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Sally Yates to Testify on Flynn Issue; Emmanuel Macron Wins France's Presidency; House Health Bill Defended by Republicans; Texas Governor Signs Ban on Sanctuary Cities; Another American Detained in North Korea; Calls for End to Confrontation by North Korea. Aired at 4:00-4:30 am ET

Aired May 8, 2017 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN EARLY START SHOW HOST: The former acting attorney general set to contradict the White House story on Michael Flynn's talks with the Russians. What she'll say and how it could affect the broader investigation into Russia's election meddling.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN EARLY START SHOW HOST: President Obama with a personal defense of his namesake health law. His message to Congress as the Senate prepares to take up the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

ROMANS: And a political newcomer will assume the French presidency as a populist wave falls short. We'll have Emmanuel Macron's early message to unify France. Good morning and welcome to "Early Start." I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. It is Monday, may 8th, 4:00 a.m. in the east, and Romans, one thing I miss about my old life is missing late- night sporting events. Boy, I got to see live baseball on the way to work this morning because a game went 18 innings, six-plus hours.


BRIGGS: We'll show you that later on. But of course, we start with politics and the investigation into Russian meddling back in the spotlight today with a long-awaited testimony from a key witness. The Senate Judiciary Committee hears this afternoon from former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

ROMANS: Yates is set to contradict the White House story about the firing of then national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Sources say she'll tell the panel she warned the White House forcefully about then national security adviser Michael Flynn three weeks before Flynn was fired. CNN's Ryan Nobles has a preview for us this morning from Washington.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. Sources tell CNN that she's prepared to set the record straight about her role in the events that eventually led to national security adviser Michael Flynn being asked to leave his post. At the core of her testimony will be a meeting that she had with White House counsel Don McGahn 18 days before Flynn was removed as national security adviser.

In that meeting, Yates is prepared to testify that she gave a forceful warning to the White House about Flynn's contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. At that point, Flynn had denied that he had talked to Kislyak about U.S. sanctions on Russia. After Flynn left office, the White House admitted that Yates had warned them about Flynn's interactions with the Russian official but described the interaction as more of a heads-up, essentially bringing to their attention that Flynn may not have been honest with the vice president.

Yates, however, remembers the conversation differently and is expected to testify that she expressed serious concerns and made it clear that Flynn should be fired. The former acting attorney general was also forced out of her post by the Trump administration after she refused to defend the White House's controversial travel ban. Her testimony, while potentially explosive, could be tempered a bit, because she will probably not be able to recount specifics of certain events because of concerns over revealing classified information in an open setting. Christine and Dave?

BRIGGS: All right, thank you, Ryan. New pushback this morning on efforts to repeal Obamacare from President Obama himself in Boston to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The former president urged members of Congress to have courage as well.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: There was a reason why health care reform had not been accomplished before. It was hard. And it is my fervent hope and the hope of millions that regardless of party, such courage is still possible. That today's members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it contradicts party positions.


ROMANS: All right, this morning it's hard to find much excitement in the Senate about the health care bill sent over by the House last week. One key Republican vote, Maine moderate Susan Collins, says the Senate will return to the drawing board.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The house bill is not going to come before us. The Senate is starting from scratch. We're going to draft our own bill. I think we will do so and that we will come up with a whole new, fresh approach that solves the legitimate flaws that do exist with the ACA. I would like to see us put together a bipartisan group to solve this problem.


BRIGGS: That is refreshing. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price defending the House bill on CNN's "State of the Union." Price rejected the Congressional Budget Office estimate of huge cuts to Medicaid claiming spending will actually increase and he says states will have more flexibility to care for Medicaid patients in a "better way."

[04:05:00] ROMANS: House members after voting for repeal are now back home in their districts, some already facing angry town halls like Idaho congressman Raul Labrador, riling up constituents with this comment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're band-aiding people on Medicaid, except dying. You are making a mandate --

REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: No, we don't want anybody to die. You know, that line is so indefensible. Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care.


ROMANS: Don't have access to health care.

BRIGGS: Yes, those words may come back to haunt Mr. Labrador. Meanwhile, President Trump's travel ban goes before a federal Appeals Court today. The administration challenging a judge's ruling from March that blocked the president's travel ban -- a second version of the ban that barred visitors from six majority Muslim countries -- a Maryland federal judge relied on candidate Trump's own statements from the campaign, defined anti-Muslim bias.

ROMANS: One unusual twist to today's hearing in Virginia. It's being heard by the full court instead of a three-judge panel and 10 of the 15 judges on the court were appointed by either Clinton or Obama, and CNN has learned that one of the conservatives on the court has recused himself. Any further appeal would go straight to the Supreme Court.

BRIGGS: Texas Governor Greg Abbott pulled a fast one overnight by quietly signing the state's controversial bill banning sanctuary cities. Protests were expected for the ceremonial bill signing, but Abbott avoided them by putting pen to paper on Facebook live Sunday, this after the legislator green-lighted mandates last week for local government and law enforcement to follow federal immigration and detainer laws.

Elected officials risk facing criminal penalties if they don't comply and could be removed from office. Abbott saying public safety is his top priority, noting the measure will prevent what he calls lawlessness in the Lone Star state. The law goes into effect September 1st.

ROMANS: All right, Emmanuel Macron vowing to unite France after a decisive victory in the presidential election. The 39-year-old Macron crushing his right-wing rival, Marine Le Pen, with 66 percent of the vote and he did it without a traditional party affiliation. We go live to Paris to bring in CNN's Melissa Bell. Melissa, the French president-elect really has no experience governing, a newcomer to politics and he's about to take over a deeply divided country.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A deeply divided country. He has yet not just to build a parliamentary majority in June's parliamentary elections, Christine, but get a single MP to his name. So this is a man who really has his work cut out for him. Up here on the (INAUDIBLE) Elysee we expect him within the next half hour or so to make his way up the (INAUDIBLE) Elysee with the current president, Francois Hollande, who he is taking over from it about a week's time.

They're going to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Today of course marks the 72nd anniversary of the victory over Europe celebration, the end of World War II essentially. The president-elect Emmanuel Macron will be carrying out his first official engagement here this morning, taking part alongside Francois Hollande.

Once they've laid a wreath they will make their way back down the (INAUDIBLE) Elysee and Emmanuel Macron will then go on to resign from the leadership of the movement he created a year ago to begin this most unusual political adventure. I mean really, Christine, it can't be said enough. No one believed he could do it when he set out to create this party, when he announced his candidature just a few months ago.

What happened last night in France marks a real re-drawing of the political map. He saw off the far right last night with 60 percent of the vote, but along the way on that campaign, he saw off both the mainstream right and the mainstream left that have shared power in this country since 1958. France is really waking up to a new political reality this morning.

ROMANS: It is fascinating to watch the Euro at a six-month high. European markets all higher. They like, at least now today, what they think he will stand for. Thank you so much, Melissa Bell. So many people have said, you know, there was this economic nationalism sweeping through some of these elections and, you know, would the Trump effect take place and propel Marine Le Pen from the right to the presidency of France, but nope. Voters rejected that.

BRIGGS: Right, because you have Netherlands and Austria had similar elections and similar results as France. We'll talk to Christiane Amanpour about what this means for that global populist movement in just a bit.

ROMANS: About nine minutes past the hour. So, what's in store for France and is that populist movement slowing down? Christiane stops by.


BRIGGS: French voters rejecting the far right by delivering a decisive victory to centrist independent Emmanuel Macron. France's newly minted president-elect seen by many now as the best hope to keep the E.U. from unraveling. For more on what the future holds for France, let's turn to CNN international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She joins us live from Paris. Good morning to you Chistiane. Great to have you. What this means for France in a moment, but what about this global populist wave that was seen to be going all around the world. What does it mean for that movement?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, it's hit a brick wall here in France. As you were mentioning, the Netherlands, Austria slowed it down after Brexit and the Trump victory in the United States. And of course, Brexit and Trump voters and Trump and Brexit, you know, sort of political leaders believe that this was going to be a worldwide, certainly west democracy-wide movement.

But as I say, France has now put up a brick wall against this and it has been so evident from the moment that Emmanuel Macron won. He came out for his victory speech with this long, solitary march to the "Ode to Joy," which is the European anthem, and that was a big message, and as one analyst in Europe has said today, it proves that open, liberal, democratic economic and political progress is actually can be electoral dynamite and not kryptonite. So, that kind of sums it up.

[04:15:00] ROMANS: You know, quite literally and figuratively, a new generation of politician in France, no question. He's 39-years-old. He is, you know, personally popular. His wife, his spouse is incredibly popular in the press right now, and he will have to work with PRESIDENT TRUMP. He is someone who has sort of been elected as the anti-Donald Trump, but he will have to work with the American leader, won't he?

AMANPOUR: Well, absolutely. And already you've seen very quickly after the results were official, Donald Trump sent a tweet of congratulations to Emmanuel Macron and saying that he was looking forward to working with him. And of course, they will be meeting towards the end of this month at the G7 Summit, perhaps at the NATO summit as well. Remember that, as you said, Macron's policies were diametrically opposed to Donald Trump, but Trump has done some course correction since becoming president, accepting NATO as a vital alliance.

You know, he's a little bit sort of squishy on the E.U., but perhaps he will hear from all his E.U. leaders when he meets them, the vital importance of this western alliance for the economy, for security, for all the things that all the western democracies have to work with in common.

But I will say this, Macron did win a convincing win. You can call it even a landslide. It's about 66 percent, if not just a little bit more. Marine Le Pen, the far right extremist -- some even call her a white nationalist, xenophobe, anti-immigrant, anti-free trade -- has won much less than she even expected. And she now says that she's going to completely rename, rebrand, re-transform her movement.

All to say that she nonetheless won nearly 11 million votes, all to say that a significant number of French people yesterday abstained, a significant number spoiled their ballot. This is not, you know, this is not sort of a nirvana, it's not a rainbow for Emmanuel Macron. There's a lot of work to be done and this is what his main spokesman told me about that last night after the results came out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAURENCE HAIM, SPOKESWOMAN FOR EMMANUEL MACRON: We're feeling happy. We're feeling relieved, but we're feeling that we're showing to the world that we won against populist and it was really important for us to do that. So, we are happy, but we are conscious or so about the huge responsibility that we have.

It is just the beginning of something big. We have now to win the next step, which is going to be the legislative election in one month. We want all people in France to be united.


AMANPOUR: So, you can see, you know, he came out last night and the first thing he did was call for unity. And he said to all of those people who either didn't vote for him or voted for him as the anti-Le Pen candidate, as he said, to defend the republic against that extremism. He said I hear you and I respect you. And Christine, you know because you've been covering, you know, the economy for a long, long time. Very, very importantly, he got a huge boost from the Germans.

The German foreign minister said we want Macron to succeed, but in order for him to succeed, we need to adjust our financial, economic, social, political project. In other words, stop forcing austerity down people's throats and allow Macron to put in the kind of reforms as needed. But already we've got the French Union today -- he's not even in the Elysee yet -- are planning to demonstrate not far from where we are right now. So, it's a fight ahead and it's going to be really tough.

ROMANS: Yes, it will be. You know, he's a globalist. He supports those European institutions. But you know, I think one of the reasons why he won is because he's also said that they need reform. That they need reforms so, he is sort of pro-globalization, but he also is for new reforms to fix it to benefit everyone. And I think that that is --

AMANPOUR: That's right.

ROMANS: -- that's s an important distinction in terms of his platform. All right, Christiane, thank you so much. We'll talk to you again in a few minutes. Investors are also cheering on Macron. You can see the results of this election in the markets. The Euro hitting a six-month high against the dollar. Markets here and around the world are climbing higher. The Euro shot up to above $1.10, that's its highest level since November.

This election was a threat to the Euro. Of course, Macron's far right opponent, Marine Le Pen, she wanted to pull out of the European Union. And after Britain's exit last year, investors worried about this, a so-called Frexit that would mean the end of the currency.

The markets like Macron. Stocks and the Euro jumped last week when the former economic minister rose in the polls and victory last night may translate into a win on Wall Street today. U.S. stock futures briefly touching a record high overnight before slipping back. Asian markets are also ended up swinging with Japan's Nikkei hitting its highest level since December 2015, a 17-month high in the Nikkei. It's up more than 2 percent, a 2 percent move in those indices is remarkable.

BRIGGS: A global sigh of relief.


BRIGGS: The next major election, I guess Germany in September.


[04:20:00] BRIGGS: All right, another American detained in North Korea. Now some surprising comments from North Korea just a day before pivotal elections there in the south. A live report on all of it, next.


BRIGGS: On the eve of South Korea's presidential election, a surprise message from North Korean state media calling for an end to the confrontation between the north and south. This follows news that a fourth American has now been detained by Pyongyang. CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson following the developments live in Seoul. Good morning to you, Ivan. What's the latest on this

[04:25:00] last American detained in Pyongyang?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's in a very serious predicament right now, Dave, unfortunately. This is a man who's been identified as Kim Hak-Song and he's basically a professor who was teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. He is the second now academic U.S. citizen who had been teaching there who's been detained by the North Koreans in a little over two weeks and subsequently accused, essentially, of hostile acts against the North Korean regime.

The other man goes by the name Tony Kim, and he had also been teaching there for several weeks, and he was grabbed. And part of why this is so delicate and potentially dangerous is, of course, we've got the confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea over its nuclear program and saber rattling on both sides.

But then you also have the fact that Pyongyang and Washington don't have direct diplomatic relations, so the U.S. government cannot negotiate directly on behalf of these American citizens. That has to go through the Swedish embassy. And just as an indicator, we know of at least two other Americans who are in North Korean custody. They go as Otto Warmbier. He was a UVA student, 21-years-old when he was grabbed in January of 2016, and Kim Dong-Chul. They have received sentences of 10 and 15 years of hard labor and are still languishing in North Korean prisons. Dave.

BRIGGS: Little, if any, reaction from the United States. Also, an unexpected olive branch of sorts from the North Korean state media. Now, why would Pyongyang be somewhat conciliatory towards the south right now right before their elections?

WATSON: Well, we're on the eve of these elections, presidential elections here in South Korea, and the front-runner right now is a left-leaning, liberal candidate named Mun Jae-In, and if he wins, and he's ahead by double digits, that would bring an end to 10 years of conservative party rule here in South Korea. And part of why that's a big deal is the conservatives have traditionally been much more hard lined against Pyongyang and working much more closely on a military- to-military approach with the U.S.

This politician has indicated he'd like to try diplomacy, and he's actually lined up with the Trump administration, which has said, hey, the strategy of strategic patience that was pursued by the Obama administration and previous administrations has failed. That's what this South Korean politician has said as well. So, you have this North Korean newspaper's blaming, basically, the tension on the conservatives over the last ten years, and that's basically a backhanded endorsement of this left-leaning politician, now leading so much in the polls. Dave.

BRIGGS: There are questions over whether diplomacy's really possible with Kim Jong-Un. Ivan Watson, thanks so much. We appreciate it, live in Seoul. Fascinating situation --

ROMANS: It really is.

BRIGGS: -- continues to develop out of Pyongyang.

ROMANS: Alright, 28 minutes past the hour. The White House says Sally Yates only gave them a heads-up about Michael Flynn's talks with the Russians, but she's ready to testify that her warning was much more on that. More on a big day on Capitol Hill, next.