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White House Downplays McGahn's Cooperation with Mueller; Prosecutors Prepping Charges Against Cohen; Day 3 of Jury Deliberations in Manafort Trial Begins; Brennan Willing to Sue Trump Over Security Clearance; Trump's Speechwriter Leaves White House; Iran's Foreign Minister Says the U.S. is Addicted to Sanctions; U.S.- China Want to End Trade War By November; Catholic Church in Pennsylvania Hold First Sunday Service Since Priests Sexual Abuse Scandal; Prosecutors Set to Charge Chris Watts Over Family Murder; Little League Classic Inspires Next Generation; Simone Biles Wins Gold at 2018 U.S. Gymnastics Championships; IndyCar Wreck Leaves Driver Hospitalized. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 20, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CO-HOST, EARLY START: With the White House, trying to downplay some -- 5:00 a.m. in the East, we'll get to Giuliani's latest gem truth isn't truth in a moment. But we start this morning with the White House 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 learning 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 that president's attorneys, well, did not ask.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-HOST, EARLY START: The president says this just proves his White House is being transparent. But the "Times" says McGahn cooperated so extensively because he was worried the president plan to set him up as the fall guy for any possible illegal obstruction. For the latest, let's turn to Cnn's Ryan Noble.

RYAN NOBLE, CNN: Dave and Christine, the president and his legal team spent a lot of time over the weekend trying to convince the American people that this 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 who's 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, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have a good chance obviously of what Mr. McGahn testified to, I can figure it out.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: You don't know a 100 percent of what he testified to -- Mr. Mueller?

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


NOBLE: But the problem is the mayor ignores a key point of the "New York Times" article where he talks about how the president's lawyers actually really have no idea the depth of the conversations that Don McGahn had and what topics he covered. And that's where the problem is for this White House.

Yes, they did agree to allow McGahn to sit for these 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 as much insight into the president's conduct especially as it relates to the Russia probe over the past year and a half. So the big problem today is the White House just doesn't know how to handle these interactions and what it could mean for the investigation going forward. Dave and Christine?

BRIGGS: Right, Ryan Noble, thank you. Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani has a new alternative fact style explanation for keeping the president away from Robert Mueller. Listen to what he told Chuck Todd 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 he shouldn't worry, well, that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth.

He didn't have a conversation --

TODD: Truth is truth --

GIULIANI: About -- I don't need to feel like -- no, it isn't truth, truth isn't truth. The president of the United States says I didn't --

TODD: Truth isn't truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize what -- I --


TODD: This is going to become a bad me --

GIULIANI: Don't do -- don't do -- don't do this to me.

TODD: Don't do truth --

GIULIANI: Donald Trump --


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.


BRIGGS: A hashtag truth isn't truth was a gift to Twitter. Later in the day, the fired FBI director appeared to respond with James Comey tweeting, "truth exists and truth matters. People who lie are held accountable."

ROMANS: Sources tell Cnn federal prosecutors are preparing criminal charges against President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen and could announce them by the end of the month.

Cohen is 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 weigh when to charge Cohen. They have considered bringing charges before September or waiting until after the midterms. No comments from Cohen's team or the U.S. attorney.

BRIGGS: Jury deliberations resumed this morning in the Paul Manafort bank and tax fraud trial. On Friday, jurors ended a second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict. The president deciding to weigh in while this case is still ongoing, calling the trial very sad while describing his former campaign chairman as a very good person.

His client faces another trial in Washington next month.

ROMANS: Former CIA Director John Brennan says he's willing to take President Trump to court if it helps prevent other Intel officials from having their security clearances revoked. The president's move to strip Bannon of his clearance, raising questions about whether he is using his office to retaliate against political opponents.

On Sunday, Brennan stood by his comments, following the Helsinki Summit where he accused the president of treasonous behavior.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: These are abnormal times. And I think a lot of people have spoken out against what Mr. President has done, and maybe it's my warning training as intelligence professional.

[05:05:00] I have seen the lights blinking red in terms of what Mr. Trump has done and is doing and is bringing this country down on the global stage.


BRIGGS: Brennan is not alone. Other former Intel officials are slamming the president for targeting political enemies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It immediately brings back the whole concept of the enemies list for, you know, under President Nixon. And even before that in the -- you know, in the early '50s, the McCarthy era.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The indication that I saw is that he's going to provide these names to the press office to use this issue when it's a bad news day. I think that's a real misuse of not only security clearances, I think it's a misuse of the office of the presidency.


BRIGGS: Michael Hayden; former Director of both the CIA and NSA whose clearance is under review tells Cnn the relationship between the president and the intelligence community is quote "dangerously close to being permanently broken."

ROMANS: A speechwriter for President Trump who spoke at a 2016 conference attended by white nationalists has left the White House. Cnn's "KFILE" reached out to the administration last week about Darren Beattie, the White House asked us to hold off on reporting this story for several days last week.

By Saturday, Beattie's e-mail address at the White House no longer active. Beattie has confirmed to Cnn that he spoke at that 2016 conference, but says his speech was not objectionable.

BRIGGS: Iran's top diplomat speaking out for the first time since the 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.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN MINISTER, IRAN: 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've lifted.


BRIGGS: All right, more on this fascinating interview with Nick Paton Walsh live this morning in Tehran. Nick, that addiction to sanctions he's talking about, are you seeing the economy, the implications of those sanctions?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN: Well, certainly here, there has been an economic impact, and Mr. Zarif said was essentially the results of preparations made for worst sanctions ahead in November, but also true to say the pressure to this economy has had to endure over decades frankly if certainly not the past years or so. Now, he also pointed out that there have been a lot of trust lost,

frankly, of the Trump administration pulling out of that particular deal, thought it would be complicated to negotiate in the future.

A lot of possible with the Trump administration giving their attitude towards that deal and focused hope on the idea that maybe European allies who didn't think Trump should pull out on that nuclear deal in the first place might persuade him to go back to it.

But here's what he had to say about how he feels now that these sanctions are kicking back in under Donald Trump.


ZARIF: We felt that the United States had learned that these -- as far as Iran is concerned, sanctions do produce economic hardship, but do not produce the political outcomes that they intended them to produce. And I thought that the Americans had learned that lesson. Unfortunately I was wrong.


WALSH: Now much of the kind of the word "gamble" here was moderate Iranian forces, government officials reaching out to the west, the west reaching out back and then fashioning this intricate complicated deal to slow down or put off the table Iran's alleged nuclear program.

Now, of course, Donald Trump's torn that apart. And the concern here partially echoed by Mr. Zarif is that that puts the force of moderation on their back foot and potentially gives those conservative hardliners who said you simply shouldn't talk, frankly, at all to the United States, it gives them an extra arrow in their quiver.

And now as sanctions kicking in November, Mr. Zarif was clear, he believes that the Iranian people could endure that food and medicine would end up partly being part of the victim.

Although the U.S. says that's not the case. We have potentially more complicated months ahead with talks not really an option. Back to you.

BRIGGS: All right, we'll see if the president responds on Twitter later today. Nick Paton Walsh live for us in Tehran, thank you.

ROMANS: Right, 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 sides say China and the U.S. are working on a road map to end their trade dispute.

The deadline now November, that's the next time President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet. For months, the U.S. and China have threatened each other with billions of dollars in tariffs.

[05:10:00] And on Thursday, the U.S. will begin collecting 25 percent tariffs on another $16 billion in Chinese goods including chemicals, motorcycles, small electronics. Beijing said it would strike back dollar for dollar just like it did last month when the U.S. hit 34 billion in Chinese goods with tariffs.

Previous rounds of trade talks have failed to find a breakthrough, but investors like that the two countries keep trying. Right now, U.S. stock index futures are higher.

BRIGGS: So the president just needs some small win there?

ROMANS: Yes, and honestly, and you look at that, a bull market that's going to be, you know, the longest in history on Wednesday --

BRIGGS: Yes --

ROMANS: The stock market clearly would like to put the trade --

BRIGGS: Put it to rest --

ROMANS: Dispute behind us, yes.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, mixed emotions for worshippers at the first services after a damaging report about sex abuse and cover-up in Pennsylvania's Catholic Church. More from Pittsburgh next.


ROMANS: A very somber Sunday for Catholics attending mass especially in Pennsylvania. Just days ago, a grand jury report detailed child abuse by hundreds of Pennsylvania priests over decades.

[05:15:00] Pope Francis choosing not to address the issue in his weekly prayer. Let's get reaction this morning from Polo Sandoval, he's in Pittsburg for us.

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

We found mixed reaction from the congregation. There were some of those who were quite satisfied with the way the diocese is handling this, the way they're addressing this and try to prevent this from happening again.

At the same time, there were other skeptics there among the congregation. Some of those who say that the church will have to work hard to try to regain their trust. And for his part, Bishop David Zubik; the head of the diocese here has submitted an open letter to the faithful throughout Pennsylvania here and certainly promising changes starting with the victims, the survivors, saying that they do have to be heard and they have to heal.


DAVID ZUBIK, CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PITTSBURG: First of all, we've listened to them carefully. Second of all, we removed priests from ministry. Third of all, we have in fact turned it over to the district attorneys of the appropriate counties.

Fourth of all, we have engaged the independent review board to assess and take a look at the allegations and whether or not a person would be suitable for ministry again.


SANDOVAL: And there are some Catholics here that told me that this apology from the Bishop is simply not enough. They believed that there was a cover-up that spanned decades, and what they want, Christine and Dave is a full admission from the Catholic Church.

BRIGGS: All right, Polo, thanks. More details will likely emerge today when prosecutors in Colorado formally charge Chris Watts with the deaths of his pregnant wife and two daughters. Kaylee Hartung with more from Frederick, Colorado.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN: Dave, 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 began to unfold, it was last Monday that Shanann and her daughters Bella and Celeste were first reported missing. In the time since we've learned so much about the dynamic in his family, in large part, thanks to Shanann's social media, she shared so much of their lives on Facebook and Instagram, even their most private moments like when she told her husband she was pregnant with their third child.

Right as is the case for all of us, social media didn't paint the entire picture for this family. We've learned through court documents this couple filed for bankruptcy in 2015. By all accounts, they were 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.

ROMANS: This is a terrible story.

BRIGGS: It's just hard to fathom. All right, Kaylee, thanks. Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles in a league of her own at the U.S. National Championship. Andy Scholes, with more golden moments ahead.


BRIGGS: All right, it was a special night in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, as the little leaguers got to watch and even hang out with the pros last night.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT", hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Hey, good morning guys. You know, for a second straight year, Major League Baseball holding the Little League Classic. It's a chance for all 16 teams to make it to Williamsport to get up close and personal with some of the big league players in this year's game featuring the Mets taking on the Phillies.

And check this out, members of the Mets pitching staff going into the stands to watch the game with some of the kids. Now pretty cool deal for them. Now, the Mets Todd Frazier actually won the Little League World Series 20 years ago for Toms River, New Jersey.

He threw out the first pitch, and catching the first pitch was Alfred Delia, he goes by Big Al, he's become the star of this Little League World Series, and his team didn't even make it. The players like Rhys Hoskins, they were going up to big Al to take selfies, because of his school catchphrase.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're at Albany(ph) Stadium, look who I ran into?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big Al, and one thing that we really love to do?

DELIA: Is hit dingers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is hit dingers.


SCHOLES: Is hit dingers, I love it. Hoskins almost hit a dinger himself in the bottom of the third inning, that would have been pretty cool, but it went just foul. Fun night though had by all the Mets would end up winning the game by final 8-2.

Simone Biles back in action over the weekend at the U.S. championships. It's only her second event since the Rio Olympics, and Biles dominated the competition, sweeping all four events on her way to her fifth national title.

Now Biles especially designed her teal leotard for Sunday's final round. Teal is the designated color for survivors of sexual abuse of Biles in Rio back in January. She was a victim of Larry Nassar. Biles said after winning the event, she wore leotard for the survivors and the team stands with all.

Our final scary moment yesterday at "Abc's" supply 500 Indycar race. Robert Wickens tried to pass Ryan Hunter-Reay and their tires' touch hitting Hunter-Reay and spinning Wickens flying into the fence, and Wickens is spinning around like a top -- an incredibly bad crash.

Now Wickens air-lifted to a nearby hospital, IndyCar announcing Wickens suffered injuries to his lower extremities, right arm and spine along with a pulmonary contusion. He's expected to undergo an MRI and surgery.

Others involved in the wreck are doing OK, but guys, we of course wish Wickens the best --

BRIGGS: Yes -- SCHOLES: He could have definitely been much worse watching that


[05:25:00] BRIGGS: They've got to figure out a way to keep the cars on the ground. That's long been a problem, but those cockpits really do protect the drivers, I know it's hard to believe when you see that video --

SCHOLES: Incredible what they've been able to do --

BRIGGS: Yes --

SCHOLES: I mean --

BRIGGS: All right, Scholes, thank you, my friend.

ROMANS: All right, Andy, 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 employing another alternative fact.


GIULIANI: It's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth. He didn't have a conversation --

TODD: Truth is truth --

GIULIANI: About --

TODD: I don't mean to go like --

GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth, truth isn't truth!



BRIGGS: Thirty hours of interviews with the special counsel, but White House lawyer Don McGahn not entirely transparent with the president's defense team.