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Investigation Into Jeffrey Epstein's Death In Jail Cell; 2020 Dems Make Their Case In Iowa; Hong Kong Police, Protesters Clash; Acting CBP Chief Defends Mississippi ICE Raids; John Legend Visits Dayton; Five Children Killed In Erie House Fire. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 04:00   ET



WILL RIPLEY, CNN HOST: New details on accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. His death by suicide in a jail cell and now questions about that death leading the president to fuel online conspiracy theories.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN HOST: 2020 Democratic candidates trying to win votes at the Iowa state fair selling their plans on gun safety.

RIPLEY: Happening right now, protesters streaming into Hong Kong's international airport. The 10th weekend of violent clashing between police and pro-democracy demonstrators.

Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. This is "Early Start." I'm Will Ripley in for Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning to you and I'm Alison Kosik, I'm sitting in for Christine Romans. It's Monday, August 12th. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York, 4:00 p.m. in Hong Kong, 5:00 p.m. in Seoul.

And this morning there are questions about how high profile inmate Jeffrey Epstein was able to kill himself while in federal custody over the weekend. The well-connected multimillionaire was accused of using employees and associates to recruit young girls for him to abuse. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell over the weekend. He had been set to gone on trial at some point next year.

Epstein's death ends the criminal case against him but a person familiar with the investigation tells CNN that the federal probe into his conduct is ongoing. And there are signs federal prosecutors could pursue related criminal cases against his associates or employees.

RIPLEY: Epstein had been placed on suicide watch on July 23rd. He had to undergo daily psychological assessments and was kept in special housing with increase monitoring, but he was removed from suicide watch by the end of last month and was cleared to return to his cell under normal protocols. CNN'S Kara Scannel has details on some lapses now coming to light.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: There is new information shedding light on the circumstances around Jeffrey Epstein's death. A source with knowledge of his detention tells CNN that there appears to have been two breaks in protocol.

The first, Epstein was placed on suicide watch after he was found unconscious in his cell with marks around his neck several weeks ago. When he was removed from suicide watch, he was supposed to have a cell mate, but for some unexplained reason, Epstein was alone in his cell from Friday into Saturday morning.

The second, Epstein was placed in a special housing unit after he was moved off a suicide watch. In that unit guards are supposed to monitor inmates every 30 minutes even wake them up when they're asleep, but that didn't happened according to the source.

These questions are unlikely to be of interest to the FBI and Justice Department's office of inspector general who are investigating how Epstein went from suicide watch to dead in under two weeks. Also Sunday, the chief medical examiner set an autopsy of Epstein was completed. His cause of death is pending further information. Alison, Will?

KOSIK: All right. Kara Scannel, thanks very much.

President Trump promoting more baseless conspiracy theories this time involving the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. Because of the president, millions of people have now read conservative comedian Terence Williams tweet claiming the Clintons were behind the death.

It says, Epstein had information on Bill Clinton and now he is dead. The message also calls on Twitter users to retweet, quote, if you're not surprised. Of course the president obliged and it's not the first time Mr. Trump had been all too willing to spread falsehoods. Here's Jeremy Diamond.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning Alison and Will. The president once again showing his pension for conspiracy theories this weekend sharing a conspiracy theory blaming the Clintons for the death of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

Now, federal officials say that Epstein died of an apparent suicide. That has still not kept questions from swirling around the circumstances of his death, but certainly there is no evidence linking the Clintons to Epstein's death. That however did not stop the president this weekend from sharing a tweet making that baseless claim to a 63 million followers. And as a result, Kellyanne Conway on Sunday defending the president.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I think the president just wants everything to be investigated as your reporter just revealed just the day before. There are some unsealed information implicating some people very high up. And I'm not going to repeat their names. Jeffrey Epstein has done some very bad things over a number of years. And so let's continue to investigate that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: Now, Trump's retweet of this conspiracy theory is certainly not an isolated incident. We know there is a long pattern of this president sharing and using his megaphone to share these conspiracy theories and falsehoods. Even going to back to before his time as president. He gained prominence on the political right for voicing, giving a loud voice really to these birtherism conspiracies surrounding President Obama falsely accusing Obama of not having been born in the United States.

[04:05:15] and then as a presidential candidate, Trump went and shared a conspiracy theory linking Ted Cruz's father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And of course as president, Trump has continued to share some falsehoods and conspiracy theories including one about former President Obama wiretapping President Trump during the 2016 campaign. There is no evidence for that claim, of course. Now, Bill Clinton's spokesman in regards to the claim that the president recently made this weekend, he has called it ridiculous and of course not true. Back to you.


RIPLEY: The acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection is defending the mass immigration raids at food processing plants in Mississippi last week. Mark Morgan tells CNN State of the Union, he disputes the terminology being used and insists they're not actually raids.


MARK MORGAN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: I think words matter. These aren't raids. These are targeted and law enforcement operations. And in this case, this was a joint criminal investigation with ICE and the Department of the Justice targeting work side enforcement. Meaning companies that knowingly and willfully hire illegal aliens so that in most cases they can pay them reduced wages, exploit them further for their bottom line.


RIPLEY: Research shows between April of 2018 and March of this year, the Trump administration has prosecuted zero companies, zero companies, and just 11 individuals from employing undocumented immigrants.

KOSIK: Morgan was also asked about the widely seen video of a young girl crying and begging for her father to be returned.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need my dad, please. My dad didn't do nothing. He is not a criminal. Governments, please put your hearts. Let my parents be with everybody else, please.


KOSIK: OK, now, here's Morgan responding to this video. Watch.


MORGAN: They are here illegally and then a lot of times there's additional fraud that goes with this for them to try to get these jobs in this companies. So, I understand that the girl's upset. And I get that, but her father committed a crime and just so the American people know also is that girl, her mother was home and she was reunited with her mother within a few hours that night.


KOSIK: Many children separated by these raids have been reunited with their parents. One of the plants where the Mississippi raid took place was a cook foods processing plant. A previously scheduled jobs fair is being held there today.

RIPLEY: The acting secretary of Homeland Security is defending the arrest of 680 undocumented immigrants in Mississippi even though the raids took place just days after a gunman targeted Mexicans in a deadly shooting spree in El Paso. Kevin McAleenan telling NBC News that the plans for the ICE raids were set emotion long before the massacre.


KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETRAY: Something like this has been planned for over a year. Now this is a criminal investigation of 14 federal warrants issued by a judge and ICE had to follow through on that. It was already in plan and in motion.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Given the emotions of the country right now, in hindsight, do you wish this raid didn't happen this week?

MCALEENAN: The timing was unfortunate.


KOSIK: Shortly after the raids in Mississippi, the White House directed senior ICE officials to conduct more workplace enforcement operations this year. A senior immigration official with knowledge of the conversations tells CNN ICE field offices around the country have been instructed to identify at least two locations in their regions as potential targets.

RIPLEY: Musician John Legend an Ohio native made a surprise visit to Dayton over the weekend. Nine people died in mass shooting there just over a week ago. Legend toured the city's Oregon district on Sunday with the mayor of Dayton and he pleaded for lawmakers to act.


JOHN LEGEND, MUSICIAN: These events happen, we see the strength of the community. We're inspired by everyone's resilience, but let's stop requiring that level of strength and resilience from people. Let's prevent these things from happening in the first place. Let's fight for common sense gun legislation.

All of me loves all of you.


RIPLEY: The star musician also performed for the victims' families and local district staff as you see here. Legend is originally from Springfield, Ohio, just 30 miles away. He said it was heart breaking to see gun violence hit so close to his hometown.

KOSIK: (Inaudible). Saudi Arabia state owned oil company could be moving towards the biggest IPO in history. Aramco plans to host it's first-ever earnie's call on Monday sharing it financial results in a possible effort to show investors its value.

[04:10:01] The call comes at a rough time for oil markets though. The international energy agency releasing a report on Friday suggesting the U.S./China trade war is taking its toll on oil demand. The report said, demand for crude fell in May and grew at the weakest pace since 2008 in the first five months of the year.

The IEA lowered its forecast for demand for the rest of this year, warning that the outlook is fragile and saying there is growing evidence of an economic slowdown. Oil prices entered a bear market last week meaning they are down 20 percent from their recent highs. And that could be a cause for concern as oil demand can provide a look at the health of the world's economy.

RIPLEY: So there are two I think that don't usually go together except for once every four years. Corn dogs and politics. You know the place.

KOSIK: I do.

RIPLEY: The Iowa state fair. 2020 Democratic presidential candidates out stumping and making their case to voters, but they have to compete with the livestock show, will they do it.


RIPLEY: Democratic candidates descended on Iowa over the weekend for a campaign trail rite of passage. The Iowa state fair. Yes, there's the 800 pound butter cow, 800 pounds of recycled butter. Also pork chops and corn dogs or in the case of Cory Booker who happens to be vegan, it was fried peanut butter and jelly.

Good old American fried fattening food. And they all spent 20 minutes standing between hay bails on the Des Moines registers political soap box trying to compete with all the other things going on delivering their stump speeches and fielding questions from an amazingly well informed perhaps smallish crowd. Amid all the goofy fun, there was a series goal of course. They're there trying to convince Democratic voters to choose them in Iowa's first in the nation caucus.

CNN's Rebecca Buck has more from one of the most important stops on the political calendar, the Iowa state fair.


REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, as presidential candidates converged on Iowa this weekend, the discussion of guns in America remained in the spotlight. For some candidates taking more aggressive policy position than they ever had before. Senators Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar became the latest Democratic candidates to urge Walmart to stop selling guns in their stores.

Meantime Beto O'Rourke speaking to CNN from El Paso after the tragic shooting in his community said, he has changed his mind on the idea of national gun licenses and he now supports them. Senator Cory Booker was the first Democratic candidate for president to back this proposal.

And we watch through the fairgrounds with him this weekend and asked him if he expects more Democrats to line up behind that proposal. He said, he is optimistic that more and more Democrats will be getting on board. However, Senator Bernie Sanders, not there yet. We asked him if he would support licenses for all guns, not just assault weapon. And here's what he had to say.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's something I want to think about. I said then, 30 years ago, that assault weapons are weapons of war. They are designed to kill people in very rapid ways. And we saw that in Las Vegas and we've seen it recently in Dayton and El Paso. And I believed then and I believe now that we should ban the sale and distribution. And I believe that if you own an assault weapon, that weapon should be licensed. And I want to have more conversation and learn more about what else we might be doing.

BUCK: Now, of course this weekend in Iowa and here at the state fair was also about these candidates continuing to build support in the crucial state of Iowa which will hold the first in the nation caucuses in February of next year. Kamala Harris signaling with a five-day bus tour frim river to river across the state that she is going to be taking Iowa seriously and intends to compete here.

Meantime, some polling released last week showing Elizabeth Warren clearly on the rise in the Hawkeye state. She was greeted here at the Iowa state fair with an unenthusiastic reaction and one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Former Vice President Joe Biden is still the frontrunner according to polling here in Iowa and nationally. But he said this weekend, when asked about Warren's rise, that he's not worried, it's still early, this is a marathon and of course, Will and Alison, we still have six months to go until the Iowa caucuses. Will, Alison?


KOSIK: A deadly fire in Erie, Pennsylvania. Five children killed, one adult injured. The fire breaking out early Sunday morning in a three-story home that also served as a day care center. At least four of the children who died were staying overnight at the facility. I want you to listen to a neighbor describe the panic as he tried to help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard screaming from my porch so I came down the street and saw two kids on the roof. I got them of the roof, I made entry in the house, I got low, I tried to go inside. I made it to the open living room and couldn't go any farther. I still can't breathe. It's tragic. I just hope the kids made it.


KOSIK: The Harris family day care is listed as a provider of 24-hour, 7-day-a-week child care service. The cause of the fire still under investigation.

RIPLEY: Ten consecutive weekends of violent clashes in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy activists facing off with riot police. And now protesters swarming the city's airport.


RIPLEY: Right now protesters are swarming Hong Kong's international airport. This is the 10th straight weekend of clashes between Hong Kong police and pro-democracy protesters. At least nine people were hurt in the latest round of demonstrations. Police fired tear gas and non-lethal bullets at those protesters across the city. And the protesters, they've been hurling petrol bombs and bricks.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Hong Kong where protesters have now taken this all to the airport.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're at Hong Kong international airport where for the fourth day in a row, there are massive protests here. This protest was actually not planned until this morning. It's in reaction to what many people see as the excessive use of police force on Sunday where a variety of protesters were wounded. Here we have some young people, free Hong Kong they're writing. Others are chanting shame on Hong Kong police. This is more people we've seen so far at the airport.

[04:25:00] Down below, this is the departure area -- rather the arrivals area which is jam packed. And what's different today, of course, is that up above, we are at the edge of the departure area as well. And this is crammed with people.

In addition to this, on our way here, we saw lots of cars, lots of buses, people coming here. Others are cramming the trains, the airport express is also full of people. All of them coming to take part in this ongoing protest which after Sunday's police violence in the words of many people here is only going to intensify. I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Hong Kong international airport.


KOSIK: Amazing pictures.

An estimated 50,000 people protesting in Moscow for fair local elections. 229 people were detained by police. The Kremlin claims only 20,000 people attended the sanction rally and insists no disruptions of political order took place. This marks the fifth consecutive weekend of protests in the Russian capital. Demonstrations demanding authorities allow in depending candidates to take part in Moscow's upcoming local elections.

RIPLEY: Tensions remain high on the contested Kashmir region on India's border with Pakistan. Even though India has slightly ease tight curfew like restrictions. Over the last week, India cut off landlines, internet and cellphone coverage in Kashmir just before announcing it was revoking the region's special autonomy.

KOSIK: Tens of thousands more Indian troops poured into Kashmir to head off unrest and prominent Kashmiri politicians were placed under house arrest. Both India and Pakistan claim to rule the entire region, but in practice, India, Pakistan, and China each control different areas. Pakistan and China say the move encroaches on their control. India says it is an internal matter.

RIPLEY: A shooting at a mosque in Norway is being investigated as a possible act of terrorism. Authorities say the suspect, a Norwegian citizen in his 20's has expressed white right wing sympathy's online. He is charged with attempted murder in the shooting at the Islamic Center near Oslo on Saturday.

Police say the gunman was overpowered during the attacked by a 65- year-old worshipper who pinned him to the ground until help arrived. One person inside the mosque suffered minor injuries. The suspect is also facing a murder charge. Police searched his home and they found the body of his 17-year-old stepsister.

KOSIK: New details on how accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was able to die by suicide in his jail cell. That is next.