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Three Days Away from Roundup of Undocumented Immigrants; Hurricane Watches Issued for Gulf Coast; No Apology from Alexander Acosta Over Epstein Deal; Iranians' Attempt to Seize British Tanker Likely a Retaliation. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 04:30   ET




[04:32:33] KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: They're absolutely going to happen. There's approximately a million people in this country with removal orders.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Raids to sweep up undocumented immigrants three days away, and there could be collateral damage.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, hurricane watches issued in the Gulf. The first tropical system to hit the U.S. this year expected to make landfall as a hurricane. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER ACOSTA, LABOR SECRETARY: We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail.


ROMANS: An explanation but no apology from Alex Acosta for the 2008 Jeffrey Epstein deal. A former state's attorney says the Labor secretary, trying to rewrite history.

SANCHEZ: And it looks like the retaliation that Iran promised. Five armed boats trying to seize a British tanker in the Persian Gulf unsuccessful.

ROMANS: All right. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you today.

SANCHEZ: Always a pleasure to be here bright and early with you, Christine. I'm Boris Sanchez. We are 33 minutes past the hour here in New York. And we start with breaking news overnight.

Nationwide raids to round up undocumented immigrants just three days away. "The New York Times" reporting the raids are scheduled to begin on Sunday. That's according to one former and two current Homeland Security officials. The final details of the operation remain influx. "The Times" reports that the raids will include so-called collateral deportations meaning that immigrants who happen to be on the scene may also be detained even though they were not the targets.

Officials tell the "Times" that family members arrested together will be held in family detention centers when possible. On Wednesday a top immigration official suggested that these raids were imminent.


CUCCINELLI: They're absolutely going to happen. There's approximately a million people in this country with removal orders, and of course that isn't what ICE will go after in this. But that's the pool of people who have been all the way through the due process chain.


ROMANS: President Trump threatened to execute the raids last month but ultimately delayed them to give Congress a chance to work out a deal on immigration. But as has been the case in Capitol Hill for decades now, progress and immigration reform has been nonexistent. So comprehensive -- no comprehensive bill has even been introduced this Congress.

All right. Turning to the storms tearing across the Gulf Coast. Hurricane watches have been issued ahead of the first tropical storm system to hit the U.S. this year.

[04:35:04] That system already wreaking havoc knocking down this playhouse in Weatherford, Texas. The National Hurricane Center predicting Tropical Storm Barry will form today and make landfall as a hurricane by Saturday. Barry is expected to make landfall along the Louisiana or upper Texas coast.

SANCHEZ: Now current watches do not include the New Orleans area which was inundated for hours yesterday, as you can see. Governor John Bel Edwards issued a state of emergency.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): Right now we believe that any over topping of the levies would be relatively short duration of about 12 hours. But that is still a very, very significant hazard and so we're asking everyone to take this very seriously.


SANCHEZ: Local media reports more than 200 floodgates are being closed, many around the Mississippi River. Residents are already starting to lay down sandbags to try to prevent water damage.

Let's get over to meteorologist Derek Van Dam live in the Weather Center.

Derek, this is a bit of an unorthodox storm, right? DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's the direction that it's

moving and where it came from. Originating from the Tennessee River Valley, actually, Boris. But this is not the circulation pattern we want to see in the Gulf of Mexico at this time of the year, especially considering that water temperatures right along the coast of Louisiana hovering about 90 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit. That is jet fuel for hurricane development.

We currently have flash flood watches for over four million Americans along the Gulf coast states. That's on top of what we already saw yesterday in New Orleans. We received over a month's worth of rain in just a six-hour period far exceeding July's average rainfall totals in the city. Incredible.

On top of that we have the potential for 10 to 15 inches of rain once the storm system finally edges closer to the coast line. That does not bode well for the low-lying city of New Orleans. In fact, some of the river gauges along the Mississippi River at New Orleans picking up on the potential storm surge which is expected to crest on the Mississippi River at 20 feet. By the way, the levies there, some of them are only at 20 feet as well.

Of course all of this depends on the exact track of where Barry ultimately goes. We have a split on the consensus between the various models that we look at. One thing is for sure, Boris and Christine, fill up your gas tanks today if you can, anyone watching, because Barry is headed towards a good portion of the oil rigs that stand along the Gulf of Mexico.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Yes. That's one of the reasons why we saw oil prices jump yesterday, Derek.

VAN DAM: That's right.

ROMANS: So clearly everyone around the world taking notice here to what this storm could be.

VAN DAM: That's right.

ROMANS: Thank you so much.

All right. No regrets, no apology. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta insisting he secured the best possible deal when he prosecuted financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges a decade ago. Now on Wednesday he condemned what he called horrific crimes committed by Epstein. But he claims he decided to intervene in what had been a state case because he thought Epstein was going to escape jail time altogether.


ACOSTA: A state grand jury brought that single completely unacceptable charge. We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Epstein did go to jail. He received a 13-month jail sentence, but, get this, there was a lot of out on work release, about 12 hours a day, six days a week, essentially hanging out at his office in Palm Beach. Acosta now admitting the secret plea deal that he helped broker looks pretty lenient now.


ACOSTA: The expectation was that it would be served in jail and so this work release was complete B.S. And I've been on record as far as 2011 saying that it was not what was bargained for and it was not what we expected but this was a state court plea and because it was a state court plea the terms of confinement were under the jurisdiction of the state of Florida.


SANCHEZ: Notably, though, we should point out the state of Florida does not allow work release for sexually registered offense.

ROMANS: It doesn't. So that's not common --

SANCHEZ: So there's still a lot of questions to be answered --

ROMANS: Not common practice.

SANCHEZ: -- about this non-prosecution deal. Former Palm Beach state attorney Barry Krischer accuses Acosta of now trying to rewrite history. He says, quote, "Federal prosecutors do not take a backseat to state prosecutors. That's not how the system works in the real world. The U.S. Attorney's Office produced a 53-page indictment that was abandoned after secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein's lawyers and Mr. Acosta."

ROMANS: Now that's a reference to a meeting Acosta had with one of Epstein's attorneys. He says it was after the agreement had been negotiated. But, critical here, according to the "Miami Herald" the deal was still being negotiated even though it was signed a month earlier.

One of Epstein's accusers is now speaking out. Jennifer Araoz says she was attacked in the millionaire's New York City town house 18 years ago.


JENNIFER ARAOZ, EPSTEIN ACCUSER: I was terrified and I was telling him to stop, please stop, you know?

[04:40:07] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did he?

ARAOZ: No, he did not stop. He had no intentions of stopping and that's what he wanted, that's what he got. I just thought like, you know, it's my fault. Like I was like obligated. Like that's just what you're supposed to do so I really did not know better.


ROMANS: She was 14 years old at the time, she says. Acosta's role in the plea facing heightened scrutiny now that Epstein has been charged in a new indictment alleging he sexually abused dozens of young girls.

SANCHEZ: Tensions yet again spiking with Iran. Five armed Iranian gunboats trying unsuccessfully to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday. It was likely an attempt at retaliation for the British seizure of an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is monitoring the latest developments live from Moscow.

Fred, the Revolutionary Guard essentially rebuking the U.S. and the British version of events. They're denying what happened.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they absolutely are, Boris, denying what happened. They're not giving very much in the way of details. All they're saying is that they deny the claims by the Brits. And then the Iranian Foreign minister, he came out just a couple of minutes ago and he said that all the claims made by the Brits are aimed at fueling tensions in the Strait of Hormuz region. So they are denying it but they're not really saying what their version of events is.

We are getting some more information, though, from the British Defense Ministry. They say all of this happened late last night when that British flag tanker was trying to go through the northern end of the Strait of Hormuz. They say that about three Revolutionary Guard vessels came close to the ship, got in its way and then essentially try to force the ship to go into Iranian waters and out of international waters.

What happened then they say is that the British ship then got between the Iranian ships and the tanker and actually pointed its guns at the Iranian boats, and then issued a verbal warning and that then these boats changed course and went away. Obviously a very serious incident. And it does come, you're absolutely right, after the Brits had seized a tanker a couple of days ago. And then the Iranian government in the form of the president said that there would be retaliation for it.

But again the Iranians at this point saying that they did not try to seize this tanker. And of course we do have still that standoff going on between the U.S. and Iran with President Trump just yesterday accusing the Iranians of allegedly secretly enriching uranium even before the nuclear deal was in place. The Iranians obviously are saying that is absolutely not true -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes. The tensions still escalating. President Trump apparently wanting to have some sort of conversation. The Iranians denying him. We'll see if there's an offramp if this continues to get worse.

Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. A tough warning for the White House from an unexpected source. Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Lawmakers from both parties criticizing the administration for declaring an emergency to speed up billions of dollars in arms sales to several countries including Saudi Arabia. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday Cruz issued this blunt threat.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I voted with the administration on the substance because of the threat of Iran but I'll tell you, from my end, if the administration does it again and there is not a live and exigent emergency, you will not have my vote and I predict you will not have the vote of a number of other Republicans as well. The simpler process is follow the damn law and respect it.


SANCHEZ: A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill aimed at tightening oversight of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Republicans and Democrats alike concerned about the administration's unwavering partnership with the Saudis. There's been escalating criticism over human rights in Saudi Arabia, the civilian casualties in the ongoing war in Yemen, and of course the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is being sued for blocking a former New York state assemblyman on Twitter. Democrat Dov Hikind claims the ruling on Tuesday that found that President Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking users on his Twitter account, he says that same ruling makes it unconstitutional for the congresswoman to block him. Hikind tweeting out this. Quote, "The law applies to socialists just as it does to capitalists. See ya in court, AOC." The congresswoman's office declined to comment.

ROMANS: All right. Some of the right-wing media's stars are heading to the White House today for a social media summit. Missing from the event, two of social media's biggest Web sites, Facebook and Twitter, not invited to this event. Instead the president has invited trolls, conservative think tanks, personalities who have pushed conspiracy theories, lies and misinformation.

People familiar with this so-called summit suggest it was not surprising Facebook and Twitter were not invited. They think the summit is going to amount to basically a right-wing grievance session.

[04:45:04] Unclear exactly what will happen today, the White House has declined to release any information about the event.

Our Brian Stelter has basically boiled it down as the White House has invited extremists, a validation of right-wing trolls to the White House.

SANCHEZ: Right. Elevating their platform and even some who have been invited have said they don't know what is on the agenda.


SANCHEZ: So it'll be --

ROMANS: There are big issues in social media today and in big tech. Is this a serious discussion of those issues if you don't invite two of the biggest players?




$175,000 getting loose on the road. Do you scrape it up and run or do you give it back? You might be surprised at what happens. We'll explain, next.


ROMANS: An influential House Democrat calling for Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello to step down. On Wednesday the FBI arrested two former top officials from Rossello's administration on corruption charges. The U.S. territory's former education secretary and the former head of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration.

[04:50:06] Now the indictment says those former officials illegally directed federal funding to politically connected contractors. The arrests sparked concerns in Congress about possible misspending of billions in federal aids to the island territory. Congressman Raul Grijalva, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said, "We've crossed that crucible now where the restoration of accountability is so key going forward."

SANCHEZ: A veteran State Department intelligence analyst resigning in protest after the White House blocked about half of his written testimony to a congressional panel including data on the climate crisis. White House officials allowed Rod Schoonover to speak to the panel in June. But department officials tell the "Wall Street Journal" that the White House barred him from submitting any evidence on possible national security effects of climate change. Those include humanitarian crises, competition for natural resources and political instability. The "Journal" quotes a senior official accusing Schoonover of running around desperately trying to undermine this president.

ROMANS: A Japanese asteroid chasing spacecraft has completed a historic second rendezvous on a space rock and scooped up samples to bring back to earth. Japan's space agency says the landers sample of pristine subsurface rock could give us a greater understanding of the early solar system and how asteroids formed. The spacecraft will release one more lander before beginning its return toward earth. They're supposed to fly past our planet and deliver the sample in a return capsule by the end of 2020. Far out.



ROMANS: All right. A new kind of adviser is JPMorgan Chase's latest move to attract young online investors. CNN Business has the details next.


[04:56:16] SANCHEZ: Pacific Gas and Electric is denying a "Wall Street Journal" report that indicates that the utility knew for years part of its transmission system posed a wildfire risk in California and they did nothing about it. PG&E admits it needs to do more to prevent another devastating wildfire. But it disagrees with claims that it knew its aging infrastructure was susceptible to sparking fires. According to the "Journal" the judge overseeing PG&E's federal probation has ordered the company to respond to the report paragraph by paragraph by July 31st.

ROMANS: A case of car versus cactus on the outskirts of Tucson. The cactus won, by the way. The Pima County Sheriff's Office says a man in a sports car crossed the median Wednesday and slammed into a saguaro cactus. The trunk of the cactus wound up impaled through the passenger's side of the front window. The driver was the only one in the car. He escaped serious injury and is being detained for further investigation after deputies say they observed signs of impairment, other than the cactus.

SANCHEZ: Right. One of the signs has to be the cactus.

ROMANS: Yes. That's a sign of impairment.

SANCHEZ: A dash for cash on I-285 in Dunwoody, Georgia. Drivers slamming on their brakes leaving their cars in the middle of the Interstate when at least $175,000 came flying out of the back door of an armored car. I'd probably stop, too. Police were able to recover a few hundred dollars at the scene. They're letting folks know on Facebook that they technically committed a crime if they scooped up any of that money. On second thought, I probably wouldn't stop. They're asking everyone to do the right thing. The plea apparently working to some extent. By last night, five Good Samaritans turned in a combined $4400. $4400 versus $175,000.

ROMANS: There's still some missing.


ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Speaking of money, let's take a look at markets around the world. And you can see there's some positivity. You've got Asian markets that closed a little bit higher. In London, Paris and Frankfurt have opened higher as well on Wall Street. Futures right now are up a little bit, I would call that barely higher. But they're up because stocks finished higher Wednesday.

The Fed chief Jerome Powell strongly hinted at a potential rate cut later this month. The Nasdaq hit a closing recording high, 8203. The Dow closed up 77 points and the S&P 500 topped 3,000 for the first time in history. But closed just short of there.

Stocks have been performing well this year. The Dow is up 15 percent. The S&P is up 19 percent. The Nasdaq up an unbelievable 23 percent.

Quickly, a look at oil. U.S. oil closed above 60 bucks a barrel, the highest level in seven weeks. That tropical storm we've been telling you about, Barry, poses a threat to crude production in the Gulf of Mexico. Crude oil inventories also declined last week. Both factors are driving the price of oil higher.

All right. Should people trust a robot with your money? JPMorgan Chase hopes so. JPMorgan launching a new robo-adviser as it's making another play for millennial online investors. The bank announced it will offer digital investment portfolios as part of its "You Invest" service which debuted last year. The bank is targeting the demographic because they are in the process of building wealth and they could use more of the bank services down the line. Some of the bank's online efforts have not panned out. Finn, its mobile banking app for millennials, lasted only about a year after that one debuted.

SANCHEZ: I wonder what the robot would say about stopping on the highway to try to grab as much cash as you can.

ROMANS: Not an investment strategy it recommends. I can guarantee that.

SANCHEZ: Thanks for bringing (INAUDIBLE). Appreciate it.

Thank you to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.


CUCCINELLI: They're absolutely going to happen. There's approximately a million people in this country with removal orders.


ROMANS: Raids to sweep up undocumented immigrants are three days away, and there could --