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EARLY START

White House Fights Back Against Op-Ed; Hurricane Florence Approaches; Escalating Trade War; Russia And Syria Resume Idlib Air Strikes. Aired 04:30-5a ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: White House fighting back. Aides telling the senior anonymous official who wrote "The New York Times" op-ed to resign. A confidant writer on going behind the scenes.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: Hurricane Florence approaching the East Coast. Broadcasters warm it could be extremely dangerous and a major hurricane by the time it hit. Coastal states already declaring a state of emergency.

BRIGGS: And the CEO of CBS's out after a new wave of sexual misconduct allegations not just a media story, but the first fortune 500 CEO out in the #metoo movement era.

ROMANS: The big question now is will the board pay him those tens of millions -- more than $100 million.

BRIGGS: More than a $100 million. Good morning everyone. Welcome to "Early Start." I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. 34 minutes past the hour this morning. Let us begin here, with the White House beginning a new week frantically searching for the still anonymous author of that scathing New York Times op-ed. The top administrations officials appearing on the Sunday talk shows supporting the President's claims that whoever wrote it is guilty of criminal behavior. Vice President Mike Pence once again, denying any involvement and calling on the author to come forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENTIAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm 100 percent confident that no one on the Vice President's staff was involved in these Anonymous editorial. I know my people, Margaret. They get up every day and they are dedicated just as much as I am, to advancing the President's agenda and supporting everything that President Trump is doing for the people of this country. Whoever this was, they should do the honorable thing and resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:35:15] BRIGGS: The author of the op-ed claims White House aides discussed trying to remove the President from office. The Vice President was asked about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the claims made in the op-ed is that there had been discussion of invoking the 25th amendment to even remove the President from office. Have you ever been part of a conversation about that?

PENCE: No, never. And why we would be, Margaret?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A source close to the White House tells CNN aides believe they have narrowed down the search for the op-ed author to just a few individuals now. We get more this morning from Ryan Nobles.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

RYAN NOBLES, WASHINGON CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Dave and Christine. Hello from the White House. There is no doubt that it is driving the administration crazy to a certain degree. Kellyanne Conway, one of the president's senior advisers, was on the Sunday morning talk shows attempting to spin and destroy the credibility of this individual before their identity is even revealed. And she took it even a step further when she suggested that perhaps the media might be partially to blame for this problem.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: What does concern me, Jake, apart from everything others have said, is that for a media constantly talking about facts and accuracy and transparency, the authority, the authoritativeness to this anonymous writer was viewed automatically, because of the content as long as the message is anti-Trump, it seemed the messenger has credibility, that should concern everyone. I am with the Vice President on this. He has said, that person should, resign, if the person truly is an appointee who has taken an oath to the constitution.

NOBLES: So, now the big question as we start this week is just how far will the President and his administration go in attempting to find out who exactly this person is? Vice President Mike Pence suggesting over the weekend perhaps a crime may have been committed. If that is the case, does the Department of Justice get involved? The president has suggested that he think Attorney General Jeff Sessions should look into this. At this point, the Justice Department has said that they will not comment on the matter. Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: All right. Ryan, thank you. The White House is bracing for the release of Bob Woodward's new book "Fear." That book comes out tomorrow. But the early excerpts had already sent shockwaves to the administration. Here is how the legendary journalist and author sees it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, FEAR, TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON POST:

You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, let's hope to god we don't have a crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: In his book, Woodward describes a White House that is a -- where top advisers there removed documents from the President's desk to prevent him from enacting dangerous policies.

BRIGGS: He is also weighing in the anonymous New York Times op-ed, claiming he would not had use the author's claims if they were presented to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODWARD: If there was a person in the White House or the administration who wanted to tell me what's in that op-ed piece, I would say OK name me who was there, what is the specific incident as you know from having read my book. Their dates and times and participants. I wouldn't have used it. It doesn't have the standards of trying to describe specific incidents. Specific incidents are the building blocks of journalism as you well know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: President Trump calls Woodward's book a con on the public and accuses the author of being a Democratic operative.

ROMANS: Barack Obama is back on the campaign trail. The former President heads to Ohio this week after a stop in California. Over the weekend, Mr. Obama calling the upcoming mid-term elections a critical moment in American history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where there's a vacuum in our democracy, when we are not participating. When we are not paying attention. When we are not stepping up, other voices fill the void. But the good news is in two months, we have a chance to restore some sanity in our politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: But some Republicans believe Mr. Obama's reemergence will fire up GOP voters. But President Trump and Vice President Pence are still trying to neutralize the impact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: It was very disappointing to see President Obama break with tradition of former Presidents and become so political and roll out the same tired arguments that he and liberals have made over the last eight years.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm sorry I watched it, but I fell asleep. I found he is very good, very good for sleeping.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I think he was trying to take credit. He was trying to take credit for this incredible thing that is happening to our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: President Trump heads to Missouri and Mississippi this week to campaign for Republicans.

[04:40:03] BRIGGS: All right to check on the weather now, Florence bearing down on the East Coast and there are growing concern, it could make landfall Thursday night or Friday morning as a category three hurricane or worse. Florence is expected to intensify rapidly over the next few days and forecasters fear it could stall bringing catastrophic Harvey like flooding to the mid-Atlantic. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri tracking the storm.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine. Yes, we are watching what is happening very careful here with hurricane Florence. As we know, strengthening and rapid, that is certainly possible over the next few hours and still looking at a strong category one at this hour. North eye trying to form with this feature that sits roughly 1,500 miles away from land. But unfortunately the steering environment and the atmosphere is such very little deviation is expected at this point with the forecast going toward the west at least and then you follow this here. We are going over warm waters. With low 80s to the mid-80s and upper 80s and there is the Gulf Stream. It certainly crosses that right before potential landfall sometime Thursday afternoon or Thursday night.

Somewhere between areas around North Carolina down to the South Carolina region. That is the highest likelihood at this point. And again, the steering environment with the high pressure shifting off its north and east really kind of guides this right into the Carolinas. Doesn't give us that escape route we often see with tropical systems that curve back out to sea. So, that is most concerning with the feature such.

Again, look at the spaghetti model guidance. We are taking almost all of it taking it to North Carolina. Some on into the Delmarva region as a major category four. The last time the Carolinas were impacted by a major hurricane was Hugo in South Carolina back in 1989. Certainly this would be a storm here to be reckoned with. You notice coming into the afternoon and evening hours of Thursday and notice how slowly it progresses farther towards the West by Friday. Very little movement. That is also concerning with the tremendous amount of rainfall in the forecast with as much as 15 or more inches going into Friday afternoon. Guys.

BRIGGS: That is scary. Pedram, thanks. State of emergency has been declared in North and South Carolina as well as Virginia. Residents in all three states urged to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster and mass evacuations. Kaylee Hartung has more on the story from North Carolina Beach, North Carolina. (BEGIN VIDEO)

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, I think the sentiment in Carolina beach can best be described as cautious optimism. Folks saying, they did come out to the beach before preparing. You see store shelves emptying. Water, bread, milk, batteries. The storm essentials. While those store shelves are empty. You are not seeing anybody going so far as boarding up their windows yet. People are waiting for a little more information before they go to those points. States of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia though getting farther ahead in their preparations declaring states of emergency. Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: All right, Kaylee, thank you for that. All right time for an early start on your money this morning. President Trump warning of additional tariffs on Chinese goods. Widening a trade war between the two countries. Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday, he is ready to impose $267 billion on Chinese goods that would be an addition 4200 billion that administration has already been preparing. The President says the tariffs are necessary to punish China for unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft.

Apple responded to defending import taxes saying the move would make some of the products more expensive for American consumers. The tech giant said items that would be affected include the Apple watch, wireless airpods, Apple pencil home pad and Mac Mini. It did not mention the iPhone. China has matched the U.S. Tariffs dollar for dollar. Talks between Beijing and Washington have failed to show signs of progress as tensions continue to escalate.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, President Trump praising and thanking North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. CNN is live in Pyongyang, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: President Trump praising North Korea for the lack of nuclear

missiles in its military parade Sunday. The president tweeting, this is a big and positive statement from North Korea. Thank you, to Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong. There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other. Much better than before I took office.

Instead of showcasing military might with usual show of intercontinental ballistic missile, the north's 70th anniversary celebration instead focused on economic development and the future of its people. Our CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Pyongyang. He is there with more. You have been watching the festivities and presumably seeing what the President is tweeting. What have you been seeing?

WILL RIPLEY, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It is just -- I keep thinking, Christine, what it was like as recently as a year ago. Think about last April. I watched the previous parade in the square where they unveiled new ICBM, it was an ominous warning to the United States. President Trump was tweeting regularly, threatening messages. North Korea insults to their leader Kim Jong-un.

Journalist Bob Woodward reporting that President Trump actually drafting the tweets saying he is going to pull out all of the dependents of the 28,000 U.S. soldiers station in South Korea, something that Woodward says North Korea would have interpreted as a threat, an imminent attack.

I think that it came almost from the brink of perhaps of a military conflict to what I saw here in Pyongyang over the weekend. A military parade without missiles where the focus was upbeat and positive, if you will. The military component drastically scaled back. The civilian component increased in size. People were talking about the economy. They were talking about North Korean history with pride. They were talking about international friendship and diplomacy, and really perhaps the most striking moment was during the mass games at the mayday stadium where a giant video images of Kim Jong-un meeting with South Korea's president Moon Jae-in appeared on the screen for the inter-Korean summit in April, when the two leaders embraced, the largely North Korea audience erupted in applause.

[04:50:07] This is a country that was told for so many years that the nuclear program was the center of their entire national strategy. Now people are not talking about nuclear weapons at all, but they are talking about their leader Kim Jong-un's move to grow their economy. As if the nuclear program not even mentioned, even though, obviously the weapons still exist. They are just not being (inaudible) publicly.

There is no other country in the world, Christine, of the North Korea, where a leader could literally snap his fingers from one day to the next and the entire focus, changes and what the public is saying (inaudible) changes as well. It is truly a remarkable and certainly a lot of people will take this over the extreme tension that we saw just a matter of months ago.

ROMANS: All right. Will Ripley, there for us, watching it all, thank you. Watching history unfold. Thanks, Will.

Two British tourists among seven people wounded Sunday night in a knife attack on the streets of central Paris. Four of the injured are in critical condition. The alleged attacker was reportedly armed with a knife and a metal bar. He was taken into custody. A source in the prosecutor's office tells CNN the attack does not appear to be terrorism related. And the suspect's motives are not clear. Local media reports that he attacked three people near a movie theater just before 11:00 p.m. While a group of men tried to confront him, he continued down the side street and began randomly attacking more victims.

BRIGGS: meanwhile, things going from bad to worse in Syria. 27 people killed. More than 60 others injured in air strikes and shelling in the Idlib province since Tuesday. That is according to the spokesperson for the rescue volunteer group the white helmets. The Syrian government official telling CNN the ongoing air strikes on the rebel held province where conducted by Russian and Syrian forces. Official claiming the strikes are surgical targeting armed group affiliated with Al Qaeda. Fred Pleitgen live for us Damascus this morning with more. Fred, good morning.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Good morning, Dave. There is so much happening here in Syria over the weekend. As pertaining to the possible offensive in Idlib and also the whole complex of the possible use of chemical weapons here in Syria. Vice President Mike Pence, coming out on an interview on a weekend and warning, once again the Russians and Syrian government that if chemicals weapons are used on their part, that the U.S. would retaliate.

Now for their part, for Russians are coming out and saying that rebels in the province are planting false flag chemical attacks to try and draw the United States into the conflict here in Syria, once again. As far as those air strikes are concerned, it is very remarkable to see. Because, of course, on Friday, we covered that summit between the Russians and Turks and Iranians trying to come to some sort of cease-fire agreement for the north of Syria.

Once that failed on Saturday morning we heard there was a big expansion of those air strikes. You mentioned the Syrians are saying that those air strikes are what they call surgical. They say they are attacking a group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda there in Idlib province. But there some seemed to be video out there indicating that at least civilian areas were hit as well.

Obviously killing and wounding some people there. As far as the offensive is concern, the Syrian government is still telling us it hasn't started yet, but they are saying they are ready. Idlib province is essentially surrounded by the Syrian military. Some very battle hardened fighters on that side. Of course the big concern on the part of the U.S. is the fate of the about 3 million civilians that are inside Idlib province, of course very vulnerable with violence kicks off, Dave

BRIGGS: Certainly sounds as tough, something is imminent. Fred Pleitgen, live for us in Syria this morning. Thank you, Fred.

ROMANS: All right. 53 minutes past the hour. The affordable care act is getting a clean bill of health for 2019. We will tell how the landmark help healthcare reform law appears to be stabilizing. We will get a check on CNN Money next.

[04:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: All right. The 92nd Miss America was crowned last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First runner up is, Bridget Oei, Connecticut. Which means Nia Franklin, New York, you are Miss America 2019. Congratulations.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Franklin crowned by 2018 winner Cara Mund. The Miss America

organization has faced considerable controversy over the past year, including clash with Mund, who accuse the CEO, Regina Harper and chairwoman informer Fox News host, Gretchen Carlson trying to silence her. The scandal last December forced then CEO to resign after emails revealed he mock competitors with misogynistic language. This year's revamp program that got rid of the swim suit portion in favor of the red carpet competition in order to shift focus away from outward physical appearance and the idea was mostly panned on social media.

BRIGGS: A win for NBC's live version of "Jesus Christ superstar" means three men got their egot. The win for best live variety means, star John Legend, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and their assistant Tim Rice joins the elite group of entertainers with Emmys, Tonys, Oscars before biggest surprises in show business. Congrats to them.

ROMANS: The tennis world, isn't enough for after Serena Williams was fined $17,000 by the U.S. Open for three code violations during her final lost on Saturday. It all started when the umpire Carlos Ramos issued a warning to Williams about her coach giving her hand signals during a point. Williams denies the accusations. Next she deduct a point for smashing a racket on the ground after, misplaying --