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Senator Franken and Representative Franks Announce Resignations; New Questions About Trump Tower Meeting; New Wildfires in Southern California; Brees: Injuries 100 Percent Due to Playing on Thursday Night. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

[05:00:04] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.



SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.


BRIGGS: A day of reckoning on Capitol Hill. Congress facing three resignations in one week after a wave of sexual harassment allegations.

ROMANS: Previously undisclosed e-mails now show multiple attempts to follow-up after that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting raising new questions about what was discussed that day.

BRIGGS: New wildfires erupting across Southern California. Officials are now racing against time to battle six wildfires. More than 20 million people in California yesterday picked up their phone and saw a text warning of extreme fire danger.


BRIGGS: That is a scary situation. We'll check in there shortly.

Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, December 8th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin in Washington where Democratic Senator Al Franken announced he will step down in the next few weeks. He faces accusations by several women who say he groped or forcibly kissed them or both.

Franken struck a defiant tone in a speech in the Senate floor Thursday. He suggested he is paying a price for not denying the claims earlier and more forcefully.


FRANKEN: I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven't done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.


ROMANS: Franken did not apologize in that 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.


FRANKEN: 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.


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 a 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 Farenthold. The lawyer for Lauren Green, a former staffer, who says Farenthold sexually harassed her, says 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. He settled an $84,000 sexual harassment lawsuit with taxpayer money.

All 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. Joining us for the very first time, "Washington Examiner" editorial director Hugo Gurdon.

Good morning. Welcome to the program. Very nice to see you bright and early on this December Friday morning.

Let's talk here about this reckoning I guess on Capitol Hill here with these men who are resigning or are accused. You got three resigning or retiring. Al Franken, John Conyers, Trent Franks, Blake Farenthold has been accused here. You know, the scuttlebutt inside Washington is that we could be hearing more complaints against from women against other sitting members of Congress.

What do you make of this trend? And specifically, Franken, was that the Democrats trying to regain sort of the moral authority in this conversation?

HUGO GURDON, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Certainly the Democrats are trying to make sure there's a big distinction between themselves and the Republicans on this issue. They fought the last two or three elections using the slogan war on women. And they want to make sure that they are in the right position on this issue going into the 2008 elections.

And so -- but it was very interesting to watch Senator Al Franken's speech, which as your report rightly said, Christine, was -- it was not contrite. It was fairly defiant and he seemed -- his attitude seems to have changed over the course of the past week. And I'm just wondering whether he's waiting out to see what happens in the election in Alabama and to see if Roy Moore is elected by voters there and takes the Republican seat, because then, the focus will be on him and on the GOP and the Ethics Committee.

[05:05:13] BRIGGS: Yes, it was an interesting speech too. One conservative Website point the out he said the word "I" 61 times. No apology in that speech. It was strange tone that he struck.

But you talked about the political positioning for the Democrats. They do have 3-1 female members in Congress to Republicans. They now can say you welcomed, Roy Moore, you allowed for Blake Farenthold to stay despite an $84,000 taxpayer funded sexual harassment lawsuit.

Aren't they on solid political footing there?

GURDON: Yes. I think the Republicans have a really, really difficult problem on this, because as Al Franken said in his speech, he cited the president, and we all know about the tape where the president was caught bragging about his fairly gross way of dealing -- treating women. But there's a potential crisis here for the Republicans and it's a

political one. One of the problems that has been exposed by this burgeoning sexual harassment scandal is people on Capitol Hill behaving as though they belong to a club and they protect each other. What you've got the possibility of is Roy Moore gets elected by the voters of Alabama and does the Senate then act like a club again and say, huh, membership of this club is up to us, not up to the voters?


GURDON: So, you know, Mitch McConnell, majority leader, has got a real problem deciding how to deal with this when the voters said they want this -- they want Roy Moore and that looks like what the polls are telling us is going to happen.

ROMANS: You know, this whole reckoning is so interesting because I think the year started with the women's march, remember, and now it has sort of crescendoed to this movement. This has been the story as "People" magazine, you know, rightly -- or women on its --


ROMANS: Yes. "TIME" magazine, sorry, put women on its cover.

But what's so interesting to me is the number of men who are saying, well, these allegations are not as remember them, or this didn't happen or it's not as I remember it. I think that is the message for 2017 for men in power and all these different industries, you have to realize that other people might see things differently than you do when there's interaction, which is so interesting about the Arizona congressman story. What was going on there. My goodness.

BRIGGS: Yes, what do you know about that in the Trent Franks resignation?

GURDON: The details only came out -- very few details came out last night. As I understand it, he spoke to two different female staffers on different occasions about fertility issues and surrogacy. The exact nature of that conversation has not, I think, been revealed. The congressman has said he said nothing wrong, but he appears to be cutting his losses and saying I'm out of here, which is very different than obviously Blake Farenthold. It's very different in tone at least to what's happening with Al Franken.

So, I think the coming days, weeks and months, A, going to resolve these cases and also more revelations about more members of Congress. So, this is a real shake-up. And the whole of American culture is now an inflexion point where there's no longer going to be possible for members of Congress to kind of work on a different moral compass than the rest of the country and it's going to be very, very impossible, I'd say, for them to get away from the kind of harassment and behavior they've indulged in before.

ROMANS: Members of Congress, members of the media, members in Hollywood, members of whatever these powerful industries are, I would say. GURDON: Exactly.

BRIGGS: Hugo Gurdon from "The Washington Examiner", we'll check back with you in 30 minutes, we want to ask you about Christopher Wray's defense of the FBI.

ROMANS: And president's approval ratings. So, don't go away. We'll come back and talk about that. Thank you, sir.

Now, 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 that meeting, raising some new questions about congressional investigations.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


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.

[05:10:00] 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. 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.


ROMANS: All right. Jessica, thank you for that.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, firefighters in southern California battling six wildfires and more than 200,000 people have been told to evacuate. Officials say this fight might last for weeks.


[05:15:47] 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 fires north of Ventura County, it's all but encircling the town of Ojai, and now moving into Santa Barbara. The smoke plume from the fames extending over 1,000 miles into the Pacific Ocean. That's the distance from Seattle to San Diego.

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


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, Sara. Thank you for that.

A slew of injuries in the Thursday night matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. Now, quarterback Drew Brees speaking, insisting those injuries did not have to happen.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:22:36] BRIGGS: Quite as close as their mayoral election, but the Falcons edge the Saints last night. And once again, a large number of players leaving with a Thursday night injury.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this Friday morning "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


You know, it's not a secret the players are not a fan of playing on Thursday nights on short rest. They continue to say it's putting them at risk for injury, and last night just more evidence. The Saints losing six players during last night's game against the Falcons. One of them, their rookie running back Alvin Kamara, who's having just a great season. He left in the first quarter with a concussion.

Now, this game is close. Saints had a chance to take the lead but Drew Brees throws an interception in the end zone. Great catch there by Deion Jones. Falcons win a close one, 20-17. After the game, Brees not happy with the loss or all the injuries his team suffered.


DREW BREES, SAINTS QUARTERBACK: It's 100 percent a product of playing on Thursday night. Do you understand what guys' bodies go through in a game and to turn around four days later and to play? Look at the injury studies, off the charts. They're off the charts.

So, is this smart? As it pertains to guys' health and safety? No, absolutely not.

SEAN PAYTON, SAINTS HEAD COACH: Seriously, speak up. Why do you guys think? Why do you think there were so many injuries tonight? Anyone?


SCHOLES: Oklahoma Quarterback Baker Mayfield cleaning up at the college football awards show last night. Mayfield named the Davey O'Brien winner for the best quarterback in the country. Also took home the Maxwell Award, which goes to the college football player of the year. Maxwell usually a big indicator of who's going to end up winning the Heisman Trophy Saturday night. I caught up with Baker and Heisman finalist Bryce Love earlier this

week and asked them what winning the Heisman would mean to them.


BAKER MAYFIELD, OKLAHOMA QUARTERBACK: Something that would be special to me. It means a lot to me, but it also means a lot to the people that support me, going through a lot of different challenges, and ups and downs. So, it wouldn't just be for me.

BRYCE LOVE, STANFORD RUNNING BACK: My mind is reflected by the entire time, everything that they've done for me and all the work that we put in, and I'm just here to represent them and excited to go out there and represent them as well.


SCHOLES: All right. Finally. Here's a sight you rarely see. Snow covering Texas A&M Stadium in College Station. Meanwhile, 100 miles away in Houston --


[05:25:04] SCHOLES: People like JJ Watt who is from Wisconsin was freaking out because it was snowing in Houston last night.

And, guys, you know, I'm born and raised in Houston. I totally know the feeling because I lived there the first 23 years of my life. It snowed maybe three or four times.

So, whenever that happens in the city of Houston, everyone freaks out. I check my Facebook, snow picks, snow picks, snow picks. Everyone was out there enjoying it. But it's common for you guys up in New York. In Houston, a very rare occurrence.

BRIGGS: We have not had snow up here. So it is odd that Houston beat us.

ROMANS: Thanks, Andy.

BRIGGS: Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Democratic Senator Al Franken and Republican Congressman Trent Franks both resigned from Congress amid sexual harassment allegations. We'll have the latest next.