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President Trump Officially Kicks Off 2020 Campaign; Acting Defense Secretary Stepping Down; Key Trump Aide Testifies on Hill Today; Trump Downplays Any Military Action Against Iran; Hong Kong's Lam Offers "Most Sincere Apology". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 19, 2019 - 04:30   ET


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- Dominican Republic says that the lead cause of death for tourists is natural causes -- Dave, Michelle.


[04:30:07] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Awfully scary what's happening there. Rosa, thanks.


Well, President Trump launching his re-election campaign with an airing of grievances. We'll have more on the road to 2020 ahead.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We went through the greatest witch hunt in political history. The only collusion was committed by the Democrats.


KOSINSKI: So, that sounds familiar. It is the president launching his re-election campaign with -- yes, familiar targets.

BRIGGS: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan pulling out of his confirmation. This follows reporting about his troubled family life.

KOSINSKI: Long-time Trump aide Hope Hicks testifying on the Hill in a few hours. The White House saying she can't speak about her time in the administration.

[04:35:04] BRIGGS: Plus, president Trump warning Iran if they try to get nuclear weapons, they'll get war from the United States. We'll have another live report from there straight ahead.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSINSKI: And I'm Michelle Kosinski. It's 35 minutes past the hour.

The President Trump starting his first full day in official re- election mode. His new 2020 campaign launched at an evening rally in Florida that was vintage Trump, and an airing of old grievances against the Mueller report, Democrats, immigrants, even his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.


TRUMP: We went through the greatest witch hunt in political history. The only collusion was committed by the Democrats.

On no issue are Democrats more extreme and more depraved than when it comes to border security.

Remember, the insurance policy just in case Hillary Clinton lost. Remember the insurance policy.

AUDIENCE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!


BRIGGS: Sources tell CNN the president has been complaining to aides that cable networks have largely stopped airing his rallies live as they did in 2016. Campaign source telling CNN officials hoped the rally would satisfy his thirst for the spotlight and reset the campaign. Instead, we heard the same familiar refrains.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins was in Orlando and brings us more.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Michelle, the president's campaign leading up to this has branded his rally as this blockbuster launch of the president's reelection campaign where he's going to swoop in and steal the limelight back from Democrats. They have new signs here. They have a live band outside. His supporters waited to get in. And they even brought out the first family on stage beforehand.

But when President Trump got on stage and he looked away from the teleprompters that were on both side of him, you heard the president essentially make the same argument to his supporters that he made back during the 2016 campaign. He talked about the news. He criticized Democrats. He went after Hillary Clinton in her emails.

It was really essentially an airing of his grievances that we've heard for the last four years ever since the president came down that escalator in Trump Tower and declared against all odds that he was running for president.

Now, there was one point in the evening where the president did get to the news and announced he was officially running for president again 2020.

TRUMP: I stand before you to officially launch my campaign for a second term as president of the United States. COLLINS: So, what you saw from the president in Orlando was more of a

settling of scores than a setting of agenda for what he's going to do if he does get four more years in office. And the president said if he doesn't he painted this pretty dark picture, at times apocalyptic and said, quote, the Democrats want to destroy you and they want to destroy your country as we know it -- Dave and Michelle.


BRIGGS: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thank you.


Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrawing from consideration for the permanent job. This decision comes after new reporting from "The Washington Post" about a violent family incident in 2011 when Shanahan's son attacked his own mother with a baseball bat. Shanahan strongly defended his then 17-year-old son, arguing in a memo two weeks later that the teen was defending himself. Shanahan told "The Post" that he later regretted the memo and that the self- defense claim was false.

KOSINSKI: An administration official said Shanahan was fully vetted. And the White House was generally aware of the domestic abuse case in this long-term messy divorce. But sources tell us, even though Shanahan himself was never arrested, there was growing concern his ex- wife would publicly accuse him of domestic abuse. Shanahan's withdrawal raises key questions about Pentagon leadership and comes just as tensions are escalating with Iran.

CNN's Ryan Browne has more on that.



This most senior shakeup at the Pentagon amid increased tensions in Iran, Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan stepping down, announcing that he will resign effective Sunday, we're being told. And this shakeup comes as President Trump has said he is seeking to avoid war with Iran while the U.S. simultaneously is deploying thousands of additional troops to the region to do forced protection, to respond to what it says is an increased Iranian threat, 1,000 troops being ordered most recently.

Those forces will include reconnaissance personnel, missile defense crews, forces that are said to be defensive in nature.

[04:40:01] But again, Iran saying that the action is provocative, saying it will be prepared to respond if need be and, again, the senior shakeup at the Pentagon raising questions about leadership here.

Army Secretary Mark Esper will fill the role. He will take over on Sunday, we're being told. Again, he's had a fairly narrow portfolio of secretary of the army overseeing that one service. And he's currently getting a crash course in a variety of issues, including nuclear weapons, international security affairs, policy.

And he is an Army veteran. He spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill so he is familiar with some of these issues. But again, a real speed transition going on as he steps into the most senior level role at the Pentagon. Back to you.


KOSINSKI: Sudden for him, too. Thanks, Ryan.

BRIGGS: Long-time Trump aide Hope Hicks heads to Capitol Hill in a matter of hours. The president's former communications director will face questions from lawmakers behind closed doors, but the administration is asserting immunity for Hicks insisting she cannot testify about her time in the White House.

More now from Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.



Hope Hicks, the president's long-time confidante, someone who predates the time of the campaign, worked with him in the Trump Organization, worked with him through the campaign, into the transition, into the White House, she will go behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee and she's going to face an array of questions. We do know that the Democrats plan to press her on a key topic, that is those hush money payments that occurred back in 2016 to silence those alleged extramarital affairs involving Donald Trump. At the time, she was on the campaign, she had knowledge about that. The president cannot invoke executive privilege because he was not president at that time.

But there are instances that occurred that are outlined in the Mueller report that could lead into a fight between the administration and House Democrats, namely those instances detailed in the Mueller report about potential obstruction of justice.

Now, I'm told by Democrats that they plan to ask about five topics of potential criminality at this that were laid out in the Mueller report as it comes to potential obstruction of justice, the efforts to undermine the Mueller probe, the president's efforts allegedly to dismiss the special counsel, Robert Mueller, how he handled the firing of James Comey, his conduct around his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and his efforts to get the former attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, to unrecuse himself and to oversee the Mueller report. Those are all topics they plan to press her on and the Democrats want to ask about -- Michelle and Dave.


BRIGGS: OK, Manu, thanks. KOSINSKI: A lot of questions.

BRIGGS: A check on CNN Business at 4:42.

President Trump criticized the not one but two Central Bank chairs yesterday. He lashed out at familiar target. Jerome Powell for failing to lower interest rates. And he found a new target, European Central Bank Chair Mario Draghi. Trump didn't rule out demoting Powell at the White House yesterday.


TRUMP: Well, let's see what he does. I want to be given a level playing field and so far I haven't been.


BRIGGS: Earlier in the day, Trump lashed out at Draghi after he announced he's open to more stimulus. The comments sent European stocks up and weakened the euro against the dollar. Shortly after, Trump tweeted the stimulus would make it unfairly easier for them to compete and that they've been getting away with this for years, along with China and others.

The Federal Reserve began the two-day meeting yesterday. It is expected to announce that it will hold rates constant. The markets will be watching the press conference for any hints about future rate cuts. Investors expect rates will be lower by the end of the year.

It is interesting, Michelle. The president claims we have never had a better economy and simultaneously wants rates to be lowered, which is an indication of the economy slowing. That is a difficult needle to thread if not impossible.

KOSINSKI: Nor is it true that we've never had a better economy.

BRIGGS: This is also true. The late 1990s, you could argue, was certainly better, and the GDP growth was the same in 2018 as it was in 2015.

KOSINSKI: I think that caffeine is working.

BRIGGS: Give me more cups.

KOSINSKI: President Trump trying to downplay the possibility of a military confrontation with Iran, but he's warning, it's not totally off the table. We're live in Tehran, next.


[04:48:31] BRIGGS: Four-forty-eight Eastern Time.

President Trump now downplaying the threat of a military confrontation with Iran. He tells "Time" magazine in a new interview he wouldn't say he is considering that, but the president says he would consider using military force to prevent Iran from developing more nuclear weapons.

And this news just breaking, Iran announcing it intends to scale back its commitments under the nuclear deal. Iran's atomic energy agency will not extend the two-month deadline it had sent for non-U.S. signatories for the nuclear deal unless they do more to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

Fred Pleitgen live for us in Tehran with the latest.

Fred, what are we learning?


Yes, a lot of breaking news coming in right now. You're absolutely right, the Iranians are saying they are not going to extend the deadline from when they plan to ramp up their nuclear weapons program. Again, they said that they are going to exceed the amount of low enriched uranium that they are allowed to stockpile under that agreement in about, I would say, now, it's about eight to seven days from now.

Interestingly, just a couple of minutes, the president of the country, Hassan Rouhani, came out and defended that very decision. He was at a cabinet meeting. He said that is the least the Iranians would do, because they say, at this point in time, they are adhering to the nuclear agreement but they're not getting any of the benefits like, for instance, sanctions relief because of American sanctions.

And again, they want the Europeans to do more to help Iranians. They say, if the Europeans don't really do that and just talk, the Iranians are going to ramp up their nuclear program again.

[04:50:04] I do have a little bit more breaking news for you guys because Iran's defense minister also just came out and for the first time commented on that video that we saw which the U.S. says proves that Iranian small boats were taking a mine off a tanker that have been hit before.

The -- I'm literally getting this right now. The defense minister says it's not clear when that video was made. He said those small Iranian boats were there to help the stricken vessel. That they do a variety of things to secure the waterways and secure that area, and indicating that those boats might have been up to something malicious simply is something that is not something that is documented in any way, shape or form by any of the evidence that the United States has put out there.

So, this is just coming out from the Iranians right now. We're going to give it more of an accurate translation. I'll get you more the next we're on. But the Iranians seemingly for the first time commenting on the video evidence that the U.S. has put out there which the U.S. says proves that the Iranians were taking an unexploded mine off of that tankers that was hit, Dave.

BRIGGS: Even more difficult to see an off-ramp.

Fred Pleitgen, reporting, great stuff, 1:20 there live in Tehran. Thanks, Fred.

KOSINSKI: A rare apology from Hong Kong's top executive is not silencing calls for her resignation. Massive protests last week forced Carrie Lam to suspend a controversial extradition bill. But despite her most sincere apology, she may now be facing a symbolic vote of no confidence.

CNN's Anna Coren joins us live now from Hong Kong.

So, did anybody think that apology was going to satisfy all of these people in the streets, Anna?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think Carrie Lam, the city's chief executive, thought that it may have resonated with the protesters, that it was heartfelt, that it was sincere. She was obviously doing it in person.

The protesters said, too little too late. This is some two days after almost 2 million people took to the streets according to organizers on Sunday for that massive demonstration protesting against her very controversial extradition bill, which would allow for extradition to mainland China. She issued that very personal apology, but it fell on deaf ears.

Protesters here in Hong Kong, they are calling for her resignation. They are calling for her to withdraw the bill and as you mentioned, that vote of no confidence that we were expecting today, that is yet to happen. We are hearing it may be postponed until tomorrow.

But the student union here in Hong Kong, they are listing a set of demands that need to be met by tomorrow, including the withdrawal of the bill. If it's not met, then they are going to demonstrate. And whilst there have been demonstrations on the two consecutive Sundays, we're not sure where the protest movement goes from here, but we know that there is momentum, that the protesters are feeling energized and that there will be many more demonstrations until the extradition bill is being withdrawn, Michelle.

KOSINSKI: Right. And that message they're sending resonating around the world. Thanks, Anna.

BRIGGS: And this message may resonate with hungry viewers. Pizza may no longer need delivery drivers.


BRIGGS: That's right, Michelle.

Find out how Dominoes plans on getting you your pizza instead, next.


[04:57:57] KOSINSKI: A security scare at Honolulu's airport. False reports of an active shooter causing widespread panic and confusion. Witnesses say the chaos started when laptops over heated inside luggage at a checkpoint. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH GIUNTA, WITNESS: There was some smoke coming out of one of the scanners and the TSA agents started yelling "fire" and told everyone to start running, to get out. Six more came from the other side and started yelling, run, get out. Run. There's a fire.

And everyone started stampeding each other. And women were being knocked down, kids. People's belongings were being trashed.


KOSINSKI: The main terminal was evacuated. Thousands of passengers waited outside until the facility was re-opened four hours later.

BRIGGS: TSA officers making what they called a shocking find inside a man's carry on bag at Newark Liberty International Airport. An X-ray spotted six smoke grenades Sunday, all neatly wrapped in bubble wrap.

A TSA official says the smoke grenades, while illegal, cannot be allowed on board because if released smoke would fill the cabin and cause panic.

KOSINSKI: Of course.

BRIGGS: Yes, indeed.

The passenger was able to hands off the smoke grenades to a non- traveling companion and was allowed to catch his flight to the Dominican Republic. Yikes.

KOSINSKI: Always hand over your smoke grenades before your flight.

BRIGGS: Note to self, do not travel with my smoke grenades.

President Trump's re-election campaign kickoff gave late night hosts a chance to rally some late night laughs. Listen.


JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Earlier tonight, President Trump officially started his re-election campaign in Orlando. Here he is. I've never seen that before.

The campaign set up some activities outside the arena, called it the 45 fest, since Trump is the 45th president. Let's see what they had going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see there's music, entertainment, port- a-potty

FALLON: I don't know how fun that is when the third thing they brag about is port-a-potty. We got everything, music, entertainment, port- a-potties. We got.

Port-a-potties or as Trump calls them, tweeting pods. STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Forty-five fest, MAGA-palooza, old cella.

Merry Christmas.

The event will feature food trucks and live music from the band, The Guzzlers. Yes. Yes.