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EARLY START

Gianforte Wins After Body Slam; Russia Probe Focuses on Kushner; LeBron & Cavs Advance to NBA Finals. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[05:00:14] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: OK, on to the Supreme Court. Laura Jarrett, thanks.

EARLY START continues right now.

(MUSIC)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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 an alleged violent outburst?

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

Good morning, everybody, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, May 26th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

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

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

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

Good morning to you, Ryan. What are you hearing from the people of Montana regarding the message this might or might not send?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, guys.

Look, we're in Big Sky Country. I can tell you, reporters were here until after 1:30 this morning. There was a bit of celebration beforehand.

When I walked inside and started mulling around with some of the supporters, they were of high spirits. They actually felt there was some energy created by this. Look, people didn't like the idea about what happened, but they did enjoy the idea that someone would stand up for themselves and kind of give a little pushback to a reporter who they thought might have been being a little too pushy.

On the other side of that, people are saying, wait, reporters are allowed to ask questions. They should be able to do this. What are we telling our children by having someone react in this way? But listen to the apology last night during that victory speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: You would love to be able to ask what actually set him off in that instance. Look, we met the reporter. He's only about 150 pounds. What physically set that into motion between the two men?

Over and over again, we heard from people that Gianforte is a good man, a good businessman that they believe will represent Montana well. But, of course, just like you said, he still has a court date. He has to be in court before June 7th, so this is far from being over. I can bet this won't be the last time a reporter gets in his face and asks a few more questions -- guys.

BRIGGS: Yes, we urge you to be careful, Ryan, but maybe ask the congressman why he didn't apologize before this election was over.

Ryan, thanks.

ROMANS: All right, three minutes past the hour.

The FBI's Russia probe expanding its focus to inside the White House. CNN's learned investigators are taking a closer look at president Trump's son-in-law, top adviser Jared Kushner.

BRIGGS: 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.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

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.

[05:05:06] 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, let's bring in CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott.

Good morning.

You just heard that report from Evan about, you know, where this Russia investigation is going from here. The president's going to come back from this big European trip -- in fact, we're waiting to see him again in Italy this morning. He's going to come back and Russia is going to be right on his plate again, isn't it? How important is this Kushner development?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I think it's very important, especially since Kushner during the election went on the record and said that he pretty much paid very close attention to micro-targeting using social media to get messages to voters that he was hoping would vote for Donald Trump, and I think the FBI and intelligence agencies want to know to what degree were your data analytics getting negative messages about Clinton to these people and positive ones about Trump and what role, intentionally and unintentionally, did Russia perhaps play into all of this.

And I think he's going to have to explain those in details that perhaps he wasn't. But what I'm most interested in is Donald Trump was repeatedly warned not to put Michael Flynn in the position that he did. And supposedly, Jared Kushner was one of the main people, he and Ivanka, who wanted Flynn there.

ROMANS: And we know the White House just yesterday was saying, there was some reporting on our air, that they're actually organizing like a war room for the Russia issue, you know, like a Situation Room for the Russia probe. That just shows you how seriously they're taking it.

SCOTT: Yes. I'm kind of surprised it hasn't existed before now.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: Yes, rapid responses. You wonder, though, if the shift now is towards the financial relationships that Jared Kushner and president Trump have with Russia. But let's move on to what happened last night in Montana, this special election. Gianforte wins, despite the alleged assault committed to Ben Jacobs, "The Guardian" reporter.

Two things that came out of this election -- one, it was okay to assault a member of the media, and two, Greg Gianforte got through an election without taking a stance on the House health care bill. He's going to be a member of the House.

What is your big takeaway from those two strange developments in Montana?

SCOTT: Well, if Gianforte does not give an answer on this health care bill, he should expect way more difficult questions at town halls coming up for the people who voted on him who were voting on him with the hope that he would not remove their health care based on how we've seen other lawmakers have to respond to their voters.

Now, one can argue that he won because of early voting in Montana. I believe more than 70 percent of the people had voted before the incident happened.

BRIGGS: Right.

SCOTT: But what we have seen, those of us who have talked to Montana voters, we've had CNN reporters on the ground, there are more people in Montana who either support his actions or don't find them as problematic as we would think. And I think it would be interesting -- I don't know if we'll ever have this data -- to see how many people voted for him after all this.

BRIGGS: Two things on that, one, Peter Alexander reporting that $100,000 was raised in the 24 hours after this happened.

SCOTT: I'm not surprised.

BRIGGS: But the editor of "The Billings Gazette" said the last-minute surge in voters appeared to come from the right, not left.

ROMANS: And a great deal of that voting was early voting. I want to talk about yesterday and the NATO -- you're looking at papers "euro trash", "The Daily News," "Payout" is what the "New York post" says. Yesterday, the president's performance at NATO, he said they were free loaders. He didn't explicitly say we will defend you if you're ever attacked, that Article Five. And then there was this moment when he seemed to be jockeying for position with the prime minister of Montenegro --

BRIGGS: Being subtle.

ROMANS: The Twitterverse went crazy on that one, if you could show it, please.

BRIGGS: That's the prime minister of Montenegro who President Trump just kind of pushed out of the way to get to that family photo there.

ROMANS: Yes. We can show it again. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! Folks back home had kind of, on the internet had a lot of fun with that. But how did he do yesterday, in your view?

SCOTT: Yes, I mean, that was an interesting exchange, to say the least, as you may have known. That was the prime minister's first G7. And so, I wonder if it was the new kid --

BRIGGS: They're in the process of joining full time, Montenegro.

ROMANS: That's right.

SCOTT: True. And it was not America's first G7, but it was certainly Trump's, and some of the pushback from his speech has been significant, especially considering there is criticism that he doesn't understand how NATO works, and his communicating that some countries are not paying up is actually inaccurate, and that's not how things operate. And one thing I'm very mindful of, a lot of Americans do not understand that the way the NATO agreement works is that when the U.S. has gone to war, these countries have gone with us, and they've sent their people with us.

ROMANS: Oh, my gosh, hundreds of thousands of Europeans have been fighting alongside the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.

[05:10:04] SCOTT: From these countries -- from these countries that Donald Trump thinks haven't put anything on the line. They've put their lives.

ROMANS: But he went out of his way to praise Saudi Arabia, too, in that speech that he gave yesterday, right? And one could argue, you know, critics would say that Saudi Arabia has funded terrorism in some cases, you know?

SCOTT: Right. Yes, and he's been criticized significantly for not speaking out more viciously about human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia while he was there and receiving gifts and speaking very positively of the trip.

BRIGGS: All right. Gene, we'll see you in about 20 minutes.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

SCOTT: Nice to see you, guys.

BRIGGS: All right. President Trump on the final leg of his first overseas trip preparing for some big meetings at the G7 summit. The president looks expects to strengthen diplomatic ties with leaders who are anxious to know where he stands on major issues, in particular the Paris climate agreement, also ISIS, Afghanistan, and more.

CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray traveling with the president. She joins us from a beautiful backdrop of Sicily.

Good morning to you, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, the president's debut on the world stage ends here in Sicily for the G7 summit. Now, this is just a day after he was at NATO where he used his platform to lecture other NATO members, saying they need to increase their defense spending.

Now, there are a number of contentious issues on the agenda that could come up today as well. Among them is the Paris climate accord. President Trump is receiving some pressure from European allies, even the pope, to stay a member of that treaty, but he is considering whether or not to stay in it. He has not made a decision on that yet.

Now, the other sort of backdrop here is the fact that many of our European allies are eyeing Russia wearily right now. We have not heard that tone from president Trump at all since he's been on this trip. In fact, one of his senior advisers said yesterday that the U.S. has no position right now on whether it is going to uphold these sanctions that the Obama administration put into place against Russia, which is a pretty stunning comment.

Now, the president is wrapping up what has been a five-nation, nine- day foreign trip, and in what is very unusual, he has not held a press conference, he has not taken questions from the press along the way. His advisers feel this is going swimmingly because he's not had to answer any sticky questions about Russia, about the situation there.

A little disappointing, obviously, to the press who have been chasing him around across the five nations, but it just gives you an indication of how little this administration wants the focus to be on Russia.

Back to you, guys.

BRIGGS: Sara Murray live for us in Sicily. Thank you.

ROMANS: I hope she gets a good meal, mostly on those G7 meetings you just work.

BRIGGS: She's working so hard. Probably not.

ROMANS: You work, work, work, have a power bar, then get on the plane and come back home.

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 are live in England.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:16:53] 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 U.S. after President Trump met with Prime Minister Theresa May and vowed to plug the leaks that led Britain to briefly suspend the intel sharing.

Let's bring in CNN's Erin McLaughlin live in Manchester.

Erin, good morning to you. We've learned that the U.K. is running 500 terror plot investigations. This certainly speaks to how hard it can be to track many terror suspects.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Dave, and it really gives you a sense of the extent of the terror problem they're facing here in this country. The security minister for the U.K. giving that interview to the BBC this morning, saying that there are some 500 terror plot investigations currently under way, some 3,000 people they're looking at as part of those investigations.

Now, in terms of the investigation into the Manchester attack, it seems that authorities here are making critical progress. Some eight people in custody so far, a number of raids carried out in the Manchester area. Out of those raids, authorities say they've uncovered evidence that's very important to the investigation.

We're also hearing more information about the bomber. According to a U.S. official, they believe he may have traveled to Syria and trained with is. Meanwhile, intelligence-sharing has continued between the United States and the U.K. It was temporarily suspended yesterday in a diplomatic spat.

British officials outraged over a number of leaks to U.S. media, leaks that pertain to, they said potentially compromising investigative information, including the attacker's identity.

Meanwhile, here outside Manchester royal infirmary, yesterday a very special royal visit from Queen Elizabeth II, visiting some 14 children currently admitted to the children's ward under the age of 16, five in critical care. One doctor telling me that it was a very special visit, an important symbol of solidarity from the country.

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

ROMANS: All right. We're monitoring the president's overseas trip. He is in Italy right now at this very moment for big meetings at the G7, just getting under way.

Look at that beautiful Sicily. Oh. That's Sicily.

We're going there next.

BRIGGS: That's fantastic.

And the Cavs and Warriors set to meet again in the NBA Finals. Andy Scholes with the details in the "Bleacher Report," next.

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[05:23:56] BRIGGS: All right, let's talk some sports.

King James' reign over the Eastern Conference continues. Third straight year it's LeBron and the Cavs against Curry and the Warriors in the finals.

ROMANS: I was going to say, didn't we do this last year and the year before? I have read these words before.

BRIGGS: Yes, broken record.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

SCHOLES: Yes, good morning, guys.

You know, LeBron is now going to his seventh straight NBA finals. That's just incredible. We may never see this from an NBA superstar ever again.

And this game wasn't much of a game. LeBron and the Cavs just crushing the Celtics in game five, 135-102. And with this three right here in the third quarter, LeBron passing Michael Jordan for the most playoff points in NBA history. After the game, LeBron speaking about how he grew up wanting to be like Mike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: I wore black and red shoes with white socks. I wore short shorts so you could see my undershorts underneath. I didn't go bald like Mike, but I'm getting there.

(LAUGHTER)

But I'm getting there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: I love Tristan Thompson's reaction in the background. The Cavs now going to face the Warriors.

[05:25:01] It's the first time in NBA history that two teams will meet in the NBA finals three years in a row. Game one set for June 1st.

All right, one of the best things in sports today, game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs. We had a great one last night between the Penguins and the Senators. The game goes to double overtime, tied at 2. And that's when Chris Kunitz becomes the unlikely hero for the Penguins, scoring the game-winning goal. Kunitz, 37 years old, he hadn't scored in the past 34 games. He had two goals in this one.

Penguins win to advance to the finals. They're going to defend their title against the Nashville Predators. That series is going to get started on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It jumped up a notch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It did, didn't it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: All right, after beating the Giants yesterday, the Chicago Cubs all putting on their best "Anchorman" suits as they headed out west for a road trip. And I'll tell you what, guys, there were some great outfits in here. Manager Joe Maddon right there even dyed his hair and dropped a "Stay Classy" during postgame interviews.

That may be my favorite, though, the strength and conditioning coach going swimming Ron Burgundy, something you rarely see.

ROMANS: No way.

SCHOLES: I love that. Joe Maddon, always creative ways to keep the 162-game baseball season interesting.

ROMANS: I love it.

BRIGGS: Joe Maddon is outstanding. That escalated quickly. I think that's what Greg Gianforte said the other night.

ROMANS: Oh! I want you to come as anchorman. One of these days you will come in your full "Anchorman" for me.

BRIGGS: I will do that. I will read anything if it's in that monitor.

ROMANS: Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: Have a good one.

ROMANS: A big win and an apology from the Montana congressman who apparently body slammed a reporter. We're live in Montana. I will read anything if it's in the teleprompter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)