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EARLY START

Gordon Set to Hit Gulf Coast; Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings Begin Today; Trump: Don't Prosecute Supporters; Nike Turns to Kaepernick; Primary Day in Massachusetts. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 4, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


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[04:31:01] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tropical storm Gordon barreling toward the gulf. Two million people under advisories. It's expected to become a hurricane later today.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings begin this morning. Democrats have a four-point plan to challenge the Supreme Court nominee.

ROMANS: The president targets Jeff Sessions again. This time he slams the attorney general for not placing allies above the law.

BRIGGS: And Nike throws its support behind Colin Kaepernick, the polarizing quarterback now part of the iconic marketing campaign. And speaking of marketing, Nike has the NFL jersey deal until 2028. That will be an interesting meeting between the NFL and Nike.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour. Nice to see you all this Tuesday morning.

Let's begin with tropical storm Gordon strengthening overnight, forecast now to be of hurricane when it makes landfall later today. About 2 million people along the Gulf Coast under hurricane watch or warning. States of emergency have been declared in Louisiana and Mississippi. Officials in Biloxi have ordered the evacuation of the city's four harbors and marinas. People along the coast turning to sand bags and other measures to keep their boats and their property safe.

BRIGGS: In New Orleans, the mayor declared a voluntary evacuation for areas outside the city's levee system. New Orleans city hall now closed to nonessential personnel. Gordon has already lashed south Florida with rain and tropical storm force winds. Many schools from Florida to Louisiana closed or are closing early.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri up early with us in the CNN Weather Center.

P.J., good morning. What's in store?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning. Yes, you know, we're watching this because this storm system really, if were you to have a tropical storm system in the Gulf of Mexico in the month of September, Gordon is what you want to see. It's very disorganized and, of course, we know it's over a very warm environment here. So, strengthening is expected. But at this point, 65-mile-per- hour winds.

And a key ingredient here, moving west-north west at 17 miles per hour which for a tropical system. That is screaming across the gulf here with little time to further strengthen into a major hurricane. So, you take a look.

When storms move slowly, as you saw with Harvey, five miles per hour, you can produce 30, 40 50 inches of rainfall. When they move quickly as it is with Gordon, upwards of almost 20 miles per hour, five, six, seven inches is what is expected. So, at least one piece of good news.

You have water temperatures middle 80s, upper 80s. That is warm enough here to re-strengthen a storm system over the Gulf of Mexico. And the models suggest this will move very quickly right toward southern Mississippi into the next 12 hours. Making landfall 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. tonight potentially as a category one hurricane.

Now, when you look at a system like this in an environment as such as the Gulf of Mexico where frankly it's been undisturbed for in the last couple of months and just absorbing the radiation of the sun and warming up, you give the storm an extra day or so over the Gulf of Mexico, you're looking at a major hurricane. That's not the case with Gordon and that's fantastic news.

We do have a ridge that's protecting parts of Georgia and Alabama and kind of shifting this a little farther towards the west into Mississippi and eastern areas of Louisiana. And five to seven inches is what we are looking at here, Dave, with 65-mile-an-hour winds right now potentially 75 miles per hour in about 12 or so hours as it approaches landfall. And storm surge becomes a major concern with this, of course, as with just about every single system because storm surge is the number one tropical cyclone killer in the U.S. areas in coastal Mississippi, all of them in area where water levels are expected to rise three to five feet above normal sea level there.

So, those coastal communities will be absolutely inundated with some threat of flooding.

ROMANS: Yes, take nothing for granted when this category one comes your way, even if it's moving fast.

All right, Pedram. Thank you so much for that.

Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh begin this morning. Democrats plan to target four areas portraying him as misleading and evasive. A senior Senate Democratic source telling us they will take aim at Kavanaugh's candor, painting him as untruthful. They'll highlight his skepticism of the Affordable Care Act and pre-existing condition protections. [04:35:02] Democrats will dig into his views on abortion and Roe v.

Wade. And they will probe his opinions on executive power and investigations of a sitting president.

BRIGGS: On the eve of the hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee received more confidential papers over his time in the George W. Bush White House. Democrats complained they can't possibly evaluate all those documents in time. But Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley claims his staff has already done it.

CNN's Ariane De Vogue has a preview of the confirmation fight ahead.

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ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Christine and Dave, expect today's confirmation hearing to be bitter. Brett Kavanaugh is up for the seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy was the swing vote on so many hot button social issues -- abortion, affirmative action, LGBT rights.

Kavanaugh is not only more conservative than Kennedy, he's younger. He is poised to move the Supreme Court to the right for decades to come.

Democrats have several lines of attack. So, they will press him hard on his views. They say they have been denied thousands of documents from his days serving in the Bush White and citing his views that a sitting president shouldn't be indicted. They want Kavanaugh to pledge to recuse himself if any of the current investigations concerning President Trump make it to the Supreme Court.

Republicans on the other hand feel confident that he'll be confirmed -- Christine, Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Ariane De Vogue, thank you so much for that.

President Trump is targeting his attorney general in the controversial way, blasting Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice for indicting two of his earliest supporters in Congress. The president suggesting they should not be charged because they are Republicans.

We have more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

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JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump has routinely gone after his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but doing so in an entirely different way, by directly questioning the Justice Department's role in the ongoing criminal investigation.

Take a look at this tweet from Monday when the president wrote this. He said two easy wins in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job, Jeff. The president referring, of course, to the indictments of two sitting

Republican Congressmen Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California. Both, of course, were key early supporters of the president. They have been indicted on separated unrelated financial matters. But the president for the first time really saying that the attorney general and Justice Department should take political considerations in mind when they make their cases.

The president also making clear he is worried about Republicans holding on to their majority control of Congress, particularly the House. Now, not many Republicans at least initially were weighing in over Labor Day holiday. There were a couple. Speaker Ryan saying justices' decisions should be apolitical.

But Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said this is not a banana republic. This is not a two-tiered system, one for the majority party and minority party. But we will see how the fallout today continues on this as Republicans and Democrats return to Capitol Hill from their long Labor Day weekend -- Christine and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

"New Yorker" magazine has disinvited Steve Bannon as a headliner of its annual festival and the former White House chief strategist does not like it. Editor in chief David Remnick rescinded Bannon's invitation after several big name participants threatened to boycott the event. Remnick was preparing to interview Bannon at that festival. But after "The New York Times" revealed Bannon's participation, celebrities like Jim Carrey, Patton Oswalt and Judd Apatow threaten to pull out.

Apatow tweeting this: I will not take part in an event that normalizes hate.

BRIGGS: In a letter to the "New Yorker" staff, Remnick says he will interview Bannon in a more traditional journalistic setting in the future if the opportunity presents itself.

In a statement, Bannon says he accepted the "New Yorker's" invitation so he could face-off against one of the most fearless journalists of his generation. He goes to say, quote: In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick shows he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob.

ROMANS: The countdown to a new NAFTA deal is on. Officials from U.S. and Canada will meet again on Wednesday. Both sides claimed progress last week, but failed to reach a deal to join the preliminary agreement with Mexico. On the leak of the comment from "Bloomberg" interview with President Trump where he said the U.S. was not giving any concessions to Canada.

The president this weekend again threatened to leave Canada out of the new deal. But the Trump administration has notified Congress that it plans to act in 90 days. It leaves the door open for Canada joining if the two sides can agree to terms. President Trump marking Labor Day with a tweet, touting his administration's economic progress, writing: Our country is doing better than ever before with unemployment setting record lows. The U.S. has tremendous upside potential as we go about fixing some of the worst trade deals ever made by any country in the world, big progress being made.

BRIGGS: OK, believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. Nike commemorating an iconic ad campaign with powerful words from Colin Kaepernick.

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BRIGGS: Nike is taking a very public stand on the national anthem debate with the NFL. Making Colin Kaepernick one of the faces of the ad campaign commemorating the 30th anniversary of the iconic just do it slogan. The former 49ers quarterback tweeting out a photo with the caption that reads: believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything. Nike sponsored Kaepernick since 2011.

ROMANS: He has not played since the 2016 season, the year he began kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality. Kaepernick alleges the league is conspiring to keep him out of the league because of his protests. Last week, an arbiter denied the NFL's request to throw out his grievance. The protests have divided the league, often pitting the president of the United States and a conservative white owner base against NFL's mostly African-American players.

[04:45:06] BRIGGS: NFL's regular season starts in two days.

Meanwhile, it's primary day in Massachusetts, one of the closely watched races has two Democrats vying for the seat in Massachusetts seventh congressional district. Boston City councilwoman Ayanna Pressley running against ten-term incumbent Michael Capuano. Pressley trying to capital on that insurgent win from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

More now from CNN's Miguel Marquez.

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MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, election here in Boston that a lot of people would be watching because of a bit of an insurgency from the left. Long time Congressman Michael Capuano has been here for 20 years, ten terms in a very deeply blue district, part of the area that he's represented here was actually represented by JFK way back when.

Ayanna Pressley, she's a counsel person here in Boston and she is making a run sort of at his left, even though she's been involved in Democratic politics and doesn't quite fit that insurgent candidate. She is an African-American, the first African-American female elected to the Boston City Council. She is trying to capitalize on some of that energy, that far left energy and we caught up with both in their last full day of campaigning.

AYANNA PRESSLEY (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I believe there is a paradigm shift changing.

REP. MICHAEL CAPUANO (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Democratic Party, like all party, Democratic Party is no different. We always have issues internally. That's what families do. It's always a struggle for the hearts and minds and the soul of the party.

MARQUEZ: Now, the polls all the way along in this have shown that incumbent Michael Capuano up by at least ten points. But no one is taking anything for granted here. It is still a huge X factor as to whether or not Pressley can get the turn out those sort of disparate communities, people that don't often vote here, African-Americans, other minority groups. This is a majority minority district, nearly 60 percent of the district here is nonwhite and she's counting on that, but it is not clear that she can get out enough of those votes -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Miguel Marquez, thanks.

Torrential rains causing travel headaches at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, nearly 500 flights canceled on Labor Day, with delay stretching into the night. Authorities dealing with heavy flooding inside the terminal and directly outside the airport on I- 190. Water levels raising so high, the interstate had to be shutdown. Dozens of flights into O'Hare are already cancelled today.

ROMANS: Later this morning, divers resume the search for survivors of the deadly boat collision in the Colorado River. Hope is all but gone the body of one of the missing, 51-year-old Christie Lewis was recovered Monday morning. Three other boaters involved in Saturday night's collision have not been found. Police say the two boats collided head on along the California/Arizona border with everyone ejected into the water. Both boats sank. Nine people were injured, two critically.

BRIGGS: New York Mets Pitcher Jacob DeGrom tying a remarkable modern era Major League records. He's now allowed three or fewer runs in 25 consecutive starts. DeGrom won six innings against the Dodgers last night, leaving with the game tied at one. He also had a pair of hits and drove in a run. The all-star right hander is just 8-8 with the lowly Mets despite a sparkling 1.68 earned run average.

BRIGGS: Roger Federer out at the U.S. Open. Beaten in the round of 16 by unseeded Aussie John Millman. The first time Federer lost at the open to someone ranked outside the top 50. Second seeded Federer was off his game, double faulting ten times, failing to convert trio of set points.

And it won't get any easier for Millman. His next opponent, the number 6 seed and 13-time major champ Novak Djokovic in the quarter. Tough exit if you are in charge of ticket sales there at the open. He's a favorite.

ROMANS: All right. About 49 minutes past the hour. There are growing concerns this morning the U.S.-backed rebels in Syria could come under attack. How the president with a forceful warning to adversaries in the region. We go live to the Middle East.

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[04:53:57] ROMANS: President Trump warning the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and Iran, against attacking the last major rebel stronghold in Syria. The president calling such an attack a grave humanitarian mistake.

But Iran's foreign minister says Idlib province must be, quote, cleared of what he calls terrorists and return to government control.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is monitoring reaction for us. She is there standing by live in Istanbul -- Jomana.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, we haven't heard any reaction yet specifically to the president's tweet. Of course, that is a warning as you mentioned, but no clear threat of action from the president, although we've heard from U.S. officials in the past week that there are plans that if chemical weapons are used in the attack, this offensive, on Idlib, the United States would be ready to act. They have drawn up a list of targets that they can strike swiftly if chemical weapons are proven to be used during the offensive on Idlib.

Now, this warning from the president coming at a time where it seems operation by the Syrian regime and its allies to recapture the last rebel held province in Syria.

[04:55:10] It seems to be imminent at this point, whether it is a military movement. We've heard from U.S. officials, you had Russians moving assets in the Mediterranean and also the regime making moves on the ground. We heard these statements coming from the Russians and also from the Iranians as you mentioned that this operation could happen some time soon. They say they are going after terrorist groups. While there are a few thousand hard core jihadists in Idlib province. The concern there is for the 3 million civilians trapped in Idlib, more than a million of them have already fled other areas recaptured by the regime.

And right now, they have nowhere else to run to, Christine. And the United Nations and other agencies are warning this could be a massacre and bloodbath and very protracted military battle if it does take place.

ROMANS: It's disturbing all around. All right. Jomana in Istanbul, thank you for monitoring that for us.

BRIGGS: One U.S. service member was killed and another wounded in eastern Afghanistan in what military officials describe as an insider attack. No additional details about the attack have been released. The slain service member is the sixth American to be killed in Afghanistan this year. The wounded warrior is said to be in stable condition.

The attack coming a day after General Scott Miller officially took command of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, replacing General John Nicholson.

ROMANS: A global outcry after Myanmar sentences two "Reuters" journalists to seven years in prison. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslims. A Myanmar court ruling they broke the country's official secrets act. Now, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the ruling forces journalists to make a choice to either self center or risk prosecution.

The British ambassador to Myanmar speaking on behalf of the E.U. says the verdict has struck a hammer blow to the rule of law.

And U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says it is a responsibility of a free press to hold leaders accountable and the conviction is a stain on the Burmese government.

BRIGGS: We are getting our first look inside Brazil's 200-year-old national museum after an inferno essentially gutted it. This drone footage shows a shell of the museum remains. Priceless artifacts spanning 11,000 years went up in flames. Images on the ground show ancient artifacts reduced to ash.

Some 20 million pieces of science, history and culture may have been destroyed. The police used tear gas to disperse angry crowds who tried to force their way inside the incinerated building to see what was left. No cause has been announced, but officials have been complaining of government funding cuts and inadequate maintenance.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money this Tuesday morning. Investors return from a long weekend to a new trading month and stock markets near all-time highs. The bull market now the longest ever after a strongest summer, but September is historically challenging for investors. Since 1950, the S&P 500 has dropped half a percent on average in September.

That's the biggest average decline of any month. But it's just an average. Last year, the S&P gained in September. Still, there's some challenges investors will face in the month ahead. Trade disputes still a major issue. Will Canada join the new NAFTA deal? Still questions surrounding China and the E.U.

The labor market is tightening. Can companies find workers to hire? And will wages surpass 3 percent annual growth? We get a look Friday with the August jobs report.

And finally, the Fed, investors forecast a rate hike later this month. That in the face of President Trump's criticism of the Fed chief who he picked, Jerome Powell, saying the groups be giving him more help. But we come back from this break I would say with stocks near record highs, but a lot of headwinds to look at here.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

OK. EARLY START continues right now with hurricane projects for the gulf, and a controversial choice for Nike.

(MUSIC) ROMANS: Tropical Storm Gordon barreling toward the Gulf. Two million people under advisories. It's expected to become a hurricane later today. A brand new update from the National Weather Service is just moments away.

BRIGGS: The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings begin this morning. Democrats have a four-point plan to challenge the Supreme Court nominee. But can they lay a glove on it?

ROMANS: The president targets Jeff Sessions again. This time, the president slams his attorney general for not placing Trump allies above the law.

BRIGGS: And Nike throws its support behind Colin Kaepernick. The polarizing quarterback now part of the iconic marketing campaign.

And Twitter is lit up this morning. Everyone has a side in this. The NFL season starts in two days, folks.

Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday Morning, September 4th. It is 5:00 a.m. exactly in the East.