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White House Fights Back Against Op-Ed; Hurricane Florence Approaches; CBS CEO Moonves Out; Papadopoulos Speaks Out. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:00] [(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: The White House on the offensive. Aides slamming the anonymous senior official who wrote "The New York Times" op-ed and bracing for the new Bob Woodward book that comes out tomorrow.

DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: Hurricane watch in the Eastern seaboard on alert. As Florence approach the latest forecast that it could be extremely dangerous when it makes landfall later this week.

ROMANS: And CBS's long time chief executive is out amid new allegations of sexual misconduct. First fortune 500 CEO in the #metoo era --

BRIGGS: Ronan Farrow's strikes.

ROMANS: -- to lose his job. Good morning and welcome to "Early Start." I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning my friend. Good morning all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. It is Monday, September 10th. 4:00 in the East. We start with the White House, beginning this new week frantically searching for the still anonymous author of that scathing New York Times the op- ed. The top administrations officials appearing on the Sunday talk shows supporting the President's claims that saying 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.


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.


ROMANS: The author of the essay 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?


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


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.


BRIGGS: OK. Ryan Nobles, thanks. The White House is bracing for the release of Bob Woodward's new book "Fear." which comes out tomorrow. The early excerpts had already sent shockwaves to the administration. Here is how the legendary journalist author sees it.


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.


BRIGGS: In his book, he describes a White House where top advisers removed documents from the President's desk to prevent him from enacting dangerous policies.

ROMANS: Woodward 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.


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.


[04:05:12] ROMANS: President Trump calls Woodward's book a con on the public and accuses the author of being a Democratic operative.

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


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.


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


PENCE: I was very disappointed 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.


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

ROMANS: George Papadopoulos insists the Trump campaign was fully aware of efforts to set up a meeting between then candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin. And he claims Jeff Sessions was enthusiastic about pursuing it. Papadopoulos is the first Trump aide to be sentenced in the Mueller investigation. Receiving 14 days in jail for lying to the FBI. Listen to him describe a meeting he attended in late March of 2016 with Trump and Sessions in attendance.


GEORGE PAPADOPOULUS, PRESIDENT TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Candidate Trump at the time nodded at me. I don't think he was committed either way. He was open to the idea. And he deferred, of course, to then senior Senator Jeff Sessions who I remember being quite enthusiastic.


BRIGGS: Sessions testified under oath that he pushed back against suggestions of a Trump/Putin meeting during the campaign. Papadopoulos says he had a different recollection. As part of the sentence, he will face 12 months of supervised release. 200 hours of community service and a $9500 fine.

ROMANS: All right Florence bearing down on the East Coast and our growing concern, it could make landfall Thursday night or Friday morning as a strong 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 Florence for us.

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: All right. Pedram, thank you. 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.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, I think the sentiment in Carolina beach can best be described as cautious optimism.

[04:10:03] 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.


BRIGGS: OK, Kaylee, thanks.

The Dallas police officer charged with manslaughter for the fatal shooting of the unarmed man in his own apartment. Police say Amber Guyger was off duty when she shot Botham Shinjan, a black man after mistakenly entering his apartment at the complex where she also lived. The 26-year-old man later died at the hospital. Guyger, a four year veteran of the force was released from jail, Sunday. After posting $300,000 bond. At this point, officials say, it doesn't appear the pair had a relationship. An investigation is under way.

ROMANS: Time for an Early Start on your money. Ford says, it will not be moving the production of the hatchback to the U.S. despite a tweet by President Trump. the company says, Sunday, building the Focus active in the U.S. will not be profitable because expected annual sales were fewer than 50,000 units. Ford was responding to the tweet from the President over the weekend. When you claim new taxes on, the Chinese imports meant to focus active production would be moved to America. He wrote, this is just the beginning, the car can now be built in the USA and Ford will pay no tariffs. Ford say last month, there was cancelling of plan to make the Focus active I China and export them to the U.S. market. He said pending tariffs could make the cars too expensive.

President Trump has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of Chinese goods, including automobiles. He says the tariffs are necessary to punish China for unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft.

BRIGGS: All right. Some major business news ahead. The CEO of CBS is out. His stunning downfall after 20 years at the top and the face of new sexual misconduct allegations.


BRIGGS: 4:16 Eastern Time. CBS chief executive Les Moonves is stepping down in the face of new sexual misconduct allegations. His forced departure ends a 20-year tenure on top at the network. It now also includes a month's long battle for control of CBS for the company's controlee shareholders. Moonves departure is effective immediately. In a statement, Moonves claims there are untrue allegations being made against him and he is deeply saddened to leave the company. Here is CNN's Brian Stelter with more.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Of all the #Metoo cases in the past year, there is not been one like this. Les Moonves is the first fortune 500 CEO to leave his post amid harassment allegations in this year of #metoo. It is remarkable turn of events given six weeks ago when the first harassment allegations against him came out, he vowed to fight on.

Back then in late July, when Ronan Farrow's reporting came out, the CBS board basically stood by Moonves. He wasn't suspended. He was not forced to step down. And said, two law firms were hired to investigate the allegation. And all of this was going on amid a corporate tug-of-war between Moonves and the controlling shareholder of CBS, Sherrie Redstone.

So, now fast forward six weeks. Farrow heard from more women who were accusers, who are concerned that CBS was not taking action. Was not holding Moonves accountable. Farrow published a new story on Sunday morning on "the New Yorker" web site. Just within a few hours, Moonves was out.

Now, the caveat here -- the complications is that negotiations for him to leave were already under way at that point. But it seems clear that the new harassment allegations which also included allegations of assault, which were even more disturbing than the first set of allegations. All of that is a major factor in the Sunday night announcement.

Moonves is one of the most powerful men in TV. One of the highest paid executives in the media business. So, this is leaving a lot of aftershocks. There are going to be developments for days to come. Including about how much Moonves is going to be paid on the way out the door. Normally he would be paid well-over $100 million if he just been

forced out one day. But because of the allegations against him, it is going to be a much more complicated and legal conversation. Now, Moonves has admitted to mistakes in his past, but he denies ever abusing his power and he denies what he called the appalling accusations of assault of forcible sex that were detailed in the New Yorker story early on Sunday.

All of this of course, happening at a time of dramatic change in the broadcast business and now CBS moves into a new era without Moonves in charge of the company. Much more to come on this story, but it is a climactic moment in the #metoo movement. Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that, Brian. President Trump praising North Korea for the lack of nuclear missiles in its military parade on 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 are there, watching this, the president tweeting about it. Tell us what you have been seeing.

WILL RIPLEY, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It is like living in an alternate dimension, Christine, compared to what it is like even a year ago when I watched intercontinental ballistic missile rolling through Pyong's square -- (inaudible) square here in Pyongyang.

President Trump was tweeting threats of fire and fury. Even this new reporting now by journalist Bob Woodward in his new book claiming that President Trump even drafted a tweet about pulling out the dependents of the 28,000 U.S. Troops on the Korean peninsula, but the Pentagon got back general information, the North Koreans would had viewed that as a threat of an imminent attack.

We went from that -- that close to military escalation between the North Koreans and the U.S. This parade that we saw over the weekend here where not only there were no intercontinental ballistic missiles, but the theme is about economic development, international diplomacy and friendship.

They held the mass games. The first mask games in five years at the Mayday Stadium here. It is a big spectacle in North Korea uses about 100,000 student performers to send their socialist propaganda message. They showed a picture on a large video screen of the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in hugging their leader, Kim Jong-un. And the North Korean audience erupted in applause. That is extraordinary. It has never happened before. It does go to show at last right now, the North Koreans are trying to send an image that they want to open up and they wasn't to make friends with certainly the South Koreans. But even though they did not mention United States, this measuring over the weekend certainly directed at the U.S. and President Trump as well.

But we need to keep in mind, Christine, they have not denuclearize. They still have all those nuclear missile that use to be are displaying the parade. It has kept them hidden at least for now.

ROMANS: All right. Will Ripley, West or Pyongyang, nice to see you. I am glad you are there for us. Thank you, Will.

BRIGGS: in all of that reporting speaks to Bob Woodward says in the book interviews, we better hope there is not a crisis. There was one averted clearly with the tweet that will mentioned.

All right. Coming up, dozens killed in Syria. The regime attempting to end a seven-year civil war. With airstrikes and shelling. We are live in Damascus this morning with the latest.


BRIGGS: 27 people killed. More than 60 others injured in the air strikes and shelling in the Idlib province since Tuesday. That is according to the spokesperson for the rescue volunteer group, The White Helmets. Syrian government official telling CNN, the ongoing air strikes on the rebel held province were conducted by Russian and Syrian forces. The official claiming the strike were surgical, targeting an armed group affiliated with Al Qaeda. CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in Damascus with more. Fred, a feeling like gas attack could be imminent there as well?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, that is exactly what the U.S. seems to feel. It was quite interesting because over the course of the weekend, Dave, the Vice President Mike Pence came out and says look, if there is a gas attack, by the Syrian government, that the U.S. will respond accordingly. So that is something that continues to be in the news. While on the other side, you have the Russians going out and saying they believe that the rebels are finding a false flag gas attack to try to draw the United States into the conflict. So a ton of escalation just on that front as well.

And then you have those air strikes that you were talking about. It was remarkable to see over the weekend. You had that summit in Tehran on Friday, but of course, we covered here in the show trying to find some way out of the crisis up there in Idlib province. And then on Saturday, those air strikes just started extremely escalating there in Idlib province. Of course, then being conducted by the Syrian government forces and the Russian air forces as you mentioned. Syrians saying they were surgical air strikes, but there seems to be video evidence showing that at least some targets where hit as well. And that several people were killed on those airstrikes.

Now, whether or not those airstrikes, are the freight lose to an offensive that could be imminent. It is unclear at point of time The Syrian government is telling, his defensive has not started yet. But they are also telling us Dave, that they already to go act anytime, of course we had been saying some civilian targets were hit and several people killed in the air strikes. Whether or not the strikes were prelude to offensive is unclear at this at that time. The Syrian government is saying the Syrian military has essentially surrounded Idlib province with some of its most battle harden fighters. The concern on the U.S. part and international community's part. Is the fact that there are still about 3 million civilians we are trapped inside the area with nowhere to go? Obviously they would be very vulnerable if there was an onslaught, Dave. .

BRIGGS: All right, they could, indeed. Fred Pleitgen, great reporting there, live for us in Damascus, this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Back in the U.S., interstate 5, one of the countries busiest roadways construction from Mexico to Canada closed indefinitely for a 45--mile stretch through fire ravage Northern California. The delta fire, burning in the city Redding, is has proven hard to control. So far, the flames have scorched 41,000 acres. Currently we are told only 5 percent contained currently. 2,400 crews are working seriously to gain ground on the fire.

BRIGGS: A Louisiana mayor facing backlash for seeking a boycotts of Nike on the same day the company released it Colin Kaepernick ad. Canada Mayor (Inaudible) sign a memo last week, banning all booster club from ordering Nike products at this recreational centers.

The City council member will meet with the mayor and others to rescind the directive. Other officials also criticized his move, the mayor has not responded.

ROMANS: All right. Hurricane Florence bearing down on Virginia, the Carolina's, the (inaudible) preparing now what could had been an extremely dangerous major hurricane. The latest forecast next.