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Robert Mueller Agrees to Testify Publicly July 17; Photo of Drowned Father & Daughter Underscores Border Crisis; First Democratic Debate Tonight; U.S. and North Korea Plotting Third Summit. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2019 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:19] ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL: There's been discussion about an appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We'll find out. Robert Mueller will testify publicly next month. All it took was two subpoenas from House Democrats.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Heartbreaking and gut wrenching. This image of powerful symbol of the border crisis. And overnight, the House passing a bill, including new standards to care for kids at the border.

ROMANS: It's finally here. The first 2020 Democratic debate begins tonight. Will the candidates go after each other or the president?

BRIGGS: And breaking moments ago, secret talks between the U.S. and North Korea for a third summit, just months after talks collapsed in Hanoi.

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, June 26th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, and your beard is gone.

BRIGGS: It is gone.

ROMANS: Welcome back. I see you there.

All right. We have breaking news this morning. What could be the congressional hearing of the century is just three weeks away. Robert Mueller agreeing to testify in open session on July 17th after House Democrats issued a subpoena for his appearance. It was something Mueller was reluctant to do.


MUELLER: Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public.


BRIGGS: Mueller will testify in back to back hearings before the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Members of both parties giving a clear preview of what's in store.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): It's important that he answer a the hot of specific questions. I think one of the questions that isn't specifically in the report would be you wrote a letter, Mr. Mueller, to the special -- to the attorney general saying he misrepresented the report. How so?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I've been a critic of how the Mueller team was assembled. I think it's ludicrous that you had people who are involved in defending the Clinton Foundation engaged in this investigation.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): There's no limitation on confining his testimony to the four corners of the report. That may be his desire, but Congress has questions that go beyond the report.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Bob Mueller better be prepared because I can tell you, he will be cross-examined for the first time and the American people will start to see the flaws in his report.


BRIGGS: President Trump weighing in on the Mueller news with a short but familiar tweet: Presidential harassment.

More now from CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Major news from Capitol Hill after the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee announced plans to subpoena Robert Mueller, bring him in before a public hearing on July 17th. They said he's agreed to come in after they issued that subpoena.

This all happening after weeks of negotiations about bringing in Bob Mueller to testify. Mueller has resisted that, saying he only wants to go in private. But now, he's going to come in a public hearing, and here's why -- because Democrats say they believe the American public deserve to hear what the Mueller report laid out. The two-year investigation of Russian interference in the election, potential obstruction of justice that they believe that the American public has not fully grasped because of denseness and the nature of the report being so long, and not many people having read. It will be much different in a public setting when the special counsel will testify.

The special counsel has resisted, and now only agreeing pursuant to the subpoena. This changes the dynamic significantly on Capitol Hill as members try to fully grasp what the special counsel said to prepare for the questions in testimony that everybody will be watching -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Manu, thank you so much for that.

After days of reports of inhumane conditions for kids being held at the southern border, this picture is the most vivid and disturbing yet. It's a devastating reminder of the dangers many face when they try to cross into the United States. This is an image of an El Salvadoran father and his daughter lying face down in the water on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande. Oscar Alberto Martinez and his 2-year- old daughter Valeria, they drown, this was Sunday.

The photograph was taken by the journalist Julia Le Duc who lived in Mexico.

The young girl is tucked inside her father's shirt. Their bodies coming to rest near a river bank alongside discarded beer cans and soda bottle. According to the photographer, the father and little girl had successfully crossed the river when the father started to go back for his wife Tanya.

[04:05:04] When Valeria saw her father swimming away, she jumped in after him.

The wife witnessed the entire episode. She tells Mexican media the family waited in migrant camp for two months in triple digit heat for an appointment to receive political asylum.

BRIGGS: With that awful reality as a backdrop, the House last night passed a $4.5 billion emergency border aid bill despite a White House veto threat. It contains provisions for the treatment of migrant children in U.S. custody after last minute push from the progressive wing.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It's not an immigration bill. It's an appropriations bill to meet the needs of our children. So it can remove the needs that they have, but also the shame they don't have diapers and toothbrushes and the care.


BRIGGS: Still, four Democrats voted against the bill. Three Republicans crossed party lines and voted for it, including Will Hurd whose district is on the border.

It wasn't just a humanitarian crisis looming over the vote, also the president's threat to begin mass deportations of undocumented immigrant families starting in 11 days. The Senate has a bipartisan bill that would allocate $4.5 billion for the border crisis, but there are significant differences with the House bill. It's unclear if a deal can be reached. ROMANS: All right. Hundreds of employees for online retailer Wayfair

are planning a walkout today. They will protest the company selling furniture to migrant detention camps. The workers learned last week about an order placed by BCFS, a nonprofit that manages detention facilities.

The order was for about $20,000 worth of bedroom furniture. More than 500 employees sent a letter to senior management asking them to no longer do business with BCFS.

Wayfair management says it still plans to work with the group. In a letter, management said: Our business is to sell to any customer who is acting within the laws.

BRIGGS: More breaking news. The U.S. and North Korea holding secret talks to arrange a third summit between President Trump and Kim Jong- un, that according to South Korea.

Let's bring in Will Ripley on the phone for us.

Will, what are you learning?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hey, Dave. Yes, this is coming from South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, kind of confirming what we have been suspecting for the last few days. Obviously, there's been that exchange of letters between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. North Korean state media went so far as to show Kim reading the letter, saying there's excellent content and now, you have President Moon confirming that there have been back channel discussions about a third summit after the collapse of talks in Vietnam earlier this year.

Now, this is where things could get interesting in the coming days. President Trump is going to the G-20 in Japan. After that this weekend, he's expected to make a stop in South Korea. And CNN sources are telling us that one of President Trump's items on his itinerary, although this has not been confirmed by the White House, is that he will visit the demilitarized zone, the DMZ, specifically the truce village in Panmunjom where the first Inter-Korean summit was held last year back in April.

Could this be the spot where President Trump holds that third summit with Kim Jong-un? He's actually said on Twitter in the past, he would consider going there. It has been ruled out in the past as a non- neutral location, but President Trump's own advisers however, it would make sense. They have the infrastructure in place there for talks or it could be that President Trump visits the DMZ, and the summit happens at another time and place. We just don't know right now.

But at the same time, it's also interesting to note that North Korean state media taking their typical track where they are criticizing the United States, specifically members of the Trump administration for making remarks about sanctions and about putting economic pressure on the country , saying those remarks are reckless. At the same time, there's back channel discussions, South Korea's president confirming, that a third summit with Trump and Kim could be in the works -- Dave. BRIGGS: But, again, beyond the exchange of beautiful letters, no

indication that Kim Jong-un is willing to or taking steps to fully denuclearize.

Will Ripley with the breaking news there for us. We'll check back with you next hour. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The 2020 debate season is officially here. The first Democratic debate happens tonight in Miami. Expect the border to be a key topic as politicians react to this haunting image of the drown father and two-year-old daughter at the border.

Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke tweeting: Trump is responsible for these deaths.

In the hours before the debate, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren will visit a holding facility in Homestead, Florida, where some unaccompanied migrant children are being housed. Both will try to stand out as ten candidates square off in this crowded field of 24 hopefuls.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's going to be tough, right?

[04:10:00] We've got 60 seconds to respond to some of the biggest questions on the minds of the American people right now. If I can reflect back what I have learned, what I have heard by listening to people across the country, I'm going to feel very good about this debate.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Preparing for the debate is trying to learn to speak in 60 seconds or less, which for me is sometimes a real challenge. This is just a chance to be able to talk to people all across this country. About how this government works better and better and better for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.


ROMANS: For Senators Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, tonight is a chance to shine a light on their underachieving campaigns.

Also on stage tonight, Jay Inslee, Julian Castro, Tim Ryan, John Delaney, Bill de Blasio and Tulsi Gabbard. All of them hoping for some sort of a breakthrough.

BRIGGS: A crowded field.

All right. Breaking overnight, two service members killed in Afghanistan. Their names being withheld pending next of kin notification. Military officials are not saying how they died. It comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced real progress in peace talks with the Taliban during an unannounced visit to Afghanistan Tuesday. Pompeo says he hopes for a deal by September 1st, ahead of the Afghan presidential election, leading to the withdrawal of 14,000 U.S. troops. A total of nine service members have now been killed there this morning, more than 2,000 since 2001.

ROMANS: The National Rifle Association shut down production at NRATV. According to "The New York Times", they are also cutting ties with the ad agency that operates NRATV. Officials cite concerns over the financial cost of the live broadcasting arm and its right wing talking points. It is the latest in a tumultuous year for the NRA which faced a leadership struggle and dealt with allegation it is misused finances.

BRIGGS: Salacious allegations against Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California. Prosecutors alleging he used campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with congressional staffers and lobbyists. Hunter pleaded not guilty to charges of wire fraud, falsifying records and campaign finance violations. His wife Margaret pleaded guilty to federal charges earlier this month and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Congressman Hunter agreed to step down from his congressional committee assignments when he was first indicted. He went on to win reelection in a campaign that was widely criticized for its anti- Muslim themes.

ROMANS: All right. Accusations of mental disabilities, threats of obliteration -- that's what high level diplomatic talks look like between the U.S. and Iran. So what's next between these adversaries? CNN goes live to Tehran.


[04:17:21] BRIGGS: President Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani trading insults and threats as tensions rise between the two countries. Rouhani claims the White House is, quote, suffering from mental disability. President Trump calls that ignorant, insisting Iran does not understand reality. The president warning any attack on anything American will result in overwhelming force and obliteration.


REPORTER: Do you have an exit strategy for Iran if war does break out?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're not going to need an exit strategy. I don't need exit strategies.


BRIGGS: All right. Let's go live to Tehran where Fred Pleitgen has the latest.

Fred, what might this day have in store?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can already tell you, Dave, there's a little breaking news that I can give you right now. The Iranian Atomic Energy Agency just came out a couple minutes ago and said their deadline for uranium enrichment ends tomorrow, and when that deadline ends tomorrow, they will considerably speed up their production of low enriched uranium. They say this is around the time they would exceed the levels under the nuclear agreement of about 300 kilos of low enriched uranium that they are going to have. That announcement being made just now by the Iranians, that they're continuing to put on the pressure, not just on the U.S. but, of course, on the other signatories of that deal as well.

Meanwhile, the Iranians with some pretty tough talk after President Trump came out yesterday and threatened there would be obliteration if it came to a shooting war between Iran and the United States. This morning, a senior Iranian lawmaker came out and said that no one dares infringe on Iranian soil, as he put it. Of course, one of the things that the Iranians are putting out there is they are saying their home grown surface-to-air missile technology is something that was showcased by the fact the drone was shot down and they are continuing to say, guys, that was a clear message to the United States that they are certainly not going to back down and there would be a major response from them if it does come to a military standoff between Iran and the United States, Dave.

BRIGGS: But for the time being remains a war of words.

Fred Pleitgen live for us in Tehran this morning, thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. Jerome Powell took a stand for the independence of the Federal Reserve, a day after President Trump bashed the system for not doing more to prop up the economy.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: The Fed is insulated from short-term political pressures, what is often referred to as our independence. Congress chose to insulate the Fed this way because it had seen the damage that often arises when policy bends to short-term political interests. Central banks and major democracies around the world have similar independence.


ROMANS: Quiet diplomacy amid-the Twitter storm from the president.

[04:20:03] Last week, the Fed kept rates steady but hinted there could be at least one rate cut later this year.

The president tweeted the central bank is acting like a stubborn child for not listening to him, for not pursuing the easy money policies, even easier money policies he wants.

Trump's history of attacking the Federal Reserve goes way back to the Obama administration. Oh, but back then, it was a different story. He repeatedly went after Janet Yellen, then the Fed chief, on Twitter, saying she was keeping rates too low to prop up the economy and called those policies reckless.

Today, it's a different story. He wants the same thing, even in a stronger economy, the same thing he blasts the central bank for doing during the Obama years.

BRIGGS: And if she were taller, he probably should have kept her in place and kept rates where he would like.

ROMANS: The famous reporting from "The Washington Post" he didn't think she was tall enough to be the Fed chief. Decision making at the highest levels.

BRIGGS: Ahead, a police deputy shot and killed in Illinois. Five members of law enforcement now killed in the last nine days.


[04:26:04] ROMANS: An Illinois sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty. Fulton County Deputy Troy Chisum shot while responding to a battery and disturbance call in Illinois. The 39-year-old Chisum was on the force for four and a half years. He also served as a paramedic. Deputy Chisum is the fifth law enforcement officer to be killed in had this country in the last nine days. The other four took place in Missouri, Texas, California and Wisconsin.

BRIGGS: For the first time, the Medal of Honor awarded to a living veteran of the Iraq war.


TRUMP: Staff Sergeant David Bellavia.



BRIGGS: President Trump presented the nation's highest award to Staff Sergeant David Bellavia Tuesday. He received the metal for his actions on November 2004. Bellavia was serving as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury. He single-handedly saved the lives of his entire platoon during his firefight with insurgents in Fallujah.


DAVID BELLAVIA, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: My award has always been I'm alive and I'm home. That's the greatest thing in the world to have.



Because of him, every member of his squad came home.

ROMANS: Remarkable to hear how he went through this dark house one by one, with these insurgents jumping out of wardrobe, and coming up behind him and he saved his entire squad.

BRIGGS: True courage. Ahead, it took not one but two subpoenas, but Robert Mueller will testify in public.