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At Least 22 Killed In Pakistan Blast; Flynn Seeks Immunity As Russia Probe Heats Up; Did Trump Administration Help Nunes; Trump Threatens Freedom Caucus. Aired 5:30-6a ET
Aired March 31, 2017 - 05:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[05:30:25] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: When you are given immunity, that means that you probably committed a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Will former national security adviser Michael Flynn's words come back to haunt him? Flynn is now asking for immunity to testify before Congressional hearings on Russia.
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: And did the White House collude with House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes? A bombshell report from "The New York Times" suggests that just might be the case.
ROMANS: The war is on in the Republican Party. President Trump warning the Freedom Caucus to get on board with the GOP agenda or lose in 2018. Wow, welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.
BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Josh Rogin, from "The Washington Post," coming up on all of these stories on an extraordinary day in news.
ROMANS: All right, breaking news coming into CNN this morning, first. At least 22 people killed, 57 injured in a bomb blast along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. A local health official says the bomb went off in the city of Parachinar at a Shia mosque in the city's central bazaar. A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claiming responsibility for the attack in a statement sent by text to the media. Pakistan's prime minister condemning the attack and vowing to eliminate the threat of terrorism in the country. Again, at least 22 killed and many, many more injuries.
BRIGGS: That new revelation last night in the probe of Russian meddling in U.S. elections. A lawyer for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn says his client "certainly has a story to tell to Congressional investigators but will only tell it if he's granted immunity from prosecution." Flynn was forced to step down as one of Mr. Trump's closest advisers after it came out that he misled Vice President Pence about his contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
ROMANS: General Flynn's offer certainly raises the stakes in this probe. Three other former aides to the president have already said they'd testify freely, without immunity -- a former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former adviser Roger Stone, former foreign policy adviser Carter page. So far this morning, the White House refusing to comment. Let's get the latest on all this from CNN's Jessica Schneider.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, Gen. Flynn's lawyers putting the offer out there that he will talk to Congressional investigators if he is offered immunity. General Flynn's lawyers putting it in a statement this way, saying, "General Flynn certainly has a story tell and he wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit." Then going on to say, "No reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution."
But right here on Capitol Hill, a spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee saying that they haven't gotten any requests from Gen. Flynn yet. The Senate Intelligence Committee refusing to comment. Of course, Gen. Flynn resigned shortly after President Trump took office when it was revealed that Gen. Flynn hadn't disclosed his communications to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
So a lot of questions swirling here. Will, in fact, Gen. Flynn testify? Will he be granted that immunity? No details on any deal that might be forthcoming. But, you know, it's interesting to note that Gen. Flynn had spoken last year in reference to Hillary Clinton's campaign staffers -- some of her staffers, actually, as Secretary of State as well -- putting it this way, saying, "When you are given immunity, that means that you probably committed a crime." So could those words come back to haunt him? At this point, the White House not commenting on this -- Dave and Christine.
BRIGGS: Thank you, Jessica. Another stunning report rocking the Trump administration. According to "The New York Times" it was two White House officials who gave House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes those intelligence reports that allegedly backed President Trump's claims about being wiretapped. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee opened its first public hearing into Russia's election meddling and Sen. Marco Rubio made the surprising revelation that he, himself, has been personally targeted by coordinated cyber attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Within the last 24 hours, at 10:45 a.m. yesterday, a second attempt was made, again, against former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to our internal information -- again, targeted from an I.P. address from an unknown location in Russia, and that effort was also unsuccessful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGGS: All right, let's bring in CNN political analyst Josh Rogin to help break all of this down. He's a columnist for "The Washington Post." Good morning to you, Josh.
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good morning.
BRIGGS: All right, sometimes we've got to work real hard to find the question and other times candidate Trump actually asked the question for us in September, in Florida, when talking about Hillary Clinton -- listen.
[05:35:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Her aides took the Fifth Amendment and her ringleaders were given immunity. And if you're not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGGS: We ask you, Josh, if you haven't committed a crime, why do you need immunity?
ROGIN: Yes, there's a good reason because why wouldn't you want immunity, right? If you're going to go before a Senate Intelligence Committee under oath, that's a fishing expedition. Let's remember, Gen. Flynn is not just subject to criticism for what's going on in the Russian investigation. He was working for a friend of the Turkish government. He didn't file the proper legal paperwork for being a foreign agent. He filed it much later, all right. That's a problem. He's got other issues, OK, so once he gets in that chair, you know, all bets are off. They can go after anything so he might as well try.
I don't think he's going to get the immunity, right? When we see the -- his lawyer sort of projecting this 'oh, we've got a story to tell' that's the lawyer trying to pressure the committee in public to give --
ROMANS: Trying to sell something.
ROGIN: Yes, they're trying to sell something without telling us what it is.
BRIGGS: Why don't you think he'll get it?
ROGIN: Because that -- you know, why would the -- without knowing exactly what he's going to say, they're giving him something for nothing. And the Senate Intelligence Committee and the FBI investigation are two separate things, so is the Senate going to give him immunity and the FBI's going to have to adhere to that?
BRIGGS: They have to --
ROGIN: Are they going to organize that?
BRIGGS: -- do it coordinated, correct?
ROGIN: They would have to do it together --
ROGIN: -- and they're not exactly working together. It's like -- it's too complicated and it's a big ask. And unless Gen. Flynn has something really, really good that he can sort of tell them off the record -- OK, here's what you're getting in exchange for giving me this immunity, I think it's going to be really tough for them to give it to him.
BRIGGS: It's interesting that you say it's certainly not an admission of guilt but to President Trump and candidate Trump's own point, it's not exactly the move of an innocent person as well.
ROMANS: Well, we have seen -- I mean, if I had a dollar for everything Trump said on the campaign trail that he --
BRIGGS: That's right.
ROMANS: -- now says he didn't say or is -- completely doesn't think anymore --
BRIGGS: It's wrong, yes.
ROMANS: -- I would be a very, very rich person. Let's talk about the Freedom Caucus --
ROMANS: -- the president going after the Freedom Caucus. Really, more signs of this escalating civil war and some of them are hitting back. First of all, tell me, how wise is it of the president to be going so hard against this Freedom Caucus --
ROMANS: -- when he wants to do other things? He's going to have the infrastructure tax reform and other stuff he's got to do.
ROGIN: Right. Well, he has no choice. He threatened them publicly, all right? They called his bluff, OK? If he backs down now he'll have no ability to threaten anybody for the rest of his four years, so he's got to do something. So what he's done is sort of the lowest common denominator. He's threatening them on Twitter, right?
The question is whether or not he's going to follow through. Is he really going to fly Air Force One around to the primaries and challenge Republicans? Does he have a political organization to do that, you know? Can he -- primary Freedom Caucus members from the right on something that the right didn't really like in the first place? The whole threat never seemed --
ROGIN: -- credible to these guys. That's why they didn't buckle to it. And it's not any more credible now than it was when he first leveled it. BRIGGS: Well, these guys point out that they're from safe districts. Most of them ran far higher than the president in their own districts --
BRIGGS: -- and no one's going to get in there to the right.
ROGIN: Well, that's right.
BRIGGS: But to give you a little context, here's what the president tweeted, in part. "The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, and fast." He went on this tweetstorm. You can read it to yourself. But then, Justin Amash, I think, gave the biggest pushback, not in a tweet but here's what he said to reporters on his way out of Capitol Hill yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: It's constructive in fifth grade, but it may allow a child to get his way, but that's not how our government works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGGS: It's not how government works.
BRIGGS: Is that how legislation will work for the president?
ROGIN: Well, it's not how politics works, OK? These guys know their districts better than Trump knows their districts. They know their voters. The reason that they didn't vote for this bill in the first place is because they knew it was -- the political downside was greater than the political upside. That calculation is still the same, OK, so if the first priority of any member of Congress is stay in power -- and, of course, that is -- they've already made that calculation and it's not going to change based on this threat.
ROMANS: Where are the Democrats?
ROGIN: Well, what's the role if your opponent is failing? Do nothing, right? Their best play is just to stay out of it and let the civil war and the infighting play out. There's no upside in them injecting themselves into this for any reason at all.
ROMANS: Will they inject themselves in Gorsuch?
ROGIN: Well, I think there's an understanding on both sides of the aisle that Gorsuch is going to become the next Supreme Court justice. How far they want to go out on a limb to make a point about 60 votes is a tough calculation for them, right? The further they push it, the riskier it is. At the end of the day, he's likely going to get confirmed. So they've got to take a stand on principle and then, eventually, they've got to fold, and they're just trying to figure out exactly when to do that.
BRIGGS: They've got two Democratic yeses. They're going to need six more to get to 60 before the nuclear option becomes their only option. Josh, thank you.
[05:40:07] ROMANS: Nice to see you.
BRIGGS: Nice stuff this morning.
ROMANS: Have a great weekend.
BRIGGS: Great to have you.
ROMANS: Glad you're here with us in the studio today. All right, the first look at how the Trump administration will renegotiate NAFTA looks nothing like the promises of the president's campaign. A draft memo obtained by "CNN MONEY" shows the administration won't withdraw, it will not ask for sweeping changes, it won't rip up the agreement. Some are even comparing it to what Hillary Clinton proposed during the campaign.
But there's one section of that draft that is a notable change I want to tell you about. "Temporary revocation of tariff preferences if increased imports from NAFTA countries are a substantial cause of serious injury or threat of serious injury to the domestic injury." Translation, the government will tax imports from Mexico and Canada if imports spike and put U.S. companies at a disadvantage.
During the campaign, the president ripped NAFTA as the worst trade deal in history. He constantly pointed to the U.S. trade deficit as evidence that America is losing to other countries, especially Mexico. The president's pick for U.S. trade representative is awaiting confirmation. The office offered no comment on this -- on this draft. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the draft is not a policy statement. It may even be a trial balloon for all we know, but the initial read here is this is not what the president campaigned on.
BRIGGS: Not even close. Walking that back quite a bit. Also, President Trump, just hours before he signs two executive orders today aimed at reducing America's trade deficit, is turning his sights on China, tweeting that next week's meeting with the Chinese president will be "difficult." Why will it be so difficult? Will Ripley tells us next, live from Beijing.
[05:45:40] ROMANS: All right. President Trump plans to sign two executive orders today to help combat foreign trade abuses. The goal here is to reduce America's half-trillion dollar trade deficit. The signings come just one week before the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, visits the U.S. Mr. Trump, the president, has repeatedly accused Beijing of hurting the American economy with unfair trade practices. Take a look at his latest tweet. "The meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can longer have massive trade deficits and job losses. American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives."
Our Will Ripley is in Beijing this morning with the latest reaction from China. You have such great contacts because you make it clear that, you know, Twitter's banned in China, which is just the beginning of our differences with these countries. But the president says that meeting will be difficult. Is that how the Chinese see it, Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Can you imagine if Chinese President Xi Jinping was tweeting as much as President Trump was? It would give Americans such a window into the mindset of the Chinese but, of course, that's never going to happen. What we do know, though, is that the Chinese are really digging in their heels on this because they don't agree with President Trump's allegation that they're engaging in unfair trade practices.
One of these executive orders is going to look into the causes of America's massive trade deficit -- $347 billion of that -- half a trillion -- is with China. So clearly, China is the number one offender in the eyes of President Trump. But the Chinese say hey, this is market conditions. It's cheaper to manufacture goods here, which is why they export so much to the United States because U.S. consumers like lower prices. But also, this stepped up enforcement of these anti-dumping laws. This could be a big one if the U.S. starts really penalizing and enforcing these fines on Chinese companies. They're accused of flooding the market with these cheap goods that are priced artificially low.
ROMANS: What kind of leverage does China have? I mean, you know, we need China on the North Korea issue. You know, China owns a lot of U.S. debt. What kind of leverage do you think the Chinese could use, you know, to come back at President Trump?
RIPLEY: Well, China has a lot of leverage because there are U.S. companies that are operating here in China that reply on this country for a large part of their bottom line. China can make it very difficult for those companies to do business. They could cut exports of consumer electronics, which would be very upsetting for American consumers when they start to see their prices go up. They could also -- they could also buy fewer U.S. goods, anything from agricultural items to manufacturing items.
But, U.S. -- the U.S. also has leverage. They can tariff Chinese imports. And since China relies so heavily on exports that it sells to the United States, it could be very damaging for both economies if a trade war were to escalate.
RIPLEY: But you make a very good point. This economic relationship is hugely important but there's also the looming issue of North Korea hanging over all of this and the U.S. does need China's cooperation if their strategy for controlling Kim Jong Un's nuclear program is going to be effective. And we still don't know when that nuclear test is going to happen. It could be anytime, Christine.
ROMANS: It's so interesting, Will, and the whole tax reform debate in the United States -- you know, there was talk of this border adjustability tax which would, you know, promote the making of goods in the United States and already you've got a lot of pushback against that. That would raise prices for consumers. Consumers don't want to pay more for their imported stuff so we'll see how that all works out. Thanks so much, Will Ripley. Nice to see you this morning.
BRIGGS: Such a massively pivotal meeting next week at Mar-a-Lago. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Brussels this morning at another massively impactful meeting, the first NATO summit. But will Tillerson express President Trump's harsh message that NATO is "obsolete?" We'll go live to Brussels, next.
[05:53:20] BRIGGS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Brussels this morning attending his first NATO summit, a meeting he once planned to skip. He's likely, though, to be met by skeptical partners in the alliance as President Trump has caused alarm by calling NATO "obsolete" and suggesting the U.S. would not protect members if they do not increase military spending. CNN's Nic Robertson live in Brussels this morning. Good morning to you, sir. You have heard from Rex Tillerson. What have we heard from him today?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, we've heard what he believes the key points are going into this meeting. He certainly can expect some pushback from the European members. The issue, of course, that two percent of defense spending that NATO allies are committed to spending -- two percent of GDP on defense spending that they're committed to spend. Only five of the 28 NATO nation members actually meet that contribution level. The United States spends, by far, the most and some of the -- you know, some of the countries are way, way down. But these are the priorities as Sec. Tillerson spelled them out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: So I'm very pleased to be in Brussels for this meeting and discussions with my NATO colleagues. I think we have three important areas we want to talk about. First, is ensuring that NATO has all of the resources, financial and otherwise, that are necessary for NATO to fulfill its mission. Secondly, we want to discuss how we can build on NATO's already important involvement in the fight to defeat ISIS and other counterterrorism actions that NATO can provide and, ultimately, bring stability to the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[05:55:05] ROBERTSON: So, that NATO resource really is a euphemism at that two percent of GDP. And what you're going to hear from perhaps the Germans, perhaps others -- he'll hear that they want to increase the spending. They are increasing that spending but they hope to do it over a number of years and not as speedily as President Trump wants because it isn't easy for them to turn around huge budgets. And one of the concerns is they want to do it efficiently and they can't do that if they immediately ramp up their spending. Also, likely, to hear from the French as well. They want to hear --
and others -- they want to hear more about the United States' position on Syria. They feel that may be changing --
ROBERTSON: -- and they want to learn details of that -- Dave.
BRIGGS: Yes. How do we plan to handle the Assad regime? Thank you so much, Nic. As we often hear with these meetings, Trump administration officials trying to reassure our allies.
BRIGGS: It seems to be the word we use every time.
ROMANS: It's already important work NATO is doing with ISIS, you know. The president said -- had said that, you know, NATO was obsolete, not doing anything.
All right, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. The Nasdaq, the highest level of all time right now. Futures right now ticking a little bit lower so you could have kind of a rainy end to a rainy week here on the East Coast. Stock markets in Europe and Asia dropping as well. Today marks the end of the first quarter, folks. Check out the gains. The Dow up almost five percent. Nasdaq a big winner, up almost 10 percent. S&P 500 with an almost six percent gain.
One of the craziest stories in the stock market this week, Sears. Sales are plunging. Shoppers are skipping the store when they go to the mall. There are rumors that bankruptcy could be near. The company, itself, has even told shareholders its viability is in question. It sold the Craftsman brand to Black and Decker to raise cash. But the troubled retailer's stock hit an all-time low earlier this year and then, this week, a big turnaround. Shares are up 50 percent in the past six days. In part, the company's CEO and a board member have been buying up shares -- huge chunks of the stock as it tumbled there below $6 a share.
McDonald's making another big change to one of its iconic burgers. The fast food chain says all of its quarter pounders will be served with fresh beef. McDonald's says the change will be done by the middle of next year. McDonald's recently unveiled two new Big Mac sizes. It has been testing mobile orders and even a delivery service, all in an effort to boost business.
ROMANS: You're making me hungry.
ROMANS: It's all in an effort to fight off its rivals.
BRIGGS: That was my stomach. ROMANS: Wendy's launching a big ad blitz in recent weeks to tout its never frozen beef.
BRIGGS: We get very hungry --
ROMANS: I know. I'm a quarter pounder --
BRIGGS: -- at this time of the morning.
ROMANS: I'm a quarter pounder person, too, so I'm going to be interested in that.
BRIGGS: Two, please.
ROMANS: I don't do fast food. I don't do fast food, but I do do quarter pounders.
Finally, SpaceX making space history. The Elon Musk side project launched a previously used rocket in Cape Canaveral. It successfully made it into orbit, marking the first time the same rocket has been used in two separate missions. It dropped off a satellite, oh, just about 22,000 miles into space. It's a little trip. The rocket then returned to earth. It landed on a remotely piloted platform known as a drone ship in the Atlanta Ocean. Very cool. This space race -- you know, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and all these folks trying to send tourists to space.
BRIGGS: I heard nothing after quarter pounder with cheese --
ROMANS: I know, me too.
BRIGGS: -- so I apologize.
ROMANS: I'm so hungry. America, we're sorry for making you hungry. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.
BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now and a big day it is -- enjoy.
ROMANS: A big day with a Big Mac.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Flynn is taking the fifth, refusing to testify without immunity.
FLYNN: When you are given immunity, that means that you probably committed a crime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has a story to tell if they're willing to cut a deal.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Did you meet with the president or any of his aides --
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: No. BLITZER: -- while you were there that night?
NUNES: No, and, in fact, I'm quite sure that, I think, people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two White House officials found the intelligence and provided it to Mr. Nunes at the White House.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We invite the Senate and House ranking members and the chairman to the White House to view that material.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The timing certainly looks fortuitous and probably more than fortuitous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a cover-up. I don't say it lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 31st, 6:00 here in New York. Chris is off, John Berman joins me. Great to have you. And we do begin with breaking news.
President Trump's former national security adviser says he's willing to talk to Congressional investigators if they give him immunity. General Michael Flynn's lawyer says Flynn "has a story to tell" to Congress and the FBI about Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. election and ties to the Trump campaign.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All this, as several media reports say that staffers inside the White House were the source of classified reports given to the embattled House Intelligence Chairman. We have a lot going on, on day 71 of the Trump presidency. That is an understatement this morning. We want to begin our coverage with CNN's Sara Murray, live at the White House -- Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, another twist, another turn in the saga of the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Now, Donald Trump's former national security adviser says his offer to testify comes with some fine print.