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Trump Shaking Up Intelligence Agencies; Obamacare Battle Heats Up; Video Shows Group Beating Man with Special Needs. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 5, 2017 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. New this morning, a divide emerging between the president-elect and Senate Republicans, that over Trump's support of Julian Assange over U.S. intelligence. Now, Donald Trump may be looking to reshape the entire intelligence apparatus.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Republicans and Democrats digging in for a battle to define the nation's health care system. The GOP beginning the process of repealing Obamacare, but with no replacement. We'll tell you how President Obama tried to rally Democrats.

BERMAN: And video just awful to see. Mentally challenged man in Chicago bound and tortured on Facebook live. We'll tell you what his captors were saying during the assault. That's ahead.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you all this morning. It is Thursday, January 5th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And let's start with Donald Trump taking on the entire U.S. intelligence community and widening the divide within his own party. The president-elect continuing to express skepticism about Russia's interference in the presidential election. And now, he seems to be siding with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over his own intelligence team.

[05:00:04] Trump tweeting, "Julian Assange said a 14-year-old could hack John Podesta. Why was the DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info."

Trump has repeatedly dismissed claims by U.S. intelligence pointing to the Russians for the hack and the release of John Podesta e-mails.

BERMAN: All this comes just hours before a highly anticipated hearing. The Senate Armed Services Committee, concerning foreign cyber threats to the United States. A comprehensive review of Russia's meddling in the U.S. election is expected to be released to the public on Monday. President Obama gets it today. President-elect Trump gets it tomorrow.

And this all comes as we are learning about the president-elect's plans to perhaps overhaul the intelligence system. More on that in a moment.

First CNN's 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.


ROMANS: All right. Sara, thank you.

Donald Trump is also determined to limit the power of the director of national intelligence. According to sources close to the transition, the president-elect's pick for national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, believes the DNI often gets in the way of the 16 agencies it represents. Worth noting, Flynn has clashed in the past with current National Intelligence Director James Clapper who was also scheduled to give Trump a highly anticipated briefing on Russia tomorrow. President-elect is also considering expanding the CIA's human spying capabilities. He thinks the agency is too reliant on electronic spying, John.

BERMAN: So, the DNI, director of national intelligence, came into effect after September 11th.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: And the job was to try to coordinate the intelligence agencies.

There has been criticism from all parties about the office over the last few years. Some people do say the whole office is bloated and needs adjustment. Now, that's one argument. The other argument is the possibility of the timing where Donald Trump is suggesting he may want to meddle in the office, just as he's getting intelligence from them on something that he's been against. So, stay tuned.

BERMAN: Republicans are forging ahead with their longstanding promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Vice President-elect Mike Pence met privately with House and Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill. Later, he made clear that the Affordable Care Act will be dismantled though a series of executive actions and legislation, even though there is no single concrete plan to replace it.


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


BERMAN: President Obama also made a rare appearance on Capitol Hill. He urged Democrats not to help Republicans with the new health care law.

Let's get the latest 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. [05:05:06] 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.


ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju, thanks.

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. Schumer is warning the GOP, 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.


BERMAN: All right. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is firing back at Senator Schumer for threatening to block President-elect Trump's pick for the vacancy on the Supreme Court. McConnell claims any attempt by Democrats to obstruct the president 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. Republicans will not move forward on the infrastructure package in the first 100 days of the presidency. That breaks a promise made 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.

BERMAN: China is slamming President-elect Trump for his use of Twitter. An editorial by China's state-run news agency criticizes Trump's Twitter diplomacy, calling it undesirable. The editorial also blasts Mr. Trump's recent negative tweets about the United Nations and China and accuses the president-elect of treating diplomacy like, quote, "a child's game".

ROMANS: The state of California is gearing up for a running 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 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 have made in California. Holder, who served under President Obama as attorney general, says he is honored to be asked.

BERMAN: We've got to lot to discuss.

ROMANS: Oh, you think so?

BERMAN: Just 15 days from the inauguration. We have the right person here to discuss it with us. CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott joins us live after the break.

ROMANS: Good morning.


[05:11:50] BERMAN: All right. President-elect Donald Trump now apparently questioning some key parts of the entire intelligence apparatus. Let's discuss this now with CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott.

ROMANS: Good morning.


BERMAN: Thank you so much for being here.

We've got a lot going on this morning. "The Wall Street Journal", let me hold up the headline here.

ROMANS: Banner headline.

ROMANS: "Trump plans spy agency overhaul." You know, "The Wall Street Journal" is saying that he wants to totally revamp the director of national intelligence. CNN is reporting on this, it says he may not be going as far as that. But he is clearly questioning the structure right now.

Others have done that before. Though now some are looking at it and saying the timing is interesting given it is days before he's going to get to his briefing on Russian hacking from the intelligence services.

SCOTT: Right. And as you can imagine, there's been quite a bit of push back, because there is already some concern that Donald Trump doesn't really understand the intelligence community as well as we would like a president-elect to do so.

Along those lines, there's also some concern that Michael Flynn, his national security adviser pick, is kind of behind of this push back. So, there's been criticism that the discussion may be more political than anything else.

ROMANS: The intelligence community, even as, you know, Clapper is going to sit there and give him a definitive report of the intelligence conclusions on Russia. And you -- know, I mean, was the intelligence community in support of Hillary Clinton in assuming a Hillary Clinton win and so that's what the team Trump is saying, that they're just sour grapes and they've got to get used to it?

SCOTT: That's certainly what team Trump is saying. But what the intelligence community is saying is that the concerns with Russia aren't political at all. There's concern that if nothing is done, it will continue. We had Lindsey Graham on CNN yesterday said that if Donald Trump doesn't respond aggressively, we could see China or Iran do something to the Republicans in future elections, like what they believe they saw Russia treat the Democrats this past election.

BERMAN: So, of course, a lot of Trump's questions about intelligence and particularly the intelligence on Russian hacking has come in tweets from the president-elect. Donald Trump likes to use Twitter a lot. We talk about that all the time.

Sean Spicer is going to be the press secretary. He was sitting with David Axelrod, our friend David Axelrod in Chicago, and asked Sean about the president-elect's use of Twitter. Watch this.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: When you wake up in the morning -- if you sleep --


AXELROD: Do you look with a certain sense of dread?

SPICER: No. No. I do look there first, because that's what's going to drive the news. You saw the House vote the other day. He sends a single tweet out saying the idea the House is not focused on tax reform and health care and instead focused on the Office of Government Ethics. You know, immediately it is withdrawn.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: So everything he said there is true. It was withdrawn. Other people saying there were other forces at work. It happened after the tweet.

ROMANS: His tweets do drive the news. China has complained about, saying that it's child play, that he should not be doing Twitter diplomacy. He's also, you know, tweeting about Julian Assange, you know? Instead of 140 characters, I would say muddying the waters about what he thinks about Julian Assange or what he thinks about the role of the Russians.

"Julian Assange said a 14-year-old could have hacked John Podesta. Why was DNC so careless? Also the Russians did not give him the info."

Should we listen to that sound byte from 2010 from Julian Assange from Donald Trump? Listen to this 2010 sound byte.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to talk about WikiLeaks. You had nothing to do --

TRUMP: But I think it's disgraceful, I think he should be like death penalty or something.


ROMANS: I think he should be like death penalty or something. Wow, what a difference six years makes.

SCOTT: A huge difference. I think we were surprised to find that clip. But CNN's KFILE is awesome at doing things like that.

It's really interesting. Yesterday, we had a story about other people switching their position on Julian Assange when it seems to benefit them politically. Sarah Palin as well, who's been a big Donald Trump supporter.

But as we said, quite a bit of push back on this as a whole. This isn't political to the intelligence community. It is what they are saying. Even some Republican senators are saying. This is a national security issue that should not be handled on Twitter and that should not be taken lightly.

BERMAN: We should note, there is a big hearing today on Capitol Hill. John McCain of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he is holding a hearing on foreign cyber hacking. And, you know, McCain and Lindsey Graham was on this committee. They have a lot of questions about this. They do not like the way the transition has handled it.

SCOTT: Very much so. We saw Donald Trump say he knows things about hacking that no one else knows, but he was going to reveal that yesterday or the day before and we still haven't gotten that information.

I think everyone wants information to see what is happening, because all of this is serious. I think most Americans want it to stop.

ROMANS: All right. Eugene Scott, come back in about 20 minutes. We'll talk more about. There's so much going on today. Read all the papers and come back.

All right. Donald Trump naming Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton as his pick for the 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. This is a go-to firm for hedge funds and the big money players, the inside players.

He's advised Goldman Sachs on its government bailout. He's also represented Bear Stearns during its fire sale to J.P. Morgan Chase in the financial crisis. More 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 is going to be a tricky thing to do because the SEC is a watchdog. It's responsible for rooting out financial crimes like fraud. Think Bernie Madoff, think all kinds of insider trading fraud. It's about ensuring capital markets are fair for all investors.

Trump says he wants to roll back regulations. He wants to unleash the U.S. economy. But he's also criticized bankers and hedge fund managers. He said during the campaign that some are, quote, "getting away with murder".

A lot of people see the tone from Donald Trump during the campaign when he was very anti-Wall Street, very anti-Goldman Sachs, very anti- you know, the big money inside players and for the working class voter. Now, you see the people he criticized throughout the campaign are the people circling him.

BERMAN: He's also been very consistently anti-regulation, though, at the same time. These things aren't always consistent. This pick doesn't seem out of his philosophical realm.

ROMANS: No, he picks people he thinks know how to play the game and win that game. He's obviously picking people from inside that talent people because those people know how it works.

BERMAN: And Clayton does know the game, for sure.


BERMAN: All right. Video from Chicago that will -- it is just deeply, deeply troubling. It is all shown on Facebook live. Four people abusing a bound man with mental challenges. We'll discuss next.


[05:22:27] ROMANS: 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. This group of people shouting anti-Trump and anti-white slurs.

We need to warn you. The video is offensive and difficult to watch.

CNN's Rosa Flores has more.


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.


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.


BERMAN: That's just awful. The sentencing phase continues in the trial of the convicted

Charleston shooter Dylann Roof. Day one featured gut-wrenching testimony as 22-year-old Roof, a self described racist, spoke directly to same panel of jurors who found him guilty of murder.

[05:25:02] He did not ask for mercy and said he does not suffer from any mental illness. Prosecutors are asking for the death penalty. Six weeks after he was captured, Roof continued to write about the massacre, saying did not regret what he did.

ROMANS: In Arizona, a police officer caught on camera punching a female suspect in the face has resigned. Flagstaff Officer Jeff Bonar was criticized by independent investigators. He would have been fired. He would have been terminated if he did not step down, according to the chief of police. Bonar went to Marissa Morris's home in November to serve an eviction notice before the altercation.

All right. The president-elect wants to drastically alter the way he receives intelligence when he takes office. The whole intelligence apparatus under the microscope. We will tell you how and why, next.


ROMANS: New this morning, frustration starting to boil over with the president-elect and Senate Republicans. Now Trump remaining dismissive of intelligence, but open to Julian Assange's take on the election hacking. Now, Trump is looking to reshape how intelligence is delivered to the White House.

BERMAN: The battle over the future of Obamacare draws in the man himself. President Obama. He lays out a road map for Democrats urging them to basically keep the pressure on Republicans in the months and years ahead.

ROMANS: And video from Chicago that will lead you angry. A mentally challenged man bound and tortured on Facebook live. Words the attackers used that could make this a hate crime. We got that, ahead.

All right. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: Nice to see you this morning. I'm John Berman. We're looking at 30 minutes past the hour right now.

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 doubts about whether the whole intelligence apparatus is set up the right way to begin with.