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Big Developments In Russia Election Probe; Pulling Out of Paris; What the Covfefe?; LeBron James Speaks Out After Racist Vandalism. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 1, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Uber's finance chief quits as the company reports big losses. Uber reports -- that's the wrong video.

[05:00:02] Uber reports a $708 million loss in the first three months of this year. Uber is a private company but offers glimpses of its finances.

The news of the loss went public the same day it announced the CFO left for another startup. More than a dozen execs have left the company this year. A number of them resigned amid an investigation into widespread sexual harassment at uber.

All right. Now, that video. EpiPen maker Mylan may have overcharged the U.S. more than $1 billion. That's according to the Department of Health and Human Services. This amount is an update to an earlier settlement.

Mylan is accused of overcharging Medicaid by improperly classifying EpiPens. The drugmaker was the face of corporate greed last summer. Seven years of hikes raised EpiPen prices 400 percent to $600, parents still hopping mad about that.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: It is brutal for parents out there that have kids with allergies. They cannot afford these things. Thankfully, something being done.

EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: The attorney general facing new questions in the Russia investigation. Did Jeff Sessions have more undisclosed meetings with Kremlin officials during the campaign? It's just one of several key developments.

BRIGGS: President Trump expected to announce the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord today. What does it mean for the U.S. role on key global issues?

ROMANS: And it's the gift that keeps on covfefing. Sean Spicer giving the story plenty of new life. Now, it's devolving into an online battle between the Trumps and the Clintons. I thought the president put this to bed yesterday morning.

BRIGGS: We hoped.

ROMANS: But it's still there.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, Thursday, June 1st, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

A little talk in a moment about the Paris climate agreement. The president, 3:00 today, expected to make this big announcement. Does it have the reality show reveal to it?

ROMANS: This as the Chinese premier and German chancellor are before the cameras right now vowing to be better partners and to lead on climate change. So, there's a message there.

BRIGGS: So, the U.S. left with Nicaragua and Syria.

All right. We have four major new developments on the Russia investigations 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 is no longer taking questions about Russia, referring everything to the president's personal attorney.

ROMANS: Sources say a 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, Attorney General Sessions, Capitol Hill, and intelligence sources telling CNN investigators focusing on a Trump campaign event. It came at Washington's Mayflower Hotel last April. Then-Senator Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergei 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: 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 adding, the Department of Justice appointed special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter, we will allow him to do his job.

Joining us this morning from Washington, CNN politics report Tal Kopan.

Good morning to you.

ROMANS: Good morning.


BRIGGS: All right. So, what's your big takeaway from all these Russia developments?

KOPAN: Well, you know, I feel like every week we're here talking about drip, drip, drip.


KOPAN: And, you know, it remains true. That's the problem with that style of news. And, you know, it certainly harkens back to what we saw with Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi investigation, that there's always some new wrinkle, some new piece of information that we didn't have before, as investigators try to build the puzzle with all these pieces.

And so, you start putting these pieces in. And again, as we saw with the Hillary Clinton investigation, one of the worst ways to handle something that looks suspicious is to conceal it. It only makes it look like there's something more there.

And so, you know, even if these meetings were benign, conducted in political capacity, you know, the fact that there is a possibility of another undisclosed meeting just continues to add fuel to these questions that will not be not hanging over the White House any time soon.

ROMANS: We heard from the Justice Department, look, there's a special investigation, we'll let the investigation continue.

[05:05:00] We heard from Sean Spicer yesterday at the -- not at the podium, but in that off the record --

BRIGGS: Audio only.

ROMANS: Audio only briefing. Look, this is going to be handled by the president's attorney for this matter.

So, I wonder if we're heading into a black hole on the Russia investigation here? Because you're not going to be hearing about it as much from the press briefings, certainly the Justice Department isn't talking about it.

KOPAN: Yes, you know, it may be a bit disappointing for the press because certainly we enjoy having these little bits of information.

ROMANS: I actually don't enjoy it, Tal. I'm going to disagree with you, I don't enjoy it at all.

KOPAN: Fair enough.

ROMANS: I would like clarity about what was going on in the election. I think it's interesting. I think it's interesting, and Dave made this point, that you've got Democrats who appear to be going after collusion. Any whiff of collusion.

And Republicans who are going after leaks, and they have two different goals in all these investigations.

KOPAN: Right. And I think what the American people actually want did know about is what did Russia do and how did it affect us? As opposed to necessarily the different political angles.

And you're right, you know, I've actually talked to some folk on this the Hill. I was talking to Senator Ron Johnson recently who was saying his concern with the special counsel is that, you know, it sort of clamps down on everything we may learn, and makes it difficult to be made public.

You know, I think it's probably smart for the White House to start referring things to the outside counsel, because they've gotten in their own way quite a bit of the time when they tried to handle this in-house and made a statement, then clarified the statement, then it turns out that the clarification may not have been entirely true, and so, they clarified again. So, you know, we may be entering a phase where the communications strategy is more concerted, more clear. And perhaps the drips slow down.

So, you're right, it is possible that maybe this is a good thing in that we can actually start to focus on the bigger picture and not get bogged down in sort of chasing these varying explanations of what happened.

BRIGGS: I think it would be good for all of us. Let's turn to the Paris climate agreement. At 3:00, the president expected to make an announcement, all reports indicate that he will pull out of this climate agreement.

ROMANS: He promised to on the campaign trail.

BRIGGS: That is a campaign promise.

So, is this about the environment? Is this about United States leadership? Or is this about the president fulfilling a promise and pleasing his base, Tal?

KOPAN: Can I choose "D," all of the above?


KOPAN: You know, I mean, it's not a simple one-sided issue. I mean, you talked about is it about the environment? Is it about geopolitics? It's like --

ROMANS: It's about all of it.

KOPAN: Yes. Doubting climate science has been something that Trump has been involved in for years, even before the campaign. And that's certainly hanging over all of this, a question of whether he fully appreciates or understands the science behind climate change.

But you're right. You mentioned earlier, there are two other countries that are not involved in this pact. Nigeria, and Syria, I believe.

ROMANS: Nicaragua and Syria.

KOPAN: Nicaragua, sorry. Nicaragua and Syria. And we're going to be standing with them, while China and the E.U. are forming greater alliances.

And so, all of those things are swirling here. And, you know, a part of me does wonder, on the one hand, it's odd that there's surprise that Trump is sort of governing at face value and what he told us he would during the campaign. At the same time, remember, there was a report that he was going to tear up NAFTA, and a few days later it was a slightly moderated approach.

So, it will be interesting to see how they actually frame what they're doing this afternoon. And whether there's any indication of, we were sort of making a very hard push, and now, we're going to pull back late bit as a negotiating position.

ROMANS: Some of those small developing economies, they had complained during the process that the U.S. wasn't giving up enough. That we're a fifth of the world's carbon emissions and the U.S. wasn't giving up enough compared with what many of these developing nations would have to. So, it depends on who you are, how you view this.

I want to listen -- you talked about the science, whether the president appreciates the science. There is an engineer and scientist who works for him who used to run an energy company and who is now the top diplomat for the United States, Rex Tillerson. This is what he said at his confirmation hearing about climate change.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I came to my personal position over about 20 years as an engineer and a scientist, understanding the evolution of the science. I came to the conclusion a few years ago that the risk of climate change does exist. And that the consequences of it could be serious enough that action should be taken.


ROMANS: This president is seen as someone close to business, he likes the business minds around him, many of the CEOs who advise him have been telling him, stay in this agreement. His daughter action we're told, said stay in this agreement. Gary Cohn, his chief economic architect, stay in the agreement.

But he is we think leaning toward leaving. What does that say about the people around him?

KOPAN: Well, it's certainly a win for Steve Bannon and you have Scott Pruitt up on the screen as well. You know, this has been a constant theme as we've covered this White House of sort of two poles that the president finds himself between.

[05:10:04] You know, the groups are sort of two poles that the president finds himself between. The groups are sort of disparagingly referred to by the other sides as sort of the New York crew and, you know, sort of the Breitbart crew. But this is absolutely a win for Steve Bannon, who remember for a little while was sort of on the outs at the White House and seemed to be losing influence. So, if in fact the U.S. does pull out of the Paris agreement in some capacity, this will be a rebuke of that sort of New York wing that had been perceived as getting power by some conservatives.

But, you know, it's not the end of the story. And I think the bigger picture is that this sort of power struggle continues and Trump sort of finds ways to appease these different factions in the White House.

BRIGGS: Elon Musk saying he will stop advising the president on economic issues if they pull out of that agreement, 3:00 today.

Tal, we'll see you in about 30 minutes.

ROMANS: We'll talk covfefe in 30 minutes. Thanks, Tal.

OK. When it comes to climate deal, big business has one question for the president: will America be a global leader or put itself first? Hundreds of companies say businesses will suffer if the U.S. withdraws from Paris.

Business leaders lobbying the president with public campaigns, private phone calls. Dave just mentioned Tesla founder Elon Musk, he tweeted this, he'd done all he could to persuade President Trump to remain in the treaty, even threatening to quit as Trump's adviser.

Companies like the deal because they like predictability, it provides a framework. They can boost competiveness with clean technology, minimize the business risk of global warming, because that's how investors see climate change. In fact, shareholders of ExxonMobil now demand the oil giant stress test for climate risks. But energy companies like Exxon and Shell, they support the Paris deal. In fact, the cleaner natural gas they produce over coal.

And coal is central to the president's threat to withdraw. The White House promises lifting environmental rules will revive the industry but market forces, not regulation, are killing coal jobs. Natural gas is not only cleaner but cheaper than coal. So, there is a market force revolution happening here.

BRIGGS: Regardless of what we do, some say technology might take care of it.


BRIGGS: All right. Plenty more, covfefe coming this morning whether you like it or not. What did Sean Spicer mean when he said the president and small group of people knew what he meant with his late- night tweet?


[05:16:23] BRIGGS: Just when the world was ready to move on from covfefe, White House Spokesman Sean -- you like covfefe, don't you? You speak French.

Sean Spicer decided to raise a thousand more questions. Spicer could have passed off the president's now infamous post as a harmless typo. It happened at 12:06. It happens to all of us, we all mess up on Twitter and delete it. Wouldn't have been nearly as bizarre as what happened next?


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: What is covfefe?


ROMANS: The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant. This is after the president himself seemed to shut the door on this, laugh off the issue earlier in the morning when he put out this tweet. Who can figure out the true meaning of covfefe? Enjoy.

So, that's why we knew the president was up and realized he had sort of this dangling clause. This all triggered a nasty exchange between Hillary Clinton and the Trumps.

So, listen to this comment Secretary Clinton made at an event in California last night.


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.




ROMANS: Making it funny. Making it funny at code com.

BRIGGS: That's not all Hillary had to say. She went after "The New York Times." the Democratic Party, the former FBI Director James Comey. All for her loss in November. President Trump then responded. Crooked Hillary Clinton now blames everybody but herself, refuses to say she was a terrible candidate, hits Facebook and even Dems and the DNC.

ROMANS: Clinton firing back, tweeting: People in covfefe houses shouldn't throw covfefe. Covfefe, covfef, whatever.

That's when Donald Trump Jr. came to his father's defense. Weighing in with this. What house is he in again? That's what I thought. You're trying too hard.

BRIGGS: Pretty solid.

ROMANS: I thought so too, Dave.

BRIGGS: On the cover of "USA Today," they just basically hit at the fact that he's not sleeping enough. The president is not sleeping enough.

ROMANS: Sleep deprivation.

BRIGGS: Someone who doesn't sleep enough, it sounds about right, we don't sleep enough.

ROMANS: We don't.

BRIGGS: We often can't speak or type clearly the next morning, as you can see here.

Ahead the Pittsburgh Penguins halfway to a repeat, as Stanley Cup champs.

Coy Wire hopefully slept enough.


BRIGGS: He has "The Bleacher Report" next.

Wake up, Coy.


[05:23:26] ROMANS: All right. Police in Los Angeles now investigating a racial slur spray painted on the gate at LeBron James' home.

BRIGGS: This on the eve of the NBA Finals. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, buddy. COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

Yes, on the eve of one of the opening of one of the biggest sporting stages in the world, LeBron James admittedly not able to be completely focused. He and his family were targeted in an act of racism. The "N" word spray painted on the front gate of LeBron's home in Los Angeles. Police say the graffiti was painted over when officers arrived.

LAPD studying security camera footage to try to identify the vandal. LeBron's words were powerful as he spoke out about the incident.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: 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. We got a long way to go. You know, for us as a society, for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal.


WIRE: Florida police releasing dash cam video of Tiger Woods' arrest on suspicion of DUI. Officers say they found him asleep at the wheel on the side of the road early Monday morning. Tiger slurring his speech, stumbling in the video, despite a breathalyzer test showing no alcohol in his system. Woods says he had a bad reaction to prescription medications.

[05:25:03] The Pittsburgh Penguins now just two wins away from repeating as Stanley Cup champs. Tied with the Nashville Predators starting the third period last night, then they heated up and almost melted that ice. scoring three goals in just over three minutes. A 4- 1 victory giving Pittsburgh a 2-0 series lead. Next game is Saturday night in Nashville.

Tennis action at the French Open. And Borna Coric not happy after being defeated by American Steve Johnson. But what the reaction that truly moved people there that of Johnson. Just weeks after his father, mentor, and tennis coach who introduced him to the sport suddenly and unexpectedly passed at the young age of 58.


STEVE JOHNSON, ADVANCES TO 3R ROUND: I knew he was looking down on me at that last point and gave me the strength to finish it off. Physically, I'm OK. Emotionally I'm a mess.

So, you know, I just know this is what -- you know, he always taught me to just be a fighter, be a competitor. That's what I'm going to do, day in and day in and out. And just -- I mean, that's the only thing I can do.


WIRE: Steve's mother, sister, and fiance were there with him. It's a trip that had been planned for years to celebrate his sister's graduation from college, guys.

BRIGGS: My friend John Worth, I'm clearly moved by that emotional speech. He's a great story, one of the great American tennis stories. One of the few we have in the sport.

ROMANS: All right. Coy, thanks so much. Nice to see you this morning.

WIRE: You're welcome, too.

BRIGGS: Did Jeff Sessions have more undisclosed meetings with Russian officials during the presidential campaign?


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't believe so. You know, we meet a lot of people, so.


BRIGGS: That's what Sessions said in March. But investigators are not so sure.