Return to Transcripts main page


Senate Intel Committee's Russia Hearings; Judge Blocks Trump Travel Ban Indefinitely; Ivanka Trump to Become Federal Employee; Westbrook Makes Case for MVP Award. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And that visual merchandising wasn't strong enough. So, it's rushing more colorful options to its website. But Lulu was also facing tough competition from companies like Nike, and cheaper options from stores like Old Navy.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: So, I can't prop them up.

ROMANS: You can't prop them. Are you a leggings guy? You're not a leggings guy.

BRIGGS: But the men's wear, head to toe, most days.

ROMANS: You like the Lululemon's wear.


ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: The Senate Intelligence Committee holding its first public hearing on Russian today, as questions linger about the House Intelligence investigation and whether Chairman Nunes should step down.

BRIGGS: President Trump's revised travel ban dealt another blow. A Hawaiian federal judge imposing an indefinite suspension of the ban.

ROMANS: Ivanka Trump officially joining the White House as an assistant to the president, as big questions about conflicts of interest continue to haunt the young Trump administration.

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

Is this day 70? Is this day 70?

BRIGGS: Day 70.

ROMANS: All right BRIGGS: Boy, how time flies.

ROMANS: Who's counting?

BRIGGS: All right. I'm Dave Briggs. It's Thursday, March 30th, 5:00 in the East.

A glimpse at bipartisanship on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. This morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee holding its first public hearing on Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Republican Intel Chairman Richard Burr and the top Democrat on the committee, Mark Warner, vowing an impartial bipartisan investigation. Burr and Warner laying out their plans side by side at a news conference. They say there are 20 witnesses on their list starting today with cybersecurity experts and focusing on alleged Russian efforts to spread disinformation and fake news during the campaign.

ROMANS: The Senate's plans stand in stark contrast to the deepening stalemate on the House side. Ranking intel committee Democrat Adam Schiff says he'll meet today with Chairman Devin Nunes, this after -- just days after Schiff called on Nunes to recuse himself amid growing accusations of possible collusion between Nunes and the White House.

Here's Congressman Schiff on CNN yesterday.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The chairman is going to have to find way to lift this cloud. Otherwise, we're going to need someone else to preside over this. I think we really do need someone else to preside over this if we are going to do this credibly.


ROMANS: For the latest, let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.



Well, a study in contrast between the House intelligence investigation and Senate intelligence investigation, at least at this point. There's gridlock on the House side and make a partisan fight over Devin Nunes, the chairman of the committee, and whether he should go forward as leading that investigation.

Democrats are accusing him of being too close to the White House. They do not like the way he briefed the president last week on surveillance information that he obtained through a secret source.

Nunes is saying he's not going anywhere. He's going to continue moving forward. The question is, how? Now, on the Senate side, leaders are saying they are moving forward in

a bipartisan manner. I asked them yesterday, will you actually look into the issue of Russia collusion with the Trump campaign and do you believe there's nothing there as the White House has suggested over and over again?

Here's what they said.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We would be crazy to try to draw conclusions from where we are in the investigation. I think Mark and I have committed to let this process go through before we form any opinions. And I would hope that that's what you would like us to do. As much as we would like to share minute by minute even the snapshots we get as a team going through it are not always accurate when we find the next piece of intelligence.

RAJU: So, really leaving open the possibility that there could be some collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians. Of course, the White House has said it's a hoax, they said there is nothing but made-up fake news.

But the Senate Intelligence Committee taking it seriously enough that they want to make that as part of their investigation, where they're also going to interview Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, potentially Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, as well as Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, as well as twenty people total that they are planning on interviewing right now. We'll see which one becomes public because there's a lot of interest right now about those possible ties that may exist -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju, thanks for that.

Another big setback overnight for 2.0 version of President Trump's travel ban. A federal judge in Hawaii granting the state's request for an indefinite suspension of the ban. Judge Derrick Watson converting a temporary restraining order issued two weeks ago into a preliminary injunction, blocking the travel ban executive order. Watson ruling the ban likely violates the Constitution by targeting Muslims.

Hawaii's attorney general praised the decision, calling it, quote, "an important affirmation of the values of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution's First Amendment."

The Justice Department can now appeal Watson's ruling to the Ninth Circuit.

BRIGGS: All right. Helping us break down the latest from Capitol Hill this morning, CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan, live in our Washington bureau.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you. TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning.

BRIGGS: It was stunning to see a glimpse of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as the Senate Intel Committee moves forward.

[05:05:03] Here is Senator Burr and Senator Warner on their bipartisanship moving forward.


BURR: I've got a job in the United States Senate. And I take that job extremely seriously. It overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have confidence in Richard Burr that we together with the members of our committee are going to get to the bottom of this, and that's -- if you get nothing else from today, take that statement to the bank.


BRIGGS: Tal, are they stepping forward and say, we are the adults in the room, let us take it from here?

KOPAN: Yes, that's certainly what we are seeing. You know, it's not to say that they weren't proceeding in this fashion before but the House Intelligence Committee was certainly doing more to begin with, and a lot more publicly, and since that process has -- you know, as Manu was describing and as we're talking about before, that process has gotten a little bit derailed. Now, we have seen the Senate Intelligence Committee being a lot more public in the fact that they're pursuing this information in a bipartisan fashion.

You know, keep in mind, traditionally the intelligence committees are not super partisan endeavors, they tend to be fairly bipartisan. So, they already have that going for them. But certainly now, you know, when everyone wants an investigation that seems above board, nothing funny, so people actually believe its finding, everyone is looking at the Senate Intelligence Committee.

ROMANS: Well, on the House side, you know, you see these cancelled meeting and kind of a clear -- I mean, there's just sort of this crater and when you talk to Devin Nunes, when Manu was talking to him earlier this week, he said, I've answered that question, there's no more to see here.

BRIGGS: No sharing really either.

ROMANS: This is what we know about the Senate committee and what they revealed basically. There are seven staff members who are dedicated to this investigation. An unprecedented amount of documents they say they have requested here, 20 requests for interviews, five of those already scheduled. Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort we're told are on that list, and they hope to conclude this before the end of the year, you know? So, this is something that they're moving forward one foot in front of the other. If you're talking about concluding by 2018, Tal, that leaves lots of opportunities for the words Russia collusion Trump administration to continue to circulate.

KOPAN: Well, I mean, there's no sign that's going to slow down at all and, you know, that was sort of the complaint that Republican lawmakers have early on in this process and especially after the Comey hearing, you know, they say you put a cloud over the administration that can't be shaken and, you know, it certainly is reminiscent of the Benghazi hearings that we saw under the Obama administration and with Hillary Clinton.

I mean, sometimes the worst thing for a administration is a drip, drip, drip of information because every little new detail that comes out gets interpreted and chewed on without the full picture. And so, it really sustains the investigation that's going on. But, you know, there's enough smoke here that the Democrats feel that they can keep this going quite some time. There's no indication that this is over for the administration any time soon.

BRIGGS: Yes. So, the Senate committee, in stark contrast with what's going in the House, but also for the congressional gridlock that we have seen all over Capitol Hill in particular when we look back on the health care debate. And Charlie Dent was on yesterday with John Berman and Poppy Harlow, and he was asked about how Republicans might move forward on massive legislation like health care with the House Freedom Caucus or without them. Intriguing answer.


REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I think if there's going to be any dialogue on health care, any negotiation, we have to build the bill from the center out. I don't think this should be a partisan only exercise. The White House is making concessions to the Freedom -- to many on the hard right who are not going to vote for the bill anyway, and in the process, they ended up alienating many members on the Senate right. That's what happened. And I don't think we should go down that road again this week or next week. I think we have to change the paradigm.


BRIGGS: The suggestion being that President Trump has a better chance to working with Democrats than he does with that House Freedom Caucus. Might we see that moving forward, do you think?

KOPAN: Yes, isn't that a fascinating suggestion?

You know, everyone on the Hill -- not everyone on the Hill, but a lot of people on the Hill talk about how policy should be built this way, right? We should be looking for areas of compromise and moving forward.

That's not how policy tends to be billed. It tends to be billed as red meat. And, you know, what's really interesting about this is you are seeing a lot of Republicans who for years been in the opposition party and haven't necessarily under the gun quite as much, now, they are looking at their constituencies and they come from a diverse range of districts. And so, you have Republican lawmakers who are more concerned about a primary from the right acting one way and you have lawmakers who are concerned about, you know, a general election challenge from the left acting another way and it's splitting the party and that's why there could be an opportunity here for compromise if you can build a center coalition for some of these policies.

[05:10:05] ROMANS: Boy, but feelings are raw. I mean, feelings are raw after the health care implosion and, you know, what I worry is they take all of that into the tax reform debate with a lot of raw feeling.

BRIGGS: Funding of the government.

ROMANS: Funding of the -- I mean, there's a lot of opportunity to really screw it up. That's a technical term.

KOPAN: Yes, that's about Congress.

ROMANS: Yes. Tal Kopan, thanks so much. We'll talk to you again in about a half an hour or so. Thank you, Tal.

KOPAN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump's 100th day in office will be April 29th. On that same day, the government could shut down if Congress doesn't pass a spending bill. That is the next big money fight ahead on Capitol Hill.

And there are four things that could stymie efforts to avert a government shutdown.

First, funding for the border wall. If Republicans include it, Democrats will oppose the bill.

Second, the proposed boost of defense, funded by cutting other programs. This tinkers with only the smallest part of the federal budget. So, look for a fight there.

Third, Planned Parenthood. The health care bill would have stripped funding but that failed so if Republicans reintroduce that idea of defunding Planned Parenthood, it could be a non-starter for Democrats.

And finally, the Gorsuch nomination. If Republicans are forced to change the rules to push him through, one budget expert tells us it's a leading indicator, Dave Briggs, for a government shut down.

BRIGGS: No question.

ROMANS: The most recent government shutdowns were 2013, ugly, and 1995. One thing from those is clear from those experiences is a shut down is a waste of time and money. It can also hurt the economy. Plus, it would stall the president's already ambitious but shaky agenda. BRIGGS: Yes. Clearly, that is a referendum, that Gorsuch

confirmation of where we go moving forward, bipartisanship or not. Gridlock.

Breaking overnight, an agreement in North Carolina to repeal House Bill 2, a measure widely criticized as anti-LGBT. The deal leaves bathroom regulation up to the state and goes before the North Carolina legislature in a matter of hours. If HB-2 is not repealed today, by noon, the NCAA is prepared to pull all of its events out of the state through 2022. LGBT groups already slamming the repeal compromise as a bad deal. That leaves discrimination in place. The Governor Roy Cooper says the agreement is not perfect but does begin the process of repairing North Carolina's reputation.

ROMANS: All right. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Turkey this morning as the fight against ISIS reaches a critical point. We are going to take you to Istanbul, next.


[05:16:49] BRIGGS: This morning, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Turkey. He has meetings and events all day long. Some touching on delicate subjects. Just a short time ago, he sat down with the Turkish President Erdogan.

This comes at a critical juncture in the fight against ISIS and in Iraq and Syria, a fight which Turkey plays a crucial role.

For the latest, let's turn to CNN's Muhammad Lila in Istanbul.

Good morning to you. A little back -- little context if you can on why this relationship between U.S. and Turkey is so crucial at this time?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, the most important thing that's going on right now as we have been reporting on CNN is that American-backed troops are in Syria right now, trying to corner ISIS and their de facto capital of Raqqa. In fact, with American help, Kurdish troops on the ground there were able to capture an air base not far outside of Raqqah.

And this has riled Turkish authorities because United States is effectively partnering with Kurdish troops on the ground in Syria, in the fight against ISIS. Now, the reason Turkey is upset about that is that they consider those Kurdish groups terrorists. They blame those Kurdish groups for some of the terror attacks that have taken place here in Turkey and for an ongoing separatist movement that's lasted really in Turkey decades.

SO, Turkey is not happy that the United States has said that Kurdish troops have to have a role in the fight against ISIS and I suspect that some of that is what Rex Tillerson is here to speak about today, speaking with Turkey's President Erdogan, as well as its foreign minister.

And, you know, this comes at a crucial, crucial time here because, you know, we are starting to see ISIS with its back against the wall in Mosul, we're starting to see those building blocks, if you will, of a major assault in the capital of Raqqah in Syria, so what's going to happen now if Turkey and the United States can't get on board and American can't get Turkish buy-in to the American plan for ISIS and defeating ISIS in Syria. It's going to be very interesting to see and that's what makes Tillerson's job here so delicate is that he has to walk the fine line and get Turkey on board with America's plans.

BRIGGS: And also interesting that the President Erdogan trying to extend his power for some way up to 12 years or more.

Muhammad Lila, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. A record shattering night for Russell Westbrook. The Thunders star so dominant the other team's fans were chanting "MVP."

Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:31] BRIGGS: All right. The Thunders' Russell Westbrook played so well last night, Romans, the opposing fans chanting for him.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes, our MVP, has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


Russell Westbrook on the NBA's records book, just continuing last night in Orlando. He's been at it all season. And not only do Westbrook put a crazy stats on this one, he hit the clutch shots as well, down three, closing seconds. Westbrook hits this three to send the game into overtime. Then check out this drive and the foul right here. This is what got Magic fans so impressed, they started chanting "MVP" at Westbrook.


SCHOLES: Westbrook breaking the record for most points with the triple-double in this game. He had 57 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Thunders got to win in overtime, 114-106.

The NBA's top two teams going head to head last night in San Antonio. The Spurs opening up a huge 22-point lead over the Warriors in the first quarter, but Golden State came storming back. Steph Curry with 29 points and one dunk I'm sure he's most proud of, because he rarely dunks. They came back to win this one rather easily 110-98, the final.

All right. The final four teams arrived in Phoenix yesterday, ahead of Saturday's game. You got to check out the hats North Carolina was rocking when they got off the plane. [05:25:00] These are custom fedoras and cowboy hats and they're all

handmade by Tare Heel freshman forward Shea Rush. Shea says he started making hats after watching instructional videos online. He added, it takes him about a week to make seven hats and he spent a month making these for his teammates. Pretty cool.

All right. Finally, it set the Internet going yesterday. This bronze bust is supposed to be a soccer star Cristiano Reynaldo. It's being called questionable and horrifying at the same time. The bust is in at an airport in Portugal that has been renamed Cristiano Reynaldo International Airport.

And, guys, you know obviously Twitter had lots of fun with this yesterday. This was my favorite tweet that someone reconfigured Reynaldo's face to make him look like the statue.


BRIGGS: It reminds me of Reynaldo and Chunk from "Goonies." Like morph --

ROMANS: It's like horrifying and hilarious at the same time. But he unveiled it with a smile on his face, so he's got some class.

BRIGGS: Worse than the Tom Brady courtroom sketch.

ROMANS: Oh, that was a good one too. Taking beautiful men and making them ugly. That's the whole genre.

All right, Andy Scholes.

SCHOLES: Have a good one, guys.

ROMANS: Beautiful men and making them ugly.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing for its first intelligence hearing today into Russia's election meddling. Will the new bipartisan investigation reveal anything new? That's next.