Return to Transcripts main page


Yates to Testify: I Warned About Flynn; Clinton: Comey Cost Me; Trump Tackles Health Care; Trump Hosting Abbas at White House. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 3, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:09] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Former acting attorney general sets to contradict the White House on who knew what and when about Michael Flynn's talks with the Russian ambassador.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton said she would have won the election if it were held October 27th. She's calling out James Comey's letter that she says cost her everything. And now, President Trump has something to say about it.

BRIGGS: And President Trump summons key House members to the White House to talk health care. Can he finally get this repeal and replace bill through the House? Folks, it's a razor-thin margin. This is going to go down to the wire again.

Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, May 3rd. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. Nice to see you all this morning, bright and early.

Let's begin here. President Trump and his administration are facing a major public rebuke from an official fired by Trump himself. Sources tell CNN, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is prepared to testify that she warned the White House, Michael Flynn was lying about talking to the Russian ambassador. A warning that came three weeks before Flynn was fired as national security adviser.

Yates is expected to tell a Senate Judiciary Committee she expressed grave concerns that Flynn could potentially be compromised, refuting the White House account that Yates gave officials a simple head's up. She said it was more than a head's up. It was a stern warning.

With the Yates testimony set for Monday, Russia returns to center stage on Capitol Hill today.

BRIGGS: FBI Director James Comey goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee where he'll be grilled about his announcement just before election at the probe of Hillary Clinton's emails was back on, all this after President Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is briefed at CIA quarters on Russian election hacking. Secretary Clinton makes pointed comments on Comey and the Russians, and President Trump unleashes a late night tweet storm, venting his frustration about all it.

We begin our coverage with national security correspondent Jim Sciutto in Washington.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Sources familiar with her account tell CNN that former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is prepared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week that she gave a forceful warning to the White House regarding then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn nearly three weeks before he was fired. This contradicting the administration's version of events.

In a private meeting January 26th, Yates told White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was lying when he denied in public and private that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia in conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. His misleading comments, Yates explained, made him potentially vulnerable to being compromised by Russia. The Yates-McGahn meeting took place January 26th.

On February 10th, more than two weeks later, President Trump said he was unaware of reports on Flynn. Three days after that, on February 13th, "The Washington Post" published a story that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Flynn resigned that night.

Yates testimony on May 8th will be the first time the former acting attorney general will publicly speak about that White House meeting. A source familiar with the situation says that Yates will be limited on what she can tell the committee because many of the details involving Flynn remain classified. Yates previously scheduled appearance in front of the House Intelligence Committee was cancelled by Chairman Nunez. That news sparking outcry from Democrats who believes he was trying to shield the White House from damaging new revelations.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: Thank you, Jim Sciutto, for that.

Hillary Clinton offering her most pointed comments yet on what she characterizes meddling in the election by Russians and by FBI Director Comey. Speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, the former candidate said, quote, "If the election had been on October 27th, I would be your president." Listen.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey's letter on October 28th and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off.


ROMANS: Interviewed by Amanpour at a Women For Women International event in New York, Secretary Clinton did take what she called absolute personal responsibility for her loss.

BRIGGS: Did she, though?

But she said she's now back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance. She also took a swipe that's sure to irk President Trump.


CLINTON: I did win more than 3 million votes than my opponent. So, it's like, really?



CLINTON: Well -- fine. You know, better that than interfering in foreign affairs if he wants to tweet about me. I'm happy to be the, you know, the diversion.


[04:05:05] BRIGGS: So, what's behind Clinton's re-emergence in the spotlight? A confidant said she's not running for anything, she's just not hiding. She's writing a book.

Christiane Amanpour joins us at 5:30 to discuss her conversation with Clinton and more.

And let's discuss this characterization with Christiane, of did she really take responsibility for losing that election? A lot of folks in this country think she did not do that on that stage yesterday.

ROMANS: Yes. So, Christiane Amanpour spent some quality time with Hillary Clinton yesterday and she nailed it, Christiane did, when she predicted a tweet from President Trump. In fact, there were a couple of them lashing back overnight at Trump's former opponent. He wrote, "FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds. The phony Trump-Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election."

He finished off referring to himself in the third person, "Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign."

Dave Briggs, do you talk about yourself in the third person?

BRIGGS: Sorry to chuckle. That third person tweet I love it. ROMANS: President Trump stepping directly into the health care fight

today. He'll meet with two key Republican congressmen, Billy Long of Missouri and Fred Upton of Michigan, both are against the latest bill to replace Obamacare, but they're working on an amendment that would protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, in order to make the measure more palatable to moderates.

BRIGGS: Republican leadership and the White House making a hard sell to get the plan through the House.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has the latest whip count from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, as it currently stands, according to a CNN tally, 22 Republicans are firmly and publicly in the no camp. Republican leaders can afford to lose all of 23. That means over the course of the next couple of days, they have major work to do primarily with moderates and centrists on the issue of pre-existing conditions, something Fred Upton, the congressman from Michigan and former chairman of the committee that oversees health care, laid out like this.

REP. FRED UPTON (R), MICHIGAN: You know, from day one, I've supported the rights of those with pre-existing illnesses to be covered. And in my view, this undermines that effort and I can't be a part of it. Yes, there are ways to fix it, but the proposal that's on the table now doesn't work.

MATTINGLY: The question right now is, can leaders -- can the White House persuade those who are either undecided still sitting on the fence or only lean no to come aboard over the next 24 to 48 hours? They want to have this vote before lawmakers leave Capitol Hill on Thursday for another recess. The reality remains the same, though, according to House leadership aides, they will not have the vote until they have the votes.

As it stands right now, they don't have the votes -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Phil Mattingly.

The Trump administration having a hard time swallowing the new bipartisan spending plan, especially the part about no founding for the president's border wall. All the crowing by Democrats apparently too much to take for Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. He claims the White House plans to use several hundred million dollars from border security fund in the plan to begin construction of the wall, even though the agreement forbids it. Mulvaney says the money won't be spent on a new wall, but instead towards fixing and replacing existing fencing.

BRIGGS: All this after Mr. Trump suggested a government shutdown to end the impasse over health care. The president tweeting, "The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there. We either elect more Republican senators in 2018 or change the rules to 51 percent. Our country needs a good shutdown in September to fix mess."

That drew a quick backlash from both parties.

ROMANS: Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee tweeting, "How could a shutdown be good with parks closed, government services unavailable and people furloughed? Answer: golf at Mar-a-Lago unaffected." Ouch.

Orrin Hatch, the longest serving Republican senator, pushing back against the president, too. He says America would be a socialist nation without a 60-vote threshold and filibuster option.

BRIGGS: Budget Director Mulvaney was asked what a good shutdown would be?


MICK MULVANEY, BUDGET DIRECTOR: It's not a goal, OK? And it's not a negotiating tool.

REPORTER: The president advocated for one.

MULVANEY: But to the extent the president advocated for one today, if you want to imagine what a good shutdown was, it would be one that fixes this town. The one that drives the message back home to people that really was as broken as they thought that it was when they voted for Donald Trump.


BRIGGS: White House briefing ended in bizarre fashion. After the budget director left the podium, reporters were certainly anxious to question Press Secretary Sean Spicer. No such luck.


REPORTERS: Sean. Sean. Sean. Sean. Sean.



[04:10:01] BRIGGS: You can chuckle because no one feels sympathy for the White House press corps in middle of America. They will get a chance to ask questions of Sean Spicer today at 2:00.

And, look, to the point that Democrats certainly were angry about that tweet, Republicans, Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, Orrin Hatch, several lined up and said, that ain't happening. Shutdown, changing Senate rules are not going to happen in our watch.

ROMANS: You know, the shut down thing was so interesting. I thought maybe the future -- I thought the stock market might be unsettled by that, but it wasn't in part because no one thinks that cooler heads will not prevail in Washington this fall.

During the election, candidate Trump swept into office as the champion of the working class, promising -- remember -- to crackdown on Wall Street? Remember this ad where he cast Hillary Clinton as a friend of Wall Street, but he was a friend of the working guy? Well, here's President Trump's treasury secretary reminding bankers at an elite conference in Beverly Hills, he's focused on relaxing financial regulation.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I know there's a few people in this room that care a lot about that. You should all thank me for your bank stocks doing better.


MADDOW: "You should all thank me for your bank stocks doing better." A treasury secretary of the United States boasting about enriching investors. In fact, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, a Democrat, wrote in a blog post, "I cannot conceive any of the 11 other secretaries I have known making such a statement."

He's right. Bank stocks have had a great run under Trump, soaring between 20 percent and 40 percent since the election. Look at the right side of the chart, the scale there -- 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent. Wall Street likes Trump's talk about tax reform and deregulation, especially the promise to do "a big number", quote- unquote, on Dodd-frank.

In fact, the House Financial Services Committee is expected to vote on a GOP bill today that would scale back the Obama era financial reform. Democrats fiercely oppose it and they delayed voting overnight. Republicans blame Dodd-Frank for the country's anemic growth, while Democrats say repealing it would just help Wall Street at the cost of Main Street.

I -- the first treasury secretary I ever covered was Robert Rubin, I was a kid back then, you know, covering Robert Rubin. I tell you, never ever, ever did treasury secretaries talk up or talk down different parts of the market. They don't talk about the value of the dollar other than to say a strong dollar is in the best U.S. interest. They are supposed to be just the neutral --

BRIGGS: Arbiter.

ROMANS: -- you know, the great, grown-up who does not talk up or down stocks.

BRIGGS: It's reminiscent of those statements that both parties make in closed door fundraisers, like the Mitt Romney 47 percent, or the Obama guns and bibles -- those are things you usually have to unearth from secret recordings in a closed door meeting, not on camera at stage.

ROMANS: But those are people, though, candidates -- this is the treasury secretary. This is basically the money man of America. It's just, I don't know, for a lot of financial reporters, it seems low class.

BRIGGS: We likely have not heard the last of those comments.

President Trump set to host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today. Can the pair find common ground on the Middle East conflict? A live report is next.


[04:17:17] ROMANS: Welcome back. Seventeen minutes past the hour.

President Trump hosts Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House today. Palestinian officials describe Abbas as hopeful and eager to engage the president despite the divisive rhetoric about Muslims on the campaign trail.

So, let's talk a little bit here about what's on the agenda today and bring in CNN's Ian Lee live from Ramallah, on the West Bank.

What are they so hopeful about, Ian?

IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER: Well, the one thing they like, Christine, is the direct diplomacy from President Trump, from the White House to the Palestinians. They say they are not going through the State Department which they have done with previous presidents. So, they say the president has more riding on this because he's putting his name on the line.

The things they will be talking about are settlements, the 1967 border which the Palestinians hope to create a state within. Also, the status of Jerusalem, expect the White House to talk stipends that go to Palestinian families of those people who have been killed or who are in prison throughout this conflict. That's something that the White House will likely talk about as well.

One other big thing that they are going to be talking about is how they can restart this peace process with the Israelis. President Abbas has said that he's willing to meet with President Netanyahu anywhere anytime under the auspices of President Trump. So, a lot to talk about today and a lot to look forward in the next few hours -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right. We know you'll be following for us there and we'll be here with that. Thank you so much, Ian Lee, for us in Ramallah today.

BRIGGS: All right. Breaking news out of Afghanistan: a deadly suicide attack near the U.S. embassy in Kabul. At least eight people were killed, dozens more hurt according to Afghan officials. U.S. military officials say three members of the international coalition serving in Kabul suffering nonlife threatening injuries. The attack struck a convoy of NATO armored personnel carriers during the morning rush hour. Up ahead, the Justice Department reportedly not expected to bring

charges in a police shooting that sparked massive protests. That's next.


[04:23:58] BRIGGS: Breaking news a tense manhunt under way after two police officers shot on Chicago's South Side. Authorities say the officers were sitting in their cruiser when two cars pulled up alongside them and started shooting. The officers were able to return fire but one was shot in the arm and hit, the other in the back. Both are expected to recover. Authorities say it appears to be targeted attack.

ROMANS: All right. According to media reports, the Justice Department is not expected to pursue civil rights charges against two white police officers in the shooting death of a black man. Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this is last summer. "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" reporting federal authorities have decided to close their investigation to the shooting, a shooting that was captured on tape and set off days of protests. The officers were placed on administrative leave after the shooting. The Baton Rouge mayor expressing outrage that the decision was leaked without being relayed to the Sterling family first.

Former South Carolina Police Officer Michael Slager now facing up to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to using excessive force in the death of Walter Scott.

[04:25:03] Slager reversing his account in court Tuesday, admitting the 2015 shooting was not self-defense. Video showed the unarmed black man running away when Slager shot him five times following a traffic stop. As part of the plea deal, state murder chargers and two other federal charges were dropped. Walter Scott's mother said she has forgiven Michael Slager, calling his admission of guilt a victory for Walter and justice for the family.

BRIGGS: The officer involved in the fatal shooting of a Texas teenager has been fired. Police telling reporters that body camera footage shows the car that Officer Roy Oliver shot into killing 15- year-old Jordan Edwards was moving away from the officers not towards them. Police say Oliver violated several departmental policies. As of now, he's not been arrested or charged. He now has ten days to appeal his termination.

We have not heard the last of this story.


BRIGGS: Keep in mind -- this officer fired into a car full of teenagers driving away as we said, with an AR-15, certainly one of the more controversial weapons in this country and that was following a party full of underage teenage drinkers.

ROMANS: It doesn't seem like --

BRIGGS: Something doesn't add up here.

ROMANS: A lot of things don't add up.


All right. Ahead, did Sally Yates give a stern warning to the White House that Michael Flynn was compromised because of talk with the Russians? Her new testimony that might conflict with the White House, next.