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Judge Temporarily Restores DACA Program; Trump Says He'll Sign Whatever Congress Approves; White House Staffing Exodus?; Deadly Mudslides in Southern California; Netanyahu's Son Caught Discussing Controversial Gas Proposal. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 10, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:53] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: a federal judge says the White House has to keep the program to protect Dreamers for now. How will that affect government funding talks with next Friday's deadline looming?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The national security advisor, the White House counsel, two of the officials who could exit this White House. The president is struggling to staff the building amid constant chaos.

BRIGGS: And devastating mudslides in California. More than a dozen are dead after areas devastated by wildfires were slammed, raging water and stone. They're now left to clean up after another natural disaster.

We have report this morning from Capitol Hill, from California, to state Donald Department, Seoul and Jerusalem.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour this Wednesday morning.

Let's begin here with this court ruling. Breaking overnight, a major court ruling (INAUDIBLE) for talks on immigration and government funding. A federal judge in California temporarily blocking the Trump administration's effort to end DACA.

That's the Obama era program protecting about 700,000 Dreamers. Those are young people brought to this country illegally as children.

BRIGGS: The judge ruled the Department of Homeland Security must resume taking DACA renewal applications while the lawsuit proceeds. The ruling does not require the administration to process papers though for first time applicants.

ROMANS: The White House planned to wind down the Dreamer program by early March. The judge said the plaintiff showed they are likely to win their claim that the move was, quote, arbitrary and capricious, the justice department says the ruling does not change the position the Obama administration illegally circumvented Congress when it created the DACA program.

BRIGGS: The suit was filed by four states and the University of California. UC president Janet Napolitano helped create the DACA program when she was homeland security secretary under President Obama.

ROMANS: DACA is all but guaranteed to come up when the president hosts a joint news conference today with the prime minister of Norway.

What's unclear this morning is exactly how the judge's order will affect the talks between the White House and both parties in Congress.

BRIGGS: Democrats have been demanding a deal on DACA in order to vote for government funding. So, the question now is whether this temporary reprieve for DACA is enough for Democrats to back off the threat of a government shutdown.

ROMANS: Before the ruling, President Trump was holding the line on Twitter saying a border wall must be part of any DACA deal that does not totally square with his remarks that a bipartisan White House meeting earlier in the day.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This should be a bipartisan bill. This would be a bill of love.

If we do this properly, DACA, you're not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform. If you want to take that further step, I'll take the heat, I don't care. That doesn't mean 2,000 miles of wall, because you just don't need that, because of nature, because of mountains and rivers and lots of other things. But we need a certain portion of that border to have the wall.


ROMANS: Key words there, a certain portion. That is not what the president has said before.

BRIGGS: In the event that DACA does remain a sticking point, yesterday's extraordinary session at the White House could go down as a major turning point. Instead of the usual brief opportunity, the president kept engaging with lawmakers on camera, on both sides of the aisle. His positions kept evolving also as the cameras continued to roll.

ROMANS: A senior administration official says it was all done intentionally to seize the megaphone on the immigration issue and to put to rest those recent questions about the president's mental state.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, Republicans, Democrats, the White House, they have nine days, just six legislative days to figure out some path forward on a host of issues all of which are complicated.

There was a wildly entertaining was the words of one Republican aide how he described the meeting at the White House between Republicans and Democrats and the president. It was about immigration, a very divisive issue when it comes to Congress, an area where it's not just Democrats and Republicans. It's intraparty at a number of levels.

Republicans say, look, they have until March to actually deal with that issue.

[04:35:00] But you want to put a calendar on it, Democrats have made clear they want that addressed in the same time line as the budget deal which has that January 19th deadline. The president is a huge player in this.

Now, President Trump in that meeting at the White House said that he was willing to sign anything that Congress came up with. He was willing to leave it to Congress to figure out the direction forward. That is not what Republican leaders want to hear. That's actually not the discussion Republican leaders have had with the White House. They know because this issue is so complicated within their conference, it's so difficult that they need the president not just to sign whatever they agree to, but to endorse it and to help them push forward on it.

There are still Senate bipartisan negotiations that are kind of considered the core of everything that's happening right now. President Trump has laid out four principles that he wants addressed. Democrats acknowledge those four principles in some way, shape or form will have to be addressed.

Policy here matters and the devil is in the details, particularly on some of the most complicated of those policy issues. Whether they figure out that path forward right now, it's still up in question, guys -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: All right. Phil Mattingly, thanks.

There are signs the White House may be facing an exodus of key staffers in the coming months. Aides have been told they should decide by the end of January whether they will leave or stay through the midterms. Among the top officials on the possible list, White House counsel Don McGahn and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

ROMANS: So, revolving doors are common in any administration, particularly here at the one-year mark. But several sources tell CNN President Trump is finding it especially tough to fill vacancies. Potential hires see a chaotic White House and that's on top of the ongoing Russia investigation, which one source called a potential ticket to the grand jury. As one senior official put it, it's been a year, but doesn't it feel like a decade?

BRIGGS: There is widespread devastation from flooding and mud slides in parts of southern California already ravaged by recent wildfires. At least 13 people dead, more than 100 taken to hospitals. Emergency crews remain in search and rescue mode.

ROMANS: The flow of mud forcing heavily traveled roads to close. We're talking 101 Freeway here. This is one of the main arteries connecting southern and northern California submerged between Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, just a mess of mud and fatalities.

We get more from CNN's Paul Vercammen in the midst of the devastation.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, Christine, I'm in Montecito, hard hit by this flood that came down from the burn area left by the Thomas Fire. It is fiery wake.

If you look right here, the remnants of a car, now just half a car mangled up with trees and more.

Behind me, the historic Montecito Inn, the front of it now devastated, the sign broken apart. What happened here with this high velocity flood, it goes from about 3,000 feet to sea level in no time here in Montecito and Carpinteria. They just worried about that.

And once that rain hit those denuded hillsides, it just came roaring down, brought rocks with it, trees, debris of all manner. If you look over on this direction, you will see that there's a car in the garage at the Montecito Inn, completely submerged. And the roads turned into rivers here in Montecito just torrents.

It came all the way toward the ocean with nothing to stop it and it came right down here. This is the 101 Freeway, the main artery, one of the main arteries between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It knocked out a guardrail here and then you can see another boulder precariously perched right over the edge of the freeway. It is completely impassable. Off in the distance, work crews trying their best to start clearing.

You can see that there's a submerged car in the distance, an absolute mess as some called it, a disaster of huge proportions. This was the first bit of rain to hit after the Thomas Fire and you can see what it's done.

Back to you now -- Dave, Christine.


BRIGGS: Just awful. Paul, thank you.

North Carolina will have to quickly redraw its 13 congressional districts after a federal court ruled the map was partisan and unconstitutional. The three-judge panel rejecting the map drawn by the Republican-controlled general assembly. The state has about three weeks to file a new plan with the court so it will be in place before the midterm elections.

ROMANS: It is the first ruling to strike down a congressional map to strike down a map as a partisan gerrymander. Ten of the 13 North Carolina districts are currently in Republican hands. The head of the North Carolina GOP attacked the judge who wrote the opinion as an activist, calling the ruling a hostile takeover.

BRIGGS: In a swift reversal, the Trump administration says there will be no new oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke unveiled a proposal last week rolling back offshore drilling restrictions. But Governor Scott immediately voiced his concerns to Zinke, saying Florida and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.

After talking with Governor Scott, Secretary Zinke decided to change his decision for Florida.

[04:40:01] Not clear what the future holding for other offshore areas, in particular California who kind of depends on tourism themselves.

ROMANS: Yes, that's really interesting.

BRIGGS: But it's a blue state. So, we shall see.

ROMANS: All right. Turmoil in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The release of testimony by the top Democrat could effectively end that committee's Russia investigation.


BRIGGS: The Senate Judiciary Committee's Russia investigation could be in jeopardy after Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein released 312 pages of testimony from Fusion GPS cofounder Glen Simpson. His company hired former British spy Christopher Steele to compile the now infamous dossier on Donald Trump.

ROMANS: According to the transcript, Simpson told the Senate committee Steele was concerned Mr. Trump was being blackmailed. The release of Simpson's testimony undermines Republican attempts to discredit Steele's motives.

[04:45:02] BRIGGS: Republican Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa blasting Feinstein for releasing Simpson's testimony. He says it undercuts that committee's ability to bring in new witnesses, not sure. They wanted this testimony out there.

ROMANS: All right. Speaking of the Russia investigation, Twitter missed a Senate deadline for additional info on Russian meddling in 2016. Representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee back in November. The committee was investigating how Russian trolls were able to influence U.S. politics on their platforms. All three were asked to provide additional data.

But Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on that committee, he said Twitter, Twitter missed the due date. Now, Twitter told CNN it would provide answers to the Senate soon, but a source with knowledge of the matter said they were not surprised Twitter didn't have the data yet, claiming that Twitter doesn't have the tools necessary to fully assess the problem.

Another issue, the source says, Twitter has kept this investigation small since it has not internally admitted how bad of a problem it is. In October, Twitter found at least 2,700 accounts connected to Kremlin-linked troll farms.


After more than a year, the State Department remains baffled by alleged sonic attacks on two dozen U.S. diplomatic staffers in Cuba. The victims report hearing unusual sounds before experiencing some symptoms like headaches, ear pain, dizziness and hearing problems. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the mystery Tuesday.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski has more from the State Department.



The first thing that jumped out at in this hearing was how badly the State Department was blasted. Both Democrats and Republican senators accusing the State Department of dragging its feet in the investigation in dealing with this to the point it may have broken the law which the State Department denies.

Also striking here is how severe and similar the symptoms are among the 24 American diplomats and their family members who are affected while they were working in Havana, Cuba, through August.

The State Department doctor was asked flat out, could this be some kind of mass hysteria going on and he said, no. He said the symptoms mimic those of traumatic brain injury like concussions, they would be very hard to fake and in fact, he said he's never seen symptoms like this, physical documented symptoms outside of something like head injuries.

So, what we're no closer it seems to finding out even after more than a year of this happening is who did this, how they did it and why. We know that there have been some developments in the investigation, but the State Department didn't want to talk about that outside of a classified setting, but what the State Department did tell us unequivocally is that they believe Cuba has the answers here.

That Cuba knows what occurred and that the State Department does believe that this was some kind of deliberate attack -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: Michelle, thank you.

Meanwhile, controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio says he is running by the Arizona Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. Arpaio was defeated for sheriff of Maricopa County in 2016 after 24 years in office. His hard-line immigration tactics also led to a criminal contempt conviction after defying a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

ROMANS: He was pardoned by President Trump but don't expect to see the president weigh in on Arpaio's behalf. He's expressed irritation at the loss of several different candidates he endorsed.

Senator Flake is predicting Arpaio's run will be short-lived. He told reporters write about it fast because it won't last long.

BRIGGS: He also told Jake Tapper, is he going to support him? No. No, no, no. Not at all. That was a direct quote from Flake on supporting Arpaio.

ROMANS: I think he means no.

BRIGGS: I think so.

All right. Some members of Congress plan to make a political statement during the State of the Union later this month. But it is not about the speech nor the president. Jackie Speier is inviting fellow lawmakers men and women, Democratic and Republican to dress in black in support of the Me Too and Time's Up movement against sexual harassment.

The announcement coming just days after black dresses ruled the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards. Congress has also been rock by sexual misconduct in recent weeks with several members forced to resign or retire at the end of their terms.

ROMANS: Actor James Franco denying sexual harassment allegations in the wake of his Golden Globes win. Franco wore a Time's Up pin at the Sunday night award show in support of sexual harassment and assault awareness. His win for his role in the disaster artist sparking a series of online allegations from actresses who have worked with him.

Franco rejecting their accusations on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert".


JAMES FRANCO, ACTOR: The things that I heard on Twitter are not accurate.

[04:50:04] But I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn't have a voice for so long. So, I don't want to -- I don't want to, you know, shut them down in any way.


ROMANS: Franco tells Colbert, if he has done something wrong he intends to fix it.

BRIGGS: You know, a lot of criticism for all the men at the Golden Globe Awards. Two dozen took the stage. No one spoke up for the Me Too or Time's Up movement. You'd like to see more men speak in favor of that movement moving forward.

ROMANS: All right. Fifteen minutes past the hour.

Microsoft updating your pc to protect against a huge microchip security flaw. That's going to slow down your computer. That's the bad news.

CNN "Money Stream" is next.


[04:55:13] BRIGGS: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Steve Bannon stepping down as executive chairman of "Breitbart". He just returned to the far right Website last summer after he was fired as the president's chief strategist. Bannon says he is proud of what the Breitbart's team has accomplished.

His departure accelerated by the explosive new book 'Fire and Fury". According to author, Michael Wolff, Bannon called a Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer, quote, treasonous.

ROMANS: Over the weekend, Bannon gave somewhat a misleading apology. Sources tell CNN the mea culpa was to stop the bleeding after his biggest backer, Republican heiress Rebekah Mercer pulled his funding. It's not clear where Bannon goes from here. It won't be Fox. The network says it will be not be hiring him.

BRIGGS: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forced to defend his son and his own reputation after a damaging secret recording of him outside a strip club in 2015 aired on television.

CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem with more.

Good morning to you, Oren.

This is fascinating stuff. Kind of like the dossier that you've got salacious allegations and on the other hand, something that might hint at real corruption.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it touches on investigations that affect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But what it seems like now in the conversation which we will read a bit of in a second here, it doesn't seem like there was anything illegal. But this isn't the first time the younger Netanyahu, Yair Netanyahu, in his mid-20s, has made headlines here. He once put a meme that had an anti-Semitic connotation to it on social media.

One of the endorsement, or was given an endorsement by David Duke, the former leader of the KKK and yet, this is on a whole new level. This is a conversation Yair Netanyahu had with one of his friends, the son of a gas tycoon while the government was negotiating a gas deal.

And the conversation itself, according to the Israeli news channel who obtained the recording was inside of a car right outside of a strip club. Here's part of that conversation from Yair Netanyahu. We fought in the Knesset for it, brother. My father battled for it, I remember, referring to the gas deal there. You're crying over 400 shekels. My father sorted your father out with $20 billion and you're crying over 400 shekels.

For perspective, 400 shekels is a little more than $100. Yair Netanyahu apologized for the remarks, saying he had quite a bit to drink and the prime minister also apologized for those remarks.

In the end here, what happens is this is about the perception with Netanyahu himself, a suspect in two criminal investigations. This certainly doesn't help even if those investigations have nothing to do with the gas deal.

BRIGGS: And the prime minister using a familiar term for all of us, calling this a witch hunt. I think we've heard this somewhere before.

Oren Liebermann live for this morning -- thank you.

ROMANS: All right. It's that time of the morning. Time for CNN "Money Stream". Global stock markets mixed right now.

Wall Street's New Year's rally though endures here. All three major averages hit record highs thanks to health care and bank stocks. The S&P 500 has now had its best start to a year since 1987, Dave Briggs. Just think of that, 1987. What did your hair look like in 1987?

BRIGGS: Mullet.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, Kodak's stock popped 125 percent after announcing it was launching a cryptocurrency. That's right, Kodak and the cryptocurrency. The century old brand will debut a photocentric called Kodak coin.

Americans' credit card debt hit a record high in November, more than a trillion dollars according to the Federal Reserve. The last record was back in April 2008. You remember April 2008? That was right before a very big bubble burst in housing and credit.

Analysts say this all-time high doesn't pose the same risks as 2008. Incomes are higher and the ratio of debt to economic growth is much lower. But the credit card hitting a record high here in debt.

Microsoft is updating your PC to protect against a huge computer chip flaw. That's going to slow down your computer. The flaw allows hackers to access the memory on nearly all computers but Microsoft warns its patch will slow down all Windows PCs. Users with newer PCs will hardly notice, but PCs made before 2016 will slow down significantly.

All right. Call it the handmaid's tale effect. Hulu has grown to more than 17 million subscribers. That's a 40 percent jump from last year. One reason, the success of the award-winning, "The Handmaid's Tale". It was Hulu's most watched drama in 2017.

The series picked up two awards at the Sunday's Golden Globes including best drama and it just shows you sort of the golden age of television we're in. You know, that Amazon and Netflix and Hulu, all of these new ways to produce and consume media and content.

BRIGGS: So, it shows me I don't watch enough television. I watch too much news.

ROMANS: Yes, right.

BRIGGS: I need to pick up some of these interesting dramas.

All right. EARLY START continues right now with some breaking news relating to Dreamers staying in this country.


BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, a federal judge says the White House has to keep the program to protect dreamers for now. How will that affect government funding talks with next Friday's deadline looming?