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EARLY START

Alabama Senate Race: The Final Lap; Violent Protests Across Middle East; Thomas Fire Scorches 230,000 Acres. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 11, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


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[05:30:28] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it, do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Do it. President Trump all in for Roy Moore in a new robocall going out to Alabama voters on the eve of the election. Can the president deliver Moore a victory?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And, violent protests across the Middle East after President Trump declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel. We're live in the Middle East with the very latest. We'll go to Beirut.

BRIGGS: New concerns about whether Republicans will be able to deliver on tax reform. The crucial senator who says she's not yet made her mind up on the bill.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's just about 31 minutes past the hour this Monday morning. Good morning, everyone.

Let's begin this morning with Alabama where the campaigns of Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones are both in high gear ahead of the state's special Senate election tomorrow.

Today, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon campaigns with Moore who has been fighting to the end against claims of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I said I did not know any of the women who have charged me with sexual allegation or molestation. I did not date underage women. I did not molest anyone.

BILL BRITT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.

MOORE: And so these allegations are false.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Democrat Doug Jones barnstorming the state and hoping the accusations against Moore will help drive Democrats to the polls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I believe those women in Etowah County.

It's just like Sen. Shelby said today, where there's smoke there's fire, and there's fire in there.

Now, I want to make sure that when my granddaughters grow up they don't have to endure the kind of thing that those girls in Etowah County did and then sit silent for 30 or 40 years. I want to make sure that we send a message of who we are and what we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Jones also counting on rallies with some Democratic political heavy hitters to help with African-American turnout, including appearances with Sen. Cory Booker and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.

ROMANS: The heavyweight in Moore's corner, President Trump, who recorded this robocall for Moore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi, this is President Donald Trump and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore. But if Alabama elects liberal Democrat Doug Jones, all of our progress will be stopped cold. We need Roy to help us with the Republican Senate. We will win and we will make America great again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. Let's bring in historian Julian Zelizer, professor at Princeton University. Good morning.

And you wrote a great piece about how this is such an important race for the Republicans and their strategy -- tell us.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR, "THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW": Sure. Look, Moore represents a narrowing of the Republican Party. It's part of this move to focus on the white male voter at a time many Republicans thought the party would try to broaden itself.

Things have moved in a different direction with President Trump and, in some ways, this election would symbolically, you know, keep the party where it's been in the last few months. And it's going to be hard as a winning strategy in the long-term.

BRIGGS: Well, the president, right now, is clearly trying to govern that 32-35 percent and just keep them in his corner. But as for Alabama on Tuesday, you have Doug Jones who wants to make

this about Roy Moore, and Roy Moore, who does not want it to be about Roy Moore. He wants to make it about Donald Trump or the Republican Party.

What carries the day on Tuesday?

ZELIZER: I think partisanship can carry the day and I think that's what Democrats are worried about. This is a deeply Republican state and they are counting on the fact that in the end, most voters will come out to support a Republican.

And the only thing that could counteract that is an incredible mobilization effort in the next two days by the Democrats to bring out African-American voters and bring out some of the less-heard voters in the state.

ROMANS: We know that Sen. Cory Booker is there. Deval Patrick is there, the former Massachusetts governor.

But you look at -- you talk about this is, you know, a Republican state. Senator Richard Shelby, who's a longtime sitting Republican senator, he didn't even vote for the Republican on the ticket -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: We would like to retain that seat in the U.S. Senate. But I'll tell you what, I -- there's a time -- we call it a tipping point. And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip -- when it got to the 14-year-old's story, that was enough for me. I said I can't vote for Roy Moore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:35:03] ROMANS: So even he can't vote for Roy Moore.

ZELIZER: Well, that's the question to me if enough Republicans in the state decide they're just not going to vote and on the Democratic side you have a surge. That's really the way this will turn. I don't think you're going to see Republicans voting for the Democrat in large numbers.

But look, Shelby matters -- it matters.

ROMANS: Sure.

ZELIZER: He's from the state. He's an authentic voice in the state and that could resonate.

BRIGGS: But I can't imagine that will bring people out to do a write- in candidate, like Shelby. To your point --

ZELIZER: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- a special election comes down to them staying home and just saying I cannot vote.

The president, on Friday in Pensacola, 25 miles from the border, campaigning for Roy Moore but also, sowing mistrust at our institutions. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This is a rigged -- this is a rigged system. This is a sick system from the inside. And, you know, there's no country like our country but we have a lot of sickness in some of our institutions and we're working very hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: What's he trying to do here?

ZELIZER: Well, this has been a theme of his since the campaign and my guess is this has to do with the investigation, and that's the fear some people have that the way to cure the sickness if to try to fire the special counsel. And so, that is the question if that's where this kind of rhetoric is coming from.

That said, we have heard this over and over. He delegitimizes all parts of our political institutions so that he can become the savior to his supporters. He can be the hero who flies in and fixes everything.

The problem is, the question is now whether he is actually the problem and whether the controversy centers around him.

ROMANS: How much of it do you think is deflecting from what is a 32 percent approval rating in the Pew poll and a "USA Today" poll, and his own tax -- his tax strategy that puts it the weakest approval of any legislation in the past 30 years, even Obamacare?

ZELIZER: It's unpopular legislation. He's unpopular nationally. And that last Pew poll shows his support's even falling with groups such as evangelical voters, non-college-educated white voters. So I'm sure the White House is seeing that, reading that, and they are concerned.

And the go-to argument for the president is often that there are problems that explain why people don't like him or why people don't approve of what he's doing.

But again, the real question is this. Does this connect with the investigation and does this push him into steps that would be politically explosive?

BRIGGS: It's just hard to explain that approval rating with the economy as healthy as it is --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- as he reminds people each and every day, as he probably should. But it's staggering to see an approval rating that low with the economy taking off. ROMANS: But it is a mirror image -- his approval rating --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- and the stock market, and the job market, you know. And he gets a little bit more credit in our polls for his handling of the economy, but his overall approval rating --

BRIGGS: Sure, but overall.

ROMANS: -- is just -- we were told that the economy is stupid for 25 years, so why aren't his approval ratings higher?

ZELIZER: Well, this is a president who is pushing the conventional wisdom and he does so much else that creates controversy. I think the irony is he often undercuts some of the news that would be beneficial to him. And we don't all focus on the economy, in part because of his own Twitter feed and because of his own statements.

And so, that's part of the Trump presidency and we will learn now that a good economy does not necessarily mean a popular president.

ROMANS: And we've got a tax reform bill that is going to start moving very, very rapidly even though we don't know quite what's in there --

ZELIZER: Right.

ROMANS: -- so it remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

BRIGGS: Julian, thanks.

ROMANS: Julian Zelizer of Princeton, thank you.

Former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and his colleague Rick Gates expected back in court this morning.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team says Manafort, the former campaign chairman, violated a judge's gag order by ghostwriting an op- ed while out on bail last month. Prosecutors say the commentary was written with a Russian who has ties to Russian intelligence and that it was related to his political work for Ukraine.

Mueller's office says, you know, it's not seeking to put Manafort in jail. It says, though, it no longer back a deal that would have him released from house arrest.

BRIGGS: A newly-released document backs the explanation for why Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador on his security clearance forms. The e-mail shows the FBI told a Sessions' aide that Sessions was not required to disclose foreign contacts. It happened during the course of his duties as a senator.

The newly-released e-mail supports the Justice Department's original explanation given last May when CNN first reported the omission of foreign contacts on Sessions' security clearance form. The GOP tax bill working its way through the Conference Committee. But as the House and Senate hammer out the differences between their tax bills, Republican Sen. Susan Collins says she may not vote for the final version.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I always wait until the final version of the bill is brought before us before I make a final decision on whether or not to support it. There are major differences between the House and Senate bills and I don't know where the bill is going to come out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:40:13] BRIGGS: Collins' vote is certainly important. Republican leaders can only lose two GOP votes in the Senate. And, Republican Sen. Bob Corker voted against the original bill, citing deficit concerns.

Collins told CNN she may vote no if certain amendments are not included, particularly those that help middle-class families, like deductions for property taxes and medical expenses. And the real key here, ensurances that Medicare payments will not be cut.

She got agreements from both the House and the Senate. Will they honor them?

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: That is the key to holding her vote.

ROMANS: There is so much in here. I mean, I cannot say it loudly enough. This will affect every corner of the economy.

It's not tax simplification. It's going to be very complicated. Tax preparers are looking for big money because they're going to be having to help people with their tax bills.

It's going to add to the deficit. It's a permanent corporate tax cut, but not permanent relief for the middle-class. So there's a lot of broken promises in here and they have to work all that out before there's a final bill.

BRIGGS: We'll see. Moving with speed.

ROMANS: Forty-one minutes past the hour.

Thousands of firefighters struggling to get control on those huge wildfires burning in Southern California. We've got a live report from Ventura County, next.

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[05:45:45] ROMANS: Ambassador Haley also defending President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying the administration is making progress on negotiating peace in the Middle East.

All this as violent protests in the region enter day six, triggered by the president's decision.

The Israelis launching airstrikes in the Gaza against what it calls Hamas targets after several rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Palestinian officials report two fatalities and more than 300 people injured Friday, alone, in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem.

CNN's Ben Wedeman following developments for us from Beirut. He has the latest.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We were there. There were more than 1,000 people who gathered at a roundabout, which is about a mile down the hill from the American embassy, north of Beirut.

There were times when, yes, some of the younger protesters were throwing rocks, plastic water bottles, and sticks in the direction of the Lebanese security forces who responded with tear gas and birdshot. However, some of the organizers did try to keep it under control. So by and large, in fact, the demonstration was peaceful.

Now, as I said, the American embassy is a good mile away from that location but there's a gate at the bottom of that hill which they close when you have demonstrations like what we saw yesterday.

What was interesting, Christine, was that this demonstration brought together Palestinian refugees, Islamist groups, Lebanese leftist parties. Groups that in recent years have been divided over things like the war in Syria, the war in Yemen, but they do seem to have come together in their condemnation and rejection of President Trump's declaration -- or recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Now, today, we're expecting a very large -- perhaps the largest demonstration yet organized by Hezbollah, in this case, in the southern suburbs of Beirut. There are no American institutions or installations in that area. We don't expect there to be any violence in this case because Hezbollah is, if anything, very well-disciplined.

ROMANS: All right. Ben Wedeman for us in Beirut. Thanks, Ben.

BRIGGS: All right, time for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo, like the president, consumes 12 Diet Cokes per day. We assume he is through two by now.

Good morning, Chris. Nice hair.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we've got strict rules about touching the hair, Briggs. You know how much I pay for it, you know.

Everyone has a name, everyone is numbered. You're looking at Phil and Phyllis. I have people who are similarly named because it keeps it simple. If you're going to throw out a sound you're basically halfway there.

A few coats of paint, trying to look like Briggs. It doesn't work.

This damn coat broke overnight. It's not fitting the right way anymore. It's some type of virus or something.

Condense the fabric of the jacket, Briggs. Maybe you could do an investigation on that. I don't know what happened.

All right. So today is a very big day.

We have this Alabama Senate election will happen tomorrow. One thing you'll know is that you'll stop hearing about polls because now it's all about who shows up and why.

We have a piece this morning that takes a look at the challenges for Alabama voters on the issue of whether or not to choose Roy Moore that has nothing to do with the allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. Of course, they matter, but the idea that that's the only consideration when it comes to Roy Moore does not do a good service to the truth. So, we're going to be looking at that.

There are other big headlines this morning, as well. We'll take them all on here on "NEW DAY."

We also have an update on what's going on Puerto Rico.

And something that we must all watch. One of the bravest kids I've seen --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

CUOMO: -- in a long time. Keaton is going to be -- his story will be on the show today. He's in too much demand now, for good reason --

BRIGGS: Yes.

CUOMO: -- to get him on "NEW DAY." But it is a story we need to listen to, especially around the holidays.

ROMANS: I'm so proud of his mom, too, that she had the wherewithal to --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- you know, really -- although he told her to take that video.

BRIGGS: Yes, he did.

CUOMO: Yes.

BRIGGS: We are all team Keaton this morning.

ROMANS: All right. Yes, we are. OK, thanks, Chris. Nice to see you.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Chris, nice hair. Fantastic hair, really. ROMANS: All of them look great.

A majority of workers worry they'll be replaced by robots in their lifetime. Those fears may not be unfounded, Dave Briggs and Chris Cuomo. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.

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[05:54:36] BRIGGS: All right, the latest now on those Southern California wildfires.

More than 95,000 people forced to evacuate their homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties where the Thomas fire, now the fifth-largest wildfire in modern California history has already consumed more than 230,000 acres. Nearly 6,000 firefighters struggling to beat back the flames. The wildfire's already damaged or destroyed nearly 1,000 structures.

[05:55:00] We get more now from CNN's Kyung Lah in Ventura County.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this is Southern California's largest wildfire, the Thomas Fire, and you can see it burning in those hills. It is most visible when the sun sets in these overnight hours.

And it is marching closer and closer to Santa Barbara, further northwest, fueled here by wind and dry brush. It has been some 250 days here in California without any sort of significant rain.

Firefighters relying on helicopters to be the big game changer in dealing with this wildfire. Here's what one firefighter told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: So you've been hitting it from the air as well as working it from the ground?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, correct. The helicopters have been a huge help. What the helicopters do is they get in there and they make those water drops and they slow it down. Cool it off enough to get -- allow firefighters to get in there on the ground and, you know, make better attack on the fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: It's not just in the air but also on the ground. There are some 4,400 firefighters, just in this one wildfire, trying to contain it -- Dave, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Kyung Lah. Thank you so much for that.

Celebrities rallying behind a young boy from Tennessee after a video of him describing how he's bullied at school went viral. This video of Keaton Jones receiving at least 21 million views on Facebook since his mother posted it Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEATON JONES, BULLYING VICTIM: People that are different don't need to be criticized about it because it's not their fault.

But if you are made fun of just don't let it bother you. Just stay strong, I guess. It's hard but it'll probably get better one day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Oh.

BRIGGS: It's just heartbreaking.

The video quickly prompted a huge wave of support, though, for Keaton from Hollywood.

Singer Demi Lovato tweeting quote, "There are so many people who come out of bullying so much stronger and you will be one of them."

Captain America, himself, Chris Evans posting, "Stay strong, Keaton. Don't let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better.

While those punks at your school are deciding what kind of people they want to be in this world, how would you and your mom like to come to "THE AVENGERS" premiere in L.A. --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- next year?"

Well done, Captain America.

ROMANS: I love it, love it.

BRIGGS: Chris Evans is team Keaton, as are we.

ROMANS: Everybody on the outside talking about how they can help this kid. I hope on the inside that school is taking a hard look at its policies and the parents in that school are taking a hard look at their own kids to figure out what's going wrong there because it is not good.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning before we wrap it up.

Global stock markets higher -- starting the week higher. The Dow and the S&P 500 hit record closes Friday after a strong jobs report. The U.S. added 228,000 jobs in November. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent, a 17-year low.

One weak spot, wage growth. It has been sluggish for years and only moved 2.5 percent last month.

This week, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates. That would mark the third hike this year. It will be Janet Yellen's last meeting as Fed chief. Investors just got a new way to invest in Bitcoin. On Sunday, the Chicago Board Options Exchange began offering Bitcoin futures.

That allows investors to speculate on whether the digital currency's price will go up or down. Bitcoin futures jumped 21 percent after trading began, rising to a high of $18,700.

The CBOE allows investors to place bets on commodities but unlike corn or steel, Bitcoin has no physical asset. The virtual coins aren't tied to a Central Bank. That has not stopped speculators. Bitcoin prices up -- oh, wow -- roughly 1,500 percent this year.

The majority of workers worry they'll be replaced by robots in their lifetime. That's according to a new report from Zip Recruiters.

It found that most jobseekers have heard the term "job automation." It worries them. In fact, 70 percent say they are picking jobs they feel won't be automated in the near future.

Those fears may not be unfounded. Another recent student found automation could kill 375 million jobs worldwide by the year 2030. The work most at risk, physical jobs like operating machinery, fast food, and data collection and processing.

BRIGGS: If you're thinking about what you're doing in college, kids, think about what will be around in the next generation.

ROMANS: You know, the skill trades are a great -- a great future.

All right, it's that time. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This is President Donald Trump and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore.

JONES: I believe those women and I want to make sure that we send a message of who we are.

MOORE: These allegations are completely false. I did not molest anyone.

SHELBY: I didn't vote for Roy Moore. The state of Alabama deserves better.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This fire has been very rapidly moving. Do what you can now to prepare.