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Trump Attacks Sessions, Comey, And Mueller; Sen. John McCain Diagnosed With Brain Cancer; Eighth Person Attending Trump, Jr. Meeting Identified; O.J. Simpson Faces Parole Board In Nevada. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 20, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: You have a Heisman vote.


BRIGGS: He's not going to win the Heisman but a career in marketing -- digital marketing -- I think is ahead of this young man.

SCHOLES: It sounds like a project for a class or something but it's a pretty cool Website.


BRIGGS: All right. Enjoy the Open, my friend. Thank you.

EARLY START continues right now with the latest from the Trump White House.


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 have picked somebody else."


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

ROMANS: 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 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.


BRIGGS: Words of hope and encouragement across the political spectrum for Sen. John McCain, diagnosed with brain cancer.

We have reporters this morning in Washington, Moscow, Virginia, and Nevada on all of our top stories. And all of us here are pulling for the maverick --


BRIGGS: -- John McCain, a great man, a great American, and we're hoping he fights his way through this.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

President Trump is lashing out at a trio of top current and former officials, all with connections to the Russia investigations.

In an interview with "The New York Times," the president says he would have picked someone else to be attorney general if he knew Jeff Sessions would 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 information on him in order to keep his job.

BRIGGS: 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 extraordinaryinterview posted last night on "The New York Times" Website, President Trump was really deliverance with the strongest words yet about someone who works for him.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was one of his earliest supporters -- in fact, the earliest Senate 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.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: He gave you no heads up at all on this? TRUMP: Zero. So, Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which, frankly, I think it's 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 time on in that "New York Times" interview, about 50 minutes or so long talking about this, Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

The source familiar with the Attorney General Sessions' thinking says he has no intention of stepping down in the wake of President Trump's comments to the "Times."

Jeff Sessions, along with Rod Rosenstein, will speak this morning at 10:00 a.m. in an unrelated event, but we'll see. They'll certainly be asked questions --

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: -- about this interview.

ROMANS: One wonders what it's like to wake up and read "The New York Times" in the morning and find out that your boss has such sharp words for you.

BRIGGS: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Joining us this morning to discuss these latest developments, "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan. Here in New York, political analyst Ellis Henican, author of the "Trump's America" column for the metro papers.

And Ellis, you know, let me -- we can put up this video of Jeff Sessions, one of the earliest supporters of the president with a "Make American Great Again" hat, you know, pledging his support here. He is a longtime senator with a very strong support in the Republican base.

BRIGGS: And really went out on a limb, too.

ROMANS: He went out on a limb and he gave legitimacy to this president as a Republican candidate. And the president to say look, if I'd known he was going to recuse I would have washed -- wiped my hands of him.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: It's stunning, Christine, and while we're hearing that Sessions does not intend to resign I'd be very eager to hear what he says at 10:00.

I do wonder whether the president is setting him up for firing. I mean, the president has the power to replace him. These cabinet secretaries do not have contracts. They serve at the president's pleasure.

[05:35:05] And, you've got to think listening and combing through the remarks of the president in the "Times" interview whether he intends to say well, you know what? Maybe we'll get a new attorney general in there who cannot recuse himself, who can then -- but perhaps remove Mueller.It doesn't take paranoia to play out some of those possibilities, I think.

BRIGGS: And getting back, Tal, to the recusal of Jeff Sessions from the Russia investigation. Republicans were calling for it ahead of time, including senators like Rob Portman and Susan Collins, Congressmen like Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader, and Darrell Issa who has been 100 percent supportive of President Trump.

So is it fair -- in the words of the president -- to look back on Jeff Sessions having recused himself from investigation or what there any other way for him to go?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, certainly not after -- during his confirmation hearings and that process. He said there were no meetings with the Russians and then after he had been confirmed there was some disclosure that actually there had been a few sort of sideline meetings, as they were described, with Russian officials. And that was definitely the nail in the coffin for many who called on him to recuse himself.

In addition to the fact that he was a part of the campaign. He was very close with Trump throughout the campaign and that also gave people some pause as to whether he could oversee honestly -- or appropriately, I guess, an investigation of this nature.

But certainly, as Ellis said, it may seem to set up a firing but keep in mind if Trump were to try to replace his attorney general, that means another round of confirmation hearings. And I'm sure that he's getting advice but I don't think the White House wants to go through that again.

ROMANS: I just -- for those who have been loyal to this president you wonder -- you wonder how they feel reading that in the paper and what that does for their loyalty, especially if he's trying to convince some of these senators to move his way on health care reform.

BRIGGS: That's right.

ROMANS: If he's so quick to dump a supporter, you know, what does that mean?

Let's take a look at what he said about Bob Mueller, the special counselor, you guys, and where the line is on what he's looking into in terms of the Russia probe.


MICHAELSCHMIDT, CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": 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 yes. I would say yes.


ROMANS: Don't look at the family finances.

Ellis Henican, I don't know how you can be investigating the Russia probe and not look -- follow the money.

HENICAN: I've got to tell you, I think Dave Briggs had the best line on that. Officer, don't look in the trunk.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

HENICAN: Maybe you and I both understand that line, I don't know.

But, no -- I mean, just as a -- just as a practical matter, right.

First of all, we already know that Mueller's investigators are poking around the question of financial relationships between the Trump business and Russians over the years where family members have discussed it openly. So if that's a red line, I've got to tell you, I think at least the toes are across it at this point.

BRIGGS: All right, Tal. What about the focus of the president on this "Made in America" week where health care -- the nation's health care hangs in the balance. What does it say about the focus of the President of the United States when he derides this is the failing "New York Times" and all this Russia story as fake news and then says the word Russia 27 times in a single interview?

KOPAN: Well look, let's talk about what he could have said, right?

Asked about Jeff Sessions, he could have said Jeff Sessions is overhauling our criminal justice system and taking it to sanctuary cities. He absolutely could have said that. Asked about health care, he could have talked at length about what he wants to see the Senate do.

This is what politicians typically do. They take any question and sort of move it towards their agenda and advance the narrative that they want.

Trump has shown himself very willing to really just play into whatever fights he perceives he is in. And granted, he advertised himself as a counterpuncher. That's what the voters who voted for him voted for so they should absolutely feel like they are getting what they voted for.

But you're right, the White House is trying to come up with these themed weeks to advance his agenda but Trump is not necessarily giving them a lot of help when given the opportunity.

ROMANS: It's -- you know, how this Russia story has morphed and moved has been fascinating. The president still clearly very upset with James Comey, his fired FBI director.

BRIGGS: Who said he leveraged his job with the dossier.

ROMANS: Yes. This is what "The New York Times" says about that, in particular. In the interview, Mr. Trump said he believed Mr. Comey told him about the dossier to implicitly make clear he had something to hold over the president.

Quote, "In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there," Mr. Trump said. "As leverage? Yeah, I think so," Mr. Trump said. "In retrospect."

You know, I think it bears repeating what Comey -- what James Comey has said about that dossier of supposed incriminating information. It was -- it was out there -- and why the FBI thought it was important for the president to know about it.

[05:40:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I didn't want him thinking that I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way. I was briefing him on it because we had been told by the media it was about to launch.

We don't want to be keeping that from him and if there was some -- he needed to know this was being said. But I was very keen not to leave him with an impression that the Bureau was trying to do something to him.


ROMANS: I think it's pretty clear that dossier full of -- some would say it's just garbage, right -- bothered the president and Comey bothered the -- this president, and still does.

KOPAN: Yes, absolutely. You know, keep in mind, like you said, the contents of the dossier were always suspect.

And what's interesting is this is a bit of a new interpretation of those events from Donald Trump and that's part of what gets him into trouble is as things come out over time his version of what he thinks happened or his interpretation of what he thinks happened kind of evolves.

And so I think we're seeing another example of that and it really shows that he's ruminating over what happened with Comey -- that he can't let it go. He made a very final decision in letting Comey go but, clearly, he's still lingering over every step of that process and thinking about it still.

BRIGGS: Guys, we recommend the full transcript of this "New York Times" interview which is available. They characterize the president's words as garbled 15 times in one interview.

Tal and Ellis, thank you both. We appreciate it.

ROMANS: Oh, that's from the -- like the transcript?

BRIGGS: Garbled, yes. That is their words, not mine.

ROMANS: Oh, wow.

BRIGGS: Fifteen times.

We are following breaking news this morning regarding 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 show the cancerous tissue has been completely removed.

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


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, with Sen. McCain's permission I was able to talk to his doctors at the Mayo Clinic to get a better 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. But 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 even an intermittent bout of double vision, and that's what caused his doctors to get the scan of his brain in the first place. And 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 Sen. 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, David, back to you.


BRIGGS: Sanjay, thank you.

Senator McCain recovering, quote, "amazingly well" according to a statement from his office. The 80-year-old's doctors say he showed no neurological problems before or after the operation. And, as you'd imagine, the news drawing a 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."

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

South Carolina's Lindsey Graham became emotional describing a phone call with McCain. McCain is his closest friend in the Senate.


GRAHAM: We talked about five minutes, you know. It's going to be a tough way forward but he says I've been through worse. And basically, then we started talking about health care and the NDAA.

Literally, it wasn't five minutes until he turned away from what I think most people 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: Senator McCain's wife Cindy posting their wedding picture on her Instagram account. Her caption reading, in part, he is my hero and I love him with all my heart.

I've got to tell you. The years of covering politics and money, I mean this is a guy who is just a class act.

I mean, I remember after September 11th we opened up the stock exchange and people were really afraid that the economy was going to crash, the stock market was going to crash.


ROMANS: I mean, people just -- the airline industry was going to go out of business. The American economy was crumbled by this.

And I've got to tell you he stood there on the floor of the stock exchange and he told everyoneprivately and publicly, we're America.

[05:45:00] BRIGGS: Steadfast.

ROMANS: We're going to get through it. We're going to be fine. Don't be too pessimistic. We're going to make it.

And it was just little pep talks like that that made everybody in the midst of that horrible event just kind of take a deep breath, reset, and move forward. So we hope the very same for him.

BRIGGS: He's a great American and the maverick has really returned --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: -- in recent weeks and months as well.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump is promising U.S. manufacturers he will protect their workers by slashing regulations.


TRUMP: We've 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're coming as fast as those dates come.


ROMANS: The president also pledges to give U.S. factories what he said it calls a level playing field by renegotiating trade deals, including NAFTA. You know, his hatred of NAFTA was a core campaign theme and his promise to gut it.The first round of talks to renegotiate NAFTA has a start date -- August 16th, Dave Briggs.

The White House' wish list includes cutting the trade deficit with Mexico. We have a surplus with Canada at the time -- at the moment.And also, raising labor standards -- something, by the way, that was in the TPP that he didn't want to join -- 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, the air conditioner company.

The candidate Trump frequently railed against this Indiana factory for shifting its production to Mexico. Most recently, it announced it was laying off 1,400 workers. The president struck a deal though in December to save those jobs.

The victory wasn't complete. Carrier is going to lay off more than 300 workers today and still plans to shift some of its work to Mexico.

So some of those jobs were retained and were saved, but not all of them. You still have 300 families here who --

BRIGGS: Who when asked in recent polling what's the one reason you still support Donald Trump, his strongest supporters say because he saves American jobs. Not the Supreme Court --


BRIGGS: -- but that'sthe primary issue.


BRIGGS: Ahead, that eighth person in the meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and a Russian lawyer, he's met with President Trump before, seen here in this 2013 video. Now, more incriminating questions about his past.

We're live in Moscow, next on EARLY START.


[05:51:20] ROMANS: 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. She says, quote, "I'm ready if I will be provided with guarantees for my safety."

It comes as more details emerge about that eighth person at the meeting in June 2016. An eighth person with potential links here to a money laundering investigation.

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

Walk us through who this eighth person is and what we know about him.


His name is Irakly Kaveladze. He is a Soviet-born U.S. citizen and crucially a senior executive at a company called Crocus Group.

Now, this is the real estate firm that's owned by the father-son duo, Aras and Emin Agalarov. Now those have become familiar names because Emin Agalarov, according to his publicist, was the one who originally requested that Donald Trump, Jr. hold that meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

But also because Crocus Group the one that is the firm that helps Donald Trump bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.

These have become fairly close associates of the Trump family and Mr. Kaveladze himself, in his capacity as an executive of Crocus Group, has met with Donald Trump before. He was pictured with him in 2013 in Las Vegas. Part of the preparations for bringing that Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.

Now, his lawyer says that he was at that meeting in Trump Tower as a kind of an envoy of the Agalarovs. That he was there to just make sure the meeting happened and provide any kind of logistical support they might need.

But it is raising questions and not just because it took more than a week for it to come out that he was there after the original news of the meeting broke but because there was an investigation 17 years ago by the Government Accountability Office in the U.S. into setting up of shell companies in the U.S. and their bank accounts.

And according to Carl Levin, the former senator who was behind that investigation, Mr. Kaveladze was uncovered. Set up around 2,000 shell companies and associated bank accounts and used them to move more than $1 billion of money through the U.S. He called him a poster child for that practice.

Mr. Kaveladze denies any wrongdoing and has never beencharged with any crime.

ROMANS: Of course.

SEBASTIAN: He is now cooperating, according to his lawyer, with special counsel investigators.

ROMANS: All right. Claire Sebastian for us this morning in Moscow. Thank you for that -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, O.J. Simpson back in the news again. We'll find out later today if he'll 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 the 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 Lovelock Correctional Facility about 100 miles from here.

He'll sit down, likely in his prison blues, and via teleconference he'll beg to be let out and say I've been model prisoner, I've done everything right, I've never had an infraction here, I've done all the programs, I've taken the education.

I've 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.

[05:55:03] 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: All right, Ashleigh. They have a busy morning ahead, Ashleigh Banfield. Thanks.

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

Big corporate profits sending big stock market moves. Global markets and Wall Street are higher. The Dow, the Nasdaq, the S&P 500 record highs for stocks. They have never been higher, these big major averages.

So far, earnings season has been strong. That was expected. You know, last season's profit growth was the best in years.

Expect more earnings today from eBay, Microsoft, and Visa. They all report.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft are sitting on -- Dave, this unbelievable -- $464 billion in cash. Most of it is stashed overseas. Apple, alone, holds $250 billion in cash. That's according to a new report on corporate America's cash pile.

All told, companies reporting $1.84 trillion and about 70 percent of that sits overseas, meaning it is not subject to U.S. taxes which is why the Trump administrationproposes a one-time tax holiday to encourage these companies to bring that cash home.

It shows you just also how well they have done in their business models in the financial recovery -- in the economic recovery of late.

United Airlines is learning from its high-profile customer service debacle. The company faced a huge backlash after injuring a passenger. They dragged him off an overbooked flight.Major reforms now for the company and it says involuntary bumps are down 85 percent.

The CEO, in the latest company earnings call, said that despite the P.R. nightmare United customers are forgiving. Its sales grew last quarter.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: And, I'm Dave Briggs.

President Trump with some harsh words for his own attorney general and others.

"NEW DAY" has their hands full, right now.


TRUMP: Sessions should have never recused himself. He should have told me and I would have picked somebody else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most people would quit their job if their boss did this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a president who believes that everybody is out to get him.

TRUMP: I said hello to Putin. We talked about adoption.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It seems a bit hard to believe that that was really the topic of conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is obsessed with Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a battle between an outsider and a whole city full of insiders.

GUPTA: That operation that he had on Friday revealed that he has an aggressive type of brain cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is nobody who is the kind of fighter that John McCain is.

GRAHAM: This disease has never had any more worthy opponent.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, July 20th, 6:00 here in New York.

And the story of the morning is "The New York Times" interview with the president. You have to hear his opinions about how he's perceived around the world, whether he made the right choice for attorney general, and maybe most important, his reckoning of what line the special counsel should not cross and what happens if he does.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So this was a wide-ranging interview and they covered a lot of ground.

The president accuses fired FBI Director James Comey of trying to leverage that dossier of compromising information in order to keep his job.

The president also issued a warning to Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the scope of the Russia investigation. Once again, Mr. Trump insists that he, himself, is not under investigation.

Mr. Trump also talks about that undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin.

So let's begin our coverage with one of the journalists who conducted that interview with President Trump, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman. Maggie, great, great to have you.

Fascinating, wide-ranging interview that you have. He talked about Jeff Sessions, whom he seems to have soured on. Let's play that for our viewers and then you can comment on it. Listen to this.



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.

HABERMAN: He gave you no heads up at all on this?

TRUMP: Zero. So, Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which, frankly, I think it's 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.

CAMEROTA: So, Maggie, we want to know what jumped out at you. I mean, isn't the timeline of that a little confusing. How did Jeff Sessions know he was going to recuse --

CUOMO: He didn't know.

CAMEROTA: -- recused himself before he took the job?

CUOMO: He couldn't know.