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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; Goldman Sachs CEO Speak To CNN; Hong Kong Airport Cancels All Departing Flights; North Korea Diplomacy, Serena Williams Withdraws From Match, Opponent Consoles Her; Markets Mixed After Volatile Week. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 04:30   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN HOST: How did accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein apparently died by suicide in his jail cell? Questions about Epstein's death leading the president to fuel conspiracy theories online.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN HOST: Livestock shows and stump speeches. 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are just one of the side shows at the Iowa state fair.

KOSIK: North Korea slamming its southern neighbor over military exercises as President Trump claims Kim Jong-un is ready to restart talks.

Good morning and welcome back to "Early Start." I'm Alison Kosik.

RIPLEY: I'm Will Ripley. It is 31 minutes past the hour here in New York. And there are new questions this morning 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 go 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 the federal probe into his conduct, that is ongoing. And there are signs the federal prosecutors could pursue related criminal cases against his associates or employees.

KOSIK: 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?

RIPLEY: 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 ridiculous tweet claiming the Clintons were behind the death.

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


[04:35:04] 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.


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.

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.


KOSIK: OK. Jeremy Diamond. Thank you.

The acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection is defending the mass immigration raids at food processing plants in Mississippi last week. Mark Morgan telling CNN's State of the Union, he disputes the terminology being used and insists they are 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.


KOSIK: Research shows that between April 2018 and March of this year, the Trump administration has prosecuted zero companies, no companies, and just 11 individuals for employing undocumented immigrants.

RIPLEY: Yet they were arresting hundreds and hundreds of the workers who get hired by this people that they are not prosecuting. Morgan was also asked about the widely seen video of this 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.


RIPLEY: How did Morgan respond to that? Take a look.


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.


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

KOSIK: The acting secretary of Homeland Security is defending the arrest of 680 undocumented immigrants in Mississippi even though the raids took place just after days the gunman targeted Mexicans in a deadly shooting spree in El Paso. Kevin McAleenan tells 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 with 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.


RIPLEY: 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.

[04:40:14] KOSIK: Goldman Sachs CEO, David Solomon says he is not too concerned about the economy. Still he told Christine Romans, the chief business correspondent here at CNN, there are things that could throw it off track.


DAVID SOLOMON, GOLDMAN SACHS CEO: I think the economy's doing fine. There are things that are getting added to the equation in particular with the trade war with China that is having an impact. It's having an impact on growth. I don't think that impact is significant yet, but we're watching that very, very carefully. And I think those are the kinds of things what's going on with monetary policy, what's going on with trade, how that is all linked. That has the potential to slow down growth if it's not handled correctly over time.


KOSIK: And speaking of Des Moines, Iowa, Solomon gave his reaction to what he is heard from some of the Democratic presidential candidates.


SOLOMON: We're in a political election cycle. I have no idea where that election cycle is going to go. There are a number of things you talked about that I wouldn't personally agree with. I think good for all of us as Americans, an economy that we want to create opportunity and bring people along, but we have to wait and see and there's a big difference between political stump speeches and legislative policy. And so, you know, I watch the election like everybody else, but I'd say it's early.


KOSIK: All right. You can watch the full interview later today on "New Day" or at

RIPLEY: We have some new information just coming in from Hong Kong. All flights departing from the international airport are now canceled as protesters swarm the airport protesting violence over the weekend. We will go live to the Hong Kong airport and Ben Wedeman next.


RIPLEY: Breaking news just coming into us here at CNN. Hong Kong's international airport is now canceling all departing flights as protesters there swarm the airport terminals. We've seen the video, people crowding into the airport.

This is the 10th straight weekend of clashes between Hong Kong police and pro-democracy protesters. This all started over an extradition bill and has now turned into weekly outbreaks of violence that were unheard of in Hong Kong just a short time ago. At least nine people hurt in the latest round of demonstrations.

I want to go to CNN's Ben Wedeman who on the phone in the middle of it in the airport. So, Ben, what do we know about this closure, how long is it expected to go on?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know how long it's going to go on. We know that airport authorities here in Cathay Pacific and the main airline here in Hong Kong, all flights will be canceled.

Now, what we've seen Friday, Saturday were massive sit-ins at the airport. There intentional decisions by the (inaudible), were words not to interfere with the groups in airports so they stayed in the area -- the departure area where people check in to their flight. What I saw today in front of me was there were so many people in this area that is crammed already. They spilled up into the departure area. They started to go into the previously cordoned off area. There were some protesters were not allowing passengers to the check- in desk.


They seem much -- as you said -- not -- there's --

RIPLEY: OK. You can hear we're having a problem with Ben Wedeman's cell phone signal. There are so many people, probably tens of thousands of people on the airport all on their phones. So we've actually had a hard time getting a live signal as well.

KOSIK: Let's bring everybody back. This really began with an extradition bill that now been tabled allowing for people in Hong Kong who are accused of crimes to be sent to the mainland. All this demonstrations began two months ago over that, but they certainly have escalated, haven't they?

RIPLEY: I mean, I was covering the umbrella movement back in about five years ago in Hong Kong. And even then when police used tear gas for the first time, it was shocking to people, because that had never occurred. Now on a weekly basis, we are seeing police using rubber bullets tear gas against increasingly violent demonstrations. You have the central government in Beijing increasingly agitated about this, but they have showed restraint up to this point.

Chinese soldiers are actually stationed in Hong Kong a short distance from where these protests are breaking out. And they haven't been deployed. They're allowing the city authorities to try to control this, but they just -- things keep getting -- they keep escalating.

KOSIK: Things are escalating and then the question is, what's it going to take for the protesters to stand down? Could it be just scrapping the bill all together? Could it be Carrie Lam resigning? Would that be enough for the protesters, those are the answers that we still don't have answers to.

RIPLEY: To have all departing flights at the airport canceled is just an extraordinary development. We will keep following it for you.

KOSIK: OK, let's switch gears here. Hard seltzer having a moment here. Sales in category leader white claw are soaring, but soon it's going to have some new competition. CNN business is next.


RIPLEY: A top North Korean official is threatening to freeze South Korea out of future talks with the U.S. That is according to North Korea's state run news agency. Pyongyang is escalating its effort to stop joint military drills staged by South Korea and the U.S. They launched more short-range ballistic missile on Friday then on Saturday President Trump tweeted that he received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in that letter complaining about the exercises, promising to stop launches when the exercises are done and also saying he wants to restart negotiations with the U.S.

Let's bring in Paula Hancocks who's live in Seoul. And Paula, the North Korean Foreign Ministry also essentially is using President Trump's own words to justify these short range ballistic missile attacks.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is right, Will. I mean, these drills that are ongoing at the moment between the U.S. and South Korea are certainly downsized from what you would usually expect at the end of the summit here.

They have been made much smaller according to officials to try and give diplomacy a chance to work. You're not seeing these massive field training exercises. You're seeing computer simulation. So soldiers sitting at computers, but it's still enough to annoy North Korea as you say. They are threatening to freeze South Korea out of these talks.

[04:55:02] And they had these five missile tests within the last two and a half weeks to show their displeasure and President Trump is down playing these missile launches saying that they're not nuclear tests. They're not long range ICBM ballistic missile tests. So, it's OK for him.

And I'm also talking about this letter that he received from Kim Jong- un in tweets over the weekend, he said that he is looking forward to meeting Kim Jong-un once again quote, in the not too distant future. Talking about this letter being very beautiful, very positive. And the fact Kim Jong-un had said, he will meet and he is willing to start negotiations once these military drills end.

Now, of course, he said that, again, just a couple of months ago when he met with the U.S. President at the DMZ that negotiations would restart and once again that has been pushed back, Will.

RIPLEY: And these weapons that North Korea continues to test do pose a threat there in South Korea where there are nearly 30,000 U.S. troops also potentially they can hit Japan. Many more people on harm's way. Paula Hancocks, live in Seoul, thank you.

KOSIK: A true display of sportsmanship in Toronto on Sunday after Serena Williams was forced to retire from the Rogers Cup championship match because of a back injury. Instead of celebrating, her opponent, 19 year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu went over to console Williams who was visibly upset. The teen could be heard giving the tennis legend a pep talk. The two embraced and the crowd cheered its appreciation of the special moment. That is sweet.

RIPLEY: Severe weather ahead for the upper Mississippi River with nearly 30 million people at risk. And nearly 70 million under a heat advisory right now in the south. Let's check all of it with our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Alison, Will, good morning, guys. Yes, the story today has to be the big-time risk for always severe weather, but the excessive heat across portions of the states of Texas on until to Oklahoma and Louisiana as well.

Look at the heat indices here from 105 to 110. In a few areas as warm as 115 degrees, what it will feel like outside. Look at Memphis, 95 degrees. That is the ambient air temperature into this afternoon in the shade, but when you factor in the humidity, it will feel closer to 112 degrees and much the same here across free-port Houston, Corpus Christi, and Dallas.

Highs extremely dangerous here when it comes to the excessive heat that's in place, but good news is for the event here will begin to wane over the next couple of days beginning into the Midwest and eventually down around the gulf coast states as well.

But sever weather for this afternoon from Des Moines on into Chicago. Some of these storms work their way across this region at around 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. That's what we are watching and of course, the risk here will begin kind of migrate farther towards the east and introduce portions of the Ohio valley and the northeast as we go in towards Tuesday afternoon. Guys?

KOSIK: OK. Pedram, thank you so much.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Let's take a look at global markets first. It looks like Asian markets were mixed and European markets looking mixed as well. This is after a volatile week last week. China set the reference point for the yuan at just over seven per dollar today, that's the third session in a row, it's above that psychologically important number. On Wall Street, looking like futures have been choppy as the yuan is slightly stronger than expected. Markets are closely watching the exchange rate after fears last week that the trade war could become a currency war.

Universal pictures pulling its' release of the movie, "The Hunt." That decision coming a week after the two deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The movie depicts strangers who wake up and discover they are the target of a violent hunt. The studio said in a statement that now is not the right time to release this film, but it did not address whether the decision was directly related to the two tragedies. The film was set to be released on September 27th.

The hard seltzer market having a moment here and it's about to get even bigger. Brewing company AB INBEV is launching a new line of spike seltzer, it will be made under the natural light brand which is known for its affordability. The new drink will face off against category leader White Claw. That drink saw its sales grow 283 percent in July compared to last year. The new natural light seltzer will be 20 percent cheaper than White Claw and sold in larger packages. We were talking about this earlier. We're thinking that hard water is coming next.

RIPLEY: I didn't know that hard seltzer was a thing. I leave the U.S., I come back and there's hard seltzer.

KOSIK: I'm telling you, hard water is next.

RIPLEY: Hard water.

KOSIK: Vodka in a water.

RIPLEY: Anyway, thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers, "Early Start" continues right now.

KOSIK: New details this morning about how accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in his jail cell. The questions about Epstein's death leading the president to fuel conspiracy theories online.

RIPLEY: Cattle wrangling and stump speeches. The 2020 Democratic candidates are trying to win over voters and having a few corn dogs at the Iowa state fair.