Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Takes on U.S. Intelligence Community; Obamacare Battle Heats Up; Video Shows Group Beating Man with Special Needs. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired January 5, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And new this morning: divide emerging between the president-elect and Senate Republicans after Donald Trump supports the opinion of Julian Assange over the intelligence community. Now, Trump is looking to reshape how intelligence is delivered to the Oval Office.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans and Democrats digging in in the battle over Obamacare. The Republicans have begun the process of repealing it, but what is the replacement? And what is President Obama going to do about it even after he leaves office?

ROMANS: And video that will shock you. A mentally challenged man in Chicago bound and tortured on Facebook live. What his captors were saying during that assault, ahead.

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

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

And we have new developments this morning in the battle between President-elect Trump and the intelligence community. Not only does Mr. Trump doubt their views on Russian hacking, but now he's expressing doubt whether the whole intelligence apparatus is set up the right way to begin with. More on that in a moment.

As far as the allegations of the Russians directed hacking into the Democratic Party during the election season, the president-elect has publicly sided with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over U.S. intelligence. The president-elect tweeted, "Julian Assange said a 14- year-old could have hacked John Podesta. Why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info."

The president-elect has repeatedly dismissed claims by U.S. intelligence pointing to the Russians for the hack and the release of the John Podesta's e-mails.

ROMANS: All this ahead of the hearings this morning by the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning foreign cyber threats to the U.S.

Meanwhile, a comprehensive review of Russia's meddling in the U.S. election is expected to be released on Monday. This as we learn more about Trump's plans to overhaul the way he will receive critical intelligence once he is in the White House.

Here is Sara Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning, John and Christine.

Donald Trump going to battle not just with U.S. intelligence agencies but also with some leaders of his won party. That as he takes to Twitter once again to suggest that he doesn't believe U.S. intelligence agencies assessment that Russia attempted to meddle in the U.S. election. Instead suggesting he may be more likely to believe Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, who insists that none of his information about Hillary Clinton's campaign came from the Russian government.

But just because Donald Trump says that he's not inclined to believe the intelligence agencies doesn't mean all members of his party are following suit.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I have a lot more faith in our intelligence officers serving around the world, very smart and experienced analysts that we have here in the nation's capital than I do on people like Julian Assange.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This was done by the Russians and I hope by Friday, President-elect Trump will come to that realization and ignore Mr. Assange. Not only should he ignore Julian Assange, he should condemn him for what he's done to our country, putting our soldiers at risk, putting our foreign policy at risk. Julian Assange is no friend of America and he's no friend of democracy.

MURRAY: Now, we heard a number of other Republican officials echo Lindsey Graham's concerns about Russia's attempts to meddle in the U.S. election and also about Julian Assange's credibility. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says Donald Trump's concern is not with the raw intelligence gathered, but rather the conclusion that Russia attempted to interfere in the U.S. election. He says that is what Trump will ask intelligence officials about when he meets with them in New York on Friday.

Back to you, guys.


BERMAN: All right. There's that and an even newer development. Overnight, we learned that Donald Trump wants to limit the power of the director of national intelligence. According to sources close to the transition team, the president-elect's pick for national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn believes the DNI, the director of national intelligence, often gets in the way of the 16 agencies it represents. Now, it is worth noting that General Flynn has clashed in the past

with the current National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who was also scheduled to give Trump a highly anticipated briefing on Russia tomorrow. The president-elect is also considering expanding the CIA's human spying abilities, in other words, overseas assets. He thinks the agency is too reliant on electronic spying.

ROMANS: The Republicans are moving forward with their longstanding promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Vice President-elect Mike Pence met privately with House and Senate with Republicans on Capitol Hill yesterday. Later, he made it clear the Affordable Care Act will be dismantled through a series of executive action and legislation, even though there is no concrete plan to replace it.


GOV. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Obamacare has failed. All the promises of Obamacare have shown to be false and broken promises.

[04:05:01] And the American people want us to start over, to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the kind of reforms that will give the American people more choices when it comes to health insurance. Releasing the power of the free market is the pathway toward expanding access and affordability of health care and the American people know it.


ROMANS: President Obama also made a rare appearance on the Hill yesterday, urging Democrats not to help with the new health care law. We get more this morning from CNN's Manu Raju.


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

The fight over Obamacare really began in earnest on day two of the new Congress. And Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, came to Capitol, met with House and Senate Republicans, and they discussed how to move forward on the repeal of Obamacare and the replacement. Although not many details on what would be in that replacement, other than the fact that Donald Trump as president will move on executive actions and Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, assuming he is confirmed, will move on things administratively as well.

Now, on the Democratic side, they are digging in. They're saying, "We will not work with Republicans on a replacement if the Obamacare plan is ultimately repealed."

President Obama himself making that case yesterday to Democrats in a closed-door session, saying, we will not, quote, "rescue Republicans if they replace the plan", even saying -- suggesting that what Republicans are doing is, quote, "Trumpcare." He thought that it would pay a political price if Republicans do repeal the law, saying that the town halls will be outrageous. There will be storms of protesters and activists expressing their concerns at these Republicans districts and states.

If they move forward with this, this is all the beginning of the very long debate here that will dominate the next two years on Capitol Hill -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: All right, Manu.

The Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says when it comes to Obamacare, Republicans are like the dog who caught the bus. They don't know what to do next. Senator Schumer is warning that a Republican repeal of Obamacare without a plan to replace it would instantly devastate rural hospitals and leave millions of Americans vulnerable.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The Republican plan to cut health care would not make America great again. It would make America sick again and lead to chaos instead of affordable care. Republicans would create chaos in the health system because they are stuck between a rock and hard place and have no idea what to put in place of the Affordable Care Act. They had five years when they talked about repeal. There still isn't a plan to replace it on the table because they don't have one.


ROMANS: Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is firing back at Schumer for threatening to block President-elect Trump's pick for the vacancy in the Supreme Court. McConnell claims any attempt by Democrats to obstruct Trump will draw the wrath of voters.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Senator Schumer said in the second Bush administration that they would not confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the last 18 months of President Bush 43's tenure. Apparently, there's yet a new standard now which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate and we'll be looking forward to receiving a nomination and moving forward on it.


BERMAN: All right. Republicans will not move forward with an infrastructure package in the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency. That would break a promise made repeatedly by the president-elect last year. The chairman of the House Transportation Committee says Republicans will first have to focus on figuring out how to pay for the $1 trillion plan.

ROMANS: All right. China is slamming President-elect Trump for his obsession with Twitter. An editorial by China's state-run news agency criticizes Trump's Twitter diplomacy, calling it undesirable. The editorial also blasts Trump's recent negative tweets about the U.N. and China and accuses the president-elect of treating diplomacy like a child's game.

Donald Trump naming Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton and his pick for the chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton has deep ties to the financial industry. He is currently a partner at the high powered law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. That's a go-to law firm for hedge funds, for the big money advisors.

He advised Goldman Sachs on its government bailout. Clayton also represented Bear Stearns during its fire sales. J.P. Morgan Chase in 2008. Most recently, he worked on the Alibaba IPO.

If confirmed, Clayton wants the SEC to strike the balance between providing oversight and helping the economy. He says, quote, "We will carefully monitor our financial sector, as we set policy that encourages American companies to do what they do best, create jobs."

This will be a tricky thing to do. The SEC is responsible for rooting out financial crimes like fraud and ensuring capital markets are fair for all investors. Trump says he wants to rollback regulations and unleashed the American economy. But he's also criticized bankers and hedge fund managers saying during the campaign, that some are, quote, "getting away with murder."

[04:10:06] For many people who say all of Donald Trump's tough talk on the campaign trail about, you know, holding the Wall Street guys accountable, you know, on behalf of main street, he is tapping into the pool of talent to run his administration.

BERMAN: Hold them accountable while they are in the room with him apparently working for him.

The state of California is gearing up for a legal battle with a President Trump. Legislative leaders announced they have hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to advise them when they need to challenge what will be President Trump's policies on issues including immigration, civil rights and climate change. They insist they will not allow the president-elect to undo the progress they say they made. Former Attorney General Holder who served under President Obama says he is honored to be asked.

All right. We have deeply troubling video from Chicago. This was all aired on Facebook live. Four people abusing a bound man with mental challenges. We're going to discuss this next.


BERMAN: Chicago police arrested four people over disturbing torture video broadcast on Facebook live. This 30-minute video shows a group kicking, punching and cutting a man with special needs while shouting anti-Trump and anti-white slurs. Now, we do need to warn you. This video is tough to watch and deeply offensive.

Here is CNN's Rosa Flores.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Christine, Chicago police say that they believe that this victim was targeted because he has mental health challenges. Now, they do say that the victim knew at least one of the offenders and at least initially, the offenders and the victims were together willingly.

But that changed. You will see why in this video, but I do have to warn you that it is very disturbing.


[04:15:07] FLORES: Now, you'll see in the video the victim is white, that the offenders are black. There's a lot of anti-Trump language going back and forth. So, the obvious question is, is racially motivated? Is this a hate crime?

And the answer is we don't know. Police don't know. They are investigating that. They tell us that they don't have a motive in this particular case.

But they are working on it. They say they don't know a lot of details. For example, they don't exactly know how much time the victim spent with the offenders. They believe it was between 24 to 48 hours. They're still investigating that.

But at this point, they do four offenders in custody.

REPORTER: Can you give us your reaction to seeing this video and what happened on this?

EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: Have you seen the video? It is sickening. It makes you wonder what would make individuals treat somebody like that.

You know, so I have been a cop for 28 years. I have seen things that you shouldn't see in the lifetime. But it still amazes me. You still see things that you just shouldn't.

So, I'm not going to say it shocked me, but it was sickening.

FLORES: As for the victim, they are not going into the extent of his injuries. But they do tell us that he is highly traumatized -- John and Christine.


FLORES: All right. Rosa Flores, again, just unconscionable.

The nuclear threat from North Korea has South Korea taking action. Officials in Seoul setting up a special brigade to target Kim Jong-un in the event of war. Its sole purpose will be to remove or paralyze North Korea's leader and his regime.

The brigade was originally planned for 2019, but South Korean military officials are speeding things up because they expect further provocation from the North this year.

BERMAN: Belgium prosecutors revealing suspect Anis Amri's likely movements after he orchestrated the deadly truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. Police say surveillance video shows Amri traveled from Germany to Brussels where he spotted at a train station two days later. It is believed he then traveled in France to Italy where he was gunned down by authorities in a shootout in Milan just four days after fleeing Berlin.

The details come as a Tunisian man was detained for allegedly helping Amri carry out the attack. But the movements there, you can see through your Europe, through the entirety almost of Western Europe do show some of the issues battling terror. You know, there are no borders.

ROMANS: No borders, you're right.

All right. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports a pardon for Israeli soldier Elor Azaria. Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter by an Israeli court for shooting a 21-year-old Palestinian suspect, shot him in the head while the suspect was lying on a road. The case has divided Israelis. Azaria sentencing is scheduled for Sunday.

BERMAN: An emotional and sometimes bizarre first day in the sentencing phase for convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. What he told the jury. That's next.


[04:21:28] ROMANS: All right. The sentencing phase continues in the trial of convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Day one featured gut-wrenching testimony in an odd, twisted opening statement from Roof that drew sobs and groans from the victim's families and prosecutors offered up a stunning revelation of their own.

CNN's Martin Savidge was inside the courtroom in Charleston, South Carolina.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Good morning, Christine.

What a remarkable first day of the penalty phase of the Dylann Roof trial this was. I mean, keep in mind here what exactly transpired. First and foremost, you have a convicted mass murderer, a self confessed racist, who now is acting as his own attorney and defense, standing up and talking directly to the same 12 jurors that had convicted him.

While listening to all of this were at least a number of survivors and many of the victims' families. You have the prosecution that is up there basically saying Dylann Roof deserves the death penalty if anybody deserves the death penalty. And they outlined over and over how the circumstances of the killings that he carried out were worse than in any other kind of killing that had recently taken place.

It was also brought out that Dylann Roof six weeks after being captured continued to write about these crimes. And if you thought that he had any "come to Jesus" moment? No.

According to the prosecution, he wrote, "I do not regret what I did. I'm not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed."

And then the most dramatic moment of all, Dylann Roof himself standing up in the courtroom, walking towards those jurors. And what did he say? He didn't ask for mercy, didn't express any remorse.

He simply said essentially, "I'm not crazy. Anything you may have heard regarding my mental state of mind, you should disregard. I have no mental illness." And then he sat down.

After that came the first of what will be a long list of witness testimonies, much of it heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.

That was just day one -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: In Arizona, a police officer caught on camera punching a female suspect in the face has resigned. The Flagstaff Officer Jeff Bonar was criticized by independent investigators and would have been terminated if he did not step down, that's according to chief of police.

Video of Bonar striking Marissa Morris surfaced on Facebook yesterday. That's awful. Bonar went to Morris's home in November to serve an eviction notice.

ROMANS: All right. Service is back to normal in the Long Island railroad this morning after a derailment during the morning rush Wednesday injured more than 100 passengers. The train plowed through a metal bumper and jumped the tracks as it was pulling into the Atlantic terminal in Brooklyn. Officials suggested it was a case of human error. They're ruling out terrorism. Federal investigators say it will take several days to determine exactly what went wrong. It's a really, really busy stop there.

BERMAN: All right. Millions of folks in the Southeast bracing for the extreme cold and possibility of snow this weekend. Let's get the forecast from meteorologist Derek Van Dam.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John and Christine.

Absolutely frigid day ahead of us across the Plains, all the way stretching across the Great Lakes region. When you factor in the winds, we are talking about temperatures ranging from 20 to 40 degrees below freezing. Very, very cold air. And that cold front responsible for the chilly conditions is sagging further and further South. [04:25:03] So, places like Atlanta, Chattanooga and International, you

will feel the frigid temperatures as well.

Look at the temperature trend over the next seven days. And the New England coastline, you will not escape the cold air. Look at temperatures. They get colder from here if you are in New York City. You top 33 today.

But temperatures plummet through the weekend. Look at Chicago, 14. Minneapolis, two lonely degrees.

Now, our next big winter weather subject is a potential for a snowstorm across the Southeast. It's all about the placement of this low pressure tracking across Florida and Georgia border. Take a look at the computer models, still the potential for snow for Atlanta metro.

Back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Snow.

President-elect wants to alter the way he receives intelligence when he gets into office. We'll tell you how and why, next.


BERMAN: All right. New this morning, frustration trying to boil over between the president-elect and Senate Republicans. Donald Trump dismissive of intelligence on Russian hacks, open to Julian Assange's take on election hacking, now apparently looking to overhaul the intelligence system in the U.S.

ROMANS: The battle over the future of Obamacare drawing in the president himself. He is trying to lay a road map for Democrats, urging them to turn up the pressure on the GOP, as the Republicans begin the process of gutting his signature law.

BERMAN: And video from Chicago that is just so troubling and offensive. A mentally challenged man bound and tortured on Facebook live. The rhetoric his attackers used could make this a hate crime. That's ahead.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: Good morning. Nice to see you. I'm Christine Romans. It is 29, almost 30 minutes past the hour.

Let's begin with Donald Trump this morning, targeting the U.S. intelligence community and widening the divide between his own party.