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Judge Dismisses Ethics Lawsuit Against Trump. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 04:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Shutdown averted. Congress kicks the can another month but major issues remain as lawmakers and the president leave for the holiday.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: Testimony from the Deputy FBI suggests he can back up James Comey's claims about President Trump.

ROMANS: And, the U.S. isn't backing down after a lopsided U.N. vote criticizing the president's Jerusalem decision. The response of the former CIA director comparing the president to narcissistic, vengeful autocrats.


ROMANS: Happy Friday. Good morning. Welcome to Early Start. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs here. That's John Brennan and I think he got on Twitter because of this. It was only his second tweet he's ever sent out.

ROMANS: Interesting.

BRIGGS: So, guns a blazing. It's Friday, December 22, 2017. The Friday before Christmas, folks. Four a.m. in the east, 11 a.m. in the Jerusalem, noon in Moscow. The lights, folks, will stay on. The government running for another month. The Senate funding a stop-gap funding bill last night to keep federal agencies open through January 19.

The House approved the measure earlier in the day. Pushing the measure through means lawmakers, yes, they can get away for the holidays; get to those town cars and onto their planes.

ROMANS: The president is also getting away for the holidays. He heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing the republican tax bill this morning but even after averting a shutdown many critical issues remain unresolved. CNN's Phil Mattingly sorts through it for us from Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, in the end the pull or the scent of jet fumes overwhelmed the idea of having a fight when it came to a potential government shutdown. House republicans having the votes on their own to keep the government funded through January 19. The Senate following suit shortly there after.

There will not be a government shutdown. At least for now. Now, what's actually in the bill that they passed? It's more than just funding through January 19. It's also funding through the end of March and the Children's Health Insurance Program. A program that lapsed in September.

This bill will have $3 billion to keep that moving forward. This bill will also extend through January 19 a key FISA surveillance program. A warrant was served on the surveillance program. The intelligence community has said that it desperately needs and will also have some elements of funding for community health hospitals, as well.

Key components but no doubt setting up major fights for January. DACA obviously the program that President Trump said he would wind down by the end of March. That has been punted to January, as well. You also have a Disaster Supplemental bill. Basically funding for hurricane ravaged Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico while the House passed that with a big vote the Senate put that aside.

Saying they didn't have the votes for it this time around. That will have to be addressed in January, as well. So, republicans and democrats agreeing not to shut down the government, low bar, but that's progress on some level. But what it does do, again, is set up major fights in January.

For now, though, everybody is going home to celebrate the holidays with their families. Christine and Dave?

BRIGGS: Mr. Mattingly, thanks. As Phil reported there still no deal on DACA the law that protects dreamer or young undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Just before the vote on the short-term spending bill more that a dozen member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus marched on Senator Chuck Schumer's office calling for a no-vote on the spending bill unless it contained a DACA fix.

ROMANS: They say Schumer only committed to galvanizing support for the nation's dreamers. Earlier this week republican Senator Jeff Flake said he has a commitment from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to vote on a bipartisan immigration bill next month.

BRIGGS: Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe has racked up more than 16 hours of testimony this week before members of three House committees. Multiple sources from both parties tell CNN McCabe described interactions with his one time boss former FBI Director James Comey.

ROMANS: The testimony suggests McCabe can back up Comey's claim the president asked him to pledge his loyalty and go easy on the Michael Flynn investigation. That's because McCabe told lawmakers Comey informed him about conversations with President Trump soon after they happened.

BRIGGS: McCabe's closed door testimony came amid growing calls for his firing from republicans critical of the FBI's handling of the Russia and Clinton e-mail investigations. Democrats like Congressman Jerrold Nadler are pushing back pressuring republicans to stop demonizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.


JERROLD NADLER, CONGRESSMAN: Republican attempts seemingly at the behest of the White House to discredit, interfere and undermine Robert Mueller and his team must be called out and exposed as a systematic attempt to provide cover for the president as the walls close in on him and on his family and his inner circle.


ROMANS: A new CNN poll show the majority of Americans, 56 percent disapprove of the presidents handling of the Russian investigation while 47 percent approve of Special Council Mueller handing of the probe. Both those polls are sharply divided along party lines.

A federal judge dismissing an epic lawsuit against President Trump. An organization called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, also knows as CREW. Claims Mr. Trump's business interests are causing conflicts of interest that violate the constitution, their argument resting on the Presidents decision not to sell his business holdings before the inauguration.

On Thursday a district judge ruled CREW did not have legal standing to bring this suit since Congress must raise the issue first. CREW calls the ruling a setback and vows to appeal.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: Nikki Haley taking names as promised after a UN vote condemning President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israels capital. America's ambassador to the UN (now) (commencing) words calling the United Nations a hostile place for Israel after a 128 to nine vote against The United States.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the general assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations and we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us as they so often do to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.


ROMANS: Haley's remarks triggering a harsh response from former C.I.A. Director John Brennan. He tweets, Trump Administration's threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in the U.N. to oppose U.S. position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous.

It shows Donald Trump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone. Qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats. 35 countries abstained from the U.N. vote, 21 others were absent.

BRIGGS: Ambassador Haley inviting representatives from all 65 nations that did not vote against the U.S. to a thank you reception in January, part of the invitation reading think of this as just the first symbolic step. The United States taking note of who supports and who does not; let's go live to Jerusalem and bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann.

Oren, this is a tough situation. On one hand we give 22 percent of the U.N. budget, but does that buy a loyalty? On the other hand, should we get lectured from countries like North Korea, Russia and Syria on what The United States ought to do on the world stage? What's the reaction there?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDANT: Well, again this is exactly what the Trump administration has pointed out, that the U.S. provides the largest portion of the U.N.'s budget. And you're right, in the general assembly where every country has one vote and one say regardless of the size, influence, economy or government of that country. You have a situation where the North Korea - where North Korea, Iran, and Yemen can lecture The United States.

As for reactions here the Palestinians very much see this as a success with the results of the vote, 128 - four which is a condemnation of U.S. foreign policy and only nine against. They say this rejects the U.S.'s unilateral move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and is a step forward for international law and multilateralism.

And that is a success that's been echoed by the Jordanians, the Saudis as well and others in the reason. Meanwhile, you have a bit of a strange situation here where the Israelis also see this as a success because of the number of extensions and absentees, a total of 65 either voting against, abstaining or not in the general assembly room at the time of the vote.

Israel sees that as a bit of a diplomatic victory having already written off the results of the vote because Dave let's not forget this is a non binding resolution. So, in terms of what it changes, the answer is not much if anything at all. It is largely, if not completely symbolic.

BRIGGS: Right, and regardless of what side of this you're on you would like to see The United States rise above a symbolic vote. Oren Liebermann live for us in Jerusalem, thank you. Meanwhile, Mike Pence now the highest ranking Trump administration official to visit an active U.S. combat zone.

The Vice President making a secret visit to Afghanistan Thursday night. Meeting with top Afghan officials and rallying the troops, Pence starting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan with an emphasis on achieving victory.


MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Today, on behalf of your Commander in Chief I say to all of you. In the days ahead mind your mission, take care of one another. Respect the unified chain of command and never doubt that everyday, every operation and every decision that you make matters. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The Vice President has departed Afghanistan and is now headed back to the U.S. for the holidays.

ROMANS: Presidents payday holiday visit to wounded troops at Walter Reed Medical Center.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Some of the bravest people anywhere in the world. We're just going to wish them a merry Christmas, a happy New Year and we love those people.


ROMANS: During his visit the President awarded the Purple Heart to First Lieutenant Victor Prado of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion who was injured last month while deployed in Afghanistan. It was Trump's second visit to Walter Reed as President. His two predecessors also visited service members there wounded in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, legendary sports caster Dick Enberg, has died.


DICK ENBERG: Oh my, what an exciting day.


BRIGGS: That voice. Just legendary. Family members of the beloved Hall of Fame announcer confirmed Enberg was found dead at his home in La Jolla, California Thursday. His family suspects the cause of death was a heart attack. Long time voice of UCLA basketball and the San Diego Padres, Enberg was heard for decades on NBC, CBS, and ESPN. He covered 28 Wimbledons, 10 Super Bowls, and 8 NCAA Basketball Championships. Dick Enberg, dead at the age of 82. Just one of the few voices of that generation that you can close your eyes and you can just hear it -

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely.

BRIGGS: - that soundtrack of at least my childhood.

ROMANS: I know. All right. Coming up, Ivanka Trump is praising the benefits of the new tax bill and they will affect you, but she doesn't appear to have the dates down pat. Details next.


Ivanka Trump is taking a victory lap over the new tax bill, like this moment on Fox News.

START VIDEO CLIP IVANKA TRUMP: I'm really looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in April when people realize the the effect that this has both on the process of filling out their taxes. The vast majority will be doing so on a single post card.


ROMANS: That's likely not the case. First, it seems Ivanka was mixing up her dates. The new tax bill will not affect the taxes you file in April. That tax return is for 2017 so it still falls under the current tax code. So, when do the new rules kick in? January 1st, 2018 that will affect your 2018 tax returns. As you know, you file those in April 2019. Though Ivanka later clarified her comments on Twitter, when someone pointed out the mistake.

She Tweeted that in April American's will be thinking about how cumbersome the old tax code is and energized about upcoming simplification. Now filing your taxes on a post card, experts tell us that's unlikely. The tax bill is not the simplification that GOP leaders promised. There are still lots of credits and deductions to sort through. Fewer people will probably claim all those credits and deductions but an itemized, if you will, but still a post card it seems unlikely.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN CO-HOST: Just Paul Ryan, so many questions were answered with here's your post card. Those may come back to haunt him. Meanwhile, the senate is paid out nearly a million and a half dollars in work place settlements in the past 20 years. Last night the Senate rules committee released the figures, including 13 settlements through claims involving Senator's offices and 10 more settlement involving offices not led by individual senators. The descriptions included discrimination based on sex, age and disability, but did not break out sexual harassments separately Tax payers on the hook for all those claims.

ROMANS: New legislation would make law makers personally liable for sexual harassment claims but there's been a delay advancing the measure. A bipartisan group of law makers say they will not be able to introduce a bill to reform how congress handles this issue till next month.

BRIGGS: So much for unity and the republican party. Majority leader, Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham not exactly on the same page concerning future efforts to repeal and then replace Obama Care. Here's what McConnell told MPR.


MICTCH MCCONNELL, MAJORITY LEADER: We obviously were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 52 48 Senate. We'll have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51 49 Senate but I think we'll probably move on to other issues.


ROMANS: Graham though disagreeing. Tweeting to those who believe including Senate Republican leadership that in 2018 there will not be another effort to repeal and replace Obama Care, well you are sadly mistaken.

BRIGGS: Vice President, Mike Pence is effusive praise of President Trump after passing of the tax bills. Getting some ribbing on line, first a reminder.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your love for this country and the people of this country.


BRIGGS: That's just a small glimpse there. That got the attention of which dipped its normally neutral pages in to political waters by tweeting this. There's a word for a person who would praise someone every 12 seconds with a link to the word sycophant. That's the finest of self seeking (ph) flatterer. The word sycophant was exploding on Twitter after the praise that Mike Pence gave the President specifically in the cabinet but not necessarily-

ROMANS: --yes, it was the cabinet meeting that really went viral. The picture of the President with his arms crossed listening as Mike Pence-

BRIGGS: --and the back of Mike Pence's head was shown.

ROMANS; Praise the President.

BRIGGS: Yes. All right ahead, the US claims Russia violating a deal to keep the skies over Syria safe. Now Russia wants the US to get out of Syria all together. We're live in Moscow next.

(Commercial Break)

CHRISTINE ROMANS: The pentagon claims Russia is intentionally violating an agreement designed to prevent accidents in the skies over Syria. That accusation follows a recent encounter between America's F22's and Russian SU25 jets that nearly resulted in a collision.

Now Russia's envoy to Syria says it is time for the U.S. to pack up and get out. CNN's Frederick Pleitgen live from Moscow with the latest developments. Hi, Fred.

FREDERICK PLEITGEN: Hi there Christy. Yes it certainly looks like there might be conflict in store between Russia and the United States over what to do in Syria. Of course both of the countries very different - different views of how to move forward in Syria. The Russian's backing Bashar Al Assad, the U.S. for a long time saying they believe Bashar Al Assad must go.

Now the one thing where they cooperated though was in the fight against ISIS. And now it seems as though even that is going away. The Russians very publicly now calling for U.S. forces to leave Syria. I want to read you a statement from one of the main envoys to the Syria conflict that the Russians have and I quote "The task of defeating the terrorists group in Syria by the American's has actually been fulfilled and therefore we believe that there are no compelling reasons for the units to be located on the territory of Syria. They the reasons are groundless."

So the Russians being very clear that the U.S. of course still has forces on the ground after ousting ISIS from places like Ruqqa and other places in Syria as well. And of course U.S. jets still flying in the skies. So you see there, there is potential for conflict between these two nations in Syria. Very interesting to see how that for instance plays out in the Putin, Trump relationship that we've been talking about so much here on our air, Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely, all right Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us, thanks Fred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The massive Thomas wildfire in southern California inching closer to being the largest in state history. Critical fire danger warnings back up in place as winds picked up over night. As the fire grows, so does the costs to fight it. Officials saying the fire consumed 400 more acres Thursday brining the total to more than 272,000 acres and the cost to fight it topping $170 million and it's only 65 percent contained.

ROMANS: All right lawmakers anxious to get away for the holiday, they have a spending plan to keep the government open for one month. Wow what a relief. What's in the plan and what's left to clean up in January?