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Trump Speaks Out On Mueller, Sessions & 2018; 12 Killed in NYC Fire; New Year's Eve Security Preparations Underway. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 29, 2017 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:22] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Revealing new insight from President Trump on key topics for next year. He thinks the Russian special counsel will be fair to him. What he said about his own attorney general and North Korea just might stun you. We have live coverage and reaction to the comments ahead.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: And a holiday season tragedy in the Bronx. At least a dozen people killed in the deadliest apartment fire in New York City in a quarter century.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 4:30 Eastern Time.

After weeks of watching his allies trying to discredit the special counsel's investigation, the president giving Robert Mueller the benefit of the doubt. He says he thinks the special counsel will treat him fairly. Mr. Trump sitting down with the "New York Times" for an impromptu interview at his golf club in Palm Beach.

KOSIK: On Russia, the president took a different tone than many in the Republican Party have. Here's "New York Times" reporter Michael Shear on CNN last night.



MICHAEL SHEAR, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He thought Bob Mueller was going to be fair to him, which really undercuts and undermines an argument that many in his party have been making in the last several weeks, that they've been attempting to discredit and undermine Mueller's investigation, calling it partisan. So, this kind of goes against that, but at the same time, the president repeated a lot of the complaints and criticisms that he's had about the investigation.


KOSIK: Among those complaints the investigation is bad for the country. President Trump told the times it makes the country look bad and it puts the country in a bad position, so the sooner worked out, the better it is, for the country.

BRIGGS: President Trump also told the newspaper 16 times, in 30 minutes, there was no collusion with Russia. He also says some congressman have been, quote, unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole investigation is and that his base is stronger than ever.

KOSIK: The president's comments coming amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the tone growing more confrontational over the last few days because of a series of issues.

CNN's senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is live for us in Moscow. So, has the Kremlin reacted yet to this "New York Times" interview?


They haven't reacted yet. However, we do believe that they will be studying it closely, especially some of the things that President Trump said about the Mueller investigation, but in general, also about North Korea and other international issues as well. But you're right. The tone does seem to be growing more confrontational. You recall that just yesterday, we were talking about that op-ed from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, which the Russians had a very harsh reaction to yesterday afternoon, calling it confrontational and even calling it fake news if an op-ed can be fake news.

They said that they believe that the U.S. is trying to drive a wedge between China and Russia because the U.S. believes China and Russia are becoming too strong on the international stage. The spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, also saying that any language from the U.S. of power or of any sort of economic pressure is not going to work with the Russians.

So, you can see how things are becoming more confrontational, more difficult. The tone is becoming more sour and then the Russians also said that they believe a move by the U.S. to put a missile defense system in Japan which obviously is there to guard against North Korea is also provocation. The Russians saying they're now testing a long range missile that they believe could beat any missile defense system.

So, certainly, the tone quite harsh at this time. We'll wait and see if they react to the interview by President Trump, though, Alison.

KOSIK: And Japan looking to deploy this missile defense system after North Korea has fired off 23 missiles since February, two of them over Japan. So, Japan just looking to defend itself.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much.

BRIGGS: President Trump also taking a not so subtle shot at Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Now, you'll remember Sessions recused himself from the special counsel's Russia investigation months ago after it came to light he met with Russia's ambassador during the campaign. Now, when asked whether President Obama thinks former President

Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder was more loyal than his own, Mr. Trump had this to say: I don't want to get into loyalty, but I will say this: Holder protected President Obama, totally protected him. When you look at the things they did and Holder protected the president, I have great respect for that. I'll be honest.

KOSIK: President Trump also spoke about Hillary Clinton, and the e- mail investigation. Asked if he would order the Justice Department to reopen the probe into Mrs. Clinton's e-mails, Mr. Trump told "The Times" this, I have the absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department.

[04:35:05] But for purposes of hopefully thinking I'm going to be treated fairly, I've stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.

In the past, Mr. Trump has expressed frustration the Department of Justice led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions hasn't gone after Clinton.

BRIGGS: President Trump going on to defend his decision to keep trade active with China, pointing to the North Korea threat and telling "The Times", China is hurting us bad on trade because I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war.

KOSIK: It's the first time Mr. Trump directly admitted being easier on China and hopes they pressure Pyongyang to stop its advancement of nuclear weapons. The president calling North Korea, quote, a nuclear menace, which is no good for China.

BRIGGS: President Trump's comments came hours after he accused the Chinese of secretly shipping oil to North Korea. The president tweeted: caught red-handed. Very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen.

Trump was asked by "The Times" how recently the possible transfer happened. He said, quote, it was very recently. In fact, I hate to say, it was reported Thursday morning on Fox.

CNN's Alexandra Field is live in Beijing.

Alex, this interview with "The Times", staggering among the things he says about China, President Xi Jinping treated me better than anybody's ever been treated. In the history of China, they have to help us more.

Any reaction there?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, this is a complex we've seen unfold between the Trump administration and China. We know that there's, of course, a close personal relationship with President Xi Jinping. That doesn't stop the president from putting up these very harsh words on Twitter, bold allegations that China has been caught red-handed, essentially accusing China of violating the U.N. Security Council resolutions that it has signed on to.

What's the evidence for this? The president is suggesting there's an illegal shipping network that is moving resources into North Korea. That's in direct violation of the U.N. sanctions.

This issue came to light earlier this week when South Korean media reported it had obtained satellite images showing Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels. This is an issue that the State Department also brought up back in November, saying that these illegal ship to ship transfers could be happening involving North Korean vessels, and now, you've got even the State Department saying these ship to ship transfers are happening and that they involve ships from several countries, including China.

Then, President Trump puts out this very accusatory tweet. So what's the fallout from that? Well, China had already come to its own defense earlier this week as a result of those South Korean media reports. They say that China is fully upholding and implementing all of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, and they say if they have clear evidence that any of their ships are participating in these transfers or any Chinese companies are skirting sanctions that they could go after them and deal with them.

Well, South Korea says there is more evidence that the sanctions are being skirted. In fact they say that in November, they seized a ship that is based in Hong Kong that's leased by a Taiwanese company, they say they caught that ship making an illegal transfer of oil to North Korean vessels.

Of course, we know that the goal of the Trump station is to cut that oil flow going into North Korea. They want to cut that flow because it fuels the military and economy. It's another way of course to isolate this rogue regime with the hope of bringing North Korea to negotiating table.

BRIGGS: Yes, and literally fuels that nuclear development program.

Alex, a busy day for you in store. Thank you.

KOSIK: All right. Days after suggesting that more bipartisanship was in store or will be in 2018, President Trump didn't make that prospect any easier. Mr. Trump said he would have worked out or hammered out a bipartisan tax bill if Democrats asked but he also attacked a key Democratic senator he'll need in 2018 to get anything done, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.

Trump says this: We started taxes. And we don't hear from the Democrats. You know, we hear B.S. from the Democrats, like Joe Manchin. Joe's a nice guy but he talks, he doesn't do anything.

Hey, let's get together. Let's do bipartisan. Oh, good, let's go. Then you don't hear from him again.

We're not making that up. That's all one sentence.

The president said Democrats should come to him for deals on infrastructure, health care and a way to help DREAMers but he made it clear he won't do a deal on the DREAM Act without building that wall.

President Trump doesn't shy away from giving himself some credit in "The New York Times" interview. He predicts the tax cut will be far bigger than anyone imagined. The president says not so humbly: I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest CPA. I know the details of health care better than most.

BRIGGS: Mr. President Trump predicts he'll be re-elected in 2020 for a, quote, lot of reasons, saying the country is starting to do well again and the media will let him win.

[04:40:04] The president telling "The Times": Another reason that I'm going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I'm not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, "The New York Times" will indeed be not the failing "New York Times" but the failed "New York Times."

A quick end, blunt end to Roy Moore's Senate hopes. An Alabama circuit judge denying Moore's attempt to delay the certification of the results after claiming voter fraud. The state made Democrats Doug Jones' victory shortly after the judge's ruling.

Moore refuses to concede though. Jones won by more than 21,000 votes. Moore issued a statement calling the election fraudulent and slamming the Washington establishment. Jones will be sworn in early next year.

KOSIK: Apple apologizing to customers for how it rolled out and update that could slow down older iPhones. To make up for it, the company will offer cheaper battery replacement. On their Website Apple posting a long explanation saying: We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize.

First and foremost, we have never -- and would never -- do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product.

To make amends, Apple will temporarily drop the price of replacement batteries to $29 beginning in late January. The price will go back up to the usual $79 in 2019.

Lots of customers were upset with the company about the software update that deliberately slowed down older phones in some situations to extend battery life. Some thought it was a ploy to get you to upgrade to new devices. In fact, a number of people around the world have filed lawsuits over the feature and are seeking class action status.

BRIGGS: Still waiting. Still waiting for my phone to turn on.

KOSIK: Waiting a while.

BRIGGS: Apple, we love you.

Meanwhile, horrific news here in New York city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY: This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter century.


BRIGGS: Just awful news here, 12 dead including a 1-year-old as a fire rages through a Bronx apartment building. We'll hear from the fire commissioner, next.


[04:46:05] BRIGGS: Fire officials in New York are trying to determine what sparked the deadliest fire in the city in at least the last 25 years, at least 12 people were killed, including a one-year-old. Officials say the fire started on the first floor of an apartment building just before 7:00 last night near the Bronx Zoo. Firefighters arrived within three minutes battling flames in frigid temperatures but the fire quickly spread to the top floors.


BLASIO: We're here at the scene of an unspeakable tragedy in the middle of the holiday season, a time when families are together. Tonight here in the Bronx, there are families that have been torn apart.

DANIEL A. NIGRO, NYFD COMMISSIONER: This tragedy is without question historic in its magnitude here, and our hearts go out to every family that lost a loved one here and everyone that's fighting for their lives.


BRIGGS: Just awful, officials say the victims range from 1 to 50 years old. We'll have a live report from the Bronx in our next hour.

KOSIK: All right. This is the last trading day of the year. And what a year it's been in the market. As the Dow enters toward that 25,000 mark, it has really been quite a ride to get to this point. So, 25,000 is a psychological milestone that's pretty much marks the explosive growth we've seen in the past year.

The blue chips first hit 20,000 on January 6th of this year. And just 24 trading sessions later, the Dow hit 21,000. Then early August, 22,000. And in October, 23,000. And just 30 trading days after that, 24,000. That's just the Dow, which is only 30 stocks.

The S&P 500, a broader measure of the market, that's up 20 percent for the year. The index has seen dozens of closing highs just this year.

As for the Nasdaq, it's had his own headlines and tech stocks have fueled the index to a record high. Now if the Nasdaq closes higher today, it will have had 11 out of 12 months of gains in 2017. That would be a first.

BRIGGS: The final preparations under way for New Year's Eve. Authorities in New York have a close eye on two big factors, security and the weather.

Athena Jones braving the bitter cold for us in Times Square has more.



The New Year's Eve celebration here in Times Square is an iconic event. It's also a massive security challenge, and it's one the NYPD working with state and local and federal officials is used to undertaking. The police commissioner said that preparations for this year's event began as the last of the confetti was being swept up after last year's celebration.

We're told there will be an increased police presence this year and that's due in part to the two recent terror attacks right here in New York. This entire area will be sealed off to traffic starting early in the day and the 12 access points that spectators will use to access this year will be manned by teams of police. There will be police with heavy weapons, there will be dogs that are capable of detecting radiological material. There will also be sanitation trucks and cement blocks to help seal off the area.

Now, authorities, the mayor, the police commissioner on down all say that there is no direct credible threat to Times Square or New York City, but that everyone should remain vigilant. Now, based on last year's numbers, we could be up to 2 million people out here celebrating on Sunday night, ringing in 2018. Although that number might be diminished slightly by the fact this is set to be the coldest New Year's Eve in 55 years.

The mayor warned folks to pay attention to the weather, bundle up, take precautions if they're planning to come out and celebrate -- Alison, Dave.


KOSIK: It's freezing out there.

All right. The entertainment world mourning the loss of legendary actress Rose Marie.


[04:50:08] KOSIK: Rose Marie was best known for her role as Sally Rogers on the "Dick Van Dyke Show". She also had a run on the game show "Hollywood Squares". Marie's career spanning nine decades beginning as a child star in the '20s and '30s.

She earned three Emmy nominations. She was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001. Rose Marie was 94 years old.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, at least 14 people killed after a fire breaks out in a roof top restaurant in Mumbai overnight. Police say more than 20 others were injured when the smoke and flames erupted after midnight. It happened in a compound. Not clear what started the fire. The prime minister expressed his sympathies with the families of the victims.

KOSIK: All right. Parting with the president and Fabio just got a lot more expensive. How much more? We'll get a check on CNN "Money Stream" next.

BRIGGS: Did you say Fabio?

KOSIK: I did say Fabio.


BRIGGS: In a tweet as bizarre as it was lacking in scientific knowledge, President Trump sarcastically suggested climate change to be a good thing apparently not realizing climate change and weather are not exactly the same thing.

[04:55:01] While on vacation in sunny Florida, the president fired off this tweet. In the east, it could be the coldest New Year's Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old global warming. That our country and not other countries was going to pay trillions of dollars to protect against. Bundle up.

The president's tweet further distances his climate policy to the vast of majority of scientists.

KOSIK: Mr. Trump has a history of linking the temperature in any one place to the existence of global warming, something climate scientists have said is inaccurate. A White House official did not respond when asked whether the tweet indicates anything about the administration's policy.

It is worth pointing out the president's golf course in Ireland recently received permission to build sea walls to prevent erosion. The president's company cited -- wait for it -- the company cited global warming on its application for the wall. Is he acknowledging global warming?

BRIGGS: The important distinction here is not whether you believe climate change is manmade or not. We don't have time to debate that in a show. But just acknowledging the difference between local weather and climate change is an important distinction for all of us.

Just how much colder will it get in meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the forecast.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Alison and Dave.

Much of the eastern two thirds of the country under the grips of an arctic climate once again and it's only going to get colder from here, right through New Year's Eve. We do have light snow today from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Michigan. But the big weather story without a doubt is the cold arctic air settling in from the Great Lakes right to the New England coast line, as we head into the holiday weekend.

Eleven degrees for your official New Year's Eve forecast in the Big Apple. It will feel like negative 3 factoring in the wind. By the way, this puts it at the coldest New Year's Eve celebration in New York City since 1962.

Elsewhere, it will be equally as cold from Atlanta to D.C. and New York City, of course, relatively speaking. We're talking temperatures running 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below where they should be this time of year, only a high of 14 for New Year's Eve in Chicago.

By the way, we also have the potential for more lake effect snow setting up down wind from Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Back to you.


KOSIK: OK, Derek, thanks very much.

Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this morning. The Dow picked up 60 points yesterday. It is set to end the year with six straight weeks of gains. That's a first since 1954 and with the holiday shopping season wrapping up, trading was light all week. Yesterday actually had the second fewest amount of shares traded on any day this year.

Down S&P features are moving higher this morning for this last trading day of 2017.

Uber has reached a deal to take more than $7 billion from Softbank for a 15 percent stake. South bank completed a tender offer yesterday to buy shares from Uber employees and investors at a discount evaluation of $48 billion. That's a 30 percent so-called discount from its most recent valuation at $68 billion. Uber and Softbank confirmed of the tender offer yesterday. The overall transaction is expected to close in January.

Partying with the president doesn't come cheap. The president's private club Mar-a-Lago raising its prices for their annual New Year's Eve bash. Tickets are up from $525 for members to $600. And for non- members, it's up for 750 bucks from $575 last year. That's money that's going into the club and into the president's pocket.

In 2017, revelers not only had the opportunity to meet the president but also celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and Fabio. Yes. This year, the president is expected to attended ball again. No word on Fabio but this brings up the conversation about buying access to the president and the president possibly profiting off of his position.

BRIGGS: Well, go back in time to when the president was first inaugurated. He doubled the initiation fee at Mar-a-Lago just after being inaugurated.

Expect Walter Shaub to weigh in on this on Twitter.

EARLY START continues right now with an eyebrow-raising interview with the president in "The New York Times".


BRIGGS: Revealing new insight from President Trump on key topics for next year. He thinks the Russia special counsel will be fair. But what he said about the attorney general and North Korea will stun you. We have live coverage and reaction to the president's comments, ahead.

KOSIK: And a holiday season tragedy in the Bronx. At least a dozen people killed in a deadliest apartment fire in New York City in a quarter century.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik. I'm sitting in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Happy Friday, everybody. It's December 29th. It's 5:00 p.m. in the East, 1:00 p.m. in Moscow, 6:00 p.m. in Beijing. We'll check in live in both of those locations surely.