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Microsoft Stops Latest Russian Attack; Trump: I Could Run Russia Investigation; Colorado Man Charged; Claims Wife Killed Daughters; Video Music Awards Gets Political. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 21, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- the DNC and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election campaigns.

Now, U.S. intelligence highly likely believes that this group is linked and possibly even directed by Russian military intelligence known as the GRU.

As far as the organizations and groups that were targeted by this attack, apparently it's parts of the Senate but then also two think tanks, the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Both of those think tanks have been highly critical of President Trump's advances toward Vladimir Putin but then also towards Russian foreign policy.

Now, we do have to point out there's apparently no evidence that any of these domains were used for successful hacking spear phishing attacks.

Of course, all of this comes just a month after Attorney General Rod Rosenstein indicted 12 Russians for hacking into the 2016 campaign and for election meddling during that time. And, of course, we know just a few days later, President Trump seemed to side with the Russians instead of his own intelligence services while at a summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And now, just last night, President Trump gave an interview to Reuters where he said he'd be willing to offer the Russians sanction relief if they worked together with the U.S. in Syria and in Ukraine.

But I can tell you guys I just got back from Syria with the Russian army and it certainly seems to be a fact that the Russians seem to believe that it's them who are going take the lead role and the U.S. that needs to follow, at least in Syria.

And finally, right now I'm at one of Russia's largest arms expo where they're looking to showcase their new Stealth fighter jet. Of course, another way that Russia wants to challenge the United States, guys.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us this morning. Thanks, Fred.

All right. Imagine a world where you and your allies are under investigation but

you get to dictate how the investigation proceeds. President Trump musing Monday about pushing Robert Mueller aside and running the Russia investigation himself.

In a new interview with Reuters, the president says he has chosen not to get involved in the probe. He says, quote, "I don't have to stay out, as you know. I can go in and I could do whatever. I could run it if I want."

Jeff Mason was on the Reuters team that interviewed the president.


JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: And the run-up to that quote is he said he was staying out of it and it was better if he did. So it's interesting -- he was -- he was making it clear that he viewed it as a decision and that he had made the decision to stay out, but it wasn't the only option that he had.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump also said he's concerned about falling into a so-called perjury trap if he consents to an interview with the special counsel. He said he worries Mueller would compare his statements against others who have testified like former FBI director James Comey who Trump said was best friends with Mueller.

In that situation the president said, "Even if I am telling the truth, that makes me a liar."

This comes after his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said of perjury traps, "Truth isn't truth." Giuliani attempted to clean that up with a tweet Monday, saying he was afraid of the classic he said-she said dilemma.

A quick fact-check though. A perjury conviction requires someone willfully telling a lie. It is not he said-she said, which happens in court essentially every day.

ROMANS: All right.

Joining us this morning, CNN senior writer and analyst, Harry Enten. Good morning.

Let's stick on the -- on the Russia probe here and all of these developments.

When we asked voters what is important to them for the 2018 vote, the Russia probe right down there at the bottom of the list next to Nancy Pelosi. The president, however, is obsessed with the Russia rigged investigation, hoax -- whatever you want to call it.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST, CNN POLITICS: He is obsessed but I would argue he's obsessed because he watches cable news every single moment and we're obsessed with it, so he's merely responding to us. It's like this vicious cycle, right? We say something, therefore he says something, therefore we say something.

Meanwhile, it seems to me, if you look at the polling, that voters don't seem to care. And this all kind of encapsulates itself in Donald Trump's approval rating staying very stable --

ROMANS: Right.

ENTEN: -- despite the fact that you're getting all this stuff about the Russian investigation --

ROMANS: Every day.

ENTEN: -- that we think might be bad for him. But it just turns out that voters are --

ROMANS: Right.

ENTEN: -- going, eh.

BRIGGS: But you also mention Nancy Pelosi there, who is a target of Republican ads from coast to coast. Voters say they don't care about that either, similar to what's going on with who -- Hillary Clinton. Well, President Trump would love her to reemerge into the scene and she is, headlining three DNC fundraisers.

Could this help? Could this hurt?

ENTEN: I mean look, the reason that Donald Trump won in 2016 was because he faced off against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump's favorable ratings during that campaign were the lowest ever in any major party nominee, but Hillary Clinton's were the second-lowest ever.

Hillary Clinton reemerging, I think it will only help Trump. The problem here is that she's not on the ballot, right, and I think voters can recognize, saying hey, she's going out to raise money for these candidates but we're not voting for or against here. We're voting for her against the Donald Trump agenda.

ROMANS: But, you know, you sometimes hear Republicans hit at Nancy Pelosi and they like to use Nancy Pelosi in some of their ads and the like. But this all would maybe suggest that using Nancy Pelosi as a foil would help or hurt.

[05:35:01] ENTEN: I -- when I look at those numbers I see that it really probably won't do anything. If anything, Democrats are more motivated to turn out and vote because they want Nancy Pelosi to be the speaker.

But if you go back to 1994, right, you will see oftentimes that when you have an unpopular president, the president's party will try and use the opposition party leader as sort of the foil to try and balance -- you know, make it a choice -- make it a choice instead of a referendum, and it just simply hasn't worked. I mean, Newt Gingrich was not very popular in 1994. It didn't seem to matter very much.


BRIGGS: All right.

I know race is a factor in the upcoming midterms. The president has touted his increasing approval rating among blacks in this country.

Is there truth -- is there numbers that support that notion?

ENTEN: Well, yes and no. I think the president sometimes pumps up these polls that show that his support among African-Americans --

BRIGGS: Rasmussen, typically, which is not --

ENTEN: Right, which --

BRIGGS: -- polling --

ENTEN: Right.

BRIGGS: -- we use.

ENTENT: Right, not polling that we use.

But, in fact, if you look at the numbers -- if you look, for instance, at the live interview polls, if you look at the Pew Research Center, he's at 14 percent. Now that's still really, really low, right.

But if you compare it to the percentage of the vote that he got in 2016 -- if you look at the exit polls --


ENTEN: -- it's at eight percent. If you look at Pew's own research it was six percent.

So clearly, there's actually a little bit of a rise and it's so interesting to see that when you compare it to the other racial and ethnic groups because their numbers are actually lower on Trump than they were in 2016.

ROMANS: Is the economy, you think, because we go back -- economy is on the top of the list of voters.

Do they believe his cheerleading on the economy? Do they believe what he keeps saying that you're seeing African-American unemployment at record lows and it's because of me?

ENTEN: I think that's as good of an explanation as any.

I think that there are a lot of us in the press who hear the statements that Donald Trump make and go oh, there's no way he has a rise among African-American voters or any minority group. But, in fact, they seem to be responding to something. And to me, the fact that the economy is doing so well could be, in fact, the cause of it.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Suggesting the attacks on black NFL players and calling Omarosa a dog, among other things, is not having the impact some think.

ENTEN: Certainly not although, again, I would point out that his approval rating is still quite low with black voters.

ROMANS: Fourteen percent.


ROMANS: Fourteen percent and it is still --

BRIGGS: But it is up.

ENTEN: It is up.

ROMANS: All right. Harry Enten --

BRIGGS: Harry, thanks.

ROMANS: -- thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

ROMANS: Nice to see you this morning.


White House counsel Don McGahn's extensive cooperation with Bob Mueller's team has unsettled President Trump.

The president approved McGahn's cooperation but two sources familiar with his thinking telling CNN the president did not know the interviews stretched for some 30 hours nor that his own legal team did not fully debrief McGahn afterwards.

As for why the president let McGahn talk to investigators -- well, sources tell CNN the Trump legal team felt they didn't have a strong legal case to stop it.

ROMANS: The White House could still seek to prevent details of McGahn's testimony from coming out by asserting executive privilege.

The president, meantime, in full attack mode against the Russia probe Monday with a lengthy series of tweets, including this.

"Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of angry Democratic thugs looking to impact the election. They are a national disgrace."

BRIGGS: At the very moment the president was attacking his critics on Twitter, Melania Trump was addressing an anti-cyberbullying summit. You can't make this stuff up.

Her "Be Best" campaign, focusing on the well-being of children, warns against destructive and harmful uses of social media. The first lady, though, may have had her husband in mind when she said this.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's face it, most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults. But we still need to do all we can to --


BRIGGS: Melania Trump has announced plans to go to Africa in October. Her first major solo trip since becoming first lady, though no word yet on which countries she'll visit.

Back in January, you might remember the president used a derogatory term in a closed-door meeting bemoaning the influx of immigrants from "s-hole" countries in Africa.

ROMANS: All right.

The verdict watch resumes this morning in the Paul Manafort trial. Jurors return for day four of deliberations. The former Trump campaign chief faces 18 counts of various financial crimes.

His defense team sees it as a good sign that the jury has not yet reached a verdict after three days.

Manafort faces up to 305 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

BRIGGS: Later today, the Trump administration rolls back clean air provisions that were put in place by President Obama. The move giving states the power to determine emission standards for coal.

The new plan expected to increase the release of carbon dioxide at a rate 12 times higher than current standards allow. Those emissions can lead to heart disease, strokes -- even cancer.

The issue likely to come up tonight when the president headlines a rally in West Virginia, one of the nation's leading coal-producing states.

ROMANS: All right.

Protesters at the University of North Carolina topple a Confederate statue that stood for more than 100 years. The governor, a Democrat, not pleased.


[05:43:50] BRIGGS: Chris Watts is expected to appear in a Colorado courtroom today after being formally charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of his pregnant wife and their two young daughters. Court documents, unsealed Monday, reveal that Watts claimed he killed his wife after she killed the girls. Prosecutors, though, are not buying Watts' confession.

At a news conference Monday, the father of Shanann Watts thanked the community for its support.


FRANK RZUCEK, FATHER OF SHANANN WATTS: We would like to thank everyone in the Frederick Police Department and all the agencies involved for working so hard to find my daughter, granddaughters, and Nico.

Thank you, everyone, for coming out to the candlelight vigil and saying all your prayers. They are greatly appreciated. And keep the prayers coming for our family.


BRIGGS: How difficult that must have been.

More now from CNN's Scott McLean in Frederick, Colorado.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, we are now hearing the story that Chris Watts told police.

According to a brand new police arrest affidavit, he had initially said that he'd woken up early on the morning of August 13th, told his wife that he wanted to separate, and then went to work.

[05:45:01] She had apparently planned on going to a friend's house but then never returned.

But later he told a different story, saying to police that he had, in fact, killed his wife Shanann but not his young daughters.

He says that after he told Shanann he wanted to separate he went downstairs, and when he came back up he saw Shanann had strangled the young girls. And in a fit of rage, he then strangled his wife to death.

He says he loaded the bodies into the back of his truck, took them to his work site, dug a shallow grave for his wife, and dumped his daughters' bodies into an oil storage tank where they stayed for four days.

But police say that he left out one key detail, that he had been having an extramarital affair with a co-worker.

Watts has now been charged with the murders of his wife and two daughters, three counts of tampering with a deceased human body, and because she was 15 weeks pregnant he was also charged with the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. Now, the defense had asked for their own expert to take DNA swabs of Shanann's fingernails, presumably to prove her involvement in the deaths of those young girls, but the judge ultimately denied that request -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: All right, a real tough story there, Scott McLean. Thanks, Scott.

Protesters on the campus of the University of North Carolina pulling down a Confederate statue known as "Silent Sam," a statue that has stood since 1913.

About 250 protesters gathered Monday night at Chapel Hill's Peace and Justice Plaza before marching to the base of the statue, calling for its removal, and eventually, you can see, pulling it to the ground.

The University officials called the toppling dangerous. That said it is -- it is fortunate no one was hurt. There was one arrest.

North Carolina's governor says he understands people are frustrated by the pace of change but said there is no place for violent destruction of property.

BRIGGS: A woman out walking her dog on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina on Monday pulled underwater and killed by an alligator.

Authorities say 45-year-old Cassandra Cline and her dog out for a walk near the lagoon when the gator tried to attack the dog. The coroner says when Cline tried to save the dog the alligator turned on her and dragged her into the lagoon.

An autopsy is being conducted.

A congressional candidate who claims she communicated with aliens and was once visited by extraterrestrials has been endorsed by "The Miami Herald." Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera running as a Republican for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat.

In a 2009 interview, she claimed she boarded a spaceship occupied by aliens when she was seven years old.

The Herald's editorial board acknowledges Rodriguez as a quote "unusual candidate" but agrees with her assessment that her past comments about aliens are not an issue in the race.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Make America -- make Mars great again, right?

ROMANS: Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Global stocks mostly higher today as China and the U.S. gear up for another round of trade talks. A Chinese delegation heads to Washington tomorrow. Previous rounds yielded little progress but investors like that the two countries keep trying at least.

Wall Street also closed higher. The S&P 500 is now less than one percent from a record and just one day shy of becoming the longest bull market on record. The S&P 500 has risen more than 300 percent from its March 2009 low.

Tesla shares near a 3-month low as investors doubt Elon Musk's plan to take Tesla private. Shares fell after JPMorgan Chase flashed its price target for Tesla.

Musk previously tweeted he had secured funding for a buyout, but JPMorgan doubts that true and does not believe there's any formal proposal.

Shares recovered a bit by the close.

That tweet from Musk about going private, it initially triggered a rise in Tesla's stock. It also triggered some scrutiny, including an SEC probe into the accuracy of his statement.

PepsiCo is buying SodaStream for $3.2 billion, its latest effort to expand into healthy drinks. The DIY seltzer-maker is marketed as a healthy alternative to sugary soda.

It fits the vision set by outgoing CEO Indra Nooyi. Nooyi has steered Pepsi toward more healthy offerings following consumer tastes. Nooyi will step down in October after more than a decade as CEO.

Pretty successful by the way.

BRIGGS: It sure has.

All right. Imagine if your life depended on driving through this.




BRIGGS: A father and son race to escape a wildfire. You don't want to miss how this ended.


[05:53:50] BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, a Nazi labor camp guard living in New York City has been deported back to Germany.

The White House says early this morning, immigration and customs enforcement carried out a 2004 order of deportation of Jakiw Palij. It took 14 years to deport Palij because until now, no country would take him.

He immigrated to America in 1949 and became a U.S. citizen in 1957, concealing his Nazi service in the process. Check out this dramatic, harrowing video. A 70-year-old father and his son desperately trying to escape a blazing forest fire in Glacier National Park in Montana. Justin Bilton and his dad driving through hell, as he put it, down a winding mountain road seemingly with no way out.


C. BILTON, ATTEMPTING TO ESCAPE FLAMES IN HOWE RIDGE FIRE: Easy, easy, you can't see. Just go easy now.

JUSTIN BILTON, ATTEMPTING TO ESCAPE FLAMES IN HOWE RIDGE FIRE: The car's heating up. It's going to explode.

C. BILTON: No, you're all right.

J. BILTON: Jesus, God help us.

C. BILTON: We're all right. Slow it down, OK. Slow down so we can see, Justin.

J. BILTON: What if a tree falls on us. Please, God, help us.

C. BILTON: You're doing good. You're doing good.

J. BILTON: Oh my God.


[05:55:00] ROMANS: Eventually, they were stopped by a downed, burning tree in the road. Justin says he had to reverse then all the way back to the trailhead where they were lucky to flag down a boat and they were taken to safety by two park employees.

The car burned in the fire. Justin Bilton and his father Charles will be guests on "NEW DAY" later this morning.

Authorities in Los Angeles are investigating sexual assault allegations against a founder of the #MeToo movement, Asia Argento. "The New York Times" reports the actress paid off a young actor who accused her of sexually assaulting him just months after she accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department says its Special Victims Bureau is reaching out to the alleged victim.

BRIGGS: The "Times" reports it has legal documents showing actor and musician Jimmy Bennett alleged Argento sexually assaulted him in 2013 when he was 17, below the age of consent in California. The "Times" says it received the documents through encrypted e-mail by an unidentified party.

Bennett played Argento's son in a 2004 movie, "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things."

CNN has reached out to Argento for a comment. "The New York Times" has been trying to get a response from her since Thursday.

ROMANS: That Instagram is a more recent Instagram of the two.

Heavy rain in the forecast for the Ohio River Valley and the Northeast.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is in the Weather Center.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. Good morning, Dave.

Yes, we're watching what's happening across the Midwest and portions of the Ohio Valley here for some heavy rainfall throughout this afternoon and really setting the stage here for some -- a major cooling trend over the next several days into the forecast.

And here's part of our culprit -- the surface that's bringing in some of the stronger storms across portions of the Ohio Valley.

It could lead to some travel disruptions and certainly some severe weather east of this region. That impacts about 16 million people. Large hail, damaging winds become the main threats.

Pittsburgh, Jamestown, Roanoke -- some of the areas here in Richmond certainly could be in line here for some strong storms in towards the afternoon hours of Tuesday.

But this morning, still seeing some thunderstorm activity. Upwards of 1,200 lightning strikes since midnight across this region of the U.S., so certainly some fireworks from Mother Nature there.

And the flooding rains in the forecast as we go in towards Philly throughout the afternoon and evening hours.

But again, the cooling trend, it's there. It brings in much cooler temperatures Thursday, Friday, into Saturday.

And the forecast for areas around Chicago, 78 today, while in Boston, highs only at 71.


ROMANS: All right, thanks for that, P.J.

While you were sleeping, pop culture and politics collide with the MTV Video Music Awards.

Top prize, Video of the Year, going to Camila Cabello for "Havana." She also won Artist of the Year.

Cardi B won the Moon Person for Best New Artist.

And, Jennifer Lopez accepted the Video Vanguard Award and paid this lovely tribute to her boyfriend, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER LOPEZ, SINGER, RECIPIENT, MTV AWARDS VIDEO VANGUARD AWARD: You are like my twin soul. We're like mirror images of each other.

No, my life is sweeter and better with you in it because you make me realize that every day the sky is not the limit. The universe is infinite and so is what we can accomplish together with love and trust and understanding.


ROMANS: Write that down for your anniversary card to your wife.


Politics very much front and center last night. Rapper Logic wore an "F the Wall" shirt, inviting families displaced by immigration laws on stage, all wearing shirts that read "We Are All Human Beings."

Earlier during the monologue, comedian Kevin Hart went straight at the president.


KEVIN HART, PRESENTER, MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS: I'm looking at this like it's game day, people.

But do not worry because at this game you guys are allowed to kneel. You can do whatever the hell you want. There's no old, white man that can stop you -- do it.

You never know what's going to happen at the VMAs. I mean, beefs pop off, bad language, people run to the bathroom and send out crazy tweets.

It's basically like a typical day at the White House. In your face Trump.


BRIGGS: Many on the right calling for a boycott of Hart after those comments.

MTV also announced its first-ever midterm "Get Out the Vote." The digital initiative called "Plus One the Vote" aimed at getting young people to convince their friends to register along with them.

If you're wondering why Madonna, though, is the top-trending story at this hour on Twitter --


BRIGGS: -- people hated her tribute to --

ROMANS: Interesting. BRIGGS: -- the legendary Aretha Franklin. They said it was about Madonna, not about Aretha Franklin.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: I didn't see it, but --

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I know, I get up too early.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, August 21st, 6:00 here in New York.

And we are waking up to breaking news.

If only someone had warned us that this could happen -- a new Russian attack on the U.S. political system. This time, think tanks that have been critical of Russia and also Web sites linked to the U.S. Senate.

Microsoft says it detected and thwarted these efforts in just the last few weeks, seizing Web sites that could have been used to infiltrate the 2018 midterm races.

Again, if only someone had warned us this could happen.

And note the timing here. The president, in just the last 24 hours, once again failed to squarely blame Russia for this cyberwarfare.

In an interview with Reuters, he used the same type of --