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Gianforte Wins Montana House Seat; Russia Probe Focuses on Kushner. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 26, 2017 - 04:30   ET




[04:30:54] GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: Last night I made a mistake. I should not have responded in the way that I did. For that, I'm sorry.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: An apology and a win for the Montana Republican accused of body slamming a reporter. What message does it send to elect Greg Gianforte hours after he's accused of a violent outburst?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And the FBI taking a closer look at Jared Kushner as part of the Russia investigation. So, what led authorities to focus on the president's top adviser and son-in-law?

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour this Friday morning.

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

BRIGGS: Gianforte's victory celebration relatively subdued. He took a contrite tone, owning up to making a, quote, mistake.

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

Ryan, any sense of why the now congressman did not apologize before his victory?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Great question. I would love to ask him that question, Dave.

You know, all day yesterday, no one knew where Gianforte was for the day. And of course, he popped up and gave that apology. I would love to ask him, what happened in that series of events, what led to this, and of course, that apology that you'll hear in a few seconds was pretty contrite. Just listen to it for yourself.


GIANFORTE: Sometimes hard work is borne out of hard lessons.

CROWD: Hear, hear!

GIANFORTE: 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: It's sad that some people just don't trust reporters. I walked into the room, walked around yesterday, and we're talking to the people in the room who were quite energized by this campaign. Some of them actually kind of pointed toward this apology, showing the kind of man he was. They believe he's a strong Christian man with a strong business background who's made a great living who they believe could go to Washington and kind of make sense of things, and that's why some people said they were more drawn to him after this incident.

Now, we went to the grocery store and talked to other people and they said, look when they were standing next to their children, this is not the kind of behavior they want to see from them, but they do understand that this state votes red and they believed he was going to have a chance to win no matter what. Of course, he still has a court date. He has to be in court before June 7th, so this is not over yet, guys.

BRIGGS: By no means is this over, though the election is.

Ryan Young, thank you.

ROMANS: Sometimes you win the election and congressmen go to Washington, they realize there are a lot of them, you know? And trying to get something done and trying to break out. He already -- he is the body slam congressman.

BRIGGS: He stands out.

ROMANS: He's already got sort of a role and moniker there, so everyone will know who he is.

The FBI's Russia probe expanding its focus to inside the 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 CORRESPONDENT: 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.

[04:35:09] 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. Evan Perez, thank you for that, Evan.

President Trump is on the final leg of his first overseas trip. He's preparing for some big meetings today at the G7 summit. The president looks to strengthen diplomatic ties with leaders, leaders who are anxious to know where he stands on major issues like the Paris climate agreement, on ISIS, Afghanistan and a lot more.

BRIGGS: This comes just a day after the president returned to his harsh rhetoric on NATO.

CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray traveling with the president. She joins us live from Sicily. ROMANS: Oh, beautiful!

BRIGGS: Sara, there are some serious issues at hand, but we're just looking at the backdrop behind you.


BRIGGS: Doesn't seem too rough at this point. Bet you don't miss the White House.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, not exactly rough duty over here today.

But look, for President Trump, another high-stakes day here on the world stage. He'll be attending the G7 summit. That comes just a day after he was at NSATO, where he used the stage there to lecture the other members, saying that they need to increase their defense spending.

So, today, there are still going to be a number of contentious issues on the table, and perhaps one of the top ones is this Paris climate accord and where the president stands on that. He's getting pressure from European allies to remain a part of this, but so far, the president has not made a decision about which way he's going to go on that.

Now, the other thing that's interesting is this comes at a time when a number of our other allies are wary about Russia, about Russia's actions. We have not heard anything from this president on the world stage even remotely critical of Russia, and one of his senior advisers last night said right now, the U.S. has no position on whether or not they are going to uphold these sanctions currently that the U.S. has placed against Russia.

Now, last but not least, we are not expected to hear very much from this president, if anything at all. One of the stunning things about this tour, a five-nation foreign trip for the president, his first since becoming president, is he's not expected to take any questions from the press. We've heard relatively little from him out in public, except for some comments off the top of some of these bilateral meetings, and that's going to continue today.

But from the view of the president's advisers, that means the trip is going well, they are avoiding any potential missteps. Of course, from the view of the press covering him, we would certainly like an opportunity to ask a few questions.

Back to you guys.

BRIGGS: No questions on the nine-day trip.

ROMANS: I'll tell you, from the view of the media, we're watching him get into his SUV right now with a quick wave, you know, but we haven't heard from him.

I think before this trip, Sara, correct me if I'm wrong, we were told there would be some kind of a press availability at some point on this trip. So far, it just hasn't happened.

MURRAY: That's right. We were expecting, hoping for a press conference along the way. As of right now, it does not appear that's going to take place. They have not entirely ruled it out, but given the fact that they think things are going so swimmingly up to this point without him having to field questions about the press, particularly about Russia, I would be surprised if they end up tacking one on to the end of this.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Well, we hope you can tack on a little vacation on to the end of this, Sara Murray, working her tail off, but take a little, few days.

ROMANS: I was going to say, having covered a G7 meeting, there is no vacation.

BRIGGS: No, but on the tail end.

ROMANS: There's no -- oh, gosh.

BRIGGS: Sara, thank you.

ROMANS: Let's bring in politics reporter Eugene Scott.

Good morning. We're going to continue to monitor those pictures of the president in Sicily.


ROMANS: Here in New York.

Things are going so swimmingly for this president, they say, that there's no need to rock the boat and maybe mess it up by having a press availability. Do you think things are going as well as the White House seems to think on this trip?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Not back in the States, and I think many people here, considering the most recent news regarding Russia, regarding health care, regarding some congressional elections, regarding the conversations in NATO, have questions that they would like the president to address. And the reality is, he's going to have to once he returns. These things haven't stopped. News hasn't stopped.

BRIGGS: What will change once he gets back? The tweeting has relatively been on the tracks, he hasn't been watching cable news. We can lose the viewer, that's OK.

But next week when he comes back and the reality changes and health care gets brought back up, how dramatic will the shift be next week and what's on the top of the agenda, do you think?

SCOTT: I think what's on the top of the agenda is making sure that the Senate has heard many of these complaints that voters have raised to the House with the health care bill.

[04:40:08] I mean, since he's left, we've seen the CBO score and people have been quite critical of this plan in ways that they maybe weren't before. And I think he's going to have to respond to how so many of the people who voted for him could be negatively impacted by it.

ROMANS: It's interesting, he's going to own health care if they keep moving on this path, and he's going to own health care. When I talk to health care economists, they say this is now going to be Trumpcare, and there's going to be as many problems with this as there were with Obamacare.

BRIGGS: But do you think he'll have to weigh in on what happened in Montana? I think the country needs the president.

ROMANS: I wonder.

BRIGGS: To weigh in on what happened there.

SCOTT: I certainly think he will, primarily because critics of Gianforte will keep it before voters and keep it before the president, and I think there will be people who call on him to push back, tone down his rhetoric that they believe helped create this type of situation.

ROMANS: O want to listen to the president on the campaign trail, talking about the press, but he's talking about protesters on the campaign trail. I want to be clear here, some people think you can't draw this direct line to the treatment of the press in Montana to the rhetoric from president Trump, but clearly, something has changed here. I want to listen to the president on the campaign trail.

BRIGGS: Great.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks.

Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.

We have some protesters who are bad dudes.

The guards are very gentle with him. He's walking out big high-fives, smiling, laughing. I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you.


ROMANS: Not fair?

BRIGGS: Well, hang on, the president didn't force a congressman to snap. What he said had nothing to do with an unhinged Montana Republican candidate. Did it have something to do with the way it was embraced, though, by the voters there?

SCOTT: And we've seen -- I mean, we've read the local papers. I've talked to people in Montana yesterday, and there are some voters who did take some of the president's words about the media, the criticism, and they are interpreting it the way that they see best. When you call the media the enemy of the American people, you should expect the American people to respond the way they would to their enemies.

And for some people, not most people, but for a very few people, that resorts in being physical. And we've talked to campaign reporters, including those at CNN, who while on the trail definitely heard slurs and pushback and definitely felt unsafe at some of these rallies due to some of the rhetoric.

ROMANS: Look, Kyung Lah, our reporter, last night was -- you know, it was hard. I mean there were moments when it was difficult for her to do her job because of the leering and the jeering and she said she would turn around, ask her producer -- I just really hear that?

I want to listen to Jake. Jake Tapper I think was pretty poignant about this. I want to listen to a chunk of Jake yesterday about this issue.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: After this incident, a Montana voter, upon learning that our reporter on the ground in Montana, Kyung Lah, is from CNN, told her, quote: you're lucky someone doesn't pop one of you.

Just two weeks ago, a different reporter was arrested in West Virginia after he tried to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the new health care legislation.

A couple days ago, a senator sends a letter to the Federal Communications Commission chairman asking why, a different reporter, John Donnelly of "Roll Call", was manhandled by a security guard as he tried to ask a question during a meeting on net neutrality rules.

As the editorial board of "The Billings Gazette" wrote in retracting its endorsement of Gianforte, quote: We believe that you cannot love America, love the Constitution, talk about the importance of a free press and then pummel a reporter, unquote.

Well said. And let us add that those public officials finding it difficult these days to muster the courage to strongly condemn a politician committing assault on a reporter? Maybe you need to re- examine how much you truly love the Constitution beyond just saying the words.


ROMANS: You know, you've worked on Capitol Hill. When you are a newly elected congressman, you struggle to find your voice in those marble halls. SCOTT: Yes.

ROMANS: He has the moniker now of the body slam congressman.


ROMANS: He has to prove that he can work for the people of Montana. I mean, he -- I think he has hurt himself and made it much more difficult for him to do his job for Montanans.

SCOTT: Absolutely, and we have Republican analyst Ana Navarro say on our air that if you can't take questions from reporters, you surely can't take them from constituents. We've seen in these town hall debates about health care the question he was being asked about, voters pretty much asking way more targeted, way more poignant questions than "The Guardian" reporter asked of the representative, well, the elected representative at this point.

And I imagine that his team is going to work with him to respond better or there will be greater consequences.

[04:45:04] BRIGGS: And until something comes out of the Senate, this house health care bill, every congressman has to have a stance on.

Eugene Scott, we'll see you in about 30 minutes.

SCOTT: Yes, thank you guys.

BRIGGS: Coming up, intel-sharing back on between the United States and U.K. after a rift over the Manchester investigation. So, what got things back on track? That's next.


ROMANS: All right. So, I wasn't here yesterday because, Dave --

BRIGGS: We missed you.

ROMANS: I went to Disneyworld.

BRIGGS: Rough life for you.

ROMANS: Slightly more fun than my normal day at the office.

BRIGGS: No offense taken.

ROMANS: I sat down with CEO Bob Iger at Disney's newest attraction, "Pandora: The World of Avatar". It's based on the James Cameron film. It opens tomorrow. We talked about the new attraction. You can see it there. We talked about safeguarding the "Star Wars" franchise.

[04:50:00] They're going to have a "Star Wars" in 2019, "Toy Story" before that, and of course, it's not interview if I didn't ask about politics, right?

Iger is one of the high powered executives on the president's advisory council.


BOB IGER, DISNEY CEO: Well, I am on that council. I have not been able to attend the two meetings that it has had. I am aware of the agenda for those meetings, and I know that the subject matter that's discussed is aimed at improving business climate in the United States for the United States and the citizens and the businesses in this country, which obviously benefit the people in the country as well.

A number of subjects have come up. Immigration was discussed, taxation. We do believe that it is time for tax reform in the United States. From a corporate perspective, I've been vocal about this.

ROMANS: Not just tax cuts for business but a reform.

IGER: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Right.

IGER: We need complete reform. Everything needs to be simpler. It needs to be more fair, more ecumenical.

From a business perspective, we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world and it needs to be lowered. It's interesting. People tend to jump to a conclusion about that. They think, well, just so businesses can do better. Well, businesses doing better is good for the American economy, it's good for people, it's good for jobs.


ROMANS: "Pandora" opens tomorrow. In terms of his optimism about tax reform, look, he and all of these other business leaders would really, really like to see it, but you know, it's something they hope to do this year, but we'll have to see.

BRIGGS: We know that border adjustment tax is going to be an issue, but I have to ask about the ride.

ROMANS: Oh, my gosh it was really good. He has he says the most advanced ride ever, but is it a ride? It's sort of --

BRIGGS: It's a new world you enter.

ROMANS: It's a 3D experience. It's really -- I don't know if we have any video of that whole thing, but the whole thing is really interesting. You know, Disney -- and I asked, attendance is up. You know, they raise prices, attendance goes up, they raise prices again, attendance goes up. What they're delivering there --

BRIGGS: People still spend to entertain their families.

ROMANS: Yes, and I asked specifically about "Star Wars." The "Star Wars" world is going to open in 2019. And I said give me a spoiler. And he said that they're going to have an advanced ride experience where you will be able to pilot the Millennium Falcon. BRIGGS: But the beauty of it is, it's a small world is still packed.

It doesn't matter.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: OK. Ahead, another legal blow for the president's travel ban. What the administration says it will do, next.


[04:56:39] BRIGGS: 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 United States after President Trump met with Prime Minister Theresa May and vowed to plug the leaks that led Britain to briefly suspend the intel sharing.

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

Good morning to you, Erin. What is the latest today?


Well, crucially, it seems that authorities are making progress on this investigation, some eight individuals in custody, a number of addresses raided, and authorities say out of those raids they uncovered some very important evidence to this investigation.

We're also learning more about the bomber. According to a U.S. official, he may have traveled to Syria and been trained by ISIS in the months leading up to the attack.

Meanwhile, critical intelligence-sharing has resumed between the United Kingdom and the United States. It was temporarily halted yesterday in a diplomatic spat. British officials were outraged at a number of leaks to U.S. media.

Key details of the investigation they say that could have been compromising. Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, expected in London today in a show of solidarity between the two countries.

Meanwhile, here at the Manchester royal infirmary, Queen Elizabeth II visited yesterday some 14 children admitted to the children's ward, five in critical care. One doctor telling me her visit's seen as an important act of solidarity, a message of goodwill from the country.

BRIGGS: Every day this investigation gets wider and wider. Erin McLaughlin live for us in Manchester, thanks.

ROMANS: The Trump administration vowing to take the fight over the travel ban to the Supreme Court after a legal defeat. This time, the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court refused to reinstate the executive order targeting six Muslim-majority countries. The court citing the president's campaign rhetoric.

CNN's Laura Jarrett has more this morning 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.