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Trump-Russia Mystery Deepens; Top Dems Ask Intel Chairman To Recuse Himself; Jared Kushner Volunteers To Testify; 'VEB' Bank Under U.S. Sanctions; Trump: "Russia Story Is A Hoax". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- questions about why he met with the banker appointed by Vladimir Putin?

[05:00:05] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And the president is preparing to wipeout his predecessor's record on climate change. We have the details on that, President Trump's next executive order coming today. Good morning everyone. Welcome to EARLY START, I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. I'm not wearing yoga pants at the moment. But I would if I were allowed. It is Tuesday, March 28th -- I don't know leggings -- its 5:00 a.m. in the east.

Two top Democrats say the time has come for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation in the contact between Russia and the Trump Campaign. The demand comes up after series of revelations, the latest that Nunes was on the White House grounds before -- the night before he told President Trump that his aides communications were picked up in surveillance by U.S. Intelligence.

ROMANS: Now, House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi and Ranking Intel Committee Democrat Adam Schiff, both say Nunes must step aside. Pelosi says this in a statement, "The Chair of the House Intelligence Committee has a serious responsibility to the Congress and to the country. Chairman Nunes discredited behavior has tarnished that office." And here is what Schiff told CNN.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTEL. COMMITTEE: It would be very difficult to maintain the credibility of the investigation if the chairman did not recuse himself from matters that involving either the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team. There's just no legitimate reason to have him gone to the White House that night to obtain information and then later share it with the White House instead of sharing it with his own committee.


BRIGGS: All this changes hours after Trump Advisor and first son-in- law Jared Kushner volunteered to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. And now Kushner is facing questions about a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian banking official. More on that in the moment. But our coverage begins this morning with Senior Congressional Reporter Manu Raju Capitol Hill.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Good morning, Christine and Dave. Now, the partisans standup on the House Intelligence Committee has intensify this after David Nunes the chairman of the committee made the surprising revelation yesterday saying, that he met with a source on White House grounds to discuss information pertaining to the incidental collection of information regarding President Trump's associate during the private transition with foreign officials.

Now, this came of course as the House Intelligence Committee has been investigating any Trump ties with Russian officials. And Democrats were outraged by Nunes's move to brief the president of the United States on this issue. And now, the revelation that some of the discussions happen on White House grounds has led some Democrats including Adam Schiff, a top Democratic committee to call on Nunes to recuse himself.

Now, Nunes is suggesting he's not going anywhere telling Wolf Blitzer yesterday, "This is all very common".


REP. DAVID NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: I've been working this for a long time with many different sources. I needed a place that I could actually finally go, because I knew what I was looking for. And I could actually get access to what I needed to see. I'm quite sure that many people in the west wing had no idea that I was there. Look, I go over there a lot. I go over there often for meetings and briefings.


RAJU: Now, Speaker Paul Ryan fully supports Devin Nunes staying in his position. Saying, he's got full confidence in Nunes moving forward. But Nunes also came under fire from Democrats for abruptly canceling the Tuesday public hearing on the issue of Russia and Russia meddling in the elections, instead wanting to have a private briefing with James Comey, the FBI director and Mike Rogers the NSA director. But that Tuesday briefing abruptly canceled itself. Now, nothing will happen today as the committee try to struggles and find its way forward after a very partisan and bitter several days. Christine and Dave?

BRIGGS: Thank you Manu. Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner under scrutiny this morning after the revelation of a meeting with the top Russian banking official, one appointed by Vladimir Putin. Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov in December. Now Gorkov is chairman of the VEB at the State-Run Bank that is under U.S. sanctions over Russia's meddling in Ukraine.

ROMANS: The meeting rises a number of questions most notably, what capacity that Kushner meet with Gorkov. The White House says, the meeting was a routine part of Kushner's job during the transition.

(BEGIN VIDEO-CLIP) SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared did a job during the transition. And the campaign, where he was a conduit into to leaders, and that's until we had a State Department of function place for people to go. Remember, we had a delay in some of these things and that that was his role.


BRIGGS: Now, the Russians have a different view, VED says Kushner met Gorkov in his role as head of Kushner Real Estate Empire not as a Trump aide. Kushner has been trying to attract financing for building project in Manhattan, all in this raises the prospect that Kushner used this perch on transition to conduct private business with a sanctioned company.

[05:04:57] ROMANS: These all came hours after Kushner agreed to testify the Senator's investigating ties between the Trump Campaign and Russian officials because of his role arranging meetings between Trump campaign advisors and the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

BRIGGS: For more contacts on the Trump Administration's widening entanglement with Russia. Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen. Fred, good morning to you, the key question here this morning is this Russian bank in a position to finance the Kushner Real Estate Project in New York?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Dave. Theoretically they certainly would be in position, considering that that it's one of the things that this bank does, is fund infrastructure projects. Mostly on behalf of the government but they do also have dealings outside of Russia as well.

However, we have to keep in mind they are under sanctions by the United States and have been since 2014. So that would make it pretty much all but impossible for them to conduct any such business in Manhattan or any other projects that in the United States, involving U.S. companies.

So that would certainly make it very difficult, also the bank itself, a total dust that the meeting that took place with Jared Kushner was part of a road show that they were conducting generally to scope out new business opportunities around the world. They say that they met with several financial officials and then also several business leaders and they listed Jared Kushner as being one of them.

But this is a bank that's very close to -- at the Russian State, very close to Vladimir Putin. It's owned by the Russian State. And the head of the bank is actually appointed by the Russian President, so by Vladimir Putin himself. And his name is Sergey Gorkov, he is the one who had the meeting with Jared Kushner.

He is an interesting figure. He actually graduated from the Intelligence Academy here in Russia from the FSB, the Intelligence Service in 1994. And then went into a career that in banking he was on the board of Russia's largest state owned bank, Sberbank, before then going to this bank which does fund a lot of infrastructure projects here in Russia, Dave.

BRIGGS: Thank you Fred. Intrigue here.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.


ROMANS: It's so many twist and turns. All right let's break it all down this morning with Political Analyst to Ellis Henican, he is the author of "The Trump's America" column for the "Metro Papers". Good morning.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST AND BEST SELLING AUTHOR: Good morning, oh, yes, so it's a lot of intrigue.

ROMANS: OK, so let's start with Jared Kushner, he is very close to the president, he was on the transition, he was the meeting guy. You know, he went and he on behalf of the administration --

HENICAN: And married to the president's daughter by the way.

ROMANS: And married to the president's daughter. He is also a businessman. He is also a real estate developer in New York. So with this role that he was doing government or business, or both, or half, or what?

HENICAN: Well, you know, it's that murkiness in the middle that makes it so complicated. I mean, if you're using your power and influence over the incoming administration in order to attract potential financing for a real estate deal. My god, that's the definition of conflict of interest. So we don't know when we got to untie and we got to unwind it.

BRIGGS: That's where there's conflict though.

ROMANS: ... of the connections -- like when you play your connections. That's why people voted for Donald Trump --


ROMANS: -- because he is a guy who uses his connection, he gets things done.

BRIGGS: But well, the banks says --



HENICAN: -- you know, that kind of connection I hope.

BRIGGS: Hang on.


BRIGGS: So the role here is the key and the Trump transition team says, he was meeting with them as a Trump Transition Member. If that's the case what's the problem?

HENICAN: It is not inherently wrong to have a meeting with someone even a someone who is a banker at a sanctioned bank in Russia. I mean that -- it's not illegal, I don't think, but it just -- you just wonder what is it they're doing there? What's the point of that, what the kind of --

BRIGGS: It's not. It's not illegal?

HENICAN: Not an inch, not simply having such a meeting. No, I don't see how it would be.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the president between last night, 9:30. So, if you went to bed kind of early maybe you missed the president's tweeting about Russia. "Why is it the House of Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill and Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia? Russian's speech money to Bill that Hillary-Russian reset, praise the Russia by Hillary or Podesta-Russian company, Trump-Russia story is a hoax hushtag Make America Great Again."

There are some this morning who's saying, you know, Donald Trump doesn't put things to rest when he just brings back up Hillary Clinton. Oh, no, don't look at this. Let's look back in Hillary Clinton. You know that, that uranium deal he was talking about was approved by CFIUS, Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. which is a bureaucratic, you know, soup of agencies. Not necessarily Hillary Clinton herself has a role over that. What would you make of Trump, you know, does it show that he is insecure? Does it show that he -- well, what does it show?

HENICAN: I would use the word like deflection.


HENICAN: I think it's not my Russia problem it's somebody else's Russia problem.

ROMANS: -- no, everyone has a Russia problem. That's how it sounds like to me.

HENICAN: And in end though, you know what, I mean even if you want to re-litigate the uranium deal of it that Hillary Clinton might have, should have done something on, you know, she was not the president now. And so let's figure out what kind of relationships we're dealing with.

BRIGGS: Does he not have a point? Is there not a lot of smoke there, if you put Rex Tillerson in that sentence --


BRIGGS: And Trump transition officials --


RIGGS: -- in all those sentences, seven figure deals to speak -- HENICAN: Yes.

RIGGS: -- there's a lot of smoke there, is there not?

HENICAN: Fair enough. Fair enough. I mean, if you want to go back and litigate all that other stuff, that's fine. But we've got that, Dave. We've got an incoming and new administration here with an off a lot of ties with the government and we have some really tense relationships with who probably was deeply involved in trying to affect the outcome of our election? I mean we kind of like to get to the bottom of that, wouldn't we?

[05:10:18] ROMANS: If that -- you're point is really good if you take the other side of point, I guess it would be like -- I mean he promised to drain the swamp. You know, so now, you know, now he is saying look how swampy it was before. You think it's swampy now or swampy before I got here?

HENICAN: That's why you got elected, man.

BRIGGS: I want to ask you about another Trump --


BRIGGS: -- tweet last night.


BRIGGS: And this one about --

HENICAN: That's a full time job, by the way.

BRIGGS: -- this one, as we look forward on what this team is going to do.


BRIGGS: In acting legislation, "Republican House Freedom Caucus was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after so many bad years, they were ready for a win. The Democrats will make a deal with me on health care, as soon as Obamacare folds. Not long. Do not worry. We are in very good shape." Look, I hope he's not cheering for Obamacare to crash and burn. That's not good for our country.

ROMANS: It's going to hurt people.

BRIGGS: Will Democrats work with the Trump Administration on anything?


BRIGGS: And who?


BRIGGS: Who is that Democrat to step forward and say, I will work with you?

HENICAN: Well, I think Chuck Schumer is already offered to do that.

BRIGGS: Chuck Schumer has said he won't block a imminently qualified Supreme Court candidate.

HENICAN: Well --

BRIGGS: Eminently qualified by Democrats, Republican, and everyone was --

HENICAN: Well, hold on, let's hold tell a second, yes, they will continue to fight about a lot of things, by why don't we get to work on some things that they will agree on, right? There is infrastructure plan and maybe even the Obamacare improvement. Let's not call it a replacement. You know what, if you want to make that thing better, if you want to protect those people that you're talking about, absolutely what could be more Trumpy, in reaching across the aisle of the Democrats, telling those freedom caucus people --

BRIGGS: But not --


HENICAN: -- your deal.

BRIGGS: -- on improving.


BRIGGS: -- health care.

HENICAN: Yes, are you saving that? You know, then I can throw all those folks off with insurance but, let's make it work better. That would be really interesting.

ROMANS: We're going to come back in a few minutes. Then we're going to talk about Devin Nunes, Congressman Nunes and what's going, you know, the Pace-Turner going on at the White House.

BRIGGS: The define novel --

ROMANS: When we come back let's talk about that.

BRIGGS: -- in real life.

ROMANS: Did you take your kids to see "Lego Batman", a cheeky suggestion about the films on the treasury secretary as one Democratic lawmaker is very upset. We'll explain, next.


[05:16:22] ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back new details about the executive order President Trump plans to sign later today dramatically rolling back climate change regulations. The measure resents at least six Obama executive orders designed to curve climate change and regulate carbon emissions. It ends a moratorium on coal mining, on federal land. It removes a requirement the federal officials considered the impact to climate change when making decisions.

BRIGGS: The White House says the order prioritizes jobs over the fight against global warming. Adding, the executive order focuses more on clean air and clean water and less on regulating global warming. The move may signal America's exit from the landmark Paris climate agreement.

ROMANS: Right. And Democratic lawmaker says the Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin may have violated ethics rules by plugging one of his own movies. Listen to this exchange from a recent interview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what's the movie that we should see?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, I'm not allowed to promote thing that I'm involved in. So I just want to have a legal disclosure. You've asked me the question and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids the Lego Batman.


ROMANS: All right, Mnuchin was an executive producer on that film "Lego Batman". It's a popular spin off of the 2014 hit the Lego Movie. Mnuchin Media Company financed the production. And his ethics agreement states he would do best his holding from the company and to not knowingly participate in anything that would affect the company's financial interest until he said so.

So, Senator Ron Wyden is upset asking the office of government ethics to review Mnuchin's comment. Treasury department tells CNN Money "It was a life hearted moments and the secretary directly acknowledge the ethics law involved."

BRIGGS: Two questions?


BRIGGS: Why did Mike Allen ask the treasury and secretary what movies we should see?

ROMANS: I don't know. I don't know.

BRIGGS: And two, why would there like 19 beverages on the table in the middle? I mean, did they just run a marathon? So they just need electrolytes and then like it's a senate confirmation hearings they're about to begin?

ROMANS: And actually I love the detail you review that --

BRIGGS: There, look. There's like --

ROMANS: Oh, those, it's sponsored by Tropicana, Naked PepsiCo, oh my gosh. BRIGGS: Oh, sponsors. I tough they were just really thirsting.

ROMANS: It's product -- it must be product placement. Everything is a business deal. Everything is about business.

[05:18:24] BRIGGS: I'm glad you clear that up. All right, we'll add the silver and black leaving their fans blue. The Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas. Coy Wire has more in this morning's bleacher report, top news for Oakland next.


BRIGGS: NFL, ripping another team out of another California town as the Oakland raiders soon to be the Las Vegas Raiders.

ROMANS: Wow, Coy Wire has joined this morning's bleacher report, Hey Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Christine and Dave. Yes, the 32 NFL owners having their annual league meeting in Phoenix yesterday. They overwhelmingly voted 31-1 in favor of the raiders moving to Vegas. Vegas, this is a league whose commissioner just said in October that "It remains very much opposed to gambling on forts."

Well, it flaps one of his team in the gambling capital of the world. League personnel, including players, coaches and ref aren't allowed to bet on games and aren't even allowed to step foot in the sports book during the season. You can imagine fans on Oakland though understandably upset with owner Mark Davis whose moving the team after the city refused to use public funds to build his team a new stadium in Oakland. Conversely, Vegas offered up $750 million in public funds and that paved the way for the move. Here's Commissioner Roger Goodell and David.


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: It's an important step and trying to get stability for the Raiders long term. They obviously are going to need a few years to get the stadium built. But in the meantime we intend to play in Oakland.

MARK DAVIS, RAIDERS OWNER: My father used to say the greatness of the Raiders is in its future. And the opportunity to build the world class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world is one opportunity that will give us an opportunity, give us the ability to achieve that greatness.


WIRE: The Raiders planning a $1.9 billion stadium to open in Vegas in 2020, until then, the team is going to have to play in front of fans in Oakland for at least next year. And that will be awkward.

The Yukon Lady Huskies, continue to make history heading to their 10th straight final for after plucking the feathers right out of the Oregon Ducks last night. They have now won 111 straight. Incredible. They're going to face Mississippi State on Friday.

[05:25:12] And how about South Carolina joining their men squad with the final four there. They'll play my former came in the Stanford Cardinal.

The university of Florida softball coach appears to shove an Auburn player after the game. Check out Hailey Fagan in the hand shake lines. And watch we'll see each other again, but she pulled her hand back when she reaches near the coaches and leaving Tim Walton hand hanging and he appears to shove her shoulder as he passes by.

So they have some words back and forth with one another. These two have history together. Two of Fagan's older sisters once played for Walton before transferring after he kicked them off his squad for what the girls father said was an altercation on the team guys. It's kind of crazy video, no word yet from the school or the player in this matter. We'll keep that --

BRIGGS: It was subtle but you saw it. A little bit of a bully move there.

WIRE: Yes.

BRIGGS: Hey Coy, how about my co-host could win it all these CNN brackets? I mean --

WIRE: It's incredible.

BRIGGS: She's bringing it.

WIRE: She's showing us up and we're the sports guy. Dave, I mean.

BRIGGS: Hey. I can still win it too Coy and you could not. I don't believe it. I'm still alive for this thing.

ROMANS: I'm not going to say anything to jinx it, but it's a miracle.

BRIGGS: Goes out Carolina and I have a shot. Thank you, Coy.

New revelations, President Trump's top aide and son-in-law met with the Putin appointed Russian bank chief. Was this for government or for business?