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EARLY START

President Trump Tells NRA Universal Background Checks Are "Off The Table"; President Trump Postpones Planned Trip To Denmark; Trump Supports Russia's Return To Existing G7. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 21, 2019 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[05:31:29] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have very, very strong background checks right now.

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DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Efforts to curb gun violence in America stalling once again. What the president told the chief of the NRA.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Is this diplomacy? The president cancels a trip to Denmark after they announce Greenland is not for sale. CNN is live in Copenhagen.

BRIGGS: And yet another move by the White House aimed at immigrants. How entire families are now being targeted.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning, I'm Alison Kosik. I'm sitting in for Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

And it's been less than three weeks since two mass shootings that killed 31 people. Already, it seems momentum from meaningful change to gun laws is fading.

A source confirms President Trump told NRA chief Wayne LaPierre that universal background checks are off the table. The source says there is more emphasis on passing red flag laws allowing people to ask a court to intervene if they see a warning sign.

A senior White House official tried to downplay the president's comment to LaPierre, saying he was only talking about universal checks. But yesterday, the president, himself, downplayed any hopes of changes to background checks.

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TRUMP: We have very, very strong background checks right now, but we have sort of missing areas and areas that don't complete the whole circle, and we're looking at different things. And I have to tell you that it is a mental problem. And I've said it a hundred times, it's not the gun that pulls the trigger, it's the person that pulls the trigger.

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BRIGGS: That doesn't jive so well with what he said just after the El Paso and Dayton shootings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I'm looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important. I think we can do meaningful -- very meaningful background checks. I want to see it happen.

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BRIGGS: The president's change of tone not sitting so well with 2020 Democrats nor Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who spoke with the president about this issue.

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SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I said, "Mr. President, you can't blast with a cake of dynamite your base -- they're not leaving. So, they didn't leave you on bump stocks. They're not going to leave you on common- sense background checks.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even this president says he's going to do something about background checks. And then word comes out today that he has consulted with his masters at the NRA and they've told him sorry, you can't do that. It raises the very simple question -- who's in charge?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need not to let this be a time of impotent empathy where we don't feel enough pain for our brothers and sisters across this country that are suffering from the ravages of violence. But we all begin to demand it, Republican and Democrat.

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BRIGGS: Background checks do poll around 90 percent currently.

One Republican operative close to the White House says the issue is likely to reemerge when Congress returns in September, noting some GOP lawmakers in swing districts are hearing from voters who want action on guns.

KOSIK: Law enforcement cracking down on threats since the El Paso and Dayton shootings. There have been at least 25 arrests across the country in connection with alleged mass shooting threats.

Two of the latest, a 15-year-old Florida high school student arrested for threatening a school shooting during a video game chat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERIFF'S OFFICIAL, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: I, Dalton Barnhart, vow to bring my father's M-15 to school and kill seven people.

[05:35:00] MOTHER OF DALTON BARNHART: He's just a little kid playing a video game. What's so bad? SHERIFF'S OFFICIAL, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: And all these kids keep getting arrested and that's why the FBI and the local enforcement are spending so much time --

SHERIFF'S OFFICIAL, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: Do you have any weapons?

SHERIFF'S OFFICIAL, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: -- because how do we know he's not going to be like the kid from Parkland?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Confronted by police, the teen insisted it was a joke.

According to CNN affiliate WESH, the principal at Seabreeze High School said nobody there was in danger.

BRIGGS: And in Tennessee, a truck driver was arrested for threatening a mass shooting at a church. When a friend asked Thomas Matthew McVicker why, police say McVicker told him, quote, "They put spiritual snakes and spiders in my bed at night."

Another friend says he has mental health issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mental health is something that you, you know, it doesn't discriminate and is, you know, amongst all. It doesn't matter how rich or how poor you are. So, I mean, they need something -- he wouldn't do that.

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BRIGGS: McVicker's mother says her son is being treated for schizophrenia.

KOSIK: A diplomatic about-face by President Trump less than two weeks before his planned trip to Denmark. The president tweeting he has postponed his visit after the Danish prime minister refused to discuss the sale of Greenland, calling his interest in buying it absurd.

The leaders of both Greenland and Denmark met yesterday before the Trump announcement.

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KIM KIELSEN, PREMIER OF GREENLAND (through translator): Greenland is not for sale in any way. I'm not saying it as a joke. Greenland is not for sale.

METTE FREDERIKSEN, PRIME MINISTER OF DENMARK (through translator): Of course, Greenland is not for sale. I totally agree with Kim Kielsen. And by the way, Greenland does not belong to Denmark, so it's not a case for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: So, is the cancelation just another distraction?

CNN's Anna Stewart has just landed in Copenhagen and joins us live with more.

So, the Danish Royal House is saying Trump's postponement was a complete surprise and the rest of us, we're just kind of scratching our heads -- what?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Yes, and having just landed and getting used to sort of the local press and the reaction here, and it is one of shock and credulity. And a lot of the local press talking about the offense that's being caused here to the royal household.

Of course, President Trump was actually invited to Copenhagen -- to Denmark by Her Royal Highness Queen Margrethe II, so this is going to cause something of a diplomatic fallout.

Now, so far, the reaction from politicians -- not the government, but politicians on Twitter, have been very far-ranging. We've had some calling the decision to postpone unfathomable and others saying Trump is living on another planet.

Now, we are expecting, Alison, to get a statement actually from the prime minister in just a few hours. You've got to think about what an incredibly tricky diplomatic tightrope that she has to walk here because although there is offense caused and she has to respond to this decision by the president.

But also, this is a very important relationship for Denmark and for the United States. They are longtime allies. The security betrayed.

The United States is Denmark's biggest trading partner outside of the E.U., so they'll have to work very hard to try and contain this political fallout but, of course, make sort of response -- Alison.

KOSIK: "Trump is living on another planet." That is one response I will not forget.

Anna Stewart live from Copenhagen -- thanks.

BRIGGS: A familiar pattern, the president picking a fight with an ally but welcoming an adversary. He says Russia should be allowed back into the G8, which is now the G7, of course.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Moscow.

Fred, it's a point you made well, earlier in this program. We saw it play out with North and South Korea and now, with Russia. Why might he welcome them back into the -- what was the G8?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's a big question as to why exactly that would be the case. Certainly, the president, in the past, obviously has tried to mend

relations with Russia. We know that both Vladimir Putin and President Trump, at least on a personal level, seem to have quite good relations.

And you're absolutely right. President Trump came out yesterday and said that he believes that Russia belongs in the G7 which, of course, was the G8 before Russia got kicked out. He said one of the reasons is because so much of the things that the G7 leaders discuss have to do with Russia he believes that they should be back in.

Now, however, the issue with that is that Russia got kicked out of the G8 back then, and then turning it into the G7 during the years of the Obama administration, after Russia invaded Ukraine -- after it annexed Crimea and then put troops into Eastern Ukraine. Now, that wasn't just the decision of the Obama administration -- of the United States -- but of the majority nations of the G7 making that decision.

Nevertheless, as President Trump so frequently does, he pinned this on the Obama administration like for instance, he did when he left the Paris Climate Accord and then also, of course, the nuclear agreement with Iran, saying he believes that Vladimir Putin simply outsmarted President Obama and therefore, President Obama wanted Russia out of that group.

[05:40:02] Here's what President Trump had to say.

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TRUMP: Putin outsmarted him. President Obama thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in, so he wanted Russia out. But I think it's much more appropriate to have Russia in.

If somebody would make that motion, I would certainly be disposed to think about it very favorably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: Now, Dave, a senior administration official tells CNN that this apparently came after a phone call between President Trump and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who, of course, is hosting those G7 leaders in France this weekend. Apparently, those two are going to broach this topic with the other members of the G7.

President Macron, of France, however, is at least qualifying this, saying that he believes there needs to be progress on relations between Russia and Ukraine before Russia could be admitted back to that group, Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes. It should be interesting to hear from both world leaders on that behalf.

Fred Pleitgen live for us in Moscow. Thank you.

KOSIK: The president tried to have it both ways on the economy.

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TRUMP: We're looking at various tax reductions, but I'm looking at that all the time, anyway -- tax reductions. That's one of the reasons we're in such a strong economic position.

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KOSIK: Touting a strong economy but still, a need for another tax cut.

He and his officials are sending completely contradictory messages.

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HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: -- on his economic expansion.

SANDRA SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR, "AMERICA'S NEWSROOM": Is a payroll tax cut being considered?

GIDLEY: It's not being considered at this time.

TRUMP: Payroll tax is something that we think about and a lot of people would like to see that. I've been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: OK, so the U.S. economy and the job market are both strong, in part because of Trump's 2017 tax cuts and that's been largely driven by consumer demand. But the thing is that demand is being threatened by a global slowdown.

In 2011, the payroll tax cut added a notable half-percentage point to GDP. The question is, would a new payroll tax cut be worth ballooning the deficit? Many economists say no.

In 2011 and 2012, the economy was still struggling to bounce back from the Great Recession. Well, now, unemployment is at historic lows, wages are rising. So, analysts argue that a payroll tax cut would actually be a waste of ammunition in the event of a future downturn.

BRIGGS: Yet another move by the White House targeting immigrants at the southern border. The Trump administration will try and keep families locked up longer.

That move would replace the so-called Flores Settlement, which limits detention of kids to 20 days. An administration official says families are exploiting that limit, knowing they'll be released quickly if they come with kids.

Under a new rule, families will be held at family centers run by ICE throughout the parents' immigration proceedings. The change is expected to be met with legal challenges.

KOSIK: President Trump tapping into some of the very same anti- Semitic tropes he's railed on Democrats for in the past.

He was lashing out at Democratic Congresswoman Rashid Tlaib, questioning her sincerity as she teared up talking about her decision not to travel to Israel to see her elderly grandmother in the West Bank.

Then he said this.

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TRUMP: Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they're defending these two people over the state of Israel?

And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat -- I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or a great disloyalty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: The dual loyalty claim he's making there echoing historic anti-Semitic tropes. Democrats pounced.

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REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL): It's outrageous, it's offensive, and it's dangerous. It creates an environment that puts Jews at risk. The president should know that.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I think that's a profoundly anti-Semitic statement by the president. It's disgusting and it ought to be condemned by Republicans as well as Democrats.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am a proud Jewish person and I have no concerns about voting Democratic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The head of the Anti-Defamation League saying, quote, "It's long overdue to stop using Jews as a political football."

And the Jewish Democratic Council adding, "This is yet another example of Donald Trump continuing to weaponize and politicize anti-Semitism. If this is about Jews being 'loyal' to him, then Trump needs a reality check."

Jewish voters went Democrat by about a three to one margin in the midterms.

My producer said it would be a good time to hear from Jared Kushner. He's on vacation with Ivanka. But, boy, you sure would like to hear from him at a time like this.

KOSIK: And, Trump is certainly stirring the pot. I know -- I'm Jewish and I know I'm getting a lot of comments on Twitter today. A lot of that anti-Semitism.

BRIGGS: An unfortunate development. KOSIK: It just stirs all that up.

BRIGGS: Stir it up, yes.

KOSIK: All right.

Last week, his boss called him the best police commissioner in America. Now, Richard Ross is out of a job. What happened to Philadelphia's top cop?

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[05:44:09] BRIGGS: The parents of a Texas middle-schooler say school officials used a Sharpie to color their son's haircut, claiming it violated the school dress code. They filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Pearland, Texas School District.

The suit says back in April, their 13-year-old son got a fade haircut with a design line. The next day, he was allegedly given two options by school officials. Use a black permanent marker to cover his scalp or get in-school suspension. Now wanting to affect his track team eligibility, he chose the Sharpie.

The suit claims staffers laughed as they colored in his scalp, which the parents say took many days of scrubbing to come off.

KOSIK: Philadelphia is looking for a new top cop after police commissioner Richard Ross, Jr. abruptly stepped down. The resignation comes as Ross, the City of Philadelphia, and others are named in a lawsuit by two female police officers.

[05:50:05] One of the plaintiffs claims she called Ross to report that she had been experiencing sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Ross declined to act and suggested the officer just "sit down."

It was only last week when the mayor of Philadelphia called Ross, quote, "the best commissioner in America."

BRIGGS: Twenty-two Texas towns targeted in a massive cyberattack. State officials say computer systems were infiltrated by hackers demanding as much as $2.5 million in ransom. The FBI and state cybersecurity experts are examining the breach, which began Friday morning and is ongoing.

It has affected mostly smaller, local governments. The Texas Department of Information Resources says the evidence points to a single-threat actor.

KOSIK: Let's get a check on "CNN Business" this morning.

Asian markets closed slightly higher. European markets are open. It looks like we're seeing some green arrows there.

On Wall Street, futures are pointing to a positive open. The Dow snapped a 3-day winning streak, closing 173 points lower on Tuesday. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also fell.

With trade wars and recession fears on everyone's minds, all eyes are turning to the Federal Reserve and the minutes of the July meeting where the central bank cut rates for the first time since 2008. Those minutes come out this afternoon.

And, Fed chair Jay Powell, he gives a speech in Florida on Friday, so investors are going to be watching for any signs of future interest rate cuts coming from him.

Facebook is finally rolling out a privacy tool for users' browsing history with some limits. The Off-Facebook Activity feature will help users manage data that apps and Web sites collect and share with Facebook.

Users have the option to disassociate the information from their account, but they won't be able to delete the data entirely. It will still exist on servers without identifying information.

The feature will be available first, in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain, and then roll out worldwide over the coming months.

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SCENE FROM MARVEL STUDIO'S "SPIDER-MAN":

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KOSIK: Spider-man has lost his studio and producer. "Deadline" is reporting that Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige will no longer produce any Spider-man movies, putting the future of the web-slinger up in the air.

According to "Deadline," Disney and Sony failed to agree on a co- financing deal for the future of the franchise. Sony said it's disappointed in the decision and said the issue was with Feige's time constraints with other Disney projects.

"Spider-man: Far From Home" recently became Sony's highest-grossing film of all time, bringing in $1.1 billion.

We'll be right back.

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[05:57:18] BRIGGS: Two teens got the scare of their lives when they discovered a bear raiding their fridge in a cabin.

Fifteen-year-old Hayes Sherman says he was watching T.V. with his friend when he heard Tupperware being aggressively ripped open. The two boys hid behind a sliding door and held it shut while the bear tried to open it.

Hayes had to use his Apple watch to alert his sleeping mother upstairs and called 911. A deputy finally arrived and fired a warning shot to shoo it away. As for the bear, Hayes says it enjoyed some taco meat and had some

dessert, too -- two pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

KOSIK: He's making himself at home there.

BRIGGS: Got to have dessert, right.

KOSIK: New signs of life may have once existed on Ancient Mars.

At minus-80 degrees, the Red Planet is too cold and inhospitable today. But three to four billion years ago new research shows Mars was warm enough for rainstorms and flowing water, conditions which would have supported simple life. Previously, it wasn't clear if the water was trapped in ice or if it actually flowed.

The exploration doesn't end there. Europe will send an alien-hunting camera to Mars in 2021.

BRIGGS: Twenty years after the first, a fourth installment of the blockbuster sci-fi franchise "The Matrix" is happening. The film set to star original cast members Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss.

The new sequel, set to begin production next year, will be released by Warner Bros., which like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.

Keanu Reeves --

KOSIK: Doesn't age.

BRIGGS: -- a legend. Still getting --

KOSIK: He doesn't age.

BRIGGS: He hasn't aged a minute in those 20 years.

KOSIK: Thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik. Have a great day.

BRIGGS: Good to have you this week. I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

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TRUMP: We have very strong background checks right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump assuring Wayne LaPierre this is not something the group needs to worry about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what he does whenever a shooting happens. I can't say that I'm surprised.

TRUMP: We're a big ally of Denmark. We help Denmark.

BRIGGS: President Trump postponing his trip to Denmark after the prime minister refused to discuss the sale of Greenland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He felt dissed by the Denmark government. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a ridiculous headline. This pet project is going to materially impact our security going forward.

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ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday -- it's August 21st, 6:00 here in New York.

And breaking overnight, why is the president so afraid of Denmark? Why is he canceling a trip there? I mean, why, really, because if you think it's about Greenland I have a giant ice-covered island to sell you.

The president claims it is because the Danish prime minister dismissed the idea of selling Greenland to the United States. But what's.

END