Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Officially Out of INF Treaty with Russia; Two U.S. Teens Accused of Murdering Italian Officer; Trump Offers to Help Putin Fight Massive Forest Fires; Third Ebola Case Confirmed in Congo City of Goma. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 2, 2019 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:26] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration pushing for a peace deal with the Taliban to bring thousands of U.S. troops home from Afghanistan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Until such time as there's a deal, we'll be taxing them.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tariff man President Trump slaps China with new tariffs on things like iPhone, sneakers and toys.

SANCHEZ: Plus North Korea's Kim Jong-un just launched another missile. And President Trump says he has no problem with that.

ROMANS: The only black Republican in the House of Representatives says he is not running for re-election and he has some pointed words for the president, too.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you.

SANCHEZ: Nice to see you, too, Christine. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Dave Briggs. We're about half past the hour here in New York. And we begin with the big development in America's longest running war.

The U.S. preparing to bring back thousands of troops from Afghanistan. The Trump administration negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban right now. Two sources familiar with negotiations say the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would shrink from about 14,000 to between 8,000 and 9,000 in the coming months. A spokesman says the move is part of the administration's push to end

the war in Afghanistan which has dragged on for nearly 18 years. This has been a signature issue for President Trump going back to the days of the 2016 campaign. And here is talking about the war in Afghanistan just last month.


TRUMP: We're like policemen. We're not fighting a war. If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don't want to kill 10 million people. Does that make sense to you? I don't want to kill 10 million people.

I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth. It would be gone -- it would be over literally in 10 days.


SANCHEZ: The Trump administration has already begun shrinking the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan. Five sources telling CNN the goal is to cut half the embassy's personnel by the end of September.

ROMANS: All right. The tariff man is back. One day after trade talks wrapped up in China with no results. The president is adding a 10 percent tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods next month. That effectively taxes everything coming into the U.S. from China.


TRUMP: When my people came home, they said, we're talking. We have another meeting in early September. I said, that's fine. But in the meantime, until such time as there's a deal, we'll be taxing them.


ROMANS: This is on top of the tariffs already imposed on $250 billion in Chinese goods. These new tariffs will hit tech particularly hard. Goods like iPhones and other consumer electronics will now be taxed. It will also affect sneakers and toys. These are categories that had been protected earlier so that American consumers could be insulated from the effects of Trump's tariff war. And as he has said many times before, Trump falsely claimed this.


TRUMP: We're taking in many billions of dollars. There's been absolutely no inflation and, frankly, it hasn't cost our consumer anything. It costs China.


ROMANS: Business groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coming out against the new tariffs. They say they will only hurt consumers and they undermine the U.S. economy. And new this morning, the reaction from China. China's foreign minister said China will retaliate, will take counter measures if the U.S. is bent on putting tariffs on Chinese goods. Investors unhappy with all of this new tariff news. The Dow closed down 281 points. Retail tech and industrial stocks also fell.

SANCHEZ: For the third time in eight days North Korea has conducted a missile test. U.S. officials believe the latest test on Thursday involved a new short-range ballistic missile similar to the other two launches in recent days. Even though these tests violate. U.N. resolutions, President Trump says he has no problem with them.


TRUMP: I think it's very much under control.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why do you say that, sir?

TRUMP: Very much under control.


TRUMP: Short-range missiles, we never made an agreement on that. I have no problem. We'll see what happens. But these are short-range missiles. They're very standard.


SANCHEZ: Analysts believe these recent launches signal North Korea's displeasure with upcoming military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, as well as South Korea's decision to acquire some F-35 stealth fighters capable of evading North Korean radar.

ROMANS: All right. The Pentagon is set to test a new nonnuclear mobile launch cruise missile as the U.S. bows out of a nuclear treaty with Russia today. A senior Defense official saying the new missile was developed specifically to challenge Russian aggression in Europe.

CNN's Barbara Starr has the latest.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Boris, look for this treaty called the INF Treaty that restricts intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

[04:35:04] Look for it to disappear into history. The U.S. says Russia had already been violating it by deploying these intermediate range missiles on its territory, missiles that could target Europe. And as of today, the U.S. officially will be out of this treaty.

This is a Cold War arms control treaty signed back in the 1980s by President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, all aimed at arms control. The question now, are we in an arms race? The Russians, according to the U.S., have deployed multiple battalions of their new missile that violates the treaty. Conventional at the moment, but it is a missile that can target into Europe. And the U.S. now, upon withdrawal, will begin testing its version of a missile and try and get some congressional funding perhaps to begin its own program.

There is very little hope, according to experts, that the Russians will come back to the table on this. They want to have this kind of system. Look for NATO today to talk about all of this and talk about European security and stability for the countries in Europe. If the U.S. decides to go ahead and field the new missile, they will need those European countries for basing of the American missiles. And nations like Poland that are nervous about next-door Russia just might agree to take the American weapons -- Christine, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Barbara Starr, thank you for that. Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas announcing he will not run

for re-election. He joins a list with about another seven Republicans who are running for re-election. The former CIA agent says he plans to pursue opportunities in the private sector to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security. Among issues that he hoped to tackle, he cited China's geopolitical threat, international competition and artificial intelligence and cyber security, and instability in Central America.

Hurd is the only black Republican in the House of Representatives and a frequent critic of President Trump. In fact on Thursday he scolded the president for his recent attacks against four congresswomen of color. He told the "Washington Post," quote, "When you imply that because someone doesn't look like you and telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you're implying that they're not an American and you're implying that they have less worth than you."

ROMANS: As the dust settles from the CNN Democratic debate, Joe Biden says he was surprised by the degree of criticism aimed at former President Barack Obama. From health care to immigration to trade, key accomplishments of the Obama administration came under fire. The real target of course was Biden. The former VP has tied himself closely to Obama who is beloved among Democrats. Campaigning in Detroit Thursday, Biden was asked about the attacks on Obama's legacy.


JOE BIDEN(D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I must tell you I was a little surprised at how much the incoming was about Barack, about the president. I mean, I -- I'm proud of ever served with him. I'm proud of the job he did. I don't think there's anything he has to apologize for. I hope the next debate we can talk about how we fix -- our answers to fix the things that Trump has broken. Not how Barack made all these mistakes. He didn't.


ROMANS: Yesterday, CNN asked four of the candidates about President Obama's legacy.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are having an honest conversation about an administration that was incredible. I would take him back -- heck, if he was running for president for a third term, I wouldn't be running.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have nothing but praise for President Obama. I think he did great work.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've always praised Barack Obama. Last night I did that we regard to the economy. At the same time, let me be very clear, Don, I do believe that when it comes to immigration -- and I said this when I was mayor of San Antonio before I even joined the Obama administration in 2014 -- that there were ways that we could improve on what the Obama administration was doing. SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President

Obama was a great president. And I think for a lot of us, we're looking to figure out how to build on his accomplishments and build on his records.


ROMANS: President Trump also noticed the attacks on Obama and talked about them at his campaign rally in Cincinnati.


TRUMP: But I was watching the so-called debate last night.


TRUMP: And I also watched the night before. That was long, long television. And the Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me, practically.


ROMANS: A spokesman for Obama declined to comment on those attacks from Biden's Democratic rivals.

SANCHEZ: We've got an update on a story we've been following all week. Lawyers for two American teenagers accused of killing an Italian police officer now raising doubts about a key part of the case. We'll take you live to Rome next.


[04:44:12] ROMANS: Democrats are vowing to derail President Trump's pick to become the next director of National Intelligence. They're already raising questions about Congressman John Ratcliffe's resume as a federal terrorism prosecutor. Now the Texas Republican claims as a U.S. attorney he, quote, "put terrorists in prison." But his office has been unable to provide any names. That's no problem if you ask the president.


TRUMP: Congressman Ratcliffe is an outstanding man and I'm sure that he'll be able to do very well. I think he's outstanding. Highly respected by everybody.


ROMANS: Democrat are not just concerned about the accuracy of Ratcliffe's resume, they also fear the president is trying to politicize the role of the DNI.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If we don't have a DNI who speaks truth to power, who first is able to cull the facts and come up with an unbiased view of what they say and in an unvarnished way can tell the president, we're in a much more dangerous world than they would have been.

[04:45:11] I could hardly think of a worse choice than him.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): If there's ever a time when we need to make sure the intelligence community speaks truth to power, it's now.


ROMANS: Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr refused to discuss questions about Ratcliffe's resume on Thursday. He promised to do so after his committee formally receives the congressman's nomination.

SANCHEZ: Puerto Rico's scandal-plagued Governor Ricardo Rossello is leaving office today but who's going to replace him is still unclear. The Puerto Rican legislature on Thursday delayed a vote to confirm Pedro Pierluisi as the new secretary of state. By law, he should be the one to succeed Rossello. But if Pierluisi is not confirmed before Rossello officially steps down, then the island's justice secretary, Wanda Vasquez, would be next in line. Vasquez has said she does not want that job, but she tweeted Thursday, if the time comes, she will assume the responsibility imposed by the constitution and the law.

ROMANS: New developments in the case of two American teenagers who are being held for the murder of an Italian police officer. Lawyers representing Finnegan Lee Elder and Gabriel Hjorth tell CNN they can't get their hands on the officer's autopsy report. They question whether he was really stabbed 11 times. And now the Italian prosecutor's office is investigating the police.

Let's go live to Rome and bring in CNN's Melissa Bell -- Melissa.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, this is the prison in which both teens are still being kept. We just watched the father of Finnegan Elder make his way out. We tried once again to ask him how his son was doing but once again he remained tightlipped as he passed in front of all our cameras. And really, that's been the case throughout this, Christine. We've been hearing an awful lot from Italian prosecutors, investigating judges and Italian media through leaks, through official press conferences.

We've had very little from the defense apart from this one source close to the defense that we spoke to yesterday who expressed his frustration that the defense has simply not been able to get its hands on a material it needs, including, as you say, Christine, that crucial autopsy report. Now on the other hand the prosecutor's office says, look, that report is simply not ready yet.

But that is really the quirk of the Italian system if you like. And remember Amanda Knox, it was very similar, that the press -- that the public gets access to one side of the argument, gets one narrative before the other can fully be explored never mind expressed. Now that could be about to change since what we've just had confirmed to us is the lawyer of the other young teen allegedly involved in this killing, Gabriel Natale-Hjorth.

His lawyer has confirmed to CNN that he's launched an appeal on his client's behalf. Now that that means is that it will be heard within the next couple of weeks. But crucially the defense will get access to all that the material, all the evidence against the teens by Monday. So you're about to see this story change quite substantially. But it's really important to remember what we have heard so far, Christine, is one version of events.

ROMANS: For sure.

BELL: Very little from the other side for the time being.

ROMANS: And the only fact not in dispute quite frankly is that this young policeman just married is dead. And so now we have a lot of questions that need to be answered.

Melissa Bell, thank you so much for that.

SANCHEZ: A new and unexpected opportunity for diplomacy. President Trump offering to help Russia's Vladimir Putin. CNN is on the ground in Siberia to explain just what the two leaders are talking about next.


[04:52:54] ROMANS: Wildfires are raging in the Russian arctic. One of the coldest places on earth. The fires have spread across almost all of Siberia. President Trump telling reporters he personally offered to help Vladimir Putin in the fight.


TRUMP: I spoke with President Putin of Russia yesterday. They're having massive fires in their forests. They have tremendous -- I've never seen anything like it. It's very big. I just offered our assistance because we're very good at putting out forest fires, frankly.


ROMANS: The fires, according to Greenpeace, have created an ecological catastrophe. Smoke covering the Siberian cities in this toxic haze.

Let's go live to eastern Siberia. We have CNN's Fred Pleitgen there with the latest.

Hi, Fred, what are you seeing?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Well, the fires indeed are extremely toxic and extremely dangerous. And one of the things about this fire is you're absolutely right. They're absolutely massive as well. Just to give you an example, if I took a flight from here from Yakutsk, where I am, in eastern Siberia, for about 3 1/2 hours I would still be in the fire zone.

Now one of the reasons why President Trump apparently offered that help to Vladimir Putin is because the Russians are having a lot of trouble fighting these fires. Essentially what the Russians have said is they'll try and contain the fires around the areas where there are urban settlements where they threatened cities, but they're not going to do anything against those fires in more remote areas.

However, the big problem is those fires are spewing megatons of CO2 into the air and into the atmosphere. One of the things that you're seeing is what you were just talking about, that smoke covering those cities. People having trouble breathing. And that's been going on for months. But of course that's also a global problem as well as some of that smoke, we've learned, has already reached the western part of the United States as well. And of course these fires still very much raging.

Now the Russians have now stepped things up a little bit. They say that they've mobilized the army. There's 10 planes and 10 choppers that are now working on all this but of course with the fires of those size, that simply is not going to be enough to combat these blazes. That's one of the reasons also why the U.S. has offered that assistance. But the fires are ranging this large, Christine, because of global warming.

[04:55:04] This is not a problem that's going to go away. One of the things that we've learned since we've been on the ground here in Siberia is that this permafrost region, that's supposed to be frozen year-round is melting extremely quickly. And that of course unearths more carbon. That then gets burned by these fires. And that of course gets blown into the atmosphere once again. So this is a problem that's not going away and certainly one that this country is having a lot of trouble coming to terms with -- Christine.

ROMANS: Fascinating. So glad you're here to tell us that story and show us pictures.

All right, Fred Pleitgen. Thank you so much for that.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this Friday morning. A look at global markets here. You can see disappointment around the globe here. Asian markets close lower. European markets opened lower. And look, 2 percent moves are significant moves in one day in the market. Dow futures on Wall Street also leaning lower here indicating it could be a little bit of a soft warning. U.S. stocks closed lower after the president imposed 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods starting in September.

The Dow closed down 281 points reversing a nice early rally. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also lower. Retail, tech, industrial stocks all hit hard by the announcement. Caterpillar closed down almost 4 percent. Nike finished more than 3 percent lower. And look at Best Buy down 10 percent. There's a real concern that U.S. consumer electronics will be hit very hard.

U.S. oil fell nearly 8 percent. That is a huge one-day move and it's sort of indicative of the fear of how this trade war will hurt global growth and kill the demand for oil.

Important piece of economic data in the U.S. Jobs report will be released in just a few hours. The estimate from economists, about 164,000 new jobs in July. The unemployment rate steady at 3.7 percent. That will represent a little bit of a cooling from the 171,000-job average over the past quarter. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, finding qualified workers is still a big concern for many sectors. The question also remains how many workers are left to be pulled back into the labor force.

The Senate passed that huge budget deal that would stave off the looming threat of a potential default on U.S. debt and prevent automatic spending cuts to domestic and military funding. The deal suspense the debt limit through July 2021, sets top line levels for Defense and non-Defense spending for the next two fiscal years. Now goes to the president for his signature.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says that if the deal becomes law President Trump will have signed into law legislation that adds $4.1 trillion to the national debt during his first term.

SANCHEZ: A third case of Ebola has been confirmed in the eastern city of the Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The city of more than a million people is a major transit hub and located on the border with Rwanda. The announcement raising new concerns that the virus could spread across that border.

CNN's David McKenzie is following developments. He joins us now live from Johannesburg.

And David, really the fear here is a geographic one, right, this being a transit hub. That means the virus can spread further and faster.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Boris. And that's the real fear here. Good morning. This Goma is a major city. We were there recently. And you had the situation that several people have showed up at that city's border with the Ebola virus disease, this deadly disease that has killed some 70 percent of people who contracted it.

Here's why everyone should be paying attention to this. For the last year now, this disease has spread through parts of the eastern northern part of Congo and is flaring up again despite the use of experimental vaccine. We were there recently and just the mistrust and the conflict in that region is making it that much harder to stop this disease.

Just a couple of weeks ago as we reported there was an announcement that this is a global public health emergency. It hasn't gotten nearly the attention it should. And the worry is now, because it's near these border regions, that it could spread further.

Overnight we had a statement from the region from the U.S. Ebola czar that has been brought in some weeks ago to try and stamp this out. Take a listen.


DAVID GRESSLY, U.N. EMERGENCY EBOLA RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I think it will be a long fight. It will be a hard fight. But with vigilance, and we need vigilance as I've mentioned before, with discipline and it will take discipline, and determination we can see this through and we can bring this epidemic to an end.


MCKENZIE: And although heroic responders on the ground have been trying for months to get a handle on this disease outbreak, so far it doesn't seem like they can -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: David McKenzie reporting from Johannesburg. You know, President Trump tweeted out some unfortunate things about Ebola, the Ebola crisis years before he was president. We'll see if his tune changes now that he's in the White House.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day and a great weekend. For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.

SANCHEZ: The Trump administration pushing for a peace deal with the Taliban to bring thousands of troops home from Afghanistan.


TRUMP: Until --