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White House Searching For Op-Ed Author; Kavanaugh Emerges From Hearing Unscathed; President Trump's New Syria Strategy; Burt Reynolds Dead At 82. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The conspiracy peddler booted from the social platform.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And it wasn't pretty but heck, it was football. The Eagles started their title defense against the Falcons late. Chances are if you are with us right now you did not stay up and watch this one.


BRIGGS: It did not start until around 9:00 eastern time.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs on a Friday.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine -- it is Friday. I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

Let's get started here.

It wasn't me -- repeated denials from all the president's allies here after that scathing op-ed -- look at all of them -- from an anonymous senior official in "The New York Times". All of these top members of the administration, one after another, denying authorship, calling the op-ed amateur, laughable, sophomoric, deceitful, and a lot of other things.

Now, we're told the president has been reading these denials closely. He's getting them printed out and hand-delivered to him.

The White House may be closer to figuring out who that author was. The "Times," citing an outside adviser, says the administration has about a dozen names on its list.

BRIGGS: First lady Melania Trump calling the op-ed author cowardly, claiming he or she is sabotaging the country. But she also cited the importance of a free press.

Senator Rand Paul, meanwhile, offered up this stunning idea.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think if you have a security clearance in the White House, I think it would be acceptable to use a lie detector test and ask people whether or not they're talking to the media against the policy of the White House.


BRIGGS: A lie detector test for administration officials.

The president had a lot to say about "The New York Times" and the mysterious op-ed writer at a rally in Billings, Montana last night.

Jim Acosta was there and he filed this report.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump weighed in on that anonymous op-ed in "The New York Times" reportedly from a senior administration official who says that person is part of the resistance in the Trump administration.

During the rally in front of thousands of supporters, the president said he didn't know who it was and that reporters at "The New York Times" should investigate who the writer of the op-ed is.

Here's what he had to say.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unelected deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself. And I was so heartened when I looked -- I think it's backfired.

Seriously, people that don't exactly dig us and they don't exactly like me, they're fighting for us. It's incredible. It's actually a beautiful thing.

ACOSTA: Prospects of impeachment also appear to be on the president's mind as the president told this rally here in Billings, Montana. The Democrats are talking to Congress and looking to impeach him come January -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: OK. Thank you, Jim.

Let's bring in Harry Enten, senior writer and analyst for "CNN POLITICS."

ROMANS: Morning.

BRIGGS: Also, our lodestar, I think, here at EARLY START.



BRIGGS: Yes, you are our inspiration, you are our guide.

ENTEN: It warms my heart. BRIGGS: Good to see you, my friend.

All right, so the president in Billings, Montana. This morning, up to North and South Dakota.

Last night, he tried out some new material that he thought might help him. This "The New York Times" op-ed -- thought it might become a powerful issue that he could use. Let's see how it went.


TRUMP: The latest act of resistance is the op-ed published in the failing "New York Times" by an anonymous -- really, an anonymous, gutless coward. You just look.

He was -- nobody knows who the hell he is or she, although they put he. But probably, that's a little disguise. That's mean it's she.

But for the sake of our national security, "The New York Times" should publish his name at once. I think their reporter should go and investigate who it is. That would actually be a good scoop.


BRIGGS: OK, third time's a charm. Take another run at anonymous.

ENTEN: Anonymous -- there we go.

BRIGGS: You usually use polls to figure out how issues resonate. I don't think you need one for how that line resonated there with that Montana crowd. How'd it go over?

ENTEN: No. I mean, look, that's Donald Trump's base. If you're going out to a rally you love the President of the United States.

And if you're going after the failing "New York Times" -- this is the greatest test. This is something that would be on an infomercial on late-night if you were trying to get Donald Trump supporters.

BRIGGS: But it was a snoozefest, though, wasn't it?

ENTEN: It was a snoozefest. It was a snoozefest.

But I think this whole thing -- I think there are a lot of people who are just tired. They're tired of all this. I mean even the people who love the President of the United States, as I was saying. These are supposedly the greatest hits and it's just not even working anymore with them.

ROMANS: I know, but I also think that an opinion piece written anonymously on the opinion pages of "The New York Times" does not necessarily resonate in Billings.

BRIGGS: That's my point.

ROMANS: It might not -- BRIGGS: The president is great at political instincts but that just does not hit. It's not visceral.

ENTEN: I think that the problem here is that the president believes when he goes to a rally and he says anything that the crowd is going to stand up and applaud.


ENTEN: And more than that, the president is from New York. He is not in New York but he's in Billings, Montana, right?

[05:35:01] ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Yes, yes.

ENTEN: And, you know, I remember -- I actually went out and saw the president when he was candidate Trump at a rally back in Iowa in 2015 and sometimes his hits missed.

ROMANS: Right.

ENTEN: But what the president tends to do, which is smart, is when he realizes something doesn't work he --


ENTEN: -- adapts his act and he moves on.

BRIGGS: His instincts have been tremendous but people in Billings don't tend to wake up and read "The New York Times" op-eds that much.

ROMANS: He is fixated -- he is fixated though on this leaker, we know in our reporting, which is the sieve over there in this administration and that drives him crazy.

Let's talk about President Obama -- former President Obama. He is going to be giving a speech at the University of Illinois and we're told there's like 1,300 seats in the arena -- 22,000 students have signed up for it so it's not really a public speech.

And we're told he's going to be making some more pointed comments about this administration. Traditionally, presidents -- former president don't do that.

How important or what is the effect of a more forceful President Obama?

ENTEN: Well, you know, we talk consistently about how poor President Trump's approval ratings are and how poor his favorable ratings are. President Obama is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

If you look at the latest polls for Donald Trump you see here his favorable rating is just 40 percent. But if you look at President Obama's latest favorable ratings they are significantly higher -- 66 percent in a poll that we conducted earlier this year. It's not just Democrats who love President Obama, it's the country at large who still very much like this former president. And if he can get out on the campaign trail and if he can spread a message, yes, there are going to be some Trump supporters who are just going to tune him out. But those centrist voters -- those voters in the middle -- they're much more likely to side with President Obama and what he's saying than what President Trump is saying.

ROMANS: Yes, but what are the Democrats offering? Obama is still the past.

BRIGGS: Right, and you can't help but wonder if Obama will overshadow the future candidates for the Democratic Party like Cory Booker, who on day two of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, tried to make this big show of some e-mails that he was going to release against the Senate rules.

He thought that was his moment, he had the spotlight, and this happened.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), MEMBER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I understand that that -- the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate. And if Sen. Cornyn believes that I've violated Senate rules, I openly invite and accept the consequences of my team releasing that e-mail right now.

This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an "I am Spartacus" moment.


BRIGGS: OK, alluding to the 1960 film there.


BRIGGS: I thought it was more of an Obi-Wan strike me down, I get more powerful-type moment, but did it just flounder?

ENTEN: You know, speaking --

BRIGGS: If this is his entrance to 2020, did it work?

ENTEN: No -- no, it did not. I mean, if we're talking about lines that miss with President Trump, this entire thing seemed to miss for me.

And there's no doubt that Cory Booker wants to be President of the United States. It's very clear.


ENTEN: He's been running for it for nearly 20 years now.

What one of the things -- you know, we put together a list -- Chris Cillizza and I -- in August of the top definitive rankings and here it is.

We had Booker at seven. And one of the things that we defined Booker is as someone who sometimes almost seems like he's acting -- that he's inauthentic. And that clip right there is a manifestation of what I believe is his number one problem.

If President Obama has those speeches -- those oratories that really seem to connect with people that take you sky high, Cory Booker does not seem to have that. He's going to have to work on his act a little bit more so that it doesn't seem so much like an act.

BRIGGS: Both the style and the substance because the style failed but Republicans said we already said you could release those e-mails.

ENTEN: There we go.

BRIGGS: Well, the substance failed as well.

ENTEN: Right. I just thought that the entire performance was something that was more out of a state senator than a United States senator.

ROMANS: All right. Harry Enten, nice to see you.

BRIGGS: Harry Enten, good to see you, my friend. Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

ROMANS: A major shift for the U.S. commitment to Syria. The State Department's new envoy to Syria says troops should remain until there is an enduring defeat of ISIS. That could take a long time, even though the president has suggested a more imminent pullout.

I want to bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, live from Damascus.

There are -- there are dozens of American troops in and around Idlib Province. We know maybe 2,000 --


ROMANS: -- in the country writ large.

PLEITGEN: Yes, you're absolutely right, Christine.

The president, of course, originally saying that he wanted the U.S. out of Syria by the end of the year. Now it seems all of that has changed and the U.S. might be staying here indefinitely.

Now, of course, the interesting thing is that there seems to be two missions in all this. One of them is the ultimate defeat of ISIS which, as you said, could take a very long time.

But then, also making sure that Iran gets out of Syria, and that certainly is a very tall and very difficult task that could put the U.S. at odds not just with the Assad regime but then also, of course, with the Russians here as well who see the Iranians as their partners. But, of course, the Iranians and the Russians both know that the U.S. at any point in time -- while it's taken a step back recently -- has the firepower and the means to become a major player here in Syria very, very quickly once again.

At the same time Christine, you have a huge summit that's taking place today in Tehran, the capital of Iran, where the Russians, the Iranians, and the Turks are trying to hammer out some sort of agreement to prevent major bloodshed in that last enclave that's held by rebels here in northern Syria, Idlib Province.

[05:40:10] Of course, there's a lot of concern on the part of the U.S. of about three million civilians who are still inside there. The Russians, for their part, are saying there's also a lot of hardline Islamists there that need to be defeated immediately. The Iranians are calling it a hotbed of terrorism.

Just a quick note before I hand it back to you. We are hearing that there are airstrikes already on Idlib Province this morning, Christine.

ROMANS: OK, that's a really important detail. Thank you so much for that and continue to work your sources and we'll follow up on that if there's -- there are new developments.

Thanks, Fred.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, Defense Sec. James Mattis touching down in Afghanistan. He already met with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani. Mattis will also see Gen. Austin Miller, the new commander of Resolute Support and U.S. forces.

He'll host a town hall with the troops.

Coming up here, the NFL kicks off the 2018 season. The Eagles raising their championship banner. Could they hold off the Falcons?

Well, Andy Scholes was at the game. He has the high and the lowlights in the "Bleacher Report," next.


[05:45:21] ROMANS: Breaking overnight, a suspect is in custody following a hostage drama in Washington State just outside of Tacoma.

Police say an armed suspect wearing body armor walked into a business and took one person hostage. This was part of an attempted armed robbery. The suspect fired multiple rounds as authorities rescued the hostage.

The suspect was eventually taken into custody. He was hit once in the vest but did not suffer serious injury. No officers were hurt.

BRIGGS: Hollywood mourning the loss of beloved movie icon actor Burt Reynolds.


BURT REYNOLDS, ACTOR, SCENE FROM "DELIVERANCE": We get connected up with that body and the law. This ain't going to be hanging over us the rest of our lives.


BRIGGS: Reynolds breakthrough performance in the 1972 film "Deliverance" made him a star, his career spanning more than 50 years.

He became Hollywood's biggest box office draw in the late 1970s and early 80s when he starred in his most successful film "Smokey and the Bandit" alongside Sally Field.



SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: They're not fat.

REYNOLDS: They're bigger than mine.

FIELD: Do we really want to talk about legs?

REYNOLDS: One of us does.


ROMANS: All of the 70s and 80s was a special time.

BRIGGS: Good times.

ROMANS: Reynolds had a career comeback in the 90s. His role in the film "Boogie Nights" earned him his only Oscar nomination.

Sally Field co-starred in four films with him and they dated for five years.

She writes this. "There are times in your life that are so indelible they never fade away. They stay alive even 40 years later. My years with Burt never leave my mind."

The great Burt Reynolds was 82 years old.

BRIGGS: Let's not forget the Florida State running back who played a quarterback in "The Longest Yard" -- a real football connection.

And speaking of football, the Philadelphia Eagles kicking off the NFL season last night, unveiling their first-ever Super Bowl championship banner.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes is in Philly with this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

BRIGGS: Hey, man. ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys.

You know, the fans here in Philadelphia were all pumped up, ready for a big celebration last night to celebrate their Super Bowl one more time, and then some thunderstorms came through and caused a delay. It was 45 minutes before the game would eventually get going.

And once the storm passed, the Eagles unveiling their championship banner. That was the highlight of the night and it took a very long time.

The first half of this game, a snoozefest -- so many penalties.

And in the third quarter, the Eagles ran their famous Super Bowl play, the Philly Special. This time it was a little different. They called it Philly Philly instead of the Philly Special. That really got the crowd into it.

The game came down to the last play and just like the playoffs last year, Matt Ryan would be incomplete to Julio Jones. The Eagles hold on to their fans' delight on banner night, winning this one 18-12.

Now, before the game, Boyz II Men performed the National Anthem and the only player to demonstrate during the National Anthem was Eagles player Michael Bennett. He stood with his teammates for much of it and then right at the end he went and sat on the bench.

Now, Malcolm Jenkins, who has raised his fist and stayed in the tunnel previously during the National Anthem, did not do either last night. And after the game, he explained his decision to change up what he was doing.


MALCOLM JENKINS, SAFETY, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: I think there's a huge need for us to turn the attention towards the issues, and not only the issues but what players are actually doing in their communities to effectuate change.

And so -- you know, we're trying to move past the rhetoric of, you know, what's right and what's wrong on the Anthem. We just need to focus on the systemic issues that occurred in our communities.


SCHOLES: All right.

U.S. Open action from yesterday. Serena Williams rolling through Anastasia Sevastova in straight sets to reach her first Open final since 2014.

Serena trying to win her 24th Grand Slam title which would tie her with Margaret Court for the most all-time. And if she does it she'd become the oldest woman ever to win a Grand Slam singles title.

After the match, Serena tweeting out this adorable picture of her daughter Olympia with the caption saying "Did momma win?" -- which I think is just great.

Serena's going to take on 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in the finals tomorrow, guys. And get this, when Serena first played her first Grand Slam final, Osaka was three months old --

ROMANS: Oh, wow.

SCHOLES: -- just to put that in perspective of how long Serena's --


SCHOLES: -- been this great.


BRIGGS: Yes, it's about time we start acknowledging she's the greatest athlete of all time. Forget the gender. She's just a treasure.

ROMANS: A great.


ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: All right, Andy Scholes, thank you.

"NEW DAY" about 10 minutes away. Alisyn Camerota joining us.

About the same time that football game was played last night, the president was on stage at a Billings, Montana rally and Alisyn, still trying to find the author of "The New York Times" op-ed. The search continues.

[05:50:08] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the game of Clue continues about that. So this morning we're going to have on lots of different voices about whether or not this person is a hero or a villain.

We have conservative voices like David Frum and Rick Santorum who do not like what this author did. And then, we have others who applaud the author. So we'll get into all of that.

Also, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings have been quite dramatic and fiery, and we want to talk about what we've learned about where he stands on presidential -- you know, executive privilege --

ROMANS: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- and whether or not a sitting president can be indicted. And, of course, Roe versus Wade.

John Avlon, in a sentence, used the term "stare decisis." So I feel like you are really into what's happening.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I like to name -- I like to drop Latin salt and peppered into my conversations just to keep it real.

CAMEROTA: I know you do.

AVLON: Just to keep it real.

CAMEROTA: You say like e pluribus unum all the time. It's very strange.

AVLON: It's a strange take especially for someone who failed Latin, which is the irony of it.

CAMEROTA: So we'll be getting into all of that. And I must say I'm very sad about Burt Reynolds.


CAMEROTA: I saw "Smokey and the Bandit" --

ROMANS: I know.

CAMEROTA: -- like a thousand times when I was 10 or whatever.

AVLON: Can we -- can we give a shout-out for late Burt Reynolds "Boogie Nights"?

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes.

AVLON: I mean, come on.

CAMEROTA: That was awesome.

BRIGGS: He didn't like that film.

ROMANS: Well, he didn't like -- he was not proud of that film.

BRIGGS: He never saw it.

AVLON: Well, that -- he was mistaken.

CAMEROTA: He was -- he was wrong.

BRIGGS: He was more of a "Cannonball Run" guy.

AVLON: I think we could just say that --


BRIGGS: "Cannonball Run" was my favorite.

AVLON: Really?

BRIGGS: Oh, yes. I watched that 100 times.


AVLON: I took you for more of a "Deliverance" guy, Briggs. (LAUGHTER)


ROMANS: We'll leave it there.

BRIGGS: All right.

ROMANS: Thank, you guys. Nice to see you.

BRIGGS: Yes, see you in a bit.

ROMANS: All right. Your next Amazon order might be delivered by Amazon. We'll tell you about the big truck order that's beefing up the Amazon fleet. That's next.


[05:56:12] BRIGGS: Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Website "InfoWars" banned by Twitter. Twitter says it took the action based on tweets and videos that violated the company's abusive behavior policy. Other Silicon Valley sites announced a similar ban a month ago.

The decision coming one day after Jones confronted Sen. Marco Rubio in a Capitol Hill hallway outside a hearing for tech executives. Don't touch me, man.

After the ban was announced, Jones posted a video on his Website claiming this is the deep state striking back.

The New York attorney general issuing subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state -- all eight -- as part of an investigation into how they reviewed and possibly covered up allegations of sexual abuse of minors. It comes just weeks after a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed decades of abuse by predator priests.

The Archdiocese of New York says in a statement, "Church officials are ready and eager to cooperate."

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money" this Friday morning.

U.S. stocks futures down, slightly ahead of the government's monthly jobs report. A big slide in tech stocks and concerns about trade have weighed on the market this week. Stock markets in Europe and Asia are mixed.

One stock to watch today, Twitter. Investors have been dumping shares after CEO Jack Dorsey's visit to Capitol Hill. Look at that. The Twitter stock has tumbled 12 percent in just the past two days, erasing big gains from August.

Investors are worried about future regulations and the company's ability to fight misinformation. Twitter's big drop nothing compared to what's going on with Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency is crashing. Bitcoin prices have dropped more than 20 percent in the past two days. Other cryptocurrencies have also plunged.

The reason? Well, there's this report that investment banking giant Goldman Sachs may be dropping plans to launch a crypto trading desk. That's a report in "Business Insider."

Goldman Sachs, though, tells us at "CNN Money" it has not made a firm decision about Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

A huge run-up earlier this year was built on the notion -- the hope that institutional banks would somehow legitimize cryptocurrencies by trading them.

Amazon is 20,000 steps closer to delivering its own packages. The company ordering 20,000 Sprinter vans from Mercedes-Benz. Each was painted dark blue and bears the signature prime arrow logo. The deal is a big leap from Amazon's first order of just 5,000 vans.

In July, Amazon announced it would begin recruiting people to launch their own small delivery businesses that would deliver packages locally. It says tens of thousands of people have applied, including veterans, families -- and, Amazon tells us a former NFL player that Amazon declined to name.

BRIGGS: Very intriguing. Amazon also streaming Thursday night NFL football games --


BRIGGS: -- like last night's season opener.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. Have a great weekend, everybody.

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


TRUMP: Nobody knows who the hell he is. "The New York Times" should publish his name at once.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Other officials started scrambling, tripping over each other to put out denials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's stretching our democracy to a breaking point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No country can survive a president who lies like this.

BOOKER: I broke the Senate rules by reading from that e-mail.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: It would be a mistake for any perspective member to say here's how I will vote on a case.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINEE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Roe v. Wade is an important precedent in the Supreme Court.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: OK, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to take your word for that.

CAMEROTA: It is Friday.

BERMAN: I'm waiting for a second source.

CAMEROTA: It's September seventh and it is 6:00 here in New York.

And it's been quite a week, from the jaw-dropping op-ed written by an unnamed Trump senior official to Bob Woodward's bombshell book called "Fear."

President Trump is in damage control mode by trying, in part, to frighten his supporters about what would happen if Republicans do not win in the midterms.