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EARLY START

Booker Battles Sessions; Nepotism Controversy over Kushner Appointment; Clemson Wins National Championship. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:09] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, a never before seen move by a sitting U.S. senator. Cory Booker says he will testify against his Senate colleague during his confirmation for attorney general. He is not the only one.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jared Kushner's new role in his father-in- law's White House. It is not for confirmation, but that is not stopping Democrats from challenging the move. I'll tell you how.

ROMANS: And an epic rematch goes down to the final seconds. Clemson and Alabama battling right down to the finish. We will show you who emerged as kings of college football.

BERMAN: It was a ridiculous game.

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

BERMAN: It is so nice to have you back.

ROMANS: Oh, thank you. Isn't it that really?

BERMAN: I do. It was awful. I was all by myself. There was all this news.

ROMANS: In the middle of the night.

BERMAN: Terrible.

I'm John Berman with a partner today. It is Tuesday, January 10th, 4:00 in the East.

Breaking overnight, this is about to get contentious if it wasn't already. Word that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker will take the unprecedented step of testifying against the confirmation of another sitting senator. Now, Booker has been added to the witness list for the confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions. Those hearings begin today.

Senator Booker says he is concerned about the president-elect's pick for attorney general. That's Jeff Sessions, especially what he calls Sessions' failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans. In a statement, Senator Booker said, "I do not take lightly the

decision to testify against a Senate colleague. But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of the nominee is a call to conscience. The attorney general is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice. And based on his record, I lack confidence that Senator Sessions can honor this duty."

Also set to testify against Senator Sessions is civil rights icon, Representative John Lewis, a congressman from Georgia.

Sessions is winning new support from Republicans, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice is from Alabama, just like Sessions. And she wrote a letter praising the senator as a friend and man, quote, "committed to justice as well as law and order."

ROMANS: All right. Donald Trump's appointment of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to a senior White House post is also getting some scrutiny this morning. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are asking the Justice Department and the Office of Government Ethics to review Kushner's appointment as a senior adviser to the president. They say it may violate conflict of interest and anti-nepotism laws.

Kushner is attempting to answer the conflict of interest concerns by resigning from all his other jobs. He's transferring assets, including "The New York Observer", to a family trust. And he will work in the White House for no pay, for no salary.

As for the nepotism question, Kushner's lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, argues that the president-elect has sweeping authority to pick advisors he chooses. And the White House is not an agency. It's one of the ways that they are trying to look at this.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to address his own potential conflict of interests at a news conference tomorrow.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Trump previewed his stance on divesting from his business ventures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: All I can say is it's very simple, very easy. Get ready for a wow. Very, very easy to do.

REPORTER: Have you already started that process?

TRUMP: Yes, very much so. A lot, but it's really a very simple process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. CNN will have full coverage of the president- elect's news conference, his first in nearly six months. That's tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

BERMAN: All right. Also beginning today, confirmation hearings for the president-elect's secretary of homeland security nominee, General John Kelly. This as the confirmation hearings for secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos has been postponed next week. The hearing had been set for tomorrow. The official reason for the delay is to accommodate the Senate schedule, but Senate Democrats have been pushing for postponement.

So, a federal ethics watchdog can finish its review of Betsy DeVos. She is a very wealthy woman. They want to look into her background and investments. Democrats say they are concerned about the potential conflict of interests that DeVos might have.

ROMANS: New questions being raised this morning about Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson. His confirmation hearings start tomorrow.

Federal filings show that during Rex Tillerson's time as CEO of ExxonMobil, the oil giant did business with Iran, Syria and Sudan, through a foreign subsidiary. At the time, those countries were under U.S. sanctions, as a state sponsor of terrorism. The SEC documents were unearthed by the liberal American Bridge Super PAC and shared first with "USA Today." ExxonMobil says the deals were legal because a subsidiary was based in Europe. The transactions did not involve U.S. employees.

At tomorrow's hearing, Tillerson will also certainly be questioned about his business ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin.

But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob corker says he does not think Tillerson's views on Russia will be a problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't get the sense his views on Russia are out of the mainstream at all.

[04:05:01] So, look, obviously on both sides of the aisle, people will ask that question when he's here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Manu Raju tracking down Senator Corker there. So, you think there's a lot going on on Capitol Hill.

But wait, there's more. Senior intelligence officials, including the heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA, they will testify in open session about Russian hacking activities. The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a full hearing focusing on civilian control of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is noted that two of Donald Trump's senior cabinet nominees are recently retired generals, James Mattis and John Kelly.

For the very latest on this, let's bring in national security reporter Ryan Browne live in Washington for your EARLY START debut.

Good morning, Ryan.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Good morning, John. That's right. This will be the first time the leaders of the intelligence community will be facing questions of the Senate. That comes after Friday's report they put out which said that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his intelligence services to undermine American democracy, damage Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and had a preference for President-elect Donald Trump. Now, the intelligence community testified earlier last week before the report came out and deferred a lot of the tough question about motivations of the Russians and things like that until after the report release.

So, now, we can expect a lot more tough scrutiny from members of the Congress, both from the Democrats and the Republicans on this issue. And then, of course, with the Senate Armed Services Committee, they'll be looking at the idea of civilian control of the military, controversial issue because General James Mattis, Trump's pick for secretary of defense, hasn't been out of uniform long enough and there is a law saying that they have to be out of uniform for seven years before they can serve as defense secretary and therefore, they're going to will need a special waiver. And this is something that some members of the Senate, including New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand have said that they're going to oppose, based on the principles of civilian control of the military.

So, this hearing will allow members of the Senate to kind of voice their concerns and kind of go through some of the more complicated issues, because again, the Pentagon is not just the military. There's a huge civilian workforce involved, there's a lot of moving pieces and moving parts and I think this is something that a lot of the different senators will weigh in on it.

It will give us a bit of a picture in terms of how they're going to vote, both on General Mattis' confirmation and the upcoming special waiver legislation that will allow him to serve as secretary of defense.

BERMAN: No, it's an important discussion. I think all senators welcome the discussion. I don't think there is serious opposition to General Mattis overall to head up the Pentagon. So, we will see how this goes.

Ryan, great to have you with us. Thank you so much.

BROWNE: Thank you, John.

ROMANS: All right. Bernie Sanders is calling on fellow Democrats to challenge not obstruct incoming President Donald Trump. The Vermont senator and former challenger for the Democratic nomination, appeared at a CNN town hall in Washington last night. He blasted Republicans for, quote, "shamelessly" refusing to consider President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.

So, he told our Chris Cuomo, Democrats should take a higher road.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: What the GOP did the day literally on the day that President Obama was inaugurated, they sit down and they said, OK, our strategy is going to be that we will be obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. We will do everything that we can to make sure that he accomplishes as little as possible and then we'll go to the American people and say, see, this guy didn't accomplish anything. Vote for us.

Not, I don't think that's what we'd do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: On Obamacare, Senator Sanders says Democrats damn well won't stand for repeal without a viable replacement.

BERMAN: All right. Senate Republicans are scrambling to develop a plan to quickly replace key elements of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. Republican leaders will not say which parts of the law they see as replaceable immediately.

And now, we are hearing from some Republicans trying to put off a larger repeal into the spring. Bloomberg and others are reporting that at least five senators want to extend the target date for a repeal bill to March 3rd. Right now, the language on what they are voting on calls -- not to happen in January 27th. They want concrete options to vote on to replace Obamacare because they fear that possibly if they don't have that, that millions of Americans could lose their coverage.

ROMANS: Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay plans to file a police report against Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California for removing a controversial painting from the walls of the Capitol.

Now, critics complained this painting was anti-police. This artist is a high school student in Congressman Clay's district, who depicted officers -- some officers as pigs in this contest-winning painting. Congressman Hunter personally unscrewed it from the hall and delivered it to Congressman Clay's office on Friday. Each of these Congress members has, one of their constituents can put a piece of art on the wall.

So, there's arts from all 50 states. Duncan Hunter took it down. Clay wants to put it back.

BERMAN: All right. President Obama is putting final touches on his farewell address. He will deliver that tonight. Aides say it will be less of a victory lap and more of a call to action for the next generation. Farewell addresses are generally forward looking.

According to spokesman Josh Earnest, the president intends to deliver just such a forward looking speech that is in Chicago tonight.

[04:10:01] He says he will briefly examine the progress of the last eight years, but will focus more on what he believes the country must do to face challenges ahead. That speech begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. Don't miss it.

ROMANS: Secretary of State John Kerry is apologizing to the LGBT community for decades of discrimination at the State Department. Kerry says for decades, going back as early as the 1940s, the Department of State investigated LGBT staffers, forced many to resign, refused to consider applicants because of their sexual orientation. The outgoing secretary calls the practices wrong then and wrong today, and praised the State Department for righting those wrongs in recent years.

BERMAN: All right. This is worth seeing. Epic comeback and a finish for the ages in last night's college football championship. Clemson outscored the Crimson Tide 21-7 in the fourth quarter to win the national title. They beat Alabama 35-31. Now, Alabama retook the lead with two minutes to go on a 30-yard touchdown run by freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Watch this, he takes off and he gets all the way to the end zone. Then you might think, oh, Alabama has it locked up. But no. The Tigers Hunter Renfrow with one second touchdown of the game, a two- yard pass with one second remaining to give Clemson its first national title since 1981, and deny Alabama a fifth title under coach Nick Saban.

This game was nuts. I mean, Clemson has 14 giant wide receivers who kept catching passes right up until the end. This set up a wild celebration on the campus of Clemson, as you can imagine. I think they're excited.

You know what will happen tomorrow? A lot of good learning. I think there will be a lot of learning on the campus of Clemson University. All classes will be attended and --

ROMANS: With 100 percent participation.

BERMAN: Yes, the tuition that they are all paying I think will go to a good cause.

ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: Congratulations to Clemson. This was a great win.

ROMANS: We hope their professors are understanding.

BERMAN: I'm sure the professors were in the bar.

ROMANS: Maybe.

All right. It is 12 minutes past the hour. A growing manhunt overnight for the man police say gunned down a Florida police officer. Details next.

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[04:15:12] ROMANS: Hundreds of law enforcement officers are blanketing Orlando. They are searching for the gunman who shot and killed a female police officer outside a Walmart. The suspect fled in a vehicle, fired shots at pursuing officer, carjacked another vehicle and eventually sprinted into an apartment complex. Later in the day, a second Orlando law enforcement officer was killed when he crashed his motorcycle looking for this gunman.

We get more from CNN's Ryan Young.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Orlando, there's an all-out manhunt for Markeith Lloyd. $60,000 is being offered by the police departments in this area to catch the man.

Now, if you look behind me, there is a mobile command center that officers have been using throughout the day. They believe they have been pinned in to a certain neighborhood. But so far, they have not been able to find this man.

The officer who was shot and killed, Master Sergeant Debra Clayton. She was told by someone at Walmart that they believe they saw Markeith Lloyd. And when she approached less than two minutes later, she was shot in the chest. She was able to return fire, but police believe he was not able to hit Markeith Lloyd before he was able to get away.

Others officers responded to the area. He took shoots at them as well.

Now, Markeith Lloyd has been on the run for more than 30 days. Police believe he shot his ex-girlfriend who was pregnant at the time. She died. But for 30 days, they have not been able to find him.

JOHN MINA, ORLANDO POLICE CHIEF: Markeith Lloyd needs to turn himself in, not tonight. Not tomorrow. He needs to call and turn himself in now so we can bring this to a peaceful resolution.

JERRY DEMINGS, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF: We're not going anywhere. If we don't have this individual by nightfall, we're not going anywhere. We're going to stay at it until we find him.

YOUNG: And Master Sergeant Debra Clayton is a woman that so many people in this community apparently love. In fact, she had a child in college. She was recently married. And so many people talk about her good works throughout the community. She even helped get 200 kids their first job this summer.

Officers here tell us they will work hard to find the man who they believe killed her in cold blood.

Reporting in Orlando, Ryan Young, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: That's a horrifying loss for that community.

The Iraq war veteran who allegedly opened fire inside the airport in Ft. Lauderdale has been appointed a federal public defender after telling a judge he has no job and only $5 to $10 in the bank. The alleged shooter has been ordered held until a detention hearing scheduled for next week. He said "yes" when the judge asked him if he understood the charges against him and the possibility that he could face the death penalty.

ROMANS: Fifteen Jewish community centers in several states had to be evacuated Monday after receiving bomb threats. The centers are located in New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. No explosives were found with any of those facilities. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive says it is aware of the threats and is prepared to assist local police if asked.

Fresh off Fiat Chrysler's decision to invest a billion dollars in two U.S. plants, the company says it needs more clarity from the incoming Trump administration. Speaking at the Detroit Auto Show yesterday, CEO Sergio Marchionne said long term planning for the company's Mexico operations are on hold mainly because of Trump's threat of 35 percent tariffs.

The president-elect follows through with that move. Fiat Chrysler may have to withdraw all production from Mexico. He didn't say where production would shift to, but that it would hurt business.

A new CNN Money analysis shows just how big the auto industry is in the U.S. trade with Mexico. The number of products shipped north of the border, cars and car parts. That's bigger than the other top five categories combined. And it's also bigger than the entire U.S. trade deficit with Mexico, right?

So, if you ended that, suddenly, you would have no trade deficit. It is something that Trump ripped on the campaign trail as being bad for American workers.

BERMAN: All right. Questions of concern frankly this morning surrounding New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose. He never showed up for last night's home game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek would not elaborate, saying only after the game that he does expect Rose back to the team at some point and everything will become clear later on.

Teammate Joakim Noah says he spoke with Rose and he is okay. There are reports that he is back in Chicago, his hometown, dealing with a family issue. The Knicks lost the game last night 110-96.

ROMANS: All right. After years of drought, the West Coast facing a deluge of rain and snow. For the very latest, meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. Well, John and Christine, the big story right now is definitely the system into the West. Drought stricken California needs to have the rain and they're getting it, but unfortunately, it's a little too much rain. And the majority of the rain is going into northern California where many of those areas actually aren't in a drought.

Some of these areas have already picked up four inches of rain and can expect at least another 4 to 10 inches on top of what they already had. So, flooding is a big potential. And also, landslides are going to be triggered likely in the coming days as we add even more moisture to these areas.

[04:20:01] Snow pack also going to increase. Some areas of the sierra could pick up not just a few inches, but we're talking a few more feet on top of what they've already had. And then on the eastern half of the country, we're talking the temperature change. Take a look at Atlanta going from 55 today into the 70s by Friday. Even D.C. warming back into the 60s by Thursday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. Allison, thanks so much.

So, they agreed on the Brexit, U.K. leaving the European Union, but not much else. Now, the United Kingdom's top diplomat, Boris Johnson, a colorful man in his own right, is in the United States meeting with Trump's team and top Republicans. We'll tell you how that's going, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a colorful man, just wrapped up meetings here in the United States with top Republican officials and members of President-elect Donald Trump's inner circle. Now, Boris Johnson, you see a picture of him right there. He is considered a populist. He did back the Brexit, that's Britain's exit from the European Union.

And with Donald Trump about to take office, the United States and the United Kingdom, that relationship will be watched very, very closely to see what the future is.

Joining us now with more, CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.

You know, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump eye to eye on the Brexit, but not always eye to eye on every issue. So, there are serious questions going forward, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Oh yes, look, I'm smiling, because wherever Boris Johnson goes, he carries a huge amount of sort of baggage with him in terms of what he's previously said. When Donald Trump was talking about, during his campaign phase, when he was talking about there were no go areas in London, Boris Johnson was the mayor of London, and he shot back and said, look, I wouldn't go to New York for the risk of running into Donald Trump.

[04:25:10] There was another time during the campaign as well, where Donald Trump was talking about keeping Muslims out of the United States, stopping them from visiting and Boris Johnson's reply to that was, Donald Trump isn't fit to lead the United States. So, he arrives in the United States, in New York, with the explicit

purpose of meeting with people from Trump's campaign, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, he met with. And the reason is very, very simple for Boris Johnson. He wants Britain to have the strongest possible relationship with the United States. He wants British Prime Minister Theresa May to be one of the first world leaders to come to the United States and meet with Donald Trump once the inauguration has happened.

He wants Britain to have a strong trade deal with the United States. Why? Because the Brexit campaign means Britain will leave the European Union. There's a strong possibility of losing significant revenue because of a trade between Britain and Europe. And he hopes, Boris Johnson and Theresa May both hope that a strong relationship, seeing eye to eye with Donald Trump on Brexit and other issues will help garner a boost to the U.S./British trade relationship that can, if you will, make up to some of the losses of pulling out of Europe.

It some ways is political theater. Some ways, it's window dressing. But this is the reality of what Boris Johnson is trying to do.

Also, a little bit on the side here, the U.K. independence leader Nigel Farage, a very big Brexit character, if you will, is the only British politician to met Donald Trump since his election victory. Huge handshake, a big smile between the pair of them. Donald Trump suggesting even that Nigel Farage should be Britain's ambassador to the United States. So, Boris Johnson is trying to marginalize Nigel Farage here as well.

So, there's a lot going on. A colorful character to say the least.

BERMAN: Yes, colorful and theater as you say in the sense that there may not be a spotlight big enough for Boris Johnson and Donald Trump to share together. But some serious economic questions going forward.

All right. Nick, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. Nine hours, nine hours of drama Sunday. The tense relations between the U.S. and Iran now have an even sharper edge. The U.S. defense officials confirming the Navy fired warning shots at Iranian boats on Sunday. It happened when five Iranian boats approached USS Mahan and two other U.S. ships near the Straits of Hormuz. Now, some of those ships were only 900 yards away. Pentagon officials say there were a total of 35 similar encounters last year.

All right. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour.

Trouble brewing for two of Donald Trump's high profile hires. What has one senator ready to testify against one of his colleagues and what has Democrats in Congress pushing back against Trump's son-in- law. We'll tell you, next.

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