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EARLY START

President Trump Calls Kremlin after Putin Claims Media is Making Up Reports of Contact Between Trump Campaign and Russia; Omarosa Speaks Out About White House Diversity; James Fields Charged With First Degree Murder; Tech Giants To Fight FCC Net Neutrality Ruling. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 15, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


DAVID BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The public is planning to unveil their final tax bill, but one key senator on the fence. Could Trump's big tax cut go down in defeat?

(BEGIN VIDEO)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Omarosa. Omarosa is a good person.

(END VIDEO)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Omarosa out at the White House and wasting no time to tell her story. Why she says she felt uncomfortable in the Trump administration.

BRIGGS: President Trump making a call to the Kremlin just hours after Putin said the press is quote "dreaming up reports of contact from the Trump campaign and Russia. What the two leaders discussed on the phone, next. Happy Friday, everybody. The thanks for getting an "Early Start" with us, I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik, It's Friday, December 15, 4:00 a.m. in the east, and in a matter of hours, republicans plan to unveil the final version of their tax bill. Emphasis on, though, plan to, because there is new uncertainty. Senator Marco Rubio says he may vote against the bill unless the child tax credit is made more generous. Adding to the uncertainty, two senators, John McCain and Ted Cochran are dealing with health issue issues ahead of next week's planned final vote. Remember, Senate Republicans have a razor thin majority on this vote. They can't afford to lose more than two votes.

BRIGGS: Vice president Pence has postponed his planned trip to the Middle East by a couple of days in case he needs to cast the tie breaking vote. But President Trump remains optimistic, promising Americans the greatest tax cut in U.S. history.

TRUMP: I think we will get there. It will be in a very short period of time. It will be the greatest Christmas present that a lot of people have ever received. It will be something special.

BRIGGS: For the latest on the tax debate let's bring in CNN'S Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN REPORTER: Alison and Dave, for Republican

leaders, today is the day; they the day they've said they will release the full tax overhaul plan, the final bill they plan on voting on as soon as early next week. Here's one problem though, they don't necessarily have the votes and late Thursday night, they were working on hammering out the details of that bill. One of the big moments on Thursday that occurred, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida coming out and saying he was a no on the deal that had been struck by Senate and House negotiators. His issue, the child tax credit. Now there's a (ph) tax credit in the bill, boosted from $1,000 currently to $2,000.

But Senator Rubio's point, he wants it to be more refundable, basically adding more to people in terms of what they would get beyond their income tax liability. The big problem with that, at least according to senate leaders is, it is expensive. However, I'm told from several Senate aides that they've been working behind the scenes.

Will they give the senator everything he wants? No. But they will give him something; something that Republican leaders think will be enough to get him in line. As one Republican senator told me, on Thursday, do you really think Senator Rubio wants to sink this once in a generation opportunity? At least from the Republican perspective. Democrats still unified in opposition of this, still complaining about the process, complaining about the policy, saying in the wake of the Alabama Senate upset, that everybody should wait until Senator-Elect Doug Jones is seated. That's not going to happen.

Should Republican leaders finalize as they expect to? Sign the conference report Friday as they expect to? Release the bill Friday night as they expect to? Expect them to move very quickly next week. I'm told still, the time line stands. They want the tax bill done through both chambers of Congress and on the president's desk by Wednesday. Alison and Dave?

KOSIK: OK, Phil Mattingly thanks very much. Senator Rubio says he wants a more generous child credit in the tax plan, a provision not included in the current compromise. In fact, some of the biggest changes help corporations and the wealthy. Like the top individual rate slashed to 37 percent that's lower than both bills and helps top earners in high tax states who are going to be losing the state and local tax break.

To pay for that though, the corporate rate is going to be cut to 21%, not 20%, so that raises $100 billion in revenue. And Rubio wants those funds to expand the child tax credit for low income families, not help the rich. The current bill has a $2,000 child tax credit but only $1,100 is refundable. Meaning Americans get that money even if they don't make enough to pay income taxes. Rubio wants to increase that amount.

Now the GOP argues lower corporate taxes will help American families. How? What is the rationale? By adding jobs or raising wages, but there's no guarantee that's going to happen and those giant tax cuts are less than advertised. So we'll need to see the final bill, but so far, tax cuts for most Americans are modest and have a shot shelf life. In fact, under the Senate plan, all low income and most middle class families, they're going to wind up paying more in taxes by 2027. Dave, many are saying that - especially the Democrats obviously saying that this winds up being a big fat gift to corporate America just in time for Christmas.

BRIGGS: They're winning the sales job now at 26% polling nationwide. Rubio really crystallized the bad optics of lowing to the corporate tax - the top rate from 39 to 37 and not doubling the child tax credit. That could be very bad for them politically speaking in 2018. We'll see if they make Rubio happy later today.

Meanwhile North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. in New York this morning to address the U.N. Security Council for the first time in 10 years. The meeting comes after a jaw dropping prediction Wednesday from Senator Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Republican hawks (ph) giving 30% odds that President Trump orders a first strike against North Korea to stop it from developing a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the U.S. He also told the Atlantic if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test, its 7th, the chances climb to 70%. Graham says the topic of North Korea comes up all the time when he plays golf with the president as he did on Sunday.

KOSIK: Donald Trump calling Vladimir Putin after the Russian leader praised the president publically for his administration's accomplishment. The White House says Mr. Trump thanked Putin for acknowledging America's strong economic performance and discussed working together on the crisis in North Korea.

Earlier in the day, the Russian president held haze annual news conference and complemented the Trump administration for it quote, "fairly serious achievements." He also called reports of contact between Russia and the Trump campaign quote, "dreamed up.?

BRIGGS: The reality show presidency continues as Omarosa Manigault Newman speaking out about White House diversity, or lack thereof, the day after her mysterious exit from the west wing. A White House salary report showing Omarosa was the only African-American among top level White House staff. She tells ABC this often left her feeling quote "lonely."

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: As the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.

BRIGGS: CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more white house drama.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Dave and Alison, still more questions about that departure earlier this week of Omarosa Manigault Newman. Of course, she is the senior adviser to the president in charge of African-American outreach. Of course she also was the star in the apprentice series some years ago. Now, she left the White House abruptly earlier in week. She was not

pleased by that. There were reports of screaming and yelling and being taken out of the White House complex. White House officials have down played most of those, but we know there was a back and forth series of exchanges. She was not pleased by her abrupt departure. But it raises the question why will she still be on the government payroll for another month or so until she leaves in January, because she is no longer working here? We took that question to White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

ZELENY: She's resigned, but you said she will stay on - Omarosa will stay on through January 20. Why are the taxpayers continuing to pay her salary for another month if she's no longer here at the white House?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As I just said, I'm not going to weigh in any further. As we often do, and is the practice, we're not going to get deeper into personnel matters.

ZELENY: Why is she still on the payroll for another month? Is that normal?

SANDERS: Look, there are a lot of different protocols that take place in the government. That's part of the process. If you want to reach out to H.R., they might be able to walk you through you that in a more detailed way.

(END VIDEO)

ZELENY: Now, staff departures are frequent. Particularly at the end of a one year period of a White House, particularly one that has been as tumultuous as this. There are more questions surrounding Omarosa's departure than any of the others we've seen so far this year. She says she'll explain all of this in a tell-all book. Dave and Alison.

KOSIK: OK, Jeff, thank you. And close friends of Congressman Paul Ryan tell CNN the House speaker is doing some soul searching about his political career. They believe its possible Ryan could leave Congress after the 2018 midterm elections if he achieved his goal of overhauling the U.S. tax code. Ryan denies the report telling reporters, "I ain't going anywhere. " White House Press Secretary Sara Sanders says that was music to the president's ears.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

SANDERS: The president did speak to the speaker not too long ago and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly in no uncertain terms that if that news was true he was very unhappy with it. The speaker assured the president those were not accurate reports.

(END VIDEO)

KOSIK: Some of Ryan's friends believe he may be suffering from a bout of Trump exhaustion. We're told Ryan particularly dislikes the toll the job takes on his family.

BRIGGS: Congressman Blake Farenthold, announcing he will not run for reelection next year. The House ethics committee already investigating sexual harassment allegations against the Texas Republican. On Thursday, he released this video apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

SEN. BLAKE FARENTHOLD, R-TX.: And I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts, and too often a failure to treat people with respect that they deserved. That was wrong. Clearly, it's not how I was raised. It's not who I am. And for that situation I am profoundly sorry.

(END VIDEO)

BRIGGS: The news of Farenthold's decision to retire follows a CNN report Wednesday about a former senior aide who said the law maker made sexually graphic jokes and berated staffers. Like all members of the House, Farenthold's term ends every two years, so his plan to retire means he could remain in office until January of '19. Why that matters, we have not heard of his female accuser, former aide, Lauren Greene, we have heard from the male accuser. If she comes out and speaks and he's still in office in the 2018 mid-term...

KOSIK: Something tells me that's not going to sit.

BRIGGS: That would be brutal optics as they run in 2018

KOSIK: Tech giant slamming the FCC's decision to gut (ph) Obama era neutrality rules. So what exactly does this mean and how does it going to affect your online experience? We're going to explain this, next.

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BRIGGS: Now to the most discuss the story on the internet all week long. Tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Netflix vowing to fight the FCC's decision to roll back the Obama era net neutrality rules. Republican-led commission voting to 3-2 along party lines to repeal regulations that stop internet service providers from deliberately slowing down or speeding up traffic from specific websites and apps. The Obama era rules also prevent internet providers from giving their own services an advantage over rivals.

KOSIK: New York's Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman already working on a multistate lawsuit to roll back the FCC vote that happened yesterday. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson also indicating he's going to sue. Among opponents of the change, this - this tweet from Netflix's here, "We're disappointed in the decision to gut neutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity and civic engagement."

BRIGGS: Internet service providers applauding the move. This from Verizon, "Verizon full supports the open internet and we continue to do so, our customers demand it and our business depends on it." The repeal of net neutrality regulations does not take effect until next year. The issue may end up being decided in court and Congress could also step in with a legislative solution.

KOSIK: Another story here, President Trump praising the $52.4 billion merger between Disney and 21st Century Fox. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirming the president congratulated Fox mogul, Rupert Murdock. Vanity Fair reports Trump called to make sure Murdock was not selling "Fox News."

The president believes the deal could be good for jobs but this is horizontal merger between two direct competitors. That usually means job losses. In fact the companies say merger saves $2 billion and analysts expect most of those savings will wind up being in layoffs. The administration's reaction is a stark contrast to AT&T and Time Warner, the parent company CNN, a vertical merger between two companies that doesn't - that don't compete.

The Justice Department recently moved to block that deal and the deal also helps Disney transform into a streaming video giant to rival Netflix. It's now the majority owner of Hulu and plans to launch its own streaming service next we year. So, Disney will be pulling its content from Netflix in 2019, removing TV and films from Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and Disney animation.

BRIGGS: New York City police now investigating sexual misconduct and rape allegations against music and media mogul, Russell Simmons. The NYPD has not received a direct complaint against him, but started the probe based on multiple accusations being reported in the media. Simmons' attorney, Brad Rose, releasing this statement, "Russell Simmons fully supports and will cooperate with the police inquiry, and is confident of a swift resolution."

In a statement to CNN, Simmons (inaudible) denies the allegations, posting this photo on Instagram with the comment "Today I begin to properly defend myself. I will prove without any doubt that I am innocent of all rape charges."

KOSIK: Firefighters mourning one of their own as they continue to battle those power wildfires in Southern California. What we're learning about the San Diego firefighter killed in the blaze. That's next.

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KOSIK: A self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, who allegedly drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators in Charlottesville last summer, now faces first-degree murder charges. 20-year-old, James Fields was already charged with second degree murder and the death of counter protester, Heather Heyer; 35 others were injured. On Thursday, prosecutors upgraded the charge against Fields to first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 20 years to life. The case goes before a grand jury on Monday.

BRIGGS: San Diego firefighter killed by battling a fire in California. Cory Iverson was part of the team taking on the 11-day- old Thomas fire in Venture County. Powerful winds continue to fuel the fire which has scorched a quarter million acres and destroyed nearly 1,000 structures. Officials say an investigation is under way to determine the circumstances surrounding the 32-year-old's death. Iverson leaves behind his wife and their 2-year-old daughter. His family expecting a second daughter this spring.

KOSIK: Our thoughts go to his family.

BRIGGS: It's (ph) tough.

KOSIK: Firefighters due to get a brief respite today as the winds die down temporarily. Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera has the weekend forecast. Good morning.

(WEATHER)

KOSIK: OK, thanks very much.

BRIGGS: All right ahead, Senator Marco Rubio making last minute demands as lawmakers prepare to unveil the final tax bill. The latest on the negotiations and a report from Capitol Hill, next.

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