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Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Sessions has four key questions to answer; Sessions' letter offering to testify before the Senate Intel Committee caught many off guard; The president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., defending his father on Fox News; President Trump has also refuses to say whether tapes exist of both private conversations Comey; One leading Republican saying, the president should just stop talking; Critics are calling her dead woman walking; U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara spoke out Sunday. Aired 4-4:30 am ET

Aired June 12, 2017 - 04:00   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN EARLY START SHOW HOST: Will Jeff Sessions testify in public tomorrow? That's the big question this morning as the attorney general faces tough questions about his role in the Russia investigation.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN EARLY START SHOW HOST: President Trump slamming James Comey again on Twitter and refusing to admit whether tapes exist of their private conversations. Will the Russia cloud threaten to wreck another week for the White House?


BRIGGS: Good morning and welcome to Early Start. I hope you had a great weekend and you, my friend. I'm Dave Briggs. You survived.

ROMANS: The weekend's over...


BRIGGS: You survived.

ROMANS: I survived, a lot of soccer, and a lot of hot. It was hot this weekend.

BRIGGS: It was hot indeed.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, Monday, June 12th. It is 4:00 A.M. in the east. A new week and this morning, the Senate Intelligence Committee still has not confirmed whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify tomorrow in an open or closed session.

Or whether the hearing will actually happen tomorrow, as Sessions himself said in a letter, or whether it will happen at all since some senators are concerned, this is a gambit by Sessions to avoid testifying in public about Russian election meddling.

BRIGGS: So if and when the hearing does happen, it should be another pivotal day of congressional testimony. Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Sessions has four key questions to answer.


CHUCK SCHUMER, SENATOR, UNITED STATES: First, did he interfere with the Russian investigation before he recused himself? Second, what safeguards are there now so that he doesn't interfere? Third, he says he was involved in the firing of Comey, and the president said Comey was fired because of Russia.

How does that fit in with his recusal? It doesn't seem to stand up well to me. And fourth, he's been involved in the selection of the new FBI director. Did he talk about the Russia investigation with them?


BRIGGS: Sessions' letter offering to testify before the Senate Intel Committee caught many off guard, including members of the committee. CNN's Athena Jones traveling with the president at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, and she has the latest.

ATHENA JONES, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Good morning, Christine and Dave. It's up to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee to decide whether to allow the attorney general to testify on Tuesday and whether that session will be open to the public or closed to the public. This request by the attorney general took the committee by surprise.

This is according to reporting by my colleague, Manu Raju. That is why they've been slow to give definitive answers about their plans. There are also concerns among some members of the committee that Sessions may be trying to avoid testifying publicly.

Among those concerned are the vice chairman, who is the top Democrat on the committee, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. Another Democrat on the committee who's expressed concern about this is Oregon's Ron Wyden. Wyden has sent a letter to the chairman and vice chairman asking that any session with Sessions be open to the public.

And of course, we know that congressional investigators have a lot of questions for the attorney general. Among them, we could expect them to touch on the issue of -- of his involvement in the firing of James Comey as FBI director.

Comey has said he believes he was fired because of his handling of the Russia investigation, and Sessions, of course, was supposed to have recused himself from the Russia investigation, anything related to investigating the campaign of which he was a part.

So, we're still waiting for answers on whether we'll see Sessions testify, but we know there are going to be a lot of questions for him if and when he does. Back to you guys. BRIGGS: Athena Jones, thank you. President Trump escalating his

defiant response to former FBI Director James Comey's testimony, that the president asked him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation. The president tweeting Sunday, "I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal. Very cowardly."

The president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., defending his father on Fox News, but also possibly backing up James Comey's claim the president discussed ending the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn.


DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S OLDEST SON: When I hear the Flynn comments, you and I both know my father a long time. When he tells you to do something --


TRUMP JR: Guess what? There's no ambiguity in it. There's no, hey, I'm hoping. You and I are friends, hey, I hope this happens, but you've got to do your job. That's what he told Comey. And for this guy as a politician to then go back and write a memo, oh, I felt threatened. He felt so threatened, he felt that but he didn't do anything.


ROMANS: President Trump has also refuses to say whether tapes exist of both private conversations Comey. Now the president's lawyer is saying, we will find out soon.


MICHAEL D. COHEN, Spokesperson, PRESIDENT TRUMP: The president said he's going to address the issue of the tapes, whether the tapes exist or not, next week. That's the decision that the president will make in consultation with his chief lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, and that the president said he'll address it next week.


ROMANS: Other response from the Republican Party to all has been mixed.

[04:10:00] One leading Republican saying, the president should just stop talking.


LINDSEY GRAHAM, SENATOR, UNITED STATES: What the president did was inappropriate, but here's what's so frustrating for Republicans like me. You may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that if you just were quiet would clear you.


BRIGGS: Meanwhile, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara spoke out Sunday, offering his take on President Trump's decision to fire him. Bharara says that, when he was federal prosecutor for the New York City area, Mr. Trump called him three times. He says less than 24 hours after he refused to return the third call, the president abruptly fired him.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER ATTORNEY, U.S.: So, they're very unusual phone calls, and it sort of -- when I've been reading the stories about how the president has been contacting Jim Comey over time, it felt a little bit like deja vu. I said it appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship.

It's a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation with -- without the attorney general, without warning, between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things.


BRIGGS: Bharara says he felt it was important for him to keep at arms length from the president, giving his jurisdiction over business interests in New York, including the Trump organization.

ROMANS: All right, six minutes past the hour. Two new residents in the White House this morning, Melania and Barron Trump. They just moved in. Four and a half months into Donald Trump's presidency, the first lady chose to stay in New York with their 11-year-old son until he finished up the school year. Barron becomes the first boy to live in the White House since 1963, when John F. Kennedy Jr. was three- years-old.


ROMANS: After getting settled in, Melania tweeted "looking forward to memories we'll make in our new home."

BRIGGS: Billionaire real estate model, reality TV star, president, you can now add a new title to Donald Trump's resume, wedding crasher. As we mentioned, the president spent the weekend at his Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. When he had a little down time, he decided to stop by the wedding reception of Tucker Gladhill and his bride, Kristen.

The president was not on the guest list. The secret service let everyone know he was stopping by with just a few minutes' notice. The president posed for pictures with the newlyweds, signed some "Make America Great Again" hats before moving on. Wedding Crashers 2, live in...


ROMANS: All right, breaking overnight, the Montana congressman-elect accused of body-slamming a reporter has agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault this morning. Well, this is to say Greg Gianforte tackled The Guardian Reporter Ben Jacobs last month, putting his hands around Jacobs' neck. Gianforte has apologized to Jacobs.

He had pledged a $50,000 donation to the committee to protect journalists. The county prosecutor says he'll reveal his sentencing recommendation of this morning's hearing, Gianforte faces up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

All right, tech stocks have kept Wall Street's bulls running, but a recent plunge is fueling concerns a collapse is overdue. Five of the biggest names fell about four percent on Friday, big tumble there for Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet, parent company of Google.

What happened? Well, an analyst noted their high values parallel to the tech bubble of the early 2000s. For example, Amazon and Alphabet recently hit $1,000 per share and these five stocks have added $600 billion to the market this year, which is another concern.

Just like tech leaders in 2000, these companies have an oversized impact on the overall stock market, accounting for more than a third of the gains of the S&P five hundred this year. However, today's tech stocks have a few advantages over companies back in 2000, prices are cheaper, they have a lot more cash. In fact, Apple alone holds about $250 billion overseas. Just a little bit of a cash cushion there.

BRIGGS: Hard to put that number in perspective.

ROMANS: Wow. Wow.

BRIGGS: All right, British Prime Minister Theresa May still hanging on after two top advisers resign following last week's dramatic election loss. Is the UK parliament still in limbo? We go to London live next.


ROMANS: Critics are calling her dead woman walking, british Prime Minister Theresa May barely clinging to power after losing her majority in parliament during last week's stunning snap election.

An agreement to unite her Conservative Party with the Minority Party would keep her in power but the deal had not materialized yet. We want to go to London this morning and bringing it to you is Oren Liebermann. Good morning, Oren. The prime minister facing calls to resign. How likely is that to happen?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Christine, it's not likely to happen just yet. The question is how much longer can she remain in power? As you point out, there are numbers who are calling for her to resign after this disastrous election result. It seems like she'll be here for at least a few more weeks, and that's because her chief rivals even within her party have decided at this point to back her.

That is an indication of how calamitous these election results actually were. She lost a tremendous amount of seats, and yet, the rivals within her party are backing her, because to introduce more instability, more uncertainty at this point, would only do more damage to the party.

And what's looming only a week ahead is the beginning of Brexit negotiations. Prime Minister Theresa May expected to be stronger now, a larger majority, more leverage on the process. Instead, it's the exact opposite. She is weaker. She has less leverage, and that may give the EU more power in these negotiations. So that is why her party's backing her at the moment.

And yet, it's a question of how long can she last. She's had to make concessions to -- to stay in power, both to another party just to prop up her minority government as well as to rivals within her own party.

That is the delicate balancing act she is forced to walk over the next few weeks and months and perhaps until we see early election results. May has promised she will last a full term of five years. Christine, I don't think anybody expects that to happen.

ROMANS: Certainly, the whole thing has been upended.

[04:20:00] All right, thank you so much, Oren Liebermann, nice to see you this morning.

BRIGGS: Today marks one year since the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Memorial service scheduled across the country and what's being called Orlando United Day. The city urging churches to ring their bells forty-nine times at noon in honor of the forty- nine people killed in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

ROMANS: All right, Washington, D.C., and the State of Maryland are suing President Trump for allegedly violating anticorruption clauses in the constitution. This lawsuit is the first of its kind filed by government entities.

It claims the president's have accepted millions of dollars in payments and benefits from foreign governments since taking office, and has not kept his promise to shift his assets into a trust managed by his sons. If the lawsuit is allowed to proceed, the attorneys general for DC and Maryland plan to demand copies of the president's tax returns through the discovery process.

BRIGGS: Also later today, the Supreme Court may announce whether it will take up a critical case on partisan gerrymandering or redistricting. In 2011, newly elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker reconfigured the state's voting districts and the following year, Republicans captured a sixty to thirty-nine advantage in the assembly.

In 2016, a Federal Court ruled the districts were unconstitutionally redrawn to favor Republicans and marginalize minority voters. Now the Supreme Court will affirm or reverse that ruling or order full briefings so it can hear this case this fall. This is a problem on both sides of the aisle. Everyone uses gerrymandering or redistricting. It needs to be addressed across the country. It's a major problem. ROMANS: All right, this morning, Penn State fraternity members facing

charges in that disturbing hazing death. A trial is expected in -- they're expected in court today. More on what to expect, next.


BRIGGS: Eighteen members of a now-banned Penn State fraternity charged in connection with the hazing death of a pledge will appear in court this morning, a hearing to determine if there's enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Now, the key piece of evidence, this surveillance video from inside the fraternity house that prosecutors say shows exactly what happened when Penn State student Timothy Piazza died. We get more now from CNN'S Sara Ganim.

SARA GANIM, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Dave and Christine, the most significant thing that could happen this morning is that prosecutors could decide to show the surveillance video from inside the fraternity house, the twelve hours that Tim Piazza struggled and declined before turning ashen and then non-responsive.

I spoke with his parents about this last month, about the details from that surveillance tape and the hours that their son spent struggling. Take a listen.


JIM PIAZZA, TIM PIAZZA'S FATHER: In my mind, it was murder. They let him suffer for twelve hours. They let him die a very slow death. It's not any way anybody should ever be treated.


GANIM: Now, this morning's hearing is a hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to move forward to a trial for these eighteen fraternity members who are charged. Attorneys for these men have been mostly tight-lipped, but some of them did tell me, they plan to fight these charges, one saying that "gathering the pitch forks and aiming at these young men is extremely disappointing."

He went on to say this, "the government assumes that these young men, many of whom were intoxicated themselves, should have been able to differentiate symptoms of extreme intoxication from symptoms of a life-threatening head injury. That is an impossible burden to place on them." That's the view of the attorney. Of course, we'll see what the judge says today. Dave and Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Sara Ganim, that's a tragic story (Inaudible). Thanks, Sara. Bill Cosby's indecent assault to a trial entering a second week with the defense set to call its first witness this morning.

Prosecutors rested their case on Friday after calling a dozen witnesses, including Cosby's accuser, Andrea Constand, and her mother. Constand alleged that Cosby drugged and molested her at his home in 2004. The 79-year-old comedian faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He is not expected -- not not expected to testify in his own defense.

BRIGGS: U.S. and Somali forces conducting precision strikes against the Al-Shabaab terrorism group in Somalia. Pentagon officials say that joint operation is the first under new expanded authority by President Trump back in March.

It designates part of Somalia as an area of active hostility, giving the U.S. military more power to strike target believed to be linked to the Al-Shabaab. According to the U.S. African Command, eight Al- Shabaab terrorists were killed in the attack.

ROMANS: A night to honor Broadway's best in show, the big winner at the 71st Tony Awards this Sunday, Dear Evan Hansen. Taking home six Tony's including the top prize for best new musical. Also a big night for Hello, Dolly!, named best musical revival.

And it star Bette Midler, who won the Tony for best leading actress in a musical and outlasted the playoff music with her acceptance speech. Oslo, a drama tells a largely unknown back story behind the 1993 Middle East peace talks won for best new play. James Earl Jones was honored for the special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in theater.


BRIGGS: I was going to say, we all associate his voice with this very network.

ROMANS: This is CNN.

BRIGGS: All right, will Jeff Sessions testify in public tomorrow? That's the big question this morning. We'll discuss what's at stake for the attorney general and the Russia probe, next.


BRIGGS: Attorney General Jeff Sessions facing mounting pressure to testify publicly tomorrow before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

ROMANS: President Trump fighting back against James Comey again on Twitter. Will the Russia probe threaten to wreck another week for this White House? Welcome back to Early Start. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. Wedding Crashers 2, finally gets a sequel, right? Wedding Crashers -- the president of the United States is in the sequel. We'll show you that in just a moment. But first, the Senate Intelligence Committee still has not confirmed whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify in an open or closed session.

Or whether the hearing will actually happen tomorrow as Sessions himself has said in a letter or whether this will happen at all since some senators are concerned this is just a gambit by Sessions to avoid testifying in public about Russian election meddling. ROMANS: If and when the hearing does happen, it should be another

pivotal day of congressional testimony. Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Sessions has four key questions to answer.


SCHUMER: First, did he interfere with the Russian investigation before he recused himself? Second, what safeguards are there now so that he doesn't interfere?