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Congress Called by Trumpt to Probe Wiretapping by Obama; North Korea New Missile Test; Iraqi Forces in Westren Mosul; New Travel Ban to Be Released Soon; Explicit Photos Found Online of Female Marines; Rep. Richmond Apologizes to Kellyanne Conway. Aired 4-4:30 am ET

Aired March 6, 2017 - 04:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN EARLY START SHOW HOST: The FBI turning to the Justice Department to push back on the president's claims he was wire tapped on orders from President Obama. Trump still offering no proof. Is it just another distraction from a series of bad headlines? Good morning and welcome to "Early Start." I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN EARLY START SHOW HOST: I bet your head there are still scratching this morning too. I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, March 6th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the east. Let's begin the week with this. This morning, the White House faces a daunting challenge as friends and foe alike call on this White House to prove the explosive claim in the President Trump's tweet storm that President Obama had him wire tapped.

It's an allegation -- baseless allegation Mr. Trump made without offering any evidence and which everyone in a position to know has denied. Now the FBI itself is asking the Justice Department to refute this president's claim. That's according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. The FBI seeking the denial because Mr. Trump's claim implies the bureau may have broken the law by obeying President Obama's orders -- non-existing orders we're told. So far no comment from the Justice Department.

BRIGGS: President Trump now asking Congress to investigate the baseless wiretapping claim and getting a mixed response. House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes saying his committee will look into the matter as part of its broader probe of Russian campaign meddling, but other Republicans now pushing back against the president's wiretapping claim. The former National Intelligence Chief James Clapper telling NBC that it simply did not happen.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: There was no such wire tap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS SHOW HOST, NBC: If the FBI for instance had advice (ph) or court order of some sort for a surveillance, would that be information you would or not know?


TODD: You would be told this.

CLAPPER: I would know that.

TODD: If there was advice (ph) or court order on something like this.

CLAPPER: Yes. Something like this, absolutely.


BRIGGS: More now from White House correspondent Athena Jones covering the president in West Palm Beach.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. The president spent the weekend here in Florida. It was the fourth trip to the Mar-a-Lago estate since taking office but it was his series of tweets launched before sunrise on Saturday morning that dominated the headlines.

In those tweets President Trump without offering evidence accused President Obama of having his, "wires tapped in Trump Tower." Those explosive allegations prompting a vigorous denial from President Obama and repeated calls for President Trump to provide evidence to back up his claims.

Rather than providing that evidence, the White House is now calling on congressional committees -- congressional intelligence committees that are investigating Russias activity and ties between Trump aides and Russian officials. Those committees are being asked to look into "whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016. Now Democrats and Republicans are asking what the president is basing his accusations on.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I'm not sure what it is he is talking about. Perhaps the president has information that is not yet available to us or to the public and if it's true, obviously we're going to find out very quickly and if it isn't the obviously he'll have to explain what he meant by it.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The president has called for congressional investigations into the allegations that he made starting yesterday morning. So I would expect that he's going to want to provide our committee with any evidence that he has.


JONES: So there you have it, Republicans saying she expects the president to provide evidence backing up his claims if there is any. This comes as we learn late Sunday night that the FBI asked the Justice Department on Saturday to refute the president's assertion that President Obama had ordered wire tapping, the sort of wire tapping would be illegal. Christine and Dave. ROMANS: All right, Athena for us in Florida. Thank you. This is not

the first time that Trump has launched a controversy seemingly to deflect from intense coverage of a news story he doesn't like and can't control. In January, there was his claim that he would have won the popular vote if not for the millions of votes illegally cast with no evidence.

This new claim over the weekend by the president apparently originated with a rant by conservative talk radio host Mark Levine who cited an article from right leaning website Heat Street. That allegation was picked up by Breitbart News the site once headed by chief White House strategist Steve Bannon. Within a day, President Trump was tweeting this as fact. Since then, even the president's aides have had a difficult time defending the claim.


[04:05:07] SARAJ HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Let's look into this. If this happened, if this is accurate, this is the biggest overreach and the biggest scandal.

MARTHA RADDATZ, THIS WEEK SHOW HOST, ABC NEWS: The president of the United States is accusing the former president of wire tapping him.

SANDERS: I think that this is again, something that -- if this happened, Martha --

RADDATZ: If, if, if.

SANDERS: I agree.

RADDATZ: Why is the president saying it did happen?

SANDERS: Look, I think he is going off of information that he is saying that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential.


ROMANS: Information he is seeing that led him to believe. President Trump appears very committed to the "real potential" telling the conservative site news (INAUDIBLE) the website, "this will be investigated. It will all come out. I will be proven right."

Answers from White House may be hard to come by today. There are no TV cameras allowed at the 1:30 p.m. briefing with the press secretary Sean Spicer. Sean Spicer who has said for the record that the president is responding to reports.

BRIGGS: Either way, this is a massive story. If it's true, it's indeed an enormous story. If it's not true, it ought to be treated with the same gravity if he's making this allegation and prove to be false.

ROMANS: It is essentially the most stunning accusation from a sitting president to his predecessor ever. BRIGGS: Hard to believe. All this infuriating President Trump,

sources tell CNN the president extremely frustrated and upset at his senior staff for letting the firestorm surrounding top agent (ph) surrogates meeting with the Russian ambassador upstage his address to Congress.

One source telling CNN, "Nobody has seen him that upset." The president using a lot of expletives according our sources, angry at the nonstop leaks and aide for getting in their own way. It's a sentiment that is actually resonating in Russia where many feel the president's efforts to restore relations are being sidelined by the Washington machine. For the latest let's go to Moscow and CNN's Fred Pleitgen. Good morning Fred, what is the latest there?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right Dave, yes, good morning. You know, it really does seem as though the Russians are somewhat cooling off to the White House at this point in time after of course there was a lot of euphoria when President Trump was elected. But you're also right to point out that it doesn't seem as though commentators and politicians here in this country ar actually making President Trump or holding President Trump responsible for that.

They are not happy with the pace at which they believe U.S.-Russia Relations could improve. But one of the senior TV pundits here in this country, he came forward yesterday and he said he believes that President Trump was being pressured to leaving Russia off the agenda because of all the things that are coming out. This pundit was saying that it's impossible for President Trump to mention Russia even without causing some sort of scandal in washing (ph).

That comes along with a lot of other senior Russian officials being very critical of some of the things that have come out. The foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov equating to what's going on in Washington right now with a witch hunt and saying it reminds him of McCarthy as when of course you have that very angry reaction by Lavrov's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova who went off among others and CNN saying that some of the coverage he believes of all these meetings with the Russian ambassador and senior members or of the Trump administration or back then of folks close to Trump, that she believes that that coverage was very much unfair. So there is a lot of frustration here in Moscow at the pace which relations between the U.S. and Russia are evolving. But it doesn't seem as though senior politicians here are holding the president himself responsible, Dave.

BRIGGS: Thank you Fred.

ROMANS: Republicans appear close to finalizing a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. President Trump scheduled to meet at the White House tonight with Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and head of Human Services, Secretary Tom Price. Congressional health care committees working through the weekend with the administration getting everybody on the same page, although a block of conservatives is still pushing back against what's been discussed so far discussing so far.

The text of a final bill could be released early this week and is expected to include some replacement components for the Affordable Care Act. Working through the weekend, we're told.

BRIGGS: Hard to imagine with all of these swirling around to get them one on the same page here. It should be interesting.

North Korea launching a new series of ballistic missile tests. Global condemnation boiling in quickly overnight. We're live in Seoul, next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. The United States strongly condemning the latest ballistic missile launches by North Korea. The State Department warning the U.S. will defend itself and defend its allies and is prepared to use the full range of capabilities at its disposal against what if calls a growing threat. The North Koreans test firing four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan last night. Three of them landing within 200 miles of Japan's coast. We'll get the latest from CNN's Paula Hancocks live from Seoul, South Korea this morning. Bring us up to speed Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Christine, this all happened in the early hours of Monday local time. As you say, four ballistic missiles. One U.S. official telling us that initial reports suggested they were intermediate range missiles. We don't have the ultimate confirmation at this point thought they're tracking the range to see how far they went.

They believe about 600 miles. They also believe that they went about 160 miles into the air so they had height as well as length, and that means that that range would be even further so U.S. satellite data is being scoured at this point to find out exactly what kind of missile it was.

But one thing that all the neighboring countries are agreed on is the condemnation. There was a National Security Council meeting here in South Korea in the morning. There was the acting president, Hwang Kyo- ahn who

[04:15:00] condemned this launch saying that the consequences of a nuclear armed North Korea regime would be appalling beyond imagination, saying that this goes against everything that the international community wants. The timing is significant thought it's not unexpected.

Just last week, the United States and South Korea started their joint military drills. These massive annual drills that they say are defensive in nature. They are routine but every single year, Pyongyang is angered by them. Pyongyang reacts and quite often we see these ballistic missiles. Just a few years ago, we saw several dozen ballistic missiles during the weeks of the military.

ROMANS: All right, Paula Hancocks for us this morning is Seoul. The latest on those missiles launching (ph) to the future. Thank you for that.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, U.S. backed Iraqi forces are making a big push to recapture western Mosul from ISIS. Right now, they are closing in on the region known as the Old City, storming neighborhoods near the city's main government complex. Tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing the area. U.N. is warning over 400,000 people could ultimately be displaced. ISIS fighters accused of using chemical weapons. The Red Cross has at least 12 Mosul residents are being treated for injuries consistent with the blistering chemical agent.

Well, is today the day we'll finally see this new travel ban from the White House? Signs point to yes. What it all means, next.


BRIGGS: The White House possibly getting a chance to change the narrative today as aides prepare to announce President Trump's new travel ban. We've had false starts on this before, but we are told it is coming as early as today. And the order was delayed last week in an effort to keep the focus on good press from Mr. Trump's address to congress.

So far, we're hearing the president will rescind his previous executive order and replace it with new substantially revised order. The big questions, will Iraq be dropped from the list and will specific religions still be singled out. CNN's Ryan Nobles has more.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, good morning. The newly revised executive order of dealing with who can and cannot get into the United States could come as soon as today. The new travel ban is expected to be more finely tuned than the original with the goal of avoiding legal hurdles like the first travel ban which is currently being held up in federal court.

The new executive order is expected to exclude legal permanent residents and those currently holding visas. It's also expected to exclude language that prioritizes refugee claims of certain religious minorities. And the new executive order was expected to come out last week, but after the president's successful joint address to Congress, the White House decided to separate the announcement from the speech to "give the executive order its own moment." What isn't clear is what will happen to the old executive order.

It's possible that it will be outright revoked. But White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said that the orders would continue on a dual track. Now even right up until the last minute, the administration is making tweaks to the order and sources saying there is even a debate among Trump advisors about whether or not Iraq should be removed from the list of Muslim majority countries from which travel will be cut off.

One thing that will be dramatically different will be the implementation. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has promised that the new policy will be phased in as opposed to just immediately put into place. Still, immigration advocates are already staffing international airports around the country preparing to help those who may get caught up in the ban once implemented. Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Ryan nobles, we'll see if this goes (INAUDIBLE). Ahead of that executive order on travel, the Trump administration is taking action on worker visas. Starting April 3rd, the government will suspend expedited processing of the H-1B visa. These visas bring high skilled foreigners into U.S. companies. Under the current system, companies submitting applications for potential employees can pay extra for expedited processing.

The fee is $1,225 is refunded if immigration services does not respond within 15 days. Processing time for normal applications is three to six months. So this is an important a tool for companies that need to quickly pivot is and fill these positions. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services office is making a move now to clear a long backlog of applications and extension requests. But President Trump has accused companies of abusing this H-1B program as a way to hire foreign workers who take jobs away from Americans, often at lower salaries.

BRIGGS: Hundreds of explicit photos of current and former female Marines have been discovered online. Now, a criminal investigation is under way. The photos were uncovered in a private Facebook group called Marines United. A Pentagon official tells CNN that members of the site solicited others to send in photos of female marines and other service members without their knowledge. The defense department says it is not yet clear how many current or former marines might be involved.

ROMANS: An apology to presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway from the congressman Cedric Richmond. At a dinner in Washington, D.C. last week, Richmond made a crude remark about a photo showing Conway on her knees on a couch in the oval office. Louisiana Democrat says he has always been a champion of women's rights and did not intend to demean anyone. He also claims he was attempting to one-up Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina who also joked about that Conway photo saying, "A whole lot worse" has happened on that couch.

BRIGGS: Certainly one-upped him if that was the goal.

Well, a shift in the weather could trigger severe storms today. Let's get the latest from meteorologist Karen Maginnis. Good morning.

[04:25:05] KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It really is going o be a very curious afternoon, David and Christine, as we watch somewhat feels like winter time behind the frontal system that's headed towards the Central Plains. But out ahead of it, warm, moist unstable air and that could fire off some of the severe weather.

About 9 million people from Minnesota down toward Texas under that slight risk, but the enhanced risk, southern Missouri and into north central sections of Arkansas. About 2.5 million people could see isolated tornado, could see the rumble of thunder, lots of lightning, gusty winds and the potential for some hail.

But look at this, where you see the red shaded areas, from the Dakotas all the way down to New Mexico, winds gust, 60 to 70 miles an hour, but now we're beginning to enter that threat for tornadoes as we especially make our way into April, May and June. But March, we start to see that uptick and the number of tornadoes, at least potential.

And look at what a difference a couple of days makes. Minneapolis at 61. Houston, Texas 78, very mild weather. Back to you guys.

ROMANS: Karen, thank you.

BRIGGS: You really got to watch out for those twitter storms though. That's the weather that really blew in this weekend.

The White House facing big questions it ain't because of a twitter storm. Did the president have proof he was wire tapped before he accused President Obama of doing so or is this just a deflection gone wrong?

ROMANS: We need a presidential Fujita Scale for twitter, you know.