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Flynn Fallout; Tax Battle; The Return Of Billy Bush; Comey Defends FBI in Tweet; Congress's Dueling Tax Bills; major Healthcare Acquisition; Detroit's Silverdome still standing; Met Opera Director Suspended Amid Sexual Abuse allegations. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 4, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:14] CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: President Trump directs his wrath at the FBI after Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying in the Russia probe. Now obstruction charges to hinge on a tweet that raise questions about why the President fired James Comey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tweeting comment regarding an ongoing criminal investigation at your own peril, I'd be careful if I were you, Mr. President.


BRIGGS: From Lindsey Graham a bruising battle over taxes moves on to the next phase. The house and senate start to reconcile their two bills. We'll tell you where the GOP has big gaps to close.

ROMANS: And looks like Billy Bush is ready to come out of the shadows in a scathing op-ed. He made clear the president said exactly what you hear on that Access Hollywood tape, what will Bush say on the late show tonight?

A year in the wilderness. Billy Bush is making an entry to society. Good morning and welcome to Early Start, I am Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I am Dave Briggs. Interesting to see him back in the discussion. We'll talk more about this op-ed ahead in "The New York Times" it is December 4, it is Monday, it is 4:00 a.m. in the east, 11:00 a.m. in Jerusalem, 6:00 p.m. in Seoul. We start this morning with the President returning to an old playbook following the newest criminal charges in the Russia probe. He is lashing out at the intelligence community. This comes after former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his discussions with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

ROMANS: In a series of tweets over the weekend, the President attacked the FBI and its former Director James Comey. In one he writes, "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more fake news. Covering Comey lie. That puts the President directly at odds with what Comey told congress in June.


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I understood him to be saying is what he wanted me to drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians.


BRIGGS: President Trump's most notable tweet on Flynn turning states evidence came Saturday. I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has plead guilty to those lies.

ROMANS: Critic's quickly pounced saying if he fired Comey knowing the FBI was investigating Flynn. That on its own may constitute obstruction of justice. The President's personal lawyer John Dowd now claims he drafted the President's tweet. But top Democrats in congress say obstruction is very much a part of the wider investigation.


SEN DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: The judiciary committee has an investigation going as well. And it involves obstruction of justice. And I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of case of obstruction of justice.


BRIGGS: President Trump now looking to shift the focus seizing the news that a member of special counsel Robert Mueller's team was removed over anti-Trump sentiments he expressed. Let's bring in Jeremy Diamond at the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning Christine and Dave. The President spent part of his weekend on social media attacking the FBI after special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation filing its first charges against the Trump administration official, of course that is Michael Flynn, the former national security advisors who on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. And the President picking up on a different story this weekend to go after the FBI's reputation saying that it is in tatters. This is regarding an FBI agent who is detailed to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. He sent text messages to another FBI agent that could be interpreted as anti-Trump or pro Clinton. These were text messages sent during the 2016 election. The President in a one of the series of tweets, well here is what he said, tainted, no, very dishonest. FBI agent's role in Clinton probe under review led Clinton e-mail probe. That is because this agent in fact is one of the lead investigators on the Clinton investigation. The Justice Department's inspector general is now investigating the handling of that investigation, but the President's tweets this weekend appearing to hit at the FBI's reputation. As he said, it was in tatters. And that led to former FBI Director James Comey who feuded in the past with the President. The President actually fired Comey. Comey. Comey took to twitter to defend the FBI. Here was his tweet. I want the American people to know the truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. The FBI is and always will be independent. Christine and Dave? Back to you.


ROMANS: Jeremy Diamond in the White House, thank you for that.

FBI agents association joining Comey in defending the men and women of the bureau in a twitter statement. The group's President said every day the FBI special agents put their lives on the line to protect the American public from national security and criminal threats. This is why the FBI continues to be the premier law enforcement agency in the world. FBI agents are dedicated to their mission. Suggesting otherwise is simply false.

[04:05:15] BRIGGS: Former Attorney General Eric Holder also wangling on twitter quote, no not letting this go. The FBI's reputation is not in tatters. It's composed of the same dedicated men and women who have always worked there and did a great a political job. You'll find integrity and honesty at FBI headquarters and not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now.

ROMANS: The Attorney General Jeff Sessions is dealing with inconsistencies of his own over meetings with the Russian ambassador.

BRIGGS: Michael Flynn's plea deal raises a host of questions. Why did the former national security adviser feel he had to lie to the FBI about contacts with the Russians? E-mails obtained by "The New York Times" show Flynn and others on the transition team strategizing about how to reassure the Russian ambassador after the Obama administration imposed the sanctions for Russia's attempts to meddle in the election.

ROMANS: The emails directly contradicts White House efforts to portray Flynn as acting alone. Trump supporters spent the weekend pushing the notion that it is not unusual for incoming administration officials to speak with foreign governments.

BRIGGS: Another big question, why did first son-in-law Jared Kushner, a top White House adviser, direct Mike Flynn to contact Russian officials? Democrats on both the house and senate intel committee say they want Kushner who already appeared before both panels to return and answer new questions. Revelations about Kushner have been dribbling out for months now, forcing Kushner and other Trump aides who had denied or down played them to backtrack repeatedly.

ROMANS: The actions of another key player then transition adviser K.T. McFarland also raising questions. McFarland later became Deputy National Security Adviser under Mike Flynn. "The New York Times" reports that she wrote an e-mail saying that new Russia sanctions were an Obama administration ploy to box Trump in diplomatically. McFarland added Russia quote, has just thrown the USA Election to him.

BRIGGS: Unclear whether she meant the election had in fact been thrown to Trump by Moscow or only that Democrats were painting it that way. Also still unclear, what the Trump team would have gotten for lifting sanctions. ROMANS: The House of Representatives returning a day early to cast

votes starting to reconcile differences between the house and senate tax reform bills. Republicans hoping to get a bill to the President's desk by Christmas. The 490-page bill passed early Saturday morning unveiled just hours before the vote and even included a hand scribbled final edit.

BRIGGS: That was a bit unusual. We will get to it, what exactly is in the bill in a moment? First reaction to the vote that has Republicans cheering and Democrats seething.


SEN MITCH MCCONNEL, (R) MAJORITY LEADER: We followed the regular order. There were multiple hearings. Democrats were there. Days of hearings. Days of amendments. The Democrats offered amendments in committee ad nauseam. The process on the floor, the reconciliation process is regular order. That is how they passed Obama care.

ANGUS KING, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If that was regular order, I'd hate to see something else. There were no hearings. There were general hearings about tax reform. There was zero hearings on the bill. And even the bill that was reported out by the finance committee was different than what we were handed that we had to vote on a few hours later.

SEN MARK WARNER, (D) VIRGINIA: Friday was my single worst day as a U.S. Senator.


BRIGGS: On his way to New York for three funneled raisers, the President told reporters he could accept raising the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 22 percent despite his long insisting on 20 percent. He is the one that set it on 20, not sure why they might move it.

ROMANS: They may have to move it to pay for it. Both the house and senate bill promising big corporate tax cuts with no guarantee it will add jobs or raise wages. But they also differ on some key points. What does that mean for your tax return? First off, there's no set length for individual tax cuts central promise of the bill. The house bill, the tax cuts are permanent but they expire by 2025 under the senate version.

Also different, the individual tax rates, the house slims down to four tax brackets. The senate has seven tax brackets. But lowers most rates including it lowers rates for top earners. The senate version also keeps popular tax breaks that the house gets rid of like deductions for mortgages, medical expenses and student loans. And while both increase the child tax credit, the senate bill is more generous. One thing both versions agree on, permanent corporate tax cuts, the GOP argues that will mean higher wages for you. There is no guarantee. Let me repeat that. There is no guarantee, in fact the current tax plan will likely raise taxes for some people right away for those earning less than $30,000 a year. By the year 2027, all low income and most middle class Americans end up paying more if you look at the analysis from the CBO and the joint committee on taxation.

[04:10:09] BRIGGS: Looks like Billy Bush is done laying low in the wake of that notorious Access Hollywood tape which got him fired from NBC. The former co-host starting with a message to President Trump in a form of an op-ed in The New York Times, headline Yes, Donald Trump, you said that. Bush says he was prompted to speak out by news reports suggesting the President is questioning the authenticity of the tape. Bush says the reports of Trump casting doubt on the tape hit a raw nerve.

ROMANS: He writes, every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act, he was performing. Surely we thought none of this was real. We now know better. I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women that came forward with their stories about him and did not receive enough attention. This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. The leader is wantonly poking the bear.

BRIGGS: His voice is missing from the conversation. I think we've been waiting to see when he would weigh in on this. I think in particular what he said in this piece when he went on to say that Billy once poked the President about you're lying about your ratings and the President said, you can say whatever you want. You just tell them, keep telling them and they'll believe it. So that was insightful.

Ahead, President Trump expected to name Jerusalem as Israel's capital this week. But there are strong objections in the Middle East and safety concerns for American personnel abroad. We're live in Jerusalem.


[04:15:42] BRIGGS: President Trump expected to recognize Jerusalem as Israel as its capital. U.S. official say the decision could come as early as tomorrow and it would overturn 70 years of international consensus. The State Department Security offices is planning for violent protests at U.S. Embassies and consulates. CNN's Ina Lee is live in Jerusalem for us, good morning to you. What is the reaction there, Ian?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, there's a reason Presidents both Democrats and Republicans didn't move the U.S. Embassy because of the possible ramifications of declaring Jerusalem Israel's capital without a peace agreement. First, you have regional allies who could be alienated in the move and President Trump has work hard to cultivate better relations to some success. You also have the Arab league who condemned this. You had Egypt's foreign minister say that any potential move could cultivate or could bring hostilities. Jordan's foreign minister warned of dangerous consequences as well as it could damage the peace process. The Palestinian liberation organization's secretary-general who has been in D.C. Talking with administration officials said that if the United States makes this announcement it would disqualify the U.S. From any role in the peace process.

On the other side, Israeli officials have been noticeably quiet and that is unusual, because in the past they've enthusiastically advocated for this move. Yesterday we heard from Jared Kushner. He was speaking at the bookings forum. He said the President has yet to make up his mind. He still mulling over the options. But we are also watching U.S. Diplomatic missions. They have increased security ahead of any potential announcement. Dave?

BRIGGS: Yeah. That announcement could make Kushner's job quite a bit harder. Ian Lee live for us. Thank you.

ROMANS: The CIA Director Mike Pompeo weighing in over the weekend on his boss's prolific twitter habit saying far from making his job harder, it actually yields valuable intelligence. The President heavily criticized last week for retweeting a trio of anti-Muslim videos posted by a right-wing extremist group in Britain. But at a Reagan national defense forum in California on Saturday, Pompeo said this.


MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: I have seen things the President has put on his twitter account actually have a real world impact on our capacity to understand what's going on in other places of the world. That is our adversaries responded to those tweets and in ways that were helpful to us, to understand command and control issues, who is listening to what messages, how the messages are resonating around the world.


BRIGGS: One of Pompeo's predecessors differed with current CIA director, sitting next to him at the forum, former Director Leon Panetta said quote, when you tweet something like that out there you don't know what the consequences are going to be. And the consequences could be lives.

ROMANS: All right. 18 minutes past the hour. A mega deal that could transform health care. CVS planning to acquire AETNA. What it means for consumers and whether the government might object.


[04:23:22] ROMANS: A very big deal to tell you CBS will buy AETNA in a deal that could turn slim healthcare. CBS of course is a huge drug store chain and prescription drug provider, AETNA is one of the nation's largest health insurers. If this $69 billion deal is approved, it will help both companies. CVS gains a huge number of members for the prescription business just as it faces a possible new threat from Amazon. That is right, Amazon in prescriptions. For AETNA, it creates new growth. That is been critical to offset the huge losses under Obamacare.

The deal is also a response to soaring health care costs customers want cheaper access to care. CVS and AETNA say joining force would help on that. That they plan to transform CVS' 10,000 locations into community health centers promising American both lower cost medical care and a place to purchase coverage. That is if the deal is approved, especially after the Justice Department sued to block another so-called vertical merger. AT&T's purchase of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, both deals concern companies in the same industry that are not direct competitors. Watch this phase.

BRIGGS: The New York's metropolitan opera, the met, suspending famed music Director James Levine pending an internal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. "The New York Times" reporting three men have come forward accusing Levine of sexually abusing them, decades ago.

ROMANS: The met issuing a statement saying they hired investigators to determine if the accusations are true and adding while we await the results of the investigation based on these new news reports, the met made the decision to act now.

BRIGGS: Levine stepped down as the Met's music Director in 2016 due to health problems, but he was scheduled to lead a new production starting New Year's Eve. CNN has tried to reach Levine and the manager, but has not yet heard back.

[04:25:10] Well the lions could not implode the silver dome in explosives couldn't do it but Detroit's famed silver dome is still standing, even after an attempted implosion. The demolition contractor says some explosives failed to detonate, because of faulty wiring. Twitter naturally enjoyed this moment. Some even created a twitter account for the dome with the first tweet, hell no, you can't bring me down. And there's this one. Once again the silver dome is sending home fans disappointed only to have them scramble the TV's later when it sounds like a comeback is happening. Years of struggles now coming to life.

All right. Good stuff there. President Trump weapon a weekend full of attacks on the FBI after the Michael Flynn guilty plea. Now even fellow Republicans warning the President to watch his comments.