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EARLY START

Joe Biden Maintains Lead in Latest Polls Ahead of Debate; House Dems Worry Window Might be Closing for Impeachment; Senate Intel Committee Report Reveals Extensive Russian Interference in U.S. Elections; At Least 150 Drowned Off Libyan Coast; New British Prime Minister to Move in 10 Downing Street with Girlfriend. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- 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. In a statement the Emmitt Till Interpretative Center said a fourth sign which will be bullet proof will be installed at the site near the river. The signs there have been repeatedly vandalized.

Wow. That -- wow.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: That is some ugliness.

Ahead, no holds barred. Joe Biden ready to fight back against his fellow 2020 candidates.

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

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ROMANS: Joe Biden getting ready to fight back bracing for attacks ahead of CNN's Democratic presidential debate.

BRIGGS: House Democrats trying to figure out their next move. Privately concerned they're running out of time. Start impeachment proceedings.

[04:35:02] ROMANS: A new report from the Senate Intel Committee saying Russia targeted -- started targeting America's elections in 2014 in all 50 states. Every single state.

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

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:35 Eastern Time. 10:35 in Paris where it was 108 degrees yesterday.

ROMANS: Wow. Wow. BRIGGS: Whew. Hope you thawed out or cooled off, rather.

Let's start with politics now. The 2020 candidates gearing up for next week's Democratic debates as new polling shows the former vice president Joe Biden firmly on top of the pack in a new poll of the early primary state of South Carolina. Biden's his nearest competitor Kamala Harris by a huge 27-point margin.

ROMANS: 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 in Ohio right now, their answer is only one, only Biden. Biden's lead widening again as he takes a new sharper approach.

CNN's Arlette Saenz has the latest from the campaign trail.

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.

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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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

House Democrats who want President Trump impeached are concerned they may be running outs of time to take action. Sources tell CNN House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is making the case for impeachment behind the scenes with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

ROMANS: He's telling colleagues the time to act is now while the nation is focused on the Robert Mueller hearings and the fall out. 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 support formal impeachment proceedings if President Trump were to defy a court order. But they stopped short of backing an inquiry now.

BRIGGS: Still, 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.

ROMANS: 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 prominent progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the first time, face-to-face, a chance to heal some internal rifts partially caused by the impeachment question.

Sunlen Serfaty has more from Capitol Hill.

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.

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[04:40:01] 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 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.

BRIGGS: Yes. House Dems less than half the way to the number they need for impeachment.

Sunlen, thank you.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he would go to Iran 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 his government's policy.

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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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Iran and the U.S. have been in conflict since 2017. That's 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.

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 targeting in 2014. And according to report, state and local officials were, quote, "not sufficiently warm 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.

Kaitlan Collins now with more.

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. Thank you for that.

Sweeping bipartisan two-year budget deal passing the Democrat- controlled House Thursday. The measure avoids a potential default on U.S. debt. It prevents automatic spending cuts to domestic and military funding. The measure passed the House overwhelmingly. It now heads to the Republican-led Senate where it faces a less certain future.

Now Conservatives are unhappy about increased domestic spending and the raising of the debt limit, something they fought against in the past. But Senate leaders have been touting the bills big boost in Defense spending. Will that be enough? Several conservative senators declined to tell CNN how they will vote when the measure comes up for vote next week.

Something to think about here. This is a budget buster, right? A new report from the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget shows if the budget deal becomes law, President Trump will have signed legislation that adds $4.1 trillion to the national debt during his first term. The $4 trillion man in his first term, and that's money going in the wrong direction. That's debt.

[04:45:01] President Obama added about 8.5 trillion during his presidency in the middle of a financial crisis and a recession and a failing economy to pump money into the system to save the economy.

You've got this president and Washington today pumping money into a great economy and adding to the debt, something that Republican orthodoxy would tell you is just upside down crazy but it's happening.

BRIGGS: We are old enough to remember one Donald Trump blasting Obama spending.

ROMANS: Oh, absolutely.

BRIGGS: As well as Mitch McConnell.

ROMANS: Absolutely. And saying the president promised -- he told the " Washington Post" in I think 2016 that he would eliminate the national debt in eight years. Instead, he is presiding over a resumption of debt.

BRIGGS: Trillion-dollar annual deficit.

All right, ahead here, at least 150 migrants are dead in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya. We'll have more on survivors next.

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[04:50:03] ROMANS: At least 150 people died when a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Libya on Thursday. Officials say some 300 people believed to have embarked on this dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has the latest. She is live in Istanbul. And for many people it's hard to imagine why you would take such a dangerous journey but what we hear again and again is for all of these desperate people, that dangerous Mediterranean is safer than where they're leaving.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And you know, Christine, we've seen so many of these incidents, one after the other taking place on the Mediterranean. This latest incident according to the various organizations involved in the rescue, according to the United Nations and the Libyan coast guard, they say anywhere between 250 to 300 migrants and refugees. They come from Arab countries, mostly Africans. A lot of them women and children.

They were crammed into this wooden boat that capsized about five miles off the coast of Libya. And it was fishermen on fishing boats in the Mediterranean that began this rescue operation. After the incident, they called in the Libyan coast guard to join them in this rescue. And according to the Libyans, they say they managed to rescue more than 134 people. They retrieved one body as of a few hours ago and that number might change as this rescue operation goes on, but the fear is that 100 to 150 people who are missing, they're presumed dead.

And, you know, while we've seen a real drop in the number of people who are making this dangerous journey across the Mediterranean since 2017, you still see these kinds of incidents taking place. A very dangerous journey and a lot of concern to the people who are rescued, Christine. They're sent back to Libya, send back into detention facilities, facing horrific conditions there and facing torture and even death.

ROMANS: It's such a shame all around.

Thank you so much for that, Jomana Karadsheh, for us this morning, in Istanbul.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, hundreds gathering in Hong Kong's airport protesting against the government and against violence aimed at demonstrators. The crowds holding signs and chanting hoping to get their messages to passengers. Last weekend a group of men in white attacked commuters in a railway station following a major protest in the city. Six men arrested after that attack had links to organized crime groups known as triads. Protesters have been demanding greater democracy and more government accountability for months now.

ROMANS: All right. You won't believe what was on board the SpaceX Dragon capsule when it launched yesterday. CNN Business has the details next.

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[04:57:14] 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 declared the Brexit backstop must be abolished. That backstop is a last resort requiring U.K. to maintain close ties to the E.U. in order to keep a seamless boarder between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Johnson has officially moved in to 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. Hopefully you've cooled off a bit from that record heat yesterday. Good morning.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Dave. Yes, yes, nearly 39 degrees Celsius it was here on 10 Downing Street. Also a (INAUDIBLE) time in the House of Commons as Boris Johnson delivered that 147-minute long blistering set of prime minister's questions. Light on the detail as you'd expect from Boris Johnson, heavy on the bluster and that didn't go down well with Brussels, it seems. Almost immediately after his combative performance, what we saw was the head of the negotiating part of the European Union, who he's going to have to deal with if he tries to get a deal or tries to extricate the U.K. from the E.U., Michel Barnier writing a letter to E.U. diplomats, saying, look, despite any of this combative performance, well, it's really not going to cut it with us.

That view has been reiterated by people like Jean-Claude Juncker who we had a telephone conversation with, Boris Johnson late yesterday evening.

There's so much about Johnson that is different from the past. As you mentioned, he may well move in here with his girlfriend in a few days' time, Carrie Symonds, if that's the case, Dave, it'll mean that it will be the first time we'll see a prime minister move into 10 Downing Street as an unmarried man with his girlfriend or change on so many domestic and international fronts, Dave.

BRIGGS: Should be eventful. Nina Dos Santos, live for us at 10 Downing, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. It's about the top of the hour, let's get a check on CNN Business this Friday morning. First, a look at markets around the world. You can see a mixed performance in Asia and European markets leaning slightly higher here.

On Wall Street, futures right now are I'd say directionless but leading higher. It was a day after record highs that was a stumble. The Dow and the Nasdaq reported their worst one-day percentage drops in a month yesterday on one of the biggest days of the earnings season. The Dow closed down 129 points. The S&P 500 fell by half a percent. And the Nasdaq closed down 1 percent.

Next step, second quarter GDP, that's at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Economists forecast 1.8 percent growth in the second quarter. Down sharply from 3.1 percent in Q1. President Trump needs that number to be above 3 percent to keep his promise that his policies will spur growth in the 4 percent range.

Keeping higher standards. Automakers say no, thank you to President Trump's rolled back emissions regulations. Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, they struck a deal with air quality regulators in California to deliver fleets of cars that average 50 miles by model year 2026. And they vowed to stick to that --

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