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Alabama Senate Race; Russia Investigation; Billy Bush Breaks His Silence; California Wildfire; Russia Retaliates Over U.S. Move; ABC New President Lashes Out At Staff. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 5, 2017 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:01] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN: Controversial Senate candidate one week to Election Day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly, the idea that our president is above the law is Nixonian.


DAVI BRIGGS, NEWS DAY CO-HOST: The president's legal strategy causing widespread confusion even as the lawyers not on the same page. We have the latest on the Russia investigation.


BILLY BUSH, FORMER ACCESS HOLLYWOOD HOST: You're reopening wounds on them too. Enough is enough. Stop playing around with people's lives.


ROMANS: And Billy Bush venting in his first public interview since the access Hollywood tape went public. What he say about the president in the way that sexual misconduct claims, now resurfacing. All right 30 minutes half an hour welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:30 eastern time. We start with the Alabama Election, one week before voters go to the polls in Alabama, a new fracture in the Republican Party over senate candidate Roy Moore. On Monday President Trump for the first time threw his full support behind Moore, the accused child molester, first in his tweet. Democrat's refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama.

ROMANS: And then in a phone call to the candidate the campaign say the president called Moore, called him a fighter and finished up by saying "Go Get them, Roy." Last night the Republican National Committee joined the president in backing Moore after walking away from him last month over those allegations of improper sexual conduct. And officials say the RNC will transfer money to the Alabama Republican party.

BRIGGS: But Moore's potential Senate colleagues are refusing to budge. And the National Republican Senatorial Committee Colorado's Cory Gardner sticking to the position he laid out last month. He said then he believes Moore's accusers and added if he refuses to withdraw and wins the senate should vote to expel him because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate. Many other Republican senators not so thrilled with the idea of working side by side with Moore.


SEN. JEFF FLAKES (R), ARIZONA: I still think it's unfortunate. We're going have a tough enough time in the coming years and being the party of Roy Moore is not going to help.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: I've learned long ago that voters don't want to be told from Washington who to vote for. I've made my position clear on Mr. Moore. But again it's not up me or the president. It's up to the people of Alabama.


ROMANS: And then this digging in as a committed Moore opponent former Republican nominee Mitt Romney he tweeted, "Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate would be a stain on the GOP of the nation. Lee Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes, no vote, no majority is worth losing our honor and integrity."

BRIGGS: Not shying from a fight, Moore responded, "Either Mitt Romney has lost his courage or he doesn't care about truth anymore. Sad day America's reawakening was led by Donald Trump not you Mitt", ironically the hash-tag during the swamp appearing on that tweet. Poll showing that he raised the Washington Post. Moore's Democratic opponent Doug Jones is up by 3 points well within the poll's margin of error.

ROMANS: The president set to attend the opening of the Mississippi civil rights museum on Saturday after holding a rally in Florida on Friday which means the president will be in two states that border Alabama without ever actually being in Alabama before the election.

BRIGGS: Series of new twists and President Trump is constantly shifting legal strategy for the Russia investigation. The president opened the (INAUDIBLE) forms Saturday with a tweet saying he knew Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump fired him.

In assertion that raises questions about obstruction of justice. Trump's personal lawyer John Dowd claimed he drafted that tweet and offered another defense that the president cannot obstruct justice because as chief law enforcement officer he has every right to express his view of any case.

ROMANS: That claim drew howls of protests from critics and by late Monday a White House lawyer Ty Cobb was down playing it telling "The Washington Post" the theory is not the president's official legal strategy. Cobb said, "It's interesting as a technical legal issue. But the president's lawyers intend to present a fact-based defense not a mere legal defense." As for whether the president can in fact obstruct justice it is worth noting that articles of impeachment against both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton did include obstruction charges.

BRIGGS: As we've now also learned another White House lawyer told President Trump in January, he believed Flynn had misled the FBI as well as Vice President Pence. That raises new questions about what the president knew when he urged then FBI Director Jim Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, something by the way the president says never happened.

ROMANS: It also appears the testimony of a former deputy to Michael Flynn does not line up with core documents. K.T. McFarland told the Senate Committee she was not aware of any communications between Michael Flynn and the Russian Ambassador Sertgey Kislyak. That contradicts a court filing that says Flynn spoke to a senior transition team official about what to discuss with Kislyak.

[04:35:11] BRIGGS: CNN has reported McFarland was the senior transition official. But she is not mentioned by name in the court filing. A representative for McFarland could not be reached for comment.

ROMANS: FBI Director Chris Wray responding now to President Trump's claims that the bureau's reputation is quote in tatters. Wray sending an agency wide e-mail that reads "because of the importance of the mission, we are also entrusted with great power and we should expect and welcome people asking tough questions about how we use that power. We find ourselves under the microscope each and every day and rightfully so."

BRIGGS: Wray finished off with one of his favorite work ethics slogans. "keep calm and tackle hard." Wray did not mention President Trump by name though. The president's criticism of the FBI intensified after it was revealed one of the bureaus top experts have been removed from the special council's investigation over a potential anti-Trump bias.

ROMANS: CNN has learned that the expert Peter Strzok is the person who changed a key phrase when James Comey described how Hillary Clinton handled classified information. He changed it from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless."

BRIGGS: Billy Bush speaking out for the first time since NBC fired him. Overnight he sold Stephen Colbert he felt like he got hit in the gut when he first heard himself Donald Trump on that infamous Access Hollywood tape days before it leaped. And that the president delivered a second gut on by recently questioning the tapes authenticity.


BUSH: He last week, for some reason came out with, "That's not my voice on the tape." Like I said you can't say that. That is your voice I was there, you were there, that's your voice on the tape. And what that does though is multiple -- I told you about my own personal problem with it. But then you've got 20 women at the time. I don't know what the exact number because there's more, but 20 women who used their names. We've got powerful people being held accountable now. And sometimes there's unanimous sources.

All of these women came out with their names and told their detailed accounts. Twenty women don't get together and say, "Hey, you know, what would be really fun let's take down a powerful guy together ha, ha." No, they don't. And their names should -- and I said OK. You're reopening wounds on them too. Enough is enough. Stop playing around with people's lives that upset me.


ROMANS: One interesting side note, Billy Bush told Colbert former "Today Show" host Matt Lauer spoke privately to NBC executives trying to save Bush's job when the tape leaked last year.

BRIGGS: Michigan Congressman John Conyers will make an announcement on the radio this morning. No official work on the content though. But the "New York Times" reports Conyers plans to announce he will not seek reelection amid allegations he sexually harassed former members of his staff. The Times sites Ian Conyers the grandson of the congressman's brother who tells the Times he plans to run for the seat.

ROMANS: The 88-year-old Conyers is the longest serving -- current serving member of the House. He already gave up his position as ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee as Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi have both said Conyers should resign. The younger Conyers expects the congressman to finish his term.

BRIGGS: All right, breaking over night, a fast-moving fire in California, charring 10,000 acres. Hundreds of thousands without power, one person is dead. That's next on "EARLY START."


[04:43:01] ROMANS: All right. Who needs to go to the doctor when you can just head just CVS? That's the logic behind CVS's $69 billion purchase of help ensure Aetna. Health care cost are soaring and consumers want cheaper access to care.

So, the companies plan to transform CVS's 10, 000 locations into community health centers promising Americans high quality low-cost medical care. CVS and Aetna say that by overseeing both the patient's medical and pharmacy benefits, they can improve an inefficient system.

Critics are skeptical. Few expect this will lower drug costs and even clear just how quickly savings will pass to consumers that if the deal is even approved. The Justice Department recently sued to block another so called vertical merger.

AT&T's purchase of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, both deals concern companies that are not direct competitors but also save off competition. And the Justice Department has blocked other defensive mergers this year including Aetna's proposed deal for rival Humana. BRIGGS: Breaking right now, Southern California, more than a thousand homes under mandatory evacuation as a huge deadly wildfire rages out of control. This is the scene north of Santa Paula.

Fire officials say the flames have now burned about 10,000 acres, more than 260,000 customers are without power. Thomas Aquinas College and the Santa Paula Unified School Districts have already announced their closures for today. Official say one person has been killed in a car accident related to the fire.

ROMANS: Now, 4.2 magnitude earthquakes striking near the town of Perry, Oklahoma last nigh. . CNN affiliate KOTV reported the epicenter was located 60 miles or so from Oklahoma City. There have been no reports of damages or injuries so far. We will bring you more information as it becomes available this morning.

"House of Cards" lives for one final episode. Netflix says the political drama will return for an eight-episode, sixth season with Robin Wright as the lead character and former start Kevin Spacey cut out of the show completely.

The fate of House of Cards has been unclear since Netflix cut ties with Spacey last month following accusations of sexual assault and harassment by multiple men.

[04:45:08] A production on the final season expected to resume early next year. And, you know, in the fifth scene, she had already emerged as sort of the alpha character --

BRIGG: Oh yes.

ROMANS: -- and side lined him. So --

BRIGGS: Will they kill him off?

ROMANS: -- clearly. I don't know. And how will they kill him off? But she can clearly handle it and carry it.

BRIGGS: She's great. All right. LiAngelo Ball one of the three UCLA basketball players arrested on the trip to China leaving the school. The team's coach releasing a statement saying they respect the decision. LiAngelo and his family made and wishing him the best in the future.

Ball, the freshman and two teammates were arrested on suspicion of steals sunglasses from a store in here the team hotel. President Trump made a personal appeal to the Chinese president on their behalf. LaVar Ball says the family is exploring other options for LiAngelo.

They are Houston strong. Sports illustrated naming Texan star J.J Watt and Jose Altuve, the World Series champion Astros, Sports Persons of the Year for 2017. The two being honored for culmination of on field performance and civic contributions in the wake of Hurricane Harvey which devastated Houston and its surrounding area this past summer.

Watt has raised more than $37 million in relief aid. Both Watt and Altuve will be honored an award ceremony in New York today.

ROMANS: He has already declared he will not get the honor but President Trump is one of 10 finalists for Time Magazine's 2017 person of the year. The short list includes among others the Amazon Chief, Jeff Bezos. The Dreamers, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, the #MeToo movement, Special Counsel Mueller, President Trump, who was the 2016 Time Person of the Year.

BRIGGS: So, they just want to troll the president and name Kim Jong- Un or Colin Kaepernick? I think probably not. You think what?

ROMANS: I think the #MeToo Movement is just --

BRIGGS: Without it.

ROMANS: It's just so fascinating and so organic that I think that --


ROMANS: -- I think that the top contender there.

BRIGGS: Their hashtag with all the victims --


BRIGGS: -- and Gretchen Carlson certainly prominent featured there with him.

ROMANS: All right. Why aren't more people investing when senator blame booze or women or movies? My home state senator with -- try to clean up he put in the mouth to these details on at CNNMoney, next.


[04:51:45] BRIGGS: Russia's Justice Ministry designated nine media outlets as foreign agents, all of them backed by the U.S. government. The move seen by the Kremlin as retaliation after U.S. imposed measures against the top Russian broadcaster. Let's get the latest live from CNN's Clare Sebastian force (ph) in Moscow. Clare, good morning to you. This is just a couple weeks after the president criticize CNN International on Twitter, what's the downfall of all these?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes Dave, among those nine media outlets that you mentioned Radio Free/Europe Liberty and Voice of America both funded by the U.S. government. And the seven are linked to those two mostly Russian language outlets. One of them is based on consent (ph) on Crimea that was set up in March of 2014 just after the Russian invasion that you get a sense of the kind of content.

Russian says as you say that this is a direct mirror response to the U.S. government compelling R.T. and Sputnik to register under FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Russia of course is deeply opposed to that. They say this is a direct mirror response, no more, no less, on Russian senators telling state media (Inaudible) this morning that they don't expect the list to expand unless something else happens on the U.S. side.

But as for what this means, for these outlets as well, they will have to register with the Ministry of Justice. They will have to brand that content presumably that they are a foreign agent under Russian law and submit to various reporting requirements. So, you know, for tat response there, Dave.

BRIGGS: That is frightening stuff, Clare Sebastian live (INAUDIBLE) in Moscow this morning, thanks.

ROMANS: President Trump facing two lawsuits for dramatically shrinking two Utah national monuments. Both federal lawsuits claim the president did not have the authority to reduce the park size. The President cut them by some 2 million acres, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation's history.

BRIGGS: One lawsuit filed Monday by environmental and conservation groups over the Gran Staircase-Escalante national monument, the other group of Native American tribes over the Bears-Ears national monument, no comments on either suit yet from the White House.

ROMANS: The president's decision to shrink the monuments reverses protection placed President's Clinton and Obama. Conservative lawmakers, they have the Trump administrations pushed for more mining and drilling on public lands as the response to years federal overreach.

Environmentalists argue the president's decision will destroy the national heritage and you've got five among those lawsuits, five Native American Indian tribes are suing to reverse the move.

BRIGGS: All right this morning, the revised version of the President Trump's travel ban now in effect as appeals work their way through the court system. Monday, Supreme Court ruling is a significant, though, possibly temporary win of the Trump administration. This latest version of the travel ban placed varying levels of restriction on citizens of eight countries. Lower courts in two separate challenges had partially blocked the ban and those legal battles continue. Justice Reporter Laura Jarett has the latest from Washington.

LAURA JARETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Hey good morning Dave and Christine, a victory for the Trump administration, at least for now. As the Supreme Court green lights travel ban 3.0 pending a full resolution of the appeal. This case has had dozens of twists and turns since President Trump signed the first executive order back in January but this is the first time the justices have allowed this version of the ban to go forward in its entirety.

[04:55:14] Potentially signaling that they may be more inclined to rule in favor of this ban down the line. Now, naturally, the decision was claimed as a win by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the White House which said in a statement, "We are not surprised by today's Supreme Court decision permitting immediate enforcement of the President's proclamation limiting travel from countries presenting heightened risk of terrorism." But the challengers of this ban from the American Civil Liberties Union who've been arguing against to in court vowed to continue the fight saying, we continue to stand for freedom, equality and for those who are unfairly being separated from their loved ones.

Now Monday's decision means the travel ban can now be enforced while these other legal challenges make their way through the court system but the overall legality of the ban will be heard by two different appellate courts later this week, Dave, Christine?

ROMANS: Alright Laura Jarett. Thank you for that, Laura. The president of ABC News lashing out of his staff over a serious error by reporter Brian Ross in a report about Michael Flynn on Friday, Ross reported Flynn was to prepare to testify that then that then candidate Donald Trump instructed him to reach out to the Russians. Seven hours later, on World News Tonight, Ross changed his reporting saying Flynn was prepared to testify Trump made that request when he was president elect.

BRIGGS: ABC News President James Goldston ordering a full review of the air and ripping into his staff during the Monday morning editorial call which was obtained by CNN. He told them quote, "I don't think ever in my career have I felt more rage and disappointment and frustration that I felt through this weekend and through the last half Friday. I don't know how many times we've talked about this, how many times we've talked about the need to get it right. That's how we have to be right and not first."

ROMANS: Goldston also announced Ross and network's chief investigator reporter will no longer cover stories related to President Trump and he expressed frustration that it took more than seven hours for ABC to clarify the story before later issuing a full blown correction. He says ABC will pay a price for that for a long, long time.

Let's get a check on CNNMoney stream this Tuesday morning. Global fact market mixed today after Wall Street's tax reform celebration faded. At first the Dow sort of 300 points after the Senate passed that huge -- that bill with huge corporate tax cuts but that rally vanished by the closing bill. The Dow ending just 58 points higher, still, that was enough to hit a record high.

The (Inaudible) and the S&P 500 close lower on a big drop in tax cuts. But it's clear, Wall Street still love tax reform betting the companies will use their spare cash to ramp up stock buy-backs and bolster dividends, that is great news for investors.

Why should Congress kill the estate tax to benefit investors? Now the people spending everything on booze or women or movies. What? Senator Chuck Grassley told the Des Moines Register, people who invest their money benefit from eliminating the estate tax opposed to those spending every darn penny they have whether it's on booze or women or movies. Firestorm in suit, his comment called classist and sexist, why? Because no -- no women who will, no women gets (INAUDIBLE) inheriting all these money.

Grassley told CNN his comments were taken out of context. He has long called the estate tax unfair to farmers and ranchers who inherit their estates. The Tax Policy Center though estimates just 80, just 80 family own farms will pay any estate tax this year.

Facebook is rolling out a Messenger app for kids under the age of 13 called Messenger Kids. The standalone app can be controlled by parent's Facebook account, children can video chat or send messages to friends approved by the parents.

Facebook normally requires users be at least 13 years old but this -- this Messenger app allows Facebook to win over younger users on 13's. Facebook faces stiff competition from platforms like Snapchat. I know a lot of young kids are already on Instagram, Snapchat and all kinds of --


ROMANS: I don't know, (inaudible) but under 13.

BRIGGS: Right. Sure but do we -- just we need more she social media? I would love less in my kid's life.

ROMANS: I know you've -- my kids play the piano and they do, you know, they do differential equations.

BRIGGS: Yes, they do a lot of iPad.

ROMANS: But I don't know any of those things.

BRIGGS: Early Start 15 is right now, the latest on these California wildfires.

ROMANS: The president of RNC are on board with Roy Moore but his would be Senate colleagues are not. A new split over the controversial Senate candidate one week to election day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly the idea that our President is above the law is Nixonian.


BRIGGS: President legal strategy causing wide spread confusion in his own lawyer's not on the same page. We have the latest on the Russia investigation.


BUSH: You're reopening wounds on them too. Enough' is enough. Stop playing around with people's lives.


ROMANS: There --