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Israel Denies Entry to 2 U.S. Congresswomen; Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Family Lucky to Escape Fiery Plane Crash; El Paso Widower Invites Public to Wife's Services. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:19] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: New details on Israel's unprecedented ban of Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. It's a ban President Trump encouraged.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: An amazing escape for former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family after a small plane crash. Authorities saying no one was seriously injured.

KOSIK: And we're keeping an eye on the markets. A key signal that a recession could be coming making investors pretty nervous.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, this is EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik. I'm sitting in for Christine Romans. Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good to see you. Happy Friday, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs. Friday, August 16th. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York, 11:00 a.m. in Jerusalem. We'll go live there shortly.

And that's where we begin with a strong reaction to what some lawmakers are calling a shameful decision to ban two Muslim congresswomen from visiting Israel. It came out after President Trump encouraged the move against Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two members of the "Squad" and his political foes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement explaining the ban, said, quote, "The plan of the two congresswomen is only to damage Israel and to foment against Israel." Both Omar and Tlaib support the movement to boycott Israel and have been criticized for statements considered by some to be anti-Semitic.

The Israeli decision was announced shortly after a tweet from the president in which he said, quote, "It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Representatives Omar and Tlaib to visit."

KOSIK: The ban sparking a mountain of criticism from Democrats. Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying it is beneath the dignity of the great state of Israel. Some Republicans as well are slamming the decision. Senator Marco Rubio saying while he disagrees with the two, denying them entry into Israel is a mistake.

Let's go live to CNN's Oren Liebermann. He is live for us in Jerusalem. And Oren, I understand you're getting new details that one of those

lawmakers may be able to enter Israel after all?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alison. The story isn't over yet. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has requested on humanitarian grounds to visit her family specifically her grandmother in her 90s in the central West Bank village which is the town -- the family's ancestral home. She wrote a letter to Israel's Interior minister where she said, "I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit." Interior minister or a spokesman for the Interior minister has said he will decide in the coming hours whether to grant entry or not.

As of yesterday, an Israeli government official said if that request were made, it would be considered favorably. We checked in with that government official again and he says now it will be considered. So perhaps a slight backtrack there but no final decision yet on whether to grant entry to Congresswoman Tlaib on humanitarian grounds to visit her family.

All of this of course comes one day after Israel decided to deny entry in an unprecedented decision to both Congresswoman Tlaib and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for their support of a boycott against Israel. It was about 2 1/2 years ago that Israel passed a law allowing it to ban entry to those who support a boycott against Israel. But this has certainly been the most high-profile use of that law.

When did Israel make its decision? Well, we know when it was announced. Shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted that Israel will be showing great weakness by letting them in and that left Israel very little wiggle room, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has never publicly disagreed with Trump and he wasn't about to start doing so now. Shortly thereafter that Netanyahu said the two would be denied entry.

And at this point, Alisyn, we're just waiting on the final decision on whether Congresswoman Tlaib will be allowed entry to visit her family here, which would still be a big story at this point.

KOSIK: How much of this, Oren, was this possibly Netanyahu feeling sort of the pressure to cave with an election right around the corner?

LIEBERMANN: Both Israel and the U.S., the administrations, have insisted this was an Israeli decision but there certainly were hints that Trump was involved in this. And there's no doubt that Trump sent that unprecedented tweet essentially telling Israel to carry out or how to carry out its foreign policy.

There are no doubt some political considerations here as well. Netanyahu is facing a tough reelection battle for his sixth term in office. He wants to shore up support with the right-wing voter base, a fractured right-wing voter base at that. And this will certainly score him points there.

What's the risk? Well, we're already seeing it. It has grown a rift between Israel and the Democratic Party. We saw that criticism from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as well as one of the most powerful pro- Israel Democrat, Steny Hoyer, who said this decision was outrageous.

KOSIK: OK. CNN's Oren Liebermann, thanks very much.

And President Trump holding a "Keep America Great" reelection rally in New Hampshire last night.

[04:05:06] The president again blaming mental illness for mass shootings suggesting it was time to build new institutions to house the mentally ill.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But people have to remember, however, that there is a mental illness problem that has to be dealt with. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger, it's the person holding the gun.

Years ago, many cities and states, I remember it so well, closed mental institutions for budgetary reasons. They let those people out onto the street. You probably have your examples up here. I can tell you in New York they closed so many of them, and they let really seriously mentally ill people out on the streets. And you see plenty of them today, even today.

We're going to have to give major consideration to building new facilities for those in need.


BRIGGS: Of course, mental health is not the only factor in mass shootings, nor even the biggest event. There are factors like violent hatred, access to assault weapons, as well as other factors. The president repeated his support for expanding background checks. He gave no specifics but says he's making headway convincing Republicans.


TRUMP: It's been pretty -- an amazing experience. They want to see something happen and basically it's very simple. They don't want to have insane people, dangerous people, really bad people having guns. Republicans agree with me on that. I think -- you know, I would say pretty much uniformly.


BRIGGS: The president did not bring up his administration's talks with Republicans on Capitol Hill to strengthen background checks for gun purchases.

KOSIK: South Korea's military says North Korea launched two unidentified missiles off its eastern coast. The projectiles reportedly landed in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. It's the sixth sign North Korea has tested short-range ballistic missiles or other projectiles since last month. It comes after Pyongyang rejected face to-face talks with South Korea. North Korea has railed against ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint military drills, threatening just days ago to freeze out Seoul by only holding future talks with Washington.

BRIGGS: The White House is said to be considering invoking executive privilege to limit former campaign aide Cory Lewandowski from complying with a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. But here's the rub. Lewandowski has never served in any role in the Trump administration. The White House has used executive privilege in an attempt to block other former aides like Don McGahn, Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, from testifying before Congress. Of course they all held positions in the West Wing. Lewandowski has only informally advised President Trump since his work on 2016 ended.

KOSIK: America's longest ever war in Afghanistan could be drawing to a close. President Trump is expected to meet with his top National Security advisers today to review a U.S.-Taliban peace plan that could end the war. Critics, though, say it could also amount to a surrender for the U.S. and a betrayal of the Afghan government.

BRIGGS: A peace plan expected to formalize the significant withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan from about 15,000 troops to 8,000 or 9,000. It includes commitments by the Taliban to counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan. Sources say the proposed deal has at least one crucial omission. It is not expected to secure a commitment by the Taliban to hold its fire on the Afghan people nor the Afghan military.

BRIGGS: An officer at a Rhode Island ICE detention facility has been placed on administrative leave after he drove that truck into a line of protesters demanding they cease cooperation with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The incident was captured on video. Witnesses say the pickup truck intentionally swerved into protesters seated across from the entrance to the facility. Five people were hospitalized. The group Never Again Action says dozens of people showed up Wednesday night to protest the contract between ICE and (INAUDIBLE).

KOSIK: Conflicting signals are giving investors a lot of whiplash on Wall Street. The Dow recovered somewhat on Thursday from an 800-point drop the day before.

[04:10:02] But the question is, what will happen next? Some negative signs are weighing on the markets. The yield curve flashed a recession warning Wednesday, spooking investors. The global economy is slowing down and of course the trade war with China, which has unnerved investors for a year and a half now is looming over the markets big time.

There are positives here to tell you about. Walmart suggesting consumers are still confident in the economy and will keep spending throughout the year, and China's Foreign Ministry tried to ease trade war concerns by saying it remains open to negotiations with the U.S.

So with everything going on, markets have been pretty resilient. The Dow is up 9.5 percent year-to-date. The S&P 500 is up 13 percent and the Nasdaq is up 16.5 percent. So maybe you can go ahead and look at your portfolio today.

BRIGGS: Sure. And the president last night at that rally saying love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me because of the economy, but if it continues to turn south --

KOSIK: It can turn on a dime.

BRIGGS: -- then what's his central argument? Yes.


BRIGGS: It should be interesting in the months ahead.

Ahead here, former NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family escaping this terrifying plane crash. Authorities say the family is not seriously injured, walking away. We'll bring you the details ahead.


[04:15:56] BRIGGS: Some terrifying moments for legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family. They survived this fiery plane crash in Tennessee Thursday. Remarkably, everyone on board the small private plane escaped without serious injury.

More now from CNN's Dianne Gallagher.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Dave, Alison, when you look at all the smoke and fire that came from this plane crash, it's absolutely incredible. It appears everybody walked away OK. Dale Jr., two-time Daytona 500 winner, iconic NASCAR driver, his wife Amy, their 1-year-old daughter Isla and two pilots were on board that Cessna Citation when the FAA says that it seemingly rolled off the end of runway 24 there at the Elizabethton Airport, and caught fire after landing.

Now according to the Elizabethton police chief, the plane had heavy flames coming out of it when they arrived. But everyone was already outside who've been onboard. The plane burned for 20 minutes. According to Dale Jr.'s sister, Kelley, everybody is safe but they were taken to the hospital to get checked out to make sure that they were OK after that scary moment.

Now Dale Jr. is NASCAR analyst, former driver, of course, but he's an analyst now for NBC. He was on his way to Bristol for the race there to call that and to take it all in. Where they crashed is about 20 or so miles from Bristol. So at this point the NTSB is going to investigate. We're waiting to hear from Dale Jr.'s people just to see exactly how everybody checked out there, but, again, you look at that video there, really, really scary stuff -- Dave, Alison.

KOSIK: OK, Dianne, thank you.

And President Trump has reportedly on multiple occasions expressed interest in a new and unusual real estate purchase, buying Greenland from the Danish government. Random, right, Dave? BRIGGS: Yes, a little bit.

KOSIK: Sources say the White House Counsel's Office has looked into the possibility. The president's interest in buying Greenland was first reported by "The Wall Street Journal." Now according to the "Journal," he raised the issue during meetings and dinners with varying degrees of seriousness, questioning aides about the possible advantages of purchasing the autonomous Danish territory. It's the home to the U.S. Military's northern most base, some 750 miles above the Arctic Circle.

BRIGGS: Just another day in 2019.

All right. Today a prayer service for one of the victims of the El Paso massacre. Her shattered husband inviting the world to mourn with him. And people have responded. Our Gary Tuckman has more.


[04:23:34] KOSIK: Our Anderson Cooper's one-on-one with the "Late Show's" Stephen Colbert turning intensely personal and poignant. Anderson opening up about the death of his mother Gloria Vanderbilt last month, before discussing Colbert's own devastating grief, his father and two older brothers died in a plane crash in 1974 when he was just 10 years old. Anderson lost his own father at the same age. At one point during the discussion Anderson had to choke back tears.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You told an interviewer that you have learned to, in your words, love the thing that I most wish had not happened.


COOPER: You went on -- you went on to say what punishments of God are not gifts. Do you really believe that?

COLBERT: Yes. It's a gift to exist. It's a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There's no escaping that.

COOPER: It doesn't mean you are happy --

COLBERT: I don't want it to have happened. I want it to not have happened.

COOPER: Right.

COLBERT: But if you are grateful for your life, which I think is a positive thing to do, not everybody is, and I'm not always, but it's the most positive thing to do, then you have to be grateful for all of it.


[04:25:03] KOSIK: Colbert said his grief as a child helped him appreciate other suffering and better connect with them.

BRIGGS: Funeral services will be held tonight for one of the victims of the El Paso shooting. 63-year-old Margie Reckard was killed as she shopped for groceries at Walmart. Her devastated husband invited the public to attend her services and the response has been overwhelming.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has more.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, we spent much of the day with a man named Tony Basco who was very much in love with his wife Margie. And Margie was one of the people shot and killed two Saturdays ago outside this Walmart. Of course Tony is absolutely devastated. What makes it even sadder is he has no family whatsoever. The wife he was married to for 22 years, his only family member.


ANTHONY BASCO, WIFE KILLED IN MASS SHOOTING: She made me the happiest man in the world and the luckiest. There's nobody luckier than me in this whole world.

TUCHMAN: What would you like people to know about Margie?

BASCO: She was a caring, loving, most beautifulest person. I sit at my table looking at the front door just waiting for her to walk in. I've even tried calling her on the phone.

TUCHMAN: You have?

BASCO: I've tried to.


TUCHMAN: Well, reporters found out about that, started tweeting it. The funeral home where the funeral is taking place started putting it on Facebook. The funeral itself had only had a few people coming to it because there was no family. All of a sudden people from all over the country started phoning, emailing, texting. It now appears that tonight at the funeral prayer service and in Saturday at the actual funeral, hundreds of people say they want to come. They will come here to El Paso, Texas, to participate in this funeral service. They never knew Tony before but they want to honor him. And Tony is so grateful.


BASCO: There's going to be a lot of people there. I told you you were important.


TUCHMAN: Dave and Alison, back to you.

KOSIK: That is gut-wrenching. BRIGGS: You know, sometimes tragedy can bring out the very best in

our communities. We saw that here, of course, at 9/11 and you see that unfortunately after many of these shootings across the country.

Ahead, backlash to a decision from the Israeli government to ban two United States congresswomen. Now one of them may be able to visit the West Bank with conditions. We're live in Jerusalem ahead.