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EARLY START

Candidate Body Slams Reporter; Can Trump Win Over NATO?; Health Care CBO Concerns. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

[04:00:09] GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Speak with Shane, please.

BEN JACOBS, THE GUARDIAN: But, you got to --

GIANFORTE: I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!

JACOBS: Jesus!

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A violent outburst by a congressional candidate caught on a cell phone recording. Now, a Montana Republican is under fire nationally ahead of today's special election.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, President Trump beginning another day of diplomacy abroad. Today, he's meeting with NATO leaders he criticized as a candidate but embraced in the Oval Office. We are live in Brussels.

BRIGGS: And Republicans trying to defend the House-passed health care plan, despite a rough, new outlook from the Congressional Budget Office. We'll tell you who could get hit the hardest.

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

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's Thursday, May 25th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And a special election in Montana today now in a white-hot national spotlight after that crazy audio --

BRIGGS: Yes, it is.

KOSIK: -- came out, seeming to show the Republican candidate for the state's one House seat body-slamming a reporter. Yes, you heard right. Greg Gianforte charged overnight with a misdemeanor assault by the

county sheriff. You can't make this stuff up. The alleged attack took place at Gianforte headquarters in Bozeman.

BRIGGS: So far, the candidate has held off taking a stance on the Republican health care bill, waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to weigh in on its effects.

"Guardian" reporter Ben Jacobs tried to press Gianforte for his stance now that the CBO has released its score. Listen to what happened next.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JACOBS: -- the CBO score. Because, you know, you've been waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill, and it just came out --

GIANFORTE: Speak with Shane, please.

JACOBS: But, you got to --

GIANFORTE: I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!

JACOBS: Jesus!

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. You with "The Guardian"?

JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here? I'd also like to call the police. Can I get you guys' names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you got to leave.

JACOBS: He just body-slammed me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to leave.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KOSIK: I don't even know what to say. When politicians go wild.

Gianforte himself hasn't said anything publicly since the incident, but a statement from his campaign says Jacobs entered Gianforte's office without permission, aggressively shoved someone in their face and began asking badgering questions. The statement adds that Gianforte asked Jacobs to lower the recorder and that Jacobs declined and it blamed Jacobs for pushing them both to the ground.

BRIGGS: But note, the recording has no indication that Jacobs was asked to lower the recorder. You can judge for yourself whether the health care questions were badgering.

For his part, Ben Jacobs calls it the strangest moment in his entire life. With polls opening in just a few hours, the fallout for Gianforte has been swift. Three of the state's biggest newspapers have rescinded their endorsements, and Democrats have already rolled out Facebook ads attacking Gianforte for the alleged body slam.

KOSIK: The Democratic candidate, Rob Quist, so far declining to comment on all this. One other thing worth noting here, the sheriff, Brian Gootkin, has confirmed he gave Gianforte's campaign $250 -- I'm thinking it's $250,000.

BRIGGS: No, $250.

KOSIK: $250, OK, but he says it will have no bearing on his investigation.

Early voting has been under way for weeks and hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots have already been returned. So, there's really no telling how Wednesday's events will affect the election. But already you've got more than 250,000 votes already in.

BRIGGS: That's right, 259,000.

KOSIK: But the polls open. You've got all these newspapers yanking their endorsements, unprecedented there and really bizarre events.

BRIGGS: Well, look, he's got bigger problems. He's facing misdemeanor assault, punishable of up to six months in jail.

KOSIK: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: But your point is a good one -- 259,000 of the 700,000 registered voters in Montana. You'd expect about 500,000 in elections like this. So, this election may already be over by all accounts. He may have already won.

And let's not forget the honest truth is some voters in this environment with this rhetoric towards the media may actually like this.

KOSIK: They may back him up, I know.

BRIGGS: They may actually like to see him, but this is a big issue that is not going away for Mr. Gianforte.

Meanwhile, today the president's first foreign trip takes him to Brussels, where events are just now getting under way. The main focus of his day is NATO. As you know, candidate Trump once disparaged the military alliance as, quote, obsolete on the campaign trail.

[04:05:01] But since taking office, he reversed that stance after NATO made a few adjustments, saying it's no longer obsolete, although he still wants other countries to contribute more.

White House correspondent Sara Murray joining us live from Brussels this morning.

Great to have you, Sara.

We saw the red carpet literally rolled out in Saudi Arabia, and of course, in Israel. What is the reception like from NATO leaders?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, today is going to be a day where a trip that was largely focused on pomp and circumstance turns more to substance. So, President Trump will be beginning his day any minute now. That's with a meeting with European Union leaders.

Later this afternoon, he's going to be having a working lunch with the newly minted French president, and then he will head here where I am for the NATO Summit, as well as a working dinner with NATO leaders. And there are a number of pressing issues on the agenda.

As you mentioned, he has previously called NATO obsolete. He has since revised that view, but advisers say he will still press other members of NATO to increase their defense spending. And you can bet there is going to be a robust discussion about terrorism and the threat of terrorist attacks in Europe in the wake of that Manchester attack.

We also know that U.K. government has been particularly piqued with the U.S. government in recent days. They feel that leaks are coming out of the U.S. government related to this investigation. Theresa May will be here today, so there may be a conversation with her and President Donald Trump regarding that.

A couple other issues on the agenda -- President Trump is still weighing whether to send thousands of troops to Afghanistan, so he will have an opportunity to talk to some of our allies here to get their input and to see if they would be willing to offer military support for that.

And again, we just can't hammer home this intelligence issue enough. It's not just a question of what's going on with the investigation related to what happened in Manchester, but there also could be some allies who are eyeing President Trump pretty wearily after he had that meeting in the oval office with Russian officials and shared highly classified information that came from some of our intelligence partners, in this case, partly from Israel.

So, you can sort of expect this to be the backdrop of what's going on today. And later tonight, he hops on a plane again, headed to Sicily for the G7.

BRIGGS: Where the Paris climate agreement takes center stage.

Sara Murray, thanks for coming on this morning. Appreciate it.

KOSIK: OK, the House GOP health care bill would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured. That's according to a report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO predicts 51 million Americans won't have health coverage by 2026. Compare that to 28 million under Obamacare with 14 million fewer enrolled in Medicaid.

Americans losing health insurance creates ammunition for critics of the bill, and it's the main objection that's being raised by moderate Republicans, but conservatives like that it lowers both the deficit and premiums for many people. Average costs do go down after an initial spike, but the sickest Americans end up paying more. Prices also depend on where you live. You look under the bill, states can waive protections for pre-existing conditions.

So, what the analysis does here is it divides the market in three. So you see premiums fall 4 percent in states that don't lose protections and 20 percent lower in states with moderate changes.

But here's the thing, that's because insurers cover fewer benefits, such as maternity care, vital, mental health, and substance abuse, super important. So, that could cost customers thousands of dollars out of pocket. And for states that get rid of protections, premiums vary. They're all over the place. The CBO couldn't calculate exact increases there, but it did say they would be extremely high for the less healthy.

Premiums also depend on age and income. Younger and richer Americans fair better than older or poorer people.

The White House disputes the report, saying in a statement that the CBO is totally incapable of accurate predictions.

Look, everybody pretty much agrees, Obamacare isn't perfect. I mean, we just heard about one of the country's biggest insurers, Blue Cross Blue Shield pulling out of Kansas City, Missouri, leaving that area with no insurer. This could happen next year if no one else -- no white knight comes in.

So, clearly, Obamacare's not perfect.

BRIGGS: Yes.

KOSIK: But when you see half the country losing its benefits on what the House bill is, many question if that's the answer as well.

BRIGGS: Well, John Cornyn summed it up when he said the CBO score of the Senate bill is all that matters to him, because senators appear to be taking the stance of -- thanks for the ride, fellas, we will take it from here. Not clear how much of this bill is taken up in the Senate.

KOSIK: And they're going to go ahead and write its own bill.

BRIGGS: They may start from scratch.

All right. New overnight, more raids and arrests in England following the terror attack in Manchester. Now, the bomber's brother is also under arrest. We are live in the U.K. up next on EARLY START. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:13:55] KOSIK: In the U.K., new police raids and arrests overnight in connection with the Manchester terror attack. A total of eight people now in custody. In addition, the brother of the suspected suicide bomber arrested in Libya. Police are targeting a terror network linked to the bomber and what they say is a fast-moving investigation.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin is following all these developments. She's live for us in Manchester, England.

Erin, tell us the latest on this investigation that really seems to be picking up steam.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alison.

Authorities describing this as a rapidly evolving investigation. Overnight, multiple raids in the Manchester area. One of the raids including a controlled explosion. Authorities didn't go into the reasons for that controlled explosion, but they did say that overnight they made two separate arrests, both men, bringing the number of arrests to nine.

Overnight though, as well, they released one woman who was brought in, arrested in connection with this attack. They released her without charge. A total of eight remaining in custody as authorities are working furiously to unravel what they've described as a wider network they believe is responsible for this attack.

[04:15:08] The investigation across two separate countries, at least, the United Kingdom as well as Libya. In Libya, a local militia in Tripoli saying they've arrested the younger brother of the suspected bomber, 20 years old. They said he had links to ISIS. They also believe that he was planning a separate terrorist attack that, again, according to a local militia, has not been corroborated by Libyan authorities.

Meanwhile, back here in the United Kingdom, an uproar about leaks coming from the United States. "The New York Times" publishing photos, crime scene evidence which included pieces of a backpack, batteries, as well as shrapnel believed to be from the bomb. U.K. authorities are incredibly angry at a number of leaks coming from the United States, and British media is reporting that Prime Minister Theresa May plans to confront U.S. President Donald Trump at the NATO Summit today about these leaks.

Meanwhile, we are learning more about the victims killed in this attack, some 22 victims, many of those victims children, including 14- year-old Eilidh MacLeod. Some 64 victims have been treated by local area hospital. Some 20 in critical condition. -- Alison.

KOSIK: Our hearts certainly go out to those families, and those leaks stunning when you see what's being published out there. All that evidence is what investigators are using to move along their case. All right. CNN's Erin McLaughlin live from Manchester -- thanks very

much.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's bring in Paul Cruickshank, CNN terrorism analyst and co-author of "Agent Storm: My Life Inside al Qaeda". He's in our London bureau for us this morning.

Good morning, sir.

KOSIK: Good morning.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Does it appear there is a wider network responsible for the terror attack in Manchester?

CRUICKSHANK: Every hour this investigation goes on, that is increasingly the conclusion of the investigating authorities here in the U.K. They believe there was a wider network, that he was not acting alone. And what they are doing at the moment is trying to dismantle this network, understand the scope of the network, firstly by focusing on people who were suspected to be radical associates of Abedi and then kind of looking in turn at the associates of the associates and trying to map out a radical network that was behind these attacks.

There's an international dimension to this investigation. There's all sorts of uncorroborated information. We have to really insist that it's uncorroborated at this point coming out of Libya from a militia, a Salafi fundamentalist militia in Tripoli, which has an ax to grind with ISIS. Abedi's brother has confessed to he and his brother being members of ISIS.

While the British are not confirming that at this point, that information, and they say that it's not clear right now whether there was any interface with any terrorist group overseas. So, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to this investigation right now.

KOSIK: Let me ask you this, let's focus a little bit on Salman Abedi, the man, the suicide bomber in this terror attack. He spent three weeks in Libya before coming to the U.K. days before the attack. Is the thinking that he was radicalized before he left the U.K.? What's the thinking here?

CRUICKSHANK: Oh, yes. I think that is quite well established right now. And in fact, as it's been reported by multiple outlets here in the U.K., five years ago, that there was a call made to an antiterrorist hotline about Muslim community members in Manchester concerned about the radical views of the attacker.

So, the signs point here to sort of longstanding radicalization. What is not clear is when he started plotting this attack. Was it before he went to Libya? That's certainly the timeline that's coming out from this Libyan militia based on their interrogation, but it's not clear at this point when the plotting started and with whom, but there have obviously been more than half a dozen arrests. That is all linked to dismantling this network that British

authorities believe was behind the attack. It's not clear either who built this bomb. It appears to have been on the somewhat sophisticated end of the scale in terms of the images and analysis released by "The New York Times," and Abedi was basically flunking out of university, had no technical chemistry background.

It seems elite to think that he could have built something like this.

[04:20:00] It's not completely impossible, though, because he could have got some training while over in Libya at some point, but I think the signs are pointing more towards a bombmaker separate from him still at large.

BRIGGS: Lastly on these leaks, U.K. authorities are clearly frustrated, in their words, irritated about the leaks. On the United States side, how do they impact the investigation, and who are they alleging is behind these leaks?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, the British are clearly pointing fingers at the Americans --

BRIGGS: But the American intel community, the FBI, the CIA, the administration? Who exactly? And how does it impact the investigation?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, look, I mean, this is a lose-lose, first of all, for both the British and the Americans, the situation. There are reports now that there is a suspension of some of this information- sharing between the U.K. and the United States when it comes to this investigation, and that's quite consequential, because U.S. intelligence capacity's absolutely crucial for the Brits in terms of understanding the nature of the threat stemming from this case, especially because of the international dimensions of the investigation.

But clearly, the British now pointing the finger towards the United States, saying that somebody in some agency is likely to have leaked this to "The New York Times," but you know, I've read and read "The New York Times" story, and there's no mention of where this leak comes from, and it should be pointed out that American newspaper reporters also talked to officials in other countries. But clearly, this is causing a lot of heartache right now in the transatlantic relationship.

BRIGGS: I guess that's what I was getting at. To your point, these "New York Times" and these reporters have sources throughout the U.K. as well, but we'll stay on this. Interesting news to stay abreast of, that the sharing between the two countries could be off.

We'll check back with you, Paul Cruickshank. Thank you, sir.

KOSIK: All right. Are Internet rumors good reason for Congress to investigate the murder of a DNC staffer? One Republican says yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: There's stuff circulating on the Internet. My question is --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What? What's circulating on the internet? What's circulating on the internet that you think is worthy of a congressional investigation?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: His answer, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:26:53] BRIGGS: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Texas Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold adding fuel to the already debunked conspiracy theory surrounding the murder of former DNC staffer Seth Ridge. FOX News retracted its report last week, falsely claiming evidence had been uncovered showing Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks before his death.

KOSIK: Farenthold telling CNN the media focus on the Trump/Russia connection is preventing other stuff from being investigated. The congressman raising questions about the hack of the DNC based on rumors swirling on the Internet. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FARENTHOLD: There's still some question as to whether the intrusion at the DNC server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians.

BERMAN: The insider job, what are you referring to here, because I hope it's not this information that FOX News just refused to be reporting?

FARENTHOLD: Well, again, there's stuff circulating on the internet.

BERMAN: What?

FARENTHOLD: My question is --

BERMAN: What? What's circulating on the internet that you think is worthy of a congressional investigation, because the D.C. police are investigating this and, so far, they haven't said there's any there there.

FARENTHOLD: Yet, the D.C. police, nor any federal investigator has looked at the DNC computer. We're relying only on the report of somebody that the DNC contracted to examine their computer, rather than having federal officials. To me, we need to let the feds look at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Stuff circulating on the internet. BRIGGS: Dangerous.

KOSIK: Washington, D.C. police ruled Seth Rich's death a homicide, saying he was killed during an attempted robbery.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, a violent outburst by a congressional candidate hours ahead of a special election in Montana. Now, he's facing charges. The whole thing was recorded. We'll play it for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)