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Don Jr. Meeting Triggers White House Crisis; Congress Reacts to Trump Jr. Emails; MLB All-Stars Shine. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 12, 2017 - 05:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP, JR., PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SON: In retrospect, I probably would have done things differently.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump Jr. on the defensive after releasing e-mails showing he was ready to accept Russia's help during the election. Now, all accounts suggest the chaos in this White House is reaching peak levels.

EARLY START's coverage of all this begins right now.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Wednesday, July 12th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

This morning, an already fractious White House and escalating chaos coping with the fallout from Don Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer and his release of the e-mails setting it all up. "The New York Times" out front on all this says the president's aides and lawyers have formed what the paper calls a circular firing squad, slamming each other to the decisions made since Don Jr.'s meeting with the Russians came to light.

[05:00:06] The younger Trump's own emails ahead of the meeting provide the most direct evidence he was willing, in fact even eager to accept help from a foreign adversary.

ROMANS: An email from publicist and Trump associate Bob Goldstone made the pitch. Quote: Very high level and sensitive information, part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump. Don Jr.'s response: if it's what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.

Now, he's speaking out on his own defense, telling FOX News: in retrospect, he would have done things a little differently.


TRUMP JR.: And this is 13 months ago, before I think the rest of the world was talking about that, trying to build up this narrative about Russia. So I don't even think my sirens went up or the antennas went up at this time because it wasn't the issue that's been made to be over the last, you know, nine months, 10 months.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you tell your father anything about this?

TRUMP JR: No, it was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell. I mean, I wouldn't have even remembered it until you start scouring through the stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.


BRIGGS: So far, Don Jr. has not spoken to the FBI nor handed over documents, but his lawyer says he's willing to talk to any investigators. Last night, new reporting from "The Times" that the president signed off on Don Jr.'s initial statement crafted by Trump advisors late Saturday, a statement that made no reference to the meeting being about this damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Now, "The Times" also reported the president is frustrated with his attorney Marc Kasowitz, while Kasowitz and his team are frustrated with what they see as meddling by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. A lawyer for the president denies all this reporting.

ROMANS: The president himself preparing to head back to Europe later today, posting a new tweet of support for his son. He is a great person who loves our country. That's a notably stronger endorsement of Don Jr. than the one earlier in the day that came from the White House.

Here's White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have a quick statement that I'll read from the president.

My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency and beyond that I'm going to have to refer everything on this matter to Don Jr.'s counsel and outside counsel and won't have anything else to add beyond that.


ROMANS: Won't have anything else to add beyond that, and I will point out, the reason why you're not seeing video of her is because this is one of those press briefings that just was audio. This is kind of the new way they do things in the White House. Unusual --

BRIGGS: But nothing on the schedule today and the president expected to answer two questions in France tomorrow. We can guess what those would be about.

ROMANS: Ironically tense where there was accusations of meddling by the Russians in that campaign -- BRIGGS: Yes, Emmanuel Macron has something to say about that.

Joining us to discuss all of this, Zach Wolf, digital director for CNN politics, and CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisor special agent.

Good morning to both of you.

And, James, let's start with the obvious. Criminality here, is there any on the behalf of Don Trump Jr.?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT: Sure. I mean, you've got to look at this from a couple perspectives. You've got to look at the collusion in. You've got to look at the violations of possible campaign finance. Did Trump campaign receive some type of benefit, or was there an offer of a benefit from a foreign state?

I think we have to be careful and I've heard a number of people talk about this. In fact, Senator Tim Kaine made this statement about, you know, potential treason. We don't want to go that far, because I think what happens is when people hear things when we're trying to expand statutes to cover this, they get uncomfortable.

No one could read that e-mail yesterday, no matter what your political stripe was, especially those of us in law enforcement, a former law enforcement and not have been uncomfortable looking at that and saying, wow, this just smacks of impropriety. But on the legal end, we've just have to be careful. We've got to let special prosecutor Mueller and his team of investigators, let them do their investigation and let it run its course.

ROMANS: Zach, let's listen to a little bit of what Don Jr. said to Sean Hannity last night, because he said, you know, things were going a million miles a minute. This was a time of the campaign was way before there was a -- the media was making a big deal about the Russia angle.

Listen to how he explains himself.


TRUMP JR.: In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently. Again, this is before the Russian mania. This is before they were building it up in the press. For me, this was opposition research. They had something, you know, maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I'd been hearing about, but they were probably underreported for, you know, years, not just during the campaign. So, I think I wanted to hear it out, but really, it went nowhere and it was apparent that that wasn't what the meeting was actually about.


ROMANS: It went nowhere, but, boy, it really went somewhere. Now, here we are all these months later here. Is that going to be enough from Don Jr., do you think? ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, it

reminded me of what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said when they found out that he had met with the Russian ambassador and others, kind of deny, deny, deny.

[05:05:09] And then when you're faced with the smoking gun, oh, wait, you know, whoops, I guess that did happen. So, as a defense, I'm not sure this one probably is going to go very far.

You know, at least publicly, this has happened -- you know, Michael Flynn, Jeff sessions now Don Jr., Jared Kushner was left public in his defense but we're seeing the same kind of thing where they deny something happened and then faced with the fact of it, have had to come out and say, oh, wait, yes it did and it's just smoke and smoke and smoke. It compounds itself until you have trouble believing what they say.

ROMANS: The smoke is so distracting, right? The lack of transparency has been such a problem from the beginning. You know, effective administrations, all administrations, you need a couple thousand really smart people who are willing to work 24/7 and basically, you know, strain their family relations to get stuff done, and this is a White House, Zach, that's not fully staffed yet, an administration, the executive branch is not even fully staffed. I can't imagine what kind of chaos is going on behind the scenes.

WOLF: Oh, my gosh. It is sucking up all of the energy. They're supposed to be voting on a health care bill. That's already been delayed several times. So, they want to get that done before the August recess up on Capitol Hill.

None of the things that he's promised politically to do, promising the American people he would do, he's get around to because this is so dominating. Everything everybody is talking about.

BRIGGS: Staffing up and getting work done on health care. That's part of the reason Mitch McConnell has delayed the August recess, but, James, I want to talk to you again about the White House defense here, whether it's Kellyanne Conway, whether it's Sarah Huckabee Sanders or what we heard from Donald Trump Jr. last night, they say, well, nothing was really revealed here. Nothing really came of this meeting. Is that inconsequential in the terms of the scheme of things? In terms of the investigation?

GAGLIANO: Well, I mean, it's not -- I think from the law enforcement perspective a lot of times, it's not what you know. It's what you can prove. And in some of these statutes, because they have the intent piece to it, that's very difficult.

What's helpful for investigators is, they're going to subpoena all these e-mails. And as you pointed out earlier, they're going to subpoena them from everybody that had contact with the president, with members of his transition team, and then they're going to go back and use like a forensic evidence harvesting technique to go through and piece all these together. There's something that we do very well in the FBI. Remember, they're still doing the investigation, even with the special prosecutor.


GAGLIANO: The career FBI agents and prosecutors. We do link analysis and that link analysis made much easier in the 21st century where you have telephone calls and cellular phone records that you can piece things together, who came in, look at the visitor log, you know, who traveled into Trump Towers that day and to do this piece in this link now? It will be interesting to find out.

ROMANS: This is -- you know, it reminds me of something that the House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, said yesterday on FOX News about just get it all out there. You know get it all out there. Listen.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Someone close to the president needs to get everyone connected with that campaign in a room and say from the time you saw Dr. Zhivago until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single one of those and we're going to turn them over to the special counsel because this drip, drip, drip is undermining the credibility.


ROMANS: Good advice?

GAGLIANO: Absolutely, and that's refreshing to hear Congressman Gowdy say that, because I think no matter, again, what your political stripe is, if you look at this thing and you're calling balls and strikes, that e-mail, that email is represented of smoking gun. That email exchange between Don Jr. and Goldstone is a smoking gun.

Now, what's behind that, where else that went, what other link analysis they can put together that's going to determine whether or not they can find a crime there. Unseemly? Yes. Criminal? Difficult to say.

BRIGGS: And back now from the legal to the political, Zach, you heard Gowdy there. Republicans on the Hill, these questions will not stop. How do you expect them to answer them? How do you expect all of this to impact the agenda?

WOLF: You know, the agenda is totally on the side burners right now. Maybe Mitch McConnell can pull a rabbit out of his hat with health care. I think they would love to move on to something else, but anything is going to be compromised in terms of this president help -- actually helping them pass it until he kind of get past all of this. So, that's one thing.

And just pay attention to what Republicans on Capitol Hill were saying. You heard Trey Gowdy giving advice right there. When he starts criticizing, and, you know, you're calling for investigations, when Republicans are joining those calls, then you know this White House has a real problem. We saw a little bit of that yesterday from the congressman from New

York and John McCain, was saying there will be more shoes to drop, I'm not sure exactly how he would know, although he is a noted survivor of scandal himself.

[05:10:06] But, you know, just keep on eye on those Republicans and what they're talking about.

ROMANS: Zach, we're showing just sort of a sampling of some of the op-eds and the headlines. You know, Donald Trump's hometown, "The New York Post", which has been friendly territory to him -- Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot is a headline there. "The Wall Street Journal" has a fascinating piece, Keystone Kops collusion, which brings up the point that I just made about how they have a lot of work to do in Washington and they are -- these scandals -- these scandals come to many administrations, no doubt.

We've all covered and survived them, right? But it's so early in this administration and they're not really staffed up and ready to go. And "The New York Times" talks about this circular firing squad right now, just people blaming each other even in the days thins this revolution came through. It's remarkable.

BRIGGS: The fire --

WOLF: It becomes harder to sort of cut loose somebody who has to do with this scandal when they share the name of the president. That just makes it more difficult.

BRIGGS: This thing is certainly not over. Zach Wolf, James Gagliano, you aren't done either. We'll see you in about 20 minutes. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. How is all this affecting the stock market? A roller coaster. Details next.


[05:15:30] ROMANS: Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mails aren't just causing a political firestorm. They just triggered a wild ride for stocks. Within 30 minutes of the release of those emails, the Dow fell about 150 points. It was a kneejerk reaction, though, recovering all the losses by the closing bell, that's because overall, Wall Street has been ignoring turmoil, day-to-day turmoil in Washington. The current stock market really, you know, began years ago and has accelerated here on the hope for tax cuts and deregulation and now corporate profits are keeping the bulls running.

Remember, stock market reflects how much money companies are making and companies are rolling in the dough. Second quarter earnings kick off this week, starting with a few big name banks on Friday. And expectations for this quarter are high. Last season, profits grew at the fastest pace in years and analysts predict another solid quarter with S&P 500 corporate profit rising at least 6 percent.

Investors are also keeping an eye on Fed Chair Janet Yellen today. She heads to Capitol Hill for twice yearly testimony on the state of the economy. Not only could she offer clues of the future rate hike plans for the Fed and its plans for its balance sheet. But, you know, her own future, this is Yellen's last address before her term ends in February, and the president has not said if he will nominate her for a second term. It would be rare not to nominate her for a second term, by the way.

BRIGGS: And some interesting reporting this morning by "Politico" about a potential successor?

ROMANS: So, "Politico" has some unnamed sources saying that Gary Cohn, who runs the president's national economic council, it's his job if he wants it. Unnamed sourcing that we have not matched, but that's an interesting intrigue.

BRIGGS: Would he be welcome?

ROMANS: That's interesting palace intrigue. You know, usually it is an economist. He is not an economist. The markets usually you like the continuity of having the same person do it for another term.

Would it be welcomed? It's interesting, conservatives like him but he also is seen as a pro-free trade, you know, former Democrat. So it would be an interesting choice.

BRIGGS: Like a general manager who appoints himself to an NFL team.

ROMANS: Exactly.

BRIGGS: OK, it took extra innings to decide baseball's all star game in Miami. Any Scholes has the highlights in this morning's "Bleacher Report". He joins us next.


[05:22:10] BRIGGS: Best in baseball. Last night in Miami for the Major League Baseball all star game.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has the highlights in this morning's "Bleacher Report". Hey, Andy.


You know, for the first time, more than a decade, the all star game not deciding who has home field advantage in the World Series. The game going back to just being an exhibition but, hey, that didn't take away from all the fun. The American League all stars coming in all sizes this year. Check out first and second base.

Yankees star Aaron Judge, he's more than a foot taller than the Astros Jose Altuve. And the American League all stars having some fun with that. Now, Judge was unable to keep up the moment after winning the home run derby on Monday. He went 0 for 3 in last night's game.

Now, the highlight of the night, the funny moment, Nelson Cruz comes to the plate with his cell phone and asked the umpire Joe West to take a picture with him. Yadier Molina took the picture. It's pretty funny there.

The game would go to extra innings. Cruz's teammate Robinson Cano hitting a solo shot in the 10th. That would end up being the game winner. American League wins for the fifth straight time by the final 2-1.

All right. Michael Jordan may be soon giving baseball another try, but this time as an owner. According to reports, Jordan, who already owns the Charlotte Hornets, is joining Derek Jeter's group in an attempt to buy the Miami Marlins. A former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was once in Jeter's group trying to buy the team, but now, he has his own group with Tagg Romney, Mitt's eldest son. The competing bids are all expected to be north of $1 billion.

All right. For the first time ever, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor meeting face to face ahead of their mega bout on August 26. And McGregor, well, he took plenty of shots at the reports that Mayweather owes the IRS more than $22 million.


CONOR MCGREGOR, UFC FIGHTER: He's in a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) track suit. He can't even afford a suit anymore. His little leg, his little call, his little head, I'm going to knock him out inside four rounds. Mark my words.


SCHOLES: Now, McGregor, always a show man. You might think, well, hey, he looks sharp wearing a pinstriped suit. Well, guys, those are actually little tiny words and I can't say them on TV, go to to know what words on his suit say.

BRIGGS: All right. I'm going to

All right. A hundred dollars for that fight, will you order it?

SCHOLES: You know, I don't know if it's going to be a great fight, but I've got to see it. So, I'm in a camp that's going to pay for it.

BRIGGS: It will be entertaining. Not much is clear from that press conference there.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much, Andy Scholes.

BRIGGS: All right, guys.

ROMANS: President Trump had no idea a Russian lawyer met with a top campaign aides. That is if you believe his son.


HANNITY: Do you tell your father anything about this?

TRUMP JR.: No. It was such a nothing, there was nothing to tell.


[05:25:00] ROMANS: So, is there a new shoe to drop and who's leaking all the information?



TRUMP, JR.: In retrospect, I probably would have done things differently.


BRIGGS: Perhaps a bit of an understatement from Donald Trump Jr. after releasing e-mails critics say prove collision or at least attempted collusions with the Russians. Now chaos once again consuming the White House over the issues that just won't go away.

More of EARLY START'S coverage right now on this scandal. And the coverage this morning from the newspapers is not friendly, not even from the Trump-friendly "New York Post". Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot, not our language. Again, the Trump-friendly "New York Post". Keystone Cops collusion also amongst the editorials this morning.

And, good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.