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Polls Show Joe Biden's Lead Is Widening Again; Scope Of Russian Election Interference Revealed; Boris Johnson Seeking To "Turbocharge" Brexit. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 05:30   ET



[05:33:13] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Joe Biden getting ready to fight back, bracing for attacks ahead of CNN's Democratic presidential debates.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: House Democrats trying to figure out their next move, privately concerned they're running out of time to start impeachment proceedings.

BRIGGS: A new report from the Senate Intelligence Committee saying Russia started targeting America's elections in 2014 in all 50 states.

ROMANS: That's troubling.

BRIGGS: Welcome back to EARLY START. Happy Friday, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 33 minutes past this hour this Friday morning.

And let's begin with the 2020 candidates. They are gearing up for next week's Democratic debates as new polling shows former V.P. Joe Biden 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 3-way tie for second place.

And in the key metric of, quote, "who can beat Trump" at least, right now in Ohio, the answer is clearly only Biden.

CNN's Arlette Saenz on the trail with Biden's new sharper approach. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 you're now 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 and recently calling him the "architect of mass incarceration" and criticizing the former vice president's current criminal justice plan.

[05:35:14] 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 of a 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 health care 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 bussing 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.


ROMANS: All right, thank you for that, Arlette.

House Democrats who want President Trump impeached are concerned now that time may be running out. A source tells CNN House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler is making the case for impeachment behind the scenes. He is saying the time to act is now while the nation is still focused on the Robert Mueller hearings and the fallout.

The House begins a 6-week summer recess.

BRIGGS: Six weeks, my friend. Wish we all had that. Speaker Nancy Pelosi still wants to build the strongest possible case for impeachment by fighting the White House in the courts first. But at a meeting Thursday, she told Democrats they should do their own thing on impeachment.

CNN, for now, counts 96 members of Congress who support impeachment proceedings.

ROMANS: All right. An explosive report from the Senate Intel 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 these Russian attacks.

Right now, House Democrats and the Trump administration are fighting over how to stop Russian meddling efforts heading into the 2020 election.

CNN's Kaitlin Collins has more.


KAITLIN 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 how 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 interfere 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 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 2 1/2 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 insist behind the scenes they're working aggressively to counter those efforts. But, of course, there is still skepticism about whether or not the president, himself, is the one leading those efforts.


ROMANS: All right, Kaitlin Collins. Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us this morning from Washington, "Washington Post" White House correspondent Toluse Olorunnipa. Good to see you, sir. Happy Friday.

ROMANS: Hi there.


BRIGGS: Let's talk about this question of impeachment. We are currently at 96 in favor of starting impeachment proceedings.

Jackie Speier, California representative, told Jake Tapper it's now or never -- listen.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): If we don't take action come September first, then we should just shut it down because we're not going to be able to do anything at all. I feel strongly that we should but I think we're running out of time.

So, there are 94 members who have come out publicly. I would say there's easily another 20 to 30 that would, given the opportunity to do so. They're holding back, in part, out of respect to the speaker.


[05:40:09] BRIGGS: OK, Toluse, presumably, all House Democrats have read the 448-page Mueller report. Presumably, they all participated in or watched the seven hours of hearings with Bob Mueller.

Hasn't that ship sailed?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, we're going to find out over the August recess. Lawmakers are going to have about six weeks to go back to their constituents -- to go back to their home districts and hear from their voters whether or not they want an impeachment inquiry to go forward.

A lot of these voters did choose Democrats to hold the president and to hold the White House accountable and some of them -- some of the voters are confused about how the Democrats are proceeding here.


OLORUNNIPA: Whether or not they are deciding to make things more definitive and deciding how they're going to hold the president accountable.

Now, there are some court battles that still need to play out. The White House has had a full-on stonewalling strategy, saying that they're not going to provide documents, they're not going to listen to subpoenas, they're not going to release witnesses. So, Democrats have had a tough time building the case for impeachment.

But they did have Mueller on the Hill, they do have the Mueller report, and they do have the ability to see that in that report there's a lot of information that could lead them down the path towards impeachment. They just have to decide whether they want to make that move politically. And it seems like over the next six weeks they're going to have to decide whether to fish or cut bait.

ROMANS: Or whether that six weeks just slams the brakes on the -- on the effort overall.

One wonders if that six weeks slams the brakes on efforts to hold Russia accountable. That's another thing we've really learned here, again, reiterating this week with the Mueller testimony that Russia was involved in this election and is again, now. Now, the Senate Intel Committee report says that all the way back to 2014 the Russians were in all 50 states working against the American democratic process.

What are we doing about it?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, Christine. One of the important parts of this report is that it is a bipartisan support. We've seen so much partisanship over the Russia investigation and over the fact that President Trump's administration was investigated. So this is one step of sort of bipartisan agreement that Russia did involve itself and interfere in the 2016 election.

There's much less bipartisanship when it comes to deciding what to do about it.


OLORUNNIPA: There has been money that's been given to states and local officials to try to shore up their election processes. But the federal government has not centered on a specific strategy about how to sort of deter Russia from moving forward in the past -- in the future.

There are some recommendations in this report about providing strong deterrents and letting Russia know and letting other actors know that if they do interfere there will be a strong countermeasure from the U.S. government.

But it's not very clear from this report that there will be bipartisan support for more significant measures to take on and to prevent election meddling in the future. There's still a lot of partisan wrangling over how much of an impact Russia had and whether or not --


OLORUNNIPA: -- Democrats and Republicans can come together on a single agreement on how to move forward.

BRIGGS: Everything is a partisan issue these days.

So let's turn toward the debates right here on CNN next week.

All eyes on Joe Biden. They will continue to target him, in particular, on race. But the polls we showed earlier show he is a clear front-runner.

Let me mention, in particular, Ohio, where he's the only Democrat to lead President Trump 50 to 42, and that's, in particular, on the strength of Independents. Fifty-five to 32 was the edge when it comes to Independents over President Trump. That is why Biden is leading all these polls. It's a huge gap.

When he starts this new defensive posture next week, is it about defending his old record or proposing new policies?

OLORUNNIPA: It's going to be about a little bit of both. And, Biden said in his interview with CNN just a few weeks back that he is center-left and he is sort of firmly holding that mantle. And that's part of the reason that he's leading in the polls is because --


OLORUNNIPA: -- there is a big number of center-left voters who are maybe a little bit concerned about how left the party's moving, about some of the other candidates -- Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. So, Biden is trying to sort of defend himself as center-left even though the energy of the party is on the left flank.

There are a large number of voters who are looking for someone not only to provide new policies but also to defend themselves against this leftward lurch of the Democratic Party while showing that they can still take on President Trump.

And those polls showing Biden ahead of Trump in key states like Ohio are his sort of best calling card for the reason for his election. He's been able to show that he is competitive against Trump in a number of key states in the Upper Midwest -- states that may be a little bit reluctant to move toward sort of a one -- a more left- leaning politician like Bernie Sanders.


OLORUNNIPA: And, Biden is using that to show that he has the best chance of beating Trump.

ROMANS: Speaking of the energy on the left, the president -- his foil is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

BRIGGS: Ilhan Omar and the squad.

ROMANS: Yes, and interesting that she's got an op-ed in the -- in "The New York Times" today saying, essentially, it's not enough to condemn Trump's racism. She'll be meeting with Nancy Pelosi today as well, so just a --

[05:45:01] BRIGGS: We'll tweet that out for you.


BRIGGS: Toluse Olorunnipa, good to see you, sir. Enjoy the weekend.

ROMANS: Thanks.

OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

A sweeping bipartisan 2-year budget deal passed the Democrat- controlled House Thursday. The measure avoids a potential default on U.S. debt and prevents automatic spending cuts to domestic and military funding. It passed the House overwhelmingly but faces a less certain future in the Republican-led Senate.

BRIGGS: Conservatives are unhappy about increased domestic spending and raising the debt limit, something they fought against in the past. But, Senate leaders have been touting the bill's big boost in defense spending. Will that be enough?

Several conservative senators declined to tell CNN how they'll vote when the measure comes up for an expected vote next week.

ROMANS: What we do know is if it passes, it locks in trillion-dollar deficits --

BRIGGS: Year after year.

ROMANS: -- and puts President Trump on track to be the $4 trillion debt man, adding $4 trillion --

BRIGGS: An incredible number.

ROMANS: -- to the American debt.

BRIGGS: All right.

Ahead, Britain's new prime minister, Boris Johnson, saying he wants to turbocharge Brexit. The E.U. not so sure. We're live from 10 Downing Street, next.


[05:50:12] BRIGGS: Boris Johnson wants to turbocharge 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 the U.K. to maintain close ties to the E.U. in order to keep a seamless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Johnson has officially moved into 10 Downing Street and that's where you'll find Nina dos Santos this morning, standing by live. Nina, good morning.


Well, it's number two into the days into Boris Johnson's premiership in 10 Downing Street and things a little bit calmer today, largely because Parliament has broken up for recess and they won't be back until September.

But that doesn't mean that the clock isn't ticking, especially considering that this is a prime minister who apparently appears hell- bent on taking the U.K. out of the E.U. by the next deadline, which is October the 31st, come what may.

In a 147-minute-long series of questions and answers that he delivered in his maiden speech to Parliament yesterday that you referred to, he made it very, very clear that he was not buying this backstop arrangement from Brussels and that unless they took it out, he was willing to just forgo the possibility of any kind of deal from Brussels. That was swiftly rebuffed by Brussels, saying that they found this a very combative approach.

Yesterday afternoon, we know that the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who is about to end his term, had a phone conversation with Boris Johnson that appeared to be warm, but neither side budged on any side. They did, though, agree to share cell phone numbers and stay in contact over the course of the summer.

Now, there's so many ways in which Boris Johnson is a very different prime minister, both on the Brexit policy front, on the domestic policy front, and also on the domestic front from previous occupants of number 10 Downing Street.

Now, today, he's unveiling big domestic pushes to try and beef up the police service and focus on something else rather than Brexit.

But in a few days' time what's going to be focused on here at Downing Street is whether or not he's going to move in with his girlfriend, 20 years his junior. If that does happen, he and Carrie Symonds could become the first unmarried couple to inhabit number 10 Downing Street -- Dave.

BRIGGS: There will undoubtedly be a lot of firsts under Boris Johnson.

Nina dos Santos, live for us at 10 Downing -- thanks. Back here, President Trump lashing out at Sweden in defense of A$AP Rocky. The American rapper is awaiting trial on assault charges set to begin Tuesday in Stockholm.

The president tweeting, "Sweden has let our African American community down in the United States given A$AP Rocky's freedom. We do so much for Sweden but it doesn't seem to work the other way around."

A spokesman for Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven responding with a civics lesson, tweeting the government is not allowed and will not attempt to influence legal proceedings which are now ongoing.

Swedish prosecutors allege A$AP Rocky and two other men assaulted a man by kicking him and beating him with a glass bottle.

ROMANS: All right, 53 minutes the hour.

Let's get a check on "CNN Business" this Friday morning.

A look at markets around the world. Asian markets closing mixed here. European markets opening a little bit higher here.

And on Wall Street, some stability. But look, 73 points is not much in a Dow that is above 27,000. A day after record highs, a stumble. The Dow and the Nasdaq recorded their worst 1-day percentage drops in a month.

On one of the biggest days of the earnings season, the Dow closed down 129 points. The S&P 500 fell about half a percent. The Nasdaq closed down one percent.

Next up, second-quarter GDP. That comes at 8:30 Eastern. Economists forecast 1.8 percent growth in the second quarter and that's down sharply from 3.1 percent in the first quarter.

Look, Trump needs these numbers -- the president needs these numbers to be above three percent to keep his promise that his policies will spur growth in the three to four percent range.

All right, they're keeping their higher standards. Automakers say no thank you to President Trump's rollback emissions regulations.

Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW struck a deal with air quality regulators in California. They'll deliver fleets of cars that average 50 miles a gallon by model year 2026. They vowed to stick to that standard across the country in all 50 states.

Automakers are on track to comply with tougher emissions rules put in place under President Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ignition and lift off.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: SpaceX's Dragon capsule launched in orbit Thursday with an interesting batch of supplies for the International Space Station. Among the cargo, an Adidas soccer ball, a pouch full of Nickelodeon green slime, 5,500 pounds of -- 5,500 hundred pounds of other things like, we'll say supplies, food for the six astronauts aboard the Space Station.

[05:55:00] Nickelodeon arranged to include that green slime on the mission in the name of STEM education.

BRIGGS: Of course.

ROMANS: The astronauts are going to play around with the slime and film how it moves in microgravity -- the study of the slime. Then they're going to use that to develop some curriculum for young students to roll out as soon as September.

We'll be right back.


ROMANS: All right, Briggs, we're out. Thanks for joining us.

BRIGGS: That's it.

ROMANS: Have a great rest of your week, guys. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Have a great weekend. Here's "NEW DAY".


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biden telling donors, I'm not going to be as polite this time.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What were you doing five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago to fight for racial justice?

BIDEN: If he wants to go back and talk about records then I'm happy to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bob Mueller was going to pay the,