Return to Transcripts main page


Russia Investigators Interview Kushner; Trump Tweets Draw Outrage; Lauer Fired: When Will He Speak?; Trump Calls Kim Jong-un "A Sick Puppy". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 04:30   ET


[04:31:05] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A Russia special counsel taking no chances with Michael Flynn. And to make sure there's nothing they missed, investigators turn to another key figure, Jared Kushner.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Outrage and condemnation after the commander-in-chief tweets out violent videos from a far right British hate group. Now, even the most staunch American ally is voicing anger.

BRIGGS: And still no sign of Matt Lauer since his abrupt firing from NBC over accusations of sexual misconduct. New accusers coming forward in the hours after he was taken off "Today." No statement yet from Lauer after the stunning news.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour this Thursday morning.

This morning, new signs special counsel Russia investigation is zeroing in on former national security adviser Michael Flynn. As first reported by CNN, senior Trump advisor Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, met earlier this month with the special counsel Robert Mueller's team. A source familiar with that meeting tells us Flynn was the topic of conversation.

BRIGGS: The source says investigators wanted to make sure Kushner does not have information that would clear Flynn of wrongdoing. This after Flynn's lawyer told President Trump's legal team last week he would no longer share information about the investigation with them. And that is just one of the indications of possible plea deal for Flynn might be in the works.

Justice correspondent Pamela Brown with more from Washington.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Christine and Dave.

CNN has learned that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor has met with Robert Mueller's team. Earlier this month Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn worked together closely. Foreign policy was in Kushner's portfolio, Flynn was the former national security adviser. So, they're scheduled to intersect. Their paths crossed.

So, it would make sense that the special counsel team would interview Kushner about Flynn specifically. The lawyer for Kushner, Abbe Lowell, told us Mr. Kushner has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so.

And it's important to note that all appearances here is that she was interviewed as a witness. Most defense attorneys would not let someone be interviewed in this capacity if the belief was that a client was a target. So, he was interviewed as a witness here.

But that doesn't mean that he won't be called back to special counsel interview about other topics beyond Michael Flynn. He was really at the nexus of many parts of this investigation. So, it would take sense that he might be called back down the road, at the very least as a witness to discuss these other aspects of the investigation with Robert Mueller's team.

Back to you.


BRIGGS: Pamela Brown there in D.C.

There is condemnation around the world meanwhile of President Trump of re-tweeting violent anti-Muslim videos from a fascist, hateful U.K. political group. But not a hint of criticism coming from inside the administration. The president often warns about Europe and the U.S. being threatened by immigration from Muslim majority nations but he has seldom shared anything nearly as offensive or explosive as this.

ROMANS: One video purports to show a young Muslim migrant attacking a boy on crutches, something the Dutch government says is not true. Those are two Dutch teenagers in there that is not a refugee or a migrant. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defending the re- tweets, insisting the president is only trying to start a conversation about border security. She also really disregarded questions about the authenticity of these videos. It doesn't matter if they're true.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real, and that is what the president is talking act. That's what the president is focused on, is dealing with those real threats, and those are real no matter how you look at it.


[04:35:02] BRIGGS: So much for the notion of fake news.

A White House source tells CNN administration staff has resigned itself the idea the president will never stop tweeting. There had been some head-scratching moments lately though, like Mr. Trump's assault on the free press and his Pocahontas slur.

The potential fallout from these latest tweets is wide-ranging and it could affect foreign policy. Later this morning, the president meets with the crown prince of Bahrain in the Oval Office.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump's anti-Muslim re-tweets drawing outrage in the United Kingdom, and a rare reprimand from the British government itself.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister Theresa May saying: British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents -- decency, tolerance, and respect.

BRIGGS: President Trump responding to Great Britain's polite phrasing with a brash tweet. After first tweeting the wrong Theresa May, he told the prime minister, quote: Don't focus on me. Focus on the destructive, radical Islamic terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just found fine.

For the latest, let's go to number 10 Downing Street and bring in CNN's Nic Robertson.

Nic, another extraordinary of the nation's capital. Good morning to you.


And it's an extraordinary feeling here as well that President Trump has made this a personal issue with Prime Minister Theresa May. Her office here issuing that statement yesterday, saying that this wasn't -- that the president's tweets weren't welcome. That was amplified as well by the head of the Church of England here, Justin Welby, suggesting that President Trump should take these tweets down.

But now, President Trump has made this personal with her from other parliamentarians here in Britain as well, condemning what President Trump's initial tweets, re-tweeting this Britain First organization.

But this comes after almost a year now, Prime Minister Theresa May trying to deal with what has become an uncomfortable relationship rather than special relationship with President Trump. She rushed, of course, to Washington to be the first world leader to greet President Trump at the White House after his inauguration. She took political heat for that back here in Britain, when she got back. The president's Muslim travel at the beginning of the year caused big political backlash here.

The president got into a Twitter spat with the London mayor over a terrorist attack on London Bridge in June. He got pushback from the prime minister over his tweets about another terrorist attack in September here. The prime minister saying that their president's tweets were unhelpful, the president used British crime statistics last month in October to say that there was a rise of radical Islamist attacks here in Britain. There was pushback again on that. So, this is the latest. This special relationship since coming here

is, that the special relationship will endure, but it's going to be something of an endurance test until there is another different leadership in the White House.

BRIGGS: Indeed. Nic Robertson live for us this morning in London, thanks.

All right. This is astounding. Not a whole lot of pushback from Republicans in the House and Senate. Some subtle from Orrin Hatch who tweeted last night in defense of Theresa May, one of the great world leaders I have incredible love and respect for her. And the way she leads the United Kingdom especially in the face of turbulence.

Ironically, in the same day, Orrin Hatch says he doesn't pay attention to the president's tweets, which he clearly does, just might not pay attention to the nasty anti-Islam videos.

ROMANS: Remark -- yesterday should have been a very good day for this president, 3.3 percent GDP. His tax bill moved forward. His guy at the CFPB won the first round in the legal battle. These are all things the president could really take credit for, try to take credit for.

BRIGGS: Market shot up, what, 255 points the prior day.

ROMANS: Instead, instead, it was all this just nonsense after re- tweeting that hate group.

BRIGGS: Stepping on his own message.

All right. Senate Republicans opening up formal debate on their tax reform plan. All 52 GOP senators casting yes votes. And that means the clock is ticking. The amendment process expected to heat up this afternoon.

Anybody's guess, though, when a final vote might take place. Senators and aides telling CNN tomorrow is likely.

ROMANS: The biggest road block is the so called trigger favored by deficit hawks. It would hike taxes later if tax cuts do not generate enough economic growth. And then there's disagreement, a lot of disagreement over whether automatic tax hikes should target the individual rates or the corporate rate, how this thing would work.

BRIGGS: Also how the trigger would work, what constitutes economic growth, how big the hikes would have to be, all still unclear. Republicans also grappling with keeping this bill under the $1.5 trillion limit so they can pass it with no Democrat votes.

ROMANS: Another amendment on the table, Senator Ron Johnson wants deeper tax cuts for pass-through businesses. Johnson opposes a Senate bill for favoring corporations over pass-through businesses, so GOP leaders will boost the deduction for pass-throughs to 20 percent.

[04:40:02] But Johnson wants it a bigger break. It proposes paying for it by cutting local tax breaks for corporations.

But what exactly are pass-throughs? Businesses that pay taxes through an owner's tax returns. In other words, companies' earnings pass to the owners. Profits are then taxed at the individual rate, not the corporate one.

Now, the House version just lowers the pass-through rate. Senate bill reduces taxable income. It's a little more complicated lowering their tax rate that way. But that means the highest earners will pay more than the 20 percent corporate. Johnson says his amendment will help small businesses, but a pass-through can also be big accounting firms or private investment partnerships. In fact, the majority closed the top 1 percent of earners, and that's a real problem for this tax plan overall, because it tilts towards corporations and the wealthy.

And I want to be really clear about this. The president calls this middle class tax relief. This is a corporate tax cut. This isn't middle class tax reform. This is corporate tax cut, which, by the way, Republicans and Democrats know is needed. They've been trying to sell it as something it really isn't.

BRIGGS: And Marco Rubio and Mike Lee want to double the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and keep the corporate rate at 22 percent. There's a lot left to hash out but really no indication it won't pass.

ROMANS: How do they pay for it. Right.

BRIGGS: All right. The shock has not worn off from the sudden firing of Matt Lauer from the "Today Show" after accusations of sexual misconduct. The latest reporting from our Brian Stelter, next.


[04:45:56] BRIGGS: Still no word this morning from now former "Today Show" host Matt Lauer after the stunning news NBC fired him over an allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. NBC earned credit in some quarters for taking swift action, but later in the day, reports emerged that the network had protected Lauer.

ROMANS: The entertainment trade paper "Variety "citing several women who say their complaints to NBC executives fell on deaf ears. And now, NBC says it's received new accusations against Lauer since his firing.

Senior media correspondent Brian Stelter has the latest.



New allegations against Matt Lauer in the wake of his firing on Wednesday, and now, as we start at new day, there are questions about who knew what when. And whether Lauer is going to speak out, whether he's going to apologize, confirm some allegations, deny them. You know, so far, there's been silence from Lauer's team.

Meantime, NBC has confirmed two women came forward and contacted the network with their own allegations of improper sexual behavior by Lauer. That was in the wake of his firing announced on Wednesday morning.

The timeline here is a little bit unusual. We've seen versions of this in the past two months ever since the Harvey Weinstein scandal, where there's a bombshell story, improper -- allegations of improper behavior and then disciplinary action. We saw that last week with Charlie Rose at CBS.

But it happened a little bit differently with Lauer. Executives at NBC knew that "The New York Times" and "Variety" were working on stories about Lauer's past, possible allegations of misconduct.

But it wasn't until Monday night that anyone contacted the HR department to issue a formal complaint. When that happened, an investigation ensued on Tuesday. And by Tuesday night, NBC decided to fire Lauer.

That's what led to the chain of events on Wednesday, the shocking announcement on Wednesday's "Today Show" that Lauer's contract had been terminated.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: As I'm sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this. We are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and partner and he is beloved by many, many people here.

And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell. And we are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? And I don't know the answer to that.

STELTER: And shocking turn of events for the morning TV world, which now is in this unprecedented situation. Think about it -- one of the anchor chairs at CBS is empty because Rose is fired. Now, one of anchor chairs at NBC is empty because Lauer has been fired.

In so many cases up until now, people have felt shamed in silence. But we can see how that's changing now as companies feel pressure to take these allegations seriously, investigate them and take action -- Christine, Dave.


BRIGGS: Companies but just not Congress yet. Brian Stelter will join us later in the program live.

The allegations against Matt Lauer obviously no laughing matter, still late night hosts weighed in. Among them, NBC's own Jimmy Fallon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIMMY FALLON, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON: Today, NBC has fired Matt Lauer from the TV show after he was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. So, if you are wondering where is the world is Matt Lauer, he's probably at a bar with Charlie Rose.

President Trump tweeted about Matt Lauer being fired and went on to attack NBC News executives and Joe Scarborough. Kim Jong-un was like, did you guys not see that missile yesterday or --


I mean. I know you're busy but I can re-launch it.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: Lauer was fired due to inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. Not to be confused with appropriate sexual behavior in the workplace, because that does not exist.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: President Trump weighed in on this as presidents do. He tweeted. Wow, Matt Lauer just fired from NBC for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. If anyone knows about inappropriate behavior in the workplace at NBC, it's Donald J. Trump.


[04:50:02] ROMANS: I just about to spit out my coffee on the Colbert one about, you know, appropriate --

BRIGGS: Appropriate --

ROMANS: -- workplace behavior.

News flash: no one wants to see anything unclothed in the workplace. We don't need to.

BRIGGS: Good lesson for all the men out there.

ROMANS: Let's just start there and we can work -- we can go from there.


ROMANS: Fifty minutes past the hour. Big reversal on Wall Street. Tech stocks tanked, some of the worst performing stocks. They had a great day. Details on CNN "Money Stream", next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel -- hmm.

[04:55:06] Little rocket man -- rocket fuel for the American economy. He is a sick puppy. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Well, so much for President Trump's measured tone on North Korea.

The president mocking Kim Jong-un during a speech in Missouri Wednesday night. Earlier that emergency meeting, the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned North Korea's successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley giving a warning to the rogue regime.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The dictator of North Korea made a choice yesterday that brings the world closer to war. Not farther from it. We have never sought war with North Korea and still, today, we do not seek it. If war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.


BRIGGS: Let's bring in CNN's Paula Newton live in Seoul, South Korea, for us.

Paula, good morning to you. What's the latest?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting. Just in the last few hours, we have had North Korea released the video images of this launch. What I want you to look first is the split screen. This is the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15. Think about it in terms of technology, only a few months apart.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the Hwasong-15 is much larger. In this instance, size matters. Why? It seems that North Korea has now mastered what they called a two-stage technology.

Two different payloads and engines, that means, Dave, that it is as General Mattis said yesterday, likely to hit anywhere in the United States. That's the kind of capability we're talking about and why North Korea was so keen to release those pictures of that launch of experts are poring over it right now in both Japanese and South Korean officials agree there is no getting away from this.

You know, the U.N. ambassador to France says this is much more alarming. This represents a significant threat to the entire world. The question is what do you do about it? And at this point, despite what Nikki is saying in her word, it is a difficult situation.

Everyone realizes that the extra sanctions that now President Trump is promising may not do anything. What they're really looking for is China yet again to lean on North Korea and this time to lean them perhaps with some kind of energy embargo or boycott. That is very unlikely to happen. But without that happening, it seems that many experts agree, given this new video that we have, that they could be completely nuclear capable by the end of next year, Dave.

BRIGGS: Frightening. Paula Newton live for us in Seoul, South Korea. Thanks.

Meanwhile prosecutors in Virginia have dropped all charges against a mother who tried to record alleged bullying in her daughter's classroom. Sarah Sims had been charged with a felony after her daughter's elementary school confiscated a digital audio recorder in the fourth grader's desk. Sims could have faced up to five years in prison. Prosecutors say there was enough evidence to support the charges but they are exercising prosecutorial discretion in not pursuing this case.

ROMANS: That was a pretty good call.

BRIGGS: Good call.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning.

Global stock markets mixed following that reversal on Wall Street. This is a reversal. The worst performing sectors like airlines and retail had a great day. The best performing sector, tech, tanked. The Nasdaq fell more than 1 percent led by big drops in Alphabet, that's the parent of Google, Amazon, Apple and Netflix. Those are the darlings of the year.

Meanwhile, the Dow hit an all time high, thanks to movement on tax reform and bank-friendly comments from Jerome Powell, President Trump's nominee for Federal Reserve chief.

Also boosting the Dow, the U.S. economy posted its fastest growth in three years. GDP grew 3.3 percent between July and September. That's according to revise numbers from the Commerce Department.

They're getting increase in exports as well as business and consumer spending, this helps President Trump's promise of annual growth above 3 percent. However, that likely won't happen this year when you look at the whole year despite two quarters above 3 percent. The first quarter only grew 1.2 percent. Our average now this year is something like 2.5 percent.

All right. Chipotle's founders is out as CEO. The troubled fast casual chain looking to replace Steve Ells. Ells founded Chipotle in 1993, give up his role as CEO and become executive chairman. Chipotle was once the darling of the restaurant industry. It has struggled in the past few years mainly due to health scares and a big data breach. Shares of Chipotle have plunged more than 20 percent this year.

I would say the stock market is really going to be dependent today and the next couple days on what happens on tax reform. Companies see a corporate tax cut as good for their business even as the plan has moved from true tax reform to tax cuts for business, still Wall Street wants it.

BRIGGS: And no real signs this won't get through the Senate. EARLY START continues right now.


BRIGGS: The Russia special counsel taking no chances with Michael Flynn. And to make sure there's nothing they've missed, investigators turned to another key figure, Jared Kushner.