Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Wiretapping Claims; Trump Furious At Reports On Russia Ties; Revised Travel Ban Expected; U.S. Strongly Condemns North Korea Missile Test; SNL Takes On Sessions And Trump; NYT Report: Uber Evading Officials. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 6, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI now asking the Justice Department to rebut claims from President Trump's claim that he was wiretapped on orders from President Obama. If the president has proof, where is it? And if he doesn't, why launch the latest Tweeter tirade?

Good morning -- good Monday morning. A lot going on, welcome back to EARLY START, I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 31 minutes past the hour. Look, we have to tweet before 7:00 a.m., not always a good idea though. It's an occupational hazard for us.

But this morning, the White House is facing a daunting challenge as friend and foe alike calling on it to prove the explosive claim in President Trump's tweet storm that President Obama had him wiretapped. It's an allegation Mr. Trump made without offering any evidence in which everyone in the position to know he has denied.

Now, the FBI itself, asking the Justice Department to refute the 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, so far, no comment from the Justice Department.

ROMANS: President Trump now asking congress to investigate this baseless wiretapping claim and he's getting a mixed response. House intelligence Chairman, Devin Nunes saying his committee will look into the matter as part of a broader probe of rushing campaign middling. But other Republicans are now pushing back against the president's wiretapping Tweeter claim. And the Former National Intelligence Chief, James Clapper telling NBC it simply did not happen.


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

CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: If the FBI, for instance, had advice of court order some sort for surveillance, would that be information you would know or not know?


TODD: You would be told this...

CLAPPER: I would know that.

TODD: ...if there was advice of court order...


TODD: ...on something like this?

CLAPPER: Something like this, absolutely.


ROMANS: More now from White House correspondent, Athena Jones. She is covering the President in West Palm Beach, Florida.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. The President spent the weekend here in Florida. It was his fourth visit (ph) to his Mar-a-Lago State since taking office but it was a 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 Russian 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, then obviously he will 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 is going to want to provide our committee with any evidence that he has.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: So, there you have a Republican 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 wiretapping. This sort of wiretapping would be illegal, Christine, Dave?

BRIGGS: Athena, thank you. This is not the first time that Trump has launched the controversy seemingly to deflect from intense coverage of a new story he doesn't like. In January, there was the claim that he would have won the popular vote if not for the millions of votes he claimed without basis or illegally cast. This new claim by the president apparently originated with a rant by conservative talk radio host, Mark Levin who cited an article from Right-Leaning (ph) website, "Heat Street".

That allegation was then picked up by Breitbart News, the site once headed by Chief White House Strategist, Steve Bannon and within the day, President Trump was tweeting it as fact. Since then, even the president's aides have had a hard time defending the claim.



SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL 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, ABC NEWS: But you're not saying -- look at this the President of the United States is accusing the former president of wiretapping him.

HUCKABEE: I think that this is again something that if this happened, Martha...

RADDATZ: If, if, if, if.

HUCKABEE: I agree.

RADDATZ: Why is the president saying it did happen?

HUCKABEE: 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.


BRIGGS: Man, is that a tough assignment for Sarah Huckabee Sanders? President Trump appears very committed to that real potential telling the Conservative site news max, "This will be investigated. It will all come out. I will be proven right." Answers from the White House, "May be hard to come by today." No TV cameras allowed at a 1:30 p.m. briefing with Press Secretary, Sean Spicer.

ROMANS: Sean Spicer said this whole thing is based on reports. When asked, you know, "Where did this come from?" He said, "Well, it's report," you know. And he said, "He said it in the past, you know, the president sees something and synthesizes that information and believes it to be true." The president believes it to be true...

BRIGGS: But, of course, he has access to the DOJ, to the FBI, CIA, NSA he doesn't need media reports.

ROMANS: It's...

BRIGGS: He doesn't need anonymous sources, right?

ROMANS: It's fascinating. It's either wrong completely or if it's right somehow that not Obama but the president has the power to do that but if someone in the Obama administration did order a wiretap, we have known...

BRIGGS: If he store (ph) either way.

ROMANS: ...that would mean that there was probable cause in an investigation into Russia influence and the election and that's another big story.

BRIGGS: What a criminal thoughts (ph), yes.


BRIGGS: Brian Stelter will join us, by the way, in the 5:00 a.m. hour to chat...



BRIGGS: ...sift through this.

ROMANS: All right, all these infuriating President Trump, you know, sources tell CNN the president is extremely frustrated and upset at his senior staff for letting this other controversy, the firestorm surrounding top aides and surrogates meetings 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 to our sources, angry at the nonstop leaks, and it aides 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, oh yes, that old Washington machine.

For the very latest, let's go to Moscow and CNNs, Fred Pleitgen. Good morning, Fred. You know, I'm hearing from reporters close to the Washington Machine who have been saying that, you know, there's a big discussion inside those inner circles about just what they can do with Russia at this point because it has become its own story here in the United States.

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely and, you know, it's something that certainly is infuriating a lot of people here in Russia and certainly a lot of senior politicians here in this country. He had the foreign Sergey Lavrov come out at the end of last week and called what's going on in Washington right now and I quote, "A witch hunt and equating it to McCarthyism." We had some angry reactions by others as well.

And then there was one of the main TV pundits here who has a very prominent show here on Sundays called Dmitry Kiselyov and he came out yesterday and said that he believe that it's impossible right now for President Trump to make any sort of headways on U.S.-Russia relations because even mentioning the word Russia in the U.S. right now as he put it would be toxic and it's something that he believes Trump has been scared out of doing.

So, the Russians on the one hand not happy about the way Russia is being portrayed in all this especially with all of the controversy surrounding those meetings with Russia's Ambassador. But at the same time, of course the Russians also wanted some tangible progress especially in the early times of the Trump Administration. They felt that relations between the U.S. and Russia could improve significantly.

At this point in time, the messages that we're getting from Russian politicians is that they don't believe that that improvement will happen very fast. In fact, the Prime Minister of this country, Dmitry Medvedev, he came forward at the end of last week and he said he believes that for instance sanctions are something that are going to be in place for a very long time for the Russians to deal with the fact that those sanctions will be in place for a very long time.

So, the Russians definitely disappointed by the pace of which things are going...


PLEITGEN: ...but at the same time, not holding the president himself responsible for it, Christine.

ROMANS: But you know, Fred, it's interesting it tells you like this is a double-edged sword of Russian disinformation campaigns, right? I mean, maybe on the one hand it was so successful, it has hurt them in their ability to work with the U.S. for a reset.

PLEITGEN: Well, then the Russians certainly wanted tangible results. And it certainly -- I mean you felt that after the election that they certainly were not unhappy to see President Trump in office and you could hear that also here in the media as well where people were talking about the future of relations between the U.S. and Russia.

Many believe that for instance Syria would be one of those topics or one of those places where they thought the U.S. and Russia could cut some sort of deal that there could some sort of cooperation. At the same time, Russian officials that are speaking right now are saying, "Look, they are still very patient with the Trump Administration."

They are still hoping that there could be headway on some issue but at the same time, they also knowledge that there are issues where the U.S. and Russia will always be at loggerhead...


PLEITGEN: ...for instance of course the Ukraine crisis being probably the most prominent one, Christine.


ROMANS: Of course. All right, Fred Pleitgen for us this morning in Moscow, lunch time for you in Moscow. Thank you so much, Fred nice to see you this morning.

All right, will we finally see the new travel ban from the White House today? There are lots of signs pointing to yes. What it all means for immigration next.



BRIGGS: The White House is possibly getting a chance to change the narrative today as aides prepare to announce President Trump's new travel ban. We had false starts on this before, but we're told it is coming as early as today. The order was delayed last week in an effort to keep the focus on good press for Mr. Trump's address to congress. The big questions, will Iraq be dropped from the list and will specific religion still be singled out, CNN's Ryan Nobles has more.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, good morning. The newly revised executive order 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 finally 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 minority. Now, 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 quote, "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 two 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 say there is even a debate among Trump advisers 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 stuffing international airports around the country prepared to help those who may get caught up in the ban once implemented, Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you. Also on immigration, the Trump Administration will stop processing expedited requests for H-1B worker visas. An immigration expert say the move could disrupt business in the U.S. Here's what is being suspended, companies right now can pay $1,200 to get worker visas approved in just 15 days. Normally, the wait time is 3 to 6 months, 85,000 of these work visas are given out each year but demand is three times that.

The U.S. immigration services office says that suspending the program to help clear the backlog of the application. Now, businesses say that might hurt them. The H-1B visas are staple (ph) in Silicon Valley and the tech industry uses them to close -- help close the skills gap. The expedited visas are common for tech companies working in short-term projects that need workers quickly.

Doctors in some rural area of the U.S. are working on the H-1B visas have seen a money (ph) profile one of them (ph) recently. Students could also face big changes. Foreign students who graduate cannot stay in the country if their H-1B visa request is pending and now the option of getting an expedited visa is being cut off that could force some to return to their home country while waiting approval.

Although, there is some concern that this is the program that is abused and misused by big, you know, I.T. Companies who are just pulling people in from overseas...


ROMANS: ...and paying them less and, you know, not giving American workers a shot. So, there's a big debate about that.

BRIGGS: Clearly, some fixing needs to be done.

Well, in the series of ballistic missile test from North Korea, what the U.S. is saying and why this matters. We're live in Seoul, next.



BRIGGS: The United States strongly condemning stop me if you heard that before, the latest ballistic missile launches by North Korea. The State Department warning the U.S. will defend itself and its allies and it's prepared to use the full range of capabilities at its disposal against what it calls a growing threat.

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, let's get the latest from CNN's Paula Hancocks live from Seoul, South Korea this morning. Good morning to you. How does this differ from the latest launches we've seen?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, this one went about 600 miles and we also know that it's -- in height was about 160 miles. So, that range is even longer than we have seen before. Now, we have had similar ranges, but just a few weeks ago, the range was much less.

So, what we're seeing is this barrage four consecutive missile launches. One U.S. official telling us that initial report suggested they are intermediate range missiles that is not being confirmed over here in South Korea yet though there are still pouring (ph) over that U.S. Satellite data to try and figure out exactly what North Korea fired early this Monday morning.

Now, there was a national Security Council meeting here. As that happened, the acting president, Hwang Kyo-Ahn said that they were acting in defiance of the international community also saying that the consequences of a nuclear armed North Korean regime will be appalling beyond imagination. There is a great concern here in South Korea.

The timing though, it hasn't really surprised anyone. The fact is last week, there's joint military drills between the United States and South Korea started. These are the massive annual drills which the U.S. and South Korea say are defensive in nature and routine but every single year, North Korea reacts to them.

They see them as a dress rehearsal for an invasion, so they always react and quite often we do see a number of ballistic missile tests as a sign of anger. So, it's potentially -- it's possible that we could see more in the future, Dave.


BRIGGS: Frightening. Thank you, Paula.

After a few weeks off, "SNL" catching up with the Trump Administration, Kate McKinnon brilliant as always playing Jeff Sessions in channeling Forrest Gump, take a look.


KATE MCKINNON, COMEDIAN AND ACTRESS: Being in the government was so fun. Have you ever been in it?


MCKINNON: All right. You'll meet so many nice people like this. This is my best good friend Kellyanne.


MCKINNON: She ain't got no legs.


MCKINNON: Why you got no legs, Kellyanne. Are you sure you don't want chocolates? I always say life is like a box of chocolates. Show her a whole lot of brown legs in there.


MCKINNON: I was on the cover of "The New York Times." You want to see?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This says you might have committed perjury.

MCKINNON: Yes. I had a bad week. So, I said, no, I never talked to any Russians ever and that's all I got to say about that. I've talked to the Russians...



ROMANS: All right. It's so funny. Is this going to be a new trend where you're going to have, you know, a female comedian portraying, you know, the big names...

BRIGGS: Well...

ROMANS: ...the big men in Washington?

BRIGGS: And as we've been told nothing drives the president more nuts than women playing the strong men in his cabinet. Kate McKinnon is incredibly talented. She is also playing Jeff Session's "Ate Some Pie" from Octavia Spencer of "The Help" if you watch that movie...

ROMANS: So, yes.

BRIGGS: know what that pie consists of.

ROMANS: Absolutely. So, if you checked out this weekend, we'll let you check in one of the funniest pieces.


ROMANS: All right, let's go to check on CNN Money Stream this morning. It could be a rough start to the training week futures lower investors are mulling over the latest development to Trump Administration. Look, frankly, they're wondering if the president's tweets are going to derail or overshadow his legislation -- legislative agenda and then probably going to come to grips to the probability that the fed will hike rates next week.

There's a big job support on Friday and European stock markets are trading lower right now, shares in Asia closing mostly higher overnight. New this morning, General Motor is selling off its money losing European venture. This is a big -- couple billion bucks here. French automaker PSA will buy GMs operations which include the Opel and the Vauxhall brands. PSA makes Peugeot & Citreon model. It will become Europe's second largest automaker behind Volkswagen. It gets rid of a major headache for GM. Opel and Vauxhall brands have lost about $18 billion over the last 16 years.

More trouble this morning for Uber, this time accusations that it is evading authorities with their technology. "The New York Times" reports a toll call the "Greyball" uses data from the Uber app to circumvent official. It basically uses a fake app to make them think they've ordered a car then has drivers cancelled their rides. The Times says it's been used in Boston, Paris, and Las Vegas as well as China and South Korea. The paper says four current and former employees shared details of this thing called, "Greyball". And Uber's legal team cleared the practice that's according to The Times.

The report comes just days after a video of the CEO, of the billionaire CEO, Travis Kalanick was published by Bloomberg it shows him arguing badly, coarsely with an Uber driver over pay practice. He has seen to apologize that he needs help -- leadership help.

Then on Friday, Uber's head of growth and products resigned from the company. Uber also facing claims of sexual harassment following a blog post by a former engineer and the company now says that it is investigating that and really looking deep inside the corporate culture. Another...


BRIGGS:'s been a tough start to 2017.

ROMANS: It sure has.

BRIGGS: Better start for us, EARLY START continues right now.

ROMANS: The FBI turning to the Justice Department to push back on the president's claims he was wiretapped on orders from President Obama. Trump still offering no proof this morning. Is this just another distraction, another misdirection play from the series of bad headlines?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. Everybody, I'm Christine Romans.


BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. It's Monday, March 6th 5:00 a.m. in the East. Welcome to the civilization wharfing crisis of public trust, welcome to that.

This morning, the White House faces a daunting challenge as friend and foe alike call in to prove the explosive claim and President Trump's tweet that President Obama had him wiretapped. It's an allegation Mr. Trump made without offering any evidence in which everyone in the position to know has denied.

Now the FBI itself is asking the Justice Department to refute the 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, so far no comments from the Justice Department.