Return to Transcripts main page


Gianforte Wins After Body Slam; Russia Probe Focuses on Kushner. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2017 - 04:00   ET



GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: I should not have treated that reporter that way. And for that, I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: An apology and a win for the Montana Republican accused of body slamming a reporter. The overnight results and more of what Greg Gianforte had to say.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And the FBI taking a closer look at Jared Kushner. It's part of the Russia investigation. What led authorities to focus on the president's top adviser and son-in-law?

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. Good to see you, everybody. Friday, May 26th, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Breaking overnight, Montana has a new congressman. Just 24 hours after he was charged with assault for apparently body slamming a reporter, Republican Greg Gianforte scores a decisive win over the Democrat, Rob Quist.

[04:00:07] There you see the final numbers.

ROMANS: His victory's celebration -- Gianforte's victory celebration was relatively subdued. He took a contrite tone, owning up to making a mistake.

Joining us live now with the latest, CNN's Ryan Young in Bozeman, Montana.

So, he apologized. I got the feeling, Ryan, that the apology was meant for a national audience, maybe not a local audience.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, one of the things I thought about that apology, we were wondering if he was going to make a statement about this at all. A lot of people thought it was very contrite and the fact that he mentioned the reporter's name, some people were very happy about that. I can tell you, though, some of his supporters were energized by just

the idea of what had happened because they felt there were a lot of outsiders coming in to report on this race and they wanted to make sure it stayed local. So, I'll give you an idea of this. One lady on the inside telling me she felt like the reporter was told to stay outside of a certain portion of that office and he pushed his way inside. Of course, when we talked to the reporter, he said he did not do that.

But the whole idea here was a lot of people were backing Greg Gianforte because they thought he was a strong Christian man who had a business acumen that could help this state. Of course, let's listen to the apology so you can get a sense of what he was saying just last night.


GIANFORTE: Sometimes, hard work is borne out of hard lessons. Last night, I learned a lesson. Last night, I made a mistake, and I took an action that I can't take back, and I'm not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did, and for that, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're forgiven!

GIANFORTE: I should not have treated that reporter that way. And for that, I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.


YOUNG: Of course, a lot of conversations about how reporters are treated. I can tell you, my crew, the one we have here, we traveled around yesterday trying to talk to people, get reaction about this.

Everyone that we met thought this was a First Amendment right in the idea that reporters should have a chance to ask questions. In fact, one lady told us right in front of her child, what are we going to teach our children if we allow people to act this way?

For his part, you heard that apology, mentioned the reporter's name, but this is not over for him yet because he does have a first court appearance he has to make before June 7th, so there will be a conversation about a congressman going to court about a misdemeanor, so this is not over just yet, guys.

ROMANS: No. And then he's going to have to go to Washington and walk the halls of Capitol Hill where there will be dozens and dozens of reporters asking him questions about health care --

YOUNG: Dozens of us.

ROMANS: And health care bills, and that is part of the job. It's the part of the way democracy works, you know, that you have different branches of government and you have a media that keeps everybody in check, asks questions, sometimes not well, sometimes very well. It just depends. All right. Ryan, thank you. I could go on and on. Thank you.


BRIGGS: Your point is a good one. Instead of one reporter, it will be a dozen on Capitol Hill, in your face with microphones right here.

All right. We move on to the FBI's Russia probe, expanding its focus to inside this White House. CNN has learned investigators are taking a closer look at President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner.

ROMANS: Sources say the focus is on Kushner's roles during the transition in the campaign where investigators believe Russia may have tried to capitalize on his efforts.

CNN's Evan Perez has the latest from Washington.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Christine and Dave, there are many tentacles in this ongoing Russia election meddling investigation, and increasingly, they all connect to Jared Kushner and the multiple roles that he played in the campaign and the transition. The president's son-in-law and senior adviser helped build the campaign's data operation, which Kushner has said helped micro-target certain voters in key states that helped win the White House.

The FBI is interested in finding out whether Russian spies somehow, either through witting or unwitting help, were able to piggyback on that operation to push negative information about Hillary Clinton through social media in certain parts of the country. Now, investigators are also trying to look at his relationship with Michael Flynn, the president's fired national security adviser.

Kushner was in charge of the transition's foreign policy operation, and he had his own meetings with Russians, including the head of a Russian state-owned bank that is under sanctions by the U.S. government. Now, there's no indication at this point that Kushner is the target of any investigation, and there's no allegation of any wrongdoing.

Jamie Gorelick, his attorney, says, quote, Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.

Now, the importance of these developments is that it brings the FBI investigation inside the White House and to the president's family -- Christine, Dave.


ROMANS: All right, thanks.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's bring in CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott.

[04:05:01] Eugene, thanks for being here so early this morning.


BRIGGS: We appreciate it, a lot of talk about, especially with this Montana election.

SCOTT: Sure.

BRIGGS: Greg Gianforte wins, despite the assault.

Now, maybe this had more to do with early voting. They say some two- thirds of the vote had already been cast before this assault occurred. But what we're learning after the fact is his supporters, Gianforte's supporters seem to endorse what was done to Ben Jacobs, this reporter from "The Guardian."

What is the message sent here towards the media and towards civility in our politics?

SCOTT: I actually was talking yesterday toll some people about the whole incident who are in Montana, and my friend said, Eugene, you'd be surprised at how much support existed for his actions because of deep distrust and frustration with the media and this appointment with how so many of the issues that they believe they voted for in 2016 have been covered since then.

And so, I was, quite frankly, maybe a bit surprised that the apology came the way that it did, because while it made great sense and I think it spoke to his perhaps individual character as a whole, there wasn't a lot of push from his supporters to do that. If you look at our piece on, almost immediately after he apologized, people in the crowd yelled, "You're forgiven!" as if let's move on.

ROMANS: Right. We listened to the apology and you could hear people sort of laughing almost.

SCOTT: Right. It wasn't as big of a deal as it seemed.

BRIGGS: I've read most of the Montana papers, and all of the quotes with the exception of one or two are supportive of what he did for that reporter.

ROMANS: I think that apology was for a national audience, not for a local audience.

SCOTT: Sure.

ROMANS: And he'll have a court date for at this point an alleged assault because he's not pled guilty or been found guilty for it in a court of law. He's apologized for it. So, you could have an issue where somebody's facing charges for assault --

SCOTT: And Democrats aren't going to let this go. ROMANS: No, they're not. Speaking of Democrats, let's listen to

Nancy Pelosi had to say about this. She talked to reporters in Washington about this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: And to see this person who wants to be the one representative into the House of Representatives from Montana be sort of a wannabe Trump, you know, use language like that, treat people harshly like that. That's his model. Donald Trump's his model, and we've really got to say, come on, behave. Behave. That was outrageous.


ROMANS: So, you say Democrats aren't going to let this go, but are they going to get any juice from it? That's what I wonder.

SCOTT: Well, it depends. I mean, we had Republican strategist Ana Navarro on CNN recently saying if you can't handle reporters, you probably definitely can't handle constituents. If you recall the town halls, some of the questions that lawmakers got were far more heated than what Ben Jacobs gave Gianforte. And so, it will be interesting to see how he moves forward.

But I'm sure he is very aware of how this has been received and perhaps will try to make changes that reflect what he says he really values.

BRIGGS: One thing's clear, he's got to get a better answer on health care.


BRIGGS: That question will be asked repeatedly.

SCOTT: Right.

BRIGGS: They're going to have to vote on this bill.

SCOTT: Every day, yeah.

BRIGGS: Some bill. How about how Republicans are playing this because they have in some cases straddled the fence a little bit? Let's hear GOP reaction to this election.


REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: The left has precipitated this tense, confrontational approach. If I were there, my vote had already been cast, I would give him the benefit of the doubt.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: We didn't have a course on body slamming when I went to school. I missed that course.

REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I believe that we should all treat the press with respect and I try to lead by example. I, of course, hope that the Republican is successful today.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If he wins, he has been chosen by the people of Montana, who their congressman is going to be. I'm going to let the people of Montana decide. There is no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or just between human beings.


BRIGGS: By the way, I think we had Trent Franks, representative of Colorado -- I'm from there -- it's Arizona, to be clear.

ROMANS: Sorry about that.

BRIGGS: But whether it's the president and the Russia investigation or Greg Gianforte and this assault investigation, is the stance, we're going to sit back and we're going to let justice play out and not really taking a stance and showing leadership on these issues?

SCOTT: Well, we did see some lawmakers like Paul Ryan said he should apologize and that we do need to pivot so that we can focus on the issues.

BRIGGS: Right, but is an apology enough? He could go to jail!

SCOTT: It's absolutely not enough to people who have to cover politicians and to constituents who would like their lawmakers to answer simple, important questions about how health care will move forward without getting body slammed. And I think it speaks to the level of civility in this country that we're seeing right now where you also, as you saw, had some lawmakers say, do you know how many times I wanted to body slam a reporter?

ROMANS: Right.


SCOTT: This was not a hostile situation.

BRIGGS: We're an annoying group!

SCOTT: Yes, and yes. I mean, you know how many times I wanted to body slam reporters?

[04:10:02] But we had John Kerry speaking this past weekend and saying these times aren't normal.


SCOTT: And we're in some very different points and viewpoints in terms of --

ROMANS: But these times are fodder for late night, no question.

SCOTT: Yes. ROMANS: And of course, this body slamming thing got Colbert's

attention, Stephen Colbert's attention. Let's just have a moment of levity, please.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Gianforte body slammed the reporter. Now, that happened the night before the election. It's got to be pretty damaging. I just don't know how anyone could vote for a candidate who body slams people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've never seen Donald Trump fight like this.



COLBERT: I forgot, nothing matters.


BRIGGS: To be clear, that's WWE, that's Vince McMahon.

SCOTT: Sure.

BRIGGS: It's all acting, all acting.

But is there a larger point there, though, that he makes?

SCOTT: I don't know, but what I do know --

BRIGGS: Not about that action.

SCOTT: Yeah, sure.

BRIGGS: But about what is acceptable.

SCOTT: Yeah.

BRIGGS: And should the president -- is this an opportunity for him to tone down what's happening in this country? I know he's abroad, he's got the G7 and NATO, but is this an opportunity for the president to weigh in and lower the temperature?

SCOTT: Absolutely. I mean, will he? That's not likely, but the reality is, when you speak ill of the media and call them the enemy of the American people, I think there are some American people who hear that and respond in ways that they would normally respond to their enemies. And I think some people think it may be too far to connect that incident to what happened in 2016 and the months afterwards. I'm not so sure that's true.

ROMANS: Can I just say the temperature is up on journalism and journalists in particular? But I have seen some of the best journalism in years come out of the last few months, honestly.


ROMANS: It has been unbelievable. As a craft, it has been a vibrant time.


BRIGGS: -- about the Montana journalism as well.

ROMANS: People are just doing great work out there.

SCOTT: They are, they are.

ROMANS: All right. Including you, Mr. Scott.

SCOTT: We're trying.

ROMANS: As we point out, a lot of work to be done today. The president's going to be at the Gg7, so watching that, watching those arrivals.

Twelve minutes past the hour.

At a NATO meeting in Brussels, president Trump once again accusing allies of not paying their fair share.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense.


ROMANS: Candidate Trump often criticized NATO members for not paying their bills. Why? It concerns the way the alliance is funded. NATO is based on the idea of collective defense, so each country must keep their armed forces in good shape.

NATO asks member needs to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, but that's merely a guideline, and there's no penalty, actually, for not meeting that target. It's kind of an importance suggestion, if you will. In fact, only five nations, including the U.S., actually spend at least 2 percent. That's because it's problematic for some economies.

For example, many European countries still face budget cuts from austerity programs. And even the way it is written, the way it is organized, they don't want you to spend any money for the sake of spending money also. They want strategic spending.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: So, it's not just as easy as saying pay more, although many of the countries, as you point out, have been slowly increasing their budgets. BRIGGS: And from what we've heard, we don't get to see the

presentations there at the NATO meetings, but we have heard they are presenting the message in graphics, showing we are ramping up spending, so perhaps a big win for the president, any sort of increase.

All right. Ahead, the secretary of state heading to the U.K. in the wake of the Manchester attack as we learn more about the bomber's background. We're live in England.


[04:17:49] ROMANS: The election campaign resumes in Britain today after being suspended following the Manchester terror attack.

Also back on this morning, intelligence-sharing between the U.K. and the U.S. after President Trump met with Prime Minister Theresa May and he vowed to plug the leaks that led Britain to briefly suspend the intel sharing.

BRIGGS: Meantime, a U.S. official tells CNN, ISIS likely trained the Manchester suicide bomber when he traveled to Syria in the months before the attack. And there's been another arrest overnight in Manchester in connection with the bombing.

For the latest on all these fast-moving developments, let's bring in CNN's Erin McLaughlin live in Manchester.

Good morning to you, Erin.


And what's critical here is that investigators seem to be making progress in this investigation into the Manchester attacks. That arrest that you just mentioned brings the total number in police custody to eight. They've released two individuals after questioning without charge. This investigation really spanning some three countries at this point -- the United Kingdom, Libya, as well as Syria.

According to one U.S. official, they believe the bomber may have involved to Syria and trained with ISIS in the months leading up to this attack. Meanwhile, critical information-sharing has resumed between the United Kingdom and the United States. It was temporarily suspended yesterday after a string of leaks to U.S. publications, leaks that British officials say could have compromised the investigation.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to travel to London in a show of solidarity today between the two countries. Meanwhile, here at the Manchester royal infirmary, yesterday a royal visitor, Queen Elizabeth II, was here to pay a visit to some 14 children that had been admitted to the children's ward. Five of those children in critical care in what has been described by one doctor as an important symbol, gesture of goodwill and solidarity from the entire country.

BRIGGS: Erin McLaughlin live for us in Manchester, thank you.

ROMANS: It's about 20 minutes past the hour this Friday morning.

[04:20:00] Another legal blow for the president's travel ban. What the administration says it will do, next.


ROMANS: The Trump administration vowing to take the fight over its travel ban all the way to the Supreme Court after another legal defeat. This time, it's the fourth circuit appeals court. They refused to reinstate the executive order targeting six Muslim-majority countries.

BRIGGS: Yes, the court's citing the president's campaign rhetoric once again, calling it intolerant and discriminatory. Exactly when the White House will take its case to the high court though remains unclear.

CNN's Laura Jarrett has more from Washington.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Another significant setback for the Trump administration in this ongoing legal drama over the president's travel ban.

[04:25:05] This time, a majority of judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a lower court's decision to indefinitely halt the ban, finding that it likely violates the Constitution because its primary purpose was to disfavor Muslims. The court's ruling on this was lengthy and scathing, explaining in part that Congress granted the president broad powers, but when it comes to immigration, the president's power can't go unchecked. The Trump administration had tried to justify their attempt to ban foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries on national security grounds.

But at the end of the day, Trump's own words doomed any legal justification his lawyers could have offered in this case with the majority of the judges finding, quote, that then candidate Trump's campaign statements reveal that on numerous occasions he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment as well as his intent, if elected, to ban Muslims from the United States.

The Justice Department vowed late Thursday not to back down after this loss, saying, quote, the Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the decision of the divided court, which blocks the president's efforts to strengthen this country's national security and will seek review of this case in the United States Supreme Court -- Dave, Christine.


ROMANS: Thanks, Laura.

All right, a big win and a big apology? Not so big, but an apology, for sure, from the Montana Republican who appeared to body slam a reporter. We're going to go live to Montana again.

BRIGGS: And we're monitoring the president's overseas trip. He is in Italy for big meetings at the G7 just getting under way. We're live in Sicily ahead on EARLY START.