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Trump & Cabinet on Same Page?; Comey Talked to Trump; VP Biden Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: One week now, exactly, until Donald Trump assumes the presidency. Questions emerge about whether he and his cabinet picks are on the same page. Confirmation hearings this week left several of them at odds with the soon-to-be commander- in-chief. We'll break it down.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New clarity on the intelligence report that Russia had compromising information about the president-elect. The FBI director himself shared this summary with the president-elect.

ROMANS: Oh, and the honor of a lifetime for Vice President Biden in a major surprise at the White House. President Obama confirms with the rarest of recognitions on his vice president. We're going to show you this incredibly emotional moment.

BERMAN: He didn't get emotional at all. That's just not the way Vice President Joe Biden is. He is not an emotional guy.

ROMANS: It was the first time ever.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: Nice to see you this morning. I'm John Berman. It is Friday, January 13th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And this morning, the newest debate in Washington between the president-elect and the people he has chosen to be in his cabinet. In the confirmation hearings this week, nominee after nominee seemed to take opposing positions from Donald Trump on issue after issue, again and again.

The nominee for defense secretary, General James Mattis, told senators the U.S. must honor the Iran nuclear deal. This is a deal that Donald Trump has vowed to shred.

The nominee for CIA Director Mike Pompeo vowed he would absolutely not return to the use of extreme interrogation tactics on terror suspects. This is not what the president-elect has said, especially during the campaign. He said he would bring back waterboarding and much worse.

And both nominees took a tougher line on Russia than Donald Trump has done so far.

Let's go to our national security reporter Ryan Browne with us in Washington this morning.

The question, Ryan, is, is this a team of rivals? Is Donald Trump inviting opposing views to the table which everyone agrees is a positive thing or is this a lack of a cohesive message?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: That's right, John. It's going to be a real critical thing to watch moving forward. We heard from two of Trump's probably most important picks for national security posts yesterday, James Mattis for defense secretary and Mike Pompeo for the director of the CIA. And, you know, they really, as you said, they really laid out views that stood in stark contrast that Trump has talked about in the campaign trail.

Now, with General Mattis, as you mentioned, there was -- he talked about NATO. He said he wanted the strongest possible relationship with NATO. Trump has disparaged the alliance in the past, calling it possibly obsolete. He also talked about the need to honor the Iran deal. He called it a bad deal, but he said that they needed to honor it for the time being. And on Israel, you know, he -- Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem. General Mattis actually said he recognized Tel Aviv as the current capital.

And then, with Mike Pompeo, we heard about the issue of torture and waterboarding. And he was asked repeatedly about that. He promised not to engage in those activities. As you said, both of them really struck tough lines on Russia and Russia's role in the election-related cyber attacks. And let's hear from both of them right now.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: Russia, to quote the chairman's opening statement, has chosen to be a strategic competitor. They're adversary in key areas. I'm all for engagement, but we also have to recognize reality and what Russia is up to. And there's a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively.

The most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with, with Mr. Putin, and we recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance.

REP. MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: It's pretty clear about what took place here, about Russian involvement and efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy. As we continue to develop the facts, I will relay those, not only to the president, but the team around him, and to you all, so that we all can have a robust discussion about how to take on what is an enormous threat from cyber.

This is very real. It is growing. It is not new in that sense. But this was an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership in Russia.


BROWNE: Now, Mattis and Pompeo weren't the only two cabinet picks to break from Trump. Trump's pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, broke with Trump a little bit on the issues of the Trans Pacific Partnership, free trade deal with the Pacific states. Trump had opposed it repeatedly. Tillerson said he did not oppose it.

And as well as Trump's pick for the Department of Homeland Security, General John Kelly, who is also against waterboarding, talked that the border wall might not be sufficient to stop illegal immigration and drugs from Mexico, and also kind of spoke out against the targeting and surveillance of groups like Muslim-Americans -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Ryan Browne for us in Washington, you can see the range of opinions there and the real difference between these cabinet nominees and the president-elect. Thanks so much, Ryan.

ROMANS: All right.

[04:05:00] One final note on the Mattis nomination, the House, the entire House is set to vote today on the waiver allowing General Mattis to serve as secretary of defense. That waiver is needed because military officers are legally barred from top civilian jobs in the Pentagon for seven years after retiring. General Mattis retired in 2013.

The Senate approved a waiver on Thursday, so did the House Armed Services Committee, despite criticism from members on both sides. The transition team pulled the plans to have Mattis testify before them.

We have new information this morning on the intelligence summary containing unverified claims that Russia may have compromising information on the President-elect Donald Trump. New reporting which directly contradicts statements from the Trump team. We can now report that the summary was not just handed to Trump as part of the package of documents. Multiple U.S. officials tell CNN that FBI Director James Comey personally briefed Trump on this intelligence. Not only that, Vice President Biden, he now confirms he and President Obama were also briefed on this same information.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Evan Perez. He is in Washington.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, FBI Director James Comey and President-elect Donald Trump had a brief one and one conversation last Friday's intelligence briefing. Multiple U.S. officials briefed on the matter tell CNN that it is during that pull aside that Comey briefed the president-elect on the two-page synopsis of unverified Russian claims that have comprising personal and financial information on the president-elect.

Four of the nation's top intelligence chiefs briefed Mr. Trump on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. And they decided Comey would be the one who would handle the sensitive discussion with Mr. Trump. The discussion was described as cordial to us.

The FBI declined to comment on this account. And reporters also heard Thursday from Vice President Joe Biden. That he and President Obama were briefed on the unproven allegations about Mr. Trump. Biden said that he read the 35-page opposition research document that

was put together by a former British intelligence operative. Republican and Democratic political opponents of President-elect Donald Trump had hired the operative to put together the dossier -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: All right. That news and information, that reporting that FBI Director James Comey himself briefed Donald Trump on a separate pull aside after that meeting. It directly contradicts what Trump transition people have been saying and the fact that we heard from James Clapper and the vice president on the existence of this briefing also flies in the face of what we've been hearing from the Trump transition team as well.

All right. Breaking overnight, FBI Director James Comey, he's reacting to the news that the Justice Department internal watchdog has launched a probe into how the FBI handled this investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. Director Comey, he's been sharply criticized for announcing less than two weeks before the election that the information of the e-mails to the Clinton probe. Some Democrats think that decision cost Clinton the election.

Last night, Comey responded to the announcement of the watchdog's review with a statement from the FBI. He said, "I'm grateful to the Department of Justice's inspector general for taking on this review. I hope very much he is able to share his conclusions and observations with the public because everyone will benefit from thoughtful evaluation and transparency regarding this matter."

ROMANS: The House votes this afternoon on a budget resolution that would launch the dismantling of Obamacare. Listen to Speaker Paul Ryan laying out his vision for repealing the Affordable Care Act at our CNN town hall last night.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We want to do this at the same time and in some cases, in the same bill.


RYAN: So, we want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same time. I don't have a date, but that's something we're working on right now and it's going to take us a little bit of time. But we're working on this as fast as possible.

TAPPER: The first 100 days?

RYAN: Yes, oh, yes. It's something -- definitely is a plan within the first 100 days to get moving on this legislation.


ROMANS: A lot of Republicans are on the fence about today's vote. They're concerned about the cost of repealing the Affordable Care Act, to the fact that there is no plan to replace it.

BERMAN: All right. News that's raising a lot of eyebrows from the House Oversight Committee. The committee chair, Republican Chaffetz of Utah, has summoned the head of the Government Ethics Office who's been very critical of how President-elect Trump is distancing or not distancing himself from his business empire on Wednesday. Ethics chief Walter Shaub slammed Trump's plan to hand his business over to his sons. He called it meaningless.

Some ethics leaders see the move from Chaffetz as this implicit threat to pull funding from the ethics office unless it lays off Donald Trump.

ROMANS: All right. President Obama is sending his vice president out with a heartfelt surprise tribute. You do not want to miss it.


[04:12:43] BERMAN: All right. President Obama pulled a fast one on his friend and Vice President Joe Biden at a White House ceremony. The president had a special honor for the vice president and gratitude for his eight years of service. As you imagine, this was a pretty emotional moment for Joe Biden. Watch this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self regard and to live life fully. As one of his longtime colleagues in the Senate who happened to be a Republican once said, if you can't admire Joe Biden as a person, you've got a problem. He is as good a man as God ever created.

So, Joe, for your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and for your lifetime of service that will endure through the generations, I'd like to ask the military aide to join us on stage. For the final time as president, I am pleased to award our nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


And for the first and only time in my presidency, I will bestow this medal with an additional level of veneration, an honor my three most recent successors reserved for only three others, Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan and General Colin Powell.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction to my brother, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.


[04:15:29] JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, this honor is not only well beyond what I deserve, but it's a reflection of the extent and generosity of your spirit. I don't deserve this, but I know it came from the president's heart. There's a Talmudic saying that says what comes from the heart enters the heart.

Mr. President, you have creeped into our heart, you and your whole family, including mom. And you occupy it. It's an amazing thing that happened.

I knew how smart you were. I knew how honorable you were. I knew how decent you were from the couple years you worked in the Senate. I knew what you were capable of.

But I never fully expected that you occupy the Bidens' heart, from Hunter and Ashley, my sister, and all of us, all of us. And, Mr. President, I -- I -- I'm indebted to you. I'm indebted to your friendship. I'm indebted to your family.

And as -- I'll tell you on a humorous note, we're having lunches and mostly whatever in our minds. We talk about family an awful lot. And about six months in, the president looked at me, he said, you know, Joe, you know what surprised me? How we've become such good friends.


I said, surprised you?

But that is candid Obama. And it's real.

Mr. President, you know as long as there's breath in me, I'll be there for you. My whole family will be. And I know, I know it is reciprocal.

I want to thank you all so very, very, very much. All of you.



BERMAN: You watch this with your son?

ROMANS: I watched this with my 10-year-old who was riveted. He asked me, afterwards, mom, tell me more about Joe Biden. I started with this young senator and family, young family shattered by a car accident, a life long public service. He became adversary of President Obama when they were -- they're colleagues in the Senate but they were adversaries on the campaign trail and then became unlikely friends.

And it was really an interesting -- I mean, just for me recounting the story. This is a life of public service.

BERMAN: I think that is exactly one of the most important thing he represents. Joe Biden shows us what public service is and the worthiness, the honor we should bestow to those who do choose to serve.

I felt the same way about John Boehner when he left the speakership of the House. I mean, we owe a great debt of gratitude. Joe Biden also represents something else, which is perseverance and courage in the face of unimaginable pain and tragedy. And that's something that President Obama, too, has learned from. They have become great friends. It's nice to see.

You hope every president and vice president have that type of relationship.

ROMANS: Joe Biden said it was a surprise to him, but happy surprise that the Obama family inhabits his heart, you know? And they are really so close. It is, again, it is kind of a surprise as Joe Biden said there. They were an odd couple in the beginning, you know?

[04:20:00] BERMAN: I expect them now because they will be in retirement two weeks. You know, shuffleboard together, you know, mahjong. They're going to be playing together.

ROMANS: If I know these two guys, having covered them for all of these years, there probably are some big problems they'd like to solve. I know if we're going to see them in the golf course alone.

BERMAN: Shuffleboard is a great sport. I'm just -- haven't played shuffleboard and golf.

ROMANS: All right. The Trump transition team already (INAUDIBLE) to help parents pay for college. Transition officials held a call with the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday, making it clear, President-elect Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka want to push child care reform through a broader tax reform package. That's according to a Trump transition source.

The source says this is a top priority for the president-elect. Proposal includes a child care tax credit. Six weeks of unemployment benefits for mothers who do not get paid leave through work. That comes with a hefty $300 billion, one of the reasons the incoming administration will try to build it into a broader tax package. Now, the transition team asked House members to start finding ways to pay for it while making it budget neutral.

BERMAN: I mentioned they'll be a lot of Democrat support for the plan, but paying for it is something that will be a problem and maybe Republicans --

ROMANS: You know, and, Donald Trump has made a big move of, you know, basically threatening companies to change. I would like to hear him say to companies, American companies, make sure you are paying for paid leave for women.

BERMAN: An interesting point.

All right. Imagine a man shooting another in front of police and being hailed as a hero. We'll explain this wild story out of Arizona, next.


ROMANS: In Arizona, a trooper is alive this morning, thanks to a gun- toting Good Samaritan who showed up just in time to save him. [04:25:00] This drama unfolded on Interstate 10 early Thursday

morning, 50 miles west of Phoenix. An unidentified veteran trooper was at the scene of a fatal car accident when a gunman suddenly opened fire, shot him in the shoulder and begun beating him. That's when a motorist pulled up and ordered the attacker to stop. When the beating continued, this Good Samaritan pulled out his gun and fatally shot the attacker, saving the wounded trooper's life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's just a tough guy because he literally has got a very severe gunshot wound to his right shoulder. There were a lot of abrasions and cuts. They were stitching up his head from where he was impacted with the pavement. Unbelievably, his words were, sir, you don't need to be here. You don't need to make such a fuss of this.


ROMANS: The ambushed officer is in serious but stable condition this morning. The Good Samaritan is cooperating fully with investigators and has been thanked by law enforcement officials for saving their trooper's life.

BERMAN: All right. A heartfelt letter of advice to Malia and Sasha Obama from the twin daughters of former President George W. Bush. Barbara and Jenna Bush Hager visited the Obama girls in 2008 to help them acclimate to life in the White House. Now, they've written an open letter to the first daughters, published in "TIME" magazine.

It reads in part, "We've watched you grow with girls to impressive young women with grace and ease. And through it all, you had each other, just like we did. You have so much to look forward to. You will be writing the story of your lives beyond the shadow of your famous parents. Yet, you will always carry with you the experiences of the past eight years."

They urged Sasha and Malia to never forget the people they met at the White House and urged them with tongue in cheek "to enjoy college as most of the world knows we did."

This was a letter of advice, I'm not sure I set it up right, how to behave or what to expect after life in the White House. The Bush daughters gave Sasha and Malia advice of how to live in the White House and now, they're giving them advice how to live out, because it's a unique position to be and there are very few people who know what it's like to be, you know, the young child of a president.

ROMANS: It was sweet to read. It sort of pulls back the curtain, talked about the florists and people who worked there. Butlers and people in the kitchen and how really they became so close with all these people who we don't see every day, but who are really, you know, I would say the oxygen of the White House and the family there.

All right. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. One week to his inauguration, the president-elect, some of his top

nominees appear to have differences to iron out. We'll tell you how much daylight is between the president and his nominees.