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White House Defends Wiretap Claims; Budget Facing Harsh Criticism; Health Bill On Life Support. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 17, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:05](BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You're mischaracterizing what happened today. Where was your passion and where was your concern when they all said that there was no connection to Russia? Where was it then?


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: A press briefing for the ages. A defiant and combative White House defends the president's wiretapping claims despite the fact that bipartisan members of the Senate Intel Committee say there is no evidence.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: And with the White House budget proposal hitting some of the most needy where it hurts. Despite a growing backlash, this White House standing by its case.

BRIGGS: And then there is the health care overhaul. A growing number of House Republicans oppose the GOP health plan. A critical moment for Speaker Ryan. He already lost more support than he could handle to pass this bill. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. Enough green for two of us on this St. Patrick's Day.

ROMANS: I know. I do have a green pen.

BRIGGS: It works.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour. I hope you all are enjoying your St. Patrick's Day morning. A lot of news this morning. The White House lashing out on all sides, defending President Trump's unfounded wiretapping accusations. This is the most combative stance we've seen yet, unleashed in a White House press briefing that you just had to see to believe.

The press secretary, Sean Spicer, pushing back hard against reporters, quoting the House Speaker and congressional intelligence leaders. Reporters who were quoting all these other people who were saying there's no evidence President Obama ordered a wiretap of the Trump campaign. Later then, Speaker Paul Ryan not mincing words on the subject.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We have not seen any evidence that there was a wiretap or a FISA court order against Trump Tower or somebody in Trump Tower.


BRIGGS: Ryan, backed up by Senate Intel Committee chairman Richard Burr and the ranking Democrat on the panel, Mark Warner. Their statement saying, "Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016." CNN's Jim Acosta was directly in the line of fire at the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, the White House is still digging in, trying to explain President Trump's baseless claim that former President Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. During a testy news briefing over here at the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer predicted the president will still be vindicated after the Intelligence Committees up on Capitol Hill investigate the matter. Here's what he had to say.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has already said clearly when he referred to wiretapping, he was referring to surveillance. So that's --

ACOSTA: That's not what it sounds like. It sounds like, Sean --


ACOSTA: -- that you and the president are saying now well, we don't mean wiretapping anymore --


ACOSTA: -- because that's not true anymore.

SPICER: No, no, that's not --

ACOSTA: So now we're going to hear it's other forms of surveillance. What's it going to be next?

SPICER: No, no. Jim, I think that's cute but at the end of the day -- we talked about this for three or four days -- what the president had to quote "wiretapping" in quotes. He was referring to broad surveillance and now you're basically going back. We've talked about this several days ago. The bottom line is that the investigation by the House and the Senate has not been provided all of the information, and when it does -- but where was the concern --


SPICER: No, no. What I -- I think the president addressed that last night. He said there's more to come. These are merely pointing out that I think there is widespread reporting that throughout the 2016 election there was surveillance that was done on a variety of people that came up.

ACOSTA: There's an investigation going on to whether they were contacted during the president's campaign.

SPICER: But how do you -- Jim, I find it interesting that you somehow believe that you --

ACOSTA: Of course, they're going to be looking at these various --

SPICER: I get it. Somehow, you seem to believe that you have all of this information -- you've been read in on all of these things, which I find very interesting.

ACOSTA: And President Trump will have another opportunity to sound off on this controversy when he holds a joint news conference with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on today -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: Jim Acosta, we admire your restraint. FBI Director James Comey will testify before the House committee on Monday. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, telling CNN he expects Comey will also say he's seen no evidence to support the president's wiretapping claim.

ROMANS: All right. The White House budget blueprint is President Trump's campaign promises turned into numbers, but some of what's in the budget wish list goes against the president's own agenda. Let me give you some examples. First, in his inauguration he said the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer, but cuts to programs like Meals On Wheels, federal funding of rural airports, and affordable housing could hit some of the supporters who put him in office.

Second, President Trump has said he wants to spend it on infrastructure but his budget cuts $500 million from the Transportation Department's rebuilding budget and slashes several programs which support infrastructure projects in the nation's poorest areas. Third, Trump has championed innovation, and science, and medicine to rid the world of disease and find miracle cures, but he slashes nearly $6 billion from scientific research at the National Institutes of Health and he cuts deeply from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services.

There are also cuts to the New York City Police Department in President Trump's hometown. It gets federal funding for counterterrorism. The commissioner says nearly all of that will disappear. For all of the funding and programs the budget slashes, the administration says they are outdated or they're ineffective. No question, there is waste and redundancy in government but advocates for the poor, scientists and doctors group are alarmed here. What you are seeing is a dramatic remaking of how government works if this budget were to be put into place.

[05:35:20] BRIGGS: The bill to replace Obamacare hanging in the balance this morning with a growing number of Republicans voicing opposition to the plan. House Speaker Paul Ryan clinging to hope his measure will survive. He cannot afford to lose support from more than 21 Republicans and, right now, exactly 21 Republicans have gone on record saying they will oppose the measure or are leaning against it. President Trump still sounding hopeful, tweeting "Great progress on health care. Improvements being made. Republicans coming together."

Let's bring in political economist Greg Valliere, chief strategist for Horizon Investments.

ROMANS: Good morning, again.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you, sir.


BRIGGS: What improvements are being made in this bill?

VALLIERE: Well, I think there might be something a little gentler on Medicaid cuts for the Senate that will come later in the spring, but the improvements to me are not sufficient to get this bill passed. It needs a lot more work. They've got to go back to the drawing boards. And if it fails in the next few days, then I think the whole thing gets rewritten.

ROMANS: Gets rewritten. What does that say about the president's legislative agenda if he has so much trouble with this one?

VALLIERE: Well, I've got to say, Christine, it does not bode well for things like all the budget cuts that you mentioned earlier. It was really, really eye-opening yesterday to see how many Republicans said we're not going to go along with this. We're not going to go along with cuts for housing, cuts for Meals on Wheels, cuts for the National Institutes of Health. So already, things like the budget look like they're in trouble.

ROMANS: Well, it's interesting because those cuts come to fund a big buildup in military, and V.A., and --


ROMANS: -- law enforcement, but it does nothing for the deficit. It does nothing for the --


ROMANS: -- national debt, which Donald Trump promised again and again on the campaign trail that he'd get rid of in eight years.

VALLIERE: Yes. I mean, that can't happen. And I give Trump some credit because he promised during the campaign that he would not cut Medicare and Social Security, and he did not in this budget. But unless you're willing to take on those two entitlements you're never going to get close to a balanced budget.

BRIGGS: Yes. Some of these cuts, not just right for congressional Democrats but also for late-night comedians.


BRIGGS: Here's how Seth Meyers' take on his cuts were last night.


SETH MEYERS, HOST, NBC "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Meals on Wheels? Meals on Wheels? How dead inside do you have to be to not want old people to get food? Your heart is so small it makes your tiny hands look like catcher mitts. There's nothing more low-life than lying to the elderly. You should know that, you're 70. Don't you hate it when people lie to you and say things I'll try to make it down next week? It's just -- I'm on Kayak and there are just no flights.


BRIGGS: Boy, late-night comedians are --


BRIGGS: -- in their glory day right now. But, largely, in terms of the narrative, once this gets to Congress how will these priorities be followed or be completely changed once they produce their own budget?

VALLIERE: Well, everyone from Marco Rubio on has said in the last 24 hours they're going to write the budget and they're going to make it their own. And, you know, you've got to say, Meals on Wheels could become the metaphor for bad branding. Here's this genius at branding and he's going to cut Meals on Wheels. I think in the Reagan administration they tried to label Ketchup as a vegetable or --


VALLIERE: -- cut Big Bird. I mean, sometimes there are things that sound innocuous that become sort of symbolic of what they're trying to do, so he's going to suffer defeat on that. Meanwhile guys, the story the markets really care about, tax reform --


VALLIERE: -- is nowhere to be seen.

ROMANS: You don't think so? I mean, I was hearing whispers of maybe they were trying to do corporate tax reform first --


ROMANS: -- and they do middle-class later --


ROMANS: -- which I think would be politically very difficult because that's --


ROMANS: -- going to look a giveaway to banks and rich people.

VALLIERE: Yes, the optics don't look good. So, I mean, the committees will start moving on tax reform but I think for the markets, which were hoping for something this year, you've got to push back the timetable into probably 2018.

BRIGGS: Does the entire agenda, including tax cuts, depend solely on getting through health care first?

VALLIERE: Well, to a large extent, and as I've been pointing out for the last few weeks, how ironic is this? Eight years ago, Barack Obama wasted a lot of his political capital on Obamacare.


VALLIERE: Didn't focus on jobs. So eight years later we have another president bogged down by health care.

ROMANS: Yes. A fifth of the economy and just a real -- a real problem spot. Let's talk about Sean Spicer and the press briefing yesterday.


ROMANS: I mean, rarely, in my career covering the White House --


ROMANS: -- have I seen a press secretary at a press briefing become appointment viewing like this. In particular, he had a laundry list yesterday of where the president was synthesizing his information to come up --


ROMANS: -- with his claims about surveillance -- listen.


SPICER: "The New York Times" reported the following. Sean Hannity went on, on Fox, days after the election. "Heat Street" reported. Andy McCarthy writing a national review. Sara Carter, from "Circa", reporting.


[05:40:10] ROMANS: He was trying to really show like where the president --


ROMANS: -- got all this information and show that it was out there. That people were reporting and writing about this. What is it to you -- say to you about the President of the United States, who has access to of all this information, about how he is making decisions and opinions?

VALLIERE: Yes. What's the old adage? When you're in a hole, stop digging, and they keep digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole. And as the three of us discussed earlier, the big story here is that Republicans, when they see stuff like this, can attack Trump with impunity. They are running away from him. He is losing support because of the wiretapping story and because of that, that means they can also leave him with impunity on things like the budget, and Obamacare, and taxes.

BRIGGS: Isn't it amazing? He said to "FOX NEWS" that he would not have been president with Twitter and it's Twitter, that very mechanism, that is undermining his entire agenda right now.

VALLIERE: I go around the country, I see investors who like him. They see a lot of things that they feel are good about him. But to a person, they all say to me I wish he would stop tweeting.

ROMANS: All right, Greg Valliere. Nice to see you this morning.


ROMANS: Have a great weekend.

VALLIERE: You, too.

BRIGGS: Happy St. Patrick's Day, sir.

VALLIERE: You, too.

BRIGGS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in South Korea today amid rising tensions with North Korea. Tillerson now saying all options are on the table. We'll go live to Seoul, next.


[05:45:40] ROMANS: All right. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arriving in South Korea, the second stop on his six-day visit to Asia. Tillerson sending a clear message the Trump administration is abandoning diplomatic efforts to talk North Korea out of a nuclear confrontation. The secretary says after two decades of trying it's time for a new approach. For more on what that means I want to go live now to Seoul, South Korea and bring in CNN's Alexandra Field. I mean, you've just been at a press briefing with Secretary Tillerson. What did he say?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. We got to ask him the question after he has been saying for the last few days now that 20 years of diplomacy has failed and that it's time for a new approach to handling North Korea. What exactly does that mean and does that leave a military option on the table?

When I asked him that he said that he hopes there are a number of steps that would be taken before that. That nobody wants to see military conflict. But, he said that military option does remain on the table in the event that North Korea does something to threaten South Koreans or the U.S. forces who are based here, and if they elevate their weapons program to the point at which the U.S. feels that that is the only course of options. Certainly, though, he said that they would work on other avenues before pursuing anything like that -- a mix of economic, security, and diplomatic measures.

This is part of a trip where the Secretary of State went to DMZ this morning. That is, of course, the heavily fortified border between North Korea and South Korea. It is where you can most clearly feel that threat that has ratcheted up from North Korea. They have accelerated the development of their missiles, they have accelerated their nuclear ambitions. Kim Jong Un, himself, has declared that he is ready to test an intercontinental ballistic missile at some point this year, and that is one of the reasons why Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came here to say that security threats presented by North Korea are no longer a regional concern. These are a true concern for the U.S.

With that said, the U.S. and South Korean officials stood here today saying they are continuing to move forward with the deployment of a controversial missile defense system that China has objected to. Secretary Tillerson will continue his trip to Asia with a visit to Beijing tomorrow working -- will continue to express the importance of what he feels the THAAD system represents. He's asking China to stop retaliating against South Korea --

ROMANS: Right.

FIELD: -- economically for the installation of this system which Beijing feels could be used to spy on them, Christine.

ROMANS: It's fair to say that Beijing is furious about that cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea now. Rex Tillerson will go to China where he will have to discuss that, I'm sure. All right, thank you so much for that, Alexandra Field.

BRIGGS: Fascinating.

ROMANS: It really is.

BRIGGS: Now, in less than 24 hours North Korea should not fear the U.S. Today, all options are on the table. That new strategy -- can't wait to see what it is beyond the rhetoric.

ROMANS: That's right. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. If you are planning to go house hunting this spring watch out for rising mortgage rates. We'll show you how much more you could pay a month, thanks to the Federal Reserve, when we get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.


[05:52:50] BRIGGS: A defining moment for U.S.-German relations as President Trump hosting Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House today. It will be their first face-to-face meeting since Mr. Trump ridiculed the chancellor on the campaign trail, accusing her of "ruining Germany." CNN's Atika Shubert live from Berlin. What has been the reception of President Trump there in Germany? ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT:Well, a lot of people here are very cautious and very wary, especially given some of the chaos of the first days of the administration, but what Merkel is going to try and do is reset the relationship. You're right, it's gotten off to a very rocky start. We heard those comments from Trump during the campaign. And Merkel, herself, in a phone call with President Trump after he was inaugurated, specifically said that his -- that his travel ban was both wrong and in violation of international law, so they have a lot of differences to overcome.

But Merkel has really been studying up on this, you know. She is known for being very -- quietly persistent studying an issue and then, you know, taking decisive action. And so, in this case, she's really sent a number of emissaries to meet with the likes of Steve Bannon, for example. She's been studying interviews of President Trump including, reportedly, a 1990 "Playboy" magazine interview just to see what's going on in the mind of Trump. What makes the Trump administrationtick.

But she's bringing with her also, on her team, a number of CEOs from BMW, from Siemens, and that may be to try to establish some common ground on trade. This is an issue she may be hoping that they can work together on and see whether or not they can find some sort of start to a good working relationship.

BRIGGS: Their words, their body language, it will all be parsed. We can't wait for this pivotal meeting. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The Seattle federal judge who temporarily blocked President Trump's first travel ban has declined to extend that order to the second. But Judge James Robart's ruling issued last night makes no practical difference between -- because two other federal judges have already blocked the new travel ban from going into effect for now. Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirming that the administration does plan to appeal those two rulings -- rulings that are preventing the president's revised ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries from going into effect.

[05:55:12] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: The danger is real and the law is clear. The president was elected to change our broken immigration system and he will continue to exercise his constitutional authority and presidential responsibility to protect our nation.


BRIGGS: Interesting day at the White House --

ROMANS: It sure was.

BRIGGS: -- to say the least. Winter won't let go, folks. Another blast of cold, snowy weather headed up to the Northeast. Let's turn to meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine. After this week's Nor'easter, nearly 100 percent of New England is blanketed with snowfall at the moment. A very large coverage area of that fresh-fallen white layer of snow covering the ground. Now, that storm system is long gone but now we start to focus our attention on a weak clipper system that's going to drop across the Northern Great Lakes.

Check this out. West Michigan into parts of Wisconsin, even into eastern Minnesota, we have winter weather advisories in place this morning through the afternoon hours, and it's all thanks to this system pushing through. Snowfall from Grand Rapids to Detroit but, Chicago, you'll be warm enough for mainly just rain showers for you. This system moves east as one would expect and some of those snow showers will actually impact Pennsylvania and into parts of New York on Saturday.

We have cold weather across the Deep South. In fact, freeze warnings from the Ohio River Valley all the way to the Florida Panhandle. Check out these temperatures for the weekend staying well below average from D.C. to the Big Apple -- back to you.


ROMANS: All right, Derek, thank you. That's your weather, here's your money. This morning, stock futures are basically flat right now. Stock markets in Europe and Asia mixed. The market edging lower yesterday, led by health care stocks. Investors did not like the president's cuts to research and science programs and that sector struggled.

Mortgage rates moving up to the highest level this year after the Fed hiked interest rates this week. The national average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is now 4.3 percent. Analysts see a gradual increase in rates but expect the national average to stay below five percent this year. Higher mortgage rates mean money right out of homeowners' pockets. When interest rates rise a quarter of a percentage point this is how much it costs. For a $200,000 mortgage, it's about $29 more a month. As you can see, that increases as the loan gets bigger. For a $500,000 jumbo loan, it's $73 more a month.

One of the hottest IPOs of the year soaring in its Wall Street debut. Canada Goose is the maker of pricey jackets and parkas. They cost upwards of $800 apiece. The stock soaring 25 percent in its first day of trading despite mixed results in retail over the past few months. Investors like this company's combo of rugged looks and luxury prices.

Animal rights groups, though, don't. PETA protested outside the New York Stock Exchange. It says the jackets are trimmed with real fur and filled with real down, which they say causes pain and suffering to animals. The group tells "CNN MONEY" it plans to buy shares of Canada Goose so it can become an activist investor.

BRIGGS: What does PETA like, though?

ROMANS: Oh, well, they like not real fur. BRIGGS: I'm not just stumping anyone. You know where you don't need those parkas?

ROMANS: Where?

BRIGGS: Mar-a-Lago.

ROMANS: This is true, this is true.

BRIGGS: Mar-a-Lago.

ROMANS: Where they can afford those parkas.

BRIGGS: The president is headed back there today, for the fifth time.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


SPICER: First of all, he stands by it. He was very clear about that.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't forget, when I saw wiretapping those words were in quotes.

ACOSTA: You and the president are saying now well, we don't mean wiretapping anymore. If that's not true anymore --

SPICER: We -- no, no.

RYAN: I have not seen any evidence that this occurred.

TRUMP: Let's see whether or not I prove it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The director will be asked to respond very directly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This budget reallocates and reprioritizes spending.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I can't see how this budget can survive the light of day.

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Meals on Wheels sounds great. We can't spend money on programs just because they sound good. That's not my plan.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: I would never vote to cut even one dollar.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, March 17th, 6:00 here in New York. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow, the one and only, here once again.


CUOMO: And once again, a lot of news.


CUOMO: The White House standing by President Trump's unproven claim -- that's more unproven than ever now -- that the idea that Trump Tower or that President Trump was wiretapped by President Obama. That was the notion he put out there. No one has backed it up. But, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, was angry, defending the president, again, despite intelligence officials, congressional leaders from both parties saying there is no proof.

HARLOW: No proof and this controversy is overshadowing the president's agenda as he faces growing resistance on a number of fronts. Republican lawmakers blasting his budget for proposing major cuts to programs --