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Reboot for the White House as Republicans React on Failed Health Bill; Executive Order on Power Plants To Be Signed This Week; Chairman Nunes Cancel Hearings; Protests in Russia; Carnage in Mosul; United Airlines on Dress Codes. Aired at 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2017 - 04:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The Republican Party looking for a major reset after the health care bill disaster looking to jump-start their agenda. Could the strategy from Republican president and Congress actually can get (ph) help with the Democrats.

Good morning, thanks for getting the EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs, it's Monday March 27th, 4:00 a.m. in the East. Christine Romans is off today. She is getting better. Get back here tomorrow, my friend.

This morning, the White House is hoping for a fresh start in the wake of last weeks disastrous health care defeat. The administration is seeking to retake the initiative with a new legislative agenda and a new strategy. At the top of the list, tax reform and infrastructure. The other priority, shepherding Judge Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court.

One senior White House official saying of the high court nominee, quote, "that's for 30 year," but will White House in-fighting stall the effort to reboot. We're told there's growing friction between aides loyal to chief of staff Reince Priebus and those aligned with chief strategist Steve Bannon. A senior aide says some are using the health bill's failure to build their own power and even if Republicans rather, manage to make peace among themselves, will they build a bridge to Democrats to get bills passed.

These are the same Democrats who President Trump blamed shortly after the failure to repeal Obamacare while he absolved House Speaker Paul Ryan. Then over the weekend it really gets interesting, the president seem to back away from that tone with a tweet that called on people to watch Judge Jeanine Pirro on Fox News where she went on a rant calling for paul Ryan's resignation. Priebus was asked about that on Sunday.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Does the president want Paul Ryan to resign as speaker

REINCE PREIBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it was more coincidental, Chris.

WALLACE: Oh, come on. PRIEBUS: I did not talk to the president about the tweet. I'm just

telling you the truth. There was no pre-planning here. The president --

WALLACE: Why would he say watch her and that's the first thing out of her mouth?

PRIEBUS: Because loves Judge Jeanine and he want to do Judge Jeanine a favor.

WALLACE: So does he want Paul Ryan to step down or not?

PRIEBUS: No, he doesn't.


BRIGGS: Intrigued. The president and Ryan spoke on Sunday. Ryan spokesman says Mr. Trump was clear his tweet was not meant to be a shot at the speaker. A senior aide says staff aligned with Reince Priebus believes Steve Bannon was, quote, "very quick to spread stories about Ryan" which is not helpful in the effort to build relationships on Capitol Hill.

Cracks emerging this morning within the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus as well over its role in scuttling the Oamacare repeal bill. The first casualty, Texas congressman Ted Poe, quitting the ultra conservative caucus on Sunday saying, "conservatives must come together to find solutions." Poe said in a statement that, "Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective member of Congress."

One Republican leadership aide telling us that Poe's resignation could be just the first defection from the Freedom Caucus. The president at any rate seems ready to move on without them. He tweeted, "Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus with the help of the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation have saved Planned Parenthood and Obamacare." But the chairman of the caucus, Mark Meadows, insist the fight to pass the health care bill is not over.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: It's like saying that Tom Brady lost at halftime. You know, we're not -- we may be in overtime but I can tell you at the very end of the day the most valuable player will be President Trump on this because he will deliver. He's committed to the American people and we're committed to help him get there.


BRIGGS: A doozy of a Tom Brady analogy. A senior White House official tells us that member of the Freedom Caucus are, quote, "Expressing regret at the way this went down." The aide says anti-abortion groups were also targeting the caucus which the blame for blowing the best chance to defund Planned Parenthood. So since everyone here has been blamed if you're keeping the score, except for of course the president himself.

Meanwhile a chorus of Republican's venting their frustration with the health care bill's failure and the process by which the leadership tried to pass the measure especially the speed involved. Listen


SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I'm not saying that we needed 14 months to do this. I think a more careful and deliberate approach which we now have time to do because we're going to have to revisit health care anyway, would have gotten us further down the path towards a solution. Health care is a very complicated issue, to release a bill that was written in secret and then expect to pass it in 18 days. I just don't think was feasible.

[04:05:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were a few things they could have added to the bill. They could have brought enough people into the bill to both works so that it would have passed. Devoting 17 legislative days to a bill and then walking away from it because it hasn't passed within 17 legislative days makes no sense.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: If they were here, they would say to you, Republicans here, the old days are over. That doesn't happen anymore and Democrats are determined not to work with Republicans, so how do you --

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: That's pathetic. That's pathetic. First of all, it's not the old days anymore. If you don't have the old days back from the standpoint of people or Americans before there were Republicans and Democrats, nothing will get done and if the Democrats don't want to reach out and be constructive then call them on it. Talk about the fact that they won't help because many of them will if it's put to them.


BRIGGS: As we mentioned, the administration's focus is shifting to tax reform. A lot of questions there first, when? Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says the White House is on track to get a bill passed by the August recess. He says he's been working on a proposal for the past two months starting from scratch and revamping the entire tax code, something that hasn't been done in decades.

The cornerstone of that, three tax brackets depending on income levels. Currently there are six and the main criticism among tax experts is these new brackets gives hug cuts to the wealthy, smaller relief to the middle class, but the president said recently he's thinking of a fourth bracket at zero percent meaning lower income Americans would not pay any taxes at all.

The other big piece will be reducing the corporate tax rate. The federal rate currently 35 percent though few companies actually pay that due to deductions, credits, and other tax moves. The administration has thrown out a variety of levels from 15 to 25 percent. It's also discussed an even lower rate for companies to bring cash back to the U.S. from overseas. This will be a monster undertaking.

President Trump expected to announce this morning a new White House office to be led by top aide and first son-in-law Jared Kushner and staffed with former business executives. The White House Office of American Innovation will focus on overhauling the federal bureaucracy and infusing it with ideas from the business world. The "Washington Post" reports the office will be an aggressive idea factory dedicated to bringing corporate efficiency to the federal government.

President Trump plans to sign an executive order tomorrow to undo the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. That signature measure forced power plants to reduce carbon pollution up to 32 percent by the year 2030. According to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, the president's order will replace the Obama plan with a pro-growth approach to regulation. Pruitt says he's not concerned about legal challenges to President Trump's order.

Democrats want to know who exactly who is visiting the president when he's at his Mar-a-Lago estate. They just introduced legislation that would require the creation of an online data base of every guest. The measure brilliantly labeled the "Mar-a-Lago Act." An acronym for making access records available to lead American government openness. Give him credit for their wit.

They are under President Obama, the White House maintained a visitor page on its website and said it released about 6 million records. The White House visitor records page is currently being updated. The White House under Trump has not yet published visitor records or offered information about members of his club at Mar-a-Lago. Trump has spent nearly a third of his days in office at Trump branded properties. This the eight consecutive weekend the president spent time at Mar-a-Lago or another property bearing his name.

This morning we expected to tell you about the second House intel hearing on Russia that was scheduled for tomorrow, but instead questions are growing over whether the investigation itself is compromised. Intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes facing calls to recuse himself after canceling a hearing with three former Obama administration officials who happen to be critical of President Trump.

The hearing was set to include former CIA director John Brennan, former director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting attorney general Sally Yates. And Nunes co-chair, Adam Schiff voicing concerns.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think the chairman has to make a decision whether to act as a surrogate of the White House as he did during the campaign and the transition or to lead an independent and credible investigation. I hope he chooses the latter. I implore our chairman and the speaker to rededicate themselves to a serious and bipartisan investigation.


BRIGGS: The House intel committee is expected to bring FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers back for another hearing,

[04:10:00] this will be behind closed doors so they can offer classifies information.

Hundreds of peaceful protesters arrested in Russia including a noted critic of President Vladimir Putin. We're live in Moscow, next.


BRIGGS: The State Department is condemning the Kremlin for the arrest of hundreds of Russian protesters including a key proponent of President Vladimir Putin. Thousands of people hit the streets on Sunday in Moscow and nearly 100 other Russian cities and towns were anti-corruption demonstrations.

The detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny coming less than a week after another well-know Putin critic were shot and killed in Kiev. Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen with the latest developments. Fred, we understand you got caught up in this a bit as well.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we certainly did and you know it was interesting because the turnout at that rally was certainly a lot bigger than many people would have anticipated - certainly a lot bigger than the organizers, would have anticipated.

[04:15:03] I can tell you that when the rally got underway, there were a lot of cops on the street trying to prevent people from actually even getting that demonstration started. We're talking about riot police, undercover police, police with dogs, you name it, it was all there. And then when things got underway, a lot of people were detained and we actually did get caught up in some of that scrum as well. Here's what happened.


PLEITGEN: There's a massive police presence on hand here at these protests and time and again we are seeing scenes like this, with the police pushing the protesters back and even making arrests. OK, OK, OK.


PLEITGEN: So as you can see there a lot of scrum going on there and also there were indeed a lot of people who were arrested. Now the official number here is 500. The opposition was talking about around 700 people who were detained we believe, but not all of them have been released from detention yet. Certainly the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny has not yet been released from detention.

He apparently has his court date today. But of course, as you say Dave, this comes at a time when the safety of people in the opposition here is very much in question as that Kremlin critic, Denis Voronenlkov was shot and killed in Ukraine's capital Kiev and Ukranians are saying they believe that Russia was responsible. The Russians are saying that is absurd, Dave.

BRIGGS: Should be interesting when the U.S. State Department meets with Russia next month -- a lot to get to. Fred, thank you.

A military camp (INAUDIBLE) to defeat ISIS triggering carnage in Mosul. Dozens of civilians in the Iraqi city killed in a U.S-led attack against the terrorists. A senior Iraqi military officer confirming a coalition air struck hit a truck filled with explosives setting off a deadly blast. The Pentagon is investigating. CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live with the very latest. Good morning to you, Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Dave. Well, this strike took place on the 17th of March in the Mosul (INAUDIBLE) the new Mosul neighborhood where there's been currently a lot of fighting. Now, what exactly happened is not altogether clear. The U.S.-led coalition says that they did conduct one strike in that area. It was a strike that was called in by the Iraqis themselves.

Now, the Iraqis say the target was an ISIS truck bomb but nearby in one building they say there are around 130 people -- civilians hiding at the time and that they may have fallen victim to the resulting blast from either the explosion of the truck bomb itself or as a result of this U.S. airstrike.

Now, there has been a good deal of tension in recent years between the Iraqis and the Americans, the Iraqis often complaining that the U.S. rules of engagement when it comes to airstrikes are too strict. The U.S. eager to avoid civilian casualties, so this maybe a new switch as more intense use of airstrikes when it comes to the fight against ISIS. Also, keep in mind Dave that when the offensive to drive ISIS out of Mosul began in the middle of October, last year Iraqi officials who were saying that the entire city would be liberated by the end of 2016, here we are almost of April of 2017 and may be a case of the Iraqis getting impatient and wanting to bring this campaign in Mosul to an end as quickly as possible regardless of the cost.

BRIGGS: Such a complicated mission there. Ben, thank you.

All right folks, raise your hand if you had two teams in your Final Four who never made it before? A few of you indeed did. A look at the final team standing in March Madness, next.


BRIGGS: No arrests yet following a deadly nightclub shooting that Cincinnati police believe may have stemmed from an earlier fight. Authorities say multiple gunmen opened fire just after 1:00 a.m. on Sunday inside the Cameo nightclub. One man, 27-year-old O'Brien Spikes was killed, at least 15 other people wounded. Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage to try an ID the shooters. Police expect to provide and update later this morning.

The suspect in the bus murder on the Vegas strip, now facing various charges including murder, the 55-year-old, Rolando Cardenas, surrendered without incident Saturday after a standoff that lasted more than four hours. Police say he opened fire for no apparent reason -- that incident happening hours after a bizarre robbery at the Bellagio Hotel, at least three mask burglars in suits wielding sledge hammers, smashed their way into a high end jewelry store. At least one of them, yes, wearing a pig mask, one suspect in custody, and no one was injured. Police say there's no evidence the robbery is connected to the bus shootings.

United Airlines pushing back after a dress code requirement sparked social media uproar. The furor started after a woman tweeted that a United gate agent was refusing to allow girls in leggings board a flight. The airline's initial response through (INAUDIBLE) saying it was allowed to refuse passengers not properly dressed. Hours later United clarified saying leggings are welcome. They say the passengers in question were flying on a United employee's friends and family pass and their attire did not comply with that dress code. I am pro- leggings for the record.

[04:25:00] North Carolina and three unfamiliar faces to the Final Four, last teams standing in college basketball. The Tar Heels reaching the plateau for the fifth time under coach Roy Williams by knocking off Kentucky -- thanks to that shot by Mr. Maye, 75-73. What a shot by Luke Maye. UNC takes on Oregon in Phoenix on Saturday night. The Ducks haven't played in the Final Four in 78 years. That was the first ever NCAA tournament.

South Carolina knocked off Florida, 77-70, to advance the Final Four to face Gonzaga this weekend, both teams competing in the Final Four for the first time ever. Kudos to several CNN viewers in our CNN winning it all, a few of you have them playing North Carolina and or Oregon, so well done. folks.

All right, ahead, a lot of questions facing the president as the White House maps out a new strategy following the health bill implosion. What's on tap for the Trump agenda and is the health care fight really over for good?