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President Lashes Out at A.G. Jeff Sessions; Called to Testify; McCain Has Brain Cancer; O.J. Simpson to Learn His Fate Today. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 20, 2017 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:00] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, HLN CORRESPONDENT: Their vote however is on the record.

It should come about 20 minutes later and we should be all wrapped up within about an hour. Hard to believe after nine years of being an inmate, that's all it will take to decide whether O.J. Simpson should once again walk among us and maybe come to a golf course near you.

Dave, Christine, back to you.



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, astonishing.

All right. The latest on this startling interview with "The New York Times" when EARLY START continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would've picked somebody else.


ROMANS: President Trump on a tear against officials connected to the Russia investigation. His comments both undermining his attorney general and warning, warning the special prosecutor.

BRIGGS: Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner all called to testify before Congress. What this all means after revelations of their secret meeting with a Russian attorney and several others.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: God knows how this ends, not me. But I do know this: this disease has never had a more worthy opponent.


ROMANS: Words of hope and encouragement across the political world for John McCain. The senator diagnosed with brain cancer.

We have reporters this morning in Washington, Moscow, Virginia and Nevada on all our top stories.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

And I got to say, John McCain, toughest guy out there. He says he's faced worse and he's going to face this head on. But we wish his family well.

BRIGGS: Yes, everyone here at CNN offering our thoughts and our prayers. We are with you, Senator McCain.

We start this morning with President Trump lashing out at a trio of top and current officials, all with connections to these Russia investigations. In an interview with "The New York Times", and a staggering one, the president says he would have picked someone else to be attorney general if he knew Jeff Sessions would e recuse himself on Russia-related matters.

The president also attacking former FBI Director James Comey, telling "The Times" he thinks Comey tried to leverage a dossier of supposed compromising material on him in order to keep his job.

ROMANS: President Trump also took aim at special counsel Robert Mueller, saying it would be what he called a violation for Mueller to start looking into Trump family finances. The president said, quote, look, this is about Russia.

Jeff Zeleny begins our coverage this morning from the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, there's no question that today is going to be filled with questions about the president's own words about his own attorney general. In an extraordinary interview posted last night on "The New York Times" Website, President Trump was really delivering some of strongest words yet about someone who works for him.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was one of his earliest supporters, in fact, the earliest Republican to sign on to his campaign -- the president expressing in no uncertain terms his displeasure for Attorney General Sessions recusing himself in the Russia investigation.

TRUMP: Sessions should have never recused himself and if he want -- if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.


TRUMP: Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which frankly I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, thanks, Jeff, but I can't -- you know, I'm not going to take you.

ZELENY: The president going on to say in that interview that, I'm not under investigation. He said, I have not done anything wrong. But clearly, this Russia investigation is at the top of his mind. It's what he spent a lot of times in that "New York Times" interview, about 50 minutes or so long, talking about this -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Jeff. A source familiar with Sessions saying he has no intention of stepping down in the wake of President Trump's comments to "The Times". I mean, pretty remarkable his sitting attorney general to be so --

BRIGGS: Remarkable, yes, that's a good word.

And Jeff Sessions will speak this morning at 10:00 a.m. with Rod Rosenstein, the number two at justice who will also had critical words for, how will they explain this away? We shall see.

Joining us to discuss all of this, CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan in Washington, and here in New York, political analyst Ellis Henican, author of "The Trump's America" column for "The Metro Papers".

Good morning to both of you.


BRIGGS: Tal, let's start with this criticism of Jeff Sessions. Forget about the sequential order of it, which makes no sense because he actually admitted to all this after he was appointed attorney general, but where does this leave you if you are the first? If you were the first United States senator to come out and support Donald Trump, who gave him conservative legitimacy and you're trying to go about your job -- where does this leave the Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

[04:35:06] TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I think it leaves him dangling in the wind a little bit, if you want to be specific about where he is. But, you know, Jeff Sessions speaks to a very particular kind of conservative who makes up really the most strong part of Trump's base, especially folks who are very stringent on enforcing immigration laws. Jeff Sessions is emblematic of that line of thinking and has been for decades.

And so, you know, you talk about loyalty and him being the first to come out, but Sessions also represents a very important element of the administration for a lot of Trump space. And so, he's playing a tricky game here. But we've heard now for awhile that Trump is a little bit steamed and has been fuming over this decision to recuse himself, which as you point out, came because Sessions did not disclose some meetings he had with Russian officials when he was going for the job.

And so, it seems that not only was the president upset about it, he continues to be upset about it and now that's all public. ROMANS: You know, you make that point about a meeting with Russian

officials was not disclosed. Another meeting with Russian officials now causing all kinds of blowback for the administration. That is this meeting between now Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner and Don Jr. And the president was asked about Donald Trump Jr. And that's what the president was asking about.

Let's listen to this.


TRUMP: I didn't look into it very closely, to be honest with you.


TRUMP: I just heard there was an email requesting a meeting or something -- yes, requesting a meeting. That they have information on Hillary Clinton, and I said -- I mean, that's standard political stuff.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMS: Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?

TRUMP: No, I didn't know anything about the meeting.

SCHMIDT: But you didn't --

TRUMP: It must have been a very important -- must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it.

HABERMAN: No one told you a word, nothing? I know we talked about this on the plane a little bit.

TRUMP: No, nobody told me. I didn't know -- this is very unimportant - sounded like a very unimportant meeting.


ROMANS: Sounded like a very unimportant meeting. But, Ellis, it has had very important blowback and ramifications for this administration.

HENICAN: So unimportant. There were eight people there, translators. I mean, when the president meets with Putin, we don't have the gathering that we had in this case.

Listen, clearly, this pushes this conversation onto a different level. It involves closest aides, campaign aides, relatives of the president, and is right at the heart and the center of this investigation of the Russian involvement in our election. I don't see how you get away from it.

ROMANS: And I know all three principals in that meeting, Tal, are going to testify next week.

BRIGGS: They have been asked to testify. They haven't all agreed to testify. But yes, Kushner, Manafort and Don Jr. have been scheduled to testify.

ROMANS: So, Tal, does that put that story to bed or give the story new legs?

KOPAN: Put that story to bed.


HENICAN: Good luck.

KOPAN: Right, exactly. I mean, what we've been talking about for six months, and, you know, I mean, that is an unbelievable panel if you're talking about having Don Jr., Manafort together testifying before the committee potentially in public, which we understand that Mueller has cleared the way for. But there's no way it gets put to bed.

And, look, some of this is not of the Trump campaign's making. There's always going to be some things you just can't control. But a lot of this is. A lot of it has to do with transparency.

And, you know, this is the same issue that Hillary Clinton ran into when there was some investigations into her private server. It was an ability, an effort to conceal that in many ways gets you more in trouble than what actually happened. And just adds to more suspicion about why for a year this meeting was not disclosed when it seemed sort of relevant to the massive investigations going on.

So I have very little expectation that this hearing puts anything to bed and is we still wait to see what we find out next.

BRIGGS: And you mentioned Bob Mueller and the president had what you might call some words of warning, a red line for where this investigation should not go to "The New York Times." Here's what he told them.


SCHMIDT: If Mueller was looking at your finances, and your family's finances unrelated to Russia -- is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes.


BRIGGS: Ellis, what do you make of that?

HENICAN: It's not a red line, it's a red cape in front of a charging bull would be the analogy that I would use. I think when you tell Bob Mueller don't look here, where do you think he's going to look?

ROMANS: Well, I mean, the president has not revealed his tax returns. The president has not been transparent on the family finances, you know? I mean, there's a lot there that we just don't know about. Of course, the FBI director would look into that. Wouldn't he? HENICAN: Yes, and each conversation with the president -- the word that keeps coming to my mind is grievance. You know, the tone of each of these things really is a president who feels picked on.

[04:40:01] Now, we don't like -- most people find I think that disquieting and uncomfortable when the most powerful man in the world spends so much of his time talking about being picked on, but that really what comes through this entire conversation I think.

BRIGGS: Yes, those grievances towards the A.G., towards the number two at the Justice Department, towards the former FBI director, the acting FBI director and special counsel, that's a lot of grievances.

Ellis Henican and Tal Kopan, we'll check in with you in the 5:00 hour.

We are following breaking news this morning, and that's Senator John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer. Lab results to remove a blood clot last week confirmed the presence of a malignant brain tumor.

ROMANS: Brain scans following surgery to remove a blood clot chose the cancerous tissue has been completely removed, we're told.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon, he spoke exclusively with Senator McCain's doctors.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, with Senator McCain's permission, I was able to talk to his doctors at the Mayo Clinic. I got a better of idea of what's transpired over the last several days with his care. As, you know, he had an operation this past Friday to remove a blood collection within his brain, just above his left eye.

Well, we now know that that blood collection was caused by a type of brain tumor known as a glioblastoma. This is a primary brain tumor that is quite aggressive and will require further treatment in the form of chemotherapy and radiation.

We know the senator had been feeling fatigued for the last several months, had complained about an intermittent bout of double vision and that's what causes doctors to get the scan of his brain in the first place. Just over the last day now, they have found this information out about what caused this bleeding again, this glioblastoma. Discussions now taking place, Christine and Dave, between Senator McCain and his doctors as to how to proceed next, when to proceed, what type of therapy in the form of chemo or radiation, and how that's all likely to happen.

Christine, Dave, back to you.


BRIGGS: Sanjay, thanks so much.

Senator John McCain recovering, quote, amazingly well, according to a statement from his office. The 80-year-old's doctor say he showed no neurological problems before or after this operation. As you'd imagine, the news drawing stunned reaction across the political spectrum.

President Trump releasing a statement saying: Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon.

ROMANS: Former President Barack Obama tweeting about his 2008 presidential opponent: John McCain is an American hero and one of the bravest fighters I've ever known. Cancer doesn't know what it it's up against. Give it hell, John.

South Carolina's Lindsey Graham is McCain's closest friend in the Senate and frankly, he was overcome with emotions.


GRAHAM: We talked about five minutes. It's going to be a tough way forward, but he says, I have been through worse. And basically, then we started talking about health care and NDA, literally, it went five minutes until he turned away from what I think most people would have a hard time absorbing and focused on what he loves the best.

So pray. I don't know -- God knows how this ends, not me. But I do know this. This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.


ROMANS: Ever eloquent there about his friend:

Senator McCain's wife Cindy posting on her Instagram account about her husband. He's my hero and I love him with all my heart.

Toughest guy out there. Fantastic American, a great legislator, we wish him all the best and his family, too.

BRIGGS: No doubt.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump -- 43 minutes past the hour -- President Trump is promising U.S. manufacturers to protect their workers by slashing regulations.


TRUMP: We have gotten rid of regulations and a lot more are coming. We have some statutory requirements where we're not allowed to do it until certain dates, but they are coming as fast as those dates come.


ROMANS: The president also pledges to give U.S. factories a, quote, level playing field by renegotiating trade deals, including NAFTA. His opposition to NAFTA was a core campaign promise and the first round of talks finally has a start date. The renegotiating NAFTA begins August 16th. The White House's wish list includes lowering the U.S. trade deficit and higher labor standards for other countries, hopefully making Mexican workers more expensive for U.S. firms.

Trump blames NAFTA for an exodus of manufacturing jobs to Mexico, like Carrier. Remember Carrier? Candidate Trump frequently railed against the Indiana company for shifting production to Mexico, laying off 1,400 workers. The president, remember, he struck a deal in December, to save a big chunk of those jobs.

Now, the victory wasn't 100 percent. Carrier will lay off more than 300 workers today and still plans to shift some work to Mexico. So, the president wasn't able to save all those jobs. We knew these 300 were going to be going, but it's a reminder, a reminder that that victory while important at the time, there's still several hundred families --

BRIGGS: Right.

[04:45:00] And polling this week showed this was the number one issue that continues to resonate with Trump supporters -- saving American jobs.


BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, it turns out the eighth person in that undisclosed meeting with Donald Trump Jr. has faced federal investigation before. We are live in Moscow with more about his past, next.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START.

The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower last June tells CNN she is willing to testify before the U.S. Senate. In a text message, she tells us, I'm ready if I will be provided the guarantees for my safety.

It comes as more details emerges about the eighth person, Ike Kaveladze, including links to money laundering investigation.

CNN international correspondent Claire Sebastian live in Moscow with the very latest for us.

Good morning.

CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Yes, Irakly Kaveladze is the name of this eight man we are now learning, he is a senior executive Crocus Group, that real estate firm run by now familiar names, Aras and Emin Agalarov, they are familiar names because as we heard from -- in those e-mails that Donald Trump released, Rob Goldstone, the publicist for Emin Agalarov, said that he was the one who initially requested that meeting a at Trump Tower.

Now, the lawyer for Mr. Kaveladze says that he was there, he's a staffer obviously for the Agalarov and he was there simply as an envoy to make sure that meeting happened and to facilitate any kind of logistics. That wasn't necessary.

But this is raising eyebrows not just as you say because it took more than a week after the news of this meeting initially broke for his name to come out. But also because he has been in the U.S. government sights before. There was an investigation by the Government Accountability Office in the year 2000 into shell companies and their bank accounts in the U.S.

And according to a former senator Carl Levin who was the one who originally called for that investigation, Mr. Kaveladze, it was basically revealed in that investigation that he set out around 2,000 shell companies in the United States, on behalf of people from Russia and Eastern Europe. And that was used to move more than a billion dollars in money through accounts linked to those shell companies.

Carl Levin, calling him a poster child for this practice of using hidden ownership to move money. Now denied any wrong doing. He was never charged with any crime. His lawyer has said he's cooperating with special counsel investigator who have requested more information from him, Christine.

ROMANS: Claire, and I should tell our viewers, you know, we're showing that video of him standing very close to the president of the United States. That's video from Las Vegas from a few years ago when they were announcing the Moscow Miss Universe. So, you can see he's controversial. They were looking into why he was in that meeting, of course, with Don Jr.

But you can see he's been in the same room for the president of United States as well. so, that's the back story on that video there.

Claire, nice to see you. Thank you, in Moscow this morning.

BRIGGS: Yes, a lot of connections that go back ways.

All right. O.J. Simpson back in the news. Will he get to leave prison early? We'll find out today as a parole hearing is on the schedule in Nevada. We'll have a preview from Carson City, next on EARLY START.


[04:56:34] BRIGGS: We'll find out today whether O.J. Simpson will leave prison early. The former football star has a hearing before the Nevada board of parole. He was convicted in 2008 of armed robbery and kidnapping stemming from a confrontation with sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas hotel.

Ashleigh Banfield from our sister network HLN has a preview.



A big day here in Carson City, Nevada. This is where the parole commissioners of Nevada meet every day. And

they hear thousands of cases of prisoners who want parole. But today, it is one very special prisoner. It's prisoner number 1027820 also known as O.J. Simpson, who will be pleading his case to them.

After almost nine years of living at the Love Lot Correctional facility about 100 miles from here, he will sit down in his prison blues and via telecom, he'll beg to be let out and say, I've been a model prisoner. I have done everything right. I have never had an infraction here.

I have done all the programs. I have taken the education. I have admitted my guilt for that robbery and that kidnapping in Las Vegas back, you know, nine years ago.

And that's really effectively exactly what prisoners are supposed to do if they want parole. It will take four votes of yes for those commissioners to actually be a unanimous decision and be the majority on the board. Those commissioners deliberate in private, in secret. It is not on the record what they discuss. Their vote however is on the record.

It should come about 20 minutes later and we should be all wrapped up within about an hour. Hard to believe after nine years of being an inmate, that's all it will take to decide whether O.J. Simpson should once again walk among us and maybe come to a golf course near you.

Dave, Christine, back to you.


ROMANS: Thanks, Ash.

Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

A big corporate profit sending global markets and Wall Street higher. Look at that -- the Dow and the NASDAQ, the S&P 500, folks, record highs. Stocks have never been higher in history.

So far, the earnings season has been strong and that was expected last quarter's profit growth was the best in years and we can expect more information today. We get quarterly reports from eBay, Microsoft and Visa.

United Airlines is learning from its high profile customer service debacle, the company faced a huge backlash after, of course, injuring a passenger as they dragged him off an overbooked flight. The incident led to major reforms, and now, the company says involuntary bumps are down 85 percent. That's according to the CEO of the company's latest earnings call.

And despite the PR nightmare, United customers are forgiving. The company's sales grew last quarter. I always say, if you will go for the -- you want the flight, for the least amount of money. That's always the overriding concern, right?

BRIGGS: And the rest of it, forget it. No big deal.


BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START continues right now. Some big news from the president.



TRUMP: If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would've picked somebody else.


ROMANS: All right. President Trump on a tear against officials connected to the Russia investigation. His comments both undermining his attorney general and warning special prosecutor.

BRIGGS: Also, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner all called to testify before Congress. What this all means after revelations of their secret meeting with the Russian attorney and several others.


GRAHAM: God knows how this ends, not me. But I do know this: this disease has never had a more worthy opponent.