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Did Sessions Meet with Russians at Campaign Event?; Comey Could Testify As Early As Next Week; Pulling Out of Paris; What the Covfefe?; Officials: Trump Keeping U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Aired 4:30-5a ET
Aired June 1, 2017 - 04:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:31:57] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Did the attorney general have more undisclosed meetings with the Russians during the campaign? Congressional investigators believe he might have. Just one of several big developments on the Russia probe.
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump expected to withdraw from the Paris climate accord today. Will the move cost the U.S. the trust of allies around the world? We're live in Paris.
ROMANS: And you're going to get another dose of covfefe. Sean Spicer says the president and a few key people know what he meant. But what does that mean?
BRIGGS: And can I get another cup of covfefe, please? I'm tired.
ROMANS: So, the president had this sort of cute tweet yesterday morning. He woke up, obviously --
ROMANS: -- saw the tweet, blah, blah, blah, and I thought it was over, but it's not over.
Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.
BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.
At 3:00 today, President Trump will announce whether we're staying in the climate agreement.
ROMANS: That's right.
BRIGGS: My question is, is it a bigger deal for United States leadership globally or for the environment and the impact?
BRIGGS: Yes. Perfect answer. We will get into that in just a moment.
But first, four new major developments on the Russia investigation this morning. New questions about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had another previously undisclosed meeting during the campaign with the Russian ambassador. The White House no longer taking questions about Russia, referring them instead to the president's lawyer.
ROMANS: Sources say former FBI Director James Comey plans to testify the president did, indeed, try to pressure him on the bureau's Russia probe and the House Intelligence Committee issuing its first subpoenas. The batch includes some signed by Chairman Devin Nunes, who promised to step aside from the Russia investigation.
BRIGGS: First on Attorney General Sessions, Capitol Hill and intelligence sources telling CNN investigators are focusing on a Trump campaign event. It came at Washington's Mayflower Hotel last April. Then-Senator Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak attended a small VIP reception. Among other things, the FBI wants to know if there was an additional private meeting between these two.
ROMANS: So, the sources say if there was such a meeting, it may have been just incidental. Sessions has previously failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials. He testified to Congress he had not had communications with the Russians, but in fact, he had met with Kislyak twice during the campaign. That was the gaffe that forced Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
BRIGGS: Responding to the latest questions, the Department of Justice says Sessions did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian official at the Mayflower. The DOJ adds in part, the Department of Justice appointed special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter. We will allow him to do his job.
ROMANS: The Justice Department not alone in fending off inquiries about Russia. Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying at this audio-only press briefing that the White House will no longer take questions on the investigation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our job -- we are focused on the president's agenda and all -- going forward, all questions on these matters will be referred to outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
[04:35:08] ROMANS: President Trump hired Kasowitz last week to head up a legal team aimed at guiding the president through all the investigations into Russian election meddling. The White House is also hoping that referring questions to outside counsel will allow West Wing staff to focus less on the Russia investigation.
BRIGGS: We have new info on the FBI director's appearance before the Senate Intel Committee, which may happen next week. Sources close to the issue say James Comey will testify publicly that President Trump did, indeed, pressure him to drop a key part of the FBI's Russia investigation.
CNN's Jessica Schneider has the latest from Washington.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave and Christine, James Comey's much-anticipated testimony could happen as soon as next week. That's according to sources. The details of this testimony, they're still being determined, but sources do say the fired FBI director will once again sit before the Senate Intelligence Committee and publicly recount his run-ins with the president.
As you'll remember, it was back on February 14th when Comey had that meeting with President Trump, and sources say the president urged Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Sources do say Comey documented the president's plea in this way, saying: I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.
The president once again invoked Comey's name in a tweet Wednesday morning, saying in part, quote: The false or misleading testimony of James Comey, John Brennan, witch hunt.
We know that James Comey has spoken with special counsel Robert Mueller to work out the parameters of his testimony to Congress, and we know that Comey will likely sit down with Mueller for a formal interview after that testimony -- Dave and Christine.
ROMANS: All right, Jessica, thank you.
On the other side of the Capitol, the embattled House Intelligence Committee issuing its first subpoena, as a source close to Michael Flynn says the former national security adviser will comply. President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has said he would not cooperate with the panel voluntarily, but, Dave, will comply with a subpoena.
BRIGGS: A congressional source telling CNN that out of seven subpoenas in total, four related to the Russia probe. The other three, the so-called unmasking of American names from redacted foreign surveillance reports. Sources say those subpoenas came from Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, not from the committee's Russia investigation, and they were issued without the consent of Democrats on the panel.
ROMANS: The move raises questions about Nunes and his role in this Russia probe. He had said he was stepping aside temporarily from that investigation, but you know, he never officially recused himself. We also learned recently that Nunes was still reviewing intel on the Russia investigation.
BRIGGS: Later today, President Trump is expected to announce the United States is pulling out of the Paris climate accord. White House officials caution, nothing is final until the president speaks this afternoon. It is not clear how a potential withdrawal would work, but pulling out of the climate agreement would be a major blow to the legacy of President Obama and a significant break from international partners in the fight against global warming.
So, how is this playing out with America's allies?
Let's go live to Paris and bring in CNN's Melissa Bell.
Good morning to you, Melissa. How are our allies in Europe taking this news?
MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With a great deal of concern, Dave, as you'd imagine. Much will depend on the detail of what is announced later today. Even assuming that Donald Trump does go ahead with this idea of withdrawing, how he chooses to do that will have far-reaching consequences not only for the deal itself but also for the nature, as you alluded to a second ago, between the United States and its allies going forward.
There are a number of options available to the American president. He can simply withdraw from the climate change deal, but that would take some time, probably wouldn't come into effect until 20. He could withdraw perhaps more radically from the entire framework, the framework that has provided the ability for the world to search for this climate change deal, which goes back to 1992 in Rio. That could be much more immediate, but also much more radical.
A final option would simply be to decide to stay inside the deal but review the commitments that were made. And, of course, there are those here in Europe, there are those who believe in the Paris climate deal who believe that, in a sense, for the deal itself, that could be the worst option, because it would show, Dave, its inherent weakness. Remember that this was a climate change deal that was struck on the basis not of binding commitments but of individually chosen targets.
If Donald Trump later today decides to lower those targets that had been set by Barack Obama, in a sense, that will remind the world of how weak this deal was. It also has the advantage from the American point of view of leaving them with a seat at the negotiating table going ahead.
[04:40:00] The question is really whether the American administration today is sufficiently ideologically driven to withdraw entirely from the deal, or rather, to choose that lesser option. And much, as I say, will depend on which of those Donald Trump chooses to head towards later today.
BRIGGS: And pulling out leaves the United States with Nicaragua and Syria as those not committing.
Melissa Bell live in Paris, thank you.
ROMANS: And, Dave, pulling out would mean he's not taking the advice of his daughter, Ivanka Trump, not taking the advice of Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, who used to run an energy company, not taking the advice, we presume, of Gary Cohn, his chief economic guy. BRIGGS: That's right.
ROMANS: And all the CEOs who have been coming there talking to him publicly and privately.
You know, when it comes to that climate deal, big business has one big question now for this president -- will America be a global leader or put itself first? Hundreds of companies say business will suffer if the U.S. withdraws.
Business leaders have lobbied the president with public campaigns. You've seen the newspaper ads. They've lobbied him with private phone calls and letters, including the Tesla founder, Elon Musk. Musk tweeted that he had done all he could to persuade President Trump to remain in this treaty, even threatening to quit as one of the president's advisers. You see Elon Musk there, second to the left.
Companies like the deal because they like predictability. This provides a framework. They can minimize the business risk of climate change while using clean technology to boost competitiveness and boost jobs. But jobs are said to alter the president's threat to withdraw, particularly coal jobs.
The White House promises lifting environmental rules will revive that industry, but market forces, not regulation, are killing coal. Natural gas is cheaper than coal, and despite the administration's claims, there hasn't been a boom in coal jobs. Only 1,300 have been added since the president took office.
BRIGGS: And not to glaze over what you said before, but can we dismiss with the notion that Ivanka Trump is the one that's going to moderate President Trump? Because look at the things that have come before him -- health care, no moderation. This now, no moderation. Where is she moderating her father?
ROMANS: That's a good point and I think, you know, maybe we'll know this afternoon if he pulls out completely or if he steps back at the United States' own targets. You know, this is a campaign promise and he wants to tick through the campaign promises.
ROMANS: And this would be a campaign promise met.
BRIGGS: Gets back to making America great again.
It's the tweet, though, that just won't quit. Just when the world was moving on from covfefe, White House spokesman Sean Spicer decided to raise 1,000 more questions. Spicer could have passed off this now- infamous post as a harmless typo. It happens to all of us. But that wouldn't have been nearly as dramatic as this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you think people should be concerned that the president then posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night and that it then stayed up for hours?
SPICER: Uh, no.
REPORTER: Why did it stay up so long? Is no one watching this?
SPICER: No, I think the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant. Blake?
REPORTER: Sean --
REPORTER: What is covfefe?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ROMANS: I still don't know what he meant.
ROMANS: This is after the president -- I thought the president put this to bed himself. He seemed to laugh off the issue earlier in the day. He tweeted this "Who can figure out the true meaning of covfefe? Enjoy!" That's when we know the president was awake.
We figured he went to bed at 11:00, woke up at 5:00, left this dangling clause and then fixed it up with a little funny thing, but this triggered a nasty exchange between Hillary Clinton and the Trumps. Listen to this comment Secretary Clinton made at an event in California last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think we can get into covfefe right now, because it's a longer thing, but --
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it was a hidden message to the Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you did?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGGS: That's not all Hillary had to say.
She went on, taking on the "The New York Times," the Democratic Party, the former FBI director, James Comey, for her loss in November.
President Trump responding with this: "Crooked Hillary now blames everybody but herself, refuses to say she was a terrible candidate, hits Facebook and even Dems and the DNC."
ROMANS: It doesn't end there, folks. Clinton firing back, tweeting "People in covfefe houses shouldn't throw covfefe." That's when Donald Trump Jr. came to his father's defense, tweeting, "What house is he in again?"
BRIGGS: Solid, that's well played.
ROMANS: That's what I thought. You're trying too hard.
I thought covfefe would be dead by 9:00 yesterday morning --
BRIGGS: I hoped it would.
ROMANS: The covfefe gift that keeps on covfefing.
BRIGGS: It was a typo, correct? He fell asleep while tweeting.
ROMANS: A small group of people in the White House know.
BRIGGS: No, they don't.
All right. Ahead --
BRIGGS: -- LeBron James forced to address racism on the eve of the NBA finals after a racial taunt was painted at his house.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Hate, you know, in America, especially for an African-American, is living every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGGS: We'll hear more from LeBron James next.
[04:49:14] ROMANS: Powerful, powerful response from LeBron James after someone spray-painted the N-word on the front gate of his California home. Los Angeles Police investigating this incident as a possible hate crime.
Listen to LeBron delivering his assessment of American society on the eve of his seventh straight appearance in the NBA Finals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES: Hate, you know, in America, especially for an African- American, is living every day. And even though that it's concealed most of the time, even though people hide their faces and will say things about you and when they see you, they smile in your face, it's alive every single day.
And I think back to Emmett Till's mom, actually, it's kind of one of the first things I thought of, and the reason why she had an open casket is because she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime and, you know, being black in America. [04:50:17] So, it's like, it doesn't -- no matter how much money you
have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, you know, being black in America is -- it's tough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGGS: Now, you heard James refer to Emmett Till's mother in those comments. Till was a black teenager lynched in Mississippi in 1955 at the age of 14. James and his Cleveland Cavaliers square off tonight against the Golden State Warriors in game one of the NBA Finals.
LeBron was eloquent. Mr. Met, not so much.
The New York Mets issuing a public apology to their fans, and it's not because of their mediocre play. It seems Mr. Met, the team's beloved mascot, was caught flipping the bird at Met fans. We should be clear -- Mr. Met doesn't technically have a middle finger --
ROMANS: He has four fingers.
BRIGGS: He only has four, right, Christine. But his intent was certainly clear. We're told several team employees take turns in the Mr. Met costume. The Met's front office says this staffer will no longer be working as the team mascot again.
But in 2012, Mr. Met was named the number one mascot in all of sports. He was just giving the number one sign, I believe.
ROMANS: The number one sign.
BRIGGS: Number one. Number one mascot in sports.
ROMANS: All right. I don't know how you can flip the middle finger if you only have four fingers. I don't know.
BRIGGS: Legally, I think that argument holds up in court.
ROMANS: You know, I don't think that matters.
BRIGGS: There is no middle in four.
ROMANS: I think poor Joe is not going to be in that suit again.
EpiPen maker Mylan became the face of corporate greed when it jacked up prices on these life-saving drugs. Now, the company is in trouble again, this time for overcharging taxpayers. "CNN Money Stream" is next.
[04:56:12] ROMANS: Happening right now in Berlin, the Chinese premier is meeting with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and China has vowed to adhere to the principles of the Paris climate accords. And Angela Merkel saying they are happy about that, of course, and that the leadership between the E.U. and China on climate issues is the direction here of the future. As you know, this afternoon at 3:00 p.m., we are awaiting the
president of the United States to announce whether the United States will stay in this very important climate agreement. There are some indications that he will not. He will fulfill a campaign pledge to pull out.
Again, this shows you China stepping into the fray, into the breach, right, and saying we will continue to be a leader on climate change.
BRIGGS: Well, and just the optics here that China, the world's worst polluter, is now the leader in environmental causes, that is a head- scratching development. But we shall stay on it.
Meanwhile, President Trump expected to renew a six-month waiver to keep the U.S. embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv. That's despite a campaign pledge to move it to Jerusalem. Senior officials say the president still supports the move but believes the timing isn't right.
For more, CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem with the latest.
Good morning to you, Oren.
Was the realities of this situation, did President Trump learn more about them on that recent foreign trip?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly seems it solidified his opinion. Remember, this was obviously one of his biggest campaign promises but also one of the first campaign promises he walked back right after his inauguration, and that's because some of the Arab leaders, specifically King Abdullah, who was the first Arab leader to meet with Trump, as well as King Salman, who he met with when Trump was here in the region just a couple of weeks ago, they both pointed out to him how sensitive the embassy move is.
If you were to move it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and effectively recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. They pressured him on that, and it seems he realized the delicacy of this or how delicate this subject is, and that's because it would prejudge essentially the most sensitive area in the conflict, and that is the status of Jerusalem, which decades of U.S. foreign policy has said this will only be decided in final negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
As Trump tries to pursue a renewal of a peace process, it seems he's heeding caution to that. He will wait to see if a peace process can be restarted and where it goes. He certainly has more opportunities to move the embassy, if he wants. That opportunity comes up every six months.
The Israeli right, the Israeli leadership, that is, made one final push with Trump here to try to get him to move the embassy just a couple weeks ago. That, it seems, didn't work out. Trump in all of his statements here never talked about the embassy, never talked about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that as he tries to restart the peace process here. While the Israeli right won't openly criticize Trump for fear of any
sort of retaliation or what may come of that, he does risk angering evangelical Christian voters, where one of his biggest voter bases who very much wanted him to follow through on this promise. So, we'll see how they react to this as well as what reaction comes out of the Israelis -- Dave.
BRIGGS: All right. Oren Liebermann live for us in Jerusalem -- thank you, sir.
ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.
Global markets, U.S. futures mostly higher, Wall Street closed lower, weighed down by bank and energy stocks. Energy fell as oil prices dropped 2.7 percent. Still, all three indices finished the month with gains. That's right, the end of the month, the NASDAQ up 2.5 percent, the second straight month of gains.
2017 has been the year of big tech -- Amazon, Google parent Alphabet and Microsoft are all trading at highs. Shares for Netflix and Facebook both up more than 30 percent this year.
Uber's finance chief quits as the company reports big losses. Uber reports -- that's the wrong video. Uber reports a $708 million loss in the first three months of this year.