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Trump Withdraws U.S. From TPP Trade Deal; Trump Reverts to Voter Fraud Claim; Spicer Speaks Up; U.S. Investigating Lt. General Flynn's Phone Calls; Iran's First Comments on President Trump. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 24, 2017 - 04:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Drive on up to the White House. The big American car companies rushing to the Oval Office after the president officially kills a trade deal years in the making.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president also reviving a debunked claim about voter fraud. Why did he go that route at his first White House meeting with congressional leaders?


[04:30:00] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's an honor to do this. And, yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. But our intention is never to lie to you.


BERMAN: Facing questions in the den of alternative facts. The new White House press secretary faces his first questions in the White House briefing room.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour this Tuesday morning.

And this morning, the White House is celebrating a swift campaign promise. President Trump has signed an executive order pulling the U.S. out of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. This was one of President Obama's key policy initiatives, although one that never received congressional approval -- a tough populist approach to trade with a key element of Mr. Trump's campaign. Beside TPP, the president has already said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA.

Trade, a rare area where the new Republican president is making common cause with progressives.

Listen to Senator Bernie Sanders applaud.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: It's one thing to kill the TPP, which is a positive step in my view. It's another thing to develop a trade policy which finally works for American workers and not the CEOs of large multinational corporations. And if Mr. Trump is serious about moving in that direction, I would be delighted to work with him.


ROMANS: You know, President Trump said he's going to do bilateral deals with all of these country. That's going to be a lot of work and that starts today.

Traditionally, trade-friendly Republicans on the other hand are not happy pulling out of TPP. Senator John McCain calls President Trump's move a serious mistake. He says this, "It will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers."

I'll tell you, a lot of people in the business world that's already been happening over the past months, when on the campaign trail, it became clear that TPP was in jeopardy. China was already moving in. We're talking to these countries about doing is own trade deal with China at the center of that.

BERMAN: You know, I think the biggest thing that happened yesterday wasn't just TPP in a vacuum. It was this meeting with the business leaders and it was this visual representation of the fact that things are different now when it comes to trade and when it comes to the White House attitude toward companies and manufacturing.

ROMANS: On day one, on week one, the president is saying he is going to remake America's trade relationship with the rest of the world, with the American worker at the center of it.

With trade very much at the forefront, Detroit coming to Washington today. The CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler will meet with President Trump this morning. Foreign automakers were not invited.

Ford CEO Mark Fields is at another White House meeting yesterday. He says he left feeling good about the future.


MARK FIELDS, FORD CEO: Walking out of the meeting today, I know I come out with a lot of confidence that the president is very, very serious on making sure that the United States economy is going to be strong and policies and tax regulatory or trade to drive that. I think that encourages all of us as CEOs as we make decisions going forward. So, it was very, very positive meeting.


ROMANS: That was quite a meeting, John. I mean, you had Elon Musk there, the Tesla CEO. You had the CEO of Lockheed Martin. You had a lot of big names in that room.

Now, the CEOs of these automakers are in a tricky spot. The president wants to hear how the industry can create more U.S. jobs. The automakers just wrapped up the best two years ever of sales. And analysts expect revenue to slow this year.

So, adding workers in a slow revenue environment, interesting timing, plus all three have increased employment by about 50 percent since the lows of the recession. So, you will hear these companies saying we are adding tens of thousands of jobs, have been since 2009 (ph).

BERMAN: And the president, among the other meetings he had yesterday was with union leaders.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: At the White House, trade union leaders and building unions. And they emerged from that meeting saying that they were encouraged. They particularly liked when the president was talking about infrastructure, huge infrastructure spending, including some government spending. But the president is trying to build new relationships. We will see how that goes.

Now, the president clearly committed, he says, to creating jobs. He certainly seems committed to creating controversy. Sources tell CNN at a meeting with congressional leaders, the president repeated his unsubstantiated, unproven, plainly not true claim that the reason he trailed in the popular vote was that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally. Remember, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. But it doesn't matter. I mean, he won the electoral vote, no question about that.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer says the president also brought up the size of the crowd at his inauguration. Sources tell CNN the meeting as a whole was more of an ice breaker than a policy discussion. Some of the top Republicans there described it as being building relationships and a pretty lighthearted discussion with a brief talk about Obamacare and infrastructure spending.

ROMANS: All right. Despite President Trump wading back into some of the same controversial waters, Republicans inside and outside the White House, they feel the administration is now back on track following the president's rough first weekend. These Republicans say, spokesman Sean Spicer struck the right tone and that President Trump himself is looking presidential.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has the very latest.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, later this morning, President Trump will be sitting down with executives from American car companies to talk jobs.

[04:35:00] Yesterday, he went right to work, chipping away at former President Obama's agenda. He signed executive actions withdrawing the U.S. from the Tran Pacific trade deal and he banned federal funding for promoting abortions overseas, as well as ordering a freeze on hiring any new federal workers, but we added the caveat that the freeze did not apply to the military personnel.

The president also warned U.S. business leaders they'll be facing what he's calling a border tax on their products if they shift their operations overseas.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A company that wants to fire all of its people in the United States and build some factory someplace else and think that product is going to just flow across the border into the United States, that's not going to happen. They're going to have a tax to pay, a border tax, substantial border tax.

ACOSTA: Meanwhile, the new White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was doing since damage control after he and the president railed against the news media over their coverage of the size of the crowd of Mr. Trump's inauguration. On Saturday, Spicer got some of his facts wrong and inserting that the president's inaugural had the biggest attendance ever, which was not the case. Spicer said it's not his intent to lie to the press, but he also complained about the media's coverage of the inauguration was too negative. Here's what he had to say.

SPICER: Look, I have been doing this a long time. You've been doing this, too. I have never seen it like this. It is demoralizing. When you sit there and look out, you are in awe of just how awesome that view is and how people are there, and you go back and you turn on the television and you see shots of comparing this and that, and it's frustrating for not just him, but many of us that are trying to work to get this message out.

ACOSTA: And Spicer signaled the shift on immigration, indicating to reporters that young undocumented people in this country, the so- called DREAMers, will not be prioritized for deportation -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you for that.

President Trump is set to meet today with his new CIA director, Mike Pompeo. The now former Kansa congressman was sworn in last night by Vice President Pence soon after he won confirmation by the Senate. Another key Trump nominee, Rex Tillerson narrowly cleared a major hurdle and will soon become the nation's top ambassador. Many of the president's other picks are running into roadblocks.

We get more this morning from CNN's Manu Raju.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Donald Trump moving closer to getting his full national security team in place. This after last night, the Senate confirming Mike Pompeo to be the CIA director and also the Senate foreign relations committee, approving on a party line vote. The nomination for Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state.

Now, Tillerson, he's going to be confirmed by the Senate as early as next week and that came after Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican senator who had expressed concerns about Tillerson's nomination, changed his mind and decided to vote for Tillerson after having private conversations with White House officials, with Vice President Mike Pence, and also with Tillerson himself that alleviated a number of his concerns, ensuring that that nomination will go forward.

Make no mistake: Donald Trump is probably going to get most if not all of his picks. But maybe just not in the time frame he wants -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: All right. Manu, thanks so much.

Democrats are slowing down the confirmation process for several of the president's remaining nominees. The Senate Judiciary Committee convenes at 10:00 Eastern to vote on Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Democrats are expected to try to delay the vote for another week. Several Democratic panel members say to plan to vote against Sessions over concern about the Alabama senator's commitment to civil rights.

Also this morning, the Senate Finance Committee holds hearings on Tom Price's nomination to be secretary of health and human services. The Georgia congressman faces ethics questions after a CNN report uncovered questionable stock trades.

ROMANS: South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's pick for budget director, also on a confirmation hot seat this morning. Democrats will grill him on his failure to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee. And last night, a Senate Energy Committee abruptly postponed today's scheduled confirmation votes for Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry and Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke. No explanation was given.

BERMAN: Democrats are shooting down a plan by two Republican senators to replace Obamacare. Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine say their bill gives states more power on health care policy, increases access to affordable insurance and covers millions of Americans who are now uninsured. At the core of their proposals, any state that likes Obamacare can keep it.

The Senate minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, he doesn't like the plan. He said, "Ultimately, this proposal is an empty facade that would create chaos, not care, for millions of Americans. Republicans should drop their disruptive repeal plans and work with Democrats to improve, not gut the Affordable Care Act."

That's Chuck Schumer, the leading Democrat. It's unlikely that most Republicans would even agree with this plan, because it allows states to keep Obamacare in place, which goes to show how hard it will be for Republicans to settle on one plan.

ROMANS: It will be hard.

All right. In Minnesota, some frightening moments last night during the State of the State address delivered by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. Dayton was touting the success of the Affordable Care Act in his state when he started slurring his words.


[04:40:09] ROMANS: Quick action by the people around him who saw immediately it looked like he would faint. No cause for Dayton's fainting spell is given. But the governor's chief of staff said the event was hot, it was crowded and Dayton was checked by EMTs and allowed to go home. We want to emphasize, he is fine. A local reporter tweeted Dayton was joking with reporters before he headed home. Dayton plans to present his 2017 budget later this morning as scheduled.

BERMAN: He has had health issues with back surgery and whatnot. And that's really concerning.

ROMANS: He was up there for 45 minutes into his speech. So, I don't know, maybe it's reason to keep speeches under 45.

BERMAN: There are many reasons.

ROMANS: I'm not joking. I just did. We wish him well.

All right. Calls between President Trump's national security advisor and Russia's ambassador to the U.S. under scrutiny by counter intelligence officials. We'll tell you why.


[04:45:05] BERMAN: New information this morning about a key adviser to the president under investigation. U.S. investigators scrutinizing calls between President Trump's national security advisor Mike Flynn and Russia's ambassador to the United States. This is part of a broader counterintelligence probe of Russian activities in the U.S.

National security correspondent Jim Sciutto is on the CNN team reporting the story. He has more from Washington.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, two key points here. One, our sources tell us that this investigation is ongoing. They're still looking into these calls. But two, not only the calls, themselves, the fact they happened, but also the content of these calls. What was said during these phone conversations still under scrutiny by investigators.

(voice-over): U.S. counterintelligence investigators are scrutinizing phone calls between President Trump's national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN some of the calls in question were made in December 29th. The very same day the Obama administration announced retaliation for the Russia's unprecedented cyberattack of the 2016 presidential election, retaliation which included further sanctions on Russia and expulsion of some 35 Russian diplomats.

The content of those calls captured through routine eavesdropping on Russian diplomats raised concerns amid a broader investigation aimed at Russian activities here in the U.S. this according to law enforcement and intelligence officials.


SCIUTTO: "The Wall Street Journal" was the first to report the scrutiny. Officials spoke to CNN stressed that so far, no determination of wrongdoing on Flynn's part has been made. FBI and intelligence officials briefed members of the Obama White House on those calls before President Obama left office last week. In a statement Sunday night, a spokesman for President Trump said that his administration has, quote, "absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation."

SPICER: I talked to General Flynn about this again last night.

SCIUTTO: Asked about Flynn's phone calls today, White House spokesman Sean Spicer says told him the conversations were focused on topics other than the new sanctions on Russia.

SPICER: During the transition, I asked General Flynn that whether or not there were any other conversations beyond the ambassador and he said no.

SCIUTTO: General Flynn had other connections to Russia prior to joining the Trump campaign and now, the Trump administration. He had a paid speaking engagement with Kremlin-backed television network Russia Today. In 2015, he was seated right next to President Putin at a media gala for the network.

[04:47:45] Sean Spicer says that General Flynn told him that what was discussed on the calls, one, exchanging holiday pleasantly, also discussing, setting up a phone call between President Trump and President Putin. But clearly, something in those calls still drawing scrutiny from U.S. investigators -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much for that.

Forty-eight minutes past the hour right now. Yahoo says its deal with Verizon is delayed. Oh, and a viral wireless carriers making a big deal of its own.

We're going to get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.


[04:52:25] ROMANS: Iran has now made its first official comments on President Trump since the inauguration. The relationship between the U.S. and Iran hangs in the balance here since the new president maligned the nuclear deal with every opportunity during the campaign.

Joining us for the very latest from Tehran is CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

Good morning, Fred.


The Iranians have been saying that the nuclear agreement is not up for negotiation. They said that's something that's simply out of the question. And, you know, one of the things the Iranians keep pointing to is they say, look this is not a deal between the U.S. and Iran. This is a deal between the U.S., Iran and several other countries as well, and not something that's going to be very easy, easy to get the process of renegotiate going.

However, if you speak to people here on the ground in Iran, and we've gone through many, many people, many different walks of life here in this country, all of them tell you they are quite concerned about some of the things that Donald Trump has said on the campaign trail, the fact that he said he wants to renegotiate the nuclear agreement, he wants to get tougher on Iran.

The interesting thing is that for many people here in this country, the Iran nuclear agreement really hasn't brought the economic benefits that they hoped they would get so far. But there's no one here who wants to get rid of that nuclear agreement as well.

One of the interesting things that I found, as I spoke to some real hard liners who are very anti-American here in this country, and they say they believe that maybe Donald Trump is actually someone that they can do business with. They point to the fact that he is a president who was a businessman before and, therefore, they hope he could be pragmatic in his relationship here with Iran, seeing some of the opportunities in this country. Of course, Boeing just selling 100 jets to Iran and then first and foremost, of course, the oil and gas sector that the Iranians are trying to expand a great deal right now -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us, live this morning from Tehran -- thank you so much for that.

BERMAN: New information this morning about recent U.S. airstrikes that killed more than 80 ISIS fighters in Libya. Sources tell CNN that terrorists linked to the Berlin Christmas market attacks were believed to be inside ISIS camps bombed by the U.S. last week. You will remember on December 19th, the Tunisian extremist Anis Amri drove a truck into the Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. It's unclear exactly how the terrorists in Libya helped Amri with that attack.

ROMANS: As President Trump gets to meet with Theresa May later today, we are learning a missile test involving Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent system failed last year. A U.S. official says the test took place in June last year in the area used for tests by the U.S. and the U.K. off Florida coast. The missile veered toward the U.S., but diverted into the ocean. It did not have a nuclear weapon. [04:55:01] British parliament unaware of the failure renewed the

Trident program a month later. So far, Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to comment.

BERMAN: California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency after dangerous weather hit his state, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage from flooding, erosion and mud flows.

ROMANS: Look at that.

BERMAN: That's crazy.

At least 50 counties were hit extremely hard by the storms there. Four weather related deaths reported in California. Yikes!

In the southeastern United States, at least 19 people are dead following an outbreak of tornadoes. Georgia is one of the states hardest hit. You can see these neighborhoods just ripped to shreds there.

The twisters killed more people in one weekend than in all of last year. Several people are still unaccounted for.

So, are these storms over in the Southeast?

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Christine, the threat is over across the Southeast. And, of course, we know what occurred here. Some 50 tornado reports in the past several days. Keep in mind, this is one of the quieter times of the year. So, we typically see generally about 35 or so tornadoes for the month of January. But here we go with the storm system as it migrates to the north and east with some very rainfall, some very gusty winds expected from parts of the northeast, with milder temperatures returning down towards the south.

But right around eastern portion of Massachusetts on into Nantucket, easily could see winds gusts up to 60 miles per hour. And look at this heavy transition of rain right into some wintry mix. And then beyond that, into parts of New England, it becomes all snow. In fact, some areas, the higher elevations, that's up to a foot of snow inside the next 24 or so hours in the highest of elevations.

Notice the temperature trend from 40 to 50 degrees in New York. Washington warms up to 60 degrees by mid-week as we get a shot of warmer air that pushes through this region. Notice what happens from Thursday into Friday. Yes, we get a nice blast of wintry air that comes back. But at that point, temperatures in New York City are in line where they should be this time of year, around 39 degrees -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Pedram Javaheri, thanks for that.

Looking at the weather, now look at your money, your CNN Money Stream.

Automakers go to Washington to meet with President Trump today, a day after he pulled out of a major trade deal and threatened American companies, hey, create jobs here or else.

Unease keeping a lid on stocks, Dow futures flat, stock markets in Europe are little changed. Shares in Asia closed mostly higher overnight. Look at oil there, it's up about $53 a barrel.

Yahoo says its sale to Verizon is now delayed. Because it needs more time to close that deal. Shared are up in pre-market trading because the deal hasn't fallen apart. Reports last year claimed Verizon was seeking a deep discount to undo the major hacks at Yahoo.

Another mobile carrier that's making deal of its own, Sprint is buying 33 percent of streaming service Tidal. That's the one founded by Jay- Z. The partnership will give carrier's customers access to the app's exclusive music content. A source familiar with the deal says Sprint paid around 200 million bucks for the stake. It will also contribute $75 million to a marketing fund for artists.

President Trump signing his executive order freezing the federal government from hiring new workers. Press Secretary Sean Spicer says there's been a dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years. Here's what workforce looks like -- there are 2.8 million federal government employees right now. Over the past four years, the sector has added about 78,000 positions, an increase of about 3 percent.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the freeze prevents filling vacant positions and creating new ones, except to meet national or public security responsibilities. It also does not apply to the military.

BERMAN: You know, I guess this was tried twice before. President Carter did it. And then President Reagan did it. They signed similar executive orders. And there's disagreement about whether it saves more money than it costs more. Some people think at the end, both times, it costs more money. But certainly a symbolic move to say the least.

EARLY START continues right now.


BERMAN: The major car companies head to the White House. Essentially "The Wall Street Journal" says they are being told to add jobs or else. This after the president pulls the United States out of the key trade agreement.

ROMANS: The president also looking to get past the tumultuous first few days. So, why use his first meeting congressional leaders to repeat a debunked claim about his election win? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's an honor to do this. And, yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. But our intention is never to lie to you.


BERMAN: Our intention is never to lie to you. Those words from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. So, did he live up to them in his first White House briefing?

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, January 24th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And this morning, the White House celebrating a swiftly kept campaign promise. President Trump has signed an executive order pulling the U.S. out of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. It was one of President Obama's key policy initiatives, although one that never receives congressional approval. A tough populist approach to trade was a key element of Mr. Trump's campaign. Besides TPP, the president has already said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA.