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EARLY START

Incomplete JFK File Dump Doesn't Provide Drama Trump Promised; Trump Wanted Gag Order Lifted On FBI Informant; Niger Ambush Investigation; U.S. Defense Secretary Visits DMZ. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 27, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:31:22] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The veil is lifted on long-held secrets about the Kennedy assassination. Mob hits on Castro, threats on Lee Harvey Oswald, and the amazing cliffhanger. Was Oswald an agent of the CIA?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Fascinating stuff.

An FBI information can now testify about Russian attempts to gain influence in the U.S. Did President Trump accomplish that for political payback on Hillary Clinton?

We will dive into both of these subjects on a very intriguing day here on EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik sitting in for Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour and we've got two big stories for you this morning.

First, plenty of intrigue following the late-night release of the JFK files by the Trump administration. Was Lee Harvey Oswald acting as an agent of the CIA? In a stunner, there's no answer this morning.

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

BRIGGS: First, some highlights like the CIA director under LBJ and Nixon suddenly cut short just before answering a critical question.

In records from a 1975 deposition, Richard Helms, who was deputy CIA director under JFK, is asked whether there is any 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.

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

TEXT: 1960-61 and the Phase I Plans: The Phase I plans involved the preparation of poison botulism pills by the CIA, the delivery of those pills to organized crime figures who in turn were to get the pills delivered to contacts they had in Cuba, who in turn were to get the pills into the hands of someone who could place them in a beverage to be drunk by Premier Castro.

BRIGGS: Also, the FBI received a telephone threat on Oswald's 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.

KOSIK: It reads like a movie script, doesn't it?

BRIGGS: It's fascinating stuff.

KOSIK: Well, let's bring in CNN political analyst and Princeton University professor and historian, Julian Zelizer. Good morning again to you.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR, "THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW": Good morning.

KOSIK: So you hear all this we're talking about --

ZELIZER: Yes.

KOSIK: -- of thousands of pages, a lot of it redacted. What jumps out at you?

ZELIZER: One if the fact that there was information that J. Edgar Hoover seemed to have that there was going to be an effort to kill Oswald after his arrest. That's not something we had seen and it's pretty shocking evidence of potential incompetence.

We also get more information that we knew about of all the different espionage and assassination efforts that the CIA was involved with during this time, including the ongoing efforts to kill Fidel Castro, which many people thought was part of what angered Oswald, who was a big supporter of Castro leading into the assassination.

Those are two big pillars, so far, of the information.

BRIGGS: What I can't seem to get past --

ZELIZER: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- this morning is for years and years and years the conspiracy theories have just gained traction --

ZELIZER: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- and snowballed over the years, and the theory was when this stuff was all rolled out it would put them all to rest. Did it, or did it add to the conspiracy theories and, arguably, make them grow more?

ZELIZER: Well, I don't think anything so far that I have seen gives us any more information that Oswald was part of a conspiracy. We read there were questions about it and there were doubts it, but that doesn't mean there was a conspiracy.

[05:35:06] And so I think this is fueled by ongoing information that's out there. That's what conspiracy theorists love and now we still have more information that we don't have. My guess is once we have everything, they'll still be conspiracy theories.

This is one of the most shocking events in American history so there will always be questions like that.

KOSIK: But these files are from spy agencies.

ZELIZER: Yes.

KOSIK: Will we really ever have all of the documents to put all of the puzzle pieces together?

ZELIZER: We won't have everything but we have a lot. I mean, that's what people forget. We have a huge amount of information.

We've looked through this information and all the judgments, so far, are based on a pretty big cache of documents. So I think we can feel pretty good about where we are and this is going to add to some of that international picture of what was going on in this year.

KOSIK: And no doubt, it will create more scripts for movies as more details come out.

ZELIZER: Sure, sure.

KOSIK: We can certainly expect to see that.

ZELIZER: No, absolutely, especially, again, all this stuff about what the CIA was doing overseas during these years is intriguing for many Americans. If we learned this in the 1970s it shocked the country when Sen. Frank Church revealed this. And I think this is going to be a new round of discussion.

BRIGGS: All right.

KOSIK: And maybe it will -- maybe it will certainly generate interest from a younger generation as well.

BRIGGS: Oh, it has. I mean, my 9-year-old was asking me questions about this last night --

ZELIZER: And that's a great thing.

KOSIK: (INAUDIBLE).

ZELIZER: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- which I thought that was a really great development.

All right. Julian's going to join Douglas Brinkley on "NEW DAY" to shed some more light on these documents.

KOSIK: Julian, thanks very much.

BRIGGS: Also this morning, serious new ethical questions facing the president and the Justice Department after it emerged the president personally influenced the decision to lift a gag order on an undercover informant. All 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 the secretary of state.

KOSIK: Now last week, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley publicly called on the Justice Department to lift a 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 enforcement matters like this one.

BRIGGS: The informant's lawyer confirming the FBI cleared her client to speak about Moscow's efforts to gain influence with the Clintons.

The question now, did President Trump improperly exert his influence to punish Hillary Clinton?

Let's bring in Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner."

Sarah, this is a lot like the JKF story. There are two completely different narratives emerging from the story.

One from the Trump media is that you should lock up James Comey, that you should lock up Eric Holder, and that Bob Mueller should be fired. On the other hand, did the Trump administration weaponize the DOJ?

What is your big takeaway here?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: We don't know exactly the sequence of events that led to this gag order being removed on the FBI informant. We don't know if President Trump picked up the phone, dialed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, if this was done at the staff level. It's just not clear exactly how this shook out.

In a vacuum, it would be a good thing that an FBI informant would be freed up to talk to Congress if there's a chance the public could learn more about a case -- a transaction that clearly has an enormous amount of public interest.

But it does raise concerns that the president is intervening in a potential criminal investigation against one of his political opponents. When you spin it that way that's certainly something that is going to raise concerns, particularly among Democrats.

KOSIK: Yes, I mean, obviously, it's unusual for a president to intervene in this way. Is it legal?

WESTWOOD: Well, we just have no way of knowing at this point exactly how this took place. I mean, it is something that's so new. We don't know exactly what's going to come to light from this FBI informant, we don't know who it is. So this is something that obviously is going to get more scrutiny.

Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has already said he's going to start looking into this so I'm sure that we are going to learn more in the coming days about how President Trump went about inserting himself into this case.

BRIGGS: President Trump calls this whole thing like Watergate. So we've got Watergate and we've got the JFK assassination. All this on 2017.

But let's talk taxes for a moment because that was arguably the biggest story of the day yesterday. The House approving this budget that clears the way for tax reform-tax cuts, but it clears by a narrow margin, 216 to 212 as 20 Republicans vote no on this budget.

And here's what Paul Ryan said about what's going to happen once they unveil this tax plan. A revealing joke from the speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Are you at all concerned that this rollout next week when you actually detail these choices that he's maybe not going to like some of them and tweet something about it?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: He's going to be in Asia, number one.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: OK, Paul Ryan's jokes last week were pretty revealing and perhaps so was that one. Where are we headed?

[05:40:00] WESTWOOD: Well, keep in mind that a lot of the Republicans who voted against this budget were Republicans from states that would be hit hardest by Republicans keeping the elimination of the state and local tax deductions in the plan. That's something that is potentially on the chopping block.

So, Republicans from states like New York and New Jersey, they are obviously really opposed to eliminating that tax deduction because it would hit their citizens, their constituents the hardest. It would actually potentially raise taxes on middle-class families in those states.

But that's something that is potentially most likely to be eliminated in the plan. If that happens I think that you'll see Republican support consolidate even more around the tax plan.

BRIGGS: Yes. KOSIK: Does the -- but the question is does President Trump have support from Republicans? You look at the latest Fox News poll showing his disapproval rate up, his approval rate down.

WESTWOOD: Right. This Fox News poll did show that President Trump has continued the steady decline in his approval ratings. Keep in mind that we haven't really seen his approval ratings plummet in response to any one event or controversy.

What we've seen is that they've dropped relatively steadily as his agenda has become stagnated, as he has failed to notch any major policy achievements.

But one number that stuck out to me in that Fox News poll was the 12- point drop from September in support among white men with no college degree. That's a core part of President Trump's base. It's one that's stuck with him through thick and thin with relative consistency.

If support starts to evaporate among President Trump's base and his core constituency, that's something that I think will concern the White House.

BRIGGS: That's a shocking number.

KOSIK: Yes.

BRIGGS: This is one that's going to cause some people to lose some sleep in the White House.

All right. Sarah Westwood in Washington.

KOSIK: Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

BRIGGS: Have a great weekend, my friend.

WESTWOOD: Thank you. You, too.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the secretary of Defense with an overnight stop at the DMZ ahead of the president's trip to Asia.

CNN's only Western T.V. news network reporting from North Korea. Will Ripley joining us live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:46:12] BRIGGS: All right, 5:46 eastern time.

The Ravens dominating the Dolphins last night, but he win coming at a price. Joe Flacco knocked out of the game after a rather nasty hit.

KOSIK: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

BRIGGS: Hey.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys.

You know, it has not been a good month for NFL quarterbacks. Joe Flacco the latest to have to leave a game due to injury.

Now, he went out in the second quarter after this brutal hit by the Dolphins Kiko Alonso. Flacco was flying when Alonso just grilled him with his shoulder. Flacco was clearly dazed and his ear was actually bleeding when he got up. The Ravens said he had a concussion after the game.

Alonso was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play but he was not ejected from the game.

Later on in the game, backup Ryan Mallett apparently said something to Ndamukong Suh and check it up. Suh grabbed Mallett by the throat and pushes him.

It was a frustrating night for the Dolphins as the Ravens win big in this one. Final, 40 to zero.

All right, Raiders Marshawn Lynch suspended for this week's game for running onto the field and shoving an official during a scuffle with the Chiefs last Thursday.

That means he can't practice with the Raiders, but that doesn't mean he can't practice with his old high school team. Check him out scrimmaging with Oakland Technical High School, and Lynch dominating, as he should, just trucking these kids out there on the field.

Lynch will be back with the Raiders next week when they play the Dolphins.

All right, the World Series shifts to Houston tonight for game three.

And yesterday, Astros manager A.J. Hinch addressing a TMZ report that he was in a bar fight in L.A. after game one, and Hinch calling the report ridiculous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A.J. HINCH, MANAGER, HOUSTON ASTROS: First off, there was no altercation. It's a shame I guessed asked about some nonsense, and fabrications, and non-stories and I have to respond to them on a national stage. Fabrications really suck and I'm not going to address any of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: All right. First pitch from Minute Maid Park tonight just after 8:00 eastern. And throwing out the first pitch tonight will be none other than J.J. Watt. Watt has suffered a season-ending broken leg three weeks ago.

He helped to raise more than $37 million after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston. Yesterday, he announced that most of the money will be given to poor, nonprofit organizations to rebuild homes, restore childcare centers, distribute food, and provide medical and mental health services.

Now, losses from Harvey could make it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

And guys, I'm heading to game three later on today in Houston and I -- and I guarantee you that place is going to go nuts when J.J. Watt comes out on crutches because he just had surgery --

BRIGGS: Right.

SCHOLES: -- for that broken leg. It's going to go nuts when he comes out to throw out that pitch.

BRIGGS: Right.

KOSIK: I'll be watching.

BRIGGS: And remember, that goal was $200,000? He's now had 200,000 --

SCHOLES: You got it.

BRIGGS: -- donors. It's just unreal.

SCHOLES: Yes, and it was -- according to "Forbes," it was like the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever, so hats off to J.J. Watt for what he did for Houston.

KOSIK: And benefitting Houstonians affected by the hurricane.

BRIGGS: Good luck in games three, four, and five. I'd like to see an interview with Kate Upton next week.

SCHOLES: I'll do my best.

BRIGGS: OK.

SCHOLES: All right.

BRIGGS: Two women rescued after being stranded at sea for five months. You can see the Coast Guard rushing toward Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba of Honolulu. One of the women who sees the rescue boat clearly relieved. Fortunately, they were both saved, along with their dogs who were also on the boat.

It turns out the women set sail this spring from Honolulu to Tahiti but their boat's engine died back in May. On Tuesday, a Taiwanese fishing boat found them and the crew alerted officials. Luckily, the women prepared for a long trip with more than a year's worth of food on board.

Certainly, there were some dark and desperate moments --

KOSIK: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: -- aboard that boat. KOSIK: I bet they were extremely excited to get into a shower, have a hot meal.

BRIGGS: No doubt, all of that.

KOSIK: Walmart bringing something new to its stores, robots.

"CNN Money Stream," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:53:14] BRIGGS: All right. We're getting a new firsthand account of the deadly ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger earlier this month. A Nigerian soldier whose unit was first on the scene at the attack spoke exclusively to CNN.

KOSIK: The soldier tells us American and Nigerian forces were ready to fight until the end. The same soldier also saw the Green Beret unit the day before and described the group as a life force.

Let's go live to Niger and bring in CNN's David McKenzie. David, good morning to you.

What else is this Nigerian soldier saying about this deadly attack?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can imagine. This soldier came upon the aftermath of this deadly ambush. He was scrambled to the scene along with his fellow Nigerian soldiers.

And he said as he got to that scene, which is pretty close to where I'm standing now just at the border between Niger and Mali, he said he saw the Nigerian and American special forces standing back-to-back ready to fight to the end.

They'd come over -- that came after a severe ambush by what he said the Nigerian survivors say were multiple SUVs, followed up by many, many motorcyclists. So, all out to attack those Nigerian and American soldiers.

U.S. sources saying that despite the odds stacked against them, the Americans and Nigerians managed to kill at least 20 of those ISIS- affiliated attackers.

Now, our source did say that he came across that patrol a day before, saying that he was surprised at the fact that they were likely armed and without much support. We shouldn't necessarily read into too much to that because, in fact, they were under the impression it was a relatively low-risk mission -- Alison.

[05:55:02] KOSIK: All right. So we are getting some great details on what happened that night, that day, but certainly, so many more open questions.

Dave McKenzie, thanks so much.

BRIGGS: All right. Overnight, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis visiting the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea. Mattis saying the U.S. goal is a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, not war.

Mattis' trip coming ahead of President Trump's visit to Asia next week.

CNN's Will Ripley, the only Western T.V. journalist reporting from Pyongyang, is live with us this evening in Pyongyang. Will, good to see you.

This -- still, we're talking about a potential Trump visit to the DMZ?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the big question here in Pyongyang. North Korean officials wondering if Mattis' visit to the DMZ is going to replace the possibility of President Trump visiting the demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel that separates North and South Korea.

Of course, the concern all along has been that if President Trump went to this highly sensitive, highly militarized area and said something inflammatory off script it could really turn an already bad situation here far worse. And so, that's one question.

The White House has indicated to CNN it's unlikely but President Trump has also left it open to speculation as to whether or not he will go to the DMZ/

I will say that Sec. Mattis didn't say anything that would necessarily enrage the North Koreans any more than they already are against the United States. Everything that he said is things that they've heard before.

But when I showed some officials his statement where he said that the goal of the United States is complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, basically the response was that is a completely unrealistic possibility, at least anytime soon because North Korea feels that they are so close at this point to finalizing the final stages of developing their nuclear deterrent against the United States. Nukes are simply not on the table -- Dave.

BRIGGS: So great to have Will Ripley reporting live for us in Pyongyang. Will, thanks.

KOSIK: OK, let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global markets higher after blockbuster earnings from some U.S. tech giants that you may recognize. Alphabet, Microsoft, and Amazon reporting strong results, boosting their shares after hours.

U.S. stocks ended the day mostly higher due to some good corporate report cards. And today is the last day of the busiest week of earnings season. Expect to hear from ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Merck.

Uber is finally adding multiple stops to its rides. The company introduced a new tool that lets users add up to three stops per trip. Previously, Uber customers had to change their destination in the middle of the trip, costing more money overall.

Only the latest version though of the app will have the new features so make sure you download it.

This holiday season could be the best for retailers in years. That's according to a new Gallup poll. Americans plan to spend an average of $906 on gifts this year, the most since 2007, with more than one-third planning to spend at least $1,000.

Consumers may be spending but more and more of that money, guess where it's going? It's going online and that causes problems for brick and mortar stores. In fact, 2017 just set the all-time record for store closings.

One retailer that is doing quite well -- Walmart is now adding something to its stores, robots. Shelf-scanning robots to be exact. The machines move up and down the aisle looking for out-of-stock items or mislabeled products, then they flag these issues to store workers.

The company has actually been testing robots for the past three years and will now expand that test to 50 stores. Still, the company has been careful to pitch the robots as helping staff, not replacing them. But reality is many stores are cutting jobs as Amazon cuts into foot traffic. Automation could bring further job loss.

I am old school. I like salespeople one-on-one -- hello.

BRIGGS: Me, too, but I'm new school. I'm trying to order my iPhone X. Preorders --

KOSIK: I'll help you. I'll do that for you.

BRIGGS: -- start today.

KOSIK: OK, good to know.

BRIGGS: It is time.

KOSIK: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik. Have a good weekend.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

It's going to take months to put this million-piece puzzle together.

There's a level of detail about covert action which we're getting now, which we didn't have before.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If all those files are not released, the president will have a promise that he did not keep with the American people.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The uranium sale to Russia, that's Watergate modern age. BRIGGS: President Trump asked the DOJ to lift a gag order on an FBI informant investigating Russian attempts to gain influence in the U.S.

The White House should never have injected himself into this decision.

KOSIK: Podesta and Wasserman Schultz deny knowledge of paying the firm behind the dossier.

Somebody knew. Somebody had to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, October 27th, 6:00 here in New York.

Chris is off this morning. John Berman joins me. Oh, my gosh --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: With injury.