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EARLY START

Sen. Franken, Rep. Franks Resign; New Questions About Trump Tower Meeting; New Wildfires In Southern California; More Palestinian Protests Today. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:30:12] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A day of reckoning on Capitol Hill. Congress facing three resignations in one week after a wave of sexual harassment allegations.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Previously undisclosed e-mails now show multiple attempts to follow-up after that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, raising new questions about what was really discussed.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, fires erupting across Southern California as officials now race against time to battle six huge blazes.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

We start with politics and sexual harassment.

Democratic Sen. Al Franken announcing 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 his speech from the Senate floor Thursday, suggesting he is paying a price for not denying the claims earlier and more forcefully.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: 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)

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 -- with the full support of his party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

BRIGGS: Just a few hours later, Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks announced he 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.

Quote, "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 process in the workplace caused distress."

ROMANS: But the day wasn't over. Last night, the House Ethics Panel also announced progress in its investigation of Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold.

The lawyer for Lauren Greene, a former staffer who says Farenthold sexually harassed her, says she has agreed to sit for an interview with the Ethics Committee.

And now, one of Farenthold's Republican colleagues, Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah -- she is calling on him to resign.

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

BRIGGS: All right.

Joining us for the first time today, "Washington Examiner" editorial director Hugo Gurdon. Good morning to you, Hugo.

Here we are -- the papers, once again, all about sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. "That's Al, Folks" and "Perversion of Justice." Let's start with Al Franken. What do you make of his tone, unapologetic, and the fact that he won't resign for a couple of weeks?

HUGO GURDON, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think it's very significant that he's saying he's not going to resign for a couple of weeks because I suspect that what he's waiting to do is to see how the Alabama Senate election goes and whether or not Roy Moore, the Republican who's had numerous allegations of sexual harassment and improper behavior lodged against him, wins that election.

Because I think that the Democrats are very much trying to make sure that they are right on this issue and that they will be able to go into the next election talking about the war on women and distinguishing themselves from the Republicans.

But at the same time, they know that there's going to be a serious problem for Mitch McConnell and the Republicans if Roy Moore is elected.

BRIGGS: Yes.

GURDON: Here's the reason. If Roy Moore is elected, then the Alabama voters will have decided, knowing full well what he's accused of, that they want him as their senator.

BRIGGS: Right.

GURDON: One of the big things that the Senate has been -- the problems that it's had in all of this sort of exploding sexual harassment scandal --

ROMANS: Yes.

GURDON: -- is that they've been behaving like a club and they defend their members and they pay off these -- pay off women who complain, secretly.

[05:35:02] It would be really ironic if they decided to behave like a club in a different way and say we decide who gets to be a member of here and the voters of Alabama don't.

ROMANS: It's --

BRIGGS: It's a tough spot.

ROMANS: Yes, it really is. And for the Republicans, you know -- you've got the Democrats with, I think, the Al Franken -- forcing him out, essentially. You know, the Democrats are trying to take the moral high ground here and the Republicans -- now they're sort of struggling with the -- with the Roy Moore situation.

You know, the RNC is run by a woman, Ronna Romney McDaniel, and this is what she said about the Roy Moore situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDI: Do you believe Roy Moore or do you believe the women who have come out and accused him?

RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, we've said all along that these allegations are incredibly disturbing. That if they were proven true that the candidate would be unfit to serve in office.

But it's up to the voters of Alabama right now. This is democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Up to the voters of Alabama. So, the RNC is backing him, essentially, paying -- you know, giving money to the campaign.

The president says go get 'em, Roy.

But the Senatorial Committee --

BRIGGS: Senatorial Committee, Cory Gardner.

ROMANS: -- says no -- says no, so it's more than the Republican Party.

GURDON: Yes. There's a split and, frankly, more than a split, really. There's real confusion about what to do.

They want to make sure that they retain the seat. They only have 52 votes in the Senate and there's a lot of -- you know, they've got a lot on their plate. They want to pass tax reform. They want to -- they have a big agenda and they don't want to have that cut to 51.

But at the same time, they're paying the price of supporting a man against whom there are credible allegations of serious improprieties -- sexual impropriety.

And, you know, the party -- the thing is that popularity and votes are the gold standard in Washington, beneath all of these allegations, beneath all of the ways in which the parties respond to them. You know, they know that the moral position is changing, that society and culture is at an inflection point.

But at the same time, they want to win elections, they want to get their agenda through. And there's a sort of -- there's a not very discreet balancing act going on --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

GURDON: -- in both parties.

BRIGGS: Yes.

I want to ask you about the FBI, given the president's recent attack on the FBI on Twitter when he said their reputation is tatters, worst in history.

Then yesterday on Capitol Hill, the director, Christopher Wray, defending the reputation of the Bureau. And, Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, pressing back and basically

saying there's no difference between what the president is saying and what Christopher Wray is saying -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: 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 that 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.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't think that there is a discrepancy. We agree with Chris Wray that FBI field agents are appreciated and respected.

The president's issues are with the political leaders in the FBI and the former director Comey, particularly those that played politics with the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe, and we don't see a discrepancy beyond that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: All right, Hugo, no discrepancy. Christopher Wray was asked what he thought of the president's attacks.

How is there no discrepancy between those two statements?

GURDON: Well, it's very interesting. I think it was a very deft response by Christopher Wray. He made sure to -- before defending the men and women of the FBI -- to say there are those other opinions out there, which implied that he disagreed with the president without actually challenging the president.

I thought --

ROMANS: Yes.

GURDON: Then, you go the White House press briefing and Sarah Sanders says there's no discrepancy. I think that they -- the White House is perfectly happy with what Christopher Wray said and they did not take it as a declaration of war.

I think that Christopher Wray did a pretty deft and careful job up on Capitol Hill yesterday.

ROMANS: Hugo Gurdon, nice to see you this morning -- editorial director of the "Washington Examiner."

Nice to meet you. Come back again soon.

GURDON: I will do. Thanks very much for having me.

BRIGGS: All right, now to 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.

Now, this is the first indication of any follow-through after that meeting, raising new questions for congressional investigators.

CNN's Jessica Schneider with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN 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, Jr. 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.

[05:40:05] In the e-mail, 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, Jr.

A source tells us that Goldstone had also mentioned that idea of 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 that the campaign ever set a page up.

Then there was a second e-mail. It was dated June 14th, 2016. That was five days after the Trump Tower meeting.

And in that e-mail, Goldstone forwarded a CNN story on Russia's hacking of DNC e-mails. It was forwarded to his client, the 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 discussed at the Trump Tower meeting five days earlier.

We've 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 that these new e-mails -- they're 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)

ROMANS: All right, Jessica Schneider. Thank you for that, Jessica.

All right.

Firefighters in Southern California now battling six blazes. Over 200,000 people have been told to evacuate these wildfires. Officials say this fight may last for weeks.

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[05:46:12] ROMANS: All right.

Southern California on fire here, folks. Six wildfires totaling 140,000 acres raging out of control in Southern California ahead of tense winds, dry conditions, sparking new fires in San Diego and Riverside counties now, 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 Santa Barbara.

The smoke plume from the flames extending over 1,000 miles in the Pacific Ocean. Just for context, that would be the distance from Seattle to San Diego -- that smoke plume.

More now from CNN's Sara Sidner. She's in Ventura.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

And we are between Ojai and Carpinteria. I want to give you a look at what is happening.

We're standing at a farm. We're standing on the homeowner'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 try to drop water on that fire but it keeps popping up. And this is a 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 we are now seeing those airdrops, yet again, that are 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 here including, as we drove here on the 101, both north and southbound the fire is 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: It seems like California -- what is it, the fifth-largest economy in the world and you have all of these companies, all of these people who are just in the grips of worrying about this fire.

BRIGGS: Twenty million people in fire danger.

They'll have more of that on "NEW DAY." Alisyn Camerota joining us with what else they'll talk about. Good morning, Alisyn.

ROMANS: Hi, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, guys. How are you? Guess what?

BRIGGS: It's Friday.

ROMANS: It's Friday.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it is Friday. We're very happy about that. And another day, another sexual harassment story to cover, or a slew of them.

So, of course, we will be covering the resignation announcement from Al Franken. What does this mean going forward?

And we have the last woman to have accused Al Franken of harassment before he resigned. We have her with us live. How is she feeling today about everything that's happened?

And then, we have the new revelations against Trent Franks. The backstory there is pretty bizarre so we will get into that.

And, of course, we'll also bring you all the latest on the Russia threads and all the politics going on on Capitol Hill, and what the president has up his sleeve today when John Berman and I see you at the --

ROMANS: Oh, good.

CAMEROTA: -- top of the hour.

BRIGGS: Good morning, John.

CAMEROTA: There he is.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You don't even have to wait until the top of the hour. I'm here right now.

ROMANS: All right. See you guys soon.

BRIGGS: See you guys in a bit.

ROMANS: More protests expected today in Israel following yesterday's tense demonstrations where dozens were injured. We're going to go live to Jerusalem, next.

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[05:54:14] BRIGGS: At least 49 people injured in the West Bank on 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 claim the Holy City as their capital.

Israeli security forces firing tear gas, water cannons, and what appeared to be rubber-coated bullets at protesters. The Palestinians have called for three days of rage, culminating in more protests today after Friday prayers.

CNN's Nic Robertson live in Jerusalem with the latest. Nic, good morning to you.

There is more expected violence today. It looks pretty calm thus far.

[05:55:00] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, thus far, Dave, relatively calm.

I'm standing outside the Damascus Gate. This is a gate a lot of people have been passing out of in the last couple of minutes here, coming out of Friday prayers. And if you can just pan the camera over there to take a look right at the -- right at the gate and you get an idea of people coming out of the gates there.

They've got some security forces. You see the police there by the gate watching people coming out.

But a little while ago -- about 10 minutes ago a group of young men came into this area here, coming out the prayers. Young men -- most people -- vast majority here passing through, going off back to their homes.

But a small group of young men decided to have a protest. The police let it go for five or 10 minutes, then closed that down and moved them on.

So -- but it's been peaceful and that is really the big concern here today. Police put on extra security. They didn't put in place restrictions to stop people going to prayers. That was seen as an effort to try to sort of keep tensions down here.

So, so far today -- so far, at least, relatively peaceful. The concern is that there may be other sparks of protests elsewhere that could cause violent clashes that we saw yesterday. So far, a quiet, peaceful day. BRIGGS: Just about 1:00 p.m. there. It looks pretty calm.

All right. They'll check back with you in "NEW DAY." Thank you, Nic.

ROMANS: All right.

The first lady stopped by the Children's National Hospital in Washington Thursday. Mrs. Trump arrived in the hospital's main atrium where she read one of her favorite holiday books, "The Polar Express." I love that one, too.

She met with patients, families, and staff members, and answered questions about the holidays and what they mean to her.

The tradition of the first lady making visits to the Children's National Hospital dates back more than 60 years to first lady Bess Truman.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stocks are higher today. A rebound in big tech stocks helped Wall Street close higher. Tech is the best-performing sector this year, folks.

It has fallen about three percent over the past week but big jumps for Facebook and Google parent Alphabet yesterday boosted the S&P 500. It closed higher after falling for four straight days.

Investors today are looking for movement on tax reform and to the monthly jobs report. The Labor Department releases that November jobs report in less than three hours.

Expectations are solid. One hundred ninety thousand new jobs. The unemployment rate expected to be steady at 4.1 percent. That's a 17- year low.

Americans have never been richer. Total household wealth hit a record $96.9 trillion last year, driven mainly by a rise in stock prices and property values. That's according to the Federal Reserve.

Seventy-two percent higher than during the financial crisis. That's quite a recovery.

But here's the big asterisk. Ninety-seven trillion dollars is the total. Growth has not been equal across all income levels. In fact, wealth for middle-class households is still 34 percent below the recession.

The majority of wealth now flows to the richest households.

Bitcoin plunging more than $2,500 overnight, dropping 12 percent in less than four hours after hitting a new record $17,000 -- a record high of $17,000, then it drops $2,500.

Investors in the virtual currency have been on a wild ride this year. Its price has soared more than 1,400 percent this year. It was worth 10 grand last week, Dave, and then it hit 17 grand last

night, and then it drops $2,500. Boy, that sounds like a predictable long-term safe investment, doesn't it?

Bitcoin has long been shunned by most investors. Unlike conventional currencies, these virtual coins -- they are mined using complex computer programs. They're not tied to a Central Bank.

And, in fact, you know, I would say mainstream traditional bankers have said this looks a little risky.

BRIGGS: Yes. Jamie Dimon had a word of caution earlier this week --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- but there are a lot of people getting awfully rich right now.

ROMANS: That's right and you're going to be able to buy futures and options based on Bitcoin at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and maybe later at the Nasdaq.

BRIGGS: It's coming.

ROMANS: So that means it's giving an air of legitimacy to something that the traditional bankers say is not legitimate at all.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: OK, buyer beware.

Well, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

Have a wonderful weekend. We'll see you next week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: We say zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the halls of Congress.

ROMANS: Republican Trent Franks making a surprise announcement that he is resigning in the face of an ethics probe.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Every one of these claims, they have to be taken very seriously.

FRANKEN: I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office.

DONALD TRUMP, JR.: It wasn't really follow-up because there's nothing there to follow up.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Newly- revealed e-mails show that there was, in fact, follow-up e-mails by participants in that meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far, we haven't seen any follow-up that touched Trump, Jr.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Why are you not just telling the truth if nothing happened? It's what people do when they're hiding something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, December eighth, 6:00 here in New York.

Chris is off this morning; John Berman joins me. Happy Friday.

BERMAN: Yes, it's a historic week and it's not over yet.

CAMEROTA: No, that's right because here's our "Starting Line."

Three lawmakers in three days resigning amid sexual misconduct allegations.

First, John Conyers. Now, Republican Congressman Trent Franks abruptly announcing late on Thursday that he's stepping down. And, Democratic Sen. Al Franken relenting to --