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EARLY START

President Blames Resistance on Unelected Deep State Operatives; Trump's New Syria Strategy; Document Drama at Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:00:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even liberals that hate me say that's terrible what they did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump venting after an op-ed that targeted his own administration from within. After a day of denials, how close is the White House to finding the mystery author?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. troops could be in Syria much longer than expected. Russia, meanwhile, warning the U.S. American troops could come under attack.

We're live in Damascus.

ROMANS: The August jobs report comes out this morning, projections for unemployment and wages just a few hours away.

BRIGGS: And Twitter says enough is enough for Alex Jones. The conspiracy peddler booted from the social platform.

Also the NFL season, folks, got under way late last night.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: The Super Bowl champs opened their defense.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, September 7th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. Let me repeat it, it's Friday.

BRIGGS: Savor for a moment.

ROMANS: All right. It wasn't me. Repeated denials from the president's allies after that scathing op-ed from an anonymous senior official in the "New York Times." Top members of the administration denying authorship, calling the op-ed amateur, laughable, sophomoric, deceitful and a lot more. We're told the president was reading the denials closely. They're being immediately printed out and delivered to him as they roll in. 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 even weighing in, calling the op-ed author, quote, cowardly, claiming he or she is sabotaging the country. But she also cited the importance of a free press. Senator Rand Paul offered up this stunning idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Smoke them out.

BRIGGS: The libertarian Rand Paul wants lie detector tests for administration officials. Savor that. 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. He has more.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR 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, but reporters at "The New York Times" should investigate who the writer of the op-ed is.

Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 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 look. I think it's backfired. Seriously. People that don't exactly dig us, they don't exactly like me, they are fighting for us. It's incredible. It's actually a beautiful thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: The prospects of impeachment also appeared to be on the president's mind as this president told his rally here in Billings, Montana. If Democrats take control of the Congress, they would probably impeach him come January -- Christine and Dave.

BRIGGS: Jim Acosta, thank you.

Breaking overnight. Defense Secretary James Mattis touching down in Afghanistan. He'll meet with General Austin Miller, the newly installed commander of Resolute Support, U.S. forces during his unannounced visit. Mattis also plans to hold talks with Afghan officials and will host a town hall with the troops.

ROMANS: Score one for the Democratic establishment. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware fending off a spirited primary challenge last night from progressive Kerri Evelyn Harris. And it wasn't close. Carper's decades of experience more of a selling point than a burden with voters, it seems, who gave him a 29-point win. Harris, a 38-year-old Air Force veteran and a community organizer, may have been doomed by a cash-strapped campaign.

BRIGGS: Barack Obama is ready to get off the sidelines and get back in this political game. According to his advisers Mr. Obama planning a rebuke of President Trump in the speech today at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

We are told the Former presidents will be much more poignant about what's at stake. Former presidents generally avoid critiquing their successors. But Mr. Trump has made it a prime objective to undo his predecessor's achievements while also attacking Mr. Obama on a personal level.

ROMANS: All right. The government releases its monthly jobs report this morning with the labor market red hot. Wall Street will be looking for any signs of a cool-down. Economists expect 187,000 new jobs created in August. The jobless rate expected to stay below 4 percent. Really want to zero in on wages. That reading has been hovering around 2.7 percent for years.

[04:05:03] And that is not really very strong wage growth. Historically when the labor market gets this tight wages rise significantly as businesses are forced to attract and keep workers by paying them more. That has not happened in this recovery.

Employers added 157,000 jobs in July. Well below the average this year which is more than 200,000. If that slowdown continues, it could signal that companies are having a tough time finding workers. That's right. The economy is so hot they can't find people to do the work. That can also push the unemployment rate even lower.

BRIGGS: 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 a, quote, "enduring defeat of ISIS." That could take a long time even though the president had suggested a more imminent pullout.

Let's bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is live in Damascus this morning.

Fred, a lot to get to. Good morning to you, sir.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, you're absolutely right, Dave. And certainly those new developments out of Washington, D.C. with the U.S. apparently now saying they could be staying in Syria indefinitely until Iranian forces get out of Syria, until ISIS is completely defeated in Syria. That certainly could be a major development here.

Because one of the things, Dave, that we've seen over the past couple of months in the Syria conflict is that the Russians and the Iranians believe that the U.S. was essentially a lame duck in this conflict. They really haven't heeded any of the warnings from the Trump administration. But of course they also know that the U.S. at any point in time has the fire power to decisively change this conflict very, very quickly.

At the same time, you have a summit that's going on today in Iran, in Tehran, with the leaders of Russia, Turkey and also the Iranians as well, are trying to hammer out some sort of situation around that last rebel held stronghold of Idlib. The U.S. of course has warned that there can't be a bloodbath there, chemical weapons can't be used there, that the U.S. would respond. So far, the Assad government seems very unfazed by any of the warnings that the U.S. put out there.

They have that area completely surrounded and now all eyes are on those leaders in Tehran to see whether or not they can stop massive bloodshed there. You of course have around three million people, civilians, on the ground there still. You also have some very hard lined Islamist militias as well. So very interesting things that are going to be happening. A big day in the Syria conflict today -- Dave.

BRIGGS: It sure is. We are very fortunate to have you there. Thanks so much, Fred Pleitgen. 11:07 in Damascus.

Meanwhile, back in the nation's capitol, Brett Kavanaugh can exhale after two days of tough questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Supreme Court nominee emerged with not many apparent missteps that could jeopardize his nomination or confirmation, rather. We did learn one thing during his final day of testimony. Cory Booker appears to be running for president.

ROMANS: That's right. The Democratic senator declaring he was releasing e-mails despite their designation as committee confidential in what he called an "I am Spartacus" moment. One problem, those e- mails were no longer confidential. They had already been cleared. They were related to racial profiling. Kavanaugh has written that he favors race neutral security practices. Senator Booker calls his decision to release the e-mails an act of civil disobedience.

BRIGGS: "The Wall Street Journal" unimpressed. Their editorial board writes, "None of this offers new insight about Judge Kavanaugh but it does tell us something about Senator Booker's presidential ambitions and the degree to which Democrats are willing to demean the Senate to defeat a nominee. Mr. Booker should be tossed off the Judiciary Committee as long as he isn't reassigned to the Senate Ethics."

Wow. More now from CNN's Jessica Schneider on Capitol Hill.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the big flashpoint of the day was over documents. The drama began to unfold when New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said he was willing to risk expulsion by disclosing confidential e-mails. Well, Republicans called it all a big show saying that those exact e-mails had already been released at 4:00 in the morning. Five 1/2 hours before this hearing began. And Republicans further accused Cory Booker of just saying he was disclosing this to advance his possible presidential bid.

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SEN. CORY BOOKER (R), NEW JERSEY: I'm going to release the e-mail about racial profiling. And I understand that that -- the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), MAJORITY WHIP: Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of confidentiality of the documents that we -- that we are privy to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: Now Judge Kavanaugh in the meantime faced hours upon hours of grilling where he once again stressed that he has not had any conversations with anyone at the White House about the special counsel's probe. And Judge Kavanaugh also tried to clarify a 2003 e- mail when he worked for the George W. Bush White House, when he wrote in an e-mail that not all legal scholars believe that "Roe v. Wade" is binding precedent.

And Judge Kavanaugh worked to clarify those comments, saying that he only wanted to make sure that all legal scholars was a bit too broad and that that comment had nothing to do with his own personal opinions -- Christine and Dave.

[04:10:06] ROMANS: All right. Quite a day. Jessica, thank you.

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 as part of an armed robbery attempt. 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: Are you ready for some football? Well, the Philadelphia Eagles, well, they were, raising championship banner. Winning their season opener 18-12 in a bit of a sloppy season opener over the Falcons. Neither team too impressive. Neither quarterback throwing for a touchdown.

Players from both teams were on the field during the national anthem. A few Eagles players including Michael Bennett and (INAUDIBLE) did sit down toward the end of the anthem, though.

Everyone seemed to agree on one thing. NBC needs to rethink this whole green zone you see there on the TV. Created to show viewers how much yardage is needed for a first down. It did not go over well on social media. Fans agreeing the yellow line already accomplishes that.

Does it help you when you see that there, Romans? ROMANS: No.

BRIGGS: I know you're a huge football fan.

ROMANS: I'm accustomed to the yellow line. I know what the yellow line means.

BRIGGS: Well, good, right? I got it.

ROMANS: I can see the line scrimmage.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: I know what's happening. I don't need the green.

BRIGGS: All right. We agree on that.

ROMANS: Don't need the green.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Hollywood mourning the loss of Burt Reynolds. The actor's career spanned more than half a century. We're going to take a look back.

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[04:15:42] ROMANS: Hollywood is mourning the loss of a beloved movie icon. Actor Burt Reynolds, his career spanned more than 50 years. Reynolds' breakthrough performance in the 1972 film "Deliverance" made him a star. He became Hollywood's biggest box office star in the late '70s and early '80s when he starred in his most successful film "Smokey and the Bandit" alongside Sally Field.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURT REYNOLDS, ACTOR: Cowboys love fat calves.

SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: They're not fat?

REYNOLDS: They're bigger than mine.

FIELD: Do we really want to talk about legs?

REYNOLDS: Well, one of us does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Reynolds had a career comeback in the 1990s capped by his role in the film "Boogie Nights" which earned him an Oscar nomination. Sally Field said this about Reynolds, she was her co-star on and off the screen.

"There are times in your life that there 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.

ROMANS: The New York attorney general issuing subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state, all eight, as part of an investigation to 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 says in a statement church officials are ready and eager to cooperate.

Also on Thursday New Jersey's attorney general announced a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and any attempted cover-ups.

BRIGGS: Far-right conspiracy theorists Alex Jones and his Web site Infowars banned by Twitter. The move coming one month after several other Silicon Valley sites announced a similar ban. Twitter says it took the action based on tweets and videos that violated the company's abusive behavior policy. The decision coming one day after Jones confronted Senator Marco Rubio on a Capitol Hill hallway outside a hearing for tech execs. After the ban was announced Jones posted a video on his Infowars Web site claiming this is the deep state trying to striking back and really pressuring these tech firms to censor.

ROMANS: The Motion Picture Academy rethinking the addition of a Popular Film category at the Oscars. The new award was supposed to debut at the 91st Oscars ceremony in February, but the Academy announced Thursday it is shelving the controversial award for now. They say implementing it nine months into the year created challenges for films that have already been released in 2018. The Academy says it will still examine and seek additional input regarding this new Oscar category.

BRIGGS: It's an important news if you own a Ford. Two million F-150 pickup trucks recalled. We'll tell you why.

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[04:22:51] ROMANS: OK. One person is under arrest for the stabbing of a presidential candidate in Brazil. This attack caught on video. We want to warn you it is disturbing to watch. You can see Brazil's front running far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro attacked as he is carried through a crowd on shoulders of supporters. He was rushed to a nearby hospital. His son says he could have died if the hospital was further away. Bolsonaro is in stable condition. Known as the Brazilian Trump, he is notorious for his racist, sexist and homophobic remarks.

BRIGGS: CBS chief Les Moonves appears on his way out following a report detailing sexual assault or sexual harassment allegations. to be on the way out. A friend confirms to CNN Moonves have told some confidants about the departure talks. Moonves may be owed $180 million severance package. But if he's removed for cause, that's not the case. CNBC reports the CBS Board is offering a package of roughly $100 million almost entirely in CBS stock. Moonves has acknowledged he had made some women uncomfortable in the past, but says he never misused his position to hinder anyone's career.

ROMANS: Ford is recalling about two million of its popular F-150 pickup trucks in North America because of a faulty seatbelt mechanism that has caused fires. The company says the seatbelt equipment could ignite causing insulations in carpets inside the truck to catch fire. Nearly two dozen cases -- two dozen cases in the U.S. and Canada have been reported with no known accident or injuries.

About 1.6 million of the F-150 trucks affected are in the U.S. The Ford F series is the best-selling car in the U.S. Ford says it will make the repairs at no cost to customers.

BRIGGS: Serena Williams back in a familiar place. The U.S. Open Finals. She beat 19th seed Anastasia Sevastova of Latvia, 6-3, 6-0 to reach her ninth final at Flushing Meadows. Serena has won the tournament six times. With one more she'll tie Margaret Court for the most major singles titles in tennis history with 24. She is fierce in that tutu. Serena will face Naomi Osaka of Japan in tomorrow's Open Final.

[04:25:05] The 20-year-old Osaka the first Japanese woman to reach a grand slam final. That will be a highly anticipated match there.

All right. The president going off. Blaming, quote, "unelected deep state operatives" for the critical op-ed from within his own administration. One senator even suggesting lie detector tests to root out the author.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Even liberals that hate me say that's terrible what they did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: President Trump venting after an op-ed that targeted his presidency. After a day of denials, how close is the White House to finding the mystery author.

ROMANS: U.S. troops could be in Syria longer than expected. Russia is warning the U.S. American troops could come under attack.