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FBI & DOJ to Probe Epstein's Death; Curtailing Legal Immigration; Contaminated Water in Newark; Thousands Hold Sit-In At Hong Kong Airport; Russia Acknowledges 5 Deaths in the Blast. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 13, 2019 - 05:00   ET


WILL RIPLEY, CNN ANCHOR: But then what about the kid, the parents can't give them the shoe subscription and like Becky comes in and has the new shoes every month, and you know, you've still got the same kicks from three years ago?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: That's a whole other discussion we'll have to take that on the sidelines.

RIPLEY: We will -- we will tackle that in our next hour.


RIPLEY: Thanks to our international viewers for joining us on EARLY START. Have a great rest of your day.

For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.


KOSIK: Jeffrey Epstein's high profile circle is in prosecutor's sights. Why did the accused sex trafficker go unchecked for hours the night of his suicide?

RIPLEY: Give us you're tired, you're poor -- nope, not really. New criteria could mean more denials for immigrants who the U.S. government thinks might rely on assistance.

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

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik. I'm sitting in for Christine Romans.

RIPLEY: Good morning to you. I'm Will Ripley, in for Dave Briggs. It is Tuesday, August 13th, 5:00 a.m. here in New York.

And we begin with prosecutors seeking justice for Jeffrey Epstein's accusers. And now, they're focusing 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 in abusing under aged girls. The federal prosecutor in Manhattan is suggesting they'll focus on the

conspiracy charge. It accused Epstein of working with employees and associates to operate a huge sex trafficking ring. On Monday, FBI agents were in the U.S. Virgin Islands. That's the mansion on Epstein's private island. And yesterday, Attorney General Bill Barr offered this 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 and angry to learn of the Manhattan federal detention center's, quote, failure to adequately secure Epstein. The apparent suicide puts a spotlight on short staffing and budget issues at federal prisons.

In Epstein's case, a source tells us, at least one of two employees on duty on his unit wasn't a regular guard, but just was filling in. Epstein was supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes around the clock.

But a source is now telling 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: This morning, the White House is moving to dramatically reduce legal immigration levels. Controversial new rule increases the administration's ability to reject green cards. Green cards for immigrants who would be likely to depend on the government for 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 President Trump has said repeatedly that he prefers.

The administration is re-interpreting an 1882 law. It's known as the public charge rule. And it's supposed to clamp 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 re-interpretation of the public charge rule is set to take effect in mid October and it already faces legal challenges. It comes just a week after a gunman in El Paso targeted Latinos.

[05:05:06] California Congresswoman Nora Torres who came to Guatemala at the age of 5 is slamming it. She calls 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 this man opened fire at the officers before police shot and killed him.

KOSIK: Trade war anxiety isn't going away on Wall Street. 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 China and the U.S. could turn the economic slow down into a recession. In response to tensions, Goldman Sachs raised 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 government bonds, caused Treasury yields to fall again on Monday. The 10-year Treasury rate dropping below 1.7 percent, a sharp slide from 3.2 percent last fall. The 30-year treasury yield is getting close to all time lows.

RIPLEY: You should see this video that came in overnight from Australia. In Sydney, there was a stabbing that happened right in the middle of the day.

KOSIK: This is amazing.

RIPLEY: Then this guy starts jumping on cars still holding the knife in his hand. We will tell you how it ended.


[05:13:13] KOSIK: Breaking overnight. A frightening scene in Sydney, Australia. Police say a man stabbed two women in the city's business district. This video 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. Police say they don't know why he did it.

RIPLEY: Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam says riot activity pushed Hong Kong to the brink of no return. Protesters, they're back at the airport right now, ten straight weeks of demonstrations hit a new level on Monday when thousands stormed the Hong Kong airport, a regional transportation hub, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations.

And now, they're back. Many are asking, what's the end game for these protesters? They say they want more independence from China, but specific demands keep evolving.

CNN's Andrew Stevens is at the airport now in Hong Kong where the protesters continue to stream in.

Any indication we're going to see a repeat of yesterday, Andrew?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: It's looking very much like it, will. Many are asking the question, how much longer can this airport stay open? If you look along here, you'll see the protesters have drawn up a line of trollies. Pretty easy to push through it.

But behind that there are several layers having a sit-in in front of the departure gates. So, basically, they're stopping everyone from getting to their flight. And it is, I should point out, a remarkably peaceful protest here at the airport. When someone tries to push through, there's a chant goes up "no entry", when a passenger turns around and leaves, everybody applause and they chant "sorry", Will.

So, it gives you an idea of what's actually happening here and how they're trying to show a good face to the world, because this is, for them, a way of getting the message out internationally.

[05:15:04] But it's very difficult to see as you refer to how this is going to end. It's difficult to see how this does end because the divisions are getting ever deeper. We heard Carrie Lam, the chief executive today, talking about Hong Kong coming to the brink of no return. We know there are protesters who say they are prepared literally to die for their cause.

And you will see the protesters coming out day after day after day. The police strategy at the moment seems to be about going after the ring leaders as they see them who are at the violent edge of this protest. And there is no doubt there is violence happening around the city. If they can arrest them, they can bring the violence under control, and then the talk can start.

But, Will, there's not even a back channel of talks. The government says we're not speaking to anybody. We don't need to speak to anybody. We don't want to speak to anybody because we don't know who to speak to. And the protesters are saying we're not going to meet any of your

demands. The government says, we're not going to make any of your demands. So that's where we are, Will.

RIPLEY: And, of course, the big question on a lot of people's minds, is this building up to some sort of intervention by the mainland Chinese military police who have been posting videos, at least state media has been posting videos of them in recent days.

Andrew Stevens, we'll watch very closely what's happening in Hong Kong. Thank you.

KOSIK: A nuclear powered mystery in the far northern reaches of Russia. Moscow is saying five employees were killed in a blast at a missile test site last Thursday.

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

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: It's 5:19 in New York. And when we come back, the Yankees and a lucky young fan had a whole lot to celebrate at the stadium. Andy Scholes is in this morning with a "Bleacher Report".

Hi, Andy.


[05:24:22] KOSIK: Potentially toxic tap water in the U.S. state of New Jersey. The city of Newark is handing out bottled water right now. People may have been drinking tap water contaminated with lead for months or even years. The EPA is advising the city to take action.

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.

RIPLEY: So have you heard about this? The Raiders star wide receiver Antonio Brown has been fighting to keep his old helmet, but apparently he's lost the battle.

Andy Scholes is here with this morning's "Bleacher Report".

[05:25:01] So, what's the deal? Why did he want to keep this old helmet, Andy?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: He just likes the way it fits, feels, he likes the way he can see out of it. It's a big deal to Antonio Brown, guys, but, you know, due to the new improvements in the technology, the NFL abandoning the use of some of their older model helmets this season, which means some of the league stars like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Brown who liked their old helmets, boy, they're going to have to make the switch this year.

Brown wasn't happy about this, even reportedly threatened to retire over it. Brown, he took his case to use his old helmet that he's worn for his entire career all the way to an arbitrator. Brown ended up losing his case, but he says he's not going to retire.

Instead he tweeted this: While I disagree with the arbitrator's decision, I'm working on getting back to full health and looking forward to rejoining my teammates on the field. I'm excited about this season and appreciate the concerns about my feet.

Now, Brown suffered frostbite on his feet during cryogenic therapy. All this drama with brown, making for some good TV. You can catch the Raiders on "Hard Knocks" tonight on HBO episode two, airs at 10:00 Eastern.

All right. We saw some history in Major League Baseball last night. The Reds' Aristides Aquino hitting another home run. The rookie now has eight dingers in his first 12 career games. He's the first player to ever do that.

Aquino's nickname is the punisher. His older brother came up with that. He's 6'4", 220 pounds now. I'd say he's definitely living up to his name, the punisher so far in the big league.

All right. The Yankees dominance of the Baltimore Orioles continuing yesterday, sweeping a doubleheader. And Gleyber Torres continues to crush the Orioles. He hit three home runs.

Torres, 26 homers for the season, 13 of them, half of them, have come against Baltimore. He's dominating them so bad that orioles manager Brandon Hyde, he gave them what he called the Barry Bonds treatment walking to inning of the second game. That's something you really, rarely see happen in baseball.

All right. The first game of that doubleheader saw Cameron Maybin hit a blast to left. This would reach the seats. Watch the young fan here in the perfect spot to nab the ball after the guy couldn't come up with it. Pretty pumped about it as you can see right there.

He was pretty happy after this game as well sharing some pretty cool news. He tweeted: A great game one, win for the boys today, but a more important win off the field as my mom, Nae Nae, is officially in remission from her breast cancer diagnosis. Thank you to everyone who sent their love and support, #NaeNaeStrong.

That's definitely, you know, the kind of news, guys, we like to see.

KOSIK: Absolutely.

RIPLEY: Gives you goose bumps.


RIPLEY: That's great to hear. Andy, thank you so much.

KOSIK: Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

KOSIK: 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?