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Trump Unable to Accept Intel Agency Warning of Russian Interference; Democratic Candidates Pushing for More Cash a Day Before Nevada Caucuses; CDC Issues Japan Travel Advisory Over Coronavirus. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 21, 2020 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Russians are back and the president is irate but not because of the Russian threat. He's just unwilling to accept the facts.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The Nevada caucuses a day away. The candidates making a final pitch and a dash for cash.

ROMANS: And a catastrophic tanker fire in Indianapolis. The driver lucky to be alive. Wait until you hear who saved him.

Welcome back to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. 31 minutes past the hour here in New York.

America's Russia nightmare 2.0. Briefing lawmakers, the intel community said it believes Russia is already taking steps to interfere in the 2020 election with the goal of helping President Trump win. The assessment comes less than nine months before America votes. Three sources tell CNN the briefer said Russia's interference is also designed to raise questions about the integrity of the election system itself.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It is not a big surprise but it illustrates the tremendous challenge that the intelligence community has where they're teeing up facts that our president doesn't want to hear.


ROMANS: The new revelations once again prompting an assault on the intel community. The first time we went through this the president became so aggravated by the exposure of Russia's meddling he fired the person in charge of getting to the bottom of it, FBI director James Comey, which then led to the Mueller probe.

JARRETT: Now round two and the president is again unable to accept both that his victory could be legitimate and that an adversary could be interfering. Already intel officials who tried to sound the alarm are paying the price and loyalists, not career intel professionals, are overseeing our national security.

Here's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Laura and Christine, it's really a fascinating turn of events that we're learning about and I want to start with last week. There was this intelligence briefing on Thursday on Capitol Hill with a group of bipartisan lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, with this official, Shelby Pierson, who is in this role.

Essentially she is overseeing all of the intelligence related to election security. She's coordinating all that. It's a new position that was created last summer. And she told these lawmakers that their latest assessment is that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2020 election and that they are favoring President Trump to win.

Now she told this to a bipartisan group of lawmakers. We are told by sources the Republicans in the room grew angry with this assessment and then later, the president found out about what exactly had been telegraphed to them and he got irate with the acting director of National Intelligence, that would be this official's boss, and that's Joseph Maguire, someone who was widely expected to be permanently nominated to that job.

But we are told now that after that briefing happened on Thursday, he met with the president on Friday. That's when they had that tense exchange over this briefing because essentially the president was operating under this belief that Democrats would try to weaponize that information against him. Even though it was a classified briefing, they're not allowed to repeat that when they're not behind closed doors.

The House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff was in the room and, of course, he has been one of the president's biggest foils through all the impeachment inquiry and the impeachment trial. And we're told that the president blew up on Maguire and essentially, now we are learning -- of course, learned days later that now Rick Grenell is going to be named as the acting director of National Intelligence until the president picks someone else to take that top job.

Now, we are being told by officials that the two are coincidental, the Russian report and the idea that Grenell is now going to be taking over as the director of National Intelligence. But, of course, the question is going to be whether or not the president is receiving intelligence he does not like and that is why he is changing, essentially, who it is giving him the information.

ROMANS: All right, Kaitlan. Thank you for that.

President Trump now says he is considering Congressman Doug Collins of Georgia to become the permanent director of National Intelligence. Collins was a staunch defender of the president during impeachment. He could face some of the same criticism that has been raised about Richard Grenell, very limited intel experience.

Also CNN has confirmed Kash Patel, a former aide to Congressman Devin Nunes, will be an adviser to Grenell at the DNI office. Kash Patel was directly involved in efforts to discredit the assessment that Russia interfered in 2016.


JARRETT: With the Nevada caucus set for tomorrow, Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls after emerging relatively unscathed from a scorched earth debate in Las Vegas. There are lingering questions about whether his rivals would unite around him if he is in fact the nominee. But the Vermont senator is confident he will have the backing of at least one critical Democrat, Barack Obama.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to tell you he and I are best friends, but we're friends. And I have talked to him on and off for the last many years. If I win, I'm sure he'll be there at my side. If somebody else wins, he'll be there at their side.


JARRETT: Sanders and Obama had had their disagreements on some big issues like the Trans Pacific Partnership, but Sanders says the former president's support is necessary for any Democrat to beat Donald Trump.

The president is holding a rally in Las Vegas today. It will be the third time he has rallied in a state where Democrats are about to vote.

ROMANS: Democratic presidential contenders racing to refill campaign coffers. Early nominating states proved costly. Now looming big money ad buys in Super Tuesday states along with almost half a billion dollars Michael Bloomberg has already poured into his campaign. The former New York City mayor isn't even on the ballot in Nevada. Bloomberg downplaying his rough first debate.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, the real winner in the debate last night was Donald Trump because I worry that we may very well be on the way to nominating somebody who cannot win in November.


ROMANS: Elizabeth Warren looking for a bounce after her strong debate performance. In a CNN town hall last night she kept up her attacks on Bloomberg's nondisclosure agreements with women who have sued his company.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wrote up a release in covenant not to sue and all that Mayor Bloomberg has to do is download it. I'll text it.


WARREN: Sign it, and then the women or men will be free to speak and tell their own stories.


ROMANS: Here's your contract law professor right there, right?

Former vice president Joe Biden needs a strong showing in Nevada and in South Carolina to revive his campaign. Again he's facing questions about age and health.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some expressed concern about the ages of you and Senator Sanders. Would you, if you are the nominee, go as far to commit to only one term if it meant uniting our party?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I wouldn't do that. By the way, the two youngest men in the stage now are me and Buttigieg.


BIDEN: You know, that's the way it goes. You know what I mean? I give all my medical records, everything. OK? The whole deal so you know who I am.


BIDEN: Anybody who starts off saying I'm only going to serve one term is already behind the 8 ball because then you're a one term president and no one worries about what the hell is going to happen after that.


JARRETT: Nevada votes tomorrow. CNN will take you inside the results. Special live coverage starts tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

ROMANS: A strong economy is central to President Trump's re-election message, but White House economists admit the economy will miss its growth targets without major help from Congress. The Trump administration predicts the economy will grow 3 percent over the next 10 years. That's not the 4 percent or 5 percent growth the president promised from his tax cuts and deregulation.

To grow 3 percent, the economy needs more workers, more deregulation, immigration reform, more trade deals and a new infrastructure bill. Now the economy is not as super charged as the president claims or promised. It's not growing strongly enough to pay for the president's corporate tax cuts in 2017. Growth last year at 2.3 percent missed White House targets. Trump's 2018 yearly growth of 2.9 percent is tied with Obama's best year.

The coronavirus is a wild card. And the White House economists failed to mention the ballooning budget deficit. The GOP, the party of fiscal responsibility, has been largely silent on this, making it all the more remarkable that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney spoke up. "The Washington Post" says in a speech this week Mulvaney, in his outside voice, said the GOP is interested in deficits only when there's a Democrat in the White House.

JARRETT: Well, President Trump is clearly not part of the Bong hype. At his rally in Colorado the president scoffed at the Best Picture Oscar win of "Parasite." Bong Joon Ho's film made history at the Academy Awards winning four and becoming the first foreign language film to be named Best Picture.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the winner is a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We've got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of it they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don't know. You know, I'm looking for like -- wait, let's get "Gone with the Wind." Can we get like "Gone with the Wind" back please?


JARRETT: Neon, the company that distributed "Parasite," responded to the president's distaste for the subtitled film, tweeting, quote, "It's understandable he can't read."


ROMANS: "Gone with Wind" back. That's the top of the president's list. 1940?

JARRETT: That said everything you need to know about that.

ROMANS: 1940. All right, parents, listen up, a water bottle millions of you bought is being recalled for a second time.


ROMANS: 44 minutes past the hour. An Indianapolis interstate badly damaged after a tanker carrying 4,000 gallons of jet fuel overturned and exploded. Now the driver survived but suffered serious burns. It could have turned out a lot worse for him if not for Holly McNally.

Holly had just had a baby five days earlier. She was leaving the hospital after visiting her newborn in the intensive care unit when she stopped the tanker driver -- spotted him, rather, staggering out of his semi.


HOLLY MCNALLY, MOM CREDITED WITH HELPING SAVE DRIVER'S LIFE: I'm scaling and people are videotaping and watching but nobody's running over there.

[04:45:06] Smoke was hitting us and I was like, you know, just praying, like, God, please let me get out of there so I can go see my baby, but I thought what if that's my son, what if that were Connor, you know, when he's 30? Would you want somebody to just leave him there?


ROMANS: The driver is still in critical condition this morning.

JARRETT: Not what I was doing after I had a baby.


JARRETT: Well, a Tennessee death row inmate credited with saving the lives of three corrections officers executed by the state last night. Nicholas Sutton who was convicted of multiple murders also helped prison guards out of life-threatening situations three separate times. His lawyer says that was part of his appeal for clemency which was denied by the governor. The 58-year-old had been on death row since 1985.

ROMANS: The mother of two children missing for months in Idaho has been arrested in Hawaii. 46-year-old Lori Vallow is being held on $5 million bail facing two felony counts of desertion and non-support of dependent children. 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and his sister, 17- year-old Tylee Ryan, were last heard from in September. About two months later, Vallow and her husband fled their home in Rexburg, Idaho, when authorities began looking for the children.

JARRETT: A Mississippi law that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected remains blocked this morning after a ruling by a federal appeals court. A fetal heartbeat can be heard as early as six weeks into pregnancy. But the judges all agreed cardiac activity can be detected well before a fetus can actually live outside the womb and that dooms the law. The measure is the first of the abortion bans passed in 2019 to be blocked at the federal appeals level.

ROMANS: A fiery landing at the Daytona Beach International Airport. The Cessna Citation Mustang was forced to land on its belly after experiencing landing gear trouble. Airport fire officials rushed in to douse the plane with foam and two people onboard could be seen running from the aircraft. Both airport runways had to be shut down while a crane removed that plane.

JARRETT: Sports bottle maker Contigo recalling nearly six million of its kids water bottles. No, this is not a news re-run. This is exactly the same bottle company that recalled last August, and it includes the replacement lids provided in the first recall. There's concern the spout can detach and cause children to choke. The bottles were sold at Costco, Wal-Mart, Target and various stores online. For more information go to

ROMANS: All right. The final bands of snow moving across North Carolina this morning with cold air settling in for the weekend ahead.

Here's meteorologist Gene Norman. GENE NORMAN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Laura and Christine, southern snow was

a surprise to some, even though it was forecast. Over five inches in parts of Virginia, 2 1/2 inches in Raleigh, that's a record for them for this date. 2 1/2 inches and 437 days since their last snow all the way back at the end of 2018. And snow will continue to linger through mid-morning with winter storm warnings in effect.

An additional two to four inches possible in eastern North Carolina and southern parts of Virginia around the Hampton Roads area. Most of it will be moving out thankfully by the afternoon. And with any help from the sun you could actually see a lot of it melt.

Elsewhere across the country, cold air continuing to move into the northern sections of the Great Lakes in the northeast. Take a look at these wind chills the next couple of mornings, minus five, Chicago. 14 for Saturday in New York. It's going to be bitterly cold, but it will warm up by the time we get to Sunday and Monday. In Boston up to a high of 56 degrees. And Boston, by the way, has only had a half an inch of snow this month.

ROMANS: All right, Gene. Thank you so much for that.

He wasn't Bill Gates or Steve Jobs but Larry Tesler made personal computing easier for all of us. He is credited with creating the cut, copy and paste commands on computers and the search and replace functions, too. Tesler died this week at his home in California. He worked for several leading tech companies and devoted much of his career to making computers practical, inexpensive and easy to use. Larry Tesler was 74.

JARRETT: Dash cam video shows the life or death moment when a New Mexico state police officer stopped to save a choking 11-month-old boy. This unfolding the day after the parents got married of that boy. While they weren't looking the boy put a plastic star from their wedding decorations in his mouth. Officer Mario Herrera reached as the couple as they were rushing the boy to the hospital. Then this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're just an angel on earth for us because we thought at some point we had lost him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wearing this uniform you kind of have to be tough but there's times when you can't. Kids are that time.


JARRETT: Every parents' nightmare there. Since the scare the boy has started walking and the family is forever grateful he is OK.

ROMANS: I'm telling you, as a parent, what kids will put in their mouth, I mean everything.

JARRETT: And fast.

[04:50:01] ROMANS: Everything. Right. All right, hate that you're stuck with Safari on your iPhone? You might be able to change that. CNN Business has the details next.


JARRETT: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing a new travel advisory for Japan. It's the second advisory outside of mainland China over the novel coronavirus outbreak. The travel warning comes as the 14-day quarantine for the Diamond Princess cruise ship ends.

CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Yokohama, Japan, and Will, what more can you tell us about this?


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been this interesting report in "The Washington Post," Laura, which sort of explains why passengers were sitting and waiting for hours and hours in buses. We're talking about the Americans who were evacuated earlier this week on those evacuation flights. The reason why they were sitting and waiting, according to the "Post," is because it was basically like a bombshell when officials learned that they had evacuated these more than 300 Americans and 14 of them as they were sitting on those buses outside the cruise ship, well, their test results came back positive for novel coronavirus.

And then "The Post" kind of details this really, really strong disagreement between the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC did not want those people on the plane. It didn't want people who were infected flying alongside healthy passengers. But the State Department and a top Trump administration official according to "The Post" felt very differently and in the end State won out because they'd already basically processed those Americans off the boat.

So that's really an interesting detail, the fact that, you know, they were then flown back in an isolation ward, a quarantined area on the plane. The infectious disease experts didn't think that that was a safe strategy and it effectively doubled the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States.

Now you don't have that similar back and forth here in Japan because Japan doesn't have a CDC. They only have their Health Ministry. They only have the bureaucrats, albeit highly educated bureaucrats, running the show and that's why Japan has faced such considerable criticism because of the fact the way that they're handling, you know, the outbreak on the ship which has basically exploded to the largest outbreak outside of mainland China.

You have more cases on the ship there, outside of China than anywhere else. Some even called it another China. So that's a problem for Japan because the number of cases continues to grow by the day. They just had a couple of people die yesterday, and moving forward there are a lot of questions about the safety of people once they come off that ship. For example, we spoke with an American who's in the hospital. Around four dozen Americans are in the hospital.

The CDC has a long list of tests they have to go through. They have to get a throat swab and a nasal swab and a second round of tests more than 24 hours later. The fever has to subside, all the symptoms have to be gone, and they have to undergo 14 days of quarantine if they're coming off the ship before the U.S. will even consider letting them back in.

Laura, that is certainly a sign the United States doesn't have a whole lot of faith in the safety of people walking off that ship even as Japanese citizens are allowed to disperse right near the general population with a letter of clean health.

JARRETT: Will Ripley, thanks so much.

ROMANS: Racist ignorant attacks against Asians are spreading faster than the coronavirus here in the United States. In Los Angeles a tirade on the subway went viral with a passenger berating a Thai- American man insisting the Chinese are responsible for all diseases. An Asian woman wearing a mask on the New York City subway was assaulted by a stranger this month. And many Asian-Americans are sharing their stories using a global hashtag that's French for I am not a virus.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Taking a look at markets around the world. You can see mostly leaning lower here in markets to close out the week. Stocks closed lower yesterday after a sharp sell-off around midday. At one point all three major averages fell more than 1 percent in this -- honestly this mysterious quick sell-off and now at the time people were blaming the brief drop on fears the coronavirus outbreak is not over.

The Dow ended the day 128 points lower. The S&P 500, the Nasdaq also fell.

In merger news Morgan Stanley buying online broker E-Trade for $13 billion as competition for customers grows. It shows Morgan Stanley wants these everyday mom and pop investors. E-Trade has more than 5.2 million main stream clients.

The financial effects of the coronavirus on global business becoming more clear. Maersk, the world's largest container shipping company, warned of a very weak start to the year as the virus keeps factories in China closed and dense demand for the transport of goods. Maersk says it has canceled more than 50 trips to and from China because of the outbreak.

Global air traffic could see its first decline in more than a decade because of the virus and could cost airlines more than $29 billion with Asian carriers bearing the brunt of the losses.

Car sales in China have also taken a hit. Car sales dropping 92 percent in the first half of February showing just how hard the outbreak is hitting the auto market.

All right. Don't like that you're stuck with Safari on your iPhone? You might be able to change that pretty soon. Apple reportedly considering letting people choose their default IOS apps for a number of tasks including maps, Web browsing and e-mail, meaning you can replace Safari or maps with alternatives like G-mail and Google Maps.

This would be a big concession for Apple. Apple embraced a closed ecosystem when it launched the Apple App Store in 2008. But over the years, pressure from regulators and customers has caused Apple to slowly make some changes. Apple did not respond to our request for comment.

JARRETT: Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers EARLY START continues right now.

ROMANS: The Russians are back and the president is irate, but not because of the Russia threat. He's just unwilling to accept the facts.

JARRETT: The Nevada caucuses a day away. The candidates making --