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"Unmasking" Of Trump Associates' Names; A New Trump-Russia Connection?; House Intel Committee To Meet On Russia Today; UNC Tops Gonzaga for NCAA Title. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 4, 2017 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:25] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Unmasking versus leaking -- critical differences seemingly being ignored by the White House. Is the president trying to drum up a story as more links to Russia emerge?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats now with enough support to filibuster the president's Supreme Court nominee. Will Republicans change the Senate forever and change the rules to get Neil Gorsuch on the bench?

BRIGGS: And police reforms nationwide coming under review. Why does the attorney general want to examine changes made under the previous administration? Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Oh, it's only Tuesday. I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour. Amid the constant drip, drip of connections between the president's associates and Russia, one topic that has received some attention, but not much, is unmasking. Now the president is doing his best to make unmasking sound illegal, firing off a barrage of tweets that seemed aimed at a scandal to distract from, potentially, a real one.

BRIGGS: All right. So where did this all start? With a "FOX NEWS" report that a high-ranking Obama official had requested the unmasking of the names of Trump officials caught up in surveillance. That was followed by a "Bloomberg News" report naming President Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice as the official who requested this unmasking citing U.S. officials.

ROMANS: So what is unmasking? It is where a U.S. official requests the identity of an otherwise unnamed American caught up in the surveillance of foreigners. But unmasking is not the same as leaking. It's not disseminated widely. An unmasked identity is only revealed to officials authorized to know within the Intelligence Community. For more now on unmasking and the response from Susan Rice, let's bring in CNN's Jim Sciutto in Washington.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, a source close to Ambassador Susan Rice tells me that the claims that she improperly unmasked the names of U.S. citizens caught up in surveillance is, in a word, false. That's coming from Ambassador Rice. But I've also spoken to former senior intelligence officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations to ask them about the process of unmasking. Is it unusual, is it illegal? And their answer is unanimously no, not unusual, not illegal.

They say a couple of things. One, the law allows this. Two, for it to happen the official requests it but the U.S. Intelligence Community has to approve that request. Oftentimes, it is approved because that intelligence official wants to provide more information to the senior national security official. As they're reading intelligence reports they want to know more about what they mean and significance. That information is shared only between the briefer from the Intelligence Community and that official. It's not more widely disseminated. Now, it's possible that that official could do that him or herself but by the nature of it, it is only exchanged one-to-one.

There are open questions here. How extensive was the unmasking? What was the justification for it? But this we know -- this I know from speaking to multiple intelligence officials, that this practice is not unusual, it happens, and two, it's certainly not illegal. There are protocols for this, specifically established after 9/11, to allow for this unmasking under certain rules -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: A lot there. Thank you, Jim. The web of connections between the president, his associates, and Russia seems to be spreading further this morning according to a "Washington Post" report. This, about a secret meeting in early January between a Russian connected to President Vladimir Putin and the founder of the Blackwater security firm, Erik Prince.

ROMANS: This meeting took place on the isolated Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean. "Washington Post" sources saying the meeting was an attempt to set up a back-channel line of communication between the Kremlin and President-elect Trump. Erik Prince was not a part of the Trump campaign or the transition but he does have ties to Trump's inner circle, including Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is secretary of education. The White House says it was not aware of any meetings Prince had, and a spokesman for Prince calls the claim of any connection "a complete fabrication."

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee plans to meet today at noon with the future of its Russia investigation hanging in the balance. The full committee convened last night for the first time since its top Democratic, Adam Schiff, called on Republican Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself. The topic of Russia and its alleged ties to the Trump administration will be on the table this afternoon. That trip to the White House by Nunes two weeks ago idled the committee and called into question its ability to proceed with a credible investigation.

[05:35:05] ROMANS: All right. To help break it all down this morning, political analyst Ellis Henican, author of the "Trump's America" column for the Metro papers. And, CNN political analyst David Drucker, senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner." Good morning to all of you.


ROMANS: Let's talk about unmasking versus leaking and this latest sort of tweet storm from the president. Is this a distraction from the slow work of these committees, David Drucker, you know, or is this -- is this really important to get down to the bottom of this?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, the House Intelligence Committee was always looking at two things. One was Russian meddling and the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, and leaking, which Republicans from the very beginning have been very concerned about. And this, I think, particularly came to the floor when Michael Flynn -- the story was broken by "The Washington Post" -- had been in contact with the Russian ambassador, had never disclosed this. It turned out he didn't tell the vice president and that led to his resignation.But what Republicans focused on throughout that whole thing was how did this get into the public sphere --

ROMANS: Right.

DRUCKER: -- and they were concerned about leaking that came from intelligence gathering of foreign nationals. So that's where Republicans in the House have been. Democrats have been much more focused on Russia meddling and possible collusion. And we saw in that open hearing both sides picking sides, with Republicans doing nothing but asking questions about leaks and Democrats doing nothing about asking questions about, you know, whether or not colonel what's his name had the candlestick in another -- you know, in another room, and they were trying to connect dots that they, at least not here, weren't about to connect.

So, I think the question is are both going to be proven right or is everybody going to be proven wrong? But there are two issues that matter here. One is were FISA laws followed properly? That's very important, especially because some FISA laws -- the ability do a lot of this stuff is up for reauthorization --

ROMANS: Right.

DRUCKER: -- at the end of the year. Will you have the votes? And number two, this Russia thing is a real thing, at least in terms of meddling. We know Russia meddled and it's pretty clear that they picked sides in the election. The question that we don't know and what may never turn out to be true is whether there was collusion.

ROMANS: Whoever -- colonel whoever with the candlestick -- the game of "Clue" -- the game of "Clue" is more much fun.

BRIGGS: We do need to know --

HENICAN: Our viewers can help with that, by the way.

BRIGGS: Perhaps. We do need to know why Susan Rice asked for these officials unmasked. Was it in the name of national security? If so, no big problem. But I want to ask you, does Susan Rice have a credibility issue based on what she said about Trump transition officials being surveilled? Listen --


SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today.


BRIGGS: Is there a credibility problem there?

HENICAN: I think it falls into the could be, maybe yes, maybe no. I mean, you just need to know more about it. First of all, what explicitly was she referring to in that case? I mean, listen, David's right.

BRIGGS: Surveillance of Trump transition officials.


BRIGGS: That is very clear.

HENICAN: But focus on this for a second. I mean, we really are in two teams on this thing, right? I mean, if you start out thinking that Susan Rice is a liar, and there are folks in our country who feel like that, this is going to prove that she did. If you're on the other side of it and you think you know what, the Obama administration really did need to get to the bottom of this. We really did need to know whether the Russians were hacking into our elections and, if so, how.

BRIGGS: This was not related to Russia, though.

HENICAN: And, of course -- well --

BRIGGS: We do know that.

HENICAN: Yes, I understand that. But that discussion obviously is the way this thing is breaking down. I think it's gotten very tribal in a hurry.

ROMANS: Let's talk -- let's switch and talk about another tribal in a hurry --

BRIGGS: No question about that.

ROMANS: -- and that is the Gorsuch nomination -- the Supreme Court nomination. Are we, David Drucker -- I mean, are they going to change, you know, history in the -- in the Senate this week?

DRUCKER: Well, look, Republicans would argue that they're just furthering the work of Harry Reid in 2013. For the first time they used the nuclear option which means he broke the rules of the Senate requiring so many votes to change rules, to change the rules. So -- and that affected, obviously, all executive branch nominees except for the Supreme Court. Republicans are going to seek Neil Gorsuch. If it takes the nuclear option they will do it.

They made -- they -- with -- they kept Merrick Garland off the Supreme Court last year. They made a deal with their voters that if you elect Trump, even though you're skeptical of him and you're not sure about him, you will get a conservative Supreme Court justice. Republicans in the Senate and in the House, for that matter, they don't know really what they're going to end up getting with Trump over the next four years, but they know this. They're going to get Neil Gorsuch --

ROMANS: Right.

DRUCKER: -- who is going to replace Antonin Scalia and keep that seat conservative for a generation. There's no way, given there's been no skeletons and there's no reason not to seat him, that they're going to let a filibuster block him. There's just no way.

BRIGGS: Well, it was the Obama solicitor general that introduced Gorsuch on this court and wrote a lengthy op-ed about why they should approve him. But what are the implications, Ellis, if they, in fact -- the nuclear option is utilized here -- the implications on the Supreme Court in the future and on any legislation on a bipartisan fashion for the next three or four years?

[05:40:05] HENICAN: If your point is that the Senate is different and in some ways busted, I think that's undeniably true. But what I don't understand strategically is what exactly do Democrats lose if they hold the line on this, right? We're not going to get any kind of a different nominee next time. There's no suggestion that --

BRIGGS: Well, I do. I do believe they'd get someone more moderate.

HENICAN: Why do you believe that?

BRIGGS: Because I -- because the perception is that --

HENICAN: Why should Trump do that?

BRIGGS: -- the moderate senators will not go nuclear with someone who is extreme -- someone who is far to the right of Neil Gorsuch, which he is not by most accounts --

HENICAN: Well --

BRIGGS: -- including the Bar Association.

HENICAN: You see -- but I just don't think in this case that you get much for playing nicely. I understand it would be nice to maintain these traditions into the -- into the distant future. But, Dave, I've got to tell you, this stuff is pretty busted already and the idea of the great comedy is going to arrive in some future day. I don't know. You're a bigger optimist than I am, I guess. You are a cheerful guy, by the way.

BRIGGS: Well, I try. ROMANS: I hope they -- my whole career covering Washington and business, the number of times we've gone around and said bipartisanship is dead, bipartisanship is dead, it's been dead as long --


ROMANS: -- as I've been covering it so it didn't --

BRIGGS: There has never been a bipartisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee.

ROMANS: That's -- you're right, you're right. This is a different kind of day.

BRIGGS: It will be the first and the last.

ROMANS: Thanks, David Drucker, Ellis Henican. Nice to see both of you.

HENICAN: Great seeing you guys.

DRUCKER: Thank you, guys.

BRIGGS: All right. Police reforms enacted by the Obama administration could be in jeopardy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordering a review of all agreements made with troubled departments. He wants to make sure they don't conflict with the president's goal of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime. Since 2009, the Justice Department has conducted 25 investigations into law enforcement agencies and is currently enforcing 14 consent decrees and agreements.

ROMANS: All right, 42 minutes past the hour. It is April and today is equal pay day. What is that? The significance of equal pay is to earn the same amount as their male counterparts make in one year, women have to work that one year and then all the way until April of the next year. That extra time ends today.

Women earn about 80 cents for every dollar men make according to Census Bureau statistics. It works out to be little more than $10,000 less per year. For a 20-year-old entering the workforce, it amounts to $418,000 over a 40-year career. Now, the pay gap changes dramatically when you factor in race. Hispanic women earn just 54 cents compared to what a white male earns. African-American women make 63 cents on the dollar. Asian women have the narrowest gap, 85 cents. This is according to the National Women's Law Center.

So what's being done about it? Well, the gap has been closing slowing over the past 20 years but experts say really only Congress has the power to act on a national scale. Companies are also partially responsible but, you know, they keep their pay data private.

As for today, Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" organization teaming up with business to offer 20 percent discounts to make up for the pay gap. For the next week shoppers can get the discount on Luna bars and Proctor & Gamble products. Ride-sharing service Lyft will donate 20 percent of each ride today to charity, and local stores in 25 cities are also joining in on discounts. But I think while that is a nice way I guess, Dave, to advertise the issue --

BRIGGS: It's a noble effort.

ROMANS: It's a -- that's really an advertisement for the issue. You know, you saw Ivanka Trump talking about better supports for working women and working families. You know, I encourage more of a discussion on a national scale of how to -- I mean, I'd call it the maternity tax. There's just -- there's just -- for some reason, you know, women -- even if you adjust for the same career --


ROMANS: -- women make a little bit less.

BRIGGS: But perhaps her now having an official government title she can take on this issue, spearhead it, and get us moving a little bit faster towards equal pay.

ROMANS: At least we're talking about it again.


ROMANS: At least we're talking about it. All right, 44 minutes past the hour. Redemption for North Carolina. The Tar Heels capturing their sixth national championship in a grueling duel in the desert. Coy Wire with the highlights in this morning's Bleacher Report.


[05:48:20] BRIGGS: Sweet redemption. The North Carolina Tar Heels winning their sixth national championship after a heartbreaking last- second loss last year.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Up late, up early. Hey, Coy.

BRIGGS: Two forty-eight, Coy. Good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I don't even know why I tried to sleep. An hour and one-half I got, though, and that's enough. Christine and Dave, great morning to you. Twenty seventeen, the year of redemption. I was there to see Clemson advance their football championship loss in January and to see the Patriots advance theirs a month later. And now, we've witnessed North Carolina basketball get their redemption, too. This is the moment right here that Tar Heel nation knew they'd claim it.

(Video playing) NCAA GAME ANNOUNCER: And Carolina seconds away from erasing a year's worth of pain.

WIRE: Now, look at this emotion. Think about difficult it was for these guys and impressive just to get back to the championship game. That's a long, tough road with all kinds of potential pitfalls but they made it, and I just had to find out how that made these guys feel.


WIRE: You went to your mom and gave her a big hug. What kind of a moment did you share?

JUSTIN JACKSON, NORTH CAROLINA JUNIOR: I just said "we did it." We were both crying. You know, we've been through a lot.

JOEL BERRY II, NCAA TOURNAMENT MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER: I was in tears, man, just because we had worked so hard to get back to this point and all we just had on our minds was redemption from last year. And when that confetti fell and it was on our side, you know, it was the greatest feeling in the world.


[05:50:00] WIRE: Reveling in the redemption back at Chapel Hill at the Dean Dome. (Video playing) This was what thousands of fans' prayers being answered looks like, fellows. Tar Heel nation going crazy with a win but just as crazy as it made them, it crushed Gonzaga. Remember, they've never won a title before and they were so close. Nigel Williams-Goss just crushed.


NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS, GONZAGA JUNIOR: We did a lot of things that people didn't expect us to do this year and we put in the work and we were right there, good enough to win a national championship. So it stings a lot right now but it doesn't break you, it doesn't kill you. You've just got to get better for next time.


WIRE: Friends, history is written. "The Charlotte Observer" reading "Redeemed." One interesting note, guys. After the game, head coach Roy Williams was asked if he'll take his team to White House if they're invited and he wasn't so sure. He said he wants to think on it. Coach Williams has been critical of the president in the past so if they're invited we will see how it plays out.

I've got to give a quick shout-out to Christine Romans and Dave Briggs. You guys -- you guys finished fourth and fifth in the running here for our bracket challenge --


WIRE: -- so congrats to you, well done. It was a long fought hard season so well done.

ROMANS: Even a blind squirrel will get the nut every now and then, right?

BRIGGS: Kate Bolduan and Brooke Baldwin, second. But Kate Bolduan takes it home.

ROMANS: All right. Congratulations to all those teams. They did great. A really great season.

BRIGGS: I mean, Coy looking pretty good on an hour of sleep.

ROMANS: I know, I know, he is good.

BRIGGS: He's got a lot of energy.

ROMANS: Warren Buffett heading to China to sell more Cherry Coke. Confused? Cherry Coke, Buffett, China -- a check on CNN Money Stream, next.


[05:55:45] BRIGGS: Breaking news now. Authorities in Russia identifying the suspect behind the deadly bombing of a metro station in St. Petersburg. The blast killed 14 people and left dozens injured. Let's go live to St. Petersburg, Russia and bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann with the very latest. Good morning, Oren. What are we learning this morning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, David. We now have one more piece of what's becoming a very complex puzzle. The foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan saying that the suspect in this case was, according to preliminary information, a suicide bomber. There had been speculation of that as early as yesterday but it had not been confirmed until it was by the foreign minister, again, who says it was -- it is, according to a preliminary investigation.

Now, Kyrgyzstan security authorities identified the suspect in this case as Akbarzhon Jalilov from Kyrgyzstan, but a Russian citizen born in 1995. That makes him fairly young -- 21 or 22 years old. He'd been living here for a few years. So, again, it's security authorities there who say he carried out this bombing last night. We're reaching about the 24-hour point here. The Sennaya Square station here behind me closed at this point as police are investigating and firefighters have blocked it off.

Meanwhile, we've seen an outpouring of support and condolences. A memorial growing here just behind me. We've seen people here all morning. This is the first of three days of mourning here. This, as the investigation continues.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Oren. So we know the individual -- still no group accepting responsibility for the attack -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, 57 minutes past the hour, Dave. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream. Dow futures slipping this morning after a slight drop Monday. A little bit of anxiety around the world here. Stock markets in Europe, though, ticked higher, just a tiny bit. Growing sentiment on Wall Street that the optimism over President Trump's policies could be waning, or the optimal optimism at this point.

One of the hottest stocks yesterday of this year, though, look at this. Tesla shares jumping seven percent. An upbeat report on vehicle deliveries. The stock is up 40 percent this year. Tesla now more valuable than Ford by market cap. General Motors is not far off. It needs about $3 million more in market value to get there.

Finally this morning, Warren Buffett is going to China, or at least his face is. The billionaire investor is appearing on special edition Cherry Coke cans all over the world's most populous nations. Reports say he is not getting paid, just trying to boost sales. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, is the single-largest Coca-Cola shareholder. The stake is worth about $17 billion. China has a growing investor class and Buffett is like a rock star there. He said in 20 --


ROMANS: Yes. He said in 2015 that he drinks five cans of Coke a day. He really likes Cherry Coke, he does.

BRIGGS: Five cans of Coke a day?

ROMANS: Yes. He believes in his --

BRIGGS: All right. If it works for Buffett, it works for me.

ROMAN: He believes in his investments, apparently. He really does. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. Have a good one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an effort to roll more smoke bombs into an investigation that was making progress.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Reports the former Obama national security adviser was involved in unmasking the Trump associates.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If it's the case, of course, it's just dereliction of duty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get all kinds of intelligence intercepts all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to do whatever it takes to get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), VOTING AGAINST GORSUCH NOMINATION: We should be actually celebrating the anniversary of Justice Garland rather than voting on Judge Gorsuch.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: To my Democratic colleagues this is going to be very bad.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president and I have faith Congress is going to step up and do the right thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a solid idea that was offered. We were certainly encouraged. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a pipe dream. The Freedom Caucus does not hold the key to this.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, April 4th, 6:00 here in New York.

Up first, President Trump trying to deflect again from the expanding web of ties between his team and Russia. The president alleging that former national security advisor Susan Rice improperly unmasked the identity of Trump associates who were caught up in surveillance of foreign targets.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, President Trump wants you to believe he is the victim of a crooked scheme. Those are his words and here are our words. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing and, in fact, if anything, the NSA asking for identities was a reflection of exactly how much traffic there was involving Trump people and foreign players.