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EARLY START

JFK Files: FBI Received Threat on Oswald's Life; Trump Influenced Lifting of Informant's Gag Order; Niger Ambush Investigation. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 27, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The veil lifted on long secrets about the Kennedy assassination. Was Lee Harvey Oswald an agent of the CIA? Amazing cliffhanger in this troll of documents.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: An FBI informant can now testify about Russian attempts to gain influence in the U.S. but it President Trump push that through for political payback on Hillary Clinton?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. I'm still trying to get through all these dongs JFK documents since Friday, October 27th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Plenty of intrigue following this late release of the JFK files by the Trump administration.

[05:00;02] Was Lee Harvey Oswald acting as an agent of the CIA? Now, that question remains unanswered this morning.

Well, the White House did release over 2,800 records, roughly 300 others kept classified because of national security concerns. More on that in a moment, Alison.

KOSIK: First, some highlight for you, the CIA director under LBJ and Nixon suddenly cut short just before answering a critical question. And records from a 1975 deposition, Richard Helms, who was the deputy CIA director under JFK, is asked whether there was information involved with the assassination of President Kennedy which in any way shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way a CIA agent or an agent?

The document ends suddenly there without the rest of Helms' response.

BRIGGS: Also in the documents, a 1975 report on the CIA's role in foreign assassination. Robert Kennedy telling the FBI that he learned the CIA hired an intermediary to approach a mobster and that mobster was offered $150,000 to go into Cuba and kill Fidel Castro. One option, poisoning him with botulism pills.

KOSIK: And there's an FBI memo from the New Orleans field office three months before the JFK assassination. It describes monitoring the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and says the group's activities dropped off considerably after the departure of member Lee Harvey Oswald.

BRIGGS: Also the FBI received a telephone threat on Oswald as life the day before he was murdered. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover confirming the call was from a man talking in a calm voice saying he was a member of a committee to kill Oswald. Hoover also on record saying Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby, denied making that call.

KOSIK: Other highlights include a Cuban intel officer claiming to know Oswald. And two months before JFK's assassination, Oswald was intercepted speaking to a KGB officer in broken Russian.

BRIGGS: Also this morning, serious new ethical questions facing the president and Justice Department this morning after it emerged the president personally influenced the decision to lift the gag order on an undercover informant. All of this circling back to who else? Hillary Clinton. The informant played a critical role in the FBI investigation of Russia's efforts to gain influence in the U.S. uranium industry while Clinton was secretary of state.

KOSIK: Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley publicly called on the Justice Department to lift the gag order blocking the informant from speaking to Congress. The Justice Department can do so but there are rules, limiting White House involvement in criminal law enforcement matters like this one.

BRIGGS: The informant's lawyer confirming the FBI cleared her client to speak about Moscow's effort to gain influence with the Clintons. The question now: did President Trump improperly exert his influence to punish Hillary Clinton?

Let's ask our guests who are trying to digest all of this information this morning. From Washington, Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", and here in New York, CNN political analyst and Princeton University professor and historian, Julian Zelizer.

There's a lot to try to process.

KOSIK: Good morning to both of you.

BRGGS: Sarah, let's start with you. Is the Trump administration essentially weaponizing the DOJ to relitigate the election?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, President Trump has at different points in his presidency expressed frustration with the way Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been conducting business. He's been frustrated that he didn't show enough willingness for example to go after leakers earlier in the administration. Jeff Sessions didn't seem to have an interest in prosecuting Hillary Clinton like President Trump promised on the campaign trail.

But this is one of the first concrete actions we've seen of president Trump pushing the DOJ to do something in the Hillary Clinton space because for so long he threatened he was going to lock her up and then he backed off that immediately into his presidency. And this is one of the first times he's taken a concrete step to advance a case against Hillary Clinton.

In a vacuum, without President Trump's involvement, it's a good thing to always have more transparency to learn more about this FBI informant, to learn more about the case. President Trump's personal involvement does raise some concern.

KOSIK: Yes, Julian, I mean, it's highly unusual for the White House, for the president, to get involved in something like this. Is it illegal? I mean, is it an overreach?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's the selectivity of it that's particularly concerning. So, here, as he or the administration is under an eye with this investigation into obstruction of justice, into Russian collusion, to have him selectively insert himself this way certainly is problematic. I don't know if it's illegal at this point but it's going to rub many people the wrong way.

[05:05:01] And it's, again, the comparison with where he stands on these two investigations.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, on the flipside, Sarah, you've got the Trump media asking if the Obama administration essentially weaponized the FBI in this uranium story as Russia bought up U.S. uranium companies and the fact that the Hillary Clinton and DNC hired out a company that essentially did research that led to the dossier.

My head hurts. Your head hurts. But, is there anything to this notion that the president of the United States says this uranium sale is something like Watergate? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think the uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done, so underhanded, with tremendous amounts of money being passed I actually think that's Watergate modern age.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Sarah? Is it?

WESTWOOD: It's so interesting that this is the case that he's chosen to seize on right now. There are very legitimate criticisms against the DNC in the Clinton campaign for covering up the fact that they paid Fusion GPS for the research that resulted in the dossier and some of these salacious against President Trump. But the president has not seemed as interested in that revelation as the uranium deal came into the public consciousness about two years ago.

This was something that was litigated when Pete Schweizer's book "Clinton Cash" came out. This was something that did cause Hillary Clinton some problems on the campaign trail. She was forced to answer for this. It's resurfacing because the small new detail that an FBI informant possibly had more information about the way the deal was.

But this is not a new controversy. It's something that's been out there floating around for a couple of years now.

BRIGGS: And because of that, the Trump media calling for Bob Mueller to be fired, Eric Holder to be locked up, James Comey to be locked up. And so, we go.

But let's talk JFK this morning.

KOSIK: Let's make a hard left turn or right turn. And let's bring in Julian to talk about what we've learned about the JFK assassination, what's been under wraps for more than 50 years, what jumps out at you?

ZELIZER: Well, one the incompetence that you see in the intelligence agencies. These incredible memos that first they lose track of Oswald. Agents in New Orleans lose track of where he is, and most fascinating is after the assassination, Hoover has warnings that there's someone aiming a group, aiming to kill Oswald, which he's very concerned about after that happens. So that's kind of an interesting part.

The vast amount of espionage, of efforts to assassinate Castro, all of which we know about. But it comes out in a kind of detail through some of these memos which I think it will be eye opening for a new generation of what the U.S. was involved in.

BRIGGS: What's the eye opening part to you, sir?

WESTWOOD: That is exactly what I was going to say, the lengths to which the CIA considered assassinating Fidel Castro. That's not something you typically hear about these days, in one case hiring an intermediary to approach a mob boss to talk about potentially assassinating Fidel Castro that they thought about dusting his swimsuit with poison. These elaborate assassination plans. That's not something you think about your tax dollars funding. That was certainly eye opening for me.

BRIGGS: Every bit as intriguing, Julian, is the questions that have not been answered. What to you is most intriguing?

ZELIZER: Well, the one for everyone is most intriguing is who is Oswald if anyone? Was he connected to anyone? And so there isn't any more new evidence from what I have seen, at least, so far, that offers more data on that.

He had many points of connection. He speaks to someone in the KGB. We see in a memo, though we knew about these contacts in Mexico City. There's suspicions all over, including from LBJ, who is he connected to? Does this have something to do with South Vietnam?

But I think it's going to be unsatisfying for one looking for a smoking gun.

KOSIK: You know, we still got a hundred of pages and we've got a lot of redactions of what was released.

What do you think after 50 years that the intelligence agencies are objecting to in releasing these documents? ZELIZER: Some of this, I suspect is to compromise activities that

they did, including some of what we're talking about now. There might be operations that are still relevant to these agencies, methodologies they still use that they don't want to reveal and probably just the embarrassing information about the agencies that they're a little leery.

But there's no reason to hold anything back at this point. I mean, this has been around so much. Get it out, because not getting it out is in fact what fuels the --

BRIGGS: Keeps the conspiracy.

All right. Julian, we'll talk more about this in 30 minutes, Sara will answer the question is the president losing his base? Some fascinating new numbers we have for you this morning.

[05:10:02] BRIGGS: But, first, new CNN reporting on the Niger ambush. One of the first soldiers on the scene says when he saw the unit the day before, they didn't have enough protection in a high-risk area. We are live in Niger, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: All right. We're getting a new first hand account of the ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger earlier this morning. A Nigerien soldier whose unit was first on the scene after the attack spoke exclusively to CNN. The soldier tells us American and Nigerien were ready to fight until the end. That same soldier also saw the Green Beret unit the day before and described the group as a light force.

Let's go live to Niger and bring in CNN's David McKenzie now.

David, that is the day before. We don't know how armed they were the day of the assault. Correct?

[05:15:01] DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know how armed they were because the Pentagon has, Dave, said that they were with light weapons, and with machine guns on the scene. Because they weren't expecting any contact with the enemy. The Nigerien source that tells us, they seemed to not have the support he was expecting going into that danger zone.

It must be said that there have been multiple attacks in that border region just close to where I'm standing here now, over the past year on Nigerien soldiers. So, that source was surprised that they had the level of support that they did. But he did describe coming on to that scene, part of that reaction force that went to try to help out in the terrible situation.

He said that the surviving U.S. soldiers were back-to-back with their Nigerien counter parts ready to fight to the death. He said it was extraordinary to him to see how brave those soldiers were who were engaged in this multi-hour fire fight with ISIS-linked militants. He also said that the wounded soldiers that he spoke to described multiple SUV attackers and followed up by many, many, in his words, motorcycles coming in with a great deal of force to attack the American and Nigerien soldiers. So it was clearly an awful ambush and certainly a brave standoff by these green berets and Nigerien counterparts -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Outstanding reporting. David McKenzie live for us in Niger, thank you, sir.

KOSIK: CVS may buy Aetna for $66 billion. If this is approved, this merger could reshape the health care industry. CVS owns both a huge store chain and pharmacy benefit system and Aetna is one of the nation's biggest insurers. "The Wall Street Journal" first reported the bid. Both companies declined to comment to CNN.

But CVS was likely to do this because of Amazon. It may be entering the pharmacy business itself and report the broke yesterday that Amazon received pharmacy license in several states. The merger would be a boon for Aetna as well because it creates a whole new avenue to grow its business. That's been critical for insurers to help offset losses from Obamacare. Aetna has actually lost $900 million since 2014. That's why it will exit the exchanges completely next year.

One reason Obamacare premiums are going to spike in 2018. Another reason they will spike, to offset president Trump's costing -- taking away those subsidies. The consumers can already check out next year's prices. Silver plan premiums will rise an average 34 percent. I'm going to watch whether this deal can actually happen. It can mean a huge difference for consumers because you've got Amazon -- we could see drug prices come down because --

BRIGGS: Because Amazon, if they get in.

KOSIK: Not just because of that, because it would give CVS more leverage to sort of negotiate its prices.

BRIGGS: It should be a fascinating -- arguably the most important story of the day.

KOSIK: Yes.

BRIGGS: All right. A rescue at sea, five months in the making, two women overjoyed after being tracked down. How they were found and how they survived at sea since May, Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:21:37] BRIGGS: The CEO of American Airlines promising to do a better job in the area of race relations. This comes two days after the NAACP issued a travel advisor, citing a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers.

CEO Douglas Parker says American prides itself on inclusiveness and diversity. But he admits there is room for improvement, saying discrimination, exclusion and unconscious bias are enormous problems that no one has mastered and we would never suggest we have it all figured out either. Parker says he hopes to meet with leaders of the NAACP about its complaints.

ROMANS: OK. Two women rescued after being stranded at sea for five months. I want you look at this, because you can see the Coast Guard rushing towards Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba of Honolulu. One of the women sees the rescue boat. She's blowing kisses, she's stretching out her arms, look at me. Fortunately, they were both saved along with their dog, who was also on the boat.

It turns out the women set sail from Honolulu to Tahiti, but their boat's engine died in May. The crew immediately alerted officials. Luckily they prepared for a long trip. They had more than a year's worth of food on board but I'm sure they had cabin fever.

BRIGGS: No doubt about it. They were freaked out.

All right. Getting his team within one win of the World Series not enough for Yankee manager Joe Girardi to keep his job. Girardi announcing his departure statement Thursday, revealing with a heavy party that the Yankees decided not to bring him back. In his ten years as Yankees skipper, Girardi won more than 900 games including the 2009 World Series. Girardi is a great one.

Meantime, the 2017 World Series resumes tonight, game 3 in Houston. Dodgers Astros tied a game apiece. J.J. Watt expected to throw out the first pitch. The Texans star raised over $30 million for hurricane relief. He's out for the rest of the football season but he will get him an enormous standing ovation.

KOSIK: All right. Game three, here we go.

All right. Winter storm warning for the Midwest and a nor'easter in the forecast for the upcoming weekend. Let's get the latest from meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

Good morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, Dave and Alison.

Our first accumulating snowfall even here in the Midwest. It's not even Halloween yet. We're talking winter storm warnings across northern Minnesota. How much snowfall? Anywhere from four to as much as half a foot of snowfall, and there will be some areas perhaps picking upwards of eight inches. This is the next step 24 hours, the snow is already falling. It will just continue to accumulate

Part of the storm system that will continue pushing east over the next few days on the backside, as you can imagine, big time cold, in fact, coldest temperatures who won't have a cross. Southeast so far this season, and this is going to be a wet system for the Northeast, it's going to be a wet one.

So, we're not talking snow for the northeast, just looking at rainfall and a lot of it. And this will continue Sunday, into the early part of next week. Florida, six inches of rainfall and look at that -- accompanied with some gusty winds anywhere from 30 to 40 miles per hour. That snow flying now for the first time significantly across the Midwest -- guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: OK, Ivan, thanks very much.

Did president Trump help clear the way for an FBI informant to testify as payback against Hillary Clinton?

BRIGGS: And thousands of documents with long-held secrets about the Kennedy assassination. Did Lee Harvey Oswald have a CIA correction? Wild cliff-hanger, next.

KOSIK: But, first, it all started with broke luggage at the airport. Now, two entrepreneurs are building a travel brand for millennials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEN RUBIO, FOUNDER, AWAY: Our first product, the suitcase, came from a personal pain point. So, my luggage broke, I was at the airport and all of my clothes just spilled out everywhere.

STEPH KOREY, FOUNDER, AWAY: And she called me to complain. And she started being like why isn't there a brand that makes high quality product that's not going to break and that doesn't cost more than the trip I'm talking it on. We surveyed hundreds of people who potentially be our customers and that really drove the design. The suitcase has a hard shell, really durable zippers, perfect wheels, and the phone charger and the carry on.

We've had so many failures with the way we've under-anticipated our growth potential and we're completely out of inventory. Early on, we didn't have a totally dialed interview process. We ended up bringing a few people on the team who weren't the right fit.

RUBIO: We have built something and are now responsible for all of these people's livelihoods. That kind of responsibility is really overwhelming at times but also what inspires us to keep the company growing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)