Return to Transcripts main page


White House Seeks A Reboot; Republicans Vent Over Health Bill Failure; Democrats Introduce "Mar-A-Lago" Act; Pressure Grows On Intel Chair Representative Nunes; Protesters Rounded Up In Russia; U.S.-Led Airstrike Kills Dozens Of Mosul Civilians; Final Four Is Set. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 27, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: How does the Republican Party regroup after failing to follow-through on repealing Obamacare? President and Congress in need of a new strategy, could Democrats hold the key to advancing the agenda on Capitol Hill?

Welcome back to EARLY START, I'm Dave Briggs. It is 30 minutes past the hour. Christine Romans is off today.

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

One senior White House official saying of the high court nominee, "that's for 30 years", but will White House infighting stall the effort to reboot? We're told there's growing friction between aide's loyalty 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 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 failure to repeal Obamacare while he absolved House Speaker, Paul Ryan.

Then over the weekend, it really got interesting, the president seemed to back away from that tone with a tweet they called on people to watch Judge Jeanine Pirro on Fox News where she then 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 PRIEBUS, 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 preplanning here. The president...


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

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

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

PRIEBUS: No, he doesn't.


BRIGGS: The president and Ryan spoke on Sunday and Ryan's spokesman says Mr. Trump was clear his tweet was not meant to be a shout out at the speaker. The senior aide says staff aligned with Ryan's Priebus belief Steve Bannon was 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 over its role in scuttling the ObamaCare repeal bill. The first casualty Texas Congressman, Ted Poe quitting the freedom caucus on Sunday saying Conservatives must come together to find solutions.

Poe said on its statement that saying no was easy leading us hard but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective of congress. One Republican leadership aide telling that Poe's resignation could be just the first defection from that freedom caucus.

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 Heritage Foundation have saved Planned Parenthood and ObamaCare. But the chairman of the caucus, Mark Meadows insists the fight to pass a healthcare bill is not over.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: 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 are committed to help him.


(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Even Ben Roethlisberger at this point but let us know what you think at EARLY START.

A senior White House Official tells us that members of the Freedom Caucus are "expressing regret at the way it has went down". The aces anti-abortion groups are also targeting the caucus which they blame for blowing the best chance to defund Planned Parenthood. Of course Republicans venting their frustration with the healthcare bill's failure and the process by which the leadership tried to pass these measures especially the speed involved here. Listen.


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

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: There were a few things that could have added to the bill that could have brought enough people into the bill to vote for 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, 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 are Americans before they're 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.


[04:35:00] BRIGGS: We shall see about that. Since the bill was pulled Friday, President Trump has fired attacks in all directions, first the Democrats in a call to the "Washington Post" first revealing he pulled the bill Trump kept blaming the opposition party and claim they would eventually need to ask the Republicans for help on healthcare.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...or Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own ObamaCare, they own it 100 percent own it. And this is not Republican Healthcare. This is not anything but a Democrat Healthcare and they have ObamaCare for a little while longer until it ceases to exist, which it will.


BRIGGS: Another target for Trump, the Tuesday group, those moderate Republicans who wouldn't sign on after Trump's concessions to the Ultra Conservatives. Now, we're told that a meeting last week after Pennsylvania Congressman, Charley Dent said he was a no vote. Trump replied, "Why am I even talking to you," and angrily informed Dent that he was going to blame him for wrecking his agenda.

As we're told, Donald Trump also seemed to take aim at Speaker Ryan with that tweet to watch Judge Jeanine on Saturday and rounding out the blame game, Trump's tweet about the Freedom Caucus calling them out for saving Planned Parenthood Funding.

A senior administration official tells CNN caucus members who acted in good faith will be dealt with fairly but members who kept moving the goalpost on negotiations will get a different response, perhaps time for some humility, time for some introspection. We will ask who should be to blame in the 5 o'clock hour with our politics panel.

But as we mentioned, the administration's focus now shifts to tax reform. The big question is when? Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin says the White House is on track to get a bill passed by the August recess. He says that he's been working on a proposal for the past two months starting from scratch revamping the entire tax code. The cornerstone of that, three tax brackets depending on income levels currently there are six.

Now, the main criticism among tax experts is these new brackets get huge cuts to the wealthy and smaller relief to the middle class but the president said recently he's speaking of a fourth bracket at 0 percent meaning lower income Americans would not pay any taxes at all. Yes, the 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 percent to 25 percent. But it's also been discussed at even lower rate for companies to bring cash back to the U.S. from overseas.

President Trump plans to sign an executive order tomorrow to undo the Obama Administrations "Clean Power Plant". That signature measure forced power plants to reduce carbon pollution up to 32 percent by the year 2030. According to EPA Administrator, Scot 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.

President Trump though 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 execs. The White House Office of American innovation will focus on overhauling the federal bureaucracy infusing it with ideas from the business world. The "Washington Post" reporting the office will be an aggressive idea factory dedicated to bringing corporate efficiency to the federal government.

Democrats want to know 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 database of every guest. The measure, yes folks it's called the Mar-A-Lago Act, an acronym for Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness. Well played.

Under President Obama, the White House maintained a visitor page on its website and said it released about 6 million records. The White House's visited a record's pages currently being updated. The White House under President Trump has not yet published visitor records or offered information about members of his club at Mar-A-Lago.

[04:40:00] BRIGGS: Trump spend nearly a third of his days in office at Trump branded properties. This is the 8-consecutive weekend President Trump 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 just 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, Sally Yates. Nunes is co-chair, Adam Schiff is voicing concerns.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, 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 a 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 expected to bring FBI Director, James Comey and NSA Director, Mike Rogers back for another hearing this one behind closed doors though, so they can offer classified information.

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


[04:45:00] BRIGGS: The State Department is condemning the Kremlin for the arrest of hundreds of Russian protesters including a key opposition figure to Vladimir Putin. Thousands of people hit the streets on Sunday in Moscow and nearly 100 other Russians cities and towns for anti-corruption demonstrations. The detention of Opposition Leader, Alexei Navalny coming less than a week after another well-known Putin critic was shot and killed in Kiev. Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNNs, Frederik Pleitgen with the latest developments. Fred, you yourself, got caught up in this over the weekend, huh?

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We certainly did. And, you know, the authorities here in Moscow really tried to do everything that they could to try and stop these protests from even getting underway.

They started at a railway station here in Moscow and you could see there are a lot of cops in front of that railway station arresting some of the protest leaders even as they got off trains and taking them into detention.

Nevertheless, the protests here certainly were a lot bigger than most people would have anticipated and that was also some of the things that really led to some those scuffles going on. Here is what happened to us.


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




PLEITGEN: So, as you can see there, a lot of pushing and shoving going on, a lot of arrests also made as well. The organizers are now putting the number of arrests in Moscow alone between 700 and 1,000. The authorities were themselves say it was about and that is a very, very big number considering that the protest really worked, very peaceful but they went on in the entire country.

The organizers are saying around 100 towns and cities around Russia saw similar events as the ones that we saw in Moscow. Of course, this coming at a time when it really is -- appears to be quite dangerous for people who are opposed to Vladimir Putin, to the Kremlin.

You had the murder of Denis Voronenkov, a Kremlin critic in Kiev in Ukraine just last week. The Ukrainian says they believe that it was a Russian agent who did it. The Russians are calling any such allegations absurd. They say they have nothing to do with it, Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, pure speaking out against Putin, the deadly preposition. Frederick, thank you.

The military campaign to defeat ISIS triggering carnage in Mosul, dozens of civilians in the Iraqi City killed and then a U.S.-led attack against the terrorists. Senior Iraqi military officer confirming a coalition airstrike hit a truck-filled with explosives setting off a deadly blast. The pentagon is investigating.

CNN, Senior International, Ben Wedeman has the very latest for us. Good morning, to you, Ben. What's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning, Dave. Well, this strike took place on the 17th of March in the Mosul Sadeeq (ph) or the new Mosul neighborhood. Now, that is an area that's been a focus of a lot of U.S.-led airstrikes in recent weeks and the U.S. says it is investigating. They say that they did in fact conduct an airstrike in that area.

Iraqi Officials are saying that they had called in the airstrike when they said they saw what they believed to be an ISIS truck bomb, but they say nearby there was a billing in which at least 130 civilians were hiding as a result of the fighting and that as a result perhaps of the airstrikes or perhaps of the truck bomb going off that many people were killed. The precise numbers are not all together clear.

Iraqi Officials are saying that they recovered yesterday 61 bodies from one of those buildings, but of course given the situation in the area those numbers are likely to rise. Now, the question is, has the U.S. changed its rules of engagement when it comes to airstrikes in the area?

Certainly, we've seen a variety of incidence in recent weeks of high civilian casualties resulting from these airstrikes in the past. I've heard Iraqi Officials complained that they had called in airstrikes -- requested airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition but those requests have been rejected because of fear of civilian casualties.

The question is under the Trump Administration, are they beginning to loosen up some of those previous restrictions, Dave?

[04:50:00] BRIGGS: Thank you, Ben. All right, turning to sports next, raise your hand folks if you had two teams in your final four who had never been there before. Look at the final teams still standing in March madness next.


BRIGGS: No arrests yet following a deadly nightclub shooting that Cincinnati. Police believed may have stemmed from an earlier fight. Authorities say multiple gunmen open 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 were wounded. Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage to try to I'd the shooters. Police expected to provide an update later this morning.

[04:55:00] 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. The police say he opened fire for no apparent reason that incident happening hours after a bizarre robbery at the Bellagio Hotel.

At least three masked burglars in suits welding sledgehammers smashed their way into a high-end jewelry store. At least, one of them wearing a pig mask. One suspect is in custody. No one was injured. Police say there's no evidence the robbery is connected to the bus shootings.

United Airlines pushing back this morning after a dress code requirement sparked the social media uproar. The fury (ph) started after a woman tweeted that a United Gate agent was refusing to allow girls in leggings aboard to flight. The airlines' initial response drew ire saying it was allowed to refuse passengers not properly dressed.

Hours later, United clarify saying leggings are welcome. They say the passengers in question were flying out on United Employees' friends and family pass their attire didn't comply with that dress code. I choose to encourage the use of leggings.

North Carolina and three unfamiliar faces to the Final Four are the last teams standing in college basketball. Tar Heels reached in the plateau for fifth time under Coach Roy Williams, knocking off Kentucky 75-73 on that last second shot by Luke Mave. How about it.

UNC takes on Oregon in Phoenix on Saturday night. The Ducks have not played in the Final Four in 78 years. That was the first NCAA Tournament. South Carolina defeated Florida 77-70 to advance. The Gamecocks to face Gonzaga this weekend, both teams competing in the Final Four for the first time ever.

A risk of severe weather building in the south and southern planes over the next few days, Meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri joins us with the very latest.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine. You know, the severe weather season is quickly upon us here. We've already seen some active weather in the past 24 hours, mainly across parts of Oklahoma on it and Texas and really one report of a tornado. The vast majority of this is associated with hail and strong winds and a lot of that lasted the forecast today as you push away towards the east around the western Tennessee, parts of Arkansas.

Already seeing some strong storms this morning and I expect some of this to blossom into the afternoon hours mainly around the Nashville points back out to the south and west. Around Memphis certainly can't rule out places like Little Rock getting some strong storms this afternoon as well and the sun will begin pushing off towards the north and east before it tapers off by this evening.

But, here's who are watching a multiday setup, you can get potentially another system here bringing in a severe weather concerned around parts of San Angelo, Fort Worth on and parts of let's say Southern Oklahoma that would be for Tuesday. The temperature is definitely spring-like in nature.

Little Rock almost 80, same story out of Nashville, Chicago into the 50s, New York City not too bad at 62 or so degrees and a trend here for parts of Washington. We'll actually stay warm for a couple of days before cooling returns later in the week, might sustain around New York, Atlanta into the lower 80s by midweek. BRIGGS: We'll take some 60s up here. Thank you, Pedram.

Call it a healthcare hangover, looking like a rough start to the week for the stock market. Wall Street coming to terms with the failure of the Republican Healthcare bill, that's dimming the hopes of tax reform at least for the time being. Dow Futures down 135 points right now, S&P Futures tanking almost 1 percent. Stock markets in Europe and Asia trading lower as well.

Insurance stocks are set to drop again this morning following a big pullback Friday as the healthcare bill failed, Cigna losing more than 2 percent, Humana and Anthem also falling.

EARLY START continues right now.

[05:00:00] BRIGGS: Republican Party looking for a major reset after the healthcare bill disaster looking to jump-start their agenda. Could the strategy for the Republican President and Congress actually hint help from the Democrats?

Good morning and thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs. It's Monday, March 27th, 5 a.m. in the east. Christine Romans is off today.

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

One Senior White House Official saying of the High Court Nominee, "that's for 30 years", but will White House infighting stall the effort to reboot? We're told there's drawing friction between aide's loyalty to Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus and those aligned with Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon.