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Trump White House Tell All Comes Out Today; Trump Lobbied Sessions Not To Recuse Himself; A Few Cautions About "Fire And Fury"; North Korea Accepts South Korean Invitation To Talk. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 5, 2018 - 04:30   ET


[04:31:14] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: An aide to the President quit over obstruction concerns. The President's thoughts on the KKK and the so called death match battles between the Trump family and Steve Bannon, just some of the revelations in a new book prompting questions about the President's fitness for office.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And a new report says the President tried to keep his allies in charge of the Russia investigation, considered possible new proof of obstruction of justice by the President.

ROMANS: And if you'd like to know what it's like to live on Mars, you're going to get a chance this weekend, temperatures plunging to levels that will make this past week seem like summer. That's right. We felt (INAUDIBLE) folks.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. The snow has passed but the storm is still sitting right over the White House. Let's start with this morning with "Fire and Fury," a highly anticipated book about President Trump's first months in the White House. It goes on sale today. "Fire and Fury" comes out days ahead of schedule defying legal threats from Mr. Trump's lawyers.

CNN has obtained a copy. Wolff was given extraordinary access to the west wing early in the administration has over 200 interviews, some of which are on tape.

ROMANS: We should note while some of Michael Wolff reporting has been corroborating, there are errors that have been identified as well. Some of the details stunning, incriminating portray this President as erratic, easily distracted and uninterested. Overnight Trump himself poked holes in the author's credibility.

BRIGGS: He tweeted "I authorized zero access to White House actually turned it down many times for author of phony book. I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist. Look at this guy's past and watch what happens to him and sloppy Steve." That of course a new Trump nickname for Steve Bannon who the book quotes saying harsh things about Trump's family and inner circle.

ROMANS: Thursday Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the book complete fantasy. She called it sad, she said it was pathetic. She was also force to respond for the second day the questions about the President's mental fitness.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's disgraceful and laughable. If he was unfit, he probably wouldn't be sitting there, he wouldn't have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen. This is an incredibly strong and good leader.


ROMANS: That response from Sarah Sanders came after she introduced a special guest at the White House Briefing. There he is President Trump appeared on video to tout the economy. No mention of course of the book. As for the book direct quote from Bannon so far he has disputed none of them. We'll have more in that in a moment.

Among the revelations in "Fire and Fury" President Trump's first hand involvement crafting the misleading response to the Trump Tower meeting with the Russian Lawyer. The book says this, "The President insisted the meeting in Trump Tower was purely and simply about Russian adoption policy. That's what was discussed, period, period.

Even though it was likely if not certain for the time have incriminating e-mail chain. In fact it was quite possible that Jared and Ivanka and the lawyers knew the times had this e-mail chain. The President ordered no one should let on to the more problematic discussion about Hillary Clinton.

BRIGGS: The "New York Times" first disclosed the meeting last year reporting was actually to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Now adoption The Washington Post later reported it was President Trump himself who dictated the initial misleading statement.

At the time, Sarah Sanders had President Trump had quote weighed in as any father would. But in another excerpt, Wolff writes the President lawyers belief the Air Force One statement was "An explicit attempt to throw sand into the investigation gears".

[04:35:00] And Wolff says it led one of Mr. Trump's spokesman to quit because he believed it was obstruction of justice. Also this, this morning in New York Times reports President Trump lobbied Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department's Russia probe. That might considered new evidence of obstruction of justice by the President.

The New York Times reporting special counsel Robert Mueller is aware that last March Trump ordered White House counsel on him again to stop Sessions recusing himself from overseeing the investigation.

ROMANS: The incident another possible example. Trump start to influence the Justice Department (INAUDIBLE) the lawyer for the President told CNN he respectfully declined to respond. Congressman Jerry Nadler one of the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee calls him again reporting conduct completely unacceptable. He says again should make himself available to the committee.

BRIGGS: Times also reporting that four days before then FBI Director James Comey was fired last May and aide to Attorney General Sessions asked the Congress staffer whether he had damaging information about Comey. Person with knowledge with the meeting tells the Times Sessions" Wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey.

The Justice Department spokesman tells CNN this did not happen. Michael Wolff's book also includes President Trump's unflattering description of James Comey which apparently came after the President fired him. "Comey was a rat, repeated Trump. There were rats every where, you had to get rid of them." John Dean, John Dean, he repeated, do you know what John Dean did to Nixon?

Dean was the White House counsel who cooperated with special prosecutors, was fired by Nixon and then testified against Nixon for the Senate Watergate committee.

ROMANS: All right. Turning back to Wolff's reporting on Steve Bannon, the book describes an ugly contentious relationship between the former Chief Strategist and Jared and Ivanka Trump. The author says Bannon referred to them as Jarvanka. The couple believes Bannon leaks damaging details about Jared Kushner in effort to take him down.

BRIGGS: Wolff rights heart of the -- by now deep enmity between the first family couple and their allies. And Bannon and his team, was the Jarvanka conviction that Bannon had played a part in many of the reports of Kushner's interactions with the Russians.

This was not another words merely an internal policy war, it was a death match. For Bannon to live, Kushner would have to be wholly discredited, Hillary investigated, possibly even jailed.

In the book, Wolff also says the President offered Roger Ailes the job of running the campaign before Bannon. He writes an early August, less than a month after Ailes have been ousted from "Fox News" Trump asked his old friend to take over the management of his calamities campaign. Ailes Knowing Trump's disinclination to take advice or even listen to it turned him down. A week later, Steve Bannon took that job.

ROMANS: This explicit new book also detailed an interesting conversation between Steve Bannon and the President above the fallout from Charlottesville. One day after the deadly protest Wolff says Trump called Bannon for guidance asking where these all end, are they going to takedown the Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore, Mount Vernon.

Now the President then was vacationing at his Golf club in New Jersey. Bannon urge him to condemn violence and misfits and also defends history.

BRIGGS: Wolff goes on to write, "But Jared and Ivanka with Kelly backing them urge the presidential behavior. Their plan was to have Trump return to the White House and address the issue with a forceful censure of hate group and racial politics exactly the unambiguous sort of position alt-right leader Richard Spencer strategically bet Trump would not willingly take.

Bannon, understanding the same currents in Trump lobbied Kelly, told him that Jarvanka approach would backfire. It would be clear his heart's not in it, said Bannon.

ROMANS: Wolff then adds this privately Trump kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK that is, they might not actually believe what the KKK believed. The KKK probably does not believe what it use to believe in anyway who really knows what the KKK believe now.

Trump of course blamed both sides for the deadly Charlottesville violence only to walk it back before saying it again days later. Bannon was fired from the Chief strategist post by the end of that week.

Now there are a few cautions caution to offer about this book. Michael Wolff had a history of writing to make a splash, buzzy kind of pieces of journalism. His journalistic sourcing and methods have already come under scrutiny. Wolff paints quite a few scenes without any direct quotes at all and his sourcing at times is vague.

But much of what is in the book cross-checks with earlier reports from credible media.

BRIGGS: Here's how Wolff explained it in the books prephase. These challenges have included dealing with off the record or deep background material that was later casually put on the record. Sources who provided accounts and confidence and subsequently shared them widely in a frequent inattention to setting any parameters on the use of a conversation.

[04:40:10] Among the many balancing packs Wolff's list, that is extraordinary for a book.

ROMANS: Steve Bannon's influence moving forward looks murky this morning. A source familiar with the matter tells CNN there's a hard push to convince executives at Breitbart to fire him. Bannon is executive chairman of the alt-right website. He's the White House take on it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Breitbart part ways with Steve Bannon after his comments in the book?

SANDERS: I certainly think that it something they should look at and consider.


ROMANS: Rebekah Mercer a conservative mega-donor who owns a stake in Breitbart ripped Bannon in a rare public statement. The Mercer family has funded Bannon's projects for years but those dollars could now dry up.

BRIGGS: President up late trying hard to change this conversation tweeting the fake news media barely mentioned the fact that the stock market just hit another new record and that business in the U.S. is booming. But the people know. Can you imagine if O, Obama was president and had these numbers would be the biggest story on Earth now over 25,000 is Dow.

To be clear, the CNN does report on the stock market records every time they occur. This weekend the President will attempt to focus on policy and the state above over the Michael Wolff's book. He headed to Camp David for meetings with Republican leaders on legislative issues.

We get more from Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump heading to Camp David on this Friday to meet with Republican legislative leaders. They're looking ahead to the 2018 legislative agenda.

Speaker Paul Ryan planning on being on attendance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as well and the deputies. They're going to talk about what is on tap for this year, as well as how the Republican Party can keep their majorities or try to in both the House and Senate.

Of course this meeting has been on the calendar for a while. Now it's coming on the very same day this bombshell explosive book is also being released. Michael Wolff's book has been, you know, a talked about here at the White House for several day, particularly the comments from Steve Bannon, the former White House Chief Strategist.

Again on Thursday White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tried to down play and diminish the book and the Steve Bannon relationship with the President.


SANDERS: I'm not aware they were every particularly close. I would certainly say that they've spoken a few times since he left the White House. But it's not like there were regularly scheduled calls or certainly no meetings between the two of them.


ZELENY: Now that, of course, is simply not true. President Trump and Steve Bannon had a long relationship. The President said so himself calling them long time friends again and again. Now it's an open question if the White House will be able to move beyond this book controversy in the short-term here.

They filed a cease and desist letter against the publisher. The publisher said they're planning on releasing this book, in fact doing so early today. But this is all coming at a time when the White House said hoped to focus on its legislative agenda. They need to keep the government open. They're trying to work on immigration, building that border wall, as the President talks about so often and so many other matters. Interesting meetings of course today at Camp David but all the talk today here in Washington may be about that book. Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: Oh there's a book. What book? Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: I heard.

ROMANS: I know, the White House moving to ban staff use of personal cell phones from the west wing citing security concerns. Sources tell CNN White House aides are not buying the official explanation and believe the ban is intended to stop leaks. Official say the order will apply to guests, staffers, even senior aides but not the President. Staff will still be able to conduct business on government-issued devices.

The White House says there are currently no plans to change policy on cell phone use by members of the White House press.

[04:43:47] All right, the first jobs report, 2018 comes out in just a few hours. President Trump what 19 times has called these numbers phoney, but now he believes them. What to expect, next.


ROMANS: All right. Let's talk about jobs. The 2017 was a pretty good year to get a job m America. Wage growth is another story. But it's less than four hours the Labor Department will release the final jobs report for 2017.

The prediction 190,000 net new jobs in December for a total of 2.1 million jobs in 2017. The unemployment rate likely will hold at 1.4 percent that's a 17-year low. The rest is red hot job market is missing one ingredient. Strong wage growth. Wage likely grew up 2.5 percent last month you'd like to see wage growth more than and it has been weak spot for years.

Before the recession annual growth hit three percent or more but the U.S. is barely move pass 2.5 percent since the. There's no one reason why economists equally blame globalization, more automation and an increase number of people working part-time.

Overall wage growth has been weak, a few corners of America are seeing a boost, 18 states hiked their minimum wages January 1st. In cities with very low unemployment, very low unemployment like Minneapolis and Denver wages are growing 4 percent or more so we're hoping Dave, hoping that this will be the year of wage hike. And of course it's what proponents of the President's a tax cuts say they hope will happen too.

BRIGGS: All right, good numbers all around. Meanwhile the so-called bomb cyclone causing widespread damage in New England. Frigid waters pouring in the street, some coastal cities dropping record high tide. The gauge at Boston harbor matching its record at 15.1 feet. These are main streets in Boston. In other parts of Massachusetts, the streets inundated with rising water. More than a foot of snow fell in Boston.

ROMANS: New York City hit with nine inches of snow. More than 13,000 customers along the east coast lost power. Airports are starting to get back up and running though 1100 flights have already been canceled today as everybody checks of course.

At least 19 people died this week due to the severe weather. Now record breaking low temperatures are on the way next. Let's get to CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam live in the Weather Center for us. Well, I mean bring us the bad news, sir.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Christine, it's not great. I must warn you. Hope you're sitting down for this. Literally, we are talking about 30 percent of Americans will see temperatures drop below zero degrees, 75 percent of the entire U.S. population will struggle to reach above 32 degrees this weekend. So freezing.

[04:50:04] Yes. Right now, it is extremely cold toward the eastern half of the country. We have over-130 million Americans under some sort of wind chill warning or adviser stretching from the Great Lakes all the way to the mid Atlantic.

This is what it feels like as you step outside negative 5 degrees in New York. Negative 20 in Detroit, just little strong a park. Negative 39 for Duluth, Minnesota. Wow. The storm is on it way out, that's the good news. But the bad news, the reverse side of that, the flip side is it's drawing in the arctic air and temperatures are plummeting.

And of course when you factor in the winds, that's when it starts to feel very uncomfortable on your exposed skin. Let's talk about the Deep South. Gulf coast and Florida pan handle. We have a hard freeze warning in place. Anywhere you see that dark shading of blue, that including much of Florida where temperatures this morning 29 degrees in Jacksonville. We should be 41.

Atlanta, year at 18, your average temperature this time of the year for morning low 34 degrees, that really puts it in perspective. So where do we go from here? We stay cold, believe it or not, there is light at the end of the tunnel Christine. We have to wait until the middle of next week before we see a warmup along the east coast. Back to you guys.

ROMANS: All right. We'll take it. Thanks Derek nice meeting you.

VAN DAM: Nice to see you.

BRIGGS: All right. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversing Federal policy on marijuana enforcement. He's ending the Obama administration hands off policy toward states with marijuana friendly law. Major shift coming just days after California became the eighth state along with Washington, D.C. to allow recreational sales of pot. The plan could pit federal prosecutors against local law enforcement. More now from Laura Jarrett.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, good morning Dave and Christine. It's a significant shift that's been closely watched since Attorney Jeff Sessions was sworn in last year. And on Thursday, Sessions finally made a move to wipe out policies from the last administration that tried to deprioritize prosecutions for pot-related crimes unless they involved distribution to minors or cartels or some other important federal priority like that.

And in its place, on Thursday, Sessions announced that Federal prosecutors will not be given wide discretion to pursue marijuana related prosecutions as they see fit in their districts. And in many ways the decision had been forecasts for months as Sessions regularly calls marijuana use dangerous, but in reality he didn't go as far as some advocates had feared he might.

He stopped short of explicitly directing more marijuana prosecutions or other efforts to take down the industry as a whole. But still, those in the marijuana industry and on Capitol Hill were alarmed Thursday, blasting the decision in statements on the left and right, saying it's backwards thinking and flies in the face of states' rights, but those in law enforcement tell us that what happens next is more uncertain and may actually change nothing on the ground.

At least one U.S. attorney's office told CNN that it plans no change in its approach to marijuana prosecutions. Dave? Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Laure Jarrrett in Washington. Thank you for that.

Two Republican congressmen both leading members of Conservative House Freedom Caucus calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan an op-ed for the Washington examiner criticizing Sessions of handling of the Justice Department's investigation into Russian election meddling. He also dismiss findings by the House in Senate and Special Counsel Robert Mueller claims there is zero evidence of collusion with Russia. Those investigations of course are still ongoing.

BRIGGS: As for Sessions they write "It would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world. If Sessions can't address this issue immediately then we have one final question needing an answer.

When is it time for a new attorney general. Sadly, it it seems the answer is now. The Justice Department has not responded to a request for comment from CNN. This -- some fear would open the door for the President to fire Bob Mueller. A bit frightening when you consider what this means and what it would do to the dialogue in this country.

[04:54:14] ROMANS: All right, 54 minutes past the hour. Experts have discovered two security flaws affecting virtually all smart phones. So important information about what you can do to protect your iPhone, your Android, other gadgets. We've got those details on CNN Money this morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BRIGGS: North Korea officially accepting a proposal from South Korea to begin peace talks. This will be the first high level contact between the two countries in over two years. Face-to-face negotiations scheduled to begin Tuesday, one day after Kim Jong-un's birthday.

CNN's Will Ripley monitoring all this live in Seoul. Will, extraordinary developments here?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been two years since North and South Korean officials had sat down face-to-face. They shutting down the hot line of communication between the two countries after a squabble over a jointly run business venture, a very close to the demilitarize zone that divides North and South.

And now, they're going to be talking number one on their agenda, getting North Korean Olympians here to South Korea to Participate in a Pyeongchang Winter Games, who can get a win for both sides out this.

Kim Jong-un can say his athletes are marching alongside the rest of the world. He can also say that his policies caused the United States and South Korea to delay joint military drill that were actually scheduled to kick off during the games. Something that officials here in South Korea were hoping to try to convince the United States to postpone because they didn't want to give the North any reason to launch missile or test a nuclear device during the most important international event to happen in this country since the summer Olympics here in Seoul back in 1988.

And the hope is that these initial discussions about the Olympics could lead to bigger talks about things like inter-Korean relations, divided families in the North and South. And of course the big issue, North Korea's nuclear program even as Kim Jong-un has said he's going to continue developing nuclear weapons in 2018, leaders around the region are saying that they need to stay on guard even if North Korea's willing to engage in talks.

They also need to watch very closely what they're doing with their weapons program, Dave.

BRIGGS: And the President taking credit for these talks of course on Twitter because he is strong and firm that yesterday.

Will Ripley live for us in Seoul, thanks.

ROMAONS: All right, it's that time of the morning, let's go check on CNN Money stream. The Dow flying past 25,000 for the first time ever, fastest thousand-point gain in history. Dow hit 24,000 barely one month ago. Five milestone last year thanks to a strong economy, big corporate profits and of course tax cuts. Wall Street hope business tax cuts will mean even fatter profits in 2018.

Today a big day, the Labor Department will release its final jobs report of 2017. We're expecting 190,000 net new jobs. That would mean 2.1 million jobs last year. Right now looks like global markets and Futures are all higher. [05:00:02] All right. This affects everyone. Apple confirmed all of its devices are affected by two recently discovered computer chip flaws. These flaws allow hackers to access memory storage.