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Targeting Epstein's Inner Circle; Curtailing Legal Immigration; Contaminated Water in Newark; Report: Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte Returns This Month. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 13, 2019 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:18] WILL RIPLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Jeffrey Epstein's high-profile inner circle in prosecutors' sights. Why did the accused sex trafficker go unchecked for hours, the night of his suicide?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Give us your tired, your poor -- or not. New criteria could mean more denials for immigrants who would rely on government assistance.

RIPLEY: Toxic tap water. Residents of one New Jersey city may have been drinking water laced with lead for months or even years.

KOSIK: And I know you're ready for fall. In two weeks, no, not the forecast, the annual rite of pumpkin spice passage.

RIPLEY: Really?

KOSIK: Really.

RIPLEY: Already?

KOSIK: We're talking about it.

RIPLEY: Oh my goodness.

KOSIK: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY STAR. I'm Alison Kosik. I'm sitting in for Christine Romans.

Good morning.

RIPLEY: Good morning.

I'm Will Ripley, in for Dave Briggs. It is Tuesday, August 13th, 4:00 a.m. here in New York. And we have reports this morning from Hong Kong, Moscow, London and Johannesburg.

We begin, though, with prosecutors seeking justice for Jeffrey Epstein's accusers. They are now focusing their attention on the accused sex trafficker's inner circle. Epstein's jail cell death has left prosecutors to pursue his well-connected associates. Some of them are accused of assisting him and abusing underage girls. The federal prosecutor in Manhattan is suggesting he'll focus on the conspiracy charge. He accused Epstein of working with employees and associates to operate a huge sex trafficking ring.

On Monday, the FBI was out at the U.S. Virgin Islands, searching the mansion on Epstein's private island.

Yesterday, Attorney General Bill Barr offered a warning to Epstein's associates.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me assure that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it.


KOSIK: Barr says he was appalled, angry to learn of the Manhattan federal detention center's, quote, failure to adequately secure Epstein.

The apparent suicide is putting a spotlight on short-staffing and budget constraints at federal prisons. In Epstein's case, a source tells us at least one of the two employees on duty in his unit was not actually a regular guard but was just filling in.

Epstein was supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes around the clock, but a source now tells CNN's Athena Jones he was, in fact, not checked for hours before his death.



The list of questions surrounding Epstein's apparent suicide is growing longer. Justice officials have also uncovered broader problems at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, which for a long time was considered one of the best-run facilities in the entire Bureau of Prisons system.

It's not clear what else has been found but the person briefed on the matter said it goes beyond the 24 hours before Epstein's death. We know employees at MCC have complained about being overworked and having to work consecutive days of overtime. Justice officials now say the MCC has suffered a breakdown of protocols for a period that goes back years.

And there's more news on the legal front. Epstein accusers are asking a federal judge to unwind the non-prosecution agreement Epstein reached with federal prosecutors in Florida over a decade ago in that previous sex abuse case. That would give authorities greater power to go after Epstein's alleged co- conspirators.

That 2007 deal granted immunity to Epstein's alleged co-conspirators and identified four women by name -- Alison, Will.


RIPLEY: Athena, thank you.

The White House is moving to dramatically reduce legal immigration levels. The controversial new rule increases the administration's ability to reject green cards for immigrants who are likely to depend on the government -- government aid like food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid. The new criteria is designed to skew the process in favor of highly skilled, high income immigrants. The kind that President Trump frankly prefers.

The administration is re-interpreting an 1882 law known as the public charge rule. It clamps down on legal immigration. It was intended to make sure that immigrants would not become a public burden.


KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: Throughout our history, self-reliance has been a core principle in America. The virtues of perseverance, hard work, and self-sufficiency laid the foundation of our nation and it defined generations of immigrants seeking opportunity in the United States.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): I think that he ignores the fact that many, many immigrants -- legal immigrants -- have come here, experienced some of those tough times, received assistance, and then went on to do great things for our country. And I hope that people remind him of that fact.


KOSIK: This reinterpretation of the public charge rule is set to take effect in mid-October and it already faces legal challenges.

[04:05:05] It comes just a week after a gunman in El Paso targeted Latinos. California congresswoman Norma Torres who came to the U.S. from Guatemala at the age of 5 is slamming it. She's calling the rule an excuse to rid the country of people who look like me.

RIPLEY: There is a new threat to some of the world's most endangered animals. The Trump administration is announcing some of the broadest changes in decades to the landmark Endangered Species Act. The new rules will make it easier to remove species from that endangered list, and also weaken protection for animals, plants and other species already threatened by human activity and the escalating climate crisis. The nation's premier wildlife conservation law is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears among other species from near extinction.

KOSIK: The executive editor of "The Washington Post" claims Bernie Sanders is spreading a conspiracy theory. Twice on Monday, the Vermont senator suggested that newspaper's coverage is linked to its owner's business interest. Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, also owns "The Post", and Sanders believes he is not receiving fair coverage because of his frequent criticism of Amazon.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at "The Washington Post", which is owned by the wealthiest guy in this country -- a guy named Jeff Bezos -- Amazon made $10 billion in profit last year. You know how much they paid in taxes? You got it, zero.

And you wonder why "The Washington Post" is not one of my great supporters. I wonder why?


KOSIK: Marty Baron of "The Post" was quick to respond. He says Senator Sanders is a member of a large club ever politicians of every ideology who complain about their coverage. Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence as our reporters and editors can attest.

RIPLEY: Breaking overnight, a California highway patrol officer is dead in a shooting during a traffic stop. This is near the 215 Freeway in Riverside. Two other officers were hurt, one critically. Fellow officers lined the streets around the Riverside Medical Center as the slain officer's body was taken away. Authorities are looking into why a man opened fire at the officers before police shot and killed him.

KOSIK: A friend of the gunman who killed people in last week's Dayton massacre faces federal firearms charges. Police say 24-year-old Ethan Kollie provided Connor Betts with body armor and 100-round double drum magazine that were used in the shooting. A probable cause affidavit says Kollie allowed agents to search his home, and he admitted he had done hard drugs with the gunman. Prosecutors are emphasizing Kollie did not intentionally help plan the Dayton shootings.

RIPLEY: A huge scare at a V.A. hospital in Chicago. A man armed with an assault rifle opened fire on the campus of the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center. Police say he started firing at the building and then he walked in and started shooting inside. V.A. police responded within 30 seconds and they stopped the gunman without firing a single shot. They haven't said yet how exactly they managed to do that. No one was hit by gunfire and nobody was hurt. Police are investigating.

KOSIK: Trade war anxiety isn't going away on Wall Street any time soon. The Dow dropped 391 points Monday afternoon while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq lost a little over 1 percent each. The bad mood extending around the world as protests continue in Hong Kong.

The turmoil comes as investors brace for the U.S.-China trade war to inflict even more damage on the global economy and the fears the tit- for-tat tariff battle between the two countries could turn the economic slow down into a recession. In response to tensions, Goldman Sachs raising its estimate of how much the trade war will hurt the economy. The firm now expects fourth quarter GDP to slow to 1.8 percent compared to its previous estimate of 2 percent.

Nervous investors continue to seek shelter in safe havens. They're rushing to ultra safe government bonds, caused Treasury yields to fall again on Monday. The 10-year Treasury rate dropping below 1.7 percent. It's a sharp slide from 3.2 percent last fall. The 30-year treasury yield is getting close to all time lows.

RIPLEY: Breaking overnight, a stabbing attack in Sydney in the middle of the day. The suspect caught on camera, jumping on cars knife in hand. We'll tell you how it ended.


KOSIK: Breaking overnight, a frightening scene in Sydney, Australia. Police say a man armed with a knife stabbed two women in the city's business district. Video here shows him jumping on top of a car, knife in hand, as a bystander tries to stop him. One victim died, another is in stable condition.

Witnesses were able to hold down the suspect until police arrested him. They say they don't know why he did it. That's one way of wrestling with him, huh?

RIPLEY: My goodness.

Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam says riot activity pushed Hong Kong to the brink of no return. Ten straight weeks of demonstrations hit a new level on Monday when thousands of protesters stormed the airport, forcing hundreds of flights to be cancelled. We saw it here as breaking news on EARLY START. Many are asking now, what's the end game for these protesters?

They say they want more independence from China, but specific demands just keep evolving.

[04:15:04] Now, a national Chinese tabloid is calling pro-democracy demonstrators nothing more than street thugs who want Hong Kong to go to hell.

CNN's Andrew Stevens is at the airport in Hong Kong where we understand protesters are now starting to gather once again.

This is the fifth straight day, Andrew.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Will. Good morning to you.

They are planning to recreate yesterday, and yesterday, they closed down this airport hub, one of the biggest international airports in the world. What they are doing today is the same tactic, Will. I'm standing outside the departure gates and as you can see, there is a sea of protesters who have been sitting here trying to block as many people as they can from actually going through the departure gates. You see a couple of people going through there, an elderly couple.

The protesters are very careful not to get on the wrong side of travelers but they've also been very successful in pushing travelers back explaining we have a protest here, we don't want you to travel. Most saying OK, we'll abide by that. Yet, there's no closure of this airport but this is what these

protesters want to see. You mentioned the rhetoric earlier, building up on the Beijing side, Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive coming out saying we've been taken to the brink of an uncontrollable city. To these protesters, that doesn't matter they are here, Will. They say they are here to stay and keep coming back.

The tactics evolve overtime from full confrontations to more flash mobs, more guerilla style protests. And everyone we spoke to here, mainly the young people leading it said this will continue. They say that they don't care if Beijing steps in and there's no -- there's nothing to suggest that they may step in. The Hong Kong government would have to invite them to come in because they said they can restore order any more.

Hong Kong government says we have the capabilities to deal with what's going on. All that says, it seems like this is likely to continue to play out. The violence we've seen over the weekend are likely to continue to play out, Will. At this stage, no end in sight.

RIPLEY: And you do have these videos that keep being released by certain Chinese state media of the armed military police training near the Hong Kong border, raising questions about what some kind of possible intervention from Beijing could look like if it did happen.

Anyway, Andrew Stevens, a lot to follow there in Hong Kong, we appreciate it. Thank you.

KOSIK: A nuclear powered mystery in the far northern reaches of Russia. Moscow is acknowledging five employees of Russia's state-run nuclear enterprise were killed in a blast at a missile test site last Thursday. Meantime, a statement from local authorities saying radiation levels spike. That statement has been deleted.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reports, Russian authorities have a track record of being less than transparent about problems with their nuclear assets.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Confusion and concern about a mysterious explosion and a missile test gone wrong that some now fear could be the worst Russia nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Moscow acknowledges a blast took place at a naval range last week but won't say whether it was nuclear. Instead, they are saying liquid fuel caught fire during trials in the Arctic North leading to the blast. Local authorities initially said they recorded a short term spike in radiation levels but their statement was later deleted, and the defense ministry claims no dangerous substances were released after the explosion.

But tonight, experts tell CNN satellite images appear to show that the Russians sent a special nuclear fuel carrier ship to the area. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That ship is used to carry nuclear fuel and Russia

in the past has used that ship to transport the radioactive reactor from the nuclear-powered cruise missile.

PLEITGEN: Russia's state-run nuclear agency did admit that five of its employees were killed in the blast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A chain of tragic accidents happened although our preliminary analysis indicates they were fighting to get the situation under control. Unfortunately, that failed.

PLEITGEN: Last year, Vladimir Putin revealed Russia is testing nuclear powered cruise missiles to counter NATO's missile defense system.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Now that the missile launch and ground tests were successful, we can begin developing a completely new type of weapon, a strategic nuclear system with a nuclear-powered missile.

PLEITGEN: If it was nuclear, it would not be the first time Russia muddled its messaging after a potential nuclear mishap. In 1986, the Soviet Union didn't acknowledge the Chernobyl disaster until western nations detected heightened radiation levels in Europe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to move quickly and you need to move carefully.

PLETIGEN: Thousands of people died in the aftermath of that meltdown which is now the subject of the HBO series "Chernobyl."

[04:20:05] And in 2000, Moscow kept its own public in the dark about the sinking of the course nuclear submarine, killing all 118 sailors on board, leading to harsh criticism of then new Russian President Vladimir Putin.

More questions than answers remain as Vladimir Putin's office still has not commented at all on the explosion, leaving Russians and the world guessing how dangerous the aftermath might be.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


RIPLEY: So fascinating.

And this program, "Chernobyl", has I think trained the world's sights on what Russia's doing with their nuclear program, even today.

KOSIK: Oh, yes, I agree.

All right. Let's do a 180, shall we?

RIPLEY: All right, all right. KOSIK: You had that feeling clearing your throat. One man was having a real tough time clearing his throat, after a stunning X-ray is going to show us why.

RIPLEY: What is that? Oh.


[04:25:49] RIPLEY: Potentially toxic tap water in the U.S. state of New Jersey. City of Newark is handing out bottled water right now. They say people may have been drinking tap water contaminated with lead for months or even years. The EPA is advising the city to take action. Officials now distributing bottled water from four city centers.

A recent New Jersey health department report says Newark exceeds every other large municipality in the state and the number of children younger than 6 with elevated lead levels in their blood.

KOSIK: It took eight days to solve the mystery of a man's missing dentures. And guess where they were?

RIPLEY: I don't want to know.

KOSIK: There they are.

This X-ray shows the dentures were stuck in his throat. Aw.


KOSIK: According to a British medical journal, the 72-year-old patient's false teeth became lodged in his throat during surgery when the operating team failed to take them out. Again, it was eight days before anybody noticed. He finally came back to the hospital after having trouble breathing, swallowing and eating solid food. More surgery was needed to remove those dentures. It's why they say when you go in for surgery, they ask you, do you have dentures? And I wonder if they --

RIPLEY: But how you do not notice that someone's dentures have fallen into their throat?

KOSIK: I don't know.

RIPLEY: I mean, the medical team --

KOSIK: I know, well, they did the X-ray. There it is.


You know, it's never too early for a pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks, is it? I would argue yes. Alison apparently thinks no.

KOSIK: Yes. Well --

RIPLEY: But "Business Insider" is reporting that the coffee chain's famous fall beverage is returning to the menu on August 27th, two weeks from today. That is the earliest that Starbucks has ever brought back the drink of what supposed to be the fall season. But now, you're going to have it before the end of summer, a full month before autumn arrives actually.

KOSIK: I can't wait.

RIPLEY: Starbucks has not officially revealed when the PSL --


RIPLEY: -- as they call it, will be back in stores, but baristas have been spilling the coffee beans on social media.

KOSIK: I'm waiting for pumpkin spice spiced dental floss. Does that exist?

RIPLEY: Pumpkin spice dentures?

KOSIK: There you go and when they're caught in your throat, you can sort of get the taste. I know we're getting gross. OK.

RIPLEY: Moving on, moving on.

KOSIK: All right. Prosecutors now focusing on Jeffrey Epstein's high-profile inner circle. Could any of them face charges for covering up years of Epstein's crimes?