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Pressley Beats Capuano in Massachusetts 7th District Primary; Tropical Storm Gordon Turns Deadly; Trump Takes Aim at New Woodward Book; Kavanaugh Faces Day 2 of Confirmation' Russian Warplanes Strike Rebel-Held Idlib; Scores of Elephants Found Dead in South Africa. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 5, 2018 - 04:30   ET






DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Another Democratic challenger pulls off a major primary upset.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tropical storm Gordon turns deadly as it makes landfall near the Alabama/Mississippi border.

[04:30:04] BRIGGS: The Trump White House blasting the explosive allegations in a new book from Watergate legend Bob Woodward.

ROMANS: Protesters rattle the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings with a crucial day of questioning ahead.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

I don't think he began speaking until 5:00 p.m. or something? I mean it was a whole day of talking, talking, before you heard from him.

BRIGGS: Yes, it was a head-spinning day. It was a circus, though. These Senate confirmation hearings are not tremendously effective.

I'm Dave Briggs, 4:30 Eastern Time. We'll get to that in a moment.

We start with breaking news overnight. A new Democratic primary upset from the left. In Massachusetts, Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley soundly defeating ten-term incumbent Congressman Mike Capuano. The 44-year-old Pressley joins a growing list of younger, more progressive Democrats, many of them women of color, winning competitive primaries.

Miguel Marquez files this report from Pressley's victory celebration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Dave, just an absolute upset here in the seventh district of Massachusetts. This district had been tested two times by pollster, in February and this August. In February, Capuano was up by 12 points. This August, just a few weeks ago, he was up by 13 points.

She got people out that don't typically vote. She's a city councilperson in Boston. And even though she was part of the political establishment, even though he was a far left by American standards, a progressive, liberal Democrat, she was able to best him by getting people out with basically the campaign slogan that change can't wait. She wanted a bolder campaign.

Tonight, she talked about doing this not only for women, but for African-American men behind the wall in prison, for immigrants.

Here's a little of how she addressed the crowd tonight when she thanked Michael Capuano for making her a better candidate.

PRESSLEY: Mike Capuano is unapologetically himself. On many occasions throughout the years when there was a strike or a rally, I would find myself sharing a stage, a microphone, or a bull horn with him. And, well, he forced me to bring my best, just like in this race, and I thank him for his 20 years of service.

MARQUEZ: Certainly, this is an indication that insurgent energy amongst Democrats across the country, whether it's Florida or Georgia or New York state, and now here in Massachusetts, is alive and well. Within an hour and a half of the polls closing, Michael Capuano had conceded this race. He clearly knew that the votes were just there for her in a very big way. It seems he may be the victim of a very blue wave already -- Christine, Dave.


ROMANS: Yes, certainly, it is a fascinating development there.

You know, Mike Capuano could not have been more gracious in his concession speech. The ten-term incumbent had never faced a serious challenge since first winning the seat in 1998. He took that stunning defeat in stride, calling it a sign of the times.


REP. MIKE CAPUANO (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Clearly, the district wanted a lot of change, and apparently, the district just is very upset with lots of things that are going on. I don't blame them. I'm just as upset as they are. But so be it. This is the way life goes.


ROMANS: Capuano praised Ayanna Pressley, saying she will serve Massachusetts well.

BRIGGS: Tropical storm Gordon making landfall late last night west of the Alabama/Mississippi border, and it has already turned deadly. A child killed in Pensacola, Florida, when a tree fell on top of a mobile home. Strong winds from the storm also knocking out power in the Florida panhandle and southern Alabama, leaving thousands in the dark. The system tracking to the northwest, leaving emergency officials in Mississippi worried about potential flooding.


RUPERT LACY, DIRECTOR, MISSISSIPPI EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: One of our concerns is that storm surge. So, we're watching the waters right now, because those winds are shifting on us. As the storm makes its approach, starts to go inland, we'll start to see winds shift and we'll see the tides come up.


BRIGGS: Gordon had sustained winds of 70 miles per hour when it made landfall.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri tracking Gordon for us has the forecast in the CNN weather center.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Christine and Dave, good morning to you both.

Yes, we're watching what's happening here with Gordon, what is left of Gordon, beginning to gradually weaken, moved ashore at about 70 miles per hour, so just shy of what would have been a category 1 hurricane.

But, of course, the impacts between 70 miles per hour or 75, which would put it right there in the low end of a hurricane, really, it doesn't make much of a difference. Still seeing similar impacts on the coast, still seeing wind gusts that hurricane force across this region as well. So, we'll follow it carefully.

Some of the more populated cities and communities across this region seeing generally 30 to 40-mile-per-hour wind gusts across the area.

[04:35:05] But the system itself will begin to quickly move out of here, eventually end up in northern Mississippi later this afternoon. In fact, here's what's happening. Still seeing some of the feeder bands or outer bands bringing rainfall towards Pensacola on into mobile, but even there we'll see conditions improve. In fact, we'll see clearing skies as we go in towards sunset.

So, maybe even say see a nice sun break across that region into the afternoon hours. But the flood watch has been in place not really across the south but also across the Midwest where this system's going to end up, and that's an area we're expecting additional say 4 to 6 inches over the next couple of days -- guys.

ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thank you so much for that.

You know, President Trump was on a twitter tirade last night, seeking to discredit a bombshell, new book by "Washington Post" reporter Bob Woodward. The president suggesting baselessly in one tweet that the award-winning veteran journalist is a Democratic operative because the book released two months before the midterms portrays chaos inside the White House.

CNN's Jamie Gangel has more on Woodward's meticulously reported work.


JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this explosive, new book from legendary journalist Bob Woodward goes inside the Trump White House with Woodward detailing extraordinary measures that senior aides have taken to circumvent the president, to, in effect, step in and stop what they saw as President Trump's most -- and this is a quote -- dangerous impulses, including stealing and hiding documents right off his Oval Office desk.

There are also some stunning revelations about the Russia investigation. Woodward recounts a dramatic session at the White House in which Trump's then personal attorney John Dowd puts the president through a mock interview to see, if he is capable of testifying to special counsel Robert Mueller without perjuring himself. Woodward reports that Trump fails the test.

What's more remarkable is that Dowd and Trump's current attorney Jay Sekulow then go and re-enact the scene to Robert Mueller himself in an attempt to convince Mueller that Trump is incapable of getting through an interview. According to Woodward, Mueller isn't convinced and responds, quote, I need the president's testimony, and then Mueller says, I want to know what was his intent on Comey, I want to see if there was corrupt intent -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Jamie.

You know, some of the most startling quotes in Woodward's book come from two of the president's top aides, chief of staff John Kelly is reported to have called President Trump an idiot, erratic and unhinged. Woodward reports an irate Kelly ranted at a staff meeting, quote, we're in crazy town, this is the worst job I've ever had.

The book portrays Defense Secretary James Mattis as exasperated and alarmed by the president. Mattis is quoted as saying Trump has the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader.

Both men among the chorus of administration officials pushing back. Chief of staff Kelly saying he and the president have, quote, an incredibly candid and strong relationship, called the story, quote, total B.S. Mattis also denying that he uttered the contemptuous words attributed to him. He describes Woodward's book as fiction.

BRIGGS: One important player not appearing in the book is president Trump himself. That's why Woodward decided himself to release audio recordings to prove him he made an effort to interview the president and get his side of the story. Listen to this conversation between Woodward and Mr. Trump when they connected by phone three weeks ago.


BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: And as you know and are living, we are at a pivot point in history.


WOODWARD: And I would have liked to have done that, and I maximized my effort, and somehow, it didn't get to you or --

TRUMP: It's really too bad, because nobody told me about it, and I would have loved to have spoken to you. You know I'm very open to you. I think you've always been fair, but we'll see what happens.


BRIGGS: The president did later acknowledge that Lindsey Graham told him Woodward wanted to interview him, also that Woodward has always been fair.

Overnight, Mr. Trump suggested legendary journalist had lies and phony sources in his book, and there is a tweet for that, folks. In 2013, Donald Trump tweeted, only the Obama White House can get away with attacking Bob Woodward. There's always a tweet for that with this one.

ROMANS: Of course there is.

Special counsel investigators responding to President Trump's legal team, saying they will accept written responses from the president related to whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 campaign in his favor. They say the letter left open the possibility of an in-person interview as part of a wide-ranging Russia probe. The decision represents a concession by Mueller to Trump's lawyers and appears to make a subpoena of the president less likely.

BRIGGS: Brett Kavanaugh faces another day of confirmation hearings this morning.

[04:40:03] One day after this ugly scene, warring senators, jeering protesters and Democratic demonstrations rocked Kavanaugh's hearing Tuesday. Democrats came ready to attack. Senator Richard Blumenthal, one of the leading voices opposing President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, called for the hearing to be adjourned almost as soon as it began. He said his colleagues had not had time to review tens of thousands of documents from Kavanaugh's time at the White House.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Mr. Chairman, we have been denied -- we have been denied real access to the documents we need to advise --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, regular order is called for.

BLUMENTHAL: -- which turns this hearing into a charade and a mockery of our norms.


BLUMENTHAL: And Mr. Chairman, I therefore move to adjourn this hearing.


BRIGGS: Kavanaugh's views on reproductive rights and environmental protection have been under a microscope since the moment he was nominated, but one senator on the judiciary committee, Senator Ben Sasse says opponents', quote, hysteria has nothing to do with Kavanaugh and everything to do with Congress.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: Judge Kavanaugh doesn't lust after dirty water and stinky air. No, looking at his record, it seems to me that what he actually dislikes are legislators that are too lazy and too risk-averse to do our actual jobs.


BRIGGS: The hearing resumes today at 9:30 a.m. Usually, these battles are fought over visceral issues -- abortion, education, discrimination, not document requests. But we'll see where we go on day two.

ROMANS: Another battle on the Hill. Time for early start on your money. High-level players from Facebook and Twitter will face Congress today to respond to accusations of political censorship and lack of security against foreign interference. The Senate Intelligence Committee will grill Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg and chief executive of Twitter Jack Dorsey about efforts to prevent election meddling this fall. Both platforms have admitted to negligence in allowing Russian manipulation on the sites in the 2016 presidential election.

In prepared testimony released yesterday, Sandberg wrote: We're investing heavily in people and technology to keep our community safe and keep our service secure. This includes using artificial intelligence to help find bad content and locate bad actors.

Dorsey will also testify before the house about Twitter's algorithms and content monitoring involving hate speech and harassment. Internet giant Google declined to send a high-level executive to Capitol Hill today.

Mark Zuckerberg with an op-ed in the "Washington Post" this morning saying that, you know, protecting democracy is an arms race. Congress members want to know exactly what these companies are doing in this arms race.

BRIGGS: Well, Zuckerberg also writes he wants the public sector and the private sector to combine to protect our election integrity.

Ahead, a high-profile mayor just made a major career decision.


MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: This has been the job of a lifetime but it is not a job for a lifetime.


BRIGGS: What's ahead for Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, just ahead.

And the familiar face replacing the late Senator John McCain on Capitol Hill.


ROMANS: Former Senator Jon Kyl tapped by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to replace the late John McCain. Kyl happens to be the Republican attorney who's been advising President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Now, he gets to vote on his confirmation.


JON KYL (R), CHOSEN TO FILL JOHN MCCAIN'S SENATE SEAT: It is my honor to be helping on the Kavanaugh nomination. I believe in Judge Kavanaugh. And in that capacity, I've been able to support not just Judge Kavanaugh, but the administration, and I think the proper administration of justice.


ROMANS: Kyl is well-liked by the president's political team and by the McCain family. He says he won't be running for re-election, leaving open the possibility of a bruising primary in 2020.

BRIGGS: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he will not seek a third term. He announced the decision at a city hall news conference alongside his wife.


EMANUEL: This has been the job of a lifetime but it is not a job for a lifetime. Amy and I have decided it is time to write another chapter together. We have more to do, and from now until then, we'll do everything in our power to get it done and walk out the door, hopefully, leaving Chicago and Chicagoans in a stronger place.


BRIGGS: Emanuel previously represented Chicago in the U.S. House and served as President Obama's chief of staff for nearly two years, bringing his trademark brash style to the mayor's office. Emanuel declared the city a Trump-free zone and harshly criticized the president's immigration policies. Twelve candidates have announced they will run to replace him next February.

ROMANS: It's already turned ugly in the Florida governor's race, shaping up as a fight to the finish. A new Quinnipiac poll shows the Democratic candidate, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, leading his Republican opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, by three points, 50 percent-47 percent. The race will be one of the most closely watched contests in November. DeSantis has tied himself to president Trump, who endorsed him in the

primary against more establishment Republicans. Gillum would be Florida's first black governor. Just days after winning the Democratic nomination, Gillum was targeted in a racist robocall. That came after DeSantis told Florida voters, quote, don't monkey this up by electing Gillum.

BRIGGS: Of course, some context here. If polls were correct, Gillum would not be the Democratic candidate in the first place, right, because no one saw him coming out of nowhere to win the Democratic nomination. So, it's tough to know what to take away.

ROMANS: All right, Amazon just became the answer to a trillion-dollar question. We'll get a check on CNNMoney, next.


[04:54:25] ROMANS: Russian warplanes carrying out dozens of air strikes against the last rebel-held province in Syria, Idlib. The latest operation killing 17 civilians, including seven children, this according to the volunteer group White Helmets and other media activists. The Kremlin shrugging off a warning from President Trump, raising concerns about a new large-scale offensive in a densely populated region.

I want to go to Istanbul now, bring in CNN's Jomana Karadsheh -- Jomana.


The situation on the ground today in Idlib, according to activist people on the ground there.

[04:55:01] They say it is calm, coming after that bloody day on Tuesday, as you mentioned. More than 25 air strikes, according to opposition activists and the rescue group the White Helmets, saying that these are Russian airstrikes that targeted western Idlib. They say at least 18 people were killed, most of them women and children.

And the feeling amongst people there is that this was also a sign of what is to come but also a message, a response to the warnings, the threats coming from President Trump and others against this offensive, a message from the Russians and the Syrian regime that this will go ahead their assault on Idlib will take place and they will move on to recapture that last province under the control of the rebels, especially that, you know, the warnings that are coming from the U.S. seem to be very specific, saying that it is ready to act, if chemical weapons are used, something that has really infuriated so many Syrians, Christine, saying, what about conventional weapons? What about the air strikes, the barrel bombs that have claimed more Syrian lives than chemical attacks?

All this happening while you have about 3 million people crammed in Idlib province right now just waiting for this offensive to happen. As some have put it, it's like waiting for their death sentence to be carried out.

ROMANS: All right, just tragic. Thank you, Jomana Karadsheh for us in Istanbul.

BRIGGS: Dozens of carcasses have been found near a famous wildlife sanctuary in Botswana. The conservation group says it discovered the massacre during an aerial survey. The elephants were killed and mutilated by poachers for their tusks. In May, the country's new president ordered the country's anti-poaching unit to stop using military weapons.

Boy, are those pictures difficult to see.

ROMANS: Hard to watch.

BRIGGS: David McKenzie live for us in Johannesburg, South Africa, with more.

David, good morning.


Yes, you know, they are shocking images, but it's important to look at these images because they represent a very disturbing trend in Botswana. Dave, Botswana is normally a safe haven for elephant populations. More than 100,000 of the majestic animals in that country. I've reported on that issue several times.

But this scientist who I've dealt with in the past saying nearly 90 elephant counted in just a few weeks of an aerial survey. It shows that the poachers for that ivory that elephants have due to the demand in Asia are just going in deep to tourists and conservation areas in Botswana, killing those animals, hacking off their ivory and presumably shipping it to Asia.

It shows also, based on previous investigations by us, that the Chinese ban on ivory hasn't yet had the effect of stopping the slaughter.

The Botswanan government says these reports, including our own, are unsubstantiated and sensational. They said this, at no point in the last months or eventually were 87 or 90 elephants killed in one incident in any place in Botswana.

Well, there's no indication this was one incident. It appears to be several weeks of killings. And the worry is, is that this could really decimate the herds in a key population center for elephants. The scientists looking at that statement from the government, we asked him what he thought of that. He said, well, I 100 percent stand by what I saw. The evidence is irrefutable -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Irrefutable and devastating. A very important story. David McKenzie live for us in Johannesburg, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Just about top of the hour. Let's check on CNNMoney this morning. A critical day in the trade dispute with Canada as the Trump administration tries to renegotiate NAFTA. Talks resume today. You know, last week, the U.S. reached a preliminary deal with Mexico, but a deal with Canada did not happen. The Americans want Canadian concessions on agriculture. President Trump said he wants Canada to end its steep tariffs on U.S. dairy products, but Canada has pledged to protect its dairy farmers and its dairy industry.

Amazon is America's second trillion-dollar company now. Its market cap briefly topped $1 trillion yesterday. You know, Apple was the first company to do that. It did in t in August. Those two companies now make up more than 8 percent of the entire value of the S&P 500.

Amazon shares have doubled in the past 12 months. Apple's are up nearly 40 percent, while Amazon hitting high numbers, critics point to low numbers for Amazon workers. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took a shot at CEO Jeff Bezos yesterday, saying the wealthy mogul should be paying employees higher wages.

BRIGGS: Haven't heard a lot about that. Are there numbers to back all this up?

ROMANS: Well, you know, Bernie Sanders, of course, is someone who wants higher wages in general.


ROMANS: Higher minimum wage in general, and there has been some criticism that so many of these warehouse jobs maybe don't pay as much, and Jeff Bezos makes an awful lot of money. That's an income inequality debate for another day.

BRIGGS: More to come on that.

EARLY START continues right with the shocker in Massachusetts politics.