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EARLY START

Trump's Anger Over Comey; Michael Flynn Subpoenaed; Crosby Versus Ovechkin: Legacies on the Line. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2017 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Why did you fire Director Comey?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because he wasn't doing a good job, very simply. He was not doing a good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The reasoning, hmm, sounds simple enough. But we've got new details this morning about the president's rationale for firing James Comey and it has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.

[05:00:02] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, Michael Flynn subpoenaed by Congress. Will he finally hand over documents to his lawyers who declined to provide? What does that mean for this Russia investigation? Wow, it is coming out as fast and furious, getting back to The Rock.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. So many developments.

KOSIK: They really are.

Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's Thursday, May 11th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we are getting new details this morning, which are painting a stunning picture of a scorned President Trump increasingly consumed by a now-former FBI director whose Russia investigation was picking up too much steam for the president's comfort. A source close to Comey telling CNN's Jake Tapper, James Comey was fired for two reasons.

BRIGGS: First, Comey never gave the president any assurance of personal loyalty. Second, the FBI investigation into possible conclusion by team Trump into Russia was accelerating. That may explain the timing.

Sources tell CNN Comey was fired a week after asking for more resources to investigate the Russia connection. The White House for its part denies Comey made that request. Regardless, there's progress reported in that probe. A Senate committee issuing a subpoena to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. We'll have more on that in a moment.

KOSIK: First, the White House doggedly defending its rationale for Comey's firing. Deputy Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders using blunt language to describe the investigation into the handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mail. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think one of the big catalysts that we saw was last week. On Wednesday, Director Comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the Department of Justice by going around the chain of command. Having a letter like the one that he received and having that conversation that outlined the basic, just atrocities in circumventing the chain of command in the Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: OK, so the circumventing that Sanders is referring to is a news conference Comey held about Clinton's e-mails without informing his boss then Attorney General Loretta Lynch, informing her what he was about to say.

BRIGGS: So, today, the new acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, set to testify to a Senate committee after meeting face to face with the president on Wednesday. It's likely he'll face questions about Comey's firing as the White House intensifies its search for a new FBI director.

James Comey refusing to dwell on his dismissal in a farewell letter to his former colleagues at the FBI. Comey writes: I have long believed that a president can fire an FBI director for any reason or for no reason at all. I'm not going to spend time on a decision or the way it was executed. I hope you won't either. It is done, I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply.

KOSIK: Now, sources inside the White House tell CNN, President Trump kept his decision to fire Comey very close to the vest in the 48 hours before dropping the bombshell. He did not seek a wide range of viewpoints. And he grew increasingly angry with the FBI director after reaching the conclusion Comey was, quote, his own man, and could not be trusted.

A long-time friend who spoke to the president over the weekend describes him as white hot and complaining repeatedly about, quote, Russia, Russia, Trump and Russia. That friend says the president has regularly expressed frustration that they can't make this all go away. He was apparently referring to Comey and his staff, among others.

BRIGGS: The president also particularly angry with Comey for testifying he was mildly nauseous about the possibility that he himself influenced the presidential election. The president also upset that Comey was not putting enough emphasis on investigating leaks. Also developing, the White House closely monitoring the performance of deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She's been filling in for Sean Spicer, who was out for naval reserve duty, but multiple administration sources say Spicer has actually been benched and could, in fact, be replaced.

KOSIK: So much to talk about. To discuss the growing fallout from the firing of FBI Director Comey, let's bring in CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan live for us in Washington this morning.

Good morning. Thanks for getting up early.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning.

KOSIK: You know, we're looking at the papers, "The Daily News" saying Trumper tantrums. That's their cover. You look at some of these articles coming out in newspapers. You look, at "The New York Times" reporting that Comey told associates Trump was, quote, outside the realm of normal and crazy. "Wall Street Journal" saying Comey was getting daily updates on the Russia investigation showing possible evidence of collusion.

You know, you wonder what's going through the president's mind. I mean, could he be throwing another Trumper tantrum hearing about how he's being described, a president who doesn't like leaks?

[05:05:04] KOPAN: Yes, I mean -- it's pretty clear that the White House sort of miscalculated how this would all go. You know, we even heard Sanders say from the podium yesterday, they didn't think that this would be quite as big a deal. You know, it definitely exposed that Comey still has plenty of enemies in Washington. There were lots of lawmakers who didn't exactly jump to defend him.

But the White House seemed to sort of not factor in how much this could really reverberate just as a decision and as a move. And you know, one of the really interesting things is the running theme in a lot of these narratives that are coming out based on sources in the White House, based on sources sort of in the administration writ large, is this notion that Trump was really frustrated with Comey sort of not being under control. And that is not a narrative that is going to help tamp down the concern from even Republican lawmakers that there's some sort of interference with an independent investigative body.

BRIGGS: Yes, you talk about your backfires. You just mentioned, he wanted to tamp down on this Russia investigation. Russia is on the cover of all six newspapers we have in front of us this morning. A tweet-storm is coming. But in the House and in the Senate, no real support for moving this forward, because Mitch McConnell tamped down on a special counsel or independent investigation.

Here's what Paul Ryan said to Fox yesterday about this Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: James Comey, who is a worthwhile and dedicated public servant, I think he had basically just lost the confidence of a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats based upon his conduct, his actions, and some of the comments that he had made. And most importantly, he lost the confidence of the president. And it is entirely within the president's role and authority to relieve him, and that's what he did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: So, Tal, until Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, or any majority of Congress, the Republicans, call for a special counsel or an independent committee, does the president have political cover for what's on the cover of every newspaper this morning?

KOPAN: Well, there's a lot to unpack there, you know? So, as you mentioned, there are a few options. The Justice Department could appoint a special prosecutor, special investigator, to manage the investigation separate from any political appointee in the administration. There's also the possibility that Congress itself could set up some sort of select committee to specially investigate this particular issue.

Remember, they stood up a special committee to investigate the Benghazi situation with Hillary Clinton. So, something sort of along those lines. But just because, right now, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are not supporting a select committee and not joining the calls for a special prosecutor, their reasoning is that there are already several investigations happening on the hill into this and they don't want to short circuit that process.

So, no, I don't think that this is going away for the president. I don't see how it possibly goes away, you know. The Senate Intelligence Committee is full steam ahead. The House Intelligence Committee has regained its footing after a little bit of controversy with its chairman.

And there are plenty of members in Congress, in the president's own party, who are very keen to see this through. And now more than ever, if there's any indication that the Justice Department is moving away from its investigation, I think you'll see Congress move to pick up the slack.

KOSIK: Yes, they almost feel empowered and emboldened to go ahead and continue these investigations in earnest. One thing I want to mention, back to the papers, the "Washington Post" reporting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign because he was essentially made kind of the fall guy, the henchmen in this whole Comey firing.

KOPAN: Yes, and you know, right now we don't have our own reporting on whether or not that's the case. But certainly it's put a lot of attention on this individual who's just recently confirmed by an almost unanimous margin. There were a few, a handful of Democrats who voted against him. You know, now, he's under the limelight.

And you know, again, in terms of the White House miscalculating this rollout, there was not a clear communication strategy put in place. And so we've seen them say multiple things throughout the week. You know, they released the memo from Rod Rosenstein. They sort of implied that that memo was the instigator for all of this and that the president didn't ask for it.

And that already seems to have been walked back and not clearly the case. And you've seen now discussion, they say, well, the president was thinking it since election day, he had lost confidence in recent weeks, he was increasingly upset after testimony.

And so, you know, they're no longer sort of implying that Rosenstein came in and did this all by himself. But there's still quite a bit of heat on this man who, remember, Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, so this man is certainly in the spotlight going forward.

[05:10:05] BRIGGS: Right. And a lot of questions about that. Did Jeff Sessions really recuse himself? When he was really in charge of the whole thing? Signing off on the firing of the man investigating this Russia story.

So, Tal Kopan, a lot to get to in 30 minutes as well, thank you.

KOSIK: Seems to be a selective recusal.

BRIGGS: Yes, at the very least.

KOSIK: All right. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos getting quite a reception at a commencement speech in Florida.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

KOSIK: OK. We will explain the reaction and what DeVos is saying about it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Welcome back.

Aetna is saying good-bye to Obamacare. The insurance giant is pulling out of its last two remaining exchanges. Delaware and Nebraska, in 2018. Aetna originally was in 15 states.

[05:15:03] It's just the latest insurer to abandon Obamacare. Humana and United Health have also left most markets. The companies blame cost.

Give you an example here, Aetna says it's lost more than $900 million from Obamacare, $700 million from 2014 to 2016, another $225 million expected this year, and that's because policy holders rack up bigger bills than premiums cover. And insurers don't know if the government is going to continue to share the costs under the GOP replacement bill, so there's a lot of uncertainty in this equation.

However, what we will know is how the new bill impacts the deficit and soon, because the Congressional Budget Office says it's going to be updating its estimate in less than two weeks. The House has changed several things since the last report and passed the bill without a fresh score. The most recent review says the bill reduces the deficit $150 billion by 2026, however, it also leaves 24 million more people uninsured.

BRIGGS: Betsy DeVos no doubt hoping her next commencement speech goes better than her first, as secretary of education. DeVos addressing a hostile crowd of graduates at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black school in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Dr. Jackson, board of trustees, thank you so very, very much for this great honor and privilege.

(BOOS)

I am honored to --

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: So that went well. The graduates booed, standing, turning their backs on DeVos as she spoke, drowning out some of her remarks -- the rude reception prompting university president to intervene here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDISON JACKSON, PRESIDENT, BETHUNE-COOKMAN UNIVERSITY: If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Students had petitioned school officials to choose another commencement speaker. The primary reason for protesting DeVos' appearance is her statement which she later recanted that founders of historically black colleges and universities were, quote, real pioneers of school choice, which indeed they were not.

After the speech, DeVos tweeted, I have respect for all those attended Bethune-Cookman, including those who demonstrated their disagreement with me today.

KOSIK: Took it on the chin.

All right. The ACLU protesting the arrest of a reporter in West Virginia who shouted questions at Health Secretary Tom Price, calling it a direct assault on the First Amendment. "Public News Service" reporter Dan Heyman tried to get a comment from price on the effort to replace Obamacare. So, after persistent questioning and reaching over secret service agents with his recorder, he was charged with willful disruption of government processes.

Heyman wound up spending eight hours behind bars before being released on bond. He could face up to six months in jail if found guilty of the misdemeanor. Heyman says he was just doing his job. Secretary Price commended the police for doing what they felt was appropriate. BRIGGS: All right. We're going to talk sports next. Sydney Crosby

and the Pittsburgh Penguins one step closer to another Stanley Cup. Corey Wire has more on an ugly sports night in Washington, D.C. That's next in "The Bleacher Report."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:23:06] BRIGGS: It truly was an unfortunate night to have to go to bed at 8:00. Truly sad.

KOSIK: I missed it all.

BRIGGS: A pair of game seven in the Stanley Cup playoffs, none bigger than Penguins captain trip to the finals on the line, Alison.

KOSIK: Coy Wire, he's got more in this morning's "Bleacher Report". Good morning.

BRIGGS: Hey, buddy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Great morning to you, Alison and Dave.

Arguably the two biggest hockey stars on the planet, the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, the Penguins' Sidney Crosby. Both came into the league in 2005 but entirely different careers.

Ovechkin the Russian has never been to a conference finals. Can you believe that? Versus Mr. Perfect, Sid the Kid, two Olympic golds, two Stanley Cups, including last season's. These guys aren't just talented but they're tough as nails.

Remember that vicious crash into the boards Crosby took two days prior? This after already having missed a game in this series due to concussion. Well, Sidney Crosby would play a part in the ice-breaking goal in game seven. Yes, there it is. Brian Russ putting the pens up 1-0.

The star of this game, though, guys -- Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury. The crafty vet only playing because Matt Murray's injured, turning back the clock, turning away all 29 of the Capitals' shots including one from Ovechkin. Penguins win in the nation's Capital 2-0 with Ovechkin suffering the seventh painful game seven exit of his career. Sidney Crosby four wins away from another shot at a Stanley Cup Series.

The Anaheim Ducks breaking their game seven curls with a win over the Edmonton Oilers. Before last night, the ducks having lost five straight in do or die games but that narrative changed last night. The Ducks keeping the league's leading scorer and arguably the future of hockey, the spectacular Connor McDavid, scoreless all night. Ducks win 2-1, now will face Nashville in the western conference finals.

As Dave mentioned, a rough night in the nation's capital, sports-wise.

[05:25:01] Capitals eliminated, Wizards down 3-2 games to the Celtics, game six in that series is tomorrow.

KOSIK: OK.

BRIGGS: All right, buddy. So, Ovechkin, Lavrov, Kislyak, they can all just leave D.C.

Thank you, Coy. Appreciate it.

KOSIK: And just a side note, ice hockey keeping dentists' pockets lined for ages.

BRIGGS: Always indeed.

KOSIK: Violent sport.

What was the president's mindset leading up to his firing of James Comey? Turns out as the Russia investigation heated up, so did the president's temper. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Why did you fire Director Comey?

TRUMP: Because he wasn't doing a good job, very simply. He was not doing a good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: That's what the president says. But we have new insight this morning into what he was really thinking and it didn't have much to do with Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

KOSIK: Plus, Michael Flynn told to hand over documents to the Senate. Will he respond to the subpoena, and how will it change the Russia investigation?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.