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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Vote Recounts Likely in Florida; Borderline Bar Gunman was a Marine Veteran; Acting Attorney General Unlikely to Recuse Himself from Russia Probe; U.N. Security Council Discusses North Korea and Sanctions. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 09, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:31:03] GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Claims of voter fraud. A narrowing race. Recounts expected. Deja vu playing out in Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, please, please pray for us so we get out of here OK. Oh my god.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Several raging wildfires in California. A fire-nado in there. Evacuations under way as fast-moving flames charred tens of thousands of acres.

KOSIK: The Thousand Oaks community mourning 12 people gunned down in a local bar. The shooter's haunting Facebook post moments before he opened fire.

BRIGGS: And Robert Mueller's final report is being written, but will the acting attorney general get in the way before it's all done?

It has been a long week, America.

KOSIK: It has.

BRIGGS: Happy Friday. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour. And remember those hanging chad back in 2000? We may not see --


KOSIK: You may not see the chad themselves but I think that we're going to start seeing some flashbacks here with two Florida counties at the center of possible vote recounts in the race for a U.S. Senate seat, Republican Governor Rick Scott has already declared victory over incumbent Bill Nelson. But now the margin in the race is getting tighter by the hour. And Scott is alleging without evidence there could be rampant voter fraud engineered by Democrats in deep-blue Broward and Palm Beach Counties.


SCOTT: We've all seen the incompetence and irregularities in both tabulations in Broward and Palm Beach for years. Well, here we go again. I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.


BRIGGS: The Scott campaign and the GOP Senatorial Committee have filed lawsuits claiming election officials in Broward and Palm Beach Counties haven't been transparent about vote counting. Democrat Bill Nelson's campaign says, quote, "Scott's actions appear to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation."

KOSIK: President Trump who has his own history of claiming voter fraud, tweeting this, "Law enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with election fraud in Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott."

Well, maybe. CNN has not called the race and Scott's lead has dwindled since election night.

BRIGGS: The counties have until noon tomorrow to report unofficial results to the state. But right now Scott's lead is down to about 15,000 votes or about .2 percentage point. A difference of less than half a point or less triggers an automatic recount. All this may have major implications for the balance of power in the Senate.

KOSIK: Right now, Republicans hold 51 seats, Democrats 46. Races remain undecided in Florida, Arizona where the Democrats Kyrsten Sinema has jumped to a narrow lead over Martha McSally, and in Mississippi where a runoff is set for next month.

The Florida governor's race which CNN has already called for Republican Ron DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum could also qualify for a recount.

BRIGGS: Two fast moving wildfires devastating parts of California right now. More than 20 million people under red flag warnings across the state meaning conditions are ideal for rapid spreading. The Camp Fire has already consumed over 20,000 acres in Butte County. A fire- nado doing some of the destruction. At one point on Thursday the Camp Fire grew at the rate of a football field every three seconds.

As many as 1,000 buildings have been charred. The fire now spreading into Chico, the biggest city in Butte County with 100,000 people.

KOSIK: California's acting governor declaring a fire emergency. About 40,000 residents have been evacuated and that includes all patients at the Adventist Health at Feather River Hospital. [04:35:03] One family got in the car to evacuate driving through

flames to escape. Listen to this, they were literally praying for their lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope Mom is going to be all right. God, it's so hot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, baby. Hold on. I can't see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be all right. We just -- it will be OK.




KOSIK: Causes chills to run up your spine. Fire officials report civilians and at least two firefighters have been injured. Authorities are waiting for safer conditions to assess the damage.

BRIGGS: And in Ventura County, the Hill Fire burning between 5,000 and 7,000 acres so far. The blaze has slowed but winds are expected to pick up overnight. Officials expect the fire to reach all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The 101 Freeway remains closed in both directions. Some drivers went straight into a cloud of smoke.

Look at that. This is the same county as last night's shooting, at the Borderline Bar & Grill. Approximately 1200 homes are under mandatory evacuations. There are also now mandatory evacuations in Ventura County and Los Angeles County due to Woolsey Fire burning a short distance away.

KOSIK: It's becoming an all-too familiar scene on the American landscape. A community in mourning after a mass shooting.

Heavy hearts at a vigil in Thousand Oaks last night. Neighbors coming together to remember 12 victims killed by a gunman at the Borderline Bar & Grill late Wednesday.

BRIGGS: Six of the 12 have now been identified. Five of them were at the bar when the gunman began shooting. They are Justine Meek, Alaina Housley, Noel Sparks, Dan Manrique and Cody Coffman. Here's Cody's heartbroken father Jason.


JASON COFFMAN, FATHER OF CODY COFFMAN: Only him I know -- how much I miss -- oh, god, this is so. Son, I love you so much.

I have a daughter coming on the 29th of this month. He was so excited to have his first sister and not -- now she'll never know. Oh, Cody, I love you, son.


KOSIK: Just awful. Also killed Sergeant Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. He was among the first officers to rush through the door at the Borderline establishment there. Law enforcement and members of the community lining the streets to honor him as his body was transported to the medical examiner's office.

New video has emerged of the nightclub massacre. We want to warn you, the audio is disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's coming out this door.


BRIGGS: Wow. The gunman identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long. Police say he killed himself.

And as Scott McLean tells us, he had a troubled past.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know that the suspect served in the United States Marine Corps. We also know that he served in Afghanistan. His friends tell us that in 2016 his personality seemed to change. He wasn't returning phone calls. He seemed to be more distant. But even those friends never thought that he was capable of doing something like this.

There was another perhaps warning sign in April when police were called to the suspect's home. The sheriff said the deputies found him irate. They ended up leaving because they didn't think that he was a risk to himself or the public.

The FBI, of course, continues to hunt for clues. They are searching the suspect's car, his home and of course the crime scene as well. We also know that the suspect frequented this bar and it was not chosen at random -- Dave and Alison.

BRIGGS: Scott, thank you.

Hundreds of people lining up at Lorena High School in Thousand Oaks to donate blood to the injured victims. The line extended out of the school parking lot, down the street and around the block. Donors are encouraged to make appointments by calling 877-25-VITAL.

KOSIK: Protesters nationwide sending a strong message to the new Congress. Protect Robert Mueller. In New York, Chicago, Ft. Worth, Atlanta, Greensboro and hundreds of other places, people have rallied to support the special counsel and stand behind the Russia investigation which they fear could be in danger by the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

CNN has learned the investigation may be wrapping up with Mueller's team now writing its final report. [04:40:06] Questions are swirling over whether the new acting attorney

general will try to hamper the investigation. In the past, Matthew Whitaker has called Mueller's appointment ridiculous and a little fishy.

BRIGGS: Now once again George Conway, Kellyanne Conway's husband and a prominent partner at a D.C. law firm speaking out against the White House, arguing that Whitaker's appointment is illegal. In a "New York Times" op-ed with former Obama-era acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, they write, "A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate. It means that Mr. Trump's installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It means that anything Mr. Whitaker does or tries to do in that position is invalid."

Pamela Brown with more from the White House.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave and Alison, good morning to you. We have learned that the new acting attorney general Matt Whitaker is unlikely to recuse himself from the Russia probe according to sources familiar with his thinking. That is also the thinking of officials here at the White House that there would be no legal conflict of interest that would make it necessary for him to recuse himself.

Now there's also the thinking that the president wouldn't have put him in this role as acting attorney general if he was going to recuse himself. As you'll recall, he was very upset when his predecessor Jeff Sessions recused himself which really drew the ire of the president and is in part what led to the president essentially firing him just recently.

So now Matt Whitaker has taken the reins of the Russia probe despite being publicly critical of it in the past before his time at the Justice Department. Even calling it ridiculous. As all of this is going on, the president and his team has been meeting, reviewing some of the questions that Mueller's team has given them as part of the probe. This is viewed as one of the final pieces of the puzzle. So that is all ongoing.

It's unclear, though, when Robert Mueller will officially wrap up his probe. But the president and his legal team are expected to hand back their answers within the next couple of weeks. And we'll see what happens from there.

Back to you.

KOSIK: OK, Pamela, thanks very much.

As for Sessions' permanent replacement, sources tell us that President Trump is considering former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Florida attorney general Pam Bondi. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is also under consideration. That's according to a senior Senate Republican aide and a source familiar with the process. Concerns growing about Christie's potential nomination, though, as he

was part of the Trump campaign and would face calls for recusal in the Russia probe.

BRIGGS: You know, conventional wisdom has long been out the door with this administration. One would think they know exactly who they want.

KOSIK: Right.

BRIGGS: It's been more than a year since he knew Jeff Sessions would be fired. So maybe this is for reality show purposes.

KOSIK: Indeed.

BRIGGS: Ahead, Google answering to the demands of angry employees. Changes are coming to its harassment policies. And a report detailed years of allegations and big severance packages.


[04:47:20] BRIGGS: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is recovering after falling in her office and fracturing three ribs. The 85-year-old was admitted to the hospital Thursday morning for observation. Ginsburg's health has become the subject of much attention in recent years. In November 2014 she underwent a heart procedure. In 2009, she was treated for early stages of pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg said in July she hopes to stay on the bench past 2020.

KOSIK: Google is making changes to its harassment policies. Google's CEO Sundar Pichai announced a number of internal changes on Thursday in response to global employee walkouts over how it's handled sexual harassment. Among the changes, Google will no longer force employees with sexual assault or harassment claims into arbitration. Eliminating forced arbitration is one of several changes Google employees demanded during the protest.

In an e-mail to staff, Pichai wrote this, quote, "We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It's clear we need to make some changes."

The walkouts were sparked by a "New York Times" investigation detailing years of sexual harassment allegations and multimillion dollar severance packages for executives who were accused of misconduct. Pichai said Google will update and expand its sexual harassment training and employees are now required to complete training annually instead of every two years. Many people saying, you know what, it's about time.

BRIGGS: Or perhaps long overdue. Yes.

Ahead, North Korea increasingly angry at the United States over stalled nuclear talks. Could the midterm results change North Korea's approach? We are live in Seoul.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:53:40] BRIGGS: 4:53 Eastern Time. The United Nations Security Council meeting behind closed doors to discuss North Korea and the ongoing international sanctions. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley says the sanctions must remain in place for now.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We have given a lot of carrots up until now. We're not going to get rid of the stick because they haven't done anything to warrant getting rid of the sanctions.


BRIGGS: Haley downplayed the cancellation of this week's talks. But CNN has learned North Korea is growing increasingly angry at the U.S. as the negotiations are deadlocked.

CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Seoul this morning with more.

Good morning, Will. Where are we headed here?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave. It doesn't seem like things are headed in a great direction. At least judging by the latest article published in North Korean state media. Their leading newspaper there using words that we haven't heard in a while, enemy, imperialist, the kind of thing they used to say all the time about the United States.

Now they didn't mention the U.S. or denuclearization specifically but let me read you a portion of this article and you can tell exactly where they're going with this here.

"Tenacious sanctions or conniving psychological tactics by the imperialist will never work. The power of united people and national economy is stronger than the enemy forces, sanctions and pressure."

Clearly this is yet another sign of the growing frustration on the North Korean side.

[04:55:02] Remember it was just last week state media threatened to possibly restart the nuclear program if sanctions weren't lifted. And what we've been getting from sources close to these denuclearization talks is that the reason North Koreans pulled the plug in the last hour on this meeting that was supposed to happen on Thursday in New York with their ex-spy master Kim Yong-chol and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, well, they just didn't feel that the meeting was going to give them anything positive. There wouldn't be any progress and perhaps it could have been a repeat of the disastrous trip that Pompeo made to Pyongyang back in July where he left and just hours later they said that he was making gangster-like demands.

So where do we go from here? Still no date for a second Trump-Kim summit. Increasingly hostile rhetoric. All signs that this at one point kind of warm relationship between the U.S. and North Korea quickly going south -- Dave.

BRIGGS: It wasn't that long ago, Will, we're talking about Kim Jong- un at the White House. But things have certainly thawed.

All right. Thank you. Will Ripley live for us in Seoul.

KOSIK: One victim has died and two others taken to the hospital after a knife attack in Central Melbourne that police are treating as terrorism. Police responded to a call about a car fire and say they were confronted by a man wielding a knife. They were also alerted people nearby have been stabbed. The suspect was shot in the chest by police and died at the hospital.

The number of adult cigarette smokers in the U.S. has fallen to its lowest level since 1965 when data was first collected according to the CDC. It's down to 14 percent. It was over 40 percent in the mid 1960s. Smoke-free policies and increases in the price of tobacco are getting the credit.

BRIGGS: Now the Food and Drug Administration is expected to impose severe restrictions on the sale of e-cigarette products as soon as next week. The agency growing more alarmed by a rapid increase in vaping among minors.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner the Centers for Disease Control reporting 74 more cases of salmonella linked to raw turkey products. That includes one death in California. 164 people in 35 states have now been sickened since last November. But it's still unclear where the turkey at the center of the outbreak came from. If you want to avoid infection, remember, thaw turkeys in the refrigerator. Not on the counter.

KOSIK: Just got to make room in the fridge.

BRIGGS: You got it.

KOSIK: Let's get a check of CNN Business this morning. Global markets open lower after the Fed decision to keep rates the same in November. The Nikkei is down 1 percent. The Shanghai is down 1.4 percent. We're seeing the Hang Seng down as well.

In Europe the DAX is down 0.5 percent and the FTSE is lower as well as is Paris (INAUDIBLE). On Wall Street, futures are lower as well and the markets closed mostly lower on Thursday. The Dow gained 11 points. It was a quiet day despite the fact that the Fed decision came out. The S&P 500 stopping its three-day winning streak declining a quarter of a percent while the Nasdaq lost a big as well.

The Fed is expected to raise rates at its final 2018 meeting in December. Investors anticipate policymakers will push rates higher at least three more times next year.

Say good-bye to another 40 Sears and K-Mart stores. Sears Holdings, the bankrupt's parent company of the two retailers, said that 11 K- Mart locations and 29 Sears stores will close their doors in February next year. Adding to the almost 200 locations the company has already said will shutdown in the coming months.

Now the closures are part of Sears Holdings' efforts to drastically reduce its costs and its bankruptcy filing. Sears named 142 of its worst performing stores that would shutdown in the coming months. Sears Holdings will have less than 500 Sears and K-Mart stores left open after the additional closures happen.

Disney's upcoming streaming service now has a name. Ready? Drum roll please. It's going to be called Disney Plus. CEO Bob Iger announced the name on a call with investors on Thursday.

Don't laugh, Dave. People were waiting for that name.

BRIGGS: I was expecting more. Sorry.


KOSIK: The service is expected to hit the U.S. market last next year and it's going to include content from Disney as well as Pixar, Marvel and "Star Wars" and National Geographic as well. Iger said that they plan to continue to elevate the experience, to enhance the value to consumers with the custom pipeline of exclusive new content as they move this thing forward. So just keep in mind, if you're looking for Disney content on Netflix next year, it's not going to be there.

BRIGGS: That's a game changer.

KOSIK: So don't look for it on Netflix.

BRIGGS: And it's record profits for Disney. Right?


BRIGGS: Annual record profits for them there so in good position.

EARLY START continues right now.


SCOTT: I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election.


KOSIK: Claims of voter fraud. A narrowing race. Recounts expected. Deja vu playing out in Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, please, please pray for us so we get out of here OK. Oh my god.


BRIGGS: Several raging wildfires in California. Fire-nado you see there.