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Michael Flynn controversy regarding Russia; North Korea ballistic missile test; Trump and Trudeau to meet at the White House; The 59th Annual Grammy Awards winners; Steven Mnuchin expected to be confirmed by Senate; Hole in dam forces evacuation in North California; Aired at 4:00-4:30 pm ET

Aired February 13, 2017 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN EARLY START SHOW SHOST: Will national security advisor Michael Flynn survive the day? New controversy surrounding one of the key aides to the president.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN EARLY START SHOW SHOST: North Korea now confirming a missile test with a new weapon expanding its arsenal. How will the Trump administration respond to the first big test from Pyongyang?

BERMAN: The president's travel ban goes back before a judge today. How will the Justice Department proceed? They want to get that ban back in place. Good morning everyone. Welcome to "Early Start." I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: It's nice to see you this morning John. I'm Christine Romans. It's Monday, February 13th, 4:00 a.m. in the east. First, silence from the White House as pressure builds on embattled National Security adviser Michael Flynn.

The retired general is under fire for speaking to the Russians about sanctions before President Trump was sworn into office then misleading the administration about those conversations. We are told Flynn has no plans to resign and has no expectation of being fired.

But an official tells CNN there's, "a lot of unhappiness about this and acknowledge Flynn's future in the White House is no sure thing." And Democrats are piling on.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Either he was lying about not having discussed that or he forgot.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You don't believe -- your smile says you don't believe that he forgot?

FRANKEN: I don't think you want a guy who would forget that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Some of the most glaring words coming from the White House are the ones not coming in support of General Flynn. White House policy director Stephen Miller seems to go out of his way to withhold official support this weekend.


CHUCK TODD, CNN HOST: The White House did not give you anything to say other than that on General Flynn?

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE POLICY DIRECTOR: They did not give me -- they did not give me anything to say.

TODD: So you cannot say whether or not --

MILLER: Asked and answered, Chuck.

TODD: -- the president still has confidence in his National Security adviser.

MILLER: It's not for me to tell you what's in the president's mind. That's a question for the president. That's a question for the chief of staff. Asked and answered, Chuck.


BERMAN: He did not offer any words of support for General Flynn there. It was notable. Let's get the latest on this from a different perspective sort of from the other end of that phone call or those phone calls with General Flynn from Russia.

I want to bring in CNN's Matthew Chance live from Moscow. Matthew, this is all had to do with phone conversations that apparently General Flynn misled the public, perhaps lied to Vice President Mike Pence about.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean it's quite possible. I mean from the Russian point of view here. The phone conversations took place. They're not denying that. They're acknowledging that fact in fact, that Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the United States had that conversation back in December.

But what the Kremlin was saying categorically is the first of all, sanctions were not discussed. And so they're saying that issue was not talked about during that phone conversation or the series of conversations between Flynn and the ambassador to the United States.

They also are saying the outcome of the conversation -- this is what -- they were asked about whether the outcome of the conversation had any affect on the response of Vladimir Putin about to the sanctions that were imposed by President Obama in the last few weeks of his administration when it came to hacking.

Remember, Vladimir Putin sort of famously didn't respond and he didn't expel 35 diplomats (INAUDIBLE) United States (INAUDIBLE). And the Kremlin denying to having any impact on that as well and so, you know, you're getting, you know, unsurprisingly perhaps a complete brick wall when it comes to any of these issues.

And the Kremlin there, again, categorically denying that any issue or sanctions was discussed when it comes to this conversation between the National Security advisor Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the United States.

BERMAN: A lot of intrigue. Matthew Chance for us in Moscow. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: Global diplomacy will be a large part of the agenda this week for President Trump. On Wednesday, he welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. Netanyahu has been full of praise for this president even though Mr. Trump has sent mixed signals lately about Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank.

Today, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the White House. The president's travel ban and his pledge to re-negotiate on NAFTA, just two of the obstacles facing the two leaders. Let's get more this morning from CNN's Athena Jones.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Christine. The president has another week of diplomacy ahead starting with a meeting and press conference today with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Now, after the inauguration last month, the president said that one of the top items on the agenda when he meets with the Prime Minister would be NAFTA. Re-negotiating NAFTA was one of the president's central campaign promises.

[16:05:03] Of course, doing so will necessarily require the participation of Mexico and Mexico's president Enrique Pena Nieto is not yet clear when that cancelled meeting with that president will be rescheduled. But these two leaders can certainly get started on that today. It's worth noting that Prime Minister Trudeau has a very different view on people fleeing danger and persecution than does the president.

He was one of the leaders -- the world leaders who responded to the president's travel ban late last month on twitter by tweeting that "refugees are welcome in Canada regardless of their religion." And that travel ban was a big topic as the White House figures out its next steps in the wake of that Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that keeps in place a temporary hold on the ban.

President Trump telling reporters over the weekend that he could file a brand new executive order as early as today or tomorrow. He didn't commit to that timeline and the interviews of his aides gave on Sunday seemed to suggest that that new order might not be quite so imminent. But of course, this White House has been full of surprises. Anything can happen so we'll just have to wait and see what they might decide to announce today or tomorrow. John, Christine.

BERMAN: Athena Jones, thanks so much. The federal judge in Seattle who first halted the president's travel ban will hear from both sides later today. Judge James Robart wants to know how the White House plans to proceed now that the Ninth Circuit has upheld the restraining order on the travel ban. The Department Of Justice essentially has two options (INAUDIBLE)to

appeal to the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court or it can ask to present more evidence to the district court to justify the ban on its legal merits. A telephone conference with the judge is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. eastern time.

ROMANS: Democrats and immigration rights activists are raising concerns about a series of sweeping ICE raids in recent days. Hundreds of immigrants had been rounded up from New York to Los Angeles and fear is running rampant in the immigrant communities.

ICE Officials say these raids are routine and have been planned for weeks. It's not something President Trump been taking credit for them. He's tweeting he is merely keeping a campaign promise to remove gang dealers and drug dealers from the country.

BERMAN: New false statements with no evidence from the White House on the issue of alleged voter fraud. Senior policy adviser Stephen miller claimed people were bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to vote illegally in the presidential election. Again, there is no evidence of that at all. Nevertheless, Miller told George Stephanopoulos that is why Donald Trump did not win New Hampshire.


MILLER: Voter fraud is a serious problem in this country. You have millions of people who are registered in two states or who are dead and who are registered to vote.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You can't make -- hold on a second -- you just claimed again that there was illegal voting in New Hampshire. People bused in from the state of Massachusetts. Do you have evidence to back that up?

MILLER: I don't think anybody -- George, go to New Hampshire. talk to anybody who worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problem in New Hampshire with respect to bringing in voters and with respect to --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm asking you as to what I've seen -- hold on a second. I'm asking you as the White House senior policy adviser, the president made a statement saying he was the victim of voter fraud, people being bused from Massachusetts. Do you have any evidence?

MILLER: And the president was. If this is an issue that interests you, we can talk about it more in the future.


BERMAN: Again, no evidence of that whatsoever. President Trump praised Miller for his performance. The president went on twitter specifically to do so. New Hampshire Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen was less impressed. She wrote, "As everybody knows, Stephen Miller has no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire. This has been debunked. Donald Trump did not call for a recount." ROMANS: All right, new developments in the North Korean missile launch this weekend. North Korea claims it successfully complete the launch of a new type of medium-range ballistic missile. The government sent for news agencies as the test firing was guided personally by Supreme Commander Kim Jong-Un.

It's an early test from North Korea for this Trump administration. And now the U.N. is stepping in. I want to go live to Seoul right now with the very latest from CNN's Paula Hancocks. Very early in the young presidency of Donald Trump. The young leader of North Korea, certainly acting aggressively here.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Christine, this is the first missile launch that we've seen from North Korea in almost four months. There has been remarkable restraint from Pyongyang after the U.S. elections since Donald Trump became U.S. president.

We were waiting for it though and this was an intermediate range missile. So not the intercontinental ballistic missile that Kim Jong- Un have threatened on January 1st that could potentially hit mainland United States. But still, an intermediate range missile that has show improvements we hear from the Joint Chiefs of Staff here.

It's basically in the way that it's being fuelled. In the past, it was liquidly fueled. We now understand from the JCS that it's solid fuel which effectively means they can launch it faster. There's less preparation time and they're able to launch it in a mobile fashion as well.

[16:10:01] So, we are seeing improvements in the technology that Kim Jong-Un is testing at this point. And we see from North Korea television these images of the North Korean leader looking absolutely delighted with this missile launch which they have claimed as a great success. Of course, what we're waiting for now is to see what kind of response we will get from the U.S. President.

He had the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting with him in Washington and visiting him whilst this launch happened. We actually heard a stronger response from the Japanese Prime Minister so we'll have to wait and see. Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Paula Hancocks for us this evening there in Seoul. Thank you so much for that Paula.

Well, a wild night at the Grammy Awards. Who took home top honors as we stop (ph) the show?

BERMAN: Adele -- Adele.

ROMANS: Stop the show.

BERMAN: Sorry was that I tease that I gave it away? Adele did everything. I know that because it's the only people are talking about this morning. I gave it away didn't I?



ADELE, SINGER MUSICIAN: I know it's live TV. I'm sorry. I can't do it again last year. I'm sorry for swearing and I'm sorry for starting again. Can we please start it again? I'm sorry. I can't mess this up for him. I'm sorry.



BERMAN: Adele, very, very sorry, also calling a mulligan at the 59th Grammy Awards. She was trying to pay tribute to the late George Michael. She stopped mid song as you could see right there and asked to start again. The crowd seemed to like it. In fact, they like to see everything about Adele. It was just one of the highlights for here. She swept the top honors. Also paid a rousing tribute to Beyonce.

The music industry biggest night may not have been the political spectacle that some were anticipating. But there were some instances there. CNN's Stephanie Elam was at the show. She has the latest from Los Angeles.

STEPHANIE ELAM: John and Christine, Adele reigned at the Grammy's winning five awards including the three top prizes, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Later, when accepting album of the year for 25, Adele said she thought Beyonce should have won.

The "Lemonade" album was just so monumental, Beyonce, so monumental, and so well thought out and so beautiful and so bearing and we all got to see another side to you that you don't always allow us to see and we appreciate them. All us artists adore you. You are our life.

ELAM: Beyonce's performance was a visual feast and a tribute to with her own mom introducing her. Daughter Blue Ivy in the audience and of course her baby bump on full display.

Also making a statement on stage, Katy Perry, who ended her performance with an image of the constitution. But the most overt political statement came from A Tribe Called Quest -- Anderson Paak and Busta Rhymes, who referred to POTUS as "President Agent Orange."

But in a show of support for President Trump, singer Joy Villa wore a gown that read "Make America Great Again" down the front and Trump along the back. Christine and John.

ROMANS: Oh, Stephanie looks awesome. You know, I have to say that I always really appreciate Stephanie's pieces after those big nights because I can never stay up late enough to enjoy that.

BERMAN: You know exactly.

ROMANS: So I know that she distilled it in one minute for me. BERMAN: You know, look, I think Adele is very popular. That's my take

away from that. I think people like Beyonce. I don't think Beyonce has ever done anything wrong in her entire life based on what I've been reading about the (INAUDIBLE). That's usually the take away.

ROMANS: All right, let's talk about money here for a second. Treasury Secretary Steve Muchin had a -- secretary nominee -- oh yes, new secretary. He was confirmed. He had a great weekend. First of all, he cleared the procedural vote on Friday. He's the nominee still.

BERMAN: Still a nominee.

ROMANS: Still the nominee. They're expected to confirm him tonight. And one of his movies claimed the top spot at the box office. The "Lego Batman" movie has pulled in $55.5 million this weekend. He's a producer on that Warner Brother's film. That company, like CNN is owned by Time Warner.

One of Trump's other top money man, Andrew Puzder, is getting ready for a tougher week ahead. His confirmation hearing is set for Thursday after being delayed four times. Puzder is the CEO of the company that owns Carl's Jr. and Hardee's.

Democrats will likely cast him as greedy burger baron who is not fit to protect America's workforce. He's against the $15 minimum wage. He's been criticize for his racy commercials and is facing 33 states of federal lawsuits over labor issues. Famed economist Ben Stein tells CNN that should not disqualify him.


BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST: He would not have been my first choice. But he is not reflecting anything more than the prevailing view of what the labor market is and what restaurant merchandising is in America today. He's not a bad guy for saying the facts about what life is like in the restaurant business.


ROMANS: Of course Senator Chuck Schumer says he should just pull himself -- he should pull his name from discussion because he, you know, shouldn't be -- somebody who could to stand up for the labor rights of the little guy when his company has had labor violations.

BERMAN: It could be the last big confirmation battle the Democrats do stage, right. You think they're going to give them everything they have t the end.

ROMANS: All right, a big jump in evacuations after a crack is discovered in a California dam. We will tell you what officials are saying next.


ROMANS: All right, new evacuations ordered overnight in Northern California over structural concerns at the Oroville Dam. Officials moving nearly 200,000 residents to higher ground after finding a hole in the dam's spillway. There are serious concerns this morning about intense flooding in downstream communities.


KEVIN LAWSON, INCIDENT COMMANDER: When we had water coming over the emergency spillway, it was beginning to erode the ground, right. And when you start to erode the ground and the dirt and everything else starts to roll off the hill and starts to undermine itself.

If that is not addressed and we don't take care of that and mitigate it properly, essentially what we're looking at is approximately a 30- foot wall of water.


ROMANS: Two hundred thousand people moved out of the way of what could be a 30-foot wall of water. Officials are waiting for first light this morning to better assess the situation and decide when or if it's safe for residents to return.

BERMAN: Spelling counts. It's a hard lesson by the social media team at the Department of Education. The folks there misspelled the name of prominent educator, author and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois on a tweet on Sunday.

It contained a notable quote of importance -- on the importance of education, but it misspelled his name with an "e" instead of "u" in Du Bois.

[16:25:00] Then when they notice the mistake hours later, they messed up the apology. They wrote, "Post updated. Our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo." They eventually did get it right. Remember, this is the Department of Education, all right. They did eventually get it right and their final tweet said, "Our deepest apologies for the earlier typo."

ROMANS: Oh, somebody just needed a big pot of coffee.

BERMAN: All right, growing trouble for National Security advisor Michael Flynn. He says he's not going anywhere but some in the White House think otherwise. Stay with us.


ROMANS: National Security advisor Michael Flynn trying to hang on to his job following revelations he spoke to Russia about sanctions. What are people inside the White House are saying this morning?

BERMAN: North Korea claims successful test of one of the newest weapons in its arsenals. So how will the Trump administration respond now to this challenge?

[16:30:07] ROMAN: And lawyers head back to court today over the president's travel ban. How will the Justice Department proceed to get the ban back in place.