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EARLY START

No Trump Remarks Today on Russian Hacking; Dueling Obamacare Meetings at Capitol; House GOP Reverses on Ethics Office; Megyn Kelly Leaves FOX for NBC. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 4, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The next commander-in-chief, mocking the intelligence agency to keep the country safe. He's blaming them for delaying his planned announcement about what he knows about the Russian hack.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Obamacare meeting showdown on Capitol Hill. The current president, the almost vice president in nearly the same place at nearly the same time, arguing different sides of the same issue.

ROMANS: And the 115th Congress off to a raucous start. What a day for everybody covering Capitol Hill. Why did House Republicans scrap a plan to undermine the ethics watchdog that oversees them? Quick reversal. What we were talking about 24 hours.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: Nice to see you this morning. I'm John Berman. It is Wednesday, January 4th. It's nearly 5:00 a.m. in the East.

A new so-called controversy this morning over so-called hacking, or you could just call it hacking. But President-elect Trump won't, not Russian hacking, not yet at least. Remarks that Donald Trump promised by today about Russian hacking during the election, including information Mr. Trump said only he knew will apparently not happen today.

A transition official tells CNN the president-elect is likely to be briefed toward the end of the week on the intelligence community's final report on Russian hacking.

Overnight, the president-elect wrote, "The 'intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange."

Look at all of the quotation marks there. You know, "intelligence" in quotation marks. "Russian hacking" in quotation marks. Clearly continuing to try to sow doubt.

ROMANS: Donald Trump's version is getting pushed back, though, from U.S. officials. They say there was no delay briefing the president- elect on Russian hacking, no delay.

[05:00:01] The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was never even scheduled to be in New York for the top level until Friday.

One of the officials suggests Mr. Trump may be, quote, "confusing" his presidential daily briefing with his different briefing, this final intelligence review ordered by President Obama. Officials say not even Obama have seen the final report yet.

It's worth noting last night's tweet was the third story about this in four days from Trump or his team. The first saying Trump had intel only he knew, that he needed to have a final report to make a judgment.

BERMAN: So, perhaps trying to explain to the American people why he's not making a statement about what he says he knew and also continuing to sow doubt all at the same time.

This morning on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans hold dueling meetings on the future of Obamacare. President Obama is set to meet behind closed doors with House and Senate Democrats to strategize ways to protect the Affordable Care Act. At the same moment, Vice President-elect Mike Pence will meet with House Republicans to discuss plans for repealing Obamacare.

Already, Senate Republicans have taken the first official step toward repeal, a budget resolution filed Tuesday puts the wheels in motion. What's still unclear is how soon a repeal would go into effect and what it will be replaced with.

ROMANS: All right. So, what a dramatic day on Capitol Hill as the brand new Congress is sworn in. Just 12 or so hours after Republicans voted behind closed-doors to gut the house independent ethics watchdog. The same Republicans say it's not worth a big fight on day one. Maybe it had something to do with the highly critical media attention. Maybe it was that tweet from the soon-to-be occupant of the Oval Office.

CNN's Manu Raju explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, John and Christine.

The 115th Congress convening yesterday with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Members who were reelected and elected for the first time getting sworn into office, getting ready for a very, very aggressive agenda, one in which the House Republican and Senate Republican leadership want to try to implement Donald Trump's vision of repealing Obamacare, replacing Obamacare, overhauling the tax code, trying to get rid of major regulations and, of course, confirming Donald Trump's cabinet and also a ninth Supreme Court justice.

Now, that doesn't mean there wasn't controversy yesterday. In fact, there was a significant amount of controversy after House Republicans try to move forward with a rules package that would have gutted a key ethics watchdog, that actually polices members of Congress. A lot of members do not like the way it has conducted itself over the last eight years.

So, they voted to try to kill it essentially. And it got a lot of pushback. Angry voters called their lawmakers offices, demanded they do not vote for this when it became public. And then Donald Trump tweeted, said that he did not think that this was a good idea on the first day of the new Congress.

Immediately afterwards, House Speaker Paul Ryan convening an emergency meeting to get rid of that proposal as part of a broader rules package. And the members agreed, relenting, agreeing on a rules reform package. Now, that bill, that measure also angered Democrats however because it would fine Democratic members who staged protests or sit-ins on the House floor without permission.

So, a lot of controversy on the first day of the new Congress. It's just a sign of things to come as they deal with things like Obamacare and tax reform -- John and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. Manu, thanks so much.

One man in the middle of it all, Chuck Schumer, the newly minted Democratic leader, is declaring that he is ready to take on Donald Trump. Overnight, Senator Schumer promised he's prepared to block a Trump Supreme Court nominee who is not mainstream. Supreme Court nomination essentially really requires 60 votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We are not going to settle on a Supreme Court nominee. If they don't appoint someone who is really good, we're going to oppose them tooth and nail. It's hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would choose that would get Republican support that we could support. So, you're right.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And so, you would do your best to keep the seat open?

SCHUMER: Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You will remember, Republicans held the seat open after Justice Antonin Scalia died. They would not even hold hearings with Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick. There have been eight justices for some time. Maybe Schumer will try to fight to keep that the case.

Earlier, Senator Schumer gave his very first floor speech as minority leader, declaring Democrats would hold President Trump accountable for his campaign promises to, quote, "truly make America great."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: What we will always do is hold the president-elect and his Republican colleagues in Congress accountable. Accountable to the working people, to whom the president-elect promised so much. Accountable to the people of all colors and creeds and sexual orientations in this country, for whom he is president.

[05:05:01] Accountable to the millions of Americans who voted for him. With all due respect, America cannot afford a Twitter presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Among the promises Senator Schumer says Democrats will hold the President Trump to, pushing for a big infrastructure package.

ROMANS: All right. Three of Donald Trump's top cabinet picks will meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill today, including ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, the president-elect's pick for secretary of state. Now, Tillerson has just agreed to relinquish control of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in Exxon stock he owns or will be received. This will sold, put in a blind trust if he's confirmed, so that the decisions the makes won't personally enriched him in Exxon shares and the oil industry.

Also on the Hill, General James Mattis, Trump's nominee for defense secretary. Mattis needs a special waiver, you'll recall, from lawmakers before he can head up to the Pentagon.

And attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, one of Trump's more controversial picks because of his record on race relations. He's already running into some opposition. More than a dozen members of the NAACP staging this sit-in at the Alabama senator's office last night. The president of the NAACP, Cornell Brooks was handcuffed. He was arrested by police. Brooks is calling on Sessions to withdraw his name from the selection process.

BERMAN: Both Bill and Hillary Clinton will attend the inauguration later this month for President Donald Trump. Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura will also be there. George H.W. Bush will not attend because of health issues. Former President Jimmy Carter also confirmed he will be on hand.

ROMANS: All right. A stunning new turn for Ford, scrapping plans to build a new plat in Mexico to make small cars and instead, adding 700,000 jobs in the U.S.

Now, President-elect Trump has repeatedly slammed Ford for that small car plant in Mexico, for production in Mexico. And he has vowed to renegotiate NAFTA. Carmakers possibly have the most to lose if Trump renegotiates trade deals like NAFTA, with billions of dollars of parts, supplies and vehicles crossing borders each year.

My colleague Poppy Harlow asked the Ford CEO if he cut a deal with Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK FIELDS, FORD CEO: Well, first off, we didn't cut a deal with the president-elect. We did what's right for our business, first and foremost. That's what drives us in every business decision that we make.

But we look at a lot of factors, Poppy, and one of the factors that we see is again this more positive U.S. environment for manufacturing and investment here. And we take that into account in our investment decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The CEO called this move a vote of confidence in Trump and pro-business environment in his presidency. The Ford deal will add 700 jobs to an existing plant already in Michigan. This is part of the $700 million investment in electric and self-driving cars. Ford is betting that electric vehicles will outsell gas-powered cars within the next 15 years.

So, the auto industry has roared back since the recession, notching record sales in 2015. We'll get the final number of sales later today. That's expected to be another record.

But good paying auto jobs have not roared back in tandem. In 2007, there were more than 1 million Americans making cars and auto parts. That tally plunged by nearly half. Today, it has rebounded, just more than 900,000. But hiring seems to have leveled off.

And Donald Trump has really put the automatic to tell industry in the cross hairs. He was even tweeting yesterday about GM, complaining about GM making cars in Mexico and bringing them in the U.S. GM forced to response saying it was only a small number of cars. But clearly, things like infrastructure and most importantly tax reform on the table under a presidency of Donald Trump, if you're a CEO of a car company, you've got to play ball.

BERMAN: They are reactive, you know, in some ways, proactive, to the incoming President Donald Trump, you know? And it was interesting to hear the Ford CEO say that they made the decision because of what they see as a more positive manufacturing environment with the president- elect.

ROMANS: And that could mean as part of tax reform, there could be big penalties for making stuff overseas for American company or multinational, and bringing it back and selling it in the U.S.

BERMAN: All right. We have so much to discuss. We're going to do that with CNN political reporter Eugene Scott when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:12:18] BERMAN: All right. The big news overnight, sort of a new battle between the incoming president, President-elect Donald Trump and the intelligence agencies who will work for the country while he is president, trying to keep this country safe.

We're joined by CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott.

Eugene, very nice to see you.

ROMANS: Good morning.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, guys.

BERMAN: Let me give you a dramatic reading of what Donald Trump wrote last night. And I want to put it up because you need to see it to fully understand I think what he's doing here. It says, "The 'intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time to build a case. Very strange."

I would like to highlight the quotation markings around intelligence. The word so-called, the quotation marks around Russian hacking and then the exclamation point after very strange.

SCOTT: I think this has all been very strange, the handling of this situation. And one of the main criticisms against Donald Trump saying he's pushed back on so much of it despite admittedly not receiving the same intelligence that those who claim that they know so much about Russian hacking do know about.

And we saw as recently within the last 24 hour, CIA top officials really doubling down saying what they know is very different from what their critics are suggesting that they don't.

ROMANS: Let's listen to John Brennan talking to Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour on this subject.

SCOTT: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: In the aftermath of that, there was a total review of the review process and the analytic process and assessments that are done with the intelligence community. With a number of steps that were taken to make sure that we're going to be as accurate as possible.

And so, it's been light years since that Iraq WMD report has been done. And there has been tremendous, I think, further development of our analytical capabilities as well as our intelligence collection capabilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So, let me back up a bit. I mean, Donald Trump has said, look, they got WMD wrong in Iraq. I mean, these guys make mistakes. I know. I know things that you don't know. I'm going to reveal all of that, John Brennan saying we've made a lot of changes over the past 13 years.

But also, this whole idea that Donald Trump knows things that we don't know. He has said those things before. And it's turned out not to be true.

What -- is there any sense that he's going to have a different assessment, once he does get this final briefing? SCOTT: If he is, he hasn't made that clear to us. Nor has he honored

this date, the date that he put out, as far as whether or not he was going to get a briefing. When he was going to get it and press conference dates as well. And so, we don't completely know what he knows, and he hasn't made it very clear to us when he's going to tell us.

What we do know is that the accusation that the department's intelligence is sketchy because of how they handled WMD, weapons of mass destruction in the past, is not exactly fair because those people are no longer with the department, and lots of changes have been made since then.

[05:15:06] BERMAN: The other thing we know, Donald Trump said the meeting was delayed. The intelligence agency, U.S. officials say, no, that meeting was never actually delayed. It was always going to be on Friday, and maybe Trump was confused about which briefing he was going to get and when.

The other thing we know for sure is that Donald Trump had said that he knows things that other people don't about the Russian hacking and he would tell us what that is. And he's not saying that. And the other thing that we know, again, by reading that tweet very carefully, is, you know, he's trying to sow doubt, continuing to try to sow doubt in the idea that the Russians hacked into the DNC, or, you know, the Clinton campaign during the election season.

ROMANS: There's one place where Donald Trump's tweets are clearly making a change in policy and business, and that is when he talks about Ford, when he talks about GM. I want to talk about Ford. Ford cancelling investment in a plant in Mexico. Going to add some different kind of investments in Michigan.

Do you think these companies see tax reform on the horizon, see the infrastructure spending on the horizon? And they're going to give Donald Trump 800 jobs here, 800 jobs here, cancel a billion dollar investment here and there so that they can be on his good side for tax reform?

SCOTT: I think it's very possible. And I think what's also possible is the optics of it just really do not look bad to most voters. Whether or not it makes the most business sense, what people don't understand from this election due to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and even candidates before them, is that Americans are losing jobs.

Now, why they're losing jobs is up for debate. But what a lot of companies do and we've seen these car companies say is that we don't want to look like we are responsible for people going without. And whether or not it makes the most sense, whether or not it was a deal, or whether or not we have to renege on some things, we're going to make to American voters that we want to invest in America.

ROMANS: I mean, if you get tax reform, real meaningful tax reform that lowers, you know, the corporate tax rate, I mean, you could see that these types of jobs would be like a rounding error for the other --

BERMAN: The other thing that I think is really interesting, I'm a broken record on this, Mark Fields said that he -- the CEO of Ford said he made the decision box of what he sees is a more positive manufacturing environment because of President-elect Trump. You hear Democrats, you know, Jacob Bornstein, people who work in the Obama administration say that actually Trump has changed the debate on free trade, on trade. Now, there is openness to this discussion that maybe free trade is not this panacea of positive economic developments. And it should be reined in.

ROMANS: Well, I would argue that Democrats can and Republicans in the mainstream always knew there would be losers in free trade.

SCOTT: Sure.

ROMANS: But they just buried it.

SCOTT: And they haven't been really open about it.

ROMANS: Right. And now, it's bit the progressives, bit the Democrats. And it's fueled this rise of Donald Trump. And now, all of a sudden, they care about the fairness of free trade for the first time in 30 years.

SCOTT: Right.

Now, what we haven't seen a lot about is how this will impact international business, and economic development abroad, because there will be some losers. There always are going to be losers. The question will be, who loses?

ROMANS: Well, and higher prices for U.S. consumers.

SCOTT: Right.

ROMANS: Barack Obama tried to really slam the tire manufacturers in China a few years ago, like 2007, I think, saves 1,200 jobs here and raised prices on tire. Consumers pay for it.

So, are you willing to pay for more for what you consume so that more people can work?

SCOTT: That's going to go beyond cars. That will be everything.

BERMAN: Interesting.

(INAUDIBLE), Eugene, don't go far. We'll talk to you again in a little bit.

ROMANS: All right. Big media story to tell you about this morning, a big move for Megyn Kelly. She's leaving FOX News for a new job in a time slot at NBC.

Senior media Brian Stelter drops by. He's got more from behind the scenes, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:22:05] ROMANS: All right. Big media news. This will be Megyn Kelly's final week at FOX News. She's joining NBC, where she will host a daily daytime show and a Sunday news magazine program. Sources tell CNN, FOX was prepared to offer Kelly $20 million a year, if not more to say.

BERMAN: That's almost the EARLY START annual budget, by the way.

ROMANS: Almost is.

So, what made Kelly decide it was time to jump ship? And what are the broader implications of her decision?

CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter is here.

When we say sources tell CNN, we mean sources tell Brian Stelter.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And, by the way, late last night, I was even told $25 million.

ROMANS: Really?

STELTER: "New Yorker" magazine is reporting $25 million on the table for Megyn Kelly to stay at FOX, just to stay where she was in the 9:00 p.m. hour, right between Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, sort of the stars of the FOX News lineup.

Well, she turned that down. We don't know how much she's making at NBC, but it's definitely less than what she would have made at FOX.

BERMAN: So why give that money up? She said, last night, you know, I do believe, I always believe this to an extent, needs to spend more time with family and children.

ROMANS: She has small kids.

BERMAN: But it's not just that.

STELTER: That's right. It's partly about family. She would send -- when she was talking to friends last month, she would show them the picture of her three kids and say this is what it's about. This is what I'm focused on. I need a better schedule, more flexible schedule for my family. So, this will give her that.

NBC a daytime show, Monday through Friday, and a prime time show on Sundays. Kind of confusing on what the daytime show will be. We'll find out in a few months.

But this is not just about wanting a better schedule or wanting more money, it's also about running out of FOX, leaving out FOX. Among other things, Megyn Kelly was the biggest Trump critic at FOX. We all remember her first question at the very first debate, Trump declared war on her after that question, antagonize her for many months. She would bring on critics of Trump, skeptics of Trump on her program.

I would say she was almost an island in the middle of FOX News, in the sea of pro-Trump voices. To see her leaving now a couple weeks before the inauguration, it does make it a little interesting.

ROMANS: Do you think the election of Donald Trump is a factor for her? The landscape has changed now.

STELTER: We've heard people say the agents are buzzing about this. Kelly's deal they've known was up for a long time. She was in talks with ABC and CNN and other networks. I would actually say this is probably the biggest move in the TV news world among an A-list star since Katie Couric left the "Today" show about a decade ago.

This doesn't happen very often when you see someone make a big bet in their future and jump to another network. And it doesn't always work out very well. Katie Couric is not who she was a decade ago, for example.

So, this is a big risk by Megyn Kelly. But there could be big rewards. She clearly wanted to get out of FOX.

ROMANS: Katie Couric had a longer career up until that point when she made those changes. You know what I mean?

STELTER: That's true. Megyn Kelly's star rose very fast.

ROMANS: Right. Twelve years, all of it at FOX News, she said she grew up there, essentially. Everybody wanted her. She's the star.

[05:25:00] Even though she's fighting with Donald Trump this year, she was well --

STELTER: There was definitely a marketplace for her. NBC was a bit of a surprise in this announcement.

I think one of the broader takeaways here is that, you know, we all know we're living through a media revolution. We all know cell phones are changing the way we communicate and we consume news and information. And yet those changes aren't happening quite as quickly as sometimes it feels.

There's still a market for star anchors or programs that tell you what's going on in the world that are reliable, that are consistent. And for people like Megyn Kelly whose brand is about surprising you, define expectations and asking tough question.

BERMAN: You know, her show on FOX at 9:00, despite the fact that you called it, you know, an island of Trump questioning, you know, it's a political news show.

STELTER: Yes, conservative leaning.

BERMAN: That's what FOX does, conservative leaning. That doesn't seem to be what she's going to do at NBC? STELTER: No, great column in "The New York Times" saying this is

something she's never done before. A daytime news talk show. It's not exactly clear what that's going to be.

She said it's not going to be Kate Couric's talk show. It's not going to be Meredith Vieira's. About a year ago, she described to Charlie Rose, saying, my dream show would be a little bit of Charlie Rose, a little bit of Oprah, a little bit of myself. I've never seen that show.

I don't know what that's going to look like.

ROMANS: And where will it land in the schedule? That's so interesting to wonder, too.

BERMAN: Don't take on EARLY START. We'll take you down.

STELTER: I mean, to be -- I mean, that's actually, there's interesting dynamic to that, right? When you want news in the daytime, you actually go to cable more and more. This is a cable news election we just lived through.

So, in some ways, cable is very old-fashioned going to broadcast. But TV land is a big wide world. Lots of possibilities.

BERMAN: Let me say this, if you do not subscribe to the newsletter that his man writes through the early morning hours of the night, you're making a big mistake that you will regret forever, and this is why there's a ton of information about this. So, get on your computer and subscribe now.

STELTER: Thanks to the plug.

ROMANS: Twenty-five million a year.

BERMAN: Not Brian, Megyn Kelly.

ROMANS: I know. You do this for what, 10, 15?

BERMAN: At least half.

Today was supposed to be the day that Donald Trump revealed what will he says he knows about alleged Russian hacking into the political season that no one else knows. But now, he's pointing a finger at the intelligence community for delaying that announcement, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)