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EARLY START

Representative Trent Franks Also Leaving Congress; New Questions About Trump Tower Meeting; New Wildfires in Southern California. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 04:30   ET

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


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Franken did not apologize in his speech and he also complained about the unfairness of being forced out while President Trump keeps his job and Roy Moore keeps running for Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:30:06] SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Minnesota's Democratic Governor Mark Dayton will appoint a temporary replacement for Franken until a special election next November.

Dozens of Democrats have called on Franken to resign including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

ROMANS: Just a few hours later, Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks announced he is resigning at the end of January. The statement came after the House Ethics Committee said it would investigate sexual harassment claims against Franks.

In statement, Franks admitted he discussed fertility issues with two female staffers.

I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and the process in the workplace caused distress.

BRIGGS: But the day was not over. Last night, the House Ethics panel announced progress in the investigation of Republican Congressman Blake Fahrenthold. The lawyer for Lauren Green, a former staffer, who says Farenthold sexually harassed her, said she has agreed to sit for an interview with an ethics committee, and now, one of Farenthold's Republican colleagues, Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah, is calling on him to resign.

And all of this just days after Michigan Congressman John Conyers resigned from his seat following a series of sexual harassment allegations by former staffers.

ROMANS: All right. Capitol Hill reeling, reeling from allegations and resignations, President Trump heads to Pensacola, Florida, tonight, for a campaign rally and that's just 25 miles from Alabama, where Roy Moore is vying for the Senate seat under a cloud of sexual misconduct allegations.

The president is standing by his endorsement of Moore. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders sticking to the script.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I've addressed this in depth. We think that the allegations are troubling and that, ultimately, this is something that the people of Alabama should decide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Republican National Committee is still supporting Roy Moore, cutting two checks for his campaign, totaling $170,000.

BRIGGS: But Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wants no part of the Alabama Senate candidate, telling "The Weekly Standard", quote, Roy Moore will never have the support of senatorial committee. We will never endorse him. We won't support him. I won't let that happen. Nothing will change.

The election to choose between Roy Moore and Doug Jones takes place on Tuesday.

ROMANS: And now, a CNN exclusive: previously undisclosed e-mails showing multiple follow-ups to the now infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016 between top Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. This is the first indication of any follow-through after the meeting, raising new questions for congressional investigators.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, CNN is learning about follow-up e-mails after that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between members of Trump's inner circle and Russians, who Donald Trump believed was offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

So, one of the e-mails was to senior Trump aide Dan Scavino. He's the president's social media director. So, British publicist Rob Goldstone who set up the meeting, he encouraged Scavino to get then- candidate Donald Trump to create a page on the Russian social networking site called VK. In the emails, Goldstone said that, quote, Don and Paul were on board with the idea. That was a reference to then-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, also Donald Trump A source tells us Goldstone had also mentioned the idea that social

media post at the end of the Trump Tower meeting as everyone was leaving and that Goldstone continued to push the proposal in e-mails in the following weeks.

Now, CNN has done a search of VK pages. We could not find any indication the campaign ever set a page up.

Then, there was a second e-mail that was dated June 14th, 2016. That was five days after the Trump Tower meeting n that e-mail, Goldstone forwarded a CNN story on Russia's hacking of DNC e-mails. It was forwarded to his client, a Russian pop star Emin Agalarov. Also to Ike Kaveladze who also attended the meeting and he described the news of the hacks as, quote, eerily weird, given that they had what they had at the Trump Tower meeting five days earlier.

We reached out to some attorneys and Scott Balber, the attorney for Ike Kaveladze, he confirms that his client received the e-mail but he said it was odd because hacking, he says was never discussed at the meeting.

[04:35:01] But the point is these new e-mails, they are raising new questions for investigators about what exactly was discussed inside the Trump Tower meeting, and how much these e-mails kept coming in after the meeting itself -- Christine and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Jessica, thank you.

Lawyers for former Trump campaign Paul Manafort admitting he did work on an op-ed where prosecutors say put his bail deal at risk. Manafort's attorneys acknowledging in court papers that Manafort helped write the commentary defending his work for Ukraine. The criminal charges against Manafort relate to his lobbying for the Ukrainian government.

ROMANS: Special counsel Robert Mueller says Manafort did the writing as recently as last week with a person who has ties to Russian intelligence services. Mueller's office says the work may violate a judge's gag order. But Manafort's lawyer say there is no reason the op-ed work should keep him from being released from house arrest. They say the op-ed was never intended for publication in the U.S., and that Mueller is trying to deprive Manafort of his right to free speech.

BRIGGS: The head of the FBI defending the bureau on Capitol Hill. Director Christopher Wray making his first public appearance since President Trump blasted the agency, tweeting Sunday, after years of Comey with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation, and more running the FBI, reputation is in tatters, worst in history. But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.

ROMANS: Here is Wray's response to lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of brave men and women who are working as hard as they can to keep people they will never know safe from harm. The agents, analysts and staff of the FBI are big boys and girls. We understand that we will take criticism from all corners and we're accustomed to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Wray went on to tell the house judiciary committee there is no finer institution than the FBI.

BRIGGS: The House and Senate narrowly averting a government shutdown this weekend, voting for a short term spending bill to keep the federal government running for another two weeks. The votes came shortly after President Trump met with top Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House to resolve key policy differences.

ROMANS: The new deadline for a long-term spending bill is December 22nd. That's when government agencies' authority runs out again. One key issue is whether to protect DREAMers, undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children. That could be a deal breaker for Republicans. While some Democrats in the House have threatened to vote against any spending package that doesn't include the DREAMers.

BRIGGS: The president's health, a hot topic in the White House briefing room after Mr. Trump appeared to slur his speech during his speech about Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And God bless the United States. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: White House reporters -- sorry. It's still funny to hear, questioning Secretary Sarah Sanders about slurred speech. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: Frankly pretty ridiculous questions. The president's throat was dry, nothing more than that. He does have a physical schedule for the first part of next year. The full physical that was president's go through will take place at Walter Reed, and those records will be released by the doctor following that taking place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: You might recall president Trump consistently raised questions about Hillary Clinton's health during the campaign, repeatedly questioning her stamina.

ROMANS: What was it that was trending on Twitter that day.

BRIGGS: Hashtag denture Donald.

ROMANS: There was big discussion --

BRIGGS: Started by Trevor Noah, all through the night and all through the day.

ROMANS: We'll listen to the president today.

All right. President Trump's approval rating sinking to an all-time low. According to the latest Pew Research Center poll, just 32 percent of Americans, 32 percent now approve of his job performance. That matches the lowest number in any approval polls since Mr. Trump took office.

And when asked whether improper contact between senior Trump officials and Russia definitely or probably occurred during the campaign, Americans say yes, by nearly 2 to 1 margin.

All right. In less than four hours, the labor market releases its monthly jobs report. November should offer the first clear picture of the labor market in months because hurricanes caused big job swings in September and October. So, November will give us an accurate view, we hope, of the economy and the jobs market.

Expectations are solid, everybody, 190,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate steady at 4.1 percent. That's a 17-year low. Both are signs of a strong labor market.

One thing still missing, meaningful wage growth. Paychecks aren't getting better, bigger, and it's been this way for years.

Now, the White House says tax reform, tax reform will raise wages, promising corporate tax savings will translate into higher worker pay. There's no guarantee of that. In fact, investors are betting companies, extra cash, will flow right to Wall Street, and to investors, not to Main Street, by ramping up stock buyback and bolstering dividends.

[04:40:02] BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, firefighters in Southern California now battling six wildfires and over 200,000 people have been told to evacuate as officials say this fight may last for weeks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Six wildfires totaling 140,000 acres now raging out of control in southern California. Intense winds and dry conditions sparking new fires in San Diego and Riverside Counties, forcing nearly 200,000 people to evacuate. The largest fire north of Ventura County all but encircling the city of Ojai and now moving into the city of Santa Barbara.

[04:45:01] The smoke plume from the flames extending over 1,000 miles into the Pacific Ocean, the distance from New York to Miami.

We get more now from CNN's Sara Sidner in Ventura.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, you are looking at the largest of six fires that had been burning here in California now. This is the Thomas Fire. It is in Ventura County.

And we are between Ojai and Carpentaria. I want to give you a look at what is happening. We're standing at a farm, we're standing on the home owner's balcony here, and you are seeing just there, just at the ridge line there, fire. They have been watching this very closely. It is burning.

Then you will see helicopters come in and sort of drop water on that fire. But it keeps popping up. This is the problem that firefighters have been having.

We're talking about nearly 100,000 acres for one fire alone. There is a lot of property damage that has happened over the course of the past few days, about 300 structures have burned in all these different fires.

I want to give you an idea just behind me where we are seeing those air drops yet again that is happening even in this dense smoke. Incredible work by fire crews who have been trying to keep these flames from getting to places like where we are farms. But, still, a very dangerous, very active fire situation, including as we drove here on the 101, both north and southbound, the fire going so heavy and going so ferociously, it jumped the freeway, putting cars in danger. They were swerving around the fire.

People still are being told, the evacuations are in place, and they need to be careful and pay attention because this fire is nowhere near over yet -- Dave, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Really troubling there. Sara, thank you.

When will firefighters get a break? Meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the forecast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good Friday morning, Dave and Christine.

We are still monitoring six major fires across Southwestern California, the Thomas Fire being the largest. But we still have the Rye, Creek, Skirball, Liberty and newly formed Lilac fire just outside of San Diego.

Look at the winds. We'll get a brief lull in the activity today, before the winds start to pick up right through the course of the weekend, making fire-fighting efforts that much more difficult.

We have red flags warnings in effect, from San Barbara through Los Angeles and San Diego, with high wind warnings for gusts between 40 to 60 miles per hour through the course of the day today, and into the overnight period.

So, certainly a high fire danger over the West, but the eastern two thirds of the country a whole different weather story. In fact, we have a dip in the jet stream allowing for cold arctic air to settle in. That's mixing with precipitation. And you know what that means, rain/snow mix possible, across the Deep South, which is not that unusual for places like Atlanta and Birmingham, and the mid-Atlantic, we're expecting that mixture of precipitation. Look at the cold weather below normal for many locations.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Up here in Connecticut, we take up to snow, New York as well.

President Trump's Twitter feed meanwhile relatively tame this week and now we may know why. Sources tell CNN the president's tweet last weekend about fired national security adviser Michael Flynn raised serious concerns among his staff. Finally, prompting them to consider new rules about how messages are posted on his social media.

That tweet said: I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide.

ROMANS: The tweet raised questions about whether the president was admitting to obstructing justice. Hours after the post appeared, Trump attorney John Dowd claimed he wrote that tweet. Sources tell CNN the president vented about the message, causing more trouble with the Russian investigation. It's not clear whether new restrictions of some sort were put in place on the POTUS Twitter account.

BRIGGS: Let's be clear, retweeting the Islamic fascist videos were not the red flag?

ROMANS: Right, right.

All right. More protests expected today in Israel following yesterday's tense demonstrations where dozens were injured. We'll go live to Jerusalem, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:53:39] ROMANS: At least 49 people injured in the West Bank Thursday as Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli security forces. The violent demonstration a response to President Trump's announcement the U.S. is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. Both Israelis and Palestinians claimed the holy city as their capital. Israeli security forces firing tear gas, water cannons and what appeared to be rubber-coated bullets at protesters. Palestinians have called for three days of rage culminating in more protests today after Friday prayers.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Jerusalem with the latest for us.

Nic, just a few minutes until noon your time. What is the scene there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Hey, Christine.

So far, it's been peaceful, no violence. The police have put no restrictions on people going to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the old city here. Sometimes they put restrictions on security, restrictions limiting the age of people attending prayers. You have to be over 48. That is sometimes seen as sort of a potential for a spark of tension with Palestinian protesters.

So, the fact that hasn't happened today, the fact that police have decided security is of such a level that they're comfortable with the situation right now, that they will essentially let everyone go through to prayer is an indication that perhaps the prayers may pass off without incident. That's certainly the hope of many people here.

[04:55:04] But I've been walking around the streets of the old city this morning. The stores are all shuttered yesterday out of concern of violence, they are back and open. There are a plenty of tourists wondering around the old city. So, the sense and feeling at this moment, at least, is that there's a potential that the prayers will pass off here, at least, in the old city, peacefully.

We are told there may be protests afterwards and there is, of course, the high possibility of clashes and flashes in other parts of the West Bank. But at the moment, right here, right now, despite concerns, the police say they got a high security presence, should they need it, despite concerns, it is peaceful.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson for us, we know you'll keep watch. Keep us posted if anything changes. Thank you, sir.

BRIGGS: Video of a good smart tan taking action in the devastating southern California fires has gone viral. And the Internet just can't get enough.

Jeanne Moos has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Instead of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, he pulled one out of a California wildfire that happened on Highway 1, when this unidentified man got out of his car to try to rescue a panicked rabbit.

The man seemed to panic, frantically gesturing as he watched the bunny heading into the flames, practically begging it to come to him.

Finally getting down on his knees and reaching for wild rabbit, at last managing to scoop it up.

The accolades on social media started breeding like rabbits.

And just like that, my faith in humanity is restored, read a typical tweet. From zero to crying in 0.2 seconds, read another.

Some tweeted on behalf of their pets. Our bunny and kitty approve of this young man.

There was the occasional naysayer: wild animals do not need to be saved from fires, argued a writer for "Slate", saying the man could have been injured as well as anyone who had to come to his rescue.

But most paid tribute. Bunnies need heroes too. They have one in this man.

Adding to the halo around this guy is the fact that he declined a photographer's request for an on-camera interview.

As one poster put it, and he didn't want to be on camera in L.A.? Obviously, this is Jesus himself in shorts and a hoodie.

Take it from Jefferson Airplane --

(MUSIC)

MOOS: But he didn't fall, he just walked away from the flames holding the bunny, destination unknown. Leaving this video of rabbit saved from wildfire to spread like one.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: I really needed that this morning. Thanks, Jeanne.

BRIGGS: Me, too.

ROMANS: Jeanne Moos.

Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this Friday morning. Global stock markets are higher today. The rebound in big tech stocks helped Wall Street closed higher.

Tech is the best performing sector this year. It has fallen nearly 3 percent over the past week, but big jumps for Facebook and Google parent alphabet boosted the S&P 500. The S&P closed higher after falling for four straight days. It's rare to have the S&P fall for four straight days.

Investors today are looking for movement on tax reform. They're also looking to the monthly jobs report. The labor market releases its November report this morning. Looking for some strength there.

All right. Look at that number there. Americans have never been richer. Total household wealth hit a record $196.9 trillion last quarter, driven mainly by that rise in the stock market and property values. That's according to the Federal Reserve.

Seventy-two percent higher than during the financial crisis, but 97 trillion is a total. And growth has been equal across all income levels. Are you surprised? In fact, wealth for middle class households is still 34 percent below pre-recession levels. The majority of wealth now flows to the richest households.

Bit coin plunging, more than $2,500 overnight, dropping 12 percent in less than four hours, after hitting a record of $17,000. Investors in this virtual currency have been on a wild ride this year. Its prices soared more than 1,400 percent this year. It was worth $10,000 just a week ago. Now, $17,000 this morning before falling $2,500. Oh my goodness.

Bit coin has long been shunned by regular investors. Unlike conventional currencies, these virtual coins aren't tied to a central bank. They were kind of always the dark corner of capitalism that was meant for, I don't know, you know, unlawful behavior. You'd pay for unlawful behavior. But now, speculators are really into this and are into bit coin, but a small market and really on fire.

BRIGGS: More than $70 million disappeared in a hack earlier this week.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: That's the concern that the conventional investor has if you just --

ROMANS: People saying oh, my gosh this looks like a tulip bubble, or like any other kind of little bubble that we've seen in the past. And, you know, you say that on Twitter, all these bitcoin lovers go crazy.

BRIGGS: Hey, they're making a lot of money, man.

ROMANS: Somebody is, somebody is.

BRIGGS: They're laughing all the way to the bank.

All right. EARLY START continues right now.

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