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Labor Secretary Alex Acosta Under Scrutiny; Judge Blocks Drug Prices in Ads; Trump Seizes on Leaks to Attack U.K.; Record Home Run Derby. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 9, 2019 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:20] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Can Alex Acosta hang on to his cabinet post? Fresh questions after a sex trafficking indictment against a financer Acosta gave sweetheart deal to a decade ago.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A blow to consumers. Drug prices won't be featured in TV ads. A new rule blocked by a federal judge.

ROMANS: The president using unflattering leaks from the U.K. ambassador to attack the British government just weeks after he was given a royal welcome.

BRIGGS: And a new record at the home run derby, but could Vlad Guerrero Jr. hold on in the final. This was a long and exhaustive and very entertaining night in Cleveland.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

Welcome back to you, my friend.

ROMANS: Thank you. Thank you. I'm just back from Europe actually and now back.

BRIGGS: Good to have you back.

ROMANS: What did I miss? A couple of things, I think.

BRIGGS: Not much.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, July 9th, 900th day of the Trump presidency. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York, 4:00 p.m. in Hong Kong, and 9:00 a.m. this morning in London.

All right. The sex trafficking indictment of a politically connected a multimillionaire raising new questions about Jeffrey Epstein's ties to a Trump cabinet official, the first of what could be many calls for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign came overnight from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Quote, Secretary Acosta must step down. As U.S. attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement with Jeffrey Epstein, kept secret from courageous young victims preventing them from seeking justice.

BRIGGS: A U.S. attorney in Florida in 2007, Acosta negotiated a plea deal that sentenced Epstein to 13 months in county jail while allowing him to work from his office six days a week, 12 hours a day. Epstein had been facing life in prison. No comment from Republican Senator Ben Sasse on Acosta's future but he did say this about Epstein.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): This guy victimized dozens, probably scores of little girls and the sentence he got was pathetic, and every mom and dad in America, frankly, not just moms and dads but anybody with a heart should be heartbroken by what happened here to these girls.

Government ought to be doing more of this, going bastards like this guy. And it shouldn't -- this isn't a time for people to say, oh, he's a Republican or Democrat going to be implicated. Every American should stand on the side of those little girls.


BRIGGS: The indictment against Epstein contains some troubling details.

More on that from CNN's Miguel Marquez.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, there are lurid sexual allegations again against multimillionaire and investment banker Jeffrey Epstein who's been charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy. But New York prosecutors, they are looking for more.

GEOFFREY BERMAN, NEW YORK PROSECUTOR: If you believe you are a victim of this man Jeffrey Epstein, we want to hear from you.

MARQUEZ: Prosecutors allege over four years, Epstein lured underage women, some as 14 years old to massage him and engage in sexual agents in his Palm Beach, Florida, and New York homes. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In addition to finding hundreds, possibly thousands of photos of nude and partially nude young women and girls, some of them locked in a safe, investigators found compact disks with handwritten labels including the following, young name, plus name, miscellaneous nudes one and girls, girl pics nude.

Now, Epstein is already a registered sex offender after agreeing to a plea deal with the Florida prosecutors in 2008.

"The Miami herald" in an investigation helped prompt the new charges, found that Acosta signed off on a deal in 2008, essentially shutting down an FBI investigation giving immunity to any potential co- conspirators, allowing the multimillionaire to pay restitutions to his victims, registered as a sex offender and pled guilty to state charges. Epstein is also connected to the president. He was photographed with the president in 2007 and 2000 at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate, also in Palm Beach, Florida. In 2002 "New York" magazine Epstein profile, Trump said of him: I've

known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.

Just this past Sunday, the president was asked if he had any comment on Epstein or the case and he said I don't know about it -- Christine, Dave.


ROMANS: All right, Miguel. Thank you for that.

[04:05:00] You know, Jeffrey Epstein also has connections to Bill Clinton. A Clinton spokesman says the former president took a total of four trips on Epstein's private jet in 2002 and 2003, including stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation. The spokesman says Mr. Clinton has not spoken to Mr. Epstein in well over a decade. Spokesman's statement adds that Clinton knows nothing about Epstein's terrible crimes.

BRIGGS: A plan to let you see drug prices on TV ads nixed by a federal judge, was set to take effect today, but District Judge Amit Mehta of Washington, D.C. vacated the health and human service measure, ruling the agency overstepped its authority. The judge says the responsibility of driving down drug prices lies with Congress.

Putting prices in ads was the centerpiece of a White House effort to bring down drug prices but experts said it could be misleading since people with insurance pay far less.

ROMANS: All right. Joe Biden says he opposes the Medicare-for-All plan being promoted by many of his Democratic rivals. The former vice president is the only one of the top four top polling Democrats who does not support some form of single-payer health insurance. Biden says that kind of system could not co-exist with the Affordable Care Act.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They think they have the right answer, but look, starting over would be I think a sin. They are saying they want to -- if you are satisfied with your employer-based health care, you got to give it up. Look, we provide a Medicare option. That's exactly what Barack and I talked about at the beginning.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Couldn't get it through though.

BIDEN: No, we couldn't. But now, now, things are changing.


ROMANS: Meantime, Biden's wife Jill firing back at Kamala Harris, suggesting the California senator is trying to imply her husband is a racist. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF JOE BIDEN: He got into politics because of his commitment to civil rights and then to be elected with Barack Obama and then someone is saying, you know, you're a racist. As soon as I heard those words --

CUOMO: He's not a racist, but this all stinks.

BIDEN: As soon as I heard those words, I thought, uh-oh, what's coming next? And I think the American people know Joe Biden. They know his values. They know what he stands for. And they didn't buy it.


ROMANS: So, Biden and Harris are locked in a battle to win over black voters, a critical constituency in the nomination process.

BRIGGS: The relationship between the United States and England is being sorely tested. President Trump has declared he'll no longer deal with the British ambassador to the U.S., Kim Darroch. Darroch referred to Trump administration as, quote, dysfunctional and inept in recently leaked cables.

Max Foster joining us live from London with the latest.

Max, good morning.


You know, the British government very much standing by their man, British Prime Minister Theresa May offering her full support to Kim Darroch. And that's the view across government, and the civil service, I have to say here at the moment.

Behind the scenes, a great deal of frustration really about the position that the president has put the U.K. in. That's the feeling here, and for the special relationship between the two countries. The big question is really about these tweets. Was this an official instruction to the White House and the Trump administration to regard Darroch as a person non grata?

If that's the case, it puts him and the U.K. at a very difficult position. He just can't do his job as ambassador and his job pretty much becomes almost redundant, which is very difficult to be in, because the view is here in London that actually he was just doing his job. He was asked, he's paid to give frank assessments of the Trump administration. That's all he did.

And now, they are in a situation where they have to bring him in because they can't allow a foreign power to effectively dictate which ambassadors they're going to deal with. So, it's a very difficult situation.

And combined with that, Prime Minister May on the way out so we're looking at new contenders to replace her are saying not very much at the moment. But they are going to inherit this ambassador as an issue ahead of time.

BRIGGS: Very complicated situation.

Max Foster live for us this morning in London, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam says a controversial extradition bill which has, of course, spurred weeks of protest is now dead.

CNN's Anna Coren is live in Hong Kong.

And this is clearly what those protesters were fighting for.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly. They are looking at this as a win. No doubt about it, but, Christine, they wanted her to use the word withdrawal, withdrawal of this very controversial extradition bill. Carrie Lam said the bill is dead.

Now she went on to say that it was a complete failure on behalf of the government for not selling this extradition bill. This was a mea culpa from the city's chief executive who said it's her fault that the people of Hong Kong feel that the government has been ignoring them.

[04:10:07] She did stop short, though, of resigning. This is something that the protesters wanted her to do, to step down. She said resigning is not a simple task.

She says, I need to do better. I need to change the way that I govern, and she also spoke of these protests not just over the past month but what's happened in Hong Kong certainly five years ago in the umbrella movement of 2014 that this goes to the heart of a deeper, more fundamental problem.

Take a listen to what Carrie Lam had to say a bit earlier.


CARRIE LAM, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF HONG KONG: Both exercises have caused a lot of grievances and unhappiness and tensions in society. I believe they reflect not only one incident, but some fundamental and deep seated problems in Hong Kong. Five years ago, we finished Occupy Central, we moved on without addressing those fundamental problems. But this time, I don't think we can continue to ignore those fundamental and deep seated problems.


COREN: Christine, this doesn't satisfy the protesters one little bit. They say they are going to continue to protest, to march, to show their dissatisfaction with the government and with Carrie Lam until she steps down -- Christine.

ROMANS: What she calls fundamental problems, those protesters would say, human rights, ability to have our own kind of democratic processes here and not to be so tied to Beijing. But big difference of view there.

Thanks so much, Anna Coren.

BRIGGS: Little bit.

All right. Ahead, almost 20 top positions remain vacant at the Pentagon. Does that pose a national security problem? That's next.


[04:16:25] BRIGGS: Four-sixteen a.m. Eastern Time.

And 19 of the most senior jobs at the Pentagon are currently filled by temporary employees, a development now raising national security concerns. The latest departure, four star Navy Admiral William Moran, he was set to become the navy's top uniformed officer. Instead, he's retiring. His judgment came into question over a professional relationship with a former Pentagon staffer. He retired amid allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

The administration is struggling to get nominees confirmed by the Senate or to get people to accept nominations in the first place.

ROMANS: All right. The government is spending so much more than it brings in. The debt ceiling deadline is fast approaching. A new report from the bipartisan Policy Center says the U.S. government could default on its debt in early September. Economists forecast that the date wouldn't be really until October or early November. So, much sooner than we thought.

The U.S. reached the $22 trillion limit on borrowing already back in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using what it calls extraordinary measures to pay the bills. The Treasury is taking in a lot less revenue from companies. Remember they got a big tax cut in 2017. So, there's less money going to the government and that has raised the risk of reaching default much sooner.

A default would risk the position of U.S. debt as the global safe- haven investment could rattle financial markets. There's not a lot of time for lawmakers to react before the August recess. You have 20 days for the Senate, and only a dozen working days for the House.

The economists at the Policy Center warned if Congress does not address the issue before recess, raising the debt ceiling, lawmakers would be placing a reckless risk on the full faith and credit of the United States.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, threats of contempt and pleading the Fifth, why indecent assault charges against Kevin Spacey could be thrown out after a dramatic day in court.



FATHER OF KEVIN SPACEY ACCUSER: Gone way too far. JUDGE: Listen, I'll decide that. You answer the question, sir.

FATHER OF KEVIN SPACEY ACCUSER: I think you've had way too many questions that have gone too far.

JUDGE: Sir, listen to me, you keep this up, I'm going to hold you in contempt.

FATHER OF KEVIN SPACEY ACCUSER: I asked you a question.

JUDGE: Listen, are you not hearing me, sir?


JUDGE: Listen to me. This is not about that at this moment. It's about what you know.

FATHER OF KEVIN SPACEY ACCUSER: It has turned into that.

JUDGE: Listen, you're real close.


ROMANS: That is some real drama in the courtroom as family of Kevin Spacey's accuser takes the stand. Now, the judge says he may dismiss the case, he may dismiss the case against the Oscar winner. Spacey's accuser invoked a Fifth Amendment Monday after initially testifying he did not delete anything from a cell phone, a cell phone central to this case. Spacey has pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery.

CNN's Jean Casarez in Nantucket, Massachusetts, with more.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, the issue is the missing cell phone. The accuser in this case says that when Kevin Spacey allegedly was assaulting him back in 2016 that he had his cell phone. He was texting his girlfriend. And there are texts to his girlfriend.

The lead investigator for this case, however, testified on Monday that the data on the phone had been altered before it was turned over to the police. He also testified that he had been given that cell phone back to the family, specifically the father of the accuser. When the accuser took the stand he testified that he never deleted anything on that phone. He said that he couldn't remember, he had conversations with his mother about the phone but then admitting yes, they did talk about the phone.

[04:25:00] Next, it was the father of the accuser that took the stand. It was so contentious. But all in all, he said he never deleted anything and he does not remember police returning that phone to him.

And, finally, the mother of the accuser testified that she only deleted some pictures that she thought were bad and she didn't want her son to be seen in a poor light.

HEATHER UNRUH, MOTHER OF ACCUSER: There were just a couple of things that concerned me that I spoke to (AUDIO DELETED) about because as a mom, when I see my son doing something that I don't think he needs to be doing, I had conversation with him about it. So, it was an important, teachable moment.

CASAREZ: Some allegedly racist comments, drinking pictures, and even something that was homophobic. She testified she never deleted texts. She just deleted those pictures. It was at issue today whether this case could even continue -- Dave, Christine.


BRIGGS: Jean Casarez, thank you.

The happiest place on earth turned down right ugly over the holiday weekend.

A violent brawl among family members at Disneyland. Children can be heard crying throughout the whole ordeal. The video shows a man repeatedly hitting a woman after she spat on his face.

At one point, another man intervenes and the two men begin fighting each other. Another woman got involved on a motorized scooter. She actually stands up before she fell or got pushed to the ground.

The agitator was brought down after about three minutes. Police say the family was uncooperative and refused to provide any information what sparked the fight. No arrests have yet been made.

ROMANS: All right. Coco Gauff's Cinderella run at Wimbledon is over. The 15-year-old phenom lost her fourth round match against Romanian star Simona Halep last Monday, 6-3, 6-3. She now returns home to Delray Beach, Florida.

She's a celebrity even though she may not be aware of it yet.


CORI GAUFF, 15-YEAR-OLD TENNIS PHENOM: I kind of don't know how the rest of the world reacted because I'm still on Monday -- I felt I was in a bubble because, I mean, I've been going from tournament to hotel, tournament to hotel because I've been finishing so late. I'm excited to go home.


ROMANS: Coco Gauff joins us live on "NEW DAY" in the 7:00 hour.

BRIGGS: Rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. setting an all-time record with 29 homers in each of first two rounds of last night's Major League Baseball home run derby. But it was Mets rookie Keith Alonso who took home the top drives of $1 million, largest in derby history. He plans to donate part of his winnings to the Wounded Warrior project and a Tunnel to Towers charity benefiting first responders. It's been a rough year for the Mets but one of the bright spots. Check out the chain he gets for winning.

ROMANS: Wow, significant hardware.

BRIGGS: Quite a prize there.

ROMANS: Love it.

All right. He gave Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal a decade ago. Now that Epstein faces new sex trafficking charges in New York, should Alex Acosta keep his job in the Trump cabinet?