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Countering Economic Concerns; Planned Parenthood to Reject Funding; Elton John's Warning to British Media; Putin: No Threat From Radiation After Military Site Explosion. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 20, 2019 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:18] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: With concerns of a mounting recession, could a new tax cut be on the agenda? What the White House is saying this morning.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Planned Parenthood will forego hundreds of millions of dollars instead of complying with new restrictions. More than a million women could pay the consequences.

BRIGGS: Twenty years after bidding farewell to Princess Diana, Elton John with a warning for British media over their coverage of Prince Harry and his family.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. I'm sitting in for Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, August 20th. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York.

And President Trump and his economic officials are doing everything they can do to downplay any fears of a recession, including knocking down reports the administration is considering cutting payroll taxes as a way to juice the economy. For millions of working Americans 6.2 percent of their salary goes towards payroll taxes and they're usually used to financial safety net programs. A White House official said more tax cuts for Americans are on the table, but cutting pay roll taxes is not something consideration at this time.

However, Trump has undercut staffers before when he said he was not considering something. The president continued to attack the Federal Reserve, tweeting: The Central Bank should cut interest rates by at least 100 points to boost the economy.

So, what does that mean? Basis points are a unit of measure for interest rates and cutting the rate as much as Trump is suggesting amounts to a full percentage point, which wind up giving the Fed less wiggle room to maneuver if a recession did begin.

Trump's attempt to politicize the Fed is not something new but he's never called for a rate cut as drastic and specific as this one. Even Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stepping on the Fed's supposed independence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILBUR ROSS, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: We're very upset about the portion of the strength of the dollar that's due to monetary policy by the Fed. We think that our interest -- it's ridiculous. Our interest rates are high relative to many other countries.


KOSIK: Cutting interest rates is actually a tactic the Fed normally uses to stimulate the economy in a recession.

Larry Kudlow is expected to speak with business and state leaders to discuss the economy this week.

Kudlow, by the way, was wrong about predicting a recession during the George W. Bush administration.

BRIGGS: Google meanwhile in the cross crosshairs of President Trump's latest conspiracy theory. The president tweeting Monday: Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton. He's referring to a study by a psychologist Robert Epstein, which was discussed on Fox Business earlier in the day.

Epstein testified about it last month.


ROBERT EPSTEIN, PSYCHOLOGIST, PROFESSOR, AUTHOR, JOURNALIST: In 2106, Google's search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that shifted at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton.


BRIGGS: Epstein himself says President Trump was wrong about his findings. Epstein did find bias in Google search results but no evidence that they were manipulated to favor Clinton.

Google for its part says Epstein's were wrong.

Hillary Clinton meantime firing back at the Trump conspiracy theory tweeting: The debunked story you're referring to was based on 21 undecided voters. For context, that's about half the number of people associated with your campaign who have been indicted.

KOSIK: Planned Parenthood says it will reject $286 million in federal funding rather than comply with a so-called gag order on abortion services. The move could affect 1.5 million low-income women.

A new Trump administration rule says clinics accepting Title X funds can talk to patients about abortion but they can't refer women to an abortion provider or suggest where to get an abortion.

Planned Parenthood says being forced out of Title X won't stop them from providing abortions and other services, and they will fight the gag rule in court.

This year has seen several attempts to limit reproductive rights in America with several states passing extreme anti-abortion laws.

BRIGGS: A Chicago man is accused of threatening to kill people at a woman's reproductive health clinic. Prosecutors say the 19-year-old Farhan Sheikh posted a threat on social media saying in part: I am done with my state allowing innocent kids to be slaughtered.

[04:05:10] He wrote that he planned to go to the abortion clinic and, quote, slaughter and murder any doctor, patient or visitor. Sheik faces up to five years in prison if convicted. His public defender declined to comment on the case.

KOSIK: One thing everyone can probably agree on, there are no winners following an emotional and controversial decision the death of Eric Garner five years ago. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who used a banned chokehold on Garner has been fired. Both the police union and supporters of the Garner family are not happy.

We get more now from CNN's Brynn Gingras.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, this was all by accounts emotional for everyone involved in this situation that happened five years ago finally coming to a head and a decision being made. Police Commissioner James O'Neil firing Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who was scene on video giving a chokehold to Eric Garner back in 2014, essentially ended his life. It was emotional for the police commissioner as essentially said that he's been a cop for 34 years and now, he's in this position of administrative role where he had to make a final decision knowing that the rank-and-file were not going to be happy with it.

JAMES O'NEILL, NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: Carrying out the court's verdict in this case, I take no pleasure. There are absolutely no victors here today. Not the Garner family, not the community at large and certainly not the courageous men and women of the police department.

GINGRAS: Of course, his decision is in agreement with a trial judge who decided that Pantaleo needed to be dismissed from his duties at the NYPD.

The incident surrounding Eric Garner sparked and really even put a spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement as it sparked protests around the city for several days after that day back in 2014, in July. As far as the Garner family, well, they are still hurting.

GWEN CARR, MOTHER OF ERIC GARNER: You can appeal all you want, but I'm still out here, I'm out here for the long run. You come out here against me, I'm out here.

GINGRAS: The PBA says that Pantaleo, he is upset that he lost his job. They plan to take whatever recourse as necessary as well. So, an emotional time for the NYPD and it's one that many hope can be the final word about this incident, but certainly something that the city can heal from its past. Alison and Dave, back to you.


BRIGGS: Brynn, thank you.

California passing what may be the strictest standard of use of deadly police force. Governor Gavin Newsom signing a new law known as Stephon Clark's law after an unarmed killed by police last year. California police will no longer be allowed to shoot at fleeing suspects unless they pose an immediate danger. The new law also stipulates law enforcement can only use deadly force when necessary as opposed to when it's reasonable.

Governor Newsom tells CNN the new law is important because, quote, we can't accept the status quo. Stephon Clark's law will go into effect January 1st, 2020.

KOSIK: Social media giants Twitter and Facebook taking action against China for using hundreds of fake accounts to create discord among protesters in Hong Kong. Twitter suspending almost 1,000 Chinese accounts and banning advertising from state-owned media companies. Facebook said it's removing five accounts, seven pages and three groups because of deceptive tactics. The takedowns reflect the extent to which disinformation has become a global scourge far surpassing the efforts by Russia to stoke social unrest in the U.S. during the 2016 election.

BRIGGS: Pop legend Sir Elton John slamming the notoriously intrusive British media over their coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In a flurry of tweets he said he was deeply distressed by distorted and malicious stories after reports of the family taking a private plane to France made the rounds online, suggesting the royal couple's mission to protect the environment is a sham.

In his flurry of tweets, John defended the couple's use of the private jet saying he and his husband paid for it and they also made sure the flight was carbon neutral.


KOSIK: Elton John, a long-time friend of Princess Diana, said he felt it was his job to protect the royal couple from the media. In 1997, Diana, Prince Harry's mother, was killed in Paris during a high speed car crash. At the time, seven photographers were charged with manslaughter, although the charges were eventually dropped. John rewrote and performed this version of "Candle in the Wind" at Diana's funeral.

BRIGGS: Will the British media listen?

[04:10:01] KOSIK: Doubtful.

BRIGGS: We shall see.

Ahead, a West Virginia's mom suspected abuse at school. Secret recordings prove her right. You won't believe where she hid the camera.


BRIGGS: Secret recordings have led to charges against a former West Virginia teacher and two aides accused of abusing kids according a 6- year-old girl with autism. When a mother suspected her daughter was being abused at school, she hid a recording device in the girl's hair.

[04:15:05] The teacher and aides at the Martinsburg school accused of threatening children, telling them they would hit them and knock their teeth out and threaten to withhold food. No comment yet from the teacher aides principal nor school district.

KOSIK: Another group of high school students caught on video giving the Nazi salute. The eight-second video obtained by the "Daily Beast" appears to show students from Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, California, singing a Nazi marching song. The video dates back to November of 2018 and was shot at an off-campus student banquet.

School administrators said they first learned of the incident four months later and claimed to have taken immediate action with all the students and families involved. Similar incidents have taken place the last four years in Newport Beach, California and in Wisconsin.

BRIGGS: The man charged in the El Paso shooting is on suicide watch. Patrick Crusius is charged with killing 22 people at a Walmart on August 3rd. Police say he was put under close guard on Monday under the recommendation on medical staff. He has been in custody without bond and been separated from other inmates since the shooting. Federal prosecutors are also considering possible hate crime and domestic terrorism charges against him.

KOSIK: Nike is sweetening its offering to sponsor a female athlete after catching a lot of heat from a lot of its high-profile stars. The company announcing plans to offer maternity benefits for 18 months. That's six months longer than under its previous policy.

The changes follow revelations from earlier this year from Olympic runner Alicia Montano who told "The New York Times" Nike threatened to pause her contract and stop paying her if she wanted to have a baby. At the time, she criticized Nike for penalizing its own athletes for having children while marketing itself as a supporter of women in sports.

BRIGGS: Talk about extreme couponing. Disneyland just honored a woman's 30-year-old free admission ticket. Tammy Richardson is from the Edmonton suburb of Sherwood Park, Alberta. She was planning a girls' trip to Disneyland with her mother and some daughters when she found the coupon from her first visit to the park in 1985 when she was 14.

Disneyland was celebrating its 30th birthday by giving out prizes to every 30th guest. Richardson held on to the pass she won for a free return visit for 30 years, and finally used it this month. Back in 1985, admission cost $16.50. Now, they're at least $90. Well done.

The song of the summer just got knocked off its perch.


Seventeen-year-old Billie Eilish has knocked "Old Town Road" from the number one spot atop the Hot 100. "Bad Guy" is the first number one hit for Eilish. He only rose to fame in the past couple of months. A few weeks ago, "Bad Guy" was re-released with a verse by Justin Bieber, giving the song a fresh boost.


BRIGGS: "Bad Guy" knocked off Lil Nas X's country rap song featuring Billy Ray Cyrus after its unprecedented 19-run at the top. Eilish is the first born in the 2000s to have a song on the hot 100s.

KOSIK: Yes, the Lil Nas song was actually on the country chart but then was kicked off for not being country enough.

BRIGGS: Oh, come on. We all love that tune. Billie Eilish, kids love Billie Eilish, I'm glad I'm getting with it.

KOSIK: You're getting into it, I'm impressed.


OK. The Russians insist there is no radiation threat after a deadly explosion at a missile test site. Yet somehow four nuclear monitoring sites have mysteriously gone quiet. CNN is live in Moscow.


[04:24:10] BRIGGS: Russian President Vladimir Putin insists there is no threat from radiation after a deadly explosion at a missile testing site in northern Russia earlier this month. At least five people were killed. Now, four nuclear monitoring stations have mysteriously gone silent.

Let's go live to Moscow for the latest and bring in our Moscow bureau chief Nathan Hodge.

Nathan, good morning. What are we learning?

NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Dave, the mystery is only really deepening here because of all the conflicting accounts that we've been getting from the Russian side.

As you mentioned, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was no concern. There was no reason to worry about increased radiation. But let's recall on August 8th when this explosion occurred, the Russian military said that there have been no rise in background radiation levels and yet a few days later, Russia's own meteorological agency said background levels had spiked between 4 and 16 times above normal levels.

[04:25:08] And that's created a lot of concern about what exactly was being tested at this range. Now, the U.S. believes it was a nuclear powered cruise missile called the Skyfall. That's created a lot of concerns that there may, in fact, be some sort of risk especially after the reports that the Russians had originally planned to evacuate a village nearby the test range.

So, lots of questions here and not a lot of transparency from the Russian side, Dave. And certainly I think there is a lot more concern after these four stations went offline. They're part of a network that internationally measures for nuclear weapons testing violations and when they went offline, that raised further questions about how forthcoming the Russians were being, Dave.

BRIGGS: Strange mystery. Nathan Hodge, stay on it for us. Thank you, sir.

KOSIK: More than 9,000 people have been evacuated as a growing wildfire rages on Spain's Canary Islands. Emergency officials say 600 firefighters have been working to control the fire, which began over the weekend. It has now grown to about 25,000 acres and officials hope a drop in temperature and nearly 50 mile an hour winds will help fire crews gain control.

Could a new tax cut be on the agenda to counter fears of a recession? White House officials are doing all they can to ease concerns.