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Government Shutdown Averted; Top FBI Official Grilled On Comey; Jerusalem Vote Fallout; Pentagon: Russia Violating Syria Agreement. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:06] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Shutdown averted. Congress kicks the can another month, but major issues remain as lawmakers and the president leave for the holiday.

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

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

BRIGGS: Happy Friday.

ROMANS: Merry Christmas. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's 30 minutes past the hour on a Mar-a- Lago Friday.

The lights, though, they'll stay on. They're governing, sort of. The government will run for another month.

The Senate approving a stopgap funding bill last night to keep federal agencies open through January 19th. The House approved the measure earlier in the day. Pushing the measure through means lawmakers can get away for the holidays.

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 items remain unresolved.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL 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 19th. The Senate following suit shortly thereafter. 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 19th.

It's also funding through the end of March in 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 19th, a key FISA surveillance program -- a war on the surveillance program the Intelligence Community has said that it desperately needs.

It 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 that he would wind down by the end of March. That has been punted to January as well.

And 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's going home to celebrate the holidays with their families -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: Merry Christmas to Phil Mattingly.

And as he reported, there's still no deal on DACA, the law that protects Dreamers -- young, undocumented immigrants brought here as children.

Just before the vote on the short-term spending bill more than a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus marched on Sen. 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 Sen. Jeff Flake said he has a commitment from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to vote on a bipartisan immigration bill next month.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's bring in political economist Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments, live from Paris this morning. We are very envious, my friend.

But let's start with hashtag governing. They kicked the can another couple of weeks -- a C.R.


BRIGGS: What type of confrontation are we headed towards in about a month?

VALLIERE: I really think this is going to be an epic battle in mid- January, probably with a shutdown. I think it could last for a while.

There were so many differences, as Phil just outlined in his piece, over spending, over refugees, over aid to insurers. The list goes on and on and on of things they're not even remotely close to agreement on.

ROMANS: So, the afterglow of the tax bill, you think, is going to be brief?

VALLIERE: I do. I wouldn't diminish what an extraordinary accomplishment it was to get this bill done, whether it was Ryan, or McConnell, or the president. To get this tax bill through is really an epic accomplishment.

But the celebration will be fleeting. I think this fight in mid- January is going to be a long one.

BRIGGS: OK. Well beyond that, it seems that Democrats are awfully happy about this tax bill being signed as well. They seem to think they have the better of the messaging war right now because polling shows it's not very popular with the American people.

But come the 2018 midterms, with low unemployment, with the stock market at record highs, and an economy that is growing, who will get the best of the economic message then?

VALLIERE: Well, that's the question and the old cliche is that a month is a lifetime in politics. And if we're at Labor Day and unemployment is well below four, if GDP is above three percent -- well, I think the tax bill, fairly or not, will get a good deal of the credit.

[05:35:06] ROMANS: You know, that is if there isn't some sort of implosion in Obamacare. You have 8.8 million people who signed up in the open enrollment -- the short open enrollment period for Obamacare. Yet, the individual mandate has been pulled out.

Listen to what the president said when he was doing his victory lap about the tax bill.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So in this bill not only do we have massive tax cuts and tax reform, we have essentially repealed Obamacare and we'll come up with something that will be much better.


ROMANS: If they don't come up with something that's much better they own health care, don't they? Don't they own the health care market?

VALLIERE: You're absolutely right. They own health care, they own the economy.

And there is one issue where they still have not prevailed and that is an awful lot of people have not seen the recovery in their wages.


VALLIERE: We've got to see some wage improvement before Trump can declare victory.

ROMANS: You know, 20 states and I think some 18 states or 20 states and a whole bunch of municipalities are raising their minimum wages come January first and, you know, state laws that have already passed, so there will be some rising wages. But will the Trump administration be able to take credit for it?

BRIGGS: Well, and will Republicans take up the repeal and replace effort again in 2018 after that devastating loss on that issue this year.

Here's what Mitch McConnell told NPR about that.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE 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.


BRIGGS: Not so fast, said Sen. Lindsey Graham. "To those who believe, including Senate Republican leadership, that there will not be another effort to repeal and replace -- well, you are sadly mistaken."

So where do Republicans go from here on Obamacare repeal and replace? Given that Doug Jones will be seated next year, 51-49 is the edge.

VALLIERE: I think they know they don't have the votes. Maybe they'll try to get the votes on infrastructure but frankly, Dave, I don't see that.

Maybe they'll try to get the votes on entitlement reform but that really polls terribly. Nobody wants to see Social Security or Medicare cuts. So there aren't a lot of issues that they can capitalize on right away.

And in the meantime, you've got the ongoing investigation. And I think that if there's a big story as we get into the spring, it's Robert Mueller with more indictments.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Can we get a commitment on Christmas in Paris -- the three of us next year? We'll bring the kids. Sound good?

VALLIERE: Yes. (Foreign language spoken). Great to work with you guys and let's all meet here next year.

ROMANS: (Foreign language spoken).

BRIGGS: I'm the only one who doesn't speak French.

ROMANS: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

BRIGGS: OK, and you say?

ROMANS: I say and you, as well.


ROMANS: Bye, Greg. Thank you. He wins. He definitely wins.

BRIGGS: He wins. Merry Christmas, Greg.

ROMANS: That's the live shot of the morning. Thanks, Greg.

BRIGGS: All right.

Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe has wrapped 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.

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 Jerry Nadler, are pushing back, pressuring Republicans to stop demonizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: 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 shows the majority of Americans, 56 percent, disapprove of the president's handling of the Russia investigation. Meanwhile, 47 percent approve of Special Counsel Mueller's approach to the probe. Both those polls are sharply divided along party lines.

BRIGGS: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now says he will not accept any peace plan from the U.S. Abbas says the United States has disqualified itself from mediating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley now staking names -- taking names, has promised after a U.N. vote condemning President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. America's ambassador to the U.N. calling the United Nations a hostile place for Israel after a 128 to nine vote against the U.S.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: 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.


[05:40:18] ROMANS: Haley's remarks triggering a harsh response from former CIA Director John Brennan.

He tweets, "Trump administration threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in U.N. to oppose U.S. position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous. Shows Donald Trump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone -- qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats."

BRIGGS: Retweeted 23,000 times.


Thirty-five 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 a first

symbolic step in the United States taking note of who supports us and who does not."

If you are nice to me you are invited to my party.

ROMANS: The U.S. claims Russia violating a deal to keep the skies over Syria safe. Now, Russian wants the U.S. to get out of Syria altogether. We're live in Moscow.


[05:45:39] ROMANS: The president may say Obamacare is imploding but millions of Americans are still using it. Eight point eight million people, to be exact, signed up on the exchanges this year, just 400,000 fewer than open enrollment last year which was twice as long.

The Trump administration cut the enrollment period in half, slashed the ad budget by 90 percent. That led Obamacare supporters and users to accuse officials of sabotaging enrollment. But advocates now cheer these strong numbers.

The final count likely to be even higher. Americans affected by the hurricanes and people in Puerto Rico have more time to sign up.

And strong enrollment is key to the future of Obamacare. The exchanges need younger, healthier people to keep premiums down, a trend that could be hurt by the new tax bill. It eliminates tax penalties for Americans who don't buy health insurance.

BRIGGS: A federal judge dismissing an ethics lawsuit against President Trump.

An organization called Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington, or CREW, claims Mr. Trump's business interests are causing conflicts of interest that violate the constitution -- the emoluments clause. Their argument resting on the president's decision not to sell his business holdings before the inauguration.

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

Well, it's a sad day for the sports world. Legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg passing away at 82.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.


Yes, you knew right away when you turned on a sporting event if Dick Enberg was calling it. He had such an iconic voice. And then, you know, when something big would happen he'd give you that signature phrase.


DICK ENBERG, SPORTS BROADCASTER: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Oh, my.


SCHOLES: Oh, my -- that was it.

Enberg was the longtime voice of UCLA basketball and the San Diego Padres. You know, many remember him on the national stage where he called 28 Wimbledons, 10 Super Bowls, and eight NCAA basketball championship games, working for NBC, CBS, and ESPN.

Enberg receiving numerous awards over the years, including one from baseball, basketball, and football Hall of Fame. He even got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Dick Enberg was 82 years old.

All right. If I told you that the Knicks beat the Celtics -- that their star, Kristaps Porzingis is going zero for 11 and finishing with just one point, that would be hard to believe. But that happened last night thanks to journeyman Michael Beasley.




SCHOLES: Beasley receiving MVP chants from the fans at Madison Square Garden after going off for 32 points. Just three years ago he was considered an NBA bust and was playing in China, but it looks like Beasley may have finally found a home in New York.

The Knicks beat the Celtics 102 to 93.

LeBron James, meanwhile, playing in his 800th game as a Cav light night. He led Cleveland to a win over the Bulls. And during the game, well, he still found time to be a dad.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: You got candy on you? You got candy on you? Give that to my daughter.


SCHOLES: That was LeBron. His daughter apparently sitting right near the bench, guys, and she wanted some candy. So you see LeBron over there soliciting everyone for some candy to give to his daughter.

You know, it's Christmastime. I bet it's not a bad deal to be one of the James kids right about now.

ROMANS: Right. BRIGGS: No. I'm sure Santa --

ROMANS: It sounds like she has --

BRIGGS: -- hooks them up.

ROMANS: She's got her daddy eating out of her hand, right?

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: Like, she can do anything. All right.

Thanks, Andy. Merry Christmas.

BRIGGS: Merry Christmas, my friend.

SCHOLES: Have a good one, guys.

ROMANS: President Trump paid a holiday visit to wounded troops at Walter Reed Medical Center.


TRUMP: 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 Prato of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion. He was injured last month while deployed in Afghanistan.

This was Trump's second visit to Walter Reed as president.

We wish them all well over the holidays.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

ROMANS: After 17 years at Google, Alphabet's executive chairman is stepping down. What is next for Eric Schmidt? Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.


[05:54:24] BRIGGS: The Pentagon claims Russia is intentionally violating an agreement designed to prevent accidents in the skies over Syria. That accusation follows a recent account between American F- 22s and Russian SU-25 jets that nearly resulted in a collision.

Now, Russia's envoy to Syria says it's time for the U.S. to pack up and get out.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live from Moscow with the latest. Fred, good morning. FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Dave, and we've actually managed to get in touch with the Kremlin. It's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who was the direct spokesman for Vladimir Putin, and he said that he believes that the U.S. is not in Syria legitimately under international law, but Russia is.

[05:55:06] Now, that goes into a course of Russian statements over the past couple of days and weeks where they've been saying they think it's time for the U.S. to leave Syria. Of course, America still has a lot of troops on the ground there after defeating ISIS in places like Raqqa, but especially also flying in the skies.

I want to read you one of those Russian statements where they said, and I quote, "The task of defeating the terrorist group in Syria by the Americans 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 the Americans give for still staying there, are groundless." -- this official said.

So as you can see, there is a source of conflict there and it really seems as though some of that is already kicking off. The Americans are saying that there have been a lot more of those incidents like the one that you described before where Russian and American jets have been getting very, very close to one another, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right, more tense times. Frederik Pleitgen live for us in Moscow. Thanks.

ROMANS: A Wisconsin teenager charged in the so-called Slenderman stabbing of a classmate will be spared prison time. The judge choosing to send Anissa Weier, Thursday, to a mental institution for 25 years.

The 15-year-old Weier apologized for her actions at the hearing, having already pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree homicide due to mental illness.

BRIGGS: She and Morgan Geyser lured a classmate to a park three years ago where they stabbed her 19 times to please a fictional Internet character known as Slenderman. The victim survived.

Geyser will also be committed to a mental institution.

ROMANS: All right. Those huge Thomas wildfire in Southern California inching closer to being the largest in state history.

Critical fire danger warnings back in place as winds picked up, sadly, overnight. Officials say this fire consumed 400 more acres Thursday, bringing the total now to more than 272,000 acres. The cost to fight this now more than $170 million.

This is just about 65 percent contained.

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

Global stock markets are mostly higher right now. Wall Street snapped a two-day decline, closing higher again thanks to energy and bank stocks.

You know, Congress approved this tax bill week which slashes the corporate tax rate and banks will be some of the biggest winners of the lower tax rate. Analysts expect bank profits to jump as much as 25 percent.

The cracks are starting to show in Bitcoin's stunning rally. Bitcoin plunged to about $13,000 overnight. It's now down more than 30 percent this week. A few days of bad headlines for cryptocurrencies, including some exchanges that closed -- it's causing doubt about the reliability of the market.

Unlike traditional currencies, Bitcoin is not tied to a central bank. This is the kind of investment that is pure speculation. If you put your money in it be ready to not get it out or to lose it.

Eric Schmidt is stepping down as executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Schmidt has been with the company for 17 years, 10 of those as CEO. He played a central role in turning Google into a global powerhouse. Schmidt will remain on the board and continue to serve as a technical adviser.

Also stepping aside, the Papa of Papa John's is leaving the CEO seat. John Schnatter founded the pizza chain in the 1980s. He will step down in January.

No reason given for the departure but it comes after a string of P.R. debacles and slumping sales, including Schnatter blaming NFL player protests for poor sales. Papa John's is an NFL sponsor.

BRIGGS: But will he remain the face of the franchise in the commercials?

ROMANS: That will be interesting. He's still -- I mean, he's still the founder.


ROMANS: He's still affiliated with it.

BRIGGS: Well, he did this once before. He stepped down in '05 and returned in '08, so it will be interesting.

ROMANS: That's right. You have a good memory.

BRIGGS: I follow my pizza.

ROMANS: All right. A very Merry Christmas to all of you from us here at EARLY START.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. I'm off next week.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. And I'm going to miss you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

ROMANS: The same to you, too. BRIGGS: Merry Christmas, everyone.

ROMANS: Oh, look at the snow.

BRIGGS: "NEW DAY" starts right now.


TRUMP: I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance.

ROMANS: Andrew McCabe testifying James Comey told him about his conversations with the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our law enforcement became highly politicized and most Americans just want to see all this completely removed.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Whenever it seems as if Mueller's getting closer to the White House, it seems that we distract to something else.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How would you react if the president took steps to get rid of Bob Mueller?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not. I've talked to the president. He's not.

HALEY: This vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do think the United States needs to continue to promote this idea of a two-state solution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not be intimidated.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: This move completely rejects this preposterous resolution. Jerusalem is our capital.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, December 22nd, 6:00 here in New York.

Chris is off; Bill Weir joins me. I predict a very interesting show today.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, yes, per usual.

CAMEROTA: Yes, exactly.

WEIR: You're good that way.

CAMEROTA: That's right. Here's our "Starting Line."

President Trump flying to Mar-a-Lago in just a few hours with a huge legislative win under his belt and a looming government shutdown off his radar now that Congress passed a spending bill late last night.

Before the president departs, sources say that he will sign the newly- passed GOP tax plan into law.