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President Meets the Pope; Brennan: Russia Made Contact; Mourning the Victims. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago, President Trump meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican, the start of a busy day for the president overseas. We're live in Rome with more.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: On his way to Sistine Chapel, yes.


ROMANS: A stunner from the former head of the CIA, John Brennan goes public, says the Russians did, in fact, make contact with the Trump campaign.

BRIGGS: And Manchester -- remembering the 22 victims who lost their lives at a concert bombing. Also learning more about the attacker and what police are looking for now.

ROMANS: Yes, some concerns that there could be a risk of another attack potentially.

BRIGGS: Yes, raising the terror threat level there in the U.K.

Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, May 24th, 2017. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's start here at the Vatican. A historic moment there. In just the last few minutes, President Trump and Pope Francis face to face, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries at the Apostolic Palace. The two leaders meeting in private seeming to put their differences aside after disagreeing on several important issues during the campaign.

BRIGGS: It's the latest stop for the president on his foreign trip that will take him to Brussels later today.

CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray is live in Rome with more on Trump's visit and the rest of today's agenda.

Good morning to you, Sara.


Well, the pope is behind me delivering his weekly address. That is after he met with President Donald Trump.

And as you mentioned, the images were of a much warmer relationship than what we saw during the campaign trail. After they met privately, President Trump came out of that meeting and said I won't forget what you said. The White House said that President Trump offered a gift to the pope, first edition set of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s writing.

Now, remember, this was not always such a solid relationship on the campaign trail. At one point during the election, the pope said people who talk about building barriers not bridges are not Christian. At that point candidate Trump called the pope's rhetoric disgraceful. Obviously, publicly, we're seeing a much warmer meeting between the two of them today and essentially what we expected. We didn't expect either side to go into this meeting to talk about their differences. We expected them to look for common ground. And that appears to be at least what we saw publicly at that meeting.

And just to give you a sense how busy these days are for President Trump while he is on the road. So, he began his day with his meeting with Pope Francis. He and his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, are touring the Sistine Chapel. They're touring Saint Peter's basilica.

Now, after that, Melania Trump is going to split off. She's going to be touring a children's hospital that's actually owned by the Vatican. As for President Trump, he will be meeting with diplomats here in Italy. He's slated to meet with the Italian president, as well as the Italian prime minister, all of this before they fly off to Brussels tonight ahead with that meeting with NATO leaders tomorrow -- Dave.

ROMANS: All right. Sara Murray for us in St. Peter's Square.

Have you ever been to the Wednesday --

BRIGGS: I have not. Certainly on the bucket list.

ROMANS: It's going to be cool.

BRIGGS: Sara Murray, great stuff from there.

ROMANS: Though those happen on Wednesdays, and so you can get an audience there in the square with the pope there.

BRIGGS: You wonder if this is a humbling moment for the president. You hope some of these indeed are.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us now live from Rome, CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher.

Good morning. And I should say that Wednesday, that Wednesday message with the pope, it's you and, you know, several thousands of your closest friends are packed in there. Good morning.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. Yes. It's regular Wednesday morning in many respects. But a special one as well because of the visit of President Trump to the Vatican, a highly-anticipated and somewhat unpredictable meeting given the strong personalities of these two world leaders and their differences on some of the key issues like climate change and immigration.

All signs seem to be this very fresh stage just after the meeting that it went well. We read the tea leaves by the body language, by how long the meeting took. They spent 30 minutes in private conversation just them with a translator speaking. That's a good sign that they got into some of the issues that both sides wanted to go over.

You know, Vatican observers said going into this meeting it was not going to be about hashing out any of their particular differences. The pope himself said he wanted a sincere dialogue, he wanted to be forthcoming with the president. But mainly, the Vatican wanted to use this time to take the measure of the president, to understand who he is and where he might be going.

And, you know, Pope Francis is a very savvy man and I think he was trying to just get into -- establish a kind of a positive relationship with the president, because it is such an important relationship for some of the things that the pope hopes to accomplish. And, you know, one of the tests of this relationship will come fairly soon because President Trump has to decide whether the U.S. is going to stay in as a signer of the Paris agreement on climate change.

[04:05:08] That was something that the pope lobbied very hard for last year and wouldn't be surprised if that came up in the conversation.

But probably, the pope taking kind of a broad angle here, trying to remind the president of the moral consequences of his political decision-making, not just for Americans but for the world and particularly for the poor who are a top priority for Francis.

BRIGGS: Delia Gallagher, live for us at the Vatican -- great stuff. Good reporting. This is a historic visit. We appreciate the shot.

And, look, 28 minutes was the length of the meeting. You have to parse everything on this visit. It was expected to be shorter than that.

This is a highly symbolic trip, right, for the president. There hasn't been a whole lot of substance. But then he goes to NATO and the G7 and you expect this trip to really shift gears in terms of the content. Not just photo ops.

ROMANS: And he has been incredible critical of NATO: He said it was obsolete. Then he walk that back more recently. So, we know that many of those leaders in Belgium will be -- they've got their cliffs notes for how to handle the president of the United States.

BRIGGS: And the G7, the Paris climate agreement will certainly come up.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right. Let's move back to the Russia investigation for a moment.

For the first time, a U.S. official is publicly citing direct knowledge of communications between the Trump campaign and Russia. Former CIA Director John Brennan telling a House panel, quote, Russia brazenly interfered in U.S. elections, going so far as to actively contact members of the Trump campaign.

But Brennan stopped short of calling that collusion, saying only it raised a question that the FBI should pursue.

BRIGGS: Meantime, President Trump now expected to hire a private attorney to handled matters related to the Russian probe. Mark Kasowitz has represented Donald Trump for 15 years and it is worth noting also represents a Russian billionaire well-known to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

ROMANS: This comes as House investigators vow to keep pushing for critical documents from national security adviser Michael Flynn, even issuing two new subpoenas. There's a lot going on here on the Russian investigation. There's honestly, there are developments every few hours.

I want to go to CNN's Manu Raju in Washington.



Now, Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser for Donald Trump hardly out of hot water now that the Senate Intelligence Committee plans to move forward with two more subpoenas, two more, targeting Michael Flynn's businesses in an attempt to get him to turn over some records related to his relationship with Russia over the last couple of years, and after Flynn pleaded the Fifth and said he would not provide documents related to his own personal contacts with Russian officials.

Now, the committee is trying to get him to explain why simply turning over record of anything to do with the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The committee chairman, Richard Burr, and the top Democrat in the committee, Mark Warner not ruling out holding Michael Flynn in contempt of Congress for not complying with their request.

Now, that would take some time to play out. But it's a threat not just to Flynn but to other Trump associates who may not want to comply.

Now, on the House side, the House moving forward after that stunning testimony yesterday with John Brennan, the former CIA director, raised concerns about contacts that occurred between Trump officials and Russian officials during the campaign season, something that he turned over to the FBI and appears to be part of this ongoing investigation.

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I was worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons. I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf, again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion. It should be clear to everyone Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 election process and they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they not do so.

RAJU: Bob Mueller, the special counsel, also slated this week to talk to James Comey before his own testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. That's a critical meeting because it will determine exactly what James Comey can say publicly, not just about the investigation but about whether President Trump interfered in anyway to try to squelch the investigation into Donald Trump's associates and Russian officials -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: Manu Raju, thank you.

A bit of a surprise over on Capitol Hill over something that did not happen. The head of the NSA, Admiral Mike Rogers was not asked about a bombshell report that President Trump asked him to publicly deny evidence, Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. Admiral Rogers testified to a House Armed Services panel less than a day after the story broke but wasn't asked about it once by Republicans or Democrats during 75 minutes of testimony.

Hours earlier, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats who was also named in the story was grilled repeatedly about it during a Senate hearing. He would not directly answer whether he was asked to go public with the denial on collusion.

[04:10:04] All right. Friends and family of 22 victims, remembering their loved ones after the Manchester terror attack. We'll tell you where the investigation turns from here when we come back on EARLY START.


BRIGGS: The United Kingdom is on high alert, raising its terror threat level from severe to critical, the nation's highest for the first time in ten years. The change indicates another terrorist attack may be imminent.

This comes a day after the Manchester concert attack that killed 22 people. The suspected suicide bomber has been identified. We're also learning more about who the young people killed in this attack.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin joins us live from Manchester, England, with the very latest.

[04:15:00] Erin, good morning to you.


That's right. We just heard from the British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, essentially calling out the United States, saying that leaks coming from the United States in regards to the ongoing investigation are, quote, irritating and shouldn't happen again. This is in reference to the fact in the hours immediately follow the attack, word that this was committed by a suicide bomber reached American media before it reached British media. We're also hearing from the Metropolitan Police earlier this morning

saying that they are going to be deploying military personnel to key sites throughout London and the United Kingdom, key sites and events, including Downing Street as well as Buckingham Palace in like of the threat level being raised across the country. Authorities cannot discount the possibility of more attacks given that they are still trying to determine whether or not the suicide bomber identified as a college student who recently had been to Libya had any other connections.

We know that ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack, although ISIS has yet to produce any concrete evidence of any sort of direct links to the suicide bomber. We're also learning more about the victims who died, many of them tragically, children, victims that include 8-year-old Saffie Roussos, 18-year-old Georgina Callander, 15- year-old Olivia Campbell and John Atkinson.

We also just a short while ago received an update from the chief of hospitals here in Manchester saying that the number of injured being treated by the area's hospitals has risen from 59 to 64, 20 of those patients in critical care.

BRIGGS: Heartbreaking details emerging from this story. Erin, thank you.

ROMANS: Another blow to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as Navy SEALs killed seven militants in Yemen. U.S. Central Command says the SEALs carried out a raid Tuesday at a known safe-haven that the terror group uses to plan external operations. Two U.S. soldiers were lightly wounded and a human rights group says there were a handful of civilian casualties. The Department of Defense rejected that claim, saying there were no credible indications of civilian casualties.

Seventeen minutes past the hour. The Trump administration defending cuts to safety net programs in its 2018 budget.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: We're not going measure compassion by the amount of money we spend, but by the number of people we help.


ROMANS: We'll have the details of the proposal next.


[04:22:05] ROMANS: All right. The White House calls it taxpayer first. The administration defending its 2018 budget that cuts programs for low-income Americans. Critics call it reverse Robin Hood.

The $4.1 trillion budget boost money in defense and border security and infrastructure and makes significant cuts to food stamps, disability benefits and health care. At least $600 billion gone from Medicaid. Seventy million low income adults, children and disabled Americans rely on that program.

But the OMB Director Mick Mulvaney calls the cuts compassionate because he says the programs are inefficient.


MULVANEY: We're no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs. But by the numbers of people we help get off of those programs.


ROMANS: But by the number of people we help get off of those programs.

He added the proposal will balance the budget in ten years. That's based on assumptions most experts say are unrealistic. A 3 percent growth rate, the controversial GOP, if it becomes law, and proposed tax cuts won't add to the deficit. All of these three are the assumptions for that budget projection. Of course, the president's budget never adopting wholesale, by the way. It shows in black and white where the president's priorities lie and where they don't.

I always like to say that these numbers show where the heart of a president is. It takes Congress, of course, to pass that budget.

BRIGGS: Well, at the heart of these are cuts at the straight at the core of Trump support.

ROMANS: Isn't that interesting?

BRIGGS: That's what's interesting about this. You're talking about food stamps and Medicaid cuts, seven of the top 10 state that rely on those the most were Trump states.

ROMANS: And disability payments and the like. But, you know, look the point of view of this administration is that they are going to measure success by how many jobs they create and get people off of the safety net programs not by how many people are on the safety net programs. It's a world view sharply at odds of what you're hearing from progressives.

BRIGGS: John McCain said it's dead on arrival in the Senate, of course.

All right. It's day three in jury selection in Bill Cosby's trial for aggravated indecent assault. So far, 11 jurors have been seated, ten white, one black. There are seven men and four women.

Cosby's lawyers accused Pennsylvania prosecutors trying to keep black jurors off the panel. The judge rejected the argument. Cosby is alleged to have drugged and molested Andrea Constand in 2004. He says the encounter was consensual. Dozens of other women have made similar acquisitions against the comedian, but the judge is allowing only one to testify at trial. ROMANS: All right. The entertainment world paying tribute to a

beloved Bond. Actor Roger Moore who died at 89 after a battle with cancer, he's best known of his portrayal of James Bond in seven films in the 1970s and '80s.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've missed, Mr. Bond.



ROMANS: Moore had the longest run of anyone playing the British spy with a "License to Kill" after replacing the original bond Sean Connery.

[04:25:01] There was George Lazenby, right, right after that. And then --

BRIGGS: Didn't know about him honestly.

ROMANS: And he was just one off. And then Roger Moore who made this just a famous transition.

Off-screen, he worked for years as a U.N. goodwill ambassador, was knighted for his work back in 2003. Fans also paying tribute with flowers, donning Roger Moore's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

And the latest Bond, actor Daniel Craig, tweeting this, nobody does it better. Love Daniel.

Family says there will be a private funeral for Moore in Monaco just as he wished.

BRIGGS: Totally agree with Daniel Craig, best Bond ever, to me.

ROMANS: I, you know, grew up watching those with my dad, you know? Some of them got sort of campy, you think of the '70s and '80s, they are competing against the "Star Wars" franchise, sometimes they got a little, you know, sci-fi. Campy but great.

BRIGGS: To you, who is Bond?

ROMANS: Well, I do like Sean Connery.

BRIGGS: You can't weigh in. Sean Connery.

ROMANS: I can't. Just depends. It depends.

BRIGGS: Tweet us @earlystart. Let us know who is your James Bond.

Coming up, President Trump and the pope in a historic sit down at the Vatican. We'll tell you what they said to one another after public disagreements during the campaign.

ROMANS: And the former head of the CIA sharing direct knowledge of the Russian involvement in the election.


BRENNAN: I encountered and aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions.


ROMANS: But does that meet the standard for collusion? Brennan's answer, next.