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EARLY START

Puerto Rico's Governor Announces Resignation; Robert Mueller's Congressional Testimony Does Little to Help Democrats; North Korea Launches Two Projectiles. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 25, 2019 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:22] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: He's out. Ricardo Rossello says he will resign as governor of Puerto Rico after more than a week of protests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Robert Mueller's blunt warning on Russian interference put Democrats in a scramble after Mueller said little if anything to move the needle on impeachment.

ROMANS: And two projectiles fired by North Korea. South Korea says it was a new type of missile and poses a military threat.

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

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. Thursday, July 25th. 4:00 a.m. right here in New York and in Puerto Rico, and that's where we begin this morning, with breaking news overnight.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello announcing he will resign.

That set off wild celebrations in the streets of San Juan. The embattled governor releasing a video confirming he will step down on August 2nd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO (through translator): Despite having the mandate of the people who elected me democratically, today I feel that remaining in this position represents a difficulty to continue the success that's been reached.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The streets of the capital have been jammed with protesters for days. Puerto Ricans demanding Rossello leave office over a series of leaked group chats that included homophobic and sexist language and joked about Hurricane Maria victims.

We get more this morning from Rafael Romo in San Juan.

RAFAEL ROOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: David, Christine, an explosion of joy, singing, shouting, dancing people here in old San Juan after they learned Governor Ricardo Rossello will be resigning his position effective August 2nd at 5:00 in the afternoon.

You can see how people have been celebrating after they heard the news and the reality is that they have been here protesting on a daily basis for the last 12 days because they said they have lost all trust in their governor and the reality is that Governor Ricardo Rossello didn't really have too many options.

He was facing what would have been a very embarrassing impeachment process. He had already lost many members of his cabinet and it was becoming very difficult for him to govern the island. In announcing his resignation he said that he had dedicated all his time in the governor's office to help the people of Puerto Rico especially when two hurricanes hit the island in 2017, that he had also worked for women's rights and also to improve the financial situation of the island, but the reality was that there was not a whole lot that the governor could do to convince these people that he should stay as governor of Puerto Rico.

Dave and Christine, back to you.

BRIGGS: OK. Terrific reporting there.

Now to the nation's capital and the Mueller hearing. A lot of tense moments, but not much to change any minds. During Robert Mueller's appearance on Capitol Hill. But above all the impeachment talk, the political spin and legal battles, the special counsel's most important message was clear. Russia interfered and the Trump campaign did not refuse the help. Moscow is still trying to influence American democracy and Americans should be aware and concerned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MUELLER: It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it during the next campaign. I hope this does not become the new normal, but I fear it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: House Democrats now plotting their next move. In a closed- door meeting last night, they pressed leadership about impeachment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to let the legal battles play out but she says she is open to more detailed talks about impeachment, something she has resisted so far.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've said that there is no point in moving part with an impeachment inquiry because Republicans control the Senate. It's going to die in the Senate. Is that no longer your chief concern?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I have never longed said that. If we have a case for impeachment, that's the place we will have to go. The fact that why I'd like it to be a strong case is because I don't -- is based on the facts. The stronger our case is, the worst the Senate will look for just letting the president off the hook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[04:05:03] ROMANS: CNN legal analyst Laura Coates says House Democrats already have the information they need to move on impeachment if they choose.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Let's just say it, the book was better than the movie today, OK? We all agree. It was better than the movie, but now we're putting form over substance. It was already there. All the information you would need to actually bring it to life, it's already in the actual report. The idea of kicking the can down the road to say, hey, will this be enough now? Essentially it's like a "Wizard of Oz" moment here, ladies and gentlemen. You already had the power to go home all along, Congress. Are you going to exercise it or are you not?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That's good.

BRIGGS: That's good.

ROMANS: In his hours of testimony Mueller rarely took the bait from Democrats, but he did have some damaging things to say about President Trump. He reiterated, contrary to the president's claims, Mr. Trump was never exonerated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): So the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice, is that correct?

MUELLER: That is correct.

NADLER: And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?

MUELLER: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Mueller essentially said the president lied in some of his written answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Director Mueller, isn't it fair to say that the president's written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn't answer many of your questions but where he did his answers showed that he wasn't always been truthful?

MUELLER: There -- I would say generally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The special counsel also objected to the candidate Trump welcoming help from WikiLeaks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): "This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Donald Trump, October 31st, 2016. "Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Donald Trump, November 4th, 2016.

How do you react to that?

MUELLER: Well, it's -- problematic is an understatement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: For weeks Democrats argued that having Mueller testify on camera would bring his dry 448-page report to life. Instead there was an awful lot of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MUELLER: I direct you to the report. I rely on the report. I send you back to the report. I can't beyond what's in the report. I am not going to get into that. I can't get into the discussions on that. I can't get into it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Mueller deferred or declined to answer questions 206 times. That performance had President Trump declaring victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: I think Robert Mueller did a horrible job, both today and with respect to the investigation. The Democrats lost so big today. Their party is in shambles right now. They are a mess. This was a devastating day for the Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: "INSIDE POLITICS" anchor John King explains why Trump was so confident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: I think he's happy today because you do not have that viral movie trailer moment of Robert Mueller looking directly into a camera and saying something in 15 or 20 seconds that the Democrats can spread around the world about there's a case for you to impeach or I would have, you know, indicted if I could have but I was stuck. He didn't say any of those things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: CNN's Marshal Cohen now joining us live from Washington.

Nobody knows the Russia investigation better.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Good to see you on this day, sir.

MARSHAL COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Look, obviously the book is often better than the movie, as Christine Romans often tells me. They didn't need a blockbuster movie, Marshal. They simply needed an audio book. Why was Robert Mueller unwilling to provide that?

COHEN: We've been wondering that basically since his very first answer yesterday. You take a look at his style, his record, the culture clash there that was on the stage, right? Where you've got someone from a different generation with an honor code. When the Justice Department told him, don't talk about this, don't talk about that, and he basically said, OK. Whatever you want. Even though time and time again he refused to answer questions that he could have answered.

There were times when he said. I'm not going to tell you. I'm not going to say that. And then we just opened up the report and found the information right in there. So it's not like there was a legal basis to some of this. I think a lot of it comes down to his style and his unwillingness to become that made-for-TV political campaign ad.

BRIGGS: He was unwilling to read his own report as Ted Lieu tried to press him, just simply read one sentence. It wasn't just style, it was substance. He did not want to provide anything.

ROMANS: This is a guy who -- I mean, his 88 previous appearances, you know, on Capitol Hill, and we had a mashup of them yesterday. He's not the kind of guy who falls for the optics.

BRIGGS: No.

ROMANS: He just isn't. That's not his style, right?

[04:10:02] COHEN: It's sort of the opposite of the grandstander. You know, we saw a lot of grandstanding in hearings --

ROMANS: Yes.

COHEN: -- over the years about 2016 and 2016 candidates. It was -- I don't know exactly what the opposite of a grandstander is but that was yesterday. And also at times he seemed frankly a bit unfamiliar with his 448-page report. His aides were routinely pointing him in the right direction of what to look at. He asked lawmakers to repeat their questions many, many times throughout the day and he didn't seem to have that, you know, ability to have that recall of obscure things in the report that you generally might expect from the author of the report.

BRIGGS: Yes. That's what I thought stood out. You have a more in- depth knowledge of these 448 pages than seemingly the author of this report, but let's move on to the impact of this and is the impeachment movement dead? Everyone seemingly said, yes, it has to be dead. But then Jackie Speier from California said this late last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): I think that the speaker is softening to the idea of an impeachment inquiry to begin. I don't know that the numbers of members are at a critical mass yet, but I do think it's growing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Growing? Did they see a different hearing than the rest of the country?

COHEN: I'm not sure that a single lawmaker came out in support. I haven't totally been keeping track of all the numbers.

ROMANS: Sure.

COHEN: But I haven't -- if you're looking for a flood gate opening, that didn't happen. Democrats, by the latest count, they'd still need to double and then some.

BRIGGS: Right.

COHEN: The number of Democrats who support impeachment, forget about the Republicans. They have a long, long way to go on that front, but maybe in Speaker Pelosi's eyes this was more of a box checking procedure.

ROMANS: Sure.

COHEN: You can't possibly support impeachment before you hear from the special counsel even though he gave us somewhat lackluster and shaky performance at times. Maybe for the speaker it was just a box checked that now they can move onto the next fight and they've got more fights.

ROMANS: Well, and there's -- I mean, there's an election. I mean, if Democrats really believe that they have a constitutional obligation to impeach Trump, if they really believe that he obstructed justice, you're running out of time, right? Because you've got an election. Or you believe that you go to -- let the voters decide what they really think about the whole process.

COHEN: Right. That's kind of the James Comey position, right? He always said, don't impeach him. Beat him at the ballot box. You know, there's probably a lot of Democrats that think you can do both, frankly. The Republicans tried to impeach Bill Clinton.

ROMANS: Yes.

COHEN: In 1998, 1999 --

ROMANS: Also in a very good economy.

COHEN: In a great economy and then the Republicans won the presidency a year later. So they didn't seem to suffer any major consequences for that impeachment.

BRIGGS: Yes.

COHEN: You know, for the people -- for the Democrats out there that want this, they're probably shaking their heads saying look, it's in the report, there is damning evidence in the report. It's true. But the optics didn't really tell you that yesterday.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's get to the substance when you come back in about 20 minutes and ask you about ongoing Russian interference.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Perhaps the most important part of yesterday's hearings.

Marshall, see you in just a bit.

COHEN: You bet.

ROMANS: All right, breaking news from just moments ago from Sweden. American rapper ASAP Rocky is being charged with assault following a confrontation in Stockholm last month. Swedish prosecutors say the rapper who has been detained since July 3rd will remain in custody until the trial. Various celebrities and President Trump have called for his release. The president told Sweden's prime minister he would personally vouch for the rapper's bail or an alternative. A spokesman says Mr. Trump was told the Swedish government will not try to influence the judicial process. By the way, Sweden has no bail system.

BRIGGS: A historic heat wave coming up. We'll talk about it in Europe. Triple-digit temperatures, even threatening the fire-damaged roof of the cathedral at Notre Dame.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:18:48] ROMANS: Welcome back. Tension on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea firing two projectiles as uncertainty grows over the future of nuclear talks between the United States and the Kim regime.

Will Ripley is tracking the latest developments live from CNN Center for us -- Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this is the latest chapter in what we've seen as this kind of selective escalations on the part of the North Korean, I believe, to try to get the attention of President Trump at a time that diplomacy has once again stalled.

Remember back in May North Korea launched a couple of short-range missiles. Now they've launched a couple of more what South Korea believes are a new type of short-range missile. One traveled just under 300 miles, the other traveled around 500 miles. And these are the kind of missiles that experts say could potentially carry nuclear warheads, pose a threat to tens of millions of people in South Korea where by the way 28,000 U.S. troops are also stationed.

Now this missile test always a signal, of course, from Kim Jong-un comes just a couple of days after North Korea released these photos of Kim inspecting a perhaps missile capable submarine. North Korea has been trying to perfect its submarine-launched ballistic missile technology.

All of this is essentially North Korea trying to let the United States know what could happen if they don't get what they want, which is sanctions release sooner rather than later.

[04:20:03] The problem is diplomacy, any communication between the U.S. and North Korea has essentially ground to a halt. Nothing has happened since President Trump made history when he stepped on the North Korean soil at the Demilitarized Zone a number of weeks ago because the working level discussions haven't resumed and the North Koreans are not expected to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Bangkok next week. They have been hoping that maybe that's when the working level talks would resume. Now there's nothing on the calendar. But what North Korea is doing is testing more missiles.

ROMANS: All right. Will Ripley for us this morning. Thank you so much, Will.

BRIGGS: Relentless, record-breaking heat is gripping Europe. Widespread alerts warnings now being issues in western, central, even northeastern Europe. Temperatures expected to top 102 degrees Fahrenheit today in the U.K. The hottest temperature ever recorded there is 101.3 back in 2003. The sweltering heat also threatening Notre Dame's vaulted ceiling. It was ravaged as you'll remember by fire on April and it's still saturated with water that was used to put out the flames. The cathedral's chief architect is concerned the scorching temps could dry the ceilings too quickly causing them to shift.

All right, ahead, could your next package be delivered via drone? UPS looking to expand its delivery options.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:25:18] ROMANS: Facebook has been criticized for not doing better, for not regulating itself better. There's been scandal after scandal from hate speech to privacy, and criticism over the spread of fake news, especially during national elections. And now the social network is going to pay for it.

The Federal Trade Commission announced a $5 billion settlement with Facebook Wednesday. Nearly 30 times the $168 million fine Dish Network paid back in 2017. The deal comes a day after the Justice Department announced the launch of a wide-ranging anti-trust probe of big tech.

In a Facebook post CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will restructure its approach to privacy. He said the company is going to set a completely new standard for our industry. The settlement also covers Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp and could set the mold for a wave of further action by policy makers as they look to rein in the most powerful players in Silicon Valley. The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge.

BRIGGS: What can brown do for you? In the sky. UPS says it's looking to expand drone deliveries. The shipping giant seeking approval from the FAA to launch a subsidiary to focus on drones. UPS Flight Forward would allow it to fly beyond the line of sight at night and within an unlimited number of operators. Right now operations are limited to delivering medical samples in North Carolina. Tech giants Google and Amazon are also revving up their own drone delivery programs.

That would make the Romans house awfully busy with all the deliveries you have each week.

ROMANS: I know. I know.

(LAUGHTER)

BRIGGS: A lot of drones coming to New Jersey.

ROMANS: It's like a superhighway. A superhighway.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, a big change in Puerto Rico with some breaking news. The governor will resign amid scandal. The announcement sending thousands into the streets.

ROMANS: Democrats searching for a way forward on impeachment. Robert Mueller gave them very little new to work with.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:30:00]