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EARLY START

Trump's Plan for Afghanistan; USS McCain Lost Steering Control Before Collision; Suspected Barcelona Van Driver Killed By Police; 33 Passengers Injured in Train Accident Near Philadelphia. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 22, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:00:10] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. We will fight to win.

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DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump revising the American strategy in Afghanistan. He says there will be more troops and no deadlines. How does all this change what happens on the ground in Afghanistan?

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

Extraordinary to see the president reverse course, admit somewhat of a flip-flop, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, admitting that he gets into office, and what he sees there in the Oval Office makes him change his mind.

BRIGGS: Astonishing from that standpoint.

ROMANS: Right, right. A president who says he does not change his mind.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, August 22nd. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, 12:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Up first, after months of planning, President Trump has unveiled to the nation a new vision for the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The president breaking from his campaign rhetoric when he promised to pull out of Afghanistan -- that was the campaign rhetoric -- now keeping with the America first theme, saying the days of nation-building are over. The strategy is light on specifics. The president reaffirmed he doesn't want the enemy to his plans and a hasty withdrawal like we had in Iraq is not an option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

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BRIGGS: The president signaled the U.S. would increase troop levels in Afghanistan but did not offer numbers. Mr. Trump also put no end date on America's longest war by design.

So, how is the president's path to victory different from his predecessors'?

CNN's Athena Jones with more on the president's speech from Arlington, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

President Trump laid out a new plan for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and South Asia, emphasizing the importance of a regional approach to preventing terrorists from gaining a safe haven from which they could threaten America. The president called on Pakistan to do more to fight terrorist groups and on India to help in the area of economic assistance for Afghanistan.

The president also said a core pillar of the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan would be a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions on the ground.

TRUMP: We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.

JONES: And notably, the president did explain the evolution in his thinking from favoring a full withdrawal as a candidate and before that to supporting a continued presence in Afghanistan, arguing that a hasty withdrawal from the country would create a vacuum that terrorist groups like ISIS or al Qaeda could exploit.

The president also said he would expand the authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and hatred in Afghanistan. And the president repeatedly throughout this speech said that the U.S. would ultimately win the fight there, ensuring a victory that has so far eluded this country for 16 years -- Christine, Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Athena Jones for us -- thank you.

President Trump sending a pointed message to the Afghan government. He expects results in exchange for the human and financial investment being made by America. Listen to him demand Afghan leaders to do their fair share.

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TRUMP: Our commitment is not unlimited and our support is not a blank check. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited.

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BRIGGS: So, how is the president's plan being received in Afghanistan?

Nic Robertson monitoring the latest developments for us live from London.

Good morning to you, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, good morning. I mean, I think there's very little surprise that we're hearing from President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan saying that he supports this, that the United States-Afghan alliance is strong, that he supports what the United States is trying to do. He recognizes that Afghanistan needs this support, that there is a joint terrorist threat that they need to fight.

We've heard as well from NATO, from the secretary general of NATO, reaffirming its support -- and support for what President Trump has said, reminding everyone that there are 12,000 total NATO troops inside Afghanistan.

But when you try to break down what the president has said, a look for something different.

[04:05:01] There are very few details. But there are some interesting lines there. He does say that it may be possible at some point in the future for the Taliban to have a place in the politics of Afghanistan.

Getting that out there, that is a message in a way to the Afghan -- to the Taliban that potentially you can evolve from being a fighting force to a political force, as they have been in the past. And we hear, as well, you know, within that statement, as well, President Trump saying that al Qaeda should be crushed, that ISIS should be obliterated. But all he says for the Taliban is preventing them from taking over control for Afghanistan.

When you listen to the Taliban said in response, they say if the United States continues its war-fighting in Afghanistan, they will keep fighting. They, too, leave the door open for a slightly different outcome.

BRIGGS: One thing is clear -- the president here was listening, defaulting to his leadership on his military aides.

All right. Nic Robertson live for us in London, thanks. ROMANS: As the president plans to commit more troops to Afghanistan,

a tally now of how much the U.S. war has already cost. The most current financial estimate is $841 billion since 2001. That's straight from the U.S. budget, including the president's request for next year.

And many say that's too low. It doesn't include future spending like medical care for returning veterans. So, others place the total price tag at $2 trillion. Many experts tell us even that figure is not enough. It leaves out key expenses like the interest owed on the money borrowed to finance the war.

Historically, the U.S. passes wartime taxes to pay for conflicts. But that tradition broke with Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only did Congress not pass a tax when those wars began, it actually introduced tax cuts during the same time period. That alone could add trillions of dollars to the total tab.

Why do these estimates vary? Because the government doesn't have a uniform way to track all the money it spends on war. And, of course, no financial estimate can measure the true cost, the cost of human life, 20,000 wounded, more than 2,000 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan.

BRIGG: The cost was one of the key criticisms from conservatives. Laura Ingraham, talk show host on the right, said how do we pay for this? But Lindsey Graham weighed in immediately saying, putting all the pressure on Republicans in Congress to vote in favor of this or vote against another 9/11. So, he was very clear, putting all the pressure on Republicans.

The president's speech on Afghanistan started on a surprising note as he attempted to first address the divisions here at home in the wake of the Charlottesville attack. He didn't specifically mention the violence in Charlottesville. He was clearly attempting to clean up some of his explosive comments with this reference to our military --

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TRUMP: The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other. As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas, and we will always win, let us find the courage to heal our divisions within.

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ROMANS: President Trump's handling of Charlottesville, a focus for House Speaker Paul Ryan during a CNN town hall. Ryan said the president fell short.

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REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think he made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing. And I do think he could have done better. I think he needed to do better.

So, I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it -- it sounded like a moral equivocation or, at the least, moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity.

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ROMANS: Ryan, though, is opposed to any measure censuring the president which some Democrats are pushing. Ryan says it would be counterproductive to let this issue descend into a partisan food fight.

BRIGGS: President Trump heads to Arizona today despite pleas from the Democratic mayor of Phoenix to stay away. He'll be headlining a campaign-style "Make America Great Again" rally with Vice President Pence expected to join.

Still no word whether he plans to pardon controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio telling CNN he has not been invited to the rally. The president said last week he was seriously considering a pardon, but the White House has not reached out to the Justice Department office that traditionally handles petitions for clemency.

The president also plans to stop in Yuma, Arizona, the central point of operations for the U.S. Border Patrol.

I think many wonder, though, what is the tone of this rally tonight.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Does he hit at those Republican senators, or does he try to unite this country?

[04:10:04] ROMANS: Campaign-style address just a day after last night's very presidential address.

BRIGGS: Right. Does he stay on script, to your point?

ROMANS: Does he stay on script?

Navy and Marine Corps divers now searching, searching for 10 sailors still missing after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker. We go live to Singapore with the latest developments.

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BRIGGS: Navy officials say the USS John S. McCain suffered a, quote, steering casualty, just before it collided with a commercial tanker near Singapore. The head of naval operations expected to order a rare operational pause across the entire Navy in the wake of the latest incident involving a U.S. ship in Asian waters. Meantime, new resources are being deployed in the search for 10 missing crew members.

Let's go live to CNN's Matt Rivers in Singapore with the latest details. Good morning to you, Matt. What exactly is an operational pause?

[04:15:01] MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what the Navy says it's going to be doing a comprehensive review of safety standards and best practices across the entire Navy. What that means in terms of the operational pause, is that it's like a one-day safety stand-down that will be carried out across the different commands at their discretion across the world over the next several weeks. The U.S. Defense official says it will not affect U.S. defense capabilities.

But in terms of this search for these 10 missing sailors, the ship actually, the damaged ship is just down the shoreline from where we are. And we know that divers are at that ship right now trying to access compartments that were sealed during the flooding that occurred as a result of that incident, to see if they can get inside, find any of the sailors.

We also know that search and rescue operations are being undertaken in the waters where that incident actually took place. The Navy trying its best to find those 10 missing sailors.

As to why that happened, though, a U.S. official does acknowledge that steering was lost shortly before the incident. But it's not clear if that actually led to this incident. We might get some more updates, though on on that, later on. We're expecting a press conference at 7:00 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time this morning where a U.S. Navy official is expected to give us updates -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All-important search for those 10 continues.

Matt Rivers live for us in Singapore, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. We have new details this morning about the suspected van driver in last week's deadly Barcelona terror attack. Police say he was wearing a fake explosives belt when they shot and killed him Monday during an operation 30 miles west of Barcelona.

For more on how they tracked him down and the latest on the investigation, I want to go live to Barcelona and bring in CNN's Salma Abdelaziz.

So, they have shot this attacker. What are we learning about him?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL PRODUCER: That's right, Christine. An end to this nationwide drama, five days long. A whole manhunt for this one man, a 22-year-old Moroccan national accused of coming barreling down this street I'm standing on here, Las Ramblas, killing 13 people.

He was found dead. He -- he was shot, rather, by police after a woman told authorities she had found the man. She's seen CCTV footage on local media and she found him in a wooded area just outside Barcelona.

The entire country watched as a bomb making -- as rather a robot, a bomb-disposal unit, approached his body. Remember, he was wearing what appears to be an explosive vest. That did turn out to be fake. He turned out to be dead.

However, this does not mean that this is over for authorities. There's still a lot of work to do. Remember, this cell that carried out this horrific attack, they had something much more sinister planned. They wanted to build bombs. That's exactly what they were doing in a home in Alcanar, that's south of Barcelona, using TATP.

This is a highly explosive material that was used in Paris and Manchester and Brussels. We understand that they were using it to build a massive bomb. We found 100 gas canisters in that home in Alcanar. And you can only imagine the amount of damage they wanted to cause. The question for authorities now is, were they trained to build these bombs? If so, who trained them? And do they have links around Europe? Christine?

ROMANS: Yes, the links are incredibly important to follow here.

All right. Salma, thank you so much for that, from Barcelona this morning.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the bizarre twist of an attempted murder of a judge in Ohio. Who pulled the trigger? Find out, next.

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[04:22:54] ROMANS: All right. Breaking news: overnight, dozens of passengers injured in a high-speed train accident outside of Philadelphia. Officials say an incoming train struck an unoccupied train car inside the transit terminal in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. The local mayor says 33 people suffered injuries, four including the conductor were taken to area hospitals. All of the injuries are said to be non-life-threatening. The cause of that accident is under investigation.

BRIGGS: An Ohio judge is recovering this morning after being shot in an ambush attack outside a courthouse. Judge Joseph Bruzzese and a probation officer returned fire, killing the suspect identified as Nate Richmond. Now, Richmond is a plaintiff in a wrongful death case overseen by the judge and the father of Ma'Lik Richmond, that's one of the two teens convicted in a 2013 Steubenville rape case that got national coverage.

ROMANS: The local sheriff calls the attack cold-blooded attempted murder.

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SHERIFF FRED ABDALLA, JEFFERSON COUNTY: I urged him years ago to carry a gun. If you're sitting on a bench, you have to carry a gun because there are so many nutcases out there that want retaliation.

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ROMANS: Officials are drawing no connection between the Steubenville rape case and the shooting. Richmond's son was told just a few weeks ago he could not play college football this season after his status as a walk-on generated outrage at Youngstown State University.

BRIGGS: Now to some stunning images from Monday's total solar eclipse. Check this awesome shot out from NASA. Hard to top that. This was the scene in Madras, Oregon, where it started. How about being in the sky? Alaska Airlines tweeting out --

ROMANS: Cool.

BRIGGS: -- this fascinating image of the eclipse.

ROMANS: Some pretty cool video from the International Space Station. Take a close look at the black spot near the top of your screen. I can't see it --

BRIGGS: I'm waiting for it.

ROMANS: The black spot at the top of the screen. All right.

BRIGGS: It's there. It's there.

ROMANS: We hope you followed experts' advice and didn't stare straight at the eclipse.

[04:25:02] But some people did. President Trump among them. Unlike Attorney General Sessions, daughter Ivanka, and others who peeked without the protective eyewear. But not for long, he eventually popped it on to protect his eyes.

BRIGGS: Good news, you won't have to wait an entire century for the next one. Just seven years. Another solar eclipse will be visible in a diagonal path from Texas to Maine on April 8th, 2024.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Don't look directly into that one no matter who's president.

ROMANS: No, you're not supposed to.

President Trump laying out a revised strategy in Afghanistan.

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TRUMP: A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So, what conditions are critical, and is the country better off with a no end date for America's longest war?

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TRUMP: Historically, I like following my instincts. But all my life I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.

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