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Intel Chiefs Presented Trump with Claims; Trump & Nominees Face A Grilling; President Obama's Farewell. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 11, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Developing overnight -- classified documents presented to President-elect Donald Trump with allegations that operatives of Russia claim to have compromising information about him, the president-elect, both personal and financial. We have exclusive details.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All this ahead on a very big day for Donald Trump, perhaps the biggest day yet. He's getting ready for his first news conference in six months. And his choices for secretary of state nominee and attorney general will face confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: And then the presidential farewell. Barack Obama gives his farewell speech overnight with the message about how he wants the country to go moving forward.

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

ROMANS: Busy day ahead.

BERMAN: Oh my goodness.

ROMANS: So much already to talk about overnight. I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you all this morning. It is Wednesday, January 11th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

All right. New developments this morning on explosive claims you heard first here on CNN. We have learned that the nation's top intelligence officials provided information to President-elect Trump and President Obama last week on claims of Russian efforts to compromise the president-elect.

CNN's Jim Sciutto is on the CNN team that first reported this story. He brings us the very latest.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN that classified documents presented on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election presented last week to President Obama and to President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.

The allegations were part of a two-page synopsis based on memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative whose past work U.S. intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of the allegations which are based primarily on information from Russian sources. But the FBI has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.

The classified briefings last week were presented by four of the most senior intelligence chiefs, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA director, Admiral Michael Rogers.

The two-page synopsis included allegations that will was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, this according to two national security officials.

CNN has confirmed that the synopsis was included in the documents that were presented to Mr. Trump but it cannot confirm if it was discussed in his meeting with those intelligence chiefs.

Now, the transition team for Trump has declined to comment formally to CNN as did the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI, but we do have Donald Trump tweeting apparently in response to the story, calling it fake news -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: All right, Jim. Thanks so much.

Now, neither intelligence officials nor the Trump transition team has offered any kind of formal statements on these revelations. But Trump senior adviser and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, he was on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" overnight where she did give this immediate reaction.


SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS: CNN had a report that the intelligence community briefed both the president and president-elect with allegations that the Russian government has compromising information on President-elect Trump, both business information and personal information. I know this just happened. Can you confirm or comment the fact that the intelligence community has presented this to Donald Trump?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Well, guess what hasn't happened, Seth? Nobody has sourced it. They're all unnamed, unspoken sources in the story. And it says it was based on a Russian investigator to begin with. So, where are we?

MEYERS: I think it was based on an MI-6 British investigation.

CONWAY: Right. Well, one of those and then it says it also may have originated with a Russian investigator. It also says Hillary Clinton -- groups that wanted Hillary Clinton to win may have been behind the investigations itself.

And most importantly, it says that the FBI is trying to confirm it. So, nothing has been confirmed.

And I have to say as an American citizen regardless of your party, or if you don't like politics at all, which are many Americans, we should be concerned that intelligence officials leaked to the press and won't go and tell the president-elect or the president of the United States of United States himself now, Mr. Obama, what the information is. They would rather go tell the press --

MEYERS: But the report was -- the press report was about them going to the president.

CONWAY: And it says that they never briefed him on it. That they appended to two pages on the bottom of his intelligence report.

MEYERS: I believe it said that they did brief him on it.

CONWAY: Well, he has said that he is not aware of that.

MEYERS: OK, that concerns me.


CONWAY: No, no --

[04:05:00] MEYERS: I'm concerned. But in general, I just want to --


MEYERS: No, I understand --

CONWAY: And it's not true.

MEYERS: What is not true? That I'm concerned?

CONWAY: No, that I see --

MEYERS: OK, I assure you that I am.



BERMAN: To be clear what we're reporting, Jim Sciutto has mentioned that CNN has confirmed that the synopsis of the claims was included in the documents presented to the president-elect. We cannot confirm that the information was actually discussed in the meeting with the intelligence chiefs. But again, it was added to that report that was given to the president-elect.

ROMANS: Officials with knowledge of the briefing tell CNN that there was another reason that the intelligence chiefs included that synopsis in their briefing documents. They believe it showed that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties and campaigns but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. The synopsis was not part of an official report of Russian hacks. Some officials said it added to the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton's candidacy and help Trumps.

One high level administration official told CNN, quote, "I have a sense the outgoing administration and intelligence community is setting down the pieces so this must be investigated seriously and run down." The official added, "I think the concern was to be sure that whatever information was out there is put into the system so it is evaluated and it should be and acted upon as necessary", end quote.

BERMAN: Now, the FBI director faced questions about Russian hacking on Capitol Hill. This was in a Senate intelligence committee hearing. James Comey was asked whether the bureau was looking into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia. The FBI director refused to say. This is his exchange with independent Senator Angus King.


SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Mr. Comey, did you answer Senator Wyden's question that there is an investigation underway as to connections between either the political campaigns and the Russian -- Russians?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I didn't say one way or another.

KING: You didn't say --

COMEY: That was my intention at least.

KING: You didn't say one way or another whether even there's an investigation under way?

COMEY: Correct, I don't -- especially in a public forum, we never confirm or deny a pending investigation. I'm not saying --

KING: The irony of you're making that statement there, I cannot avoid. But I'll move on.

COMEY: But we sometimes think differently about closed investigations.


BERMAN: So, the irony that Senator King mentioned there, you know, deciding to silent on this issue. Yesterday was Comey's decision to go very public in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, to tell Congress that the FBI was once again reviewing Hillary Clinton's e- mails.

ROMANS: All right. Concerns about Russia will be in the spotlight on Capitol Hill again this morning. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up the confirmation of President-elect Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

Now, as the CEO of ExxonMobil, the energy giant, Tillerson did extensive business in Russia. But this morning, he's scheduled to give an opening statement saying Russia poses a danger and Russia must be held to account for its actions.

Also in the spotlight, the second day for confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee hears unprecedented testimony against Sessions nomination from a fellow senator, New Jersey's Cory Booker. Testimony also on top from former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and NAACP president and CEO Cornell Brooks who was arrested at a recent set-in at Sessions office.

Yesterday, Sessions defended himself against charges of racism, admitting he didn't handle himself well when allegations first surfaced when he was nominated for a judgeship back in 1996. But the room fell silent some Sessions was asked this question from Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Is grabbing a woman by her genitals without her consent, that sexual assault?


LEAHY: If a sitting president or any other high federal official is accused of committing what the president-elect described in a context in which it could be federally prosecuted, would you be able to prosecute and investigate?

SESSIONS: The president is subject to certain lawful restrictions, and they would be required to be applied by the appropriate law enforcement official.


ROMANS: Also, Tuesday, General John Kelly, Trump's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security appeared to avoid security. He did break from Trump's campaign platform on waterboarding, Kelly saying he'd absolutely abide by U.S. laws prohibiting the use of torture.

BERMAN: Jeff Sessions also said, by the way, that he was against torture yesterday.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: So, pretty much everyone testifying splits from what Donald Trump has said during the campaign on that. But Trump has said that he listened to General James Mattis, his choice to be, you know, defense secretary who said that torture simply doesn't work.

ROMANS: On the campaign trial, Donald Trump said he would use waterboarding again and he would use far worse methods as well.

[04:10:04] BERMAN: Look, I've got to say today is a huge day, right? I mean, the Russian intelligence reporting, the stuff that CNN put out there, it's going to be part of these hearings on Capitol Hill. It's going to be part of this press conference. ROMANS: Yes, and it's interesting to see sort of a glimpse of what the opening statement will be from Rex Tillerson as well, talking a little more hawkish than people thought he might have on Russia.

BERMAN: Right.

ROMANS: So -- all right. For the first time, CNN will host a news conference today. You can watch it right here on CNN at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Now, it was originally scheduled for December 15th, remember? Everything was postponed.

The big question we expect to be answered, how will Trump separate himself from his businesses? Trump has said he will not sell his assets but will transfer them to his sons and that will be complex.

Trump owns some or all of 554 companies. This is according to his most recent disclosure filed in May last year. A hundred forty-four of those do business in 25 foreign countries.

Trump as has full or partial ownership of 52 pieces of real estates with at least $1.4 billion. We're talking hotels, golf courses and homes and commercial buildings.

There is a growing chorus of ethics experts who say the complexity and nature of Trump's businesses require a full separation. Trump has said he won't go that far, but he will go far enough to ensure Americans and lawmakers he will not be acting for the good of his businesses while he was in the White House.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer says the president-elect will give a statement and then take questions.

I'll say when you look at the overlapping, I guess, the tentacles of these businesses, some of these properties are held by multiple partnerships, limited liability companies. I mean, it's almost very difficult to unravel at all.

BERMAN: This is the first time he'll face extended questions on this. We don't know how far he'll go on separating his businesses from the White House.

ROMANS: Right. I'm not sure he will satisfy those critics.

BERMAN: And again, so you have that as an issue today. You have this new report from CNN about this Russian intelligence.

And you also have health care. You know, what is the president-elect going to say on the time frame on Obamacare, because he seems to be at odds right now with the Republicans in Congress. That will be fascinating.

So, with all of that going on, President Obama who still has a few more days in office, he delivered his farewell address last night. This was an emotional farewell with the president urging citizens to stay vigilant in the protection of basic human values. He urged Americans to come together, insisting we rise or fall as one. And what you see here, he got emotional. He teared up when he talked

about the first lady and how she has taken this journey with him.

CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski has our report.



There was so much energy that this hometown crowd for President Obama. The cheering and stomping so thunderous, that it took him a few minutes to even get started. And his speech in fact went on about twice as long as expected.

It was a thank you, a good-bye. But it was a very big cautionary tale. The president going into great detail on what he feels to be a major threat to democracy itself right now, including inequality, racial division, complacency, and people retreating in their own bubbles. I mean, he went off on what he called naked partisanship as well as fake news.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Politics is a battle of ideas. That's how our democracy was designed. In the course of a healthy debate, we prioritize different goals and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, then we're going to talking past each other. And we'll make common ground and compromise impossible.

KOSINSKI: Despite these multiple pointed warnings, the president did try to keep this optimistic, tried to be inspiring, urging Americans to talk to each other, listen to each other, get involved. He said he still very much believes in the power of ordinary people to work together and effect change. And he said, if you don't like the way politics is going right now, then you need to run for office -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: All right. Michelle Kosinski in Chicago.

Pretty remarkable speech last night from the outgoing president.


BERMAN: All right. We're talking about President-elect Donald Trump, what does he think now about a timeline for repealing and replacing Obamacare? Is he in line with new congressional Republicans? There are questions about this.

Stay with us.


[04:17:46] ROMANS: President-elect Trump is calling on Congress to immediately repeal Obamacare and replace is very quickly or simultaneously. The president-elect tells "The New York Times" he will not wait years for a replacement and even weeks would be too long. Trump calls the Affordable Care Act a catastrophic event.

His remarks posed a predicament for Republicans who have not come up with a specific plan to replace that law. Trump spoke hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan said GOP leadership to tackle the repeal and replace simultaneously, but acknowledged it would be complicated and a multi-prong effort. At a luncheon on Tuesday, Republican senators debated ways to include a replacement plan with their repeal bill.

BERMAN: Six senior Pentagon officials have been asked to stay on the job during the early stages of the Trump administration to ensure that the U.S. can respond quickly in a case of a crisis. The most senior official to receive the request is Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Rourke (ph). He will serve as action defense secretary if General James Mattis is not sworn into office quickly. General Mattis, he needs a waiver from Congress to be confirmed.

ROMANS: The Trump transition team denying reports that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been asked to head up the new administration's Vaccine Commission. Kennedy, an outspoken vaccine skeptic, met with Trump in New York yesterday, told reporters he was asked to chair a committee on vaccine safety. A spokeswoman for Trump says the president-elect enjoyed his discussion with Kennedy but has not made a final decision.

BERMAN: I don't know if they have not made a final decision whether they actually have such a committee.

President-elect Trump's transition team is trying to tamp out tensions apparently with some Hispanic groups following the contentious election that featured anti-immigrant rhetoric and a call to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Transition officials met in Washington with Hispanic leaders who say the Trump team's message was the war is over. Latino leaders say transition officials made it clear they are ready to collaborate on an array of issues, including immigration and deportation.

Dylann Roof will receive the death penalty for the killing of nine people in a Charleston church. We have new reaction from the victims' families. That's next.


[04:23:14] BERMAN: This morning, the man who gunned down nine people inside of an historical black church will be sentenced to the death penalty. Dylann Roof murdered nine people in the church in Charleston in 2015. He defended himself during the sentencing phase of the trial saying he had no choice but to kill and that he feels no remorse. A brother of one of the victims says he feels conflicted about Roof's punishment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MELVIN GRAHAM, BROTHER OF CHARLESTON SHOOTING VICTIM: It's a hard thing knowing that someone's going to lose their life. But when you look at the totality of what happened, it's hard to say that this person deserves to live, when the nine others don't. How do you justify saving one life, and he took nine? And in such a brutal fashion, with no remorse. He just took them away from us.


BERMAN: Roof is the first person convicted of a federal hate crime to be sentenced to the death penalty.

ROMANS: A $100,000 reward now being offered to the information leading to the arrest of suspected cop killer Markeith Lloyd. Lloyd is wanted for the shooting death of a female Orlando police sergeant on Monday, as well as the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend last month. There was a candlelight vigil for Master Sergeant Debra Clayton in the Walmart parking lot where she was shot and killed. Her funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

BERMAN: Muslim parents in Switzerland will be required to send their children to coed swimming classes. The European Court of Human Rights said a familiar case was brought, where the case was brought, allowing girls to wear burkinis during lessons alongside boys. Girls who entered puberty are allowed exemptions from the ruling.

The court acknowledges its decision does interfere with freedom of religion. But it says the law is designed to protect foreign students from social exclusion.

[04:25:04] ROMANS: All right. Twenty-five minutes past the hour this morning.

A warming trend building in the east this morning. Do you hear that rain?

BERMAN: It's pouring. It is pouring.

ROMANS: It sounds like it's spring time.

Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us with the latest.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Christine, folks in the Northeast are going to be dealing with very breezy condition today. Take a look at some of these forecast wind gusts as we start off the day. We're talking about 50-mile-per-hour gusts off the cape, even Portland, Maine, about 53. We're talking New York into the low 40s. So, keep in mind, that may cause some possible delays, JFK and even LaGuardia.

Then, as we go into Thursday, we've got this next system coming in. And that's also going to bring us some pretty intensive wind gusts as well. Same thing along the cape, we're talking about that 15-mile- per-hour range, and again, around New York, into the low to mid-40- mile-per-hour range.

And the reason for this, it's dealing with the next system that's going to be moving forward. Now, the next system to come through is really going to be a rainmaker for much of the folks in the mid- Atlantic and into the Northeast because the temperatures are going to warm up. We're talking 53 today in Columbus, to 60 tomorrow, even Philadelphia going from 45 today into 60 tomorrow.


BERMAN: And we still haven't had a bad snowstorm yet. It's actually the middle of January.

ROMANS: You should see my front yard. We have enough snow that this rain means it's like a mud pit.

BERMAN: All right. He maybe a White Sox fans with President Obama will host Chicago Cubs at the White House. The president invited the 2016 World Series champs the night they defeated the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. The team is expected to head to the White House next Monday, just four days before the president leaves office.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Do Russian operatives have their hands on compromising information about President-elect Trump? CNN has exclusive details from U.S. officials. That's next.


ROMANS: Developing overnight -- classified documents presented to President-elect Donald Trump include allegations operatives from Russia claiming to have compromising information about Trump, both personal and financial.