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Rep. Tlaib Requests Humanitarian Visit to Family in West Bank; Farmers Hurt by Trump's China Trade War; Hong Kong Protesters Appeal for Sanctions Against Beijing; Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Family Safe After Escaping Fiery Plane Crash. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 04:30   ET


[04:31:32] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Israel banning two United States congresswomen after President Trump's encouragement. Now Israel is saying they may let one in.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family in a lucky escape from a small plane crash. No one seriously injured.

BRIGGS: Hong Kong protesters demanding action from the West as President Trump's senior administration officials tell him get stronger against China or there might be a, quote, "bloodbath."

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs. Happy Friday.

KOSIK: Happy Friday as well. Good morning to you.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

KOSIK: I'm Alison Kosik, I'm sitting in for Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour here in New York. And there is strong reaction to what some lawmakers are calling a shameful decision to ban two Muslim congresswomen from visiting Israel.

It came 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, saying, "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 to be anti-Semitic.

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

BRIGGS: The ban sparked 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 slammed the decision. Senator Marco Rubio says while he disagrees with the two, denying them entry into Israel is a mistake.

Let's go live to CNN's Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem for the latest.

We should add to that, Oren, look, Marco Rubio says that's actually what the two congresswomen wanted was to get banned. You're getting new details, though, that one of these lawmakers may be able to enter Israel after all. Tell us more about that.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, the story certainly isn't over yet. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has asked to enter Israel on humanitarian grounds to visit her family in the central West Bank village which is the family's ancestral home. She says her grandmother is in her 90s and this may be her last chance to visit. She wrote a letter to Israel's Interior minister who has the final say on these sorts of decisions in which she promised, and I quote, "I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit." A spokesman for the Interior minister says that decisions should be in the coming hours.

Yesterday an Israeli government official said such a decision will be considered first separately from the political visit or the visit with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar but also that it will be considered on its own and perhaps even favorably. We are waiting for that final decision.

All of this, of course, comes one day after in an unprecedented decision Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to ban these two congresswomen, two members of the "Squad," as they're known, from visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories. Israel had been considering it throughout the day and even throughout the week, meeting with some of the highest level officials to discuss what would be the impact and the consequences of that visit.

But shortly after President Donald Trump tweeted that Israel would be showing great weakness by allowing them in, the official decision came down and Israel would deny two duly elected sitting congresswomen from visiting. That tweet from Trump left Israel very little wiggle room.

Dave, Netanyahu has never publicly disagreed with Trump and he wasn't about to start now even facing that flood of criticism we've seen from Democrats and some Republicans and some here as well.

[04:35:08] BRIGGS: Not many Republicans -- you can't help but wonder if Democrats are going to start discussing foreign aid. We shall see ahead.

Oren Liebermann, thank you, sir.

President Trump holding a "Keep America Great Again" election rally in New Hampshire last night. The president again blaming mental illness for mass shootings, suggested 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.


KOSIK: Mental health is not the only factor in mass shootings or even the biggest. There are other factors like violent hatred or access to assault weapons. The president repeated his support for expanding background checks. He gave no specifics but says he's making head way 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.


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

BRIGGS: 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 time 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.

KOSIK: 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. They all held positions in the West Wing. Lewandowski has only informally advised President Trump since his work on 2016 campaign and when it ended.

BRIGGS: 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.

KOSIK: The peace plan expected to formalize a significant withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan from about 15,000 troops to 8,000 or 9,000 troops. 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.

The trade war with China has been going on for a year and a half, but President Trump doesn't seem too concerned about its effect on the economy.


TRUMP: I think the longer it goes, the stronger we get. I have a feeling it's going to go fairly short.


KOSIK: Apparently a year and a half trade war that has had markets on edge is now considered short. The president added that U.S. and Chinese officials had a very good conversation a few days ago and claimed that China wants to make a deal. Then he said this about the cost of tariffs.


TRUMP: We've taken in close to $60 billion in tariff money and the consumer has not paid for it. Now at some point they may have to pay something, but they understand that.


KOSIK: Numerous studies show that U.S. families and consumers, that they pay the tariffs, not China. Even though Americans are still shopping and propping up the economy, retailers, yes, they are worried.

[04:40:05] Macy's and other stores have said shoppers will likely see prices go up if tariffs are placed on all Chinese goods.

BRIGGS: Also suffering under the trade war, American farmers. They were hit with tough retaliatory tariffs from China on things like soy beans and pork.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich spoke to some farmers in Minnesota who told her the price they're paying for President Trump's trade war.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, Dave and Alison. Farmers we've spoken to here in Minnesota say they are drained physically, emotionally and financially.

We are on Gary Werdish's farm. And he says that while he initially supported the president, taking a look at these trade deals, he says that tariffs are simply the wrong way to go. He's also warning that the president is in jeopardy of losing support from his base here in Minnesota.

We also spoke with a farmer, Cindy, who says that this trade war could change the face of American farming forever.


CINDY VANDERPOL, MINNESOTA FARMER: It's very scary. I mean, we -- I sometimes stay up at night worrying about what the future does hold. You know, what do you tell your children that want to farm? Do you tell them, go find something else to do? One of our sons already has. He's already -- sorry. He always had a passion to farm and because you don't know what the future is going to bring, you almost want to encourage them to go do something else.


YURKEVICH: You hear that emotion from Cindy, and the fear in her voice about the future, that uncertainty that is paralyzing so many of the farmers that we have spoken to. And in their mind that market with China is gone and will take decades to come back.

We also know that farm bankruptcies are on the rise just in the past two years, and that is forcing farmers to make some very serious decisions about their future -- Dave and Alison.

BRIGGS: Great reporting there. And the question she raises is a good one. Is that market gone forever? Can it come back? China has talked for months and months about -- or at least the president has -- about these increased ag buys from China, but we have not seen any proof of that.

KOSIK: No. And these folks are having to make these life-changing decisions because of this trade war.

BRIGGS: Yes. That's the real cost of what's happening here.


BRIGGS: Ahead, senior administration officials warning there could be a bloodbath in Hong Kong if President Trump doesn't get tough on China. Protesters gathering again today. CNN is there.


[04:46:49] KOSIK: Welcome back. Protesters in Hong Kong are now calling for the U.K. to declare that China has broken the 35-year-old handover agreement that gave them control of the city. Meantime, White House officials are warning President Trump of a possible bloodbath in Hong Kong if he doesn't take a tougher stance against China.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is live for us in Hong Kong with more.

So, Kristie, these protests have been going on for months. They're clearly growing more and more intense with these protesters calling on leaders to take a stand. KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Absolutely, they are

intensifying. Now we are well into 10 weeks of this protest movement, this long, hot summer protest in Hong Kong. Days after those dramatic scenes that the world witnessed at the Hong Kong International Airport, the protesters, they want to continue to harness international attention with that direct appeal to the British government, as the U.K. to apply political pressure as well as economic pressure against Beijing in the form of sanctions.

Also, we have a CNN source telling the network that senior Trump administration officials are asking U.S. President Donald Trump to apply a much tougher stance against Beijing in regard to the political fate and future in Hong Kong.

Now this day, no protests today. More protests expected this weekend. But there's a lot of concern and growing alarm about possible Chinese military intervention. We have dispatched a CNN team on the ground across the border in Shenzhen. They have documented evidence of a significant number of Chinese paramilitary troops gathering at a sports complex there. Adding to that toughening language in Chinese state media as well as some Chinese state officials saying that the situation here has, quote, "signs of terrorism."

There are also these propaganda videos that have been circulating, adding to the worries and alarm, showing armed Chinese police simulating riot control tactics in the Hong Kong-like landscape. Now there is no clear indication that there will be a Chinese military intervention here. According to the Hong Kong basic law, that's their mini-constitution, matters of law and order fall under the courts in Hong Kong as well as the police.

I'm standing outside the Hong Kong police headquarters. We've recently got a briefing from senior police officers. The first time since these protests broke out. They said that they have the situation under control and they have yet to mobilize all of their assets.

Alison, back to you.

KOSIK: Yes, but you can certainly feel the pressure building there.

Kristie Lu Stout, thanks so much.

BRIGGS: 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.

[04:50:05] 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 a 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.

BRIGGS: Sure was frightening.

OK. President Trump has reportedly on multiple occasions expressed interest in a new and very unusual real estate purchase, buying Greenland from the Danish government. Sources say the White House Counsel's Office has actually looked into the possibility. The president's interest in buying Greenland was first reported by "The Wall Street Journal." 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 home to the U.S. Military's northern most base, some 750 miles above the Arctic Circle.

He's heading to Denmark September 2nd and 3rd. One would imagine there would be a couple of questions from the press there.

KOSIK: I'd say it's very random.


KOSIK: "Toy Story 4" just gave Disney its newest milestone. CNN Business has the details next.


[04:56:22] KOSIK: Welcome back. As part of its Emmy Award campaign for the "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Amazon sponsored "A Maisel Day in L.A." rolling back prices to 1959 levels at various places around town but it was that 30-cent gas at a Chevron station in Santa Monica that was the big hit or miss. It certainly caused a lot of backups at the pumps, even longer lines spilling into the street. Police had to actually intervene and the station was temporarily shut down.

BRIGGS: OK. This is terrifying. Officials in two Missouri cities are trying to answer a bizarre question. Who is leaving random dolls in strange and potentially dangerous places?


ANGELA RAVELLETTE, RESIDENT: We found this one, it was just like laying in the front of our building. And we kind of just, we're like, what is this? And then we picked it up and it was the doll. And we're like, OK, that's kind of weird.


KOSIK: Wait. Was the head chopped off one of those?

BRIGGS: Kind of weird is an understatement. Police say they don't know who was doing this or why but they think it's a prank.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody just wants attention, but they think it's funny to put out. They're giggling as they see people stopping.


BRIGGS: Police are warning people in the area to be aware of their surroundings. They're worried the dolls might distract drivers or pedestrians who think the dolls are real kids in distress.

KOSIK: Creepy.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Asian markets closed higher after China announced plans that could help boost consumer spending. The U.K.'s FTSE opening higher after a trading delay because of a technical glitch.

Looking at Wall Street now, U.S. futures, we're seeing green arrows pointing to a higher open. The Dow managed to recover somewhat on Thursday from an 800-point loss a day earlier, the worst of 2019. By the end of the day, the Dow finished with a gain of about 100 points. The S&P 500 closed up just a bit. The Nasdaq with its many tech companies, it fell slightly.

General Electric was a big loser. The stock plunged more than 11 percent after accountant Harry Markopolos who helped expose the Bernie Madoff scandal said that GE was hiding almost $40 billion of losses in its insurance business. GE strongly denies the allegations calling them meritless.

Virgin Galactic is showing off a lounge area and top shelf amenities for its wealthy clientele. The company shared new video of its Spaceport America facility. Ticketholders for a Virgin Galactic flight will one day gather at the Spaceport before they board a supersonic plane for a 90-minute ride into space. Hundreds of people have already signed up for a ride on the space place. Virgin Galactic said it has additional test flights planned and will be ready to start flying paying customers in the first half of 2020.

A new toy and $1 billion. "Toy Story 4" has crossed the $1 billion mark at the global box office marking its fifth billion-dollar release for Disney this year. The studio is now the first to have five $1 billion movies in a single year. Disney has dominated the box office. "Avengers End Game," "The Lion King," "Captain Marvel" and "Aladdin." Each crossing the billion-dollar mark. Last month it raked in an industry record of $7.6 billion worldwide,

breaking its own record from 2016 and its big year is far from over. The studio has a strong slate of films for the rest of the year including sequels for "Frozen" and the final chapter of the Skywalker saga, "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," opening in December. But the pressure is on them.