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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

CNN Hosts Five Democrats In A Row; U.S. Warned Sri Lanka of Imminent Attacks; House Dems Subpoena Don McGahn; U.S. Nearing a Measles Record; Round-The-Clock Showings for "Avengers: Endgame". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 23, 2019 - 04:30   ET



[04:31:18] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN ANCHOR: Battle lines drawn at CNN's 2020 Democratic town halls. What five top candidates have to say on felon voting, free college and impeachment?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. believes a terror operative has ties to ISIS. Four Americans killed in those attacks being remembered.

KOSINSKI: Another subpoena from House Democrats. This one for Don McGahn, the former White House counsel who refused to fire Robert Mueller.

BRIGGS: And the U.S. closing in on a record it would rather avoid, the largest measles outbreak since the disease was eliminated almost 20 years ago continues to spread.

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

KOSINSKI: And I just walked in off the streets.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

KOSINSKI: I'm Michelle Kosinski.

It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Five Democrats, one stage with one goal, reclaiming the White House in 2020. They were all in Manchester, New Hampshire, for a CNN town hall. The first major candidate event of the campaign.

Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, all were asked about a key issue for the party, whether to impeach President Trump over the findings in the Mueller report.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The impeachment proceedings are up to the House. They're going to have to make that decision. I am in the Senate, and I believe that we are the jury. There is a third way to hold this president accountable and that is by

defeating him in the 2020 election.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If any other human being in this country had done what's documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail. If there's going to be any accountability, that accountability has to come from the Congress. And the tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If, and this is an if, if for the next year, year and a half going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump and Trump, Trump, Trump, and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, and we're not talking about health care, we're not talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have very good reason to believe that there is an investigation that has been conducted which has produced evidence that tells us that this president and his administration engaged in obstruction of justice. I believe Congress should take the steps toward impeachment.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he has made it pretty clear that he deserves impeachment. My role in the process is try to relegate Trumpism to the dustbin of history, and I think there's no more decisive way to that, especially to get Republicans to abandon this kind of deal with the devil that they made than to have just an absolute thumping at the ballot box.


BRIGGS: Top Democrats putting a damper on the impeachment talks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling colleagues on a call last night, Democrats should focus on, quote, two words, duty and democracy.

The move to put the brakes on coming a day after several top House Democrats signaled a new willingness to consider impeachment. The sources say Pelosi was firm about moving cautiously.

KOSINSKI: In a "dear colleague" letter to House Democrats Monday, Pelosi wrote the president can be investigated outside of impeachment hearings. Quote, whether currently indictable or not, it is clear the president has engaged in highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior which does not bring honor to the office he holds.

BRIGGS: CNN's town halls included a lot of discussion among hot button policy issues. Candidates had clear disagreements on felon voting.

Senator Bernie Sanders defended his belief that everyone, including people in prison should have the right to vote, even convicted domestic terrorists like Boston marathon bomber. Other candidates were mixed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [04:35:12] SANDERS: If somebody commits a serious crime, sexual assault, murder, they're going to be punished. They may be in jail for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole lives. But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy, yes, even for terrible people.

HARRIS: I agree that the right to vote is one of the very important components of citizenship. I think we should have that conversation.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC360": Should people convicted of sexual assault, the Boston marathon bomber, should they be able to vote?

BUTTIGIEG: While incarcerated?



Part of the punishment when you're convicted of a crime and you're incarcerated is you lose certain rights, you lose your freedom. And I think during that period, it does not make sense to have an exception for the right to vote.


KOSINSKI: Some very different views there.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren touted her sweeping tuition fee college education plan last night. The proposal would eliminate student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, and make public colleges tuition free. Warren's $1.25 trillion dollars proposal getting pushback, though, from Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.


WARREN: I started in several months ago talking about a wealth tax, an ultra millionaire's tax. It's 2 cents on every dollar of the great fortunes above $50 million. Good for you that you have now gotten this great fortune, but 2 cents, you got to pay something back so everybody else gets a chance.

KLOBUCHAR: I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs, I do. Don't look, it's not there. I wish I could do that, but I have to be straight with you, and tell you the truth.


BRIGGS: The Oprah tease there.

California Senator Kamala Harris discussed mass shootings, saying the topic is one that young voters ask her about most often on the campaign trail. She said she would take executive action.


HARRIS: I will give the United States 100 days to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws. If they fail to do it, then I will take executive action and specifically what I will do is put in place a requirement that for anyone who sells more than five guns a year, they are required to do background checks.


BRIGGS: South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg acknowledging he has been light on policy specifics but he added this.


BUTTIGIEG: It's important that we not drown people in minutia before we vindicated the values that animate our policies, because as Democrats, that this is a habit that we have. We go right to the policy proposals and we expect people to be able to figure out what our values must be from that. I expect that it will be very easy and clear to tell where I stand on every specific policy challenge of our time, but I'm going to take the time to lay that out while also talking about values and every day impacts.


KOSINSKI: According to a University of New Hampshire poll, Sanders from neighboring Vermont leads the field by a double digit margin followed by former vice president, Joe Biden, who's not officially declared yet, and a surging Buttigieg.

BRIGGS: He'll make it 20 for 2020 later this week.

A national day of mourning in Sri Lanka as the death toll in the terror attacks climbs to 321 people. Following coordinated bombing attacks on Easter Sunday. Eight explosions rocked the country, targeting Christian churches and tourists at local luxury hotels.

Overnight, families of the victims killed in the attack held a memorial service. Meanwhile, the U.S. believes it has identified a key terrorist in the attack and has initially concluded that person is linked to international terrorism organizations including ISIS.

Ivan Watson live at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, with the latest.

Ivan, good morning.


That's right. The death toll has grown in the last hour to at least 321 people killed. More than 100 of the victims were here on Easter Sunday in St. Sebastian Church, which is still decorated with the flowers from the Sunday services which were so violently interrupted when a suicide bomber walked in with a big backpack, patting a little girl on the head in the courtyard of the church as he came in, and then unleashing this devastating attack, one of at least six that were coordinated in churches in three cities and then three luxury hotels in the capital at roughly the same time on Easter Sunday. [04:40:14] So this has been a day of national mourning here on the

church grounds. The clergy were gathered as well wishers for the funeral services for some 16 people, and they were planning to continue throughout the day but those services were suspended in part because of concerns about large groups of people gathering together.

One priest telling me he gets the impression that the security forces are still concerned that there is a threat out there, and he feels like a target. A bishop I spoke with here telling me there are going to have to be changes. They're going to have to install new security measures at churches like this one.

So, the investigation continues. Some 40 suspects arrested, all Sri Lankan police say, and they're looking for international help because their belief that this conspiracy to kill so many innocent people had international hands behind it -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Ivan Watson live for us in Sri Lanka this morning -- thank you.

Former White House counsel Don McGahn subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats want his testimony as part of an investigation of President Trump for alleged obstruction of justice. The Mueller report says McGahn refused the president's orders to fire Mueller, but that's not how the president remembers it.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Are you worried that your staff is ignoring your orders as the Mueller report portrays?



BRIGGS: For the record, the Mueller report points to a dozen examples of Trump staffers saving the president from himself by ignoring or disobeying orders.

Georgia Congressman Doug Collins is the top Republican on the judiciary committee, he accuses Chairman Nadler of issuing the subpoena to McGahn prematurely.

KOSINSKI: Today is the deadline for the IRS to turn over President Trump's tax returns but don't expect it to happen. The president's attorney has already informed the Treasury Department it can turn down the request from the House Ways and Means Committee. And now President Trump and his sons are suing to block house Democrats from getting their hands on the family financial records.

BRIGGS: The House Oversight committee wants records from Mazars, an accountable firm that used to prepare Mr. Trump's financial statements. A president's lawyers accused House Democrats of being singularly obsessed with finding damaging information. Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings dismissed that complaint, calling it political talking points, more than a reasoned legal brief.

KOSINSKI: Health officials say we are near a record for the largest measles outbreak since the disease was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. According to the CDC, there have been 626 cases so far this year, 71 in the last week, 22 states have been affected. The current record is 667 cases in 2014.

But now remember it's only April.

BRIGGS: A source tells CNN, 72 percent of the cases involve people who have not been vaccinated. Authorities say the anti-vaccine rhetoric is contributing to the measles spread.

New York has seen the most cases. Last month, New York City declared a public health emergency requiring proof of immunity or vaccination in the most heavily affected zip codes.

KOSINSKI: Big trouble ahead for Social Security. An annual government report says the fund will not be able to pay full benefits by 2035. If Congress does not act soon, tens of millions of Americans will receive only about /4 of their benefits when they retire. Lawmakers have punted though on addressing Social Security problems for decades. Fixing them would likely respiratory raising payroll taxes, cutting benefits or both.

BRIGGS: Perhaps at some point, a 2020 issue, time will tell.

Ahead, if you're just sitting down to breakfast, that's a good thing.


BRIGGS: It's a good thing, Michelle.

KOSINSKI: Snapple counts as breakfast, right?

BRIGGS: New research shows skipping breakfast could hurt your heart.


[04:48:28] KOSINSKI: The Supreme Court agreeing to take up LGBT workplace discrimination cases in its next term. The justices will consider whether the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act which forbids employment discrimination based on sex applies to sexual orientation or transgender status. Lower courts have split on the issue. The three cases will become a major test for the court's newly solidified conservative majority, with all eyes on Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

BRIGGS: Disney CEO Bob Iger made nearly $66 million last year, and a Disney family member thinks that's insane. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of company co-founder Roy Disney, criticized Iger's multimillion dollar pay on Sunday tweeting: By any objective measure, a pay raise of over a thousand is insane.

Last year, Iger's $66 million package was 1,424 times the median salary of a Disney employee which is $46,127. His pay was largely boosted by long-term incentives associated with his contract extension which was announced alongside the deal for Disney to purchase most of 21st Century Fox. During an event last week, Disney said Iger could have personally given a 15 percent raise to everyone who worked at Disneyland when he got his bonus last year and still had $10 million.

She dove deeper into her remarks Sunday and in nearly two dozen tweets, saying, while Iger does deserve a bonus, employees deserve the dignity of a living wage.

[04:50:06] Last year, the Disney Company signed a new deal with unions, raising the minimum wage of Walt Disney workers to $15 an hour by 2021. The company defended Iger's pay which they say is 90 percent performance-based.

KOSINSKI: Target is recalling nearly half a million "Bullseye's Playground" wooden toys because of a possible choking hazard. The recall includes toys sold between October and November of 2018. There have been reports of wheels detaching.

No injuries have been reported but recalled toys should be immediately taken away from children and returned to stores for a full refund. More information on the recall is available on Target's web site.

BRIGGS: The launch of the Galaxy Fold delayed by Samsung. The folding smartphone that opens to become a tablet was set to hit shelves Friday at a retail price of 1,980 bucks. But some early users report the fold has protective hinges and screens that break when the protected film is removed. Not clear whether it's isolated problems or part of a larger issue for Samsung. The South Korean company has been trying to win back consumer trust following its Galaxy Note 7 debacle. Millions of devices had to be recalled after reports of exploding batteries.

KOSINSKI: Well, unfortunately, skipping breakfast may increase your risk of cardiovascular related death. That's according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Researchers tracked over 6,500 adults from 1988 to 1994, and those who never ate breakfast had a higher risk of death from heart disease and stroke, independent of socioeconomic status and cardiovascular risk factors. The data did not include the types of foods or drinks that were consumed for breakfast or whether breakfast consumption patterns changed after 1994.

BRIGGS: Bad news for you my friend.


BRIGGS: Probably bad news for me too, because my breakfast includes so much butter, it's bad for my heart anyway.

KOSINSKI: Like sausages and --


KOSINSKI: You never know. BRIGGS: Ahead, "Avengers: Endgame" debuts in just three days, and you won't believe what AMC theaters are doing to get ready for the opening weekend. CNN Business has the details next.


[04:56:46] BRIGGS: CNN learning President Trump will make a state visit to the United Kingdom in June. Buckingham Palace is due to announce the visit shortly according to two sources. President Trump's previous trip to the U.K. last July was billed as a working visit rather than a state occasion. The visit was met with large protests in London, including who could forget that 20-foot Trump baby blimp that flew outside parliament.

KOSINSKI: Myanmar's Supreme Court rejecting an appeal by two jailed "Reuters" journalists to have their convictions overturned. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been locked up since 2017. They've been charged with exposing state secrets for a report they did on the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's far west. A court later sentenced them to seven years in prison.

"Reuters' chief counsel says the journalists are victim of a police set up and vow to continue to press for their release. The pair last week won Pulitzers for their reporting.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning at 4:57.

Markets around the world are lower. Asian markets closed mostly lower. European markets lower on the start of the trading there. And Wall Street, futures are pointing slightly higher. Stocks ended up Monday's trading mixed. The Dow finished down 48 points, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both closed up slightly higher.

U.S. oil prices soared Monday after the White House pledged to deepen its crack down on Iran. Crude oil climbed 3 percent to $65.75 a barrel since the first time since Halloween. The Trump administration vowed to bring Iran's oil exports to zero by not renewing the waivers to five countries that buy oil from Iran. You see in here, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey.

The announcement adds to mounting supply concerns in the oil market. Meanwhile, gas prices are also rising, data from AAA shows the national average hit $2.84 a gallon on Monday, up from $2.61 in March.

We're days away from one of the biggest movies of the year.

"Avengers: Endgame" comes out Thursday night and AMC theaters will hold around the clock showings during opening weekend. So far, 17 locations will be open for four days straight, 96 hours for fans to watch the team take on Thanos. "Endgame" is the 21st movie in the Marvel universe and has racked up more advanced ticket sales than any title in history. Analysts estimate the film could score the biggest opening of all time with $850 to $900 million at the global box office.

KOSINSKI: That is incredible.

BRIGGS: It's amazing. I'll see it in about five hours, and let you know tomorrow how it is. But I cannot wait for this film.

Not you, you can wait. You won't be rushing out.

KOSINSKI: I don't know about those.

BRIGGS: All right. I'll convince.

KOSINSKI: There are a lot of super heroes to have to keep track of lately.

BRIGGS: I'll bring you around.

EARLY START continues right now.


BRIGGS: Battle lines drawn at CNN's 2020 Democratic town hall. What five top candidates have to say on felon voting, and free college and impeachment?

KOSINSKI: And breaking moments ago, a Sri Lanka minister says the Easter Sunday bombings were in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attacks last month. We're live in Sri Lanka now.