he told NBC about not allowing the Special Counsel to rush Mr. Trump into testifying.


GIULIANI: When you tell me that, you know, he should testify, because he is going to tell the truth and not worry. That is silly, because it is somebody's version of the truth. Not the truth. He didn't have a conversation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truth is truth. GIULIANI: Truth isn't truth. The President of the United States says

I didn't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truth is the truth? Mr. Mayor? Do you realized --


GIULIANI: No. No, no. Don't do this to me,

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to become a bad me. Don't do truth isn't truth.

GIULIANI: Donald Trump says I didn't talk about Flynn with Comey. Comey says, you did talk about it. So tell me what the truth is.


CHURCH: Later in the day, on Sunday, the fired FBI Director appeared to respond. Comey tweeting truth exists and truth matters. People who lie are held accountable.

BRIGGS: Sources telling CNN, federal prosecutors are preparing criminal charges against President Trump former lawyer Michael Cohen and could announce them by the end of the month. Cohen being investigated for possible bank and tax fraud and campaign finance violations related in part to a $130,000 hush payment to porn star, Stormy Daniels. According to "The New York Times" investigators are also examining more than $20 million in loans to Cohen and his family's taxi companies. Prosecutors have been mindful of the election cycle as they - win to charge Cohen. They has considered bringing charges before September or waiting after the midterms. No comment from Cohen's team or the U.S. attorney.

[04:05:06] ROMANS: Jury deliberations resumes this morning in the Paul Manafort bank and tax fraud trial. On Friday, jurors ended the second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict. The President deciding to weigh in, calling the trial quote, very sad while describing his former campaign chairman as a very good person. Manafort's lawyer publicly thanking the President for his support. His client faces another trial in Washington, next month.

BRIGGS: Former CIA Director John Brennan says he is willing to take the President to court if it helps prevent other Intelligence officials from having their security clearances revoked. The resident moves and striped for another clearance raising questions about whether he is using his office to retaliate against political opponents. On Sunday, Brennan stood by his comments following a Helsinki summit accusing the president of quote, treasonous behavior.


JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: This are abnormal times. And I think a lot of people has spoken out against what Mr. Trump has done. And maybe this is my warning training as an intelligence professional. I have seen the lights blinking red in terms of what Mr. Trump has done and he is doing and he is bringing this country down on a global stage.


ROMANS: Brennan is not alone. Others former Intel Officials are slamming the President for targeting political enemies.


ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, (RET), FORMER JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: Immediately brings back the whole concept of the enemies list for, you know, under President Nixon, and even before that in the, you know, early '50s of the McCarthy era.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR AND SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The indication that I saw is he is going to provide these names to the press office to use this issue when it is a bad news day. I think that is a real misuse of not only security clearance, but misuse of the office of the presidency.


ROMANS: Michael Hayden, former director both the CIA and the NSA whose clearance is under review, he tells CNN, the relationship between the President and the Intelligence Community is quote dangerously close to being permanently broken.

Iran's top diplomat is speaking out for the first time since United States renewed sanctions against his country last week. Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif sitting down for an exclusive interview with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. Zarif claims the U.S. has always been too reliant on sanctions to get what it wants.


JAVAD ZARIF: I believe there is a disease in the United States and that is the addiction to sanctions. Even during the Obama administration, the United States put more emphasis on keeping the sanctions that they had not lifted rather than implementing its obligations on the sanctions that they lifted.


ROMANS: A disease in the United States. Let's go live to Tehran. We can bring in Nick Paton Walsh. Nick, tell us more.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Essentially this is about a breach of trust between Zarif and what he felt the United States could continue to honor. Donald Trump as you know, pulled out of the nuclear deal and slowly the U.S. are renewing sanctions against Iran. The last lot happened last week in Britain, with automobile and parts. We will see much more damaging collection happening in November. The real point being, I believe, that Mr. Zarif hopes down the line while negotiations he thinks are a long shot that perhaps the European allies of Donald Trump who criticized him leaving the deal may persuade him to come back in. But more broadly, his points is the sanctions had not work in the past and Iran likely to going forward. Here is what he had to say.


JAVAD ZARIF: The United States had learned that as far as Iran is concerned, sanction do produce economic hardship, but do not produce the political outcomes that they intend to produce. And I thought that the Americans had learned that lesson. Unfortunately I was wrong.


PATON WALSH: Now, he interestingly made a reference to the 1950s. He was talking on the 65th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup that kicked out the democratically elected government here. He believes the same mindset dominates the U.S. administrations currently that they want to see, quote, regime change. They established in the state department and Iran action group to change Iran's behavior. They say, he thinks there is more far reaching goal ahead. But the real question is can talks pick up again? He doesn't seem to think that is possible unless the Iran nuclear deal is honored. And of course, there could be more damage ahead with sanctions here to kick in, in early November. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, live for us in Tehran, thank you, Nick.

BRIGGS: All right. The White House rejecting Turkey's offer to release American pastor Andrew Brunson. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Turkish government wants the U.S. to forgive billions of dollars of fines to get the Turkish bank in return.

[04:10:00] But Trump administration wants the North Carolina pastor freed before discussing other matters. The impasse could lead to additional U.S. sanctions against Turkey this week. Brunson's incarceration has strained relations between the two countries while sparking a sharp drop on the value of Turkey's currency.

ROMANS: Well, the U.S. and China want a timeline to end their trade war. A Chinese delegation heads to Washington this week for another round of trade talks. The Wall Street Journal citing officials on both side, says China and the U.S. are working on a road map to end their trade dispute. The deadline, November. That is the next time President Trump and Chinese leader, Xi Jinping will meet. For months, the U.S. And China threatened each other with billions of dollars in tariffs. And on Thursday, the U.S. will begin collecting 25 percent tariffs on another $16 billion on Chinese goods including, chemicals and motorcycles and small electronics. Beijing said it would strike back dollar for dollar, just like it did last month, where the U.S. hit $34 billion in Chinses goods with tariffs. Previous rounds of trade talks have failed to find a breakthrough. But investors like that the two countries keep trying. Tight now, U.S. stock and futures are higher, to start a week.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, mixed emotions for worshippers at the first services after a stunning and damaging report about sex abuse in Pennsylvania's Catholic Church. The latest from Pittsburgh is next. [04:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: The archdiocese of Philadelphia has defrocked two priests. One for sexual abuse and one for drug crimes. The church say both men are unsuitable for ministry. The two cases are not though connected to a recent grand jury report detailing child abuse by hundreds of Pennsylvania priests over decades. Pope Francis choosing not to address the issue. In his weekly prayer. Making (inaudible) Sunday for Catholics attending mass, especially in Pennsylvania. More now from Polo Sandoval in Pittsburgh.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, important for now about a third of the clergy members that are mentioned in that very disturbing report were from this diocese.

We found a mixed reaction on the congregation. There are some of those we are quite satisfied with the way the diocese is handling and trying to prevent it from happening again. At the same time, there were other skeptics there among the congregation, some of those who say the church will have to work hard to try to regain their trust. For his part, Bishop David Zubik, the head of the diocese here has submitted an open letter to the faithful in Pennsylvania here and certainly a promising changes starting with the victims. The survivors, saying that they have to be heard and they have to heal.

BISHOP DAVID ZUBIK, CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH: First of all, we listened to them carefully. Second of all, we removed priests from ministry. Thirdly, we have in fact turned over to the district's attorney to the appropriate counties. Fourth of all, we have engage the independent review board to assess and take a look the allegations on whether or not a person would be suitable for ministry again. SANDOVAL: There some Catholics here told me this apology from the

bishop is simply not enough. They believe there was a cover-up that spanned decades. And what they want a full admission from the Catholic Church.


ROMANS: Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for that.

More details likely to emerge today when prosecutors in Colorado formally charge Chris Watts with the deaths of his pregnant wife and two little girls. Kaylee Hartung has more from Frederick, Colorado.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, later today, we expect to learn why police believe Chris Watts murdered his wife and two children. He is expected to be formally charged later today and with that, we expect to learn more details that have not previously been released.

It was a week ago that this tragedy begins to unfold. Last Monday that Shannan and her daughter Bella and Celeste were first reported missing. In the time since, we learned so much about the dynamic and that this family in large part. Thanks to Shannan's social media. She shared so much of their lives. On Facebook and Instagram and even their most private moments like when she told her husband she was pregnant with their third child. But as the case for all of us, social media did not paint the entire picture for this family. We have learned through court documents this couple filed for bankruptcy in 2015. By all accounts they are working their way out of it, but this is the type of information investigators will be combing through as they look to answer our biggest question, why?

Dave, Christine.


BRIGGS: Stunning story, Kaylee, thank you.

Florida's tourism board launching two programs to help counties affected by what is called red tide. This toxic algae has been detected in eight Florida counties over the past week. Has killed thousands of marine creatures and clearly the smells hurt business along parts of Florida's West Coast. The weather service warns the tide can cause respiratory irritation along with skin rashes and burning eyes.

Indy car driver Robert Wickens is hospitalized this morning, after he was injured in a frightening crash Sunday at Poconos race way. Watch what happens on the eighth lap of the scheduled 500 mile race shortly after the restart. Wickens and driver Ryan Hunter Ray touched wheels with his car so he went into the fence, spinning several times in midair. Safety teams took 12 minutes to extricate Wickens from his wreck vehicle. According to a local hospital, race officials say he is being treated for injuries from his lower extremities, his right arm and spine and likely undergo surgery. These sports is extremely dangerous as you know, but these cars, again in a day, have become so much safer. The fact he is OK, says an awful lot about how that cockpit keeps these guys safe.

ROMANS: Certainly wish him well. More to come from him.

Reunions nearly 70 years in the making. Relative torn apart by the Korean War, they are back together this morning. More from Seoul next.


BRIGGS: After nearly seven decades apart, a group of South Koreans have crossed in the North Korea to reunite with family members. They have not seen since the Korean War, 65 years ago. CNN's Paula Hancocks, live in Seoul, with the latest and extraordinary reunifications happening this morning, Paula, good morning.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. Well, we are seeing some very emotional images coming from North Korea as these families are meeting their family members for the first time in decades. Now, 89 families were picked out of 57,000 who wanted to be part of this showing this is just a drop in the ocean. A fraction of those who want to be reunited with their family members. But you can see the emotional images as families are getting together once again. Now most of them in their 80s or 90s.

[04:25:07] Certainly, it is a sense it is a race against time to try and bring as many families together as possible. Many were torn apart by the Korean War back in the 1950's and since that time the majority didn't even know if their love ones in the North were still alive. But for this few it really is a wonderful moment to be able to see their love ones once again, but it is bittersweet. It is only for three days. It is highly choreographed with just certain hours of the day that they are allowed to meet each other.

For example, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. this afternoon they have met. That has now finished. They separate and then they have a meal from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. And at the end of the three days, they get on the bus and come back down to South Korea knowing they are unlikely to see their loved one again. Dave.

BRIGGS: Brief, but emotional, indeed. Paula Hancocks live for us this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. 26 minutes past the hour this Monday morning. the White House counsel, Don McGahn left the President's legal team in the dark after his meetings with the Special Counsel. Now the defense team is deploying another alternative fact.

GIULIANI: It is somebody's version of the truth. Not the truth. He did not have a conversation about --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truth is truth.

GIULIANI: It isn't truth. Truth isn't truth.