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EARLY START

Roy Moore Wins Alabama GOP Senate Runoff; Trump Defends Puerto Rico Response; Trump Threatens North Korea. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: He is now deploying resources and planning a trip to Puerto Rico next week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Was I preoccupied? Not at all, not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the president says he's not preoccupied with the National Anthem controversy, but more than two dozen tweets later he's still not letting up on the NFL.

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

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

You know, Puerto Rico needs more help.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: When you see it on the cover -- "An American Tragedy," the "Daily News" calls it.

BRIGGS: It's not often put that way.

ROMANS: Puerto Rico needs more help and it needs a plan and it needs resources immediately. And not just immediate disaster relief but it's got to rebuild a power grid, it's got to rebuild roads. It's really --

BRIGGS: It needs drinking water desperately.

ROMANS: What was it supposed to get?

BRIGGS: Twenty-four percent --

ROMANS: Unbelievable.

BRIGGS: -- from the Pentagon.

ROMANS: All right. Let's start with politics here this half hour. A major blow to the Republican establishment. Roy Moore winning the Alabama GOP Senate runoff defeating Luther Strange who was backed by President Trump in the race for the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

BRIGGS: Moore was supported by former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The bombastic evangelical Christian was ousted twice as Alabama's chief justice, including once for refusing to follow the Supreme Court's ruling legalizing gay marriage. Moore campaigned on a platform of placing Christianity at the center of public life.

ROMANS: Moore says he spoke with President Trump, who congratulated him on the victory.

The president said nothing about the race as he returned to the White House late Tuesday but he was active on Twitter, deleting three recent tweets he had posted supporting Luther Strange.

CNN's Alex Marquardt was at Moore's election headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

Well, of course, this was a Republican primary election on the surface but really, it was about so much more than that. It was the latest in the battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

Tonight's election dealt a huge blow to the Republican establishment in Washington and a significant blow to the president who, of course, endorsed the opponent of Judge Roy Moore, who is the victor.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA, WINNER OF ALABAMA GOP SENATE RUNOFF: We can support the president. Don't let anybody in the press think that because he supported my opponent that I do not support him and support his agenda.

MARQUARDT: This was a race about the insiders versus the outsiders, the grassroots versus the establishment and, of course, the president against so many in his base.

Instead, many of the president's top supporters like Sarah Palin and Steve Bannon, a former senior adviser, came out in support of Judge Roy Moore who is very much the outsider. Someone who had never worked in Washington, someone who talked routinely about draining the swamp.

The president made it clear why he was supporting interim Sen. Luther Strange at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday, saying it was all about loyalty.

At the same rally and in almost the same breath, the president wondered aloud, with Sen. Strange standing not too far away, whether he had made a mistake wading into this race. Whether he had made a mistake supporting Sen. Strange.

He said that if Strange lost he would suffer a major embarrassment. The president, presumably, now trying to come to terms with that embarrassment.

The president also said that no matter who won this race that he would support him against the Democrat, Doug Jones. Christine, Dave --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: It looks like he was wondering aloud whether it was the right strategy.

All right. Thanks --

BRIGGS: I think he wondered throughout the last week or so.

ROMANS: -- Alex.

BRIGGS: The headline on "Breitbart," "Establishment GOP brought to its knees."

But what does this mean for President Trump?

Let's bring back Zach Wolf, "CNN POLITICS DIGITAL" director. Zach, good morning to you.

Let's talk about what this means for President Trump. He tweeted about this repeatedly even though he's deleted some of those tweets, strangely, overnight.

Here's what Trump said a couple of days ago -- this was Friday -- about what will happen if Luther Strange loses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If Luther doesn't win they're not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They're going to say Donald Trump, the President of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line. It is a terrible, terrible moment for Trump. This is total embarrassment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Well, he gave us the material. Is that correct, Zach?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL: Well, he was, in fact, unable to pull his candidate across the line.

He went down there and he talked to the people in Alabama. Alabama was one of the first places he visited as a candidate to have one of those big Trump rallies a couple of years ago, so it's a place that Trump, you know, knows -- that he can tap into. He wasn't able to bring this across the line.

He was -- however, I will point out the line with Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader in this race, and that might be the bigger implication here.

It's not so much a Trump issue because we had people on both sides of Trump essentially in there. We had Steve Bannon whispering on one side and Trump himself kind of halfheartedly endorsing Strange on the other side.

[05:35:04] The bigger deal is probably for Mitch McConnell who was all in for Luther Strange -- who really wanted that vote in his caucus. And now, he's going to have to deal with Roy Moore who is a -- is a -- is a happy iconoclast and likes to --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

WOLF: -- rock the boat.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, absolutely.

Let's listen to what -- you know, Steve Bannon was campaigning for Judge Moore, frankly, and was saying to people a vote for Moore is a vote for Trump, so they were sort of trying to have it both ways.

Listen to what he said about how this should be the model for Republican races.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: State after state after state -- people that follow the model of Judge Moore, that do not need to raise money from the elites, from the crony capitalists, from the fat cats in Washington, D.C., New York City, Silicon Valley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Interesting, right? That got a lot of -- is he right?

WOLF: Yes. Well, and I would also point out this is the first sort of scalp for anti-establishment Republicans in a number of years.

McConnell had a very good record of picking Senate candidates in these states and getting them to beat the anti-establishment folks going back, I think four years, at this point, to win Richard Lugar -- lost some years ago.

But this is -- this is going to send, I think, shock waves throughout the Senate, particularly for McConnell. He had spent a lot of money from his super PAC on this race.

BRIGGS: A tough day for Mitch McConnell because the front page of "The New York Times" -- "Republicans Drop Measure to Undo Health Care Law."

They're not even going to have a vote. They didn't have the votes. Even Ted Cruz opposed this. There may have been many more no's than we even know about at this point.

What's next for health care? What does it mean for Republicans when they run again in 2018?

WOLF: Well, it's dead for now and you can't really see something else happening unless they figure out some magical way to come up with a bill that 50 or more Republicans can get behind, or the make-up of the Senate changes -- one of those two things. Basically, it's not going to happen until there's a development.

ROMANS: Today, you know, focus now turning on tax -- you know, tax reform -- or tax cuts. I'm hearing more tax cuts, less tax reform, frankly, but the president's going to outline that today in Indiana so they'll be -- we'll hear it from his own words.

Will the president be able to, I guess, you know, carry the water of tax reform better than he did on health care reform?

WOLF: Well, it's something -- again, Republicans have wanted to do this for a long time but the tax system is just full of minefields, you know. And no issue hits Americans in the pocketbook like this one, obviously.

When you start talking about ways to pay for these tax cuts that's doing away with tax incentives --

ROMANS: Yes.

WOLF: -- that people have other places, and it's hard to see how they -- how they come by with that.

Mitch McConnell has been much more bullish on tax reform than he was on health reform.

ROMANS: Sure -- yes, yes. I mean, there -- I mean, you could get some Democrats -- you'd get Democrats on board because, you know, President Obama wanted to cut the corporate tax rate, too, you know. So there's --

BRIGGS: Joe Donnelly would be with the president today -- a Democrat.

ROMANS: There's some -- yes, there's some bipartisanship there.

I want to ask you about these -- the new descriptions we've seen of these Russian-bought, politically-themed ads on Facebook.

So, the Senate Intelligence Committee chair -- the Republican, Richard Burr, said it looks more like the use of these Russian-linked accounts was about creating chaos across the political spectrum -- across the spectrum of democracy. You know, gun rights, and Black Lives Matter, and around culture issues and wedge issues. More chaos than collusion.

There still is not a lot of transparency from what was -- what was happening on Facebook.

What do you make of this new development?

WOLF: There's not -- and I would love to see what those ads were. ROMANS: Yes.

WOLF: We've heard them now described, I think -- our Dylan Byers at CNN has a report on this -- where they would have ads that were, you know, in favor of Black Lives Matter as it were, against Black Lives Matter. And it was more about -- it wasn't about pushing up Trump and pushing down Clinton or something like that, but just about creating this sort of toxic atmosphere --

ROMANS: Yes.

WOLF: -- in the U.S., which is a --

ROMANS: Amplifying discord --

BRIGGS: And, so chaos.

ROMANS: I mean, it looks like amplifying discord, you know, which undermines democracy. Which is, of course, the point of all of that.

BRIGGS: All right. "CNN POLITICS DIGITAL" director --

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach.

BRIGGS: -- Zach Wolf, thank you, sir.

ROMANS: Have a great day.

WOLF: Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right.

President Trump heading to Puerto Rico next week, part of a public effort to redouble recovery efforts there. Recovery still coming, though, at a very slow pace. We're live in San Juan at the airport -- a tough scene there -- next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:43:40] ROMANS: President Trump is pivoting now to the crisis in Puerto Rico after questions about whether he is distracted from the human suffering there. Now, there is an increased urgency in the White House. The president surprised staffers with plans to travel to Puerto Rico next week.

BRIGGS: In a meeting late yesterday with senior officials, the president made it clear there's no such thing as over-responding. Every element of the government must plan for long-term support of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

ROMANS: And this new compassionate tone from President Trump in this late-night tweet. "America's hearts and prayers are with the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We will get through this and we will get through this together."

BRIGGS: Earlier in the day, the president defended the White House hurricane response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We've gotten A pluses on Texas and on Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico. But the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of the ocean, and it's a big ocean -- it's a very big ocean -- and we're doing a really good job.

It's out in the ocean. You can't just drive your trucks there from other states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Or, it's about 1,000 miles.

The Pentagon will deploy the hospital ship USNS Comfort and the U.S. Air Force sending additional aircraft to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to ramp up daily relief missions.

[05:45:00] ROMANS: The biggest challenge is getting emergency supplies in and people out. Only 10 commercial flights a day are landing on the island. One airline source tells us planes are departing from San Juan with some empty seats, partly because damaged equipment is slowing TSA screenings.

CNN's Boris Sanchez live at San Juan's international airport.

Boris, we've been hearing from passengers there who just want to get out. They have family in the United States -- the mainland United States. They want to go home to friends and family or find someplace safe and they're stuck in an airport with not a lot of resources and no electricity -- and no air conditioning.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. Some of them are actually people that live in the mainland United States that are on vacation that are just trying to get home.

There's a lot of frustration here. This is the largest airport in Puerto Rico and people have been coming here since shortly after the hurricane trying to get off the island.

They're desperate not only for vital resources like food and potable water -- much of the island is still without potable water -- but also information. Several people have been coming up to us asking when flights are leaving, if certain airlines are operating. They don't have cellular service, many of them don't have Internet.

And, frankly, some of the airlines themselves don't really have a clear picture of how they'll be able to operate because there's equipment -- sensitive equipment here at the airport that is largely inoperative, including an air traffic control tower that limits the amount of aircraft that can come in, the altitude that the aircraft can come in at, and the kind of aircraft that can fly in.

So you're seeing a slow trickle of people leaving but many of them have been here for several days. I was here last night. I just want to show you this line, very quickly, before we send it back to you.

I was here last night speaking to several people in this line that formed at about 11:00 a.m. yesterday, many of them trying to get on a Southwest Airlines flight that was set to depart at 6:00 a.m. this morning. It does not look like that flight is leaving on time.

Some of these folks have been here more than four days with young children sleeping on the ground. So there is a very deep, deep sense of frustration here. They are hoping that things will soon change and you'll get more than those 10 flights that are now leaving Puerto Rico.

ROMANS: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Christine --

ROMANS: We can tell you that American Airlines says that it's got three flights, I think, a day there. But, St. Martin -- it's not operating in St. Martin. Operations suspended there, in St. Thomas suspended there, and St. Croix as well. So still, a lot of work to do getting help in and people out.

Boris, thank you. Nice to see you.

Forty-seven minutes past the hour.

Maria causing billions of dollars in damage and Puerto Rico, years into a recession, is in no position to bear the entire cost. So who can help the island?

Insurance is the first line of defense but only 50 percent of Puerto Rican homes have wind insurance. Fewer than one percent have flood insurance. That leaves federal aid to make up the difference.

FEMA funds go directly to disaster relief. FEMA's budget only has $11 billion through next year and two other hurricanes to deal with.

That leaves donations. Starbucks, Verizon, and Google have already pitched in. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, pledge $1 million. The NFL will fundraise during Thursday's game.

But, Puerto Rico's economy was in trouble way before this storm. It is crippled by $74 billion in debt, the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy.

Puerto Rico may have to renegotiate with creditors. Who are those creditors? Who holds -- who owns Puerto Rican debt?

American savers and investors, through muni bond mutual funds, and Wall Street pros, through hedge funds.

Really interesting to see if Donald Trump and his experience with debt and getting out -- BRIGGS: And bankruptcy.

ROMANS: -- from under a lot of debt could maybe be helpful in dealing with these creditors and maybe forcing some of them to take a haircut on what they're owed.

BRIGGS: The art of the comeback two.

All right, time for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Alisyn Camerota joining us. Good morning to you.

CAMEROTA: OK, debt's helpful. That's what I just got out of what Christine said. Thank you, Christine.

So anyway, let me tell you what's happening on "NEW DAY." We have, obviously, a lot of news to get to.

What does Roy Moore's win in Alabama mean? What does it mean for Mitch McConnell, majority leader, what does it mean for Donald Trump, what does it mean for the country? We have all of our best political analysts with us this morning to break it down.

Then, we have Bill Weir and our producer Jennifer Rivera on the ground in Puerto Rico. They're going to some of Jennifer's old childhood areas, neighborhood schools to just see the devastation in Puerto Rico and whether or not the people there will be able to rebuild.

And then I have one of our signature Trump voter panels for you where they weigh in on the president's response to Puerto Rico, as well as so many other things.

So make sure you tune in at the top of the hour for all of that. We'll see you then.

ROMANS: Your voter panel yesterday was gripping.

BRIGGS: Surprising.

ROMANS: I've got to tell you -- about the NFL response -- it was gripping.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: I really enjoyed that.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. I really appreciate it because, you know, they always say unexpected things.

BRIGGS: Right.

CAMEROTA: You can never predict what they're going to say and today is no different.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Alisyn.

BRIGGS: Looking forward to it. Thanks. ROMANS: All right.

Twitter testing a new character limit for tweets. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:54:25] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If we take that option it will be devastating, I can tell you that -- devastating for North Korea. That's called the military option. If we have to take it, we will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: A familiar warning from President Trump as North Korea increases its military readiness by moving fighter jets, fuel tanks, and air-to-air missiles to a base on its east coast.

The White House ramping up the pressure on Kim Jong Un, imposing new sanctions on eight North Korean banks.

Let's go live to Seoul and bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks. Paula, good morning to you.

[05:55:00] That word 'devastating' probably sounds like what it could be there in South Korea. What's the reaction to all of this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, to be honest, Dave, this is now becoming almost a daily occurrence when you hear these kind of words from the U.S. president. So, no official reaction -- no basic reaction, really, at this point. It's just an ongoing war of words that is intensifying.

What would get a reaction, though, is the new sanctions -- the unilateral sanctions from the U.S. So, eight North Korean banks. Many of them do business with China. They have been sanctioned by the U.S. -- 26 individuals -- North Koreans living in China and in Libya and other countries.

And that's the sort of thing that South Koreans and experts here are encouraging because North Korea has been under sanctions for many, many years. They are very good at finding loopholes -- at circumventing these sanctions.

And they have many front companies. It's known by many officials and experts that they just change the name when they are sanctioned.

So it is an ever-changing dynamic and a real chase for the international community to try and stop the cash getting to North Korea to go towards its nuclear missile program -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul. Thanks.

We're following some breaking news out of Afghanistan. Multiple rockets landing near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul just as U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis makes an unannounced visit to the country. The Afghan Interior Ministry says Sec. Mattis had already left the airport when the incident happened.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility, claiming the plane Mattis was traveling in was the target, but there is no proof of that claim.

ROMANS: All right.

The Saudi Arabian government has finally decided to allow women to drive. A committee is now being formed to implement the royal decree. The government will have until June of next year to act on its recommendation.

BRIGGS: The decision was -- has huge implications for the Saudi economy and a woman's ability to work.

President Trump praising the move, calling it a positive step forward, promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia.

A long way to go there, though, for equality.

ROMANS: Oh, absolutely.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning at 57 minutes past the hour.

Global stock markets are higher. Investors are waiting on one thing and one thing only, U.S. tax reform.

President Trump unveils details of his tax plan today. Expect the U.S. business rate cut to be 20 percent. That could boost corporate profits and make companies richer.

Wall Street closed flat after Fed Chief Janet Yellen hinted again at a December rate hike.

Tech stocks rebounded. The Dow now down four days in a row.

Equifax CEO Richard Smith may be out but he still has to testify about Equifax's huge data breach and its botched response. The company announced Smith's sudden retirement yesterday just three weeks after disclosing a hack that affects 143 million Americans. Equifax faces a federal investigation and Smith is set to testify on Capitol Hill next week.

He walks away without a bonus this year but he is still -- he is still -- could eventually receive $90 million in salary and stocks. That's according to company filings. Ninety million dollars, by the way, is equivalent to about 63 cents for every American exposed in that breach.

Twitter testing out twice as much tweet. For the first time, Twitter changing its character limit, doubling it from 140 characters to 280 characters. Now, the company's going to test this longer limit on a small portion of users. It's not me, it's not you, right? We're still --

BRIGGS: No, I'm not in.

ROMANS: We're not in this test group.

They're going to monitor the response for several weeks before making a final decision. Twitter says it hopes people will embrace the change.

I like 140 characters because it forces you to be succinct. It forces you to channel your inner Hemmingway and take out all the unnecessary adjectives.

BRIGGS: Yes. We like tie-in writing here --

ROMANS: Yes, exactly. Write tight.

BRIGGS: -- so I agree with you.

But if the president's involved in that group, that could get interesting on the Korean Peninsula.

ROMANS: I don't know if he's in the test group.

BRIGGS: Hopefully, not.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

A shock to the Republican establishment. Roy Moore's victory and the Alabama Senate runoff could open the door for more trouble for Mitch McConnell.

"NEW DAY" has you covered, right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUTHER STRANGE (R), ALABAMA, LOST SENATE PRIMARY RUNOFF: The president took a chance and I'm sure he'll be criticized for coming to campaign for me.

BRIGGS: Right-wing firebrand Roy Moore defeating the Trump-backed candidate in Alabama.

TRUMP: They're going to say Donald Trump was unable to pull his candidate across the line.

MOORE: Don't think that because he supported my opponent that I do not support him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was an establishment versus grassroots battle.

TRUMP: We've gotten A pluses on Texas and on Florida. We will, also, on Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's stop the self-congratulations which we haven't earned yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten thousand federal responders on the ground right now.

REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ (D), NEW YORK: If you don't take this crisis seriously this is going to be your Katrina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)