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Federal Judges to Hear Travel Ban Arguments; Democrats Protest DeVos; Yemen Raid Stunner. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 7, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:23] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, a panel of federal judges set to take up the president's controversial travel ban. But is this case destined for the Supreme Court?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: At this hour, Democrats pulling an all nighter on the Senate floor. They are protesting Betsy DeVos nomination to head the Education Department. Can the Democrats find more Republican support to block her before today's vote? They need one senator.

BERMAN: And new details about the deadly U.S. military raid in Yemen. Who was the real target?

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Thirty minutes past the hour this Tuesday morning. Lots to get to.

Let's begin with this: three federal judges are set to hear arguments on the short term fate of President Trump's controversial travel ban. A one-hour hearing conducted by telephone among three West Coast judges, that's scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Justice Department lawyers are urging the Ninth Circuit panel to restore the president's immigration order, calling it a lawful exercise of his authority, but claiming the judge who suspended it, it overreached his authority. Attorneys general for Minnesota and Washington state are arguing the order should remain suspended because of the global chaos it will cause and has caused.

The Trump administration sounding confident about the outcome.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly, the law is on the president's side. The Constitution is on the president's side. He has the broad discretion to do what it's in the nation's best interest to protect our people. And we feel very confident that we'll prevail in this matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Whatever the circuit decides, the losing party has 14 days to file a petition for rehearing. It's all but certain this case will get to the Supreme Court. And with only eight justices there now, a 4-4 split will mean whatever the Ninth Circuit rules would be final. The legal team challenging the travel ban is getting support in writing from two former secretaries of state, John Kerry and Madeleine Albright and 16 state attorneys general.

Overnight, President Trump wrote, "The threat from radical terrorism is very real. Just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle East. Courts must act fast."

ROMANS: President Trump officially addressed the military for the first time as commander-in-chief. His visit to U.S. Central Command in Tampa on Monday featured a series of attacks against the press for supposedly downplaying or even covering up terror attacks.

Let's get this morning from CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, President Trump is once again lashing out at the news media, this time in front of a military audience, at the U.S. Central Command in Florida. The president accused the press of intentionally downplaying terrorist attacks. The president did not specify which attacks he was referring to in his remarks, but here's what he had to say.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You've seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe, it's happening. It's gotten to a point where it is not reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that.

ACOSTA: Ask for an explanation of the president's comments, the White House produced a list of 78 terrorist attacks that have occurred since 2014. The White House claims most of these attacks did not receive enough coverage. But on the list are some of the worst acts of terrorism in the last two years, including attacks in Paris, Nice, France, San Bernardino, California, and the Orlando nightclub shooting. The White House did not explain what the president meant when he said the press has its reasons for why it doesn't report on terror attacks -- John and Christine.


BERMAN: Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks so much.

Senate Democrats launched an all night blitz against Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. The confirmation vote is scheduled for noon Eastern Time today and at least one Democratic senator hopes that a third Republican senator may cross party lines and vote against DeVos which would kill the nomination.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us live from Capitol Hill.

While Democrats hope to get another Republican defection, Sunlen, as we sit here at 4:30, we don't have word there actually is one.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is absolutely right, John. And important to note this is a big display. The Democrats now on hour 17 of their 24-hour protest on the floor where they took shifts tonight, blasting Betsy DeVos.

But the reality of all this is Democrats simply do not have the numbers to block her confirmation when she comes up for a final vote later today. But they are very close. They have Senator Murkowski and Senator Collins, two Republican senators who notably came out last week and said that they will vote against Betsy DeVos.

So, that means -- and that's really the goal of the overnight talk-a- thon that they only need one Republican senator to join them and break ranks against Betsy DeVos, and that leading to many impassioned speeches on the floor overnight.


[04:35:11] SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I feel a personal responsibility to ensure that if I cast my vote as a senator, that whoever takes that office will be tireless in the defense of all the rights and privileges and liberties of our students.

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D), HAWAII: So, you have people left, right and center. I mean, you can ask the Senate Republicans whether they're getting phone calls too. They are getting phone calls too. This is not a Democratic strategy. What's happening is, we have the wrong person who may be confirmed as a secretary of education.


SERFATY: Despite this effort by the Democrats, Republicans officials up here on Capitol Hill say that they are confident that Betsy DeVos will be confirmed today to become the next education secretary. They do not expect any Republican to additionally break ranks, more than those two who previously announced. So, this would mean we have a 50/50 tie here in the Senate when they move towards a vote at noon today.

And that would usher in Vice President Mike Pence who would come in capacity as president of the Senate to break that tie and this is historical here, John and Christine, because never before has a Senate historian found an instance where a vice president had to cast a ballot on a cabinet nominee to seal and to --

BERMAN: No, it would be the first time ever and it could be the first of several contentious votes for the president's cabinet nominees beginning this week.

All right. Sunlen Serfaty in Washington, thanks so much for waking up for us.

ROMANS: President Trump will meet today with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Elliot Abrams. Tillerson's potential deputy secretary, Abrams served in foreign policy positions for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and said to be the number two position in the state department. The Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is already opposing Abrams possible nomination and could cast a deciding vote against him. Abrams was convicted on misdemeanor counts with holding information from Congress about the Iran Contra scandal.

BERMAN: New trouble for the president's pick to head up the Labor Department. Nominee Andrew Puzder is admitting he employed an undocumented worker for years without paying taxes. Puzder claims when he learned his housekeeper was not legally permitted to work in the U.S., he ended her employment, paid the back taxes and offered her assistance obtaining legal status. The chairman considering his nomination says he does not consider the admission disqualifying because it was offered voluntarily.

ROMANS: It turns out the presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway has mentioned the fictitious Bowling Green massacre before. Conway claimed she misspoke one word when she mentioned the made up event to MSNBC last week.

But "Cosmopolitan Magazine" confirms she also brought up this bogus story late January during a telephone interview. Those latest revelations casting doubts on Conway's credibility.

BERMAN: CNN has learned the leader of al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula was an intended target of the recent raid in Yemen that cost a Navy SEAL his life. A senior military says if Qassim al-Rimi was not there, U.S. officials believe they would find enough intelligence to track him down. Al-Rimi was not spotted and has since released an audio message mentioning the raid and taunting President Trump.

Officials at U.S. Central Command are disputing al-Rimi was a target of that raid. They maintained the prime objective was intelligence gathering.

ROMANS: All right. The Trump rally on Wall Street has been curbed. This according to a report from Goldman Sachs. The bank's chief strategist he sees several signs of cooling sentiment in the wake of President Trump's election.

The conference board's measure of consumer expectations for the U.S. economy over the next six months fell in January to its steepest decline in more than a year. Goldman Sachs also says retail investors' preference for stocks over bonds after the election has almost fully reversed and the bank says Trump's trade and immigration crackdowns could be disruptive for financial markets and their real economy.

President Trump has filled top spots with former Goldman Sachs employees, including his treasury secretary nominee and his chief strategist, where they call it "Government Sachs". President Trump campaigned to represent the working class. So far, Wall Street has made the most money from the stock market rally from his presidency.

BERMAN: And, look, if there are mores moves to repeal Dodd-Frank, you can bet financial sector stocks will go up and that could fuel the market. ROMANS: All right. Travelers overseas hoping to enter the United

States before the president's travel ban can be put back in place. We go to the Middle East next.


[04:43:49] ROMANS: It's a battle over President Trump's immigration travel order plays out in court. People and countries of concerned are hopping a flight to the United States hoping to beat a possible reinstatement of the travel ban.

CNN's Arwa Damon is live in Istanbul, Turkey, for us this morning.

Good morning. What are you hearing there?


According to a spokeswoman for UNHCR, ever since that ban was first announced and put on hold and has gone through the ping pong process stateside, around 800 refugees had their travel affected by this. So, they are all in the process of trying to get rebooked, bearing in mind, too, that those who are going to the United States as refugees trying to be resettled have a lot at stake here because not only have they gone through this very lengthy vetting process that lasts on average about two years, these are people who are going hoping to start their lives all over again, hoping to chase and fulfill this American dream that they do believe exists and one that they so desperately need, especially those that are fleeing war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria.

And then, of course, you have the tens of thousands of other people who are traveling to the United States because they want to visit family or for business or they're trying to pursue their education.

[04:45:09] In some cases, some of them may be deciding if the travel is not urgent to put that on hold, to try and wait and see how this all plays out, because they don't necessarily want to risk being in the air should the ban be reinstated and then landing in America and suffering through the humiliation of being detained as they have already seen happening in the past.

But it's not only a confusing time for people who want to travel from these seven mostly Muslim nations, it's also very bitter for so many of them, especially those who are from countries where violence is very frequent, a part of life. The kind of terrorism that President Trump says he wants to protect America against. But when you speak to people from Iraq, they say, look, we know what violence is like. That is exactly why we were hoping to get to America to try to build our lives again.

And now, America is shutting the door in our face. It's very hard for people to accept that and acknowledge it.

ROMANS: Yes. America has a long tradition of having open doors, especially, you know, some of these medical cases where, you know, American surgeons, you know, honestly look forward to some of that pro bono work.

All right. Thank you so much for that, Arwa Damon.

BERMAN: The speaker of the British House of Commons is offering a pretty tough rebuke of President Trump. John Bercow says he is strongly opposed to letting Donald Trump address the parliament during his state visit to the United Kingdom later this year.


JOHN BERCOW, SPEAKER OF BRITAIN'S HOUSE OF COMMONS: Before the imposition of the migrant ban, I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall. After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump, I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump.


BERMAN: They shout a lot in the House of Common. Nearly 2 million in Britain have signed a petition calling for the president's visit to be canceled or downgraded.

ROMANS: All right. Some President Trump's supporters are not amused by a handful of Super Bowl ads featured on Sunday night. We'll tell you why they are calling for a boycott of some major U.S. companies.


[04:51:33] BERMAN: New questions about where President Trump stands with the fighting in Ukraine and how much pressure if any he is willing to put on Russia for backing the separatists there. The president seemed to cast doubt on the Russian role in the recent fighting.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Within 24 hours of you on the phone with the Russian leader, the pro-Russian forces step up the violence in Ukraine. Did you take that as an insult?

TRUMP: No, I didn't because we don't really know exactly what that is. Are they pro-forces? We don't know. Are they uncontrollable? Are they uncontrolled? That happens also. We're going to find out. I would be surprised. But we'll see.


BERMAN: Are they uncontrollable? Are they uncontrolled? Fascinating words to hear from the U.S. president, not terribly different than you hear from the Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

I want to talk more about this. We are joined by CNN's Phil Black who is live for us by phone in eastern Ukraine, where so much of the fighting is going on.

And, Phil, if you can hear me, the words of the president who says he is not sure whether the separatists are controlled or can be controlled by Russia. How is that being received?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Not very well, John. In a country that is concerned about President Trump's regular efforts of flattery towards the Russian president. For him to suggest the pro-Russian separatists are not controlled or at least heavily influenced by Moscow is simply not a credible view. It's not a credible view in lots of the international community either.

It is such a radical departure not just from the previous U.S. administration but from the international community where it is very much an accepted fact really that Russia does, in fact, help train and exert significant control over those pro-Russian separatists. That for President Trump to suggest that may not be the case, after such a significant escalation in the fighting here -- well, it's being met with a great deal of concern. Violence has subsided somewhat here in the sense that it shells are no longer falling on residential areas as they were so much of last week.

But there is still daily fighting along the front line, along the contact line. There is still the concern that it could flare again. And in this country, what they really want to hear in some sort of statement, a very firm support from the U.S. administration that the United States is prepared to continue, standing with the Ukrainian government to repel Russian aggression and reclaim the territory it lost over recent years.

So far, the government here is not hearing that from the U.S. and that is going to be, as I say, a continuing source of concern here, John.

BERMAN: Indeed. All right. Phil Black for us in eastern Ukraine where the fighting continues to rage on. We'll check back in with you a little bit, Phil.

ROMANS: A warning to the White House this morning from Florida Senator Marco Rubio, telling CNN that if Donald Trump tries to lift sanctions on Russia, he can expect bipartisan push back.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: There is a real threat of lifting sanctions minus the respect for Ukrainian sovereignty and Putin meeting those conditions. My sense is that we have the votes to pass that in the Senate and that we would be able to pass it with a veto- proof majority.


ROMANS: Rubio also has concerns with the Trump travel ban and its impact on refugees, but he says -- he will not say if he supports the legislation to undo it.

BERMAN: President Trump facing some pressure from Republicans after seeming to slow walk the repeal of Obamacare.

[04:55:01] In an interview with Bill O'Reilly, the president said that a full repeal and replacement, it might take until next year. That is not as fast some Republicans want, certainly not to Ted Cruz who spoke to our Manu Raju yesterday. Listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The president has said he's committed to repealing Obama care. Republicans in both houses have said we're committed to repealing Obamacare. I look forward our delivering on that promise.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: You want to do it this year? Do you expect it to be done this year?

CRUZ: Absolutely.


BERMAN: Senator Cruz will face off with Senator Bernie Sanders tonight in a CNN on the future of health care in America. You can watch it at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

All right. Fire up the duck boats. Boston is set to honor the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. I still don't know how they did it. The victory parade is today.

It was, of course, a record-breaking come from behind best Super Bowl ever.

ROMANS: So record breaking, it broke your voice.

BERMAN: I know. I'll never been able to talk again after this. They beat the Falcons in Super Bowl 51 just two days ago. The police commissioner in Boston says the police are ready for the parade. It's scheduled to kickoff at 11:00 in the back bay and wind to city hall.

ROMANS: So, what kind of weather can Patriots Nation expect for today's victory parade?

Let's get right to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John and Christine.

For Patriots Nation, look at a storm system on the move across the great lakes. You go in for a look across those regions, parts of western and central P.A. see a little bit of a wintry mix this morning. You go in towards the Boston metro area, it is just cold enough at this hour to support a few flakes.

But the National Weather Service, there are about 17 million people underneath the winter weather advisory and the reason for that is, you bring in the Boston skyline and yes, you have long fellow bridge. Our producer Michael having a field today. He would like this to be the Atlanta skyline.

But we'll take it because not only is confetti flying, but snow showers could be flying across this region. Temperatures about 35 degrees. That is where you want to be if you want to mix in rain and snow. A 50 percent chance of that, about 25 degrees for the wind chill for the areas well.

So, keep that in mind across Boston. But across the South, we have severe weather. About 24 million people from Cincinnati down to Birmingham with the best bet for severe weather in the form of hail and gusty winds -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you.

That's your weather. Here is your money this morning.

Week three of the Trump presidency and fights over immigration and travel bans has the market rally on pause. Asian markets closed lower. European markets have been opened for an hour or two. They are mixed. And U.S. stock futures are flat.

After criticized for not doing enough to curb fake news, tech giants Apple and Google are taking a different approach in Europe. Ahead of some key elections in France and Germany, the companies are unveiling initiatives and tools aimed at slowing the spread of online misinformation by flagging false or hoax news articles for readers. Facebook says stories can be tagged as disputed and plans to show them less frequently on user's news feeds when outside news organizations rule them to be false.

Some supporters of President Trump are not happy with some of the ads featured during the Super Bowl Sunday night. Allies of the president are calling for boycotts of several companies, including Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Kia, Tiffany. Those company's ads featured messages inclusion, immigration, equality, environmentalism, multiculturalism.

Beer giant Budweiser's ad showed one of the founders of Anheuser-Busch journeying to the United States being told he is not welcome. A spokesman for Budweiser said 78 percent of the social media reaction that the company tracked was positive.

And it was interesting --

BERMAN: Seventy-eight percent? Not to be too exact.

ROMANS: Yes, 78 percent. But there was a #boycottbudweiser at one point, and then people who supported Budweiser and opposed Trump took over that hashtag and turned around who were essentially making fun of the people who are making fun of the ad. It got really kind of bizarre.

BERMAN: It was really interesting to see. I mean, it was notable.

ROMANS: Yes, it was.

BERMAN: EARLY START continues right now.


BERMAN: The fate of the president's travel ban in court with the high stakes phone hearing. Is this just a stepping stone, though, to the Supreme Court?

ROMANS: Right now, Democrats protesting on the Senate floor for all night long, into the wee hours, against the president's pick for education secretary. Is this enough to derail Betsy DeVos before a scheduled confirmation vote today?

BERMAN: And new details about the U.S. raid in Yemen that cost a Navy SEAL his life. The real target of the mission revealed.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you this morning, everybody.

It is Tuesday, February 7th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Up first, three federal judges set to hear arguments to determine the near term fate of President Trump's controversial travel ban, a one hour hearing conducted by telephone among three West Coast judges is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.