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Cabinet Nominees Contradict Trump;Comey Briefed Trump On Russian Intel; VP Biden Awarded Presidential Medal Of Freedom; Speaker Paul Ryan Faces Tough Questions at CNN Town Hall.Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 27, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:31:20] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: One week until Donald Trump assumes the Oval Office and new questions emerge about whether he and his would-be advisers agree on key issues. How the confirmation hearings will establish daylight between Trump and his nominees.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The intelligence report with claims that Russia had compromising information about the president-elect, it was shared directly with Donald Trump. We have details on the FBI director's talk with the president-elect.

ROMANS: And a surprise, heartfelt send-off for Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama conferred the rarest of honors on Biden at the White House. We're going to show you the emotional moments. A three- of four-hankie moment at the White House yesterday. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Nice to see you. Thirty-two minutes after the hour right now. Well, this morning, the newest debate in Washington is between the president-elect and the people he has chosen to be in his cabinet. In 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, Gen. James Mattis, and Mr. Trump's nominee for CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, demonstrated some big differences with the president-elect, including on Russia. We're joined now by national security reporter Ryan Browne. And, Ryan, you know, a team of rivals is one thing when you come in with challenging views to the chief executive. That's one thing I think people think is a positive development with any administration. On the other hand, if they're not on the same page that could be a problem.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: And that's absolutely right, John, and they definitely weren't on the same page on a couple of issues raised during the hearings.

Now, we heard from Gen. Mattis who is appearing for the confirmation for Defense Secretary, and he laid out some definitely different views on a couple -- on a range of issues.One was on Iran -- on the Iran nuclear agreement. He talked that he didn't think it was a great deal but he said that the U.S. had to stick with it for the time being. On the issue of Israel, he talked about whether or not the embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He deferred on that but said he saw the capital of Jerusalem as being in Tel Aviv. And with Congressman Mike Pompeo of Kansas, he laid out some issues

that also were contrasted to campaigns statements from Trump on waterboarding and enhanced interrogation, something Trump had backed. He said he would never do that. And he also promised to protect the Intelligence Community from any interference.

Both men struck tougher lines on Russia on the issue of Russian involvement in the U.S. elections, with Gen. Mattis promising strong alliances with NATO and particularly aggressive towards Vladimir Putin and his actions.


GEN. JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: Russia, to quote the chairman's opening statement, has chosen to be a strategic competitor. They're an 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.


BROWNE: And now, Trump's picks for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and Department of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly, also expressed views during their hearings that clash with Trump on things like trade, climate change, the border wall, and the issue of targeting and surveilling Muslim-Americans.

So this is setting up -- you know, it might ease their confirmation process in the Senate but it's setting up some serious potential for policy clashes with the White House once the administration comes into power.

BERMAN: You know, if they do continue pushing those positions there could be clashes. That remains to be seen. Ryan Browne, thanks so much for being with us.

BROWNE: You got it.

ROMANS: All right, 35 minutes past the hour. New information this morning on the intelligence summary containing those unverified claims Russia may have compromising information on President-elect 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 a package of documents. Multiple U.S. officials tell CNN FBI Director James Comey personally briefed Trump on this intelligence.