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EARLY START

New Ties Between Trump Campaign & WikiLeaks; Trump in His Own Words; Officials: Military Still Working to Arm Drones. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:13] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A Trump campaign contractor reached out to WikiLeaks during the election trying to secure Hillary Clinton's private e-mails. Now, the campaign is distancing itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a disgrace. I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. I'm a very negligent person. No hesitation. One of the great memories of all time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Kind of wacky, spur of the moment news conference at the White House yesterday. What Trump said about his intelligence, his relationships on the Hill, oh, and much, much more.

Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. Welcome to EARLY START.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you. One of the great memories of all time. I'm Dave Briggs, Thursday, October 26th. I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday.

It's 4:00 in the East, 9:00 a.m. in Niger. It's 4:30 p.m. in North Korea. We'll have the latest on all of those situations in a moment.

We start, though, with the closest connection yet between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, prompting many new questions this morning. "The Daily Beast" first to report that the head of a data analytics company that worked for the Trump campaign emailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Four sources telling CNN Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was seeking the tens of thousand of e-mails that Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server while she was secretary of state.

KOSIK: Two sources say Nix wanted to turn the emails into a searchable database for the campaign and pro-Trump PACs. Now, there is no evidence WikiLeaks ever had Clinton's missing e-mails even after they released thousands of e-mails stolen by Russian hackers from key Clinton aides.

For more on this, let's turn to CNN's Pamela Brown in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE & SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison and Dave.

Sources tell CNN, the head of Cambridge Analytica, a data firm working for the Trump campaign reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the campaign, asking about Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails. Julian Assange acknowledged on Twitter that did happen and says he rejected the request. The head of that firm, Alexander Nix, sent an e-mail to several people, including top Republican donor Rebecca Mercer, relaying that he had e-mailed Assange, but sources say no one from the actual Trump campaign was on that email chain.

But for context here, WikiLeaks was responsible for releasing hacked emails from the DNC, and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's e- mails last year. Not Hillary Clinton's e-mails -- we don't even know if a third party ever obtained them. But WikiLeaks was directly connected to Russia by the intelligence community. So, this new revelation, I should say, established the closest known link between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. We should note, "The Daily Beast" is first to report the email outreach -- Alison and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you.

After "The Daily Beast" published its story, the Trump campaign responded in a statement downplaying the role of Cambridge Analytica, without denying the company's outreach to WikiLeaks.

It says in part: After President Trump locked up the nomination, one of the most important decisions we made was to partner with the Republican National Committee on data analytics. We were proud to have worked with the RNC and its data experts and relied on them as our main source for data analytics.

He claimed that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory are false.

Fact check here, according to the Trump campaign's FEC filings, it paid Cambridge Analytica almost $6 million between the Republican Convention in July and mid December of last year.

KOSIK: A former FBI informant getting a green light from the Justice Department to testify before Congress about Russian's efforts to buy uranium in the U.S. during the Obama administration after House Republicans launch an investigation into the sale of the Uranium One to Russian's Atomic Energy Agency. The deal had to be approved by the committee on foreign investments in the U.S.

BRIGGS: That committee includes representatives of the State Department, which was headed up by Hillary Clinton at the time. The informant's lawyer says the FBI is releasing her client from his non- disclosure agreements so he can discuss his work, quote, uncovering Russian bribery and efforts by Moscow to gain influence with the Clintons. KOSIK: All this as the law firm representing Hillary Clinton and the

Democratic National Committee confirms their client paid for opposition research on then candidate Donald Trump. That research helps fund the now infamous dossier of allegations against the president and Russia.

President Trump claiming Russian poked, in his words, has now turned completely around.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:05:01] TRUMP: Hillary Clinton always denied it. The Democrats always denied it. And now only because it's going to come out in a court case, they said, yes, they did it, they admitted it. And they're embarrassed by it. But I think it's a disgrace. It's just really -- it's very sad commentary on politics in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: A source now tells CNN Hillary Clinton was not aware of Christopher Steele's dossier until "BuzzFeed" actually published the document earlier this year. Clinton said to be disappointed the research was not made public before the 2016 presidential election.

KOSIK: Trump's comments on Wednesday coming as part of an impromptu news conference on the White House South Lawn, with the presidential chopper Marine One waiting to whisk him away, Mr. Trump said the media has been underplaying his intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. You know, people don't understand. I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I'm a very intelligent person. You know, the fact is, I think -- I really believe -- I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Bragging about his intelligence is practically a habit for this president. Just two weeks ago, he suggested he and his secretary of state should hold an IQ contest after Rex Tillerson privately called him a moron.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: The president still unable or unwilling to stop sparring with the widow of fallen U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson. He insists his condolence call to Myeshia Johnson was handled appropriately and he denies her claim that he fumbled her husband's name.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I was really nice to her. I respect her. I respect her family. I certainly respect La David, who I, by the way, called La David right from the beginning just so you understand. They put a chart in front. La David, says La David Johnson.

So, I called, right from the beginning. There's no hesitation. One of the great memories of all time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The president accused the media of not reporting on other phone calls he's made to military families and insists everyone else he spoke to, quote, couldn't have been nicer.

KOSIK: President Trump also trying to balance attacking Republican senators he's mad it with keeping them in his political corner. In a span of seconds, the president slammed Senator Jeff Flake as unpopular in his home state of Arizona, and then claimed Flake and Senator Bob Corker would stand with him on tax reform, all this despite the senator's harsh takedowns of the president earlier this week. Listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Actually, great unity in the Republican Party. Yesterday, I was -- that's OK. Look, you know, they have to do their thing. I think I'm probably helped greatly in Arizona by what happened with Senator Flake. I don't know Flake very well, but I know Bob Corker. I think they really would do it. I think they feel they have to do it for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Republican unity facing a new challenge with an establishment aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planning to attack Trump confident Steve Bannon personally. "The Washington Post" reporting the Senate leadership fund will spend millions highlighting Bannon's hard-line populism and attempting to link him to white nationalism. It's all part of an effort to protect GOP incumbents in tough primary races.

KOSIK: The Trump administration plans to release classified documents about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy today and that includes files from the FBI and the CIA. It's not clear, though, whether the president will allow a full release of the documents or block certain files from going public as requested by some elements of the intelligence community.

The president teasing the event on Wednesday tweeting this: The long anticipated release of the JFK files will take place tomorrow. So interesting.

BRIGGS: So interesting that he tweets that while arriving in Dallas, Texas.

KOSIK: Coincidence?

BRIGGS: Just consider -- I don't know. I don't know that there was any concept of where he was at the time. Anyway, who knows? The U.S. military had been looking to arm drones in Niger before the

deadly assault on American soldiers, that and new details about what America troops were doing before the attacks. CNN is live in Niger, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:13:43] TRUMP: It's dangerous business I have to say. It's a dangerous business. So what? No, I didn't. Not specifically.

But I have generals that are great generals. These are great fighters. These are warriors. And I gave them authority to do what's right so that we win. That's the authority they have. I want to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: So, the president saying he did not specifically green light this mission in Niger that left four American soldiers dead in an ambush. President Trump had already empowered U.S. military leaders to train and assist partner governments in the fight against ISIS and other terror groups in the region. Now new details are emerging about the ambush and the efforts before the attack to upgrade military assets in the region, including the authority to use armed drones.

CNN's David McKenzie live for us in Niger with the very latest.

Good morning to you, David. What are we learning?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.

Yes. Well, the key issue here is that this investigation is still ongoing as to what happened with the deadly ambush that is just a couple of hours' drive from where I'm standing right now in the capital of Niamey. You know, locals you speak to here will all tell you that that border region between Niger and Mali is very volatile. There have been a number of attacks this year against Nigerien soldiers.

[04:15:01] So, this ambush in and of itself isn't necessarily that surprising. So, one key question is, was there any kind of intelligence failure that sent these American soldiers into harm's way?

Another issue, as you mentioned, is that the U.S. officials here have been trying to push for armed drones in this particular theater. Something they haven't gotten any authorization to do yet.

Now, it's worth pointing out that probably wouldn't have had a huge effect on this particular ambush because even the French fighter jets scrambling to try and assist the Americans in distress weren't able to engage with the enemy because of the danger possibly of a friendly fire incident.

Also, we're learning how the intelligence gathering operation that this mission was, was trying to get information on a high level target according to senior U.S. officials. They say this individual was linked and is linked to terror attacks in neighboring countries, it really points to the extreme that these groups pose, not just here in Niger but across the vast Sahel region.

Some lawmakers have been surprised that there are 800 American soldiers here on the ground. But just flying in here, you get a sense of the vast expanse of this area, about the size of the continental U.S. as they try to gather information in the fight against terror. So, from that perspective, they have a pretty undermanned staff here in the country -- Dave.

BRIGGS: They're really pulling back the curtain on something many Americans have no idea what's going on there.

David McKenzie live for us in Niger, thanks so much.

KOSIK: OK, the Fall Classic heading back to Houston tied at one, one of these most dramatic games in World Series.

Did you watch it?

BRIGGS: Unbelievable. You will not forget the highlights.

KOSIK: Yes, thrilling game, game two goes into extra innings. Details from L.A., next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:21:28] BRIGGS: Former President George H.W. Bush issuing a second apology after an actress accused him of touching her inappropriately during a photo shoot four years ago. In a since deleted Instagram post, actress Heather Lind claimed she was -- when she met the former president while promoting a show, he sexually assaulted her.

KOSIK: She said he touched her from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara by his side. He told her a dirty joke, and then all the while being photographed, touched her again. The former president's spokesman in the statement to CNN said this: President Bush would never intentionally cause anyone distress and apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Ms. Lind.

BRIGGS: Later Wednesday, he issued a second statement to provide context. At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years. So, his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures, to try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke and on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good natured manner.

Some have seen it as innocent. Others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.

KOSIK: President Trump's tax plan may still affect your 401(k). On Monday, he vowed no change to the retirement savings plan in a tweet. But Representative Kevin Brady who will write the bill said yesterday, reform could adjust 401(k) rules.

Listen to Trump's reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, maybe it is. And maybe we'll use it as negotiating, but I trust -- trust me, that's one of the great things. You know, there are certain elements of deals you don't want to negotiate with. 401(k)s -- and Kevin knows it and I think Kevin Brady is fantastic, but he knows how important 401(k)s are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: OK. So, earlier reports said the final bill could reduce how much tax free money workers can invest each year from $18,000 to $2,400. Trump quickly shut that down. Proof, though, that there is a lot of division among the GOP about the tax plan's fine print, including the fate of another popular deduction, state and local tax break.

It mainly affects middle class families in high tax states, California, New York and New Jersey. And Republicans from those states, of course, they don't want it eliminated.

We heard from Ivanka Trump yesterday saying the tax plan will bring middle class families what she calls meaningful tax relief. However, the biggest savings currently go to the richest Americans. And the Tax Policy Center, you know, actually puts out numbers showing the wealthy are really the ones who benefit from this tax cut plan.

BRIGGS: A lot of jockeying ahead, a lot of battles ahead in that.

All right. A sheriff's deputy in Palm Beach County resigning after charged with robbing the empty home of a dying man. The incident taking place while Hurricane Irma had South Florida in a state of emergency.

You're looking at surveillance video showing former Deputy Jason Cook actually going through the home of 85-year-old Moe Rossoff. Earlier in the evening, Rossoff fell and hit his head during a power outage. He was transported to a local hospital but did not survive.

KOSIK: Officials say Deputy Cook came to the home later and entered through the garage using a security code he heard from previous police calls. Rossoff's sons were alerted to movement in the house by a surveillance camera.

[04:25:02] Cook has confessed of taking drugs from the home and faces burglary and larceny charges.

The Rossoff family calls the officer's actions outrageous and disgusting and, you know, we can do better than that.

BRIGGS: Wow, that is despicable indeed.

OK. The U.S. Air Force briefly playing the Grinch that stole Christmas in a tweet denying the existence of Santa Claus. You can't make this stuff. The Whiteman Air Force in Missouri and the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota had been bickering on Twitter over which was better. That's when the official Air Force account tweeted this stern warning. We didn't want to have to do this, but if you two can't get along we must, Santa will bring you nothing this year because he isn't real.

He's real, kids. He's real.

ROMANS: Let's hope the kids are off Twitter.

Headquarters also threatened to take away the base's TV privileges for a week. Hours later, the Air Force retracted the Grinchy claim, after "The Washington Examiner" picked up the story saying this, Santa is real. Bluffing to get Whiteman Air Force and Team Minot in line, tracking him in December.

Come on. Next, it's going to be the tooth fairy.

BRIGGS: Which is really as well. Let's be clear.

KOSIK: Is it?

BRIGGS: Yes.

All right. Game two of the World Series, a true Fall Classic, unforgettable. Astros beating Dodgers 7-6 in 11 inning to tie the series. After Houston tied the game in the ninth inning on Gonzales home run. Second baseman Jose Altuve and short stop Carlos Correa had back to back homers in the 10th to give the Astros a 5-3 lead.

Seemed like it was over, right? Wrong. The Dodgers not done. L.A. scores two in the bottom of the tenth on a Yasiel Puig home run and Enrique Hernandez single to tie it up again. We go to the 11th. George Springer belted a two-run homer lifting the Astros to the first World Series win in franchise history.

The two teams combined to hit 5 home runs in extra innings, that's the first time it's ever been done in the regular or postseason. The World Series now heads to Houston for the next three games beginning on Friday.

Consider that there's more than 2,400 baseball games every year and that has never happened.

KOSIK: And what's exciting is now, now, the series is really getting --

BRIGGS: Now, it's really started. Once someone wins a road game, then it really gets interesting.

KOSIK: Absolutely.

All right. An analytics firm contracted by the Trump campaign tried to get its hands on Hillary Clinton's private e-mail and the firm used WikiLeaks to try to get the job done. We're going to tell you what the campaign is saying now.

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