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Sessions to Testify Today About Russia Probe; Will Trump Fire Mueller?; Trump's Weird Cabinet Meeting; Interview with Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin; Warriors Win NBA Title. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 13, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The company is rolling out Snaplications, a ten-second ad that swipes right to its career website.

[05:00:07] Temporary positions are aimed at young people. And they will last from June to August of this year. Here you go.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: It's good because we old people have no idea how to use the format, at least this old guy.

ROMANS: Good thing you already have a good.

BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START continues right now.



JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, but I did meet one Russian official a couple of times.


ROMANS: Today, a major day for the Trump White House. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be under oath, testifying about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and his involvement in the firing of James Comey.

BRIGGS: Is President Trump weighing whether to fire special counsel Robert Mueller? Well, a close friend to the president says the option is on the table.

ROMANS: It's being called the weirdest cabinet meeting of all time. President Trump's cabinet secretaries all taking turns to lavish compliments on their boss.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Certainly the most unique first cabinet hearing --

BRIGGS: Unique.

ROMANS: Cabinet meeting I have ever seen.

All right. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Tuesday, June 13th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

You know, John Wooden, the late great UCLA coach, used to say, surround yourself with smart people who will argue with you -- one of my favorite quotes of all time.

ROMANS: It's true.

BRIGGS: Donald Trump does not believe in that phrase.

All right. Well, this morning, it's all eyes on another pivotal Senate hearing for the Trump administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifying at 2:30 today and from the Senate Intelligence Committee, among many critical questions. Sessions will be likely asked to respond directly to an accusation from fired FBI Director James Comey.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: My impression was something big is about to happen, I need to remember every single word that is spoken. And again, I could be wrong, I'm 56 years old. I've seen a few things. My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering, and I don't know Mr. Kushner well, but I think he picked up on the same thing. And so, I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to.


BRIGGS: So, a preview of today's hearing, here's CNN's Jessica Schneider from Washington.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, tough and intense questioning is expected today when the attorney general testifies. Several questions linger, including what role did Jeff Sessions have in the firing of James Comey, especially since Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation. Also, what is Sessions' response to Comey's contention that Sessions left him alone with the president and then didn't respond when Comey told the attorney general it was inappropriate? And perhaps most pressing, did Jeff Sessions have a third undisclosed

meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in April 2016? That's something that James Comey told senators in a closed-door session last week that investigators are looking into. So, all of these questions swirl, all as the White House is weighing whether to exert executive privilege. Press Secretary Sean Spicer would only say that it would depend on the scope of the questions.

But a senior administration official is telling our Sara Murray that the White House actually might hold back and hope that Jeff Sessions actually restrained on his own. So, there is a lot of anticipation for what will likely be another largely watched round of public testimony. It all begins this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and senators, meanwhile, they're still deciding whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be asked to testify in a classified briefing after that public hearing -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jessica Schneider, thank you.

The White House pushing back hard this morning against a claim by a longtime friend of the president that Mr. Trump is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. "Newsmax" CEO Chris Ruddy claiming the president is considering firing the Russia election meddling investigator as one possible option.


CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX EDITOR IN CHIEF: I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option. I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake.


BRIGGS: Press Secretary Sean Spicer rejecting Ruddy's claim in a statement overnight, quote: Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue. With respect to the subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.

So, in the wake of FBI Director James Comey's firing, the mere suggestion President Trump might terminate Mueller is drawing rapid fire, as you might expect, from Capitol Hill. The top Dem on the House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, tweeting: If the president fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately reestablish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller. Don't waste our time.

[05:05:01] Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Drucker, senior correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", a man who clearly never sleeps. He was our lead in actually.

ROMANS: I know. Thanks for coming back.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I changed my clothes. BRIGGS: You did? Well done, even the pocket square.

DRUCKER: Always a pocket square.

BRIGGS: There is some criticism of Bob Mueller, of the special council. And it comes from a predictable place. That is Newt Gingrich, who tweeted, Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair. Look who he's hiring. Check FEC reports, time to rethink.

So, the question is these people that Bob Mueller has appointed, James Quarles, Jeannie Rhee, Andrew Weissmann, Michael Dreeben, some call it an all-star legal team, but they have all made donations to the Democratic Party.

Is that a problem for this investigation? It certainly looks back at the optics.

DRUCKER: I think that image-wise, it could -- it will certainly rub some people the wrong way. I think you have to dig into some of the numbers there. I mean, there's a couple members of the team. They have given maybe a thousand dollars, two thousand dollars over the course of years. I don't think that's such a big deal.

One of the people appointed has given a sizable amount of money again over a period of years.

ROMANS: Of decades.

DRUCKER: Yes. And in this time when everyone is so hyperpartisan and everybody focuses on everything, there's some people that will look at that and they will conclude they are going to have it in for President Trump and that the only thing they're going to be intent on doing is finding wrongdoing.

So, now, having said that, let's back up for a minute. Newt Gingrich, who did raise an interesting point just three weeks ago, said that Bob Mueller was unimpeachable.

BRIGGS: Right.

DRUCKER: That Republicans should rest easy, as should us the media and let this investigation go about its business. And so, what you have seen over the past few days is a move by supporters of the president who's trying to undermine the credibility of Bob Mueller, when they have had nothing but good things to say up until now.

ROMANS: What. Let's talk about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general today, and what we could learn from this testimony. What are you expecting? I know, you know, was there collusion with Russia? Did Trump obstruct justice? How many times did Jeff Sessions meet with Russian officials? These are the kinds of questions that will be asked.

DRUCKER: Correct. And I don't think we're not going to learn all that too much if we're looking for some real juicy items because Jeff Sessions, unlike Bob Comey -- Jim Comey from last week, Jeff Sessions works for the president and is loyal to the president and wants to protect the administration, even if it's protecting the administration from mistakes that he made.

So, I do think we can learn more about his meetings with Russian officials, which even though there was a lot of scrutiny about the fact that other members of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate didn't meet with the ambassador from Russia, I still sympathy think that the real problem is lack of disclosure, not so much the meeting. I do think it's plausible and very believable that Jeff Sessions being one of the few people that was close to Donald Trump when he was a candidate and of people not really having around the world a read on him, that certain people would want to meet with him --


DRUCKER: -- to get to know him and troy to get an understanding through people close to him, like Jeff Sessions, what his administration might be like.

And my point is, had he simply disclosed the meeting, I don't think e we would be here.

ROMANS: Right.

DRUCKER: I don't think Jeff Sessions would have recused himself from the Russia investigation.

And on the left, a lot of people would have carped and they would have complained, and it's worth discussing. The same way it's worth discussing the donations on the Mueller team. But I don't think it necessarily would have meant there's something nefarious going on.

BRIGGS: But you want to hear the attorney general's opinion on why he thought it was OK for an FBI director to be alone in the oval with the president after ushering these people out. Another question that might come up, though, is about what Chris Ruddy said last night, that the notion of firing Bob Mueller is apparently on the table for President Trump.

What would Jeff Sessions, what would Republicans feel if that were the president's intended?

DRUCKER: So, two things here that you bring up and I think are really interesting. One, given the chain of command that is usually very, very carefully adhered to between the president and Justice Department and the FBI, I do think it will be interesting to ask to see if Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, comments on this notion of exactly how often does his boss, the president, even though he has the right to do it, because Trump does oversee the Justice Department, it's not an independent agency, that how often does he go around the chain of command that has been established for precisely the reason that we never want -- the government never wants the appearance of meddling in it its own investigations.

And then I think the other thing that's raised there exactly is, how is this investigation being handled and would he support a presidential directive to the Justice Department that Bob Mueller be dismissed?

[05:10:00] I looked at that Chris Ruddy comment last night, which as you guys know spread like wildfire --

ROMANS: Right.

DRUCKER: -- as a trial balloon. If we learned anything from the Trump campaign --

ROMANS: Interesting.

DRUCKER: -- they love to throw things out there and see if it sticks. It ended up forcing, or at least the administration was compelled to dismiss the whole thing. Sean Spicer put out a statement, late at night saying, we haven't talked to Mr. Ruddy about this. This isn't something -- basically we're not considering doing this.

I still look at it as a trial balloon that could end up coming to fruition. So, we'll have to keep an eye on it.

ROMANS: And all of this sort of processed drama in Washington and the president is going to Waukesha, Wisconsin, today with his daughter, you know, to talk about factory jobs. So, when you come back in a few minutes, let's talk about how he's doing with those people who got him here and whether all of this -- all of this palace intrigue is helping or hurting him.

BRIGGS: And a bizarre cabinet meeting. We have to ask you about that.

ROMANS: Oh my gosh.

BRIGGS: And we'll heap praise on you when you come back.

ROMANS: Yes, all right.

BRIGGS: All right. Another setback for President Trump's travel ban. The president's own tweets working against him. We'll talk to one of the key players in the travel ban. The attorney general of Hawaii joins us live, next.


[05:15:24] ROMANS: Welcome back.

Another legal setback for President Trump's travel ban. Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin finding a brief at the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the DOJ's request to put the revised travel ban into effect. This comes after a three-judge panel affirmed a Hawaii judge ruling that blocked the ban. The judges cited the president's own tweets in making the decision, like this one: The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Doug Chin joins us now.

Thank you so much for joining us.

So, tell us, in essence, what did you tell the Supreme Court in your briefing that is different if at all from what we heard from these other panels of judges?

DOUGLAS CHIN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, HAWAII: Well, I think one of the most important things that came out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was that they took a different analysis than what the other courts had done. So, the first thing they did was they found that the injunction against the travel ban was the right thing to do because the executive order was violating immigration laws.

All the other courts had talked about there being a constitutional violation because of some sort of discrimination against people and so based upon their nation of origin or based upon their religion. And so, what you have here is you have the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals finding a different route.

Here's some choice courts that came from that decision. The first one was that they said immigration, even for the president, is not a one- person show. And then the other part that was very interesting from this court is that they said national security is not some talismanic incantation that can just be said by the president in order to justify any and all actions. So, there's some pretty strong words, even from this opinion.

BRIGGS: Mr. Attorney General, much has been made, and for good reason, of the president's tweets and, of course, his campaign statements. But if you take all of that out of the equation and just focused on the legality of this, what's on paper, if this was issued by George Bush, would it be legal?

CHIN: Right, so what the ninth circuit court of appeals did in yesterday's opinion is said, we're not even going to take that analysis route. We're going to present you with another reason for why this travel ban is against immigration laws. And what they did was they said is they went to the provision that a lot of people have focused on in it recent months where it talks about how the president has these broad powers to suspend entry of people into the United States when he makes a finding that it is detrimental to the interests of the American people.

And so, what the court did actually in this decision is they said the president didn't even make that finding. In other words, the evidence that he had was so flimsy, he was pointing to two people from Libya and one person from Somalia who entered 12 years ago when that person was a child. And they said, you can't really use that alone to justify banning 180 million people from six Muslim majority nations simply based on such light and scant evidence.

ROMANS: Let's read for you the Department of Justice response to the travel ban ruling.

Recent attacks confirm that the threat to our nation is immediate and real. Certain countries shelter or sponsor terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, and we may be unable to obtain information on individuals from these war torn states. We must not place our nation at risk until we have the ability accurately and responsibly to vet those seeking entry here.

That is the response from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

What do you expect will happen next here? I mean, the next move in this, a Supreme Court ruling?

CHIN: Right. So, what we have now is we have a Ninth Circuit Decision, which most likely, in fact, I think it's a practical guarantee the U.S. Department of Justice is going to appeal that one up to the Supreme Court on the merits. But a couple weeks ago, what happened was the U.S. Department of Justice had appealed the fourth circuit decision out of the east coast region and when they did that, they also asked the Supreme Court before they recessed at the end of June to issue a stay.

In other words, it's just another way of saying that they wanted a travel ban to go forward.

[05:20:01] BRIGGS: All right. Well, Mr. Attorney General, it's 11:20 p.m. there in Honolulu. We appreciate you staying up with us.

CHIN: Sure is.

BRIGGS: Check back with us once we hear the next chapter in this.

ROMANS: Thank you, sir.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The NBA has crowned a new champion. The Golden State Warriors knocking the king off his throne. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report". That's next.


BRIGGS: All right. Let's talk some sports.

The Warriors stealing the crown from King James and the Cavs, winning their second title in three years.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey there.

BRIGGS: Hey, buddy.


Warriors, absolutely mission they have been on since blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Cavs last year's finals.

[05:25:02] And this year, well, that mission is complete. A record setting 16-1 in the playoffs, picking up Kevin Durant in the off season turned out to be the difference for the Warriors. Kevin Durant shining in game five, 39 points. He's the first player since Shaquille O'Neal back in 2000 to post five straight 30-point games in the finals.

Durant, unanimous choice as finals MVP and LeBron James who had a great showing himself showing respect for Durant. That was KD's first NBA title. With him all the way was his mom who he famously called the real MVP three years ago.


KEVIN DURANT, WARRIORS FORWARD: I just wanted to lay it all out there. I put in work. I just had had to trust in it. We were really good tonight. You got to tip your hat to Cleveland, man.

We did it. I told you when we were 8 years old. We did it. Yes.


WIRE: The Warriors popping an estimated 150 bottles of $1,200 champagne. An early start on your map, Christine Romans. That's about $180,000 of Moet. It's been a long season. They are going to get to party with the fans on Thursday as the parade is already been scheduled by the city of Oakland.

All right. One hundred eighty Clemson Tigers and staff were treated to a trip to the White House yesterday celebrating their football national championship win over Alabama. Head coach Dabo Swinney giving president Trump a jersey to mark the occasion.

This is not the first time that Coach Dabo has been to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He was there as a player when he was a walk-on for the Crimson Tide back in 1992 when they won a title. So, pretty cool stuff there for the Clemson Tigers.

BRIGGS: Yes, Dabo looks like a Trump fan. Steve Kerr and Steph Curry, not so much. So, now, we wonder, will they visit the Trump White House?

Coy Wire, thank you, sir.

WIRE: You're welcome.

ROMANS: All right. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies today before the Senate intelligence committee. Will Sessions invoke executive privilege and refuse to answer questions about the Russia investigation? More on what to expect.