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TPP: With U.S. Out, Will China Step In?; Trump Reverts to Voter Fraud Claim; Spicer Speaks Up. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2017 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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?


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.

[05:00:03] Besides TPP, the president has already said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA.

BERMAN: The president's tough positions on trade have won him a complicated mix of praise and scorn from a complicated mix of sources.

This is Bernie Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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.


BERMAN: So, Senator Sanders, a liberal and socialist, says he likes the president's stance at least on TPP. But some trade-friendly Republicans including Senator John McCain, well, not so much. The senator says it will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers.

ROMANS: And, frankly, you know, a top Chinese official this morning echoing what the president of China said at Davos. He said, we are ready to fill that role. We relish this moment where we can be the leader of trade around the world.

So, what changes now that the U.S. is out of the Trans Pacific Partnership? Immediately, not much. But the move could shape the future of global trade.

The agreement spans 12 countries around the specific. This was the biggest trade deal, by the way, in history. It would have cut import/export tariffs and allowed American companies, American products cheaper access to new markets.

As Senator McCain mentioned, one country you don't see on that map is China. The deal was pitched as a way to counter China's rapidly growing influence in the region. And now, President Trump's move to withdraw leaves China in the position to fill the void. The U.S. negotiated three protection protections. Labor laws that all partners had to follow, plus rules to protect the environment and intellectual property.

Now, China is unlikely to seek those protections in its own trade deals, so a new agreement could produce cheaper goods with fewer worker protections. The big question, will the remaining 11 nations press forward? Australia is not committing either way yet. Overnight, officials from Japan and Singapore commenting that without the U.S., the deal as structured is essentially dead.

BERMAN: And some of those nations have already started looking to China to reach, you know, unilateral deals in some cases with China.

ROMANS: And the Trump administration says it can do a better job doing bilateral deals, doing just the United States and country, one after another. Now, that's rejection of some 30 or 40 years of trade policy in the U.S. because it's always the idea that if you do individual deals, that other countries after do you a deal, they go and they do a sweeter deal and outmaneuver the United States.

BERMAN: So, the president following up on a campaign promise. To be clear, Hillary Clinton said she was going to let TPP die also. So, this was likely done and buried, dead and buried already.

The president says this is all about creating jobs. He says he is committed to creating jobs. He certainly seems committed to creating controversy. Sources tell CNN that in a meeting with congressional leaders, the president repeated his unsubstantiated, unproven and not true claim that the reason he trailed in the popular vote in the election was that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally, he says. There's just no proof of that. Quite the contrary.

House Democrat Whip Steny Hoyer says the president also brought up the size of the crowd at his inauguration. But all that, just a little part of the meeting. On the whole, sources say the meeting was more of an ice breaker than a policy discussion. Some of the top Republicans there described it as building relationships and was pretty light hearted with brief discussions about Obamacare and infrastructure spending.

ROMANS: All right. So, despite, you know, the Trump waiting back into some of the same controversial waters, Republicans inside and outside the White House feel the administration is now back on track following the president's first weekend. These Republicans say spokesman Sean Spicer struck the right tone and that President Trump himself looked 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. 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.

[05:05:01] I have never seen it like this. It's a little demoralizing, because when you're sitting there and you're looking out, you are in awe of just how awesome that view is and how many 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 I think so 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.


BERMAN: The president set to meet today with the CIA Director Mike Pompeo, the now former Kansas congressman was sworn in last night by Vice President Mike Pence soon after he won confirmation by the Senate. Another key Trump nominee Rex Tillerson, the nominee to be secretary of state, he narrowly cleared a hurdle. He got through the Senate Relations Committee.

The full Senate will approve him eventually. He will become the nation's top diplomat. He passed the committee vote after Senator Marco Rubio who had been reluctant decided that he would, in fact, support Rex Tillerson.

All right. Joining us to discuss the first few days of this administration, we are joined by political analyst and bestselling author Ellis Henican.

Ellis, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Good morning.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST AND BESTSELLING AUTHOR: Good morning. A busy couple of days, right?

BERMAN: A very busy couple of days. And let's leave the weekend aside for the moment.

ROMANS: Please. Can we? Can we?

BERMAN: Leave alternative facts aside. We will come back to them. But there is the fact that the president had a lot of meetings yesterday. He delivered on a few of his campaign promises already. He threw TPP, he set that aside. And he sent a clear message on trade and what he wants from U.S. manufacturers.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We want to start making our products again. We don't want to bring them in. We want to make them here.

That doesn't mean we don't trade because we do trade. But we want to make our products here. If you look at some of the original, great people that ran this country, you will see they felt strongly about that, making your products. And we're going to start making our products.


BERMAN: So, "The New York Times" says this is a call to create jobs or else.

ROMANS: A threat.

HENICAN: Yes, yes. And you know what? It is potent politics.

Now, it's also complex policies. Christine was discussing as while ago. Exactly how you do that? You want to put tariffs on goods coming in America? Do you want to undercut the American business to export its products overseas? Are you strengthening China by wrecking the Pacific partnership?


HENICAN: All of those are complex issues. And that really will affect the lives of American workers.

ROMANS: What's really clear is that there is a new way of doing business in town. And that's why the American automakers -- only the American big three automakers will be going to Washington to meet with the president today to talk about how they're going to hire more workers.

He talked to union leaders yesterday. They like his infrastructure plans, of course. But this is a president who is basically threatening the American industry.

You will hire people here. You know, buy American, hire American is what he said. My question is, if you put start putting border taxes and tariffs on the global supply chain, what does that do?

HENICAN: Well, the first it does is it jacks up prices, right? And the question of is there retribution from governments abroad? We do -- whether we like or not and often we don't like it -- we live in a global economy. And anything we do in that regard echoes around.

ROMANS: I have never heard a president say, hey, I know you made a lot of money over the past 30 years making stuff overseas and selling it here, but that's not going to fly anymore. No one has ever done that before. I mean, it really is -- you've got to give it to President Trump. That no one has thought they could stand up to the globalized supply chain. He's trying to.

BERMAN: We will see the effect. I mean, we will see the effect. Clearly, businesses are starting to talk differently before speaking, falling on the lines of speaking differently that it did before.

Sean Spicer gave a very different White House briefing yesterday than he did on Saturday. He told reporters there that he doesn't plan or intend to lie. Listen to this.


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. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may not fully understand when we come out. But our intention is never to lie to you.


BERMAN: This is after Sean said things that weren't true about the crowd size at the inauguration. Now, President Trump himself last night apparently with congressional leaders said some things that weren't true that the reason he did not win the popular vote that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally. There's no proof of that.

HENICAN: It's above the threshold of the popular vote that Hillary Clinton won. Did you notice that number?

BERMAN: So, you know, despite the fact that he's having all these meetings and talking about jobs in a way, he still can't seem to let some things go. You're never going to escape that part of Donald Trump for president.

HENICAN: No, and know what? There really is a philosophical distinction here that's important, right? We make mistakes, right?

[05:10:01] Everybody makes -- as careful as we try to be. But there is a difference between that and saying something that is intentionally false, which is most of us consider a lie. Now, either you know or you ought to know that 3 million to 5 million people illegal aliens as we call them. Illegals I think was the term, did vote in this election. That did not happen.

So, continuing to repeat that in the face of that evidence, I don't know. I think it rises above mistake.

ROMANS: And bringing crowd size, even I -- I just drop it, you know?

HENICAN: Just go on.

What if you have a president, seriously, we may have to wrestle with this, who continually says things that the facts do not support or it's a new thing for the media. We are in new territory.

ROMANS: Yes, we are. "Unprecedented" I think is the name of the book. And it is very good.

BERMAN: It is still available.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Ellis. Come back in a few minutes.

HENICAN: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Some frightening moments during last night's 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 suddenly began slurring his words.


ROMANS: No cause for Dayton's fainting spell. The governor's chief of staff said the event was hot, it's crowded in there and Dayton was checked by EMTs and he was allowed to go home. We want to emphasize, he is fine. Local reporter tweeted Dayton was joking with reporters before he went home. He plans to present his 2017 budget later this morning as scheduled.

BERMAN: I wince every time I see that video. It's really scary to see.

All right. Calls between President Trump's national security adviser and Russia's ambassador to the United States now under investigation by a counterintelligence officials. We will tell you why.


[04:16:18] ROMANS: New information this morning about a key adviser to the president under investigation. U.S. investigators are scrutinizing late December calls between President Trump's national security adviser Mike Flynn and Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

Law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN this probe is part of a broader counterintelligence investigation of Russian activities into the U.S. Now, these calls, these phone calls were captured by routine U.S. eavesdropping. But the officials said some the content of the conversation raised enough potential concerns that investigators are still looking into the discussions.

The officials all stressed that so far, there has been no determination of any wrongdoing. Among the communications being scrutinized are calls between Russia's ambassador and Flynn the same day the U.S. announced sanctions against Russia and expelled a group of 35 Russian diplomats that the U.S. had accused of spying.

BERMAN: The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer discussed the issue with Flynn on Sunday. Spicer claimed there had been two calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador, and that they covered only four subjects, setting up a call between the president and Vladimir Putin, exchanging holiday greetings, offering condolences for lives lost in a Russian plane crash and a conference about the ISIS presence in Syria. Sean Spicer was asked about connections to Russia at his briefing on Monday.


REPORTER: Has the president spoken to any of the intelligence agencies about the investigation into the Russian connections and will he allow that to go on?

SPICER: I don't believe he has spoken to anyone specifically about that and I don't know that we -- he has not made any indication that he would stop an investigation of any sort.


BERMAN: Sources say that the FBI and the intelligence officials briefed members of the then Obama White House about the Flynn calls to the Russian ambassador. The FBI, along with the CIA, National Security Agency and Treasury Department, they have all assembled a task force to focus on increased Russian spying in the United States. An investigative effort that includes meddling in the elections and alleged dealing with several people tied to President Trump.

All right. Tom Brady -- the good stuff, finally. Tom Brady on the verge of playing in his seventh Super Bowl. But he is facing a lot of questions not about football, but about politics. So, what does the world's greatest quarterback have to say about his relationship with the president of the United States?

Coy Wire with this morning's "Bleacher Report", coming up.


[05:23:06] BERMAN: One day after leading the Patriots to another Super Bowl, quarterback Tom Brady is now downplaying his friendship with the president of the United States.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report". Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and John.

On the eve of his inauguration, Donald Trump name-dropped Tom Brady at a black tie dinner for donors. Trump said the three-time Super Bowl MVP called him to congratulate him, even told him, you know, Tom said he feels good. Brady says he doesn't feel like the relationship with the new president is all that big of a deal.


TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: I have called him in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call him. For 16 years, you know, you know someone. You know, before, you know, maybe he was in the position he was in. He has been very supportive of me for a long time.

So, it's just a friendship. I got a lot of friends. So, I call a lot of people.


WIRE: All right. How is this for team building?

Falcons owner Arthur Blank is taking everyone in the organization to the Super Bowl. We're talking tickets for about 500 employees. And that's the hot ticket. They're selling for a record high average of about 6,000 bucks on the secondary market right now.

Now, Blank became a billionaire as a co- founder of Home Depot. I played for the Falcons under Blank. And I know first hand that at this is type of leadership that has trickled down through the organization that has everybody dancing the Falcons are getting the first shot at the Super Bowl in 18 years.

Difference maker of the day. Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph is lighting up Memphis literally. He made a $20,000 donation to help keep utilities connected for more than 100 families whose power was about to be turned off.

Yesterday, he personally surprised two of the families who are going to benefit. Look at the emotion. How is that for you? This is the seventh year Randolph has helped cover utility payments for families who are in need, going through some tough times.

[05:25:05] What a great gesture from Mr. Randolph, guys.

ROMANS: Good for him. I love that kind of leadership.

BERMAN: That's a big commitment from a guy who clearly likes the community he lives and works in.

All right. Coy, thanks so much.

WIRE: You're welcome.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump wasting no time. He's pulling the U.S. out of the trade deal that was key to the Obama legacy and he's summoning the big American automakers to the White House today.


ROMANS: 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.

BERMAN: He just can't let it go. Overnight, the president uses time with congressional leaders to push conspiracy theories about why he did not win the popular vote.


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.


ROMANS: Facing questions. Lots and lots of questions in the den of alternative facts.