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EARLY START

Colin Kaepernick Won't Play, But His Presence Will Certainly Be Felt; Mysterious Editorial in New York Times; Kavanaugh Short On Answers; Pyongyang To Meet With Kim Jong-un; Laura Loomer Causes More Problems. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 6, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

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(BEGIN VIDEO)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An anonymous editorial, can you believe it? Anonymous. Meaning gutless, a gutless editorial.

(END VIDEO)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN HOST: Unprecedented and anonymous. The president torn to shreds by a senior official in his own administration who claims there is an effort to thwart the president's impulses. Who wrote it and what is the president's next move?

(BEGIN VIDEO)

BRETT KAVANAUGH, CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE ON THE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS AND SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: That's a hypothetical question. I'm not going to answer hypothetical questions.

(END VIDEO)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: The president Supreme Court nominee doesn't have much to say about legal issues that could impact the commander in chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

COLIN KAEPERNICK, FORMER NFL FOOTBALL PLAYER AND NEW SPOKESPERSON FOR NIKE: Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.

(END VIDEO)

KOSIK: And the NFL season kicking off tonight. Colin Kaepernick won't play, but his presence will certainly be felt.

BRIGGS: It sure will be.

KOSIK: Yes, good morning and welcome to "Early Start." I'm Alison Kosik sittin in for Christine Romans. BRIGGS: Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. It is Thursday,

September 6th. It is 4 a.m. in the East. The president tonight at a fiery rally in billings, Montana about the same time the NFL season kicks off.

KOSIK: Right.

BRIGGS: But we start with this question. Who is the mystery senior administration official who wrote that explosive "New York Times" opinion piece, the one that calls out President Trump for his amorality and reckless decision making? The author writing he or she is part of the resistance inside the administration working to neutralize the president's worse impulses even claiming there were early whispers about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office with aides ultimately deciding not to risk a constitutional crisis.

KOSIK: Here's more from whoever penned the op ed. Writing this, "to be clear, ours is not the popular resistance of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and prosperous, but we believe our first duty is to the country and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That claim has the president and his inner circle pushing back hard.

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KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: It is not clear to us anyway that it is somebody in the White House. So they're saying senior administration official. That could be many people. I think thousands of political appointees, hundreds of folks who would qualify under that title alone.

(END VIDEO)

BRIGGS: And this from the president. Who asks treason? The times must for national security purposes turn him or over to government at once. Jeff Zeleny with more from the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump waking up to another bombshell this time in "The New York Times." With the senior Trump official really giving a blistering assessment of his administration and frankly of his capacity for office. This is one of the passages this official writes about anonymously saying this, "It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era but Americans should know there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening and we are trying to do what is right, even when Donald Trump won't."

Now this is really just the most blistering assessment we have seen of the presidency. But the president, of course, pushing back when he was speaking with sheriffs at the White House on Wednesday evening. He took on "The New York Times" and said this.

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TRUMP: When you tell me about some anonymous source within the administration, probably who is failing and probably here for all the wrong reasons. If the failing "New York Times" has an anonymous editorial, can you believe it, anonymous, meaning gutless. A gutless editorial. We're doing a great job.

(END VIDEO)

ZELENY: He will be traveling later today to Montana for a campaign rally tonight in Billings, Montana, then staying on the road unusually going to North and South Dakota for campaign-type events as well. But we know all of this will follow him. Clearly the white house pushing back on this. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the person is a coward and should resign. Dave and Alison.

BRIGGS: All right, Jeff Zeleny, nice work. A sources close to the White House tells CNN aides are following leads to find the author based on the way the op-ed is written. Just hours before the opinion piece published, the president ordered loyal aides to help him determine who cooperated with other scathing portrayal. Bob Woodward's new book, Mr. Trump has talked openly with allies about his suspicion that former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster was the source of the legendary journalist. He has expressed similar beliefs about Gary Cohn, his former Chief Economic Advisor. One official tells CNN it is unlikely anyone will be fired because that would lend credence to a book the president is trying to discredit.

[04:05:00]

KOSIK: We are also told the president evaluates aides who are suspected of being disloyal by how strongly they push back against the accusations. Two officials tell CNN Mr. Trump is pleased with the denials of Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Josh Rogin of the "Washington Post" reports White House officials are actively discussing who will replace Mattis at the Pentagon when he steps down. On Wednesday, the president declared Mattis will stay in his job. Josh Rogan is going to be joining us in our next hour to talk more about it.

BRIGGS: No shortage of fireworks on day two of the Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing but there was a shortage of concrete answers and the present Supreme Court nominee as has been precedent in recent hearing. Kavanaugh declaring no one is above the law during a 12- hour session before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But he did not want to answer any potentially explosive questions from Democrats about the man who nominated him.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

REP. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Can a sitting president be required to respond to a subpoena?

KAVANAUGH: So that's a hypothetical question.

REP. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: President Trump claims he has an absolute right to pardon himself. Does he?

KAVANAUGH: That's a hypothetical question that I can't begin to answer in this context as a sitting judge.

(END VIDEO)

KOSIK: It is common practice for judicial nominees to say they cannot answer questions about cases that may come before them. But this is becoming a critical issue considering the ongoing Mueller investigation. Judge Kavanaugh also tried to clarify his position on whether a sitting president can be indicted. Even though he argued against it in a 1999 article, Judge Kavanaugh now maintains his past writings were only focused on policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

KAVANAUGH: I'll have an open mind. I'll listen to the arguments. I will dig into the history. I've seen all sides of this. I will - I'll have a completely open mind on the constitutional issue.

(END VIDEO)

BRIGGS: Capitol police arrested 73 people in Senate office buildings on Wednesday; 66 of them removed from the committee room and charged with disorderly conduct. Breaking news overnight, North Korea's state news agency reporting Kim Jong-un is renewing his commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Kim telling a South Korean delegation visiting Pyongyang that the two Koreas should double their efforts to achieving that goal and put a timeline on it. Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul with the latest. Paula, good morning.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello Dave, We have some interesting information coming from the South Korean envoy going to Pyongyang meeting with Kim Jong-un on Wednesday. According to what he said Kim Jong-un was saying that he is happy to denuclearize within President Trump's first term. This is clearly something that Washing has said they want to see as well.

He also said that he had unwavering trust for President Trump despite that there have been difficulties recently saying though, that given what North Korea has done already talking about destroying (inaudible) nuclear test site which hasn't been independently verified and also an engine test site. He said he wants to see matching measures from the United States and then he can go forward to denuclearize. Now clearly that's the opposite way around that Washington wants it. They want denuclearization first.

We also heard that Chung Eui-Young who is the National Security Advisor who spoke to Kim Jong-un is going to talk to John Bolton at 7:00 a.m. this morning Eastern time and he has a message for President Trump from Kim Jong-un. We learned this from the Moon House (ph) just this afternoon. They were talking that Moon and Trump when they had that phone call, Trump had actually given Moon a message for Kim Jong- un. There's a message coming back in just a couple of hours. Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Paula, keep us up to date on that. It is 5:00 p.m. there in Seoul. Thanks.

KOSIK: You know a lot of weird things could happen on Capitol Hill. They could take on this circus-like atmosphere but...

BRIGGS: Not much like this.

KOSIK: Here's one that takes the cake. Watch this.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four and a quarter, four and a half. We're selling the cell phone there. Four a quarter, four and a half. At four and half, we're at seventy-five, five hundred, five and quarter, five and a half. I yield back.

(END VIDEO)

BRIGGS: That is well done.

KOSIK: and then, and then came the applause when a congressman revived his auctioneering skills. And what actually came from a big hearing with tech execs?

[04:10:00]

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KOSIK: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey facing off with lawmakers on Capital Hill. Both executives outlining the steps their companies are taking to tackle disinformation, and to make political advertising more transparent.

SHERYL SANDBERG, FACEBOOK COO: When bad actors try to use our site, we will block them. When content violates our policies, we will take it down. And when our opponents use new techniques, we will share them so we can strengthen our collective efforts.

JACK DORSEY, TWITTER CEO: We don't believe that we can create a digital public square for people if they don't feel safe to participate in - in the first place. And that is our number one and singular objective as a company, is to increase the health of this public space.

KOSIK: OK, there's that and then there was a latter (ph) moment at the hearing when a protester interrupted one of Jack Dorsey's answers. Majority Congressman Billy Long used his skills from a previous job to drown her out, listen.

PROTESTER: Jack Dorsey is trying to influence the election, to sway the election, (INAUDIBLE).

REP. BILLY LONG (R), MISSOURI: What's she saying? I can't understand her. What?

PROTESTER: That is why he is censoring and (INAUDIBLE).

LONG: (INAUDIBLE).

UNKNOWN: Officer, will you escort this young lady out please? KOSIK: OK, so then, just so you know, what happened after that is everybody erected applause. So, that protester by the way is alt- right blogger Laura Loomer. She's been banned in the past from both platforms for violating user policies. I love that moment.

BRIGGS: Billy Long...

KOSIK: Yes.

BRIGGS: ...well done. The man's got some skills. All right, let's bring in another guy with some skills, CNN Business and Technology correspondent, Samuel Burke. We know you don't have auctioneer skills. We won't put you in that situation, but

[04:15:00]

KOSIK: ...platforms for violating user policies. I love that moment.

BRIGGS: Billy Long...

KOSIK: Yes.

BRIGGS: ...well done. The man's got some skills. All right, let's bring in another guy with some skills, CNN Business and Technology correspondent, Samuel Burke. We know you don't have auctioneer skills.

We won't put you in that situation, but this big hearing was - we were all anticipating and that is ends, and then the Justice Department comes out and makes their news, Samuel. They issue a statement about the tech industry.

The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state Attorney's General this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition, and intentionally stifling the free exchange on their platforms, your reaction to that Department of Justice statement?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: David, I think it was very troubling to see that statement come out after the first hearing. There were two different hearings yesterday. The first one with Jack Dorsey and Sheryl Sandberg was, mainly, about foreign interference in the United States election, and foreign interference other places in the world I might add, but it really wasn't partisan.

The questions were tough, the answers were well thought out it seems. But that statement from the DOJ was talking about supposed political bias on these platforms. That first meeting really wasn't about that.

So, you're seeing something that looks like it has real political hinges to it coming out of a hearing that really wasn't political in its nature. The other hearing with Jack Dorsey that came out after that statement was much more political.

But I do just want to put up on the screen, basically, what we saw, the things that are most important to know what these tech companies are doing, given that at one point, Mark Zuckerberg said, it was crazy to think Facebook may have swayed the election one way or the other.

Now, the executives are saying that they've hired thousands of moderators to look and find fake news, developing artificial intelligence, tools that remove that content from their platform and working closer with authorities. In spite of those actions they say they are taking, Sheryl Sandberg did admit that up to 4 percent of accounts on Facebook are fake you guys.

You do the math, two plus a billion times 4 percent, that means up to 89 million accounts on Facebook are still fake. That is still a big problem as we head into the midterm elections.

KOSIK: OK, Samuel. So, everybody kind of thinking about what, if anything, is Congress going to do after having these hearings.

BURKE: I think there are going to be regulations. You remember the last time around when we heard Zuckerberg. A lot of people thought, well, it seems like these Congress people don't know much about technology. So, how are they going to regulate it?

This time around, especially on the Senate side, they seem to have a much stronger understanding. At one point, Senator Warner saying, the days of the wild - wild west are over for the tech industry. If we can just put their stock prices up on the screen, as this was happening tech stocks started falling. You had Facebook's stock down just over 2 percent, Twitter's just down over more than 6 percent, actually.

I think that's because Sheryl Sandberg had such confidence up there. People forget, she doesn't just have tech and business experience, she was also in the political world for very many of years.

She was even trying to help Jack Dorsey at some points. It was kind of like big sister, little brother. Jack Dorsey admitted he's very shy. He's not, maybe, the best communicator. She was reading from his phone his statement at one point, and I'm going to tweet this while I'm reading it.

He literally tweeted while he was testifying before Congress, he talked about more fundamental problems that Twitter has on their platforms. So, I think investors saw this, got a bit nervous. But it does look like some regulation may be coming. Investors don't like regulation.

BRIGGS: Yes, this is the de-regulation administration now suggesting they may regulate tech companies.

KOSIK: Yes.

BRIGGS: A fascinating day on Capital Hill. Samuel Burke...

KOSIK: Samuel, thanks.

BRIGGS: ...thanks, my friend.

KOSIK: Former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is suing Sacha Baron Cohen after he was duped into appearing on Cohen's Showtime series Who Is America. He's seeking more than $95 million in damages for defamation, emotional distress and fraud. During the interview, Cohen brought out a device that appeared to be a metal detector wand claiming it could detect pedophiles. Moore has been accused of - by several women of having pursued them, sexually, when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers, a spokesperson for Showtime refusing to comment because of pending litigation.

BRIGGS: Colin Kaepernick will make an appearance during tonight's NFL season opener between the Falcons and Eagles in Philadelphia, but not on the field, in this new Nike ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN KAEPERNICK, NFL PLAYER: Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The commercial, narrated by Kaepernick, also features NBA star LeBron James, tennis champ Serena Williams, and several others. Kaepernick's protest against racial injustice launched a movement across the NFL in 2016. No team has signed him since.

Now, a (INAUDIBLE) sports store getting rid of all Nike merchandise to protest the ad, Steven Martin has owned Primetime Sports for 21 years. He says his father-in-law was a prisoner of war and claims Kaepernick doesn't know sacrifice. Always a reminder that it was a former green beret who suggest to Colin Kaepernick that he take a knee. That's the one who gave him the idea for this form of a protest (inaudible).

[04:20:00]

Ahead, President Trump warning the Syrian regime against an assault on the last rebel stronghold, but an offensive seems imminent. Frederik Pleitgen live on the ground in Syria, next.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world is watching. That cannot be slaughter. If it's a slaughter the world is going to get very, very angry and the United States is going to get very angry too.

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KOSIK: That's President Trump warning the Syrian regime as government forces prepare to attack the last rebel stronghold of Idlib. A large scale offensive by Russian forces and the Syrian army appears imminent. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live on the ground in Damascus, Syria, with the latest.

[04:25:00] You know, to say the situation is complicated is an understatement. I mean you think about the civilians who are there. Millions of civilians are in Idlib Province, many who escaped violence in other areas of Syria. How can they not get caught up in the violence?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well certainly, Alison, it's going to be very difficult. You're absolutely right. There is experts who say that it could be around three million civilians on the ground there in Idlib Province and right now their only alternative would be either to try to get into Turkey, which seems impossible because that border is closed or to actually cross back in to Syrian government territory, but exactly, you're right as well, that's some of the areas that they've actually fled from.

And civilian information that we're getting on the ground here, Alison, is that not only has the Syrian military surrounded that Covance of Idlib, which they say is full of terrorist elements, but they've also surrounded with some of their most elite fighters. Battle hardened groups that been in some of the biggest battles here in Syrian, including places like Aleppo and here around Damascus.

And then if you look at President Trump's warning, that of course has not gone unnoticed here in Damascus as well, President Bashar al-Assad seems pretty unphased by that warning. Syrian officials continue to say that they want to, what they call, address the situation there in Idlib.

The feeling here is, indeed, that offensive could be immanent and that it could be one that could take very long. Of course, the Russians and the Iranians, who are the main backers of the Assad government themselves, also very much unphased by warnings from the United States.

They're also saying that they think this offensive could be imminent and the Russians, of course, at this moment, Alison, also have a huge fighting force here in Syria as well. Much bigger than they usually have. They've sent extra ships and extra planes here to the waters off Syria, Alison.

KOSIK: Okay, we'll be watching closely with you. Frederik Pleitgen live for us from Damascus. Thanks.

BRIGGS: Yes, it feels like a boiling point there.

KOSIK: It does.

BRIGGS: In a very flammable situation. Ahead, detrimental to the health of our Republic. The words in a new op-ed from a member of the president's own administration claiming there's an effort to save the president from himself. Now the search is on for the author.

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