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Sources: Trump Confident in Alex Acosta; Setback for DOJ in Census Case; Obamacare in Danger?; Delta Flight Makes Emergency Landing; Here Come the Champions; Richard Branson Taking Virgin Galactic Public. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 10, 2019 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Also, there a moment of silence for Tyler Skaggs, the Los Angeles Angels pitcher who was found dead in his Texas hotel room just over a week ago. There's Mike Trout who wore the number 45 of Skaggs.

Also salute to Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco. He is fighting leukemia and was on hand to promote Major League Baseball's Stand Up to Cancer campaign.

Quite a show. Bravo to the city of Cleveland. Did a very nice job.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thirty minutes past the hour. A vote of confidence for Alex Acosta. The president is standing by his labor secretary at least for now. But what could change that?



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're talking about a long time ago. And again, it was a decision made I think not by him but by a lot of people.


BRIGGS: Can Alex Acosta survive? The embattled labor secretary has the president's support, but allies of the president is not so sure.

ROMANS: Scary moment on a flight from Atlanta to Baltimore forced to make an emergency landing due to engine trouble.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:35 Eastern Time right here in New York City.

We start in the nation's capital. A reprieve for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta for now. He is under close scrutiny for a sweetheart plea deal he made with Jeffrey Epstein when the well-connected financer faced sex abuse charges in 2008. Sources tell us President Trump is saying privately he has confidence

in Acosta. The president downplaying Acosta's role in the plea deal which as U.S. attorney he oversaw.


TRUMP: For 2-1/2 years, he's been just an excellent secretary of labor. He's done a fantastic job. But you're talking about a long time ago. And again, it was a decision made I think not by him but by a lot of people.


BRIGGS: CNN, however, has learned that confidence could vanish in a flash depending on the coverage. The president's longtime confidante Chris Ruddy told Don Lemon Acosta's future is not bright.


CHRIS RUDDY, CEO & PRESIDENT, NEWSMAX MEDIA: I think the plea agreement he did is indefensible. I think that he's not going to stay for long. I haven't spoken to the president about it, but I do think -- and we're reporting on Newsmax actually tonight, our White House correspondent says he will be out in the next couple of weeks.


ROMANS: Acosta ratcheting up his defense of the Epstein plea deal saying he's pleased that New York prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence. That's not enough for the "Miami Herald" editorial board, which is calling for Acosta's resignation. The "Herald" broke the story of Epstein's light punishment. He had 16 months in the county jail and the freedom to work at his office 12 hours a day, six days a week. Is that really even jail? It's not clear yet what role if any Congress will play investigating the 2008 plea deal which is now under intense scrutiny.

BRIGGS: As for Epstein, the president is trying to distance himself in the wake of a new indictment in New York charging him with running a child sex ring. This is the same Jeffrey Epstein Mr. Trump once described as a terrific guy. Now, not so much.


TRUMP: Well, I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. People in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don't think I've spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn't a fan.


BRIGGS: But "The New York Times" has new reporting this morning suggesting closer ties between the president and Epstein. A 1992 party at his Mar-a-Lago club billed as a calendar girl competition. A Florida businessman who organized it tells "The Times" 30 people showed up to this party, 28 women, Trump and Epstein.

ROMANS: All right. A new roadblock for the Trump administration as it tries to force a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Democrats and civil rights groups are suing arguing the real purpose is to discourage Latinos and immigrants from filling out the form. Remember, the point of the census is to help draw legislative districts, and evenly spread federal resources across the country.

More from Jessica Schneider in Washington.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, a significant setback for the Department of Justice in its quest to get a citizenship question on the 2020 census. A federal judge out of New York now telling the DOJ it can't simply switch out its team of lawyers without added explanation. In a three-page order, this judge denied the DOJ's request to change its lawyers at least until they can provide some reasoning for doing so.

Now, the DOJ hasn't told the courts, nor have they told the public why exactly it wants to swap its team. There's speculation that the attorneys who were previously on the case might have a credibility issue if they tried to stay on. And that's because they repeatedly told this federal judge in New York as well as the Supreme Court that time was of the essence, and they needed to begin printing the census by July 1st.

With the deadline come and gone, it would possibly create a credibility problem if those same attorneys now told the judge, well, they could wait to print the census in hopes of getting that citizenship question on there. The president, though, of course, could still issue an executive order, a memorandum as the attorney general hinted on Monday. That could come at any day as the administration now continues to insist that this citizenship question will appear on the 2020 census. So, we will wait and see as this continues to play out -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: Representation and a lot of money for a lot of different districts really hangs in the business there.

All right. Will the Fed chief sooth the markets or rock the boat? Jerome Powell testifies at 10:00 a.m. before the House Financial Services Committee. This is his first testimony since the president says he plans to unemployment Christopher Waller and Fed critic Judy Shelton to the powerful board of governors.

[04:40:02] Trump has criticized the Fed over interest rates saying the bank is the most difficult problem facing the economy today. Expect lawmakers to question Powell about the independence of the Fed amid all of the pressure from the president. Despite that pressure, listen to what White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said about Powell's position.


LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: There is no effort to remove him. I will say that unequivocally at the present time. Yes, he's safe.


ROMANS: That didn't stop the president from, you know, bashing the Fed and Jerome Powell any chance he gets. Investors will listen for clues about where interest rates will go. Until now, the market's been pricing in an insurance rate cut buffering against some future deterioration in the economy.

But look, resilient jobs numbers hardly make the case for an aggressive move. Look at, this average monthly jobs growth this year has ticked up to 172,000 a month. The smallest in a decade, but it's been a very big decade of jobs growth. That is still a resilient job market.

BRIGGS: H. Ross Perot has died. The billionaire computer services tycoon best known for two unsuccessful third-party presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996. He'll also be remembered for his folksy Texas quips like this one -- opposing the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA.


ROSS PEROT, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There will be a job- sucking sound going south. We have got to stop sending jobs overseas.


BRIGGS: Perot's 1992 campaign garnered 19 percent of the vote, to this day, one of the most successful third-party bids in U.S. history. For years after, George H.W. Bush blamed him for losing to Bill Clinton, though experts disagree. He died Tuesday after a five-month battle with leukemia. Ross Perot was 89.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, actor Rip Torn has died.


RIP TORN, ACTOR: I was doing a Bob Hope special at the time, and I was so screwed up I let it affect my work. I -- I made Elke Sommer cry in the middle of a dance rehearsal. I'm not proud of that.


ROMANS: Born Elmore torn, the Oscar and Tony nominee won a role for his role as Artie on HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show." He had nearly 200 credits in a career that spanned secretary of decades. After his success on "The Larry Sanders Show", his career picked up steam leading to a turn in the "Men in Black" franchise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TORN: Containment may be a moot point, old friend. The exodus continues. Just like the party's over, the last one to leave gets stuck with the check.


ROMANS: Torn's publicist says he passed away peacefully at his home in Connecticut with his family by his side. Rip Torn was 88.

BRIGGS: In just a matter of hours there will be a ticker tape parade for the U.S. women's soccer team in New York's Canyon of Heroes. The team won its second straight World Cup, wrapping up a dominant few weeks with the win over the Netherlands Sunday. It's still not clear whether the team will get an invite to the White House even though President Trump promised one win or lose.

Megan Rapinoe has been an outspoken critic of the president. She had this message for him last night with Anderson Cooper.


MEGAN RAPINOE, USWNT CO-CAPTAIN: I think that I would say that your message is excluding people. You're excluding me. You're excluding people that look like me. You're excluding people of color. You're excluding, you know, Americans that maybe support you.

I think that we need to have a reckoning with the message that you have and what you're saying about make America great again. I think that you're harkening back to an era that was not great for everyone.


BRIGGS: The ticker-tape parade begins at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time. I will be part of CNN's live coverage. So, keep it here all morning.

The ladies have said they are happy to visit the Congress. They will visit the Senate and the House. But no word on the White House. Does not sound likely.

ROMANS: All right. Why would the Senate majority leader put himself in the same category as President Obama on race issues? Wait until you hear what Mitch McConnell said.


[04:48:13] BRIGGS: A strip club, yes, a strip club is taking over the president's Doral, Florida, golf club this weekend. The "Washington Post" reports the Shadow All-Star Tournament is organized by the Shadow Cabaret based in Florida. The Trump name and family crest are displayed prominently in the strip club's advertising material which offered golfers the caddy girl of your choice, a dancer.

The strip club's marketing director says there will be no nudity at the resort. In a statement, the Trump Organization confirmed the event is happening and said it was for a worthwhile cause, a Miami children's charity. ROMANS: President Trump violates the First Amendment by blocking

users on Twitter. An appeals court ruling that Trump violates the Constitution by blocking certain people because he disagrees with what they have to say. Back in March, the Justice Department argued that the president wasn't wielding the power of the federal government when he blocked certain individuals from his personal Twitter account because while the president sends tweets in his official capacity, he blocks users as a personal matter. The appeals court decision upholds a New York judge's ruling.

BRIGGS: Mitch McConnell says he and Barack Obama have something in common. It seems both men are descendants of slaveholders. The Senate majority leader was asked if that changes his position on reparations for the descendants of slaves.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I find myself once again in the same position as President Obama. We both oppose reparations, and we both are the descendants of slaveholders.


BRIGGS: President Obama's office declined to comment. Several media outlets reported in 2007 that his mother's ancestors were slave owners. Mr. Obama opposed reparations during the 2008 presidential campaign.

[04:50:04] ROMANS: Harvard's head fencing coach has been fired. Peter Brand's termination months after he was accused of selling his Needham, Massachusetts, home for nearly twice it was worth. He sold it to a man whose son was trying to apply to the school.

Harvard athletic director Bob Scalise says the school is committed to upholding the integrity of its athletics program.

Brand's lawyer denies any wrongdoing and calls the firing an egregious disservice to a loyal employee. Last month, the federal grand jury was investigating the sale of Brand's home. It's not clear where the investigation stands this morning.

BRIGGS: That is definitely not what you want to see 30,000 feet. A Delta flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Raleigh, North Carolina, due to engine problems Monday. Delta says there were 148 customers aboard flight 1425 from Atlanta to Baltimore and says just one of the aircraft's engines had a problem.


TYLER KRUEGER, PASSENGER: Can't get that bang and pop out of my head. It was very, very scary. Smoke started rolling into the cabin. Everything started vibrating on the ceiling.


BRIGGS: Whew! The flight landed without incident. Passengers were transferred to an alternate flight.

ROMANS: All right. Before it brings people to space, Virgin Galactic is heading to the New York Stock Exchange. CNN Business has the details next.


[04:55:54] ROMANS: Meghan Markle's request for privacy at Wimbledon triggering a backlash in Britain. Since the duchess of Sussex is attending the tournament as a private individual, in a private capacity, her security detail is requesting fans take no photographs of her. That doesn't sit well with the British media.


PIERS MORGAN, TV HOST: You're public people, all of you. In that moment, you're public people. Stop your squealing about privacy. We don't want to hear it.

If you want to be private, go back to America, and live privately. It's pretty straight forward.


ROMANS: Piers Morgan there.

Harry and Meghan are already facing scrutiny for using millions of public donors to renovate their private home.

BRIGGS: From the better late than never file, a St. Louis woman finally has her wallet back 75 years after it was stolen. An Illinois congregation found about a dozen wallets as it converted a high school building into a church. The pastor posted pictures on Facebook along with names from some of the IDs.

A St. Louis TV station recognized 89-year-old Betty Sissom's name and help to reunite her with her wallet. It contained pictures including one of her brother who was fighting in World War II at the time. No word on whether Sissom had already replaced her credit cards.

ROMANS: It's like a time capsule, right?


ROMANS: So cool.

All right. Soon, there will be a new home for "Friends" binge watchers.


ROMANS: The time -- it just works, 20 years later, it still works. "Friends" moving from Netflix to Warner Media streaming service, now officially called HBO Max. Last year, streamers watched 32 billion minutes, 32 billion minutes of "Friends" on Netflix, second only to "The Office" with 52 billion minutes watched. Just a few weeks ago, Netflix lost streaming tries to "The Office"

when the producers, Universal television, auctioned the rights to NBCUniversal's streaming service.

I want more of that. It's in your head for the rest of the day.

BRIGGS: Oh, Lord, they loop that.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning.

Let's begin with markets around the world. You can see in Asia, mixed. In Europe, down slightly here. On Wall Street, look, it's been a little bit of a tough sledding here. Futures are down this morning.

The Dow recorded its third day of losses. Investors are waiting -- awaiting the fed chief, Jerome Powell. They're worried the Fed won't deliver this big rate cut they're all counting on. The Dow closed down 23 points, the S&P & Nasdaq small gains really, snapping a two- day losing streak there.

We are at the halfway mark for the year. So, some perspective here. The S&P 500 had its best first-half performance since 1997. Wow. Your 401(k) is reflecting this.

But it raises questions about what a strong start may mean for the second half of the year and whether the Fed is justified in a big rate cut. What if the market's ahead of itself? Think on that.

All right. Richard Branson is bringing Virgin Galactic to the stock market. The billionaire's space tourism venture will go public as a merger with Social Capital -- with Social Capital Hed -- I don't know how to say this, Hedosophia. The value of the combined companies will be roughly $1.5 billion.


RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GALACTIC: This will give us the money to see us right through to profitability. It will mean that we'll be able to ramp up production and get many more spaceships built and another mother ship built. Many more rockets built.


ROMANS: Galactic hasn't flown a mission with paying customers yet, but it's notched two successful demonstration flights of its rocket plane called Spaceship 2. It's more than 50 miles above Earth.

Virgin Galactic is expected to compete directly with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. Galactic plans to start flying customers in the first half of 2020.

BRIGGS: All right. Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now. END