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EARLY START

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Resigns; Flynn's Final Chaotic Hours In The White House; Thanks, Berman; White House Handed Setback In Travel Ban Case. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 14, 2017 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A flat out stunning turn of events overnight, a mere 25 days into the Trump administration -- just 25 days. The president's national security adviser Michael Flynn, he is out, he resigned. The announcement comes amid the mounting evidence that Flynn spoke to the Russians about sanctions during the transition, then lied about it top White House officials, or at least misled them, including Vice President Mike Pence.

But now, the questions don't stop with Gen. Flynn. Overnight, we learned that the Justice Department warned the White House last month about Flynn's contacts with Moscow and his possible vulnerability to blackmail. The White House knew weeks ago. That's just one twist in the stunning fall of one of the president's closest confidants. Let's get to Ryan Browne for us in Washington to bring us up to speed with what happened, Ryan.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: That's right, John. The acting attorney general, Sally Yates, who later Trump fired for not enforcing the immigration ban -- or not defending it -- informed the incoming Trump administration that they had become aware through intelligence operations of these phone calls and actually had transcripts of the intercepted calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador, Kislyak.Now, these calls showed -- the transcript of these calls showed that the conversations were not just pleasantries; that they did extend to the issues of sanctions.

Now, Flynn, last night, as the fallout of this, released a letter of resignation saying, "I inadvertently brief the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president, and they have accepted my apology. I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way."

Now, Flynn's departure from the White House leaves an opening that's being temporarily filled, at least, by retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg. He was the director of the -- the chief of staff of the NSC. He was a Vietnam vet, long-time adviser to Trump during the campaign. But other names in contention for the post, Gen. David Petraeus who, of course, led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, who was forced to resign as director of the CIA due to disclosing of classified information. He's visiting the White House this week we are told and -- but administration officials do say he has baggage. And another name we're hearing is retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward,

who is a Navy SEAL and actually served under Secretary of Defense James Mattis when he commanded U.S. Central Command, so well-known to at least one member of the administration. So we'll see in the coming days who kind of becomes the permanent national security adviser to Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Ryan Browne for us in Washington and, obviously, the White House having to deal with the future but still while there are questions being raised about the past. Thanks, Ryan.

BROWNE: Thank you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So the resignation of Michael Flynn followed a day of utter chaos and contradictions and confusion at the White House, all while the president remained silent about the fate of his national security adviser. I want to get more from CNN's Dan Merica, live from Washington. I mean, just the change in tone and actual words from White House officials every hour was remarkable.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: It was difficult to keep up at times, if I put it politely. You had Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president, saying around 4:00 that Donald Trump has the full support of Gen. Flynn -- or Gen. Flynn enjoys the full support of Donald Trump. And then just a mere 64 minutes later you have Sean Spicer saying that, you know, actually his position is being evaluated.

Donald Trump usually a very talkative, verbose person, actually didn't want to talk about this issue and he was asked about it in the Oval Office when he was swearing in Steve Mnuchin, his treasury secretary pick. Why don't we take a listen to that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you have confidence in Michael Flynn, Mr. President?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (Silent).

REPORTER: What exactly will you be evaluating with Michael Flynn?

TRUMP: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MERICA: We're told by one administration official that Donald Trump wants to move past this. That's going to be difficult to do considering how many questions remain about when did Donald Trump know about Flynn's comments? When did -- when was the White House informed? Did the White House counsel's office, who we know was told by Sally Yates about the communications -- when did they tell the president? Did they tell the president, in fact? So there's so many questions going forward that we'll look to get answered today by President Trump. BERMAN: Dan Merica for us in Washington. Thank you so much. Let's talk about this with our guests. From Washington, CNN political analyst, "Washington Post" columnist, Josh Rogin. Here in New York, political analyst Ellis Henican. He writes the "Trump's America" column for Metro papers now, I think, with a lot of new material to discuss.

Josh Rogin, you know, first to you in Washington. What was the straw that broke the camel's back here? Why was this too much, all of a sudden, for the White House?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it was just sort of a drip, drip, drip of things over time that became a critical mass at which point Michael Flynn became more of a problem than they wanted to deal with.

[05:35:00] You know, this is not just about the Russia call, OK? Michael Flynn has been under attack by members of Congress, people inside the administration, people around the national security bureaucracy from the get-go. He was a guy with a very close and personal, unique relationship with the president. He was interpreting the presidential daily brief and getting in between that and the President of the United States. He had this, you know, channel and the team of people who were working behind the scenes to advance an agenda that wasn't necessarily shared by other Trump administration officials.

So when all these stories started to break it became clear from all of those people who are enemies of Michael Flynn inside the system that this was the time and, eventually, there was enough that they made their move. And yes, there were -- the exact machinations are still being reported out. But suffice to say, Michael Flynn had enemies on all sides.

ROMANS: You know, we know that earlier in the day we had been told he had apologized to all those involved, right, and so it sounded like maybe the apology -- they were going to move forward. But there was reporting, Ellis Henican, coming out of the -- people close to the vice president. The vice president did not like this --

ELLIS HENICAN, METRO PAPERS COLUMNIST, POLITICAL ANALYST: Was not too pleased.

ROMANS: -- and had gone on television and had said there was no discussion of sanctions when there was. Ryan Lizza, who writes for "The New Yorker" writes -- tweeted something that got a lot of attention. "Isn't it possible that Trump told Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador about sanctions and knew Flynn lied to Pence?" That's an interesting wrinkle.

HENICAN: I think it's extremely possible. I mean, it aligns perfectly with Donald Trump's view of the world. You know, there's a strategy for success in life where you tell your boss what he already believes, right? Bosses sometimes like it when you do that and they tend to be loyal to underlings who keep telling them how right they are. BERMAN: Boy, I've blown this for a long time.

HENICAN: You know, we should have had a talk about that, John. But no, I mean -- and I think that really is the dynamic here, right? And so, all the other people around, with maybe the exception of Steve Bannon and a couple of others, are very suspicious of this guy. But, you know, he's playing to the audience of one and for a good while it worked.

BERMAN: And that is one of the open questions here that needs to be answered, right? As Josh Rogin has pointed out, Gen. Flynn was the person briefing President-elect Trump and then-candidate Trump, and now President Trump, more than anyone about intelligence matters, about national security matters, so they had a lot of discussions. Did they talk about the sanctions before Gen. Flynn's phone call? We'll ask the president when we get a chance later on.

The other question, Josh Rogin, is what did the White House counsel do with the information after Sally Yates, who was acting attorney general, went to him and said hey look, there was this conversation that took place. We have concerns here. What happened when that information got to the White House?

ROGIN: Yes, there was definitely a breakdown in process here because, remember, the day after the Obama administration put these new sanctions on Russia and after Flynn apparently talked to Kislyak about it, Donald Trump tweeted out, look at VladimirPutin. I knew he was smart because he didn't react. So --

ROMANS: We've got that tweet, Josh, so we can put it up. "Great move on delay by Vladimir Putin. I always knew he was very smart."

ROGIN: Right. So it's not as if that whatever Flynn was saying to Kislyak was something that the president-elect, at the time, disagreed with -- they were on the same page. And when you talk about sanctions on Russia, the White House has been very murky about whether or not they're going to keep all those sanctions anyway. So it's not like Michael Flynn was coloring outside the lines, it's just that apparently, everyone didn't know what he was doing. And now that everyone knows what he was doing, a lot of people have their feathers ruffled.

Again, this sort of plays into the overall dynamic. You've got a -- it's not a team of rivals, it's rival teams. And Michael Flynn has his own team inside the White House which was doing its own stuff largely outside the knowledge and awareness of a lot -- some of the other teams, and now that's over. Now he's been eliminated and now sort of the game of thrones that is going on inside the Trump administration has one less player.

ROMANS: Ellis?

HENICAN: But hold on a second. You know what's not over yet, though, is the president's views on this thing, right? I mean, is there any reason that we're supposed to think that Donald Trump has changed his feelings about America's relationship with Russia, and I don't see any signs of that. And until that changes, you can put anyone you want in that position and I don't know that the policy's going to be any different.

ROMANS: Well, and who's going to -- who is going to be the one who's going to guide and eliminate the president's thinking on national security now? I mean --

HENICAN: Right.

ROMANS: You know, I mean, Josh, you know, how much was Michael Flynn and the president -- influencing the president and the president influencing Michael Flynn, in terms of, you know, worldview, here?

ROGIN: Right. No, I think they were as close as lips and teeth, to quote Mao Zedong. It's -- they were -- they were literally talking all day, every day. The president's been getting his national security information and advice from Michael Flynn for months, OK, and so now that is all thrown into question and there will be a competition for the president's ear on a lot of these key issues, you know.

Whatever Michael Flynn did or didn't do, or said or didn't say to Vice President Pence about this, the reality here is now we have a huge hole in the national security leadership and there are going to be a number of people rushing to fill it, for sure.

HENICAN: Yes. More for Steve Bannon to do.

ROMANS: There you go.

BERMAN: All right, guys.

[05:40:00] ROMANS: All right, guys, thanks so much. Josh Rogin, Ellis Henican, nice to see you guys. All right, it's 30 -- 40 minutes past the hour. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: So it's fitting there's so much news here on the last day John Berman and I will sit together on this anchor desk. We have been here together for three years, getting up in the middle of the night, navigating all the twists and turns of the news flow. This is our final day and our friend Leslie Tucker put this together.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Monday -- a very cold Monday for a lot of people -- January 6th.

ROMANS: It was just over three years ago that we officially uttered our first words as co-hosts. Since then, you've trekked all over the country for our very early show.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman, live in Farmville, Virginia. John Berman here at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. I'm John Berman at the Reagan Presidential Library. It's is 4:00 a.m. in the East. I have no idea what time it is here where I am.

ROMANS: Even still, we found time to start an infamous social media movement. Can I see that mug again?

[05:45:00] BERMAN: Yes, cheers to you.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, I'm joining the -- joining the battle with you guys.

ROMANS: I don't even have a pen.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes.

ROMANS: I don't even --

BERMAN: Andy Scholes.

ROMANS: John Berman is in week four now of the 'mugs now' mission. Berman, your time has come. CNN staffers all over the country have been enjoying their mugs and now you can have yours.

BERMAN: Cheers.

ROMANS: Cheers.

BERMAN: Jim Berman, right there.

ROMANS: Oh darn, they --

BERMAN: I'm finally getting the respect I so deserve.

ROMANS: While I know we'll always have a special place in each other's hearts, there's someone else who takes the top spot.

BERMAN: Happy anniversary to my wife.

ROMANS: Nope, not her.

BERMAN: Tom Brady -- the good stuff, finally. Tom Brady -- quarterback Tom Brady.

ROMANS: I'm sorry I couldn't show you a picture of beautiful Tom Brady.

BERMAN: I'm sorry you couldn't show us a picture of Tom Brady.

ROMANS: I know. Next time we --

BERMAN: Look at him.

ROMANS: Tom -- I've never --

BERMAN: Look at him. So, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady may make it look easy, and by that I mean, everything. ROMANS: So, while you've always been a super fan of him, even though we won't be co-hosts anymore, know I'll always be a super fan of you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, I'd like to bring in two people who have some thoughts to share on this -- Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota. Hello, you two.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Hi. God, John, I -- there's no one I commiserate with more about our early hours than John Berman, and I'm really going to miss that. And we're sure going to miss you here at CNN, John. (Laughter) Where are you going?

BERMAN: You know, I was saying -- you know, like, you guys -- instead of seeing your front side I'm going to see you on the back side which, with Chris, is his better side. I'm on 9:00. I'm in 9:00 --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Very, very revealing.

BERMAN: -- after "NEW DAY."

CUOMO: I want to say, boy, I have to tell you, watching those 90 seconds of everything you've meant to EARLY START really shows the power of just showing up.

CAMEROTA: Of the Berman.

CUOMO: Showing up.

CAMEROTA: Like Woody Allen.

CUOMO: It's such a --

CAMEROTA: Ninety percent of it is showing up.

CUOMO: -- part of life.

ROMANS: But Berman gets to sleep in another maybe 45 minutes, so he is going to look younger, happier, and smarter every day.

CAMEROTA: Impossible.

CUOMO: He never sleeps, he never gets gray hair, and he always gets better. John -- J.B., everyone knows how much I love you, but you are the smartest man in the building, no matter what building you're in. I just wish you'd get over this Brady fascination that you have. Enough now. Five rings is enough. Find a new team. Come to the Jets. We need enthusiasm and optimism.

BERMAN: Oh God, no. Aside from that, thank you guys very much.

ROMANS: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: And if there's anyone that I like more than Tom Brady, besides my wife, it's Christine. If you have to be awake at these hours, there's no one I'd rather be next to than Christine Romans. And I say that -- I mean, you know, you are the kindest, most generous person --

ROMANS: Oh, thank you.

BERMAN: -- and you've made being awake from the hours between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m. tolerable, barely, you know, every day.

ROMANS: Well, thanks, John. That's really nice.

BERMAN: I know. I can't say how much I'm going to miss you, so thank you for that.

ROMANS: Oh, well I'm right down the hall.

BERMAN: Yes, I know -- except for the fact that I'll see you every day.

ROMANS: This isn't actually like a retirement party. This is just a "we'll see you at 9:00 a.m." OK, guys, nice to see you.

CUOMO: Thank you for the compliment, J.B.

BERMAN: Happy Valentine's Day. We're breaking up on Valentine's Day.

ROMANS: I know.

BERMAN: A point that Christine Romans has brought up repeatedly.

ROMANS: The back side of Chris Cuomo is the best -- his best side.

BERMAN: It is.

ROMANS: I like that.

BERMAN: It is.

ROMANS: All right, 48 minutes past the hour. An incredible rally in the stock market. Who's going to be there to tell you all this?

BERMAN: I know.

ROMANS: Two days of record highs for all the major averages and one widely-held stock is shining just months after naysayers were bruising it. We get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:52:40] BERMAN: A new blow for the Trump administration'sproposed travel ban. A federal judge in Virginia granted that state's request to halt the ban. The ruling affects everyone who lives in Virginia and anyone who attends or works at a public university there. In her opinion, the judge wrote, "Maximum power does not mean absolute power." The decision comes on the same day the Trump administration was back in a Seattle courtroom where the federal judge who first stopped the ban dealt with the case once again. Let's get more now from CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett. Laura,

give us an update on where this case is.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: So, in yet another twist in this ongoing legal drama over President Trump's executive order, district court Judge James Robart in Seattle, that same judge who initially halted the travel ban a little over a week ago, denied a request from the Trump administration yesterday to postpone any further proceedings in this court while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals separately considers whether to hear the case before a larger panel of judges.

This is sort of a procedural nightmare in court, but what it means from a practical standpoint is that the nationwide challenge against the travel ban brought by those states, Washington and Minnesota, will now proceed to the merits in front of Judge Robart in Seattle, meaning that eventually they'll be able to demand documents, emails, and even take depositions.

Now, sources are telling us that the Trump administration is huddling up on their legal options, including possibly rewriting or modifying that executive order, but some say they've got to act fast here because these ruling are popping up all over the country. As you mentioned, a different federal judge in Virginia put a complete halt to enforcing the executive order against Virginia residents last night. So the ball is now squarely in the government's court to see what happens next, John.

BERMAN: All right, Laura Jarrett, this case continuing. Of course, we're waiting to see if the administration makes new executive orders on this. We'll look forward to that. All right, Laura Jarrett, thanks so much.

President Trump's patio strategy at Mar-a-Lago raising new questions about national security. The president was eating Saturday night with the Japanese prime minister when they started dealing with the situation over North Korea's ballistic missile test. The president openly discussed, apparently, the logistics of a news conference that he was holding with the Japanese prime minister as diners looked on and snapped photos.

[05:55:03] The open-air nature of this session and the use of cell phone flashlights to illuminate potentially sensitive documents drawing the ire of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She wrote, "There is no excuse for letting an international crisis play out in front of a bunch of country club members, like dinner theater."

And Brian Fallon, who was the press secretary for Hillary Clinton during the campaign -- he wrote, "I wonder if Director Comey would consider this careless?" That, of course, is a clear reference to the campaign when the FBI director James Comey said that Sec. Clinton was careless in her handling of classified information because of the private server, as I just said.

The White House says the discussion was about the joint appearance with the Japanese prime minister, not discussing anything classified, they say. It appears a disaster has been averted at the Oroville dam in Northern California. Officials say they are cautiously optimistic about containing the threat of flooding from the dam, the tallest in the country. Some 188,000 people were evacuated from surrounding towns after a hole was discovered in the emergency spillway. The evacuation remains in place for three counties. Governor Jerry Brown has formally requested federal money to help with the response.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. By nearly every available measure the U.S. stock market is on fire. The Dow, the Nasdaq, the S&P 500, the Russell 2000, all closing at record highs for the second day in a row. There's seemingly endless optimism about lower taxes and less regulation even as political turmoil grips Washington. Futures, right now, down a little bit this morning.

The darling of the Dow is Apple. It's up a stunning 15 percent this year, trading at a record high above $133 a share, the biggest gainer of the 30 stocks on the Dow. Slumping iPhone sales had some analysts talking down the stock. They were wrong. Sales are rebounding and the stock is surging.

President Trump meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House and joined by a dozen female business leaders. That meeting was set up by Ivanka Trump, who was also in attendance. Trump and Trudeau vowing to set up a special council to support women in the workplace.

But the big question is what's the future of NAFTA? That's what everyone wants to know about the meeting of those two leaders. Trump says the two leaders will be tweaking their trade relationship -- no idea what tweaking means -- and he emphasized that his main trade issues are with Mexico, not Canada. One reason Trump cites is this, the trade balance. The U.S. has an $11 billion deficit last year with Canada. Some experts -- that's essentially balanced trade, John. You know, considering the $500-plus billion in goods across the border each year, $11 billion is essentially pretty balanced.

But with Mexico, the U.S. has a $63 billion trade deficit, which brings me to corn.If the president does anything drastic on trade,Mexico is ready to hit America where it hurts, the corn fields. A Mexican senator who leads a committee on foreign relations --

BERMAN: Right in the kernels.

ROMANS: -- says he will introduce a bill this week that would instruct Mexican -- don't make fun of corn -- it would instructMexicanbusinesses to buy corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the U.S. It's one of the first signs of a serious response to President Trump's threats against Mexico. The U.S. is the world's largest producer and exporter of corn. American corn shipments to Mexico have soared since NAFTA was signed. In fact, many say, quite frankly, autos and agriculture -- American farmers and American auto companies are the biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA, with the most to lose if the president tweaks it.

BERMAN: Are you from Iowa?

ROMANS: I am from Iowa and, yes, I -- yes, I've been on a tractor and I've been in a combine and I know how to -- I know a little bit about corn.

BERMAN: All right. Well, this was our last EARLY START together. I'll be back for two more days. You're going on vacation.

ROMANS: OK, I know.

BERMAN: I'll be back for two more days.

ROMANS: It so traumatic to me that I have to go on vacation now. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Thank you for everything --

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: -- and "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, February 14th, 6:00 here in New York. President Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn resigns for, he says, misleading the White House about his communications with Russia before the president took office. But the big question is who else knew what Flynn was up to in appeasing Russia?

CAMEROTA: We are learning that the Justice Department warned the Trump White House last month that Flynn may have been compromised and could be vulnerable to blackmail. What did the president know? There's a major shakeup on this, day 26 of the Trump administration. We have it all covered for you.

Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House. What's the reaction, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Less than a month into this new administration and back-door communications with Russia have already claimed their first casualty. And, of course, there are a number of questions yet to be answered even though the general has already resigned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: President Trump's embattled national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, stepping down Monday night in a firestorm of criticism after misleading Vice President Mike Pence and others about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. An official telling CNN the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador in December before Trump was sworn in, despite repeated denials, a move that could have broken the law.