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EARLY START

Sessions Weighs Clinton Inquiry; Don Jr. Confirms WikiLeaks Communication; Can Roy Moore Survive? Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 14, 2017 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The attorney general now asking federal prosecutors to look into a special counsel on the Clinton Foundation. Is this to apiece the president's frustration with a lack of action against the Clintons?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: The president's son admits he communicated privately with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.

[05:00:04] It came just days before the site released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign chairman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There are a number of options that are being considered, but he should not be a United States senator.

REPORTER: Whatever means --

MCCAIN: Whatever it requires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Republicans support in Washington evaporating as dozens of GOP lawmakers now say Roy Moore needs to bow out of the Alabama Senate race. But with support in Alabama holding for now, will he quit?

MARQUARDT: No sign of that just yet.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alex Marquardt.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to have you here again today.

MARQUARDT: Great to be here. Thank you.

ROMANS: It is Tuesday. It is November 14th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin with the Attorney General Jeff Sessions directing federal prosecutors to evaluate any alleged ties between the Clinton Foundation and a sale of a Canadian uranium company to Russia. House Republicans are already investigating the 2010 deal which took place while Clinton was secretary of state. Some Republicans including the president alleged that Russia sought to donate to the Clinton Foundation to persuade Mrs. Clinton to support the transaction.

MARQUARDT: Senior prosecutors will make recommendations to the attorney general about the potential need for a special prosecutor. Sessions' decision comes despite saying this at his conformation hearing back in January.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Do you intend to recuse yourself from both the Clinton e-mail investigation and any matters involving the Clinton Foundation if there are any?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Critics have expressed concern about the Justice Department's independence after President Trump bemoaned his inability to direct the department to investigate his opponents, including Clinton.

ROMANS: All right. Donald Trump Jr. now confirming that he had exchanges with the WikiLeaks Twitter account via private direct messages during the 2016. Trump Jr. tweeted out the exchanges shortly after "The Atlantic" first reported them. He wrote: Here is the entire chain of messages with @WikiLeaks with my whopping three responses.

MARQUARDT: The timing of WikiLeaks messages is notable. Trump Jr. responded to two of them. In one, WikiLeaks urges Trump Jr. to push a right wing Website's story about Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. replies that he already did and inquires about an upcoming leak. Now, just days later, WikiLeaks starts releasing Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's e-mails which had been stolen by Russian hackers.

ROMANS: And days after that, President Trump tweets, urging his followers to read about Clinton's, quote, disgraceful behavior as exposed by WikiLeaks. A source familiar with the matter tells CNN Trump Jr. was briefly asked about the exchanges during a closed door interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.

MARQUARDT: Joining us now, CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" columnist, Josh Rogin.

Good morning, Josh.

ROMANS: Hi, Josh.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Christine and Alex. How are you guys.

MARQUARDT: Welcome to the show.

Josh, just ask you very broadly. What do you make of all this? What do you make the interaction between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks? And especially junior pointing out he only sent three messages to the WikiLeaks Twitter account?

ROGIN: Well, it's a little misleading considering the fact that he also followed WikiLeaks instructions on tweeting out their disclosures and sought information from them, and it seems that they were in regular communication at a key time in the campaign. And it's just one more in a string of really poor decisions by Donald Trump Jr. throughout the campaign, and in his hunt to search for dirt on Hillary Clinton and incorporate that into the Trump campaign.

Now, it doesn't show collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. It suggests collusion between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. We know that WikiLeaks is accused of collusion with Russia based on the report that we've gotten from out intelligence agencies.

So, it's not a smoking gun in the Russia/Trump investigation but it sure is another sign that they were playing fast and loose with the rules and they were also looking for ways to coordinate the distribution of e-mails and other information that was stolen, that was hacked. And that's -- the hacking was a crime and their effort to sort of distribute the proceeds of that crime are untoward at best.

ROMANS: Yes. And there had been many who pointed out that, you know, WikiLeaks is not a friend of the United States.

ROGIN: Well, Mike Pompeo called it a non state foreign intelligence agency hell-bent on attacking the United States.

So, for the president's son to be working directly with him in any capacity is bad news.

ROMANS: You know, Josh, what strikes me that two different kinds of stances or postures of the Americans for example, with the Russia issue and the Russia intervention in the American election and say, the British, for example. Theresa May at a banquet sort of laying out this very clear, very strong message to the Russians. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: So I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed, because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:05:13] ROMANS: For such good friends and allies, there could not be two more different -- starkly different stances.

ROGIN: Yes, well, I would say, you know, that first of all, Theresa May I think in my opinion is saying the right thing, right? She's pushing back against the overall Russian effort to not interfere not just in the American political process, but political processes all over the world.

ROMANS: Including Brexit?

ROGIN: Yes, of course. And -- but the point here is that most of the U.S. government, including most of the Trump administration, in fact, all of the Trump administration, except for the president and maybe the president's son agrees with Theresa May. We've got Rex Tillerson and Mike p Pompeo, and Dan Coats and Jim Mattis and H.R. McMasters, they've all said clearly that Russia's attempted to -- that Russian interfered in our election, that they're attempting to do it again, that they're doing it all over the world. And this is something very important that the United States has to respond to.

So, that's not -- it's not U.S. versus Britain. It's really Trump versus the rest of the world. And what the president sort of back and forth on this while he was in Asia just shows that he still hasn't come around to the conclusion that the Russians did this. And that's a big problem. It harms our effort to sort of mobilize the U.S. government and all of the elements of American power to help not only our allies. But also our own states and localities, and our federal government to make sure this doesn't happen again, because for sure, the Russians are still going to try.

MARQUARDT: And speaking of limits on power, we are learning or we are seeing that the president is learning the limits of his own power, and how much influence he has over the Justice Department. Let's take a quick listen to a clip.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The saddest thing is that because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing, and I'm very frustrated by it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Very frustrated, and yet, and now we see that the Justice Department is considering naming a special prosecutor to look into the Clintons and its uranium deal. How do you explain this about-face that Sessions is after saying that he wouldn't back in January?

ROGIN: Right. I think there's two things going on. One is the effort that sort of distract and diffuse and disseminate and to sort of muddy the waters surrounding the Russian investigation by introducing sort of non-related issue. This uranium one scandal is based on this idea that somehow a donation to the Clinton foundation would have influenced the sale of part of the American uranium stores to the Russian company when in fact that sale was approve via a CFIUS process, nine intelligence agencies.

ROMANS: Yes.

ROGIN: Hillary Clinton has said very clearly that she was never involved in that decision directly and there's no evidence that she was. So, this is kind of a ginned up story that's being used to sort of muddy the waters. So, that's one issue.

The bigger issue which I think you've focused on rightly is that the president -- we have a separation of powers. There are very good reasons that the president is not supposed to be directing the work of the Justice Department in the prosecutors. I'm sure he is frustrated by that.

The problem is that when he says things like this and he does things like this, it does have an effect. And we've seen Attorney General Sessions respond to the president's pressure. And use his power to sort of respond to the tweets and calls and criticisms. That's a problem, OK? That's a much bigger problem than any one investigation here or there.

So, let's hope that the Justice Department maintains its independence.

ROMANS: Sure.

ROGIN: They're entitled to look into it. They're entitled to respond to House calls, even if calls are partisan to find out if there's something they should be prosecuting, but they're not supposed to be following the president's pressure, and if there are signs they're doing, that's a much bigger problem.

ROMANS: You know, you make the point about that Uranium One deal and the process it went through, CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., it's meant to be -- you know, national security and economic security review of any kind of foreign deal like that. And the criticism has been these are -- they always -- yes. I mean, they let -- rarely.

ROGIN: Yes or no.

ROMANS: Yes, they rarely say no to them because the idea is -- you know, I mean, I guess a free market rule usually overrides there. So, that's going to have that process goes.

ROGIN: Well, Christine, I think you're right. I think there are a lot of problems with the CFIUS process. There are holes in it. There are efforts in Congress led right now by Senator Grassley to fix it.

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: To make it tougher. You know, we're in a different world. Like what you would consider a security threat in terms of an acquisition --

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: -- the 1980s, is not the same as it is in 2017.

ROMANS: Of course.

ROGIN: This is mostly to address the Chinese threat, the Chinese who are really buying up lots of industries that are threatening our national security that maybe we wouldn't have thought of a decade or two decades ago. But that's besides the point, really, because, you know, this uranium one deal, whether you think it was right or it wasn't right, there's still zero evidence that Hillary Clinton was directly involved into the decision and zero evidence that it has anything to do with the Clinton Foundation.

[05:10:13] Now, sure, the House is free to go ahead and investigate that, and yes, the Justice Department is free to go ahead and investigate too. But the politicization of the Justice Department is really something we should push against and be worried about because that's something that's fundamental to our democracy.

ROMANS: All right. Josh, come back in about half hour and give us your overall like little grade on how the president did in Asia and what deliverables you're expecting from this --

ROGIN: All right. Let me think about that one.

ROMANS: Well, from this primetime address that the president and the White House trying to put together. Thanks, Josh.

ROGIN: Sure.

MARQUARDT: Thanks, Josh.

The number of Republican lawmakers abandoning Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is growing almost by the hour, in the wake of new allegations that he sexually assaulted a minor decades ago. Questions are being raised about whether Moore would even be allowed to serve, assuming that he wins that seat, which is significant possibility given Moore's support from many Alabama voters and officials continues.

ROMANS: More than a dozen GOP senators, though, are calling for him to pull out of the race. Cory Gardner, chairman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, one of the first to say the Senate should expel him, should he win the especially election four weeks from today. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also among those calling for Moore to drop out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think he should step aside.

REPORTER: Do you believe these allegations to be true?

MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: GOP Senator Jeff Flake, who's retiring at the end of his term, went so far to say that, quote, if the choices between Roy Moore and a Democrat, a Democrat no doubt.

Now, an even greater number of Republican senators are saying Roy Moore should exit the race if the allegations are proven true, which will be impossible to prove almost 40 years later. But senators are less clear on what to do if Moore stays in and wins.

ROMANS: Roy Moore himself adamantly denies the latest allegations. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: And I can tell you without hesitation this is absolutely false. I never did what she said I did. I don't even know the woman. I don't know anything about her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: The woman Moore is referring to there is named Beverly Nelson. She says that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was just 16 years old. Nelson said Moore offered her a ride home one night, but instead parked behind the restaurant where she worked and began to grope her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: He began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch. I continued to struggle. He said, you're just a child, and he said I am the district attorney of Etowah County. And if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Nelson says she would be willing to testify under oath.

MARQUARDT: So, obviously, plenty awaits President Trump who's coming home after a whirlwind trip through Asia. We're live in Manila, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:17:23] ROMANS: The president cheerleading America's trade success, as he returns from his tour of Asia, tweeting that all countries dealing with us on trade know that the rules have changed. The United States has to be treated fairly and in reciprocal fashion.

The rules have changed, that's because other countries are still making trade deals, only now it's without U.S. leadership. President Trump pulled the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership back in January, sinking the word's biggest trade deal, a deal that was years in the works. Then, over the weekend, the 11 remaining nations, they forged ahead on a new deal without the U.S., including major allies like Japan, Canada, Mexico, proving U.S. allies will negotiate their own free trade deals and might not want the one-on-one deals president favors. Now, if U.S. companies start losing business in these TPP countries, President Trump could face pressure to join this new deal, leaving America to play catch-up. With the U.S. sitting out global trade deals, it's seen by many trade experts as an abdication of power, opening the door to China to fill the vacuum.

MARQUARDT: Now, there's a lot waiting on the president's plate when he returns to Washington. He's on route home right now following more than a week in Asia. He's promising major announcement about trade later this week.

CNN's Sara Murray is live in Manila with more on the president's final days overseas.

Sara, there have been a lot of distractions back home, Roy Moore and now this latest reporting about Donald Trump and WikiLeaks. But how has that trip gone for the president?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty clear the president and his aides believe this was a smooth trip for him and he wants to bring some of those head lines from Asia back to U.S. soil. He teased a major announcement that he would take about trade but his aides are also working to cobble together some kind of primetime address, sources are telling us, to try to stitch together the broader narrative of this Asia trip.

And that certainly should be no surprised. The president was wined and dined and leaders literally rolled out the red carpet for him. Before Trump left Asia, he rolled through some of the headlines in his view.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Philippines treated (ph) us beautifully.

China and the incredible opening they gave us.

South Korea was terrific too, as Vietnam treated us, as did -- I mean the Philippines. We just could not have been treated nicer.

We've accomplished a lot. I've enjoyed it very much. My press, I feel so sorry for them. They're exhausted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Press are exhausted, no doubt, after a grueling tour through Asia and just a brief 21-hour flight home later today -- Alex.

[05:20:08] MARQUARDT: You don't look exhausted at all, Sara. Come on home. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. No love lost between LeBron James, New York Knicks, king size beef at Madison Square Garden. Coy Wire with the "Bleacher Report", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: Welcome back. Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

The Knicks and Cavs showing some fight at Madison Square Garden last night. We'll have that in a few moments.

But, first, case of the three UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China, which has caught the eye of President Trump.

[05:25:01] ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Coy, how much trouble they're in.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning to you, guys.

Now, President Trump says he talked to Chinese President Xi about the three basketball players being detained in China after they were being accused of shoplifting. And he says that President Xi has been helpful in working to resolve the case. Now, the three UCLA freshmen, Cody Riley, Jalen Hill and LiAngelo Ball, brother of Lakers star rookie Lonzo Ball were arrested last week and questioned about stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the team's hotel. The trio didn't return to the U.S. with their team over the weekend and still believed to be at the hotel. President Trump also says he hopes the players would soon be released.

Now, another shot fired in the brewing battle between the NFL owners over the contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell. "The New York Times" reporting that a group of owners sent a cease-and-desist warning to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to block him from interfering in the contract talks. The letter also reportedly outlines possible punishments, including fines, loss of draft picks, even suspending Jones should he not comply.

A lead source tells CNN that Goodell's extension will be done shortly. ESPN reported that Goodell has asked for a salary of nearly $50 million a year, he use of a private jet, and a life health insurance for life for his family. But, two leaked sources are disputing those claims.

How about Cam Newton throwing four touchdown passes in the Panthers' blowout win the Dolphins on Monday night football. Carolina piling up the points and yardage. It's 45-21 blowout and the Panthers roll up a franchise record 458 yards of offense. Carolina gets his third straight win and now have a record of 7-3.

Twitter beef between Cav's star LeBron James and Knicks center Enes Kanter turned into the whole cow on the court last night at Madison Square Garden. King James tweeted that Knicks shouldn't have taken another player in the draft, instead of rookie Frank Ntilikina. Well, Kanter had his teammate's back on Twitter with a post and then, with some pushing during the game, when James and Ntilikina got into a scuffle.

Now last night, their war of words spilled over on to the court, as you see there. But what a game this was in the end. I mean, LeBron was channeling his anger in h a more constructive way, late in the fourth quarter. Game tied at 97 and LeBron shows why he's the best player on the planet. He drains the dagger three, gives the Cavs a lead, Cleveland goes on in a big comeback win, 104-101.

But you see these guys afterwards also having a little communications there, and we may be as the morning goes on we can show you more of that, guys. It was funny seeing these two grown men getting in a battle there on the court.

MARQUARDT: And then the Knicks blowing a 20-plus-point lead there and getting booed off the court.

ROMANS: Wow.

MARQUARDT: Pretty dramatic scenes there at the garden.

ROMANS: All right. Nice to see you. Thanks, Coy.

MARQUARDT: Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: You too.

MARQUARDT: Now, we are monitoring a series of three big stories this morning. The president's Justice Department will consider a special counsel to look into the Clinton Foundation. The president's son also communicating with WikiLeaks just days before the Clinton campaign chairman had his e-mails released. And Roy Moore losing nearly all of his support in Washington. But will it matter when Alabama voters have their say next month?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)