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Joe Biden Adopts a More Aggressive Tone Ahead of Debate; Democrats Divided on Impeaching Trump; Report Reveals Massive Russian Election Interference; 150 Dead in Shipwreck Off Coast of Libya; Boris Johnsons Calls to Abolish Irish Backstop in Final Brexit Deal. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:19] JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm happy to debate with anybody the effects of the things that I did.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Vice President Joe Biden takes a tougher tone on the campaign trail ahead of a big debate for Democratic presidential hopefuls.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: House Democrats who support impeachment say privately they're worried that they're running out of time to take action against the president.

BRIGGS: And a new report saying all 50 states were targeted by Russian attempts to interfere with the election.

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

ROMANS: Good morning, everyone.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, July 26th, 4:00 a.m. in New York, 11:00 a.m. in Istanbul and 9:00 a.m. in London.

Let's begin with the 2020 candidates. They are geared up for next week's Democratic debate. New polling shows former VP Joe Biden is firmly back at the top of the pack. In a new poll of the early primary state of South Carolina, Biden beats his nearest competitor Kamala Harris by a huge 27-point margin.

BRIGGS: In the key swing state of Ohio, Biden's 31 percent share leaves Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in a virtual three- way tie for second place. And in a key metric of who can beat Trump at least for now in Iowa, the answer is only Biden.

CNN's Arlette Saenz on the trail with Biden's new sharper approach.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Dave and Christine, Joe Biden is adopting a more aggressive feistier tone when it comes to taking on his critics. He started out his campaign trying to stay above the fray, keeping his focus on President Trump. But now you're seeing the former vice president and his staff really fighting back against critics taking on Biden's record.

One adviser telling me that the former vice president is not going to take attacks on his record sitting down. And you're seeing that play out right now in an escalating feud between Biden and Cory Booker, who has been critical of Biden on issues relating to criminal justice in the past, recently calling him the architect of mass incarceration and is criticizing the former vice president's current criminal justice plan.

And Biden pushed back, pointing out Booker's record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and the police practices that were underway while he was mayor. Take a listen to what he had to say.


BIDEN: If you look at the mayor's record in Newark, one of the provisions I wrote in the crime bill, pattern and practice of misbehavior, his police department was stopping and frisking people, mostly African-American men. So, I'm happy to debate with anybody the effects of the things that I did as a United States senator, as I did as a vice president.


SAENZ: And Biden has really sharpened his attacks on Kamala Harris over the issue of healthcare over the past few weeks. And he was recently pressed by a voter who encouraged him to be tougher in the upcoming debate and Biden said he is not going to be as polite this time around, referencing that exchange with Kamala Harris relating to school busing from the first debate.

Biden is going to be huddling with his advisers in the coming days, even running through some mock debates as he prepares for the debate on Wednesday -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: OK, Arlette. Thank you.

The lineup is all set for your CNN Democratic presidential debate next week. Two big nights. Ten candidates each night. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:00 Eastern Time live from Detroit right here on CNN.

ROMANS: All right. Can't wait for that. House Democrats who want President Trump impeached are concerned they may be running out of time to take actions. Sources tell CNN House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is making the case for impeachment behind the scenes with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

BRIGGS: Nadler telling colleagues the time to act is now while the nation is focused on the Robert Mueller hearings and the fallout but the House is about to begin a six-week summer recess and on Thursday Committee Chairmen Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings told CNN they could support formal impeachment proceedings if President Trump were to defy a court order. But they stopped short of backing an inquiry now.

ROMANS: So Democrats who are close to Pelosi believe her position may be softening on starting an impeachment probe. The speaker is still advocating for the strongest possible case to move forward on impeachment by fighting the White House in the courts first.

BRIGGS: At a meeting Thursday morning, she told Democrats they should do their own thing when it comes to supporting impeachment and the speaker will meet today with the prominent progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the first time a chance to heal internal rifts partially caused by the impeachment question.

Sunlen Serfaty with more from Capitol Hill.

[04:05:01] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

In the wake of Robert Mueller's testimony, it is the key question among Democrats. What exactly comes next? And as we've been reporting about in the recent days and weeks, Democrats remain very, very divided on what the best approach is. The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, she continues to believe that her strategy right now is the right one that, that deliberate post-low, focus on investigations, move things through courts. That is the approach that she wants here caucus to take.

Well, we have heard in recent hours and days from many Democrats up here on the Hill that they are getting a little frustrated, a little bit concerned about the pace of things and certainly some criticism aimed at leadership here. Others are saying that they are waiting to see how the dust settles on Mueller's testimony.


REP. JUAN VARGAS (D-CA): A lot of us who have believed in impeachment for a long time I think will continue to believe and I think those that didn't continue not to believe.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): I think it's a little early. And, you know, we're going to meet our bosses, the constituents, pretty soon, and we're going to hear feedback from them as well. So, I think it's kind of a work in progress right now.


SERFATY: And House Democrats are now heading into a six-week long recess. They will not be back in Washington until September. This is the key time where they will be hearing directly from their constituents, the town halls across the country. Certainly, this potentially could be on many of their constituents' minds. We will see if that has any impact on members who are on the fence and certainly House Democratic leadership -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Sunlen.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he would go to Tehran to negotiate directly with the Iranians if necessary. Tensions are escalating between the U.S. and Iran. Pompeo in a Bloomberg TV interview dismissing the role his Iranian counterpart plays in setting government policy.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Foreign Minister Zarif is no more in charge of what's going on in Iran than a man in the moon. At the end of the day, this is driven by the Ayatollah. He will be the ultimate decision-maker here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you go to Tehran?

POMPEO: Sure. If that's the call, happily go there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And would you -- would you appear on Tehran television?

POMPEO: I would welcome the chance to speak directly to the Iranian people.


BRIGGS: Iran and the U.S. have been in conflict since 2017 when President Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal that banned Tehran from enriching uranium and creating nuclear weapons. A U.S. official says Iran just tested what appears to be a medium-range ballistic missile that travelled more than 600 miles.

ROMANS: All right. The federal government plans to resume executing death row inmates for the first time in nearly two decades. Attorney General Bill Barr ordering the head of the Bureau of Prisons to execute five death throw inmates in December and January.

BRIGGS: The attorney general also wants the three-drug procedure for executions to be replaced with a single drug. Legal challenges may delay the start date. Only three federal inmates have been executed in the U.S. since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1998 with the last execution in 2003. Opponents of the death penalty frequently point to the racial disparities in death sentences and to wrongful convictions.

The acting head of ICE telling lawmakers the president's tweet last month about a roundup of millions of immigrants came as a surprise to the agency.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know that the department -- did the department or you know that the president was going to announce those pending operations?

MATTHEW ALBENCE, ACTING ICE DIRECTOR: No, I don't believe they reached out to us for our input. But I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it put officers' safety in danger? ALBENCE: I don't. Again, when you start to -- I mean, the

"Washington Post" was reporting on this back in the fall.


ROMANS: Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence also telling the House committee that arrests of so-called criminal aliens plunged 14 percent. He explained that was due to a redeployment of ICE personnel to deal with the influx of migrants at the border.

BRIGGS: And another hearing of Health and Human Services officials said more than 61,000 unaccompanied migrant children had been referred to them by Homeland Security this year. Jonathan Hayes said that was the highest number in the HHS program. He said the agency is currently caring for fewer than 11,000 children.

ROMANS: Meantime, ICE has granted a 30-day extension to the father of a teenage migrant who killed herself in New York. 13-year-old Haydi Gamez hanged herself, despondent over being separated from her father for four years. Manuel Gamez was allowed into the U.S. to deal with his daughter's death. The extension gives his lawyers more time to find a way -- to try to find a way for him to stay in the U.S. permanently.

BRIGGS: An explosive report from the Senate Intelligence Committee reveals the unprecedented scope of Russia's interference in the 2016 election. All 50 states were targeted starting in 2014 and according to the report state and local officials were not sufficiently warned or prepared to defend against the attacks. Right now House Democrats and the Trump administration are fighting over how to stop Russian meddling efforts heading into 2020.

Here's Kaitlan Collins with more.

[04:10:02] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The Senate Intelligence Committee has released its report going into the extensive efforts of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, just extensive those efforts were, how far back they date, but also warning about what's to come, because multiple intelligence officials have said that not only did the Russians interfered in 2016, they're going to seek to do it again in future elections. And they want to warn U.S. officials about just how aggressive they need to be to be able to combat that.

We've heard from the FBI Director Christopher Wray who was up on Capitol Hill talking about those efforts for them to interfere, but also from the man who's been spending the last two and a half years investigating it himself. Robert Mueller, the former special counsel who testified on Capitol Hill this week, much to the chagrin of the president, but also revealed a pretty breaking big moment during that interview or during that testimony when he said that, yes, the Russians are interfering. And he said, they're actually interfering as we speak.

Now, of course, those concerns about what exactly is going to happen in the future and whether or not the efforts are strong enough to essentially combat that come as there are still questions about whether or not President Trump himself is taking it seriously.

House Democrats sent a letter to the White House demanding he receive the same in-depth briefing on election interference that they did, and the White House is firing back saying that they believe essentially Democrats are grandstanding by sending that letter.

Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told CNN in a statement that thankfully meddling didn't affect the outcome of the 2016 election, but says, quote, "The Trump administration has instituted the first whole-of-government approach, including the FBI, DHS, state and local officials to protect the integrity of our elections."

Officials insists behind the scenes they're working aggressively to counter those efforts. But, of course, there are still skepticism about whether or not the president himself is the one leading those efforts.

ROMANS: All right. Later this morning, a key reading of economic growth. In just a couple of hours, GDP for the second quarter. President Trump has promised his policies would generate sustained growth above 4 percent, sometimes he said 5 percent, even higher. That is proving to be a little bit difficult here. Economists estimate 1.8 percent growth in the second quarter.

The Atlanta Fed, its estimate just about 1.3 percent. The New York Fed -- its sort of reading of what it expects the economy is doing in Q2, 1.4 percent. That's down pretty decidedly from 3.1 percent in the first quarter. Several factors may put a dent in that growth. First there's Boeing. It's a huge part of the economy. A critical supplier of durable goods. The airplane maker warned any more delays in approvals to fly the 737 MAX could jeopardize production.

The timing of the MAX crisis couldn't be any worse. American manufacturing has gone limp in the past few months. Tariffs and the ongoing trade war with China also dragging on the economy. And despite the slowdown in manufacturing, consumer sentiment is strong. The consumers holding up this whole thing here, and that's crucial for this growth number.

Paychecks got fatter the second quarter but gas prices have been falling. That's good for the consumer. Washington, by the way, is going crazy pumping the economy with money. The Fed might cut rates. Trump needed this number to be above 3 percent this quarter to keep his promises.

BRIGGS: And it continues to say this, the hottest commie we've ever hard, while calling for rate cuts, you expect that.

ROMANS: And all of this deficit spending. So you've got a strong economy in general, maybe a little bit limper here in that quarter. But you got all this deficit spending. The president calling for lower interest rates. It's kinds of remarkable that in good economic times you're asking for all this -- the stimulus. You just kind of wonder what that hangover is going to look like when it's over, you know.

BRIGGS: Odd dichotomy happening.

All right. Ahead, at least 150 people dead after a boat carrying migrants was shipwrecked off the coast of Libya. A live report ahead.


[04:18:22] BRIGGS: 4:18 Eastern Time. At least 150 people have died when a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Libya on Thursday. Officials say some 300 people have believed to have embarked on the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

Jomana Karadsheh has the latest live in Istanbul. Good morning.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. Another tragic incident on the Mediterranean. According to the United Nations and the Libyan coast guard and other organizations involved in the rescue operations anywhere between 250 to 300 migrants and refugees, most of them from African countries and some Arab countries were crowded into a wooden boat that capsized about five miles off the coast of Homs. This is a city to the east of the capitol Tripoli.

And then you have fishermen fishing boats in the area that began helping in the rescue operation. They say many on the boat were women and children. At least 134 according to the Libyans were rescued. One body was retrieved. And anywhere between 100 to 150 people are still missing and they're presumed dead.

This is, of course, one of the latest of these deadly incidents that we have seen. Of course the numbers have significantly dropped, the numbers of people who are making this desperate journey, this really dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to reach Europe. The numbers have significantly dropped since 2017 after some European countries signed a deal with the Libyan coast guard to intercept these migrants.

[04:20:03] But still, we're seeing more and more of these deadly incidents. And according to the United Nations, in 2019, for every six people who made it to European shores, one person died along that route making the Mediterranean still a very dangerous graveyard for migrants.

BRIGGS: Dangerous journeys will, indeed, continue.

Jomana Karadsheh live for us in Istanbul, thank you.

ROMANS: As long as home is more dangerous than the journey, they will continue.


ROMANS: All right, 20 minutes past the hour. The U.S. Military confirming North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Thursday. Officials said the missiles had some enhanced capabilities but were not a threat to South Korea or the U.S. A North Korean state media saying the launch is a warning to South Korea to stop conducting joint military drills with the U.S.

BRIGGS: It's the first missile test since President Trump and Kim Jong-un agreed to revive talks on denuclearization last month. The president again appears to be giving Kim the benefit of the doubt.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: In the case of North Korea, I'm actually getting along very well with him but we'll see what happens. I mean, you know, the sanctions are on, the hostages are back. We're getting the remains back. They haven't done nuclear testing. They really haven't tested missiles other than, you know, smaller ones, which is something that lots test.


BRIGGS: Quick fact check, while the North Korea returned some remains last year it is no longer doing so. U.S. Military announced back in May that the remains program had been suspended because Pyongyang stopped communicating with U.S. agency responsible for that effort.

ROMANS: All right. Britain's new prime minister Boris Johnson laying down firm demands over key requirements for Brexit. The E.U. is responding. CNN is live from 10 Downing Street next.


[04:26:51] BRIGGS: Boris Johnson wants to turbo charge the U.K.'s departure from the European Union. In his first speech before the House of Commons, Britain's new prime minister declares the Brexit backstop must be abolished. That backstop is a last resort requiring the U.K. to maintain close ties in the E.U. in order to keep a seamless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Johnson has officially moved into 10 Downing Street and could soon be joined by his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds.

CNN's Nina Dos Santos standing by live at 10 Downing Street with the latest.

Nina, good morning.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Dave. Well, number two day of Boris Johnson's premiership. And as you can see the heavens have opened up here. It's a common day across Westminster because members of parliament have not gone on their holiday for more than a month, but stormy skies are above us and across the channel there are also a stormy relationship signs that are brewing because, of course, as you said, Boris Johnson in that combative performance in the Houses of Parliament yesterday certainly set the country on a collision course with Brussels, making this kind of demands particularly with regards to abandoning that so-called unpopular Irish border backstop arrangement that the E.U. is so beholden to.

That is being swiftly rebuffed by the likes of the Irish prime minister saying that Boris Johnson's proposals don't belong, quote- unquote, "in the real world" and also the chief negotiator for the E.U. wrote a letter saying that he had seen Boris Johnson's performance and described it as combative.

We also saw later on yesterday Jean-Claude Juncker, the outgoing head of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, hosting a phone conversation with Boris Johnson. It appeared to be warm. They agreed to keep in touch over the summer and indeed exchanged cell phone numbers but each side appeared to be particularly entrenched. And that means that the U.K. is heading closer and closer towards a no deal Brexit by which the U.K. would leave the E.U. without a trading deal in October 31st.

There's so much that's controversial and different about Boris Johnson, not just on the policy side but also as you pointed out in your introduction, in terms of his domestic arrangements. He hasn't, we believe yet, moved into 10 Downing Street. Theresa May's belongings were taken out yesterday in a removal's van but it's expected that as you said he will live here. For the first time we'll see an unmarried couple inhabit 10 Downing Street with Carrie Symonds, his partner, who's 20 years his junior. Boris Johnson is still in the throes, remember, of a divorce from his second wife, Marina Wheeler -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Never a dull day with Boris Johnson at the helm. Nina Dos Santos, live at 10 Downing, thank you.

Back here, the Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Mississippi suspending three students for a photo which shows them posing with guns at a bullet-riddled marker noting where Emmitt Till's body was found. The photo was posted on social media back in March. It's unknown if the three in the picture are the ones who shot the sign causing the bullet holes.

ROMANS: According to Pro Publica which published an article about this incident, the students face a possible Justice Department inquiry. Emmitt Till's death made him a civil rights icon. He was just 14 when he was tortured and murdered in August of 1955. His body later recovered from a river.