Return to Transcripts main page


Alexander Acosta Under Scrutiny; Judge Nixes HHS Rule to Require Drug Prices in TV Ads; Trump Seizes on Leaks to Attack U.K.; Record Home Run Derby. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 9, 2019 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Can Alex Acosta hang on to his cabinet post? Fresh questions after a sex trafficking incident indictment against a financier Acosta gave a deal a decade ago.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A blow to consumers. Drug prices will not be featured in TV ads. A new White House rule blocked by a federal judge.

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

ROMANS: And a record at the home run derby. Can Vlad Guerrera hold on in the final?

Good morning and welcome, everyone, to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. All star game tonight in Cleveland.

Great to have you back from vacation.

ROMANS: Thanks. Nice to be back.

BRIGGS: Tuesday, July 9th, 900th day of the Trump presidency. It is 5:00 a.m. here in the East, just about it anyway.

We start with the new sex trafficking indictment of politically connected multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, raising new questions about 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: As U.S. attorney in Florida in 2007, Acosta negotiated a plea deal that sentenced Epstein to 13 months in county jail, and allowed him to work from his office six days a week for 12 hours a day. Epstein had been facing life in prison. That was the deal he got.

[05:00:01] No comment from Republican Senator Ben Sasse on Acosta's future, the labor secretary. But he did have this to say 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.


ROMANS: 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.


BRIGGS: Miguel, thanks.

An attorney for the Trump organization has said there was no relationship between Trump and Epstein. Jeffrey Epstein also has connections to another president, Bill Clinton. Clinton spokesman said the former president took a total of four trips on Epstein's private jet in 2002 and three including stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation. The spokesman says Mr. Clinton has not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade and Clinton knows nothing about Epstein's, quote, terrible crimes.

ROMANS: A plan to let you see drug prices on TV ads, something pushed by the Trump administration nixed by a federal judge. It was to take effect today. But District Judge Amit Mehta of Washington, D.C. vacated the Health and Human Services measure, ruling the agency overstepped its responsibility. The judge says the responsibility of driving down drug prices lies with Congress.

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

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


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

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

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


BRIGGS: Meantime, Biden's wife Jill firing back at Kamala Harris, suggesting the California senator is trying to imply her husband is a racist.


JILL BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S WIFE: He got into politics because of his commitment of 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: You're not a racist but this all stinks.

BIDEN: I know, but 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 don't buy it.


[05:05:00] BRIGGS: 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 challenged here. President Trump has declared he will no longer deal with the British ambassador to the U.S., Kim Darroch. Darroch referred to the Trump administration as dysfunctional and inept in recently leaked cables.

Max Foster live from London with the latest developments.

Hi, Max.


Yes, the British government standing by their guy in Washington, Prime Minister Theresa May offering full support for Kim Darroch. Biden the scenes, I'll have to say, there's a huge amount of concern on the situation they've been put into, as a result of this also for the special relationship between the two countries. They're very much saying Darroch was doing his job which is to provide frank assessments against the Trump administration.

But the question really being asked is how to interpret this tweet from President Trump when he said he'll no longer -- we will no longer be dealing with Darroch. Is that an official instruction?

We know that last night, Darroch was disinvited from a dinner at the White House. But we are also expecting Darroch to attend a meeting at the White House today with Ivanka Trump. The president being there, will he be allowed in? If he's not, it does suggest that he has become persona non-grata, which means he just can't do his job, a breakdown effectively in the diplomatic apparatus between the two countries and something that the incoming prime minister is going to have a find a way of dealing with, of trying to rebuild that somehow, but in the money, it seems like a bit of a stalemate.

ROMANS: And, Max, the other wrinkle is why would he leak it the first place? The politics in Britain that might have led to this being leaked, right?

FOSTER: Well, lots and lots of speculation about that. It's just not clear.


FOSTER: These emails tend to get deleted after a period of time. Someone has been storing them up with an intention of leaking them. There's a big inquiry underway there.

ROMANS: All right. Max Foster, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: A whistleblower says he was pressured by the Trump administration to reverse a decision potentially harming endangered species. In a summer in 2017, Arizona developer and Trump donor Mike Ingram proposed a housing and golf course project. It's hitting a snag because Steve Spangle, a 30-year fish and wildlife field supervisor determined it was reasonably certain endangered species could be harmed. That recently changed. The reversal shows another example of the Trump administration siding with executives in the industries they oversee.

ROMANS: As Spangle shares his story, Trump touted what administration officials they call their environmental leadership while slamming the green new deal.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we're focused on practical solutions. More than 100 Democrats in Congress support the so-called Green New Deal. Their plan is estimated to cost our economy nearly $100 trillion, a number unthinkable, a number not affordable even in the best of times.


ROMANS: To be clear, Trump's figure appears to be based to the $93 trillion attributed to the American Action Forum. What is that? It's a conservative think tank that makes huge assumptions about the Green New Deal's implementation. There is no reliable price tag on the Green New Deal.

It's still actually, it's a nonbinding resolution that calls for major action on the climate crisis.

It's interesting, I heard Bill Weir, our climate reporter, saying this weekend that for 40 years, the U.S. has been putting in tighter rules about the environment and the economy has boomed over the past 40 years, even as industries have been required to be cleaner and more efficient, it hasn't been a big killer to the American economy to be more green.

BRIGGS: Will be an issue on the campaign trail, we think. It hasn't been yet but one would expect it will be.

There is a significant risk the U.S. government won't be able to meet its financial obligations by early September. Why and what it means for the economy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:13:54] BRIGGS: There is a new possible mechanism to see President Trump's tax returns. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment Monday that would allow Congress access. The amendment requires the New York tax commissioner to provide state tax returns to Congress upon requests from relevant congressional committees. There are no immediate plans for the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee to request Trump's state tax returns as that new law allows.

For one thing, going after the state returns could complicate the legal battle the Democrat-led committees have been waging to get six years of the president's personal and business federal tax returns.

ROMANS: The government is spending so much more money than it brings in the debt ceiling deadline is fast approaching, faster than we thought. A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center says U.S. government could default on its debt in early September. The initial forecast economists initially thought, the so-called X date would not occur until October, or maybe early November.

Now, the U.S. reached its $22 trillion limit on borrowing back in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using extraordinary measures to pay the bills.

[05:5:02] The Treasury is taking in a lot less money from big companies, big companies after their big tax cuts in 2017. And that has raised the risk of reaching default much sooner. A default would risk a position of the U.S., U.S. debt as the global safe haven investment. It could rattle the financial markets.

There's not a lot of time for lawmakers to act before the August recess. Twenty days for the Senate, only a dozen working days for the House. Economists at the Bipartisan Policy Center warn if Congress does not address this issue before recess, lawmakers will be placing a reckless risk on the full faith and credit for the United States.

BRIGGS: OK, a new tropical system likely to form over the Gulf of Mexico this week. It could strengthen significantly over the next few days.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera has more.


IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, good morning. Yes, we're looking at the early beginnings of tropical storm Barry. We're going to watch this closely obviously over the next few days. Right now, it's just a broad area of low pressure, a mess really, not organized at all.

It has to get that low into the Gulf of Mexico before it tightens up and then potentially becomes a tropical cyclone. It's got an 80 percent chance of doing so. Conditions are going to become quite favorable for that, as it heads into the Gulf. That won't happen until Wednesday and then things could change.

Upper 80s, as warm tempeatures, that's what awaiting for this feature, and it could certainly develop by Wednesday and into Thursday in a general westward track over the next several days. Where it ends up and how it ends up, we just can't tell you. It's too early.

Some models depicting the move. As far as what's going to happen, at least the next couple of days, very heavy rain across the Southeast. We certainly know that. And then once it moves into the Gulf of Mexico, that will happen on Wednesday. It could develop into our third system that will impact the United States.

We've had Andrea before the season even started. This would be Tropical Storm Barry -- guys.


ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: All right. Here we go.

Ahead, two rookies battling it out for the home run derby title and 1 million bucks. Andy Scholes has a remarkable show in Cleveland in the "Bleacher Report".


[05:21:59] BRIGGS: As the U.S. women's national team gets set for the ticker tape parade through New York City, they continue to fight for equal pay.

Andy Scholes has that story in the "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, my friend.


The team arriving back home last night. And the celebration tour going all week long. Interviews today, including Megan Rapinoe joining Anderson Cooper at 8:00 Eastern tonight and tomorrow, they will have the parade in New York City. Then, the team is going to head to Los Angeles for the ESPYS that night. Now, Rapinoe and Alex Morgan gracing the latest cover of "Sports Illustrated" with the iconic pose from the championship game.

This team certainly more than just champions on the field. They're trying to make real change as they fight for equal pay.


ALEX MORGAN, WOMEN'S WORLD CUP CHAMPION: It's so evident more today than ever that we do need to use our voice for what we believe in and for the opinions that we have.

MEGAN RAPINOE, WOMEN'S WORLD CUP CHAMPION: We understand what kind of stage we're on. We're very aware of the tension we have. We knew this would be a huge summer for us in many different ways. This is just the first step in a very big summer.


SCHOLES: Now, Coco Gauff's magical run at Wimbledon coming to an end yesterday. The 15-year-old losing to former world number one Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3. Coco is the youngest to make it to the round in 28 years.

Her parents told NBC she's in year 7 of a 10-year plan to win a major. They added the surprise has come so early. Coco found it hard to believe herself.


CORI GAUFF, 15-YEAR-OLD TENNIS PHENOM: If somebody told me this maybe three weeks ago, I probably wouldn't believe it. If I knew how hard I worked and I knew what shots I could make and what was possible. I hope you learned about me that I'm a fighter and that I will never give up and I hope they learned from me that, I mean, anything is possible if you work hard and just continue to dream big.


SCHOLES: Yes, be sure to tune in to NEW DAY later this morning as Coco joins the show to talk about her incredible run at Wimbledon.

Finally, last night's home run derby in Cleveland was arguably the best every. Vlad Guerrero Jr. jutting on a show, hitting 29 home runs to the first run. Then he and Dodger's John Pederson had an epic match-up that went to triple overtime with Vlad Jr. finally beating him 40 to 39. Vlad Jr. hitting 91 home runs but he lost.

The Mets' Pete Alonso beating him in the finals to take home the million dollar prize.

And, Dave, because Alonzo won, the Mets are offering 80 percent off tickets for the rest of the season and I was browsing on the Website earlier. Select sections, this is what it's for. You can get a $57 ticket for $12.

BRIGGS: OK, I am on the website now. That tells you a lot about the Mets season that they can basically give them away.

SCHOLES: Eighty percent.

BRIGGS: Please come see the Mets.


BRIGGS: Andy Scholes, great stuff, thank you.


ROMANS: When the ticket is less than the beer, you know you're in trouble.

[05:25:03] All right. Thanks so much. All right. He gave Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal a decade ago.

Now, Epstein faces new sex trafficking charges, should Alex Acosta keep his job in the Trump cabinet?


ROMANS: Can Alex Acosta hang on to his cabinet post? New questions after a sex trafficking indictment against a financier Acosta gave a sweetheart deal to a decade ago.

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

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody, on a Tuesday, I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: It is a Tuesday. I'm Christine Romans. It's early on Tuesday, 5:30 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin here with this story. A new sex trafficking indictment of politically connected multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, raising new questions about a Trump cabinet official, the first of what could be many calls from the labor secretary, Alexander.