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EARLY START

Countdown to Shutdown: 3 Days Left; Bannon Confirms Subpoena from Mueller; Lawmakers Grill Kirstjen Nielsen; Trump Wins Clean Bill of Health; Leonard Fournette Involved in Car Accident. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2018 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: In total, Google has 11 under-sea capabilities that speed up data transfers, helping it compete in the multibillion dollar cloud market.

[05:00:04] It's currently third in revenue behind Amazon and Microsoft. They have huge sub-sea cable networks, too.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. EARLY START continues now with the possibility of a government shutdown looking more likely.

(MUSIC)

BRIGGS: A government shutdown starting to look possible. The Republican plan to keep the lights on doesn't look popular in the party, and there's no immigration deal in sight to please Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If the White House is permitted to maintain that kind of a gag rule on a witness, no congressional investigation could ever be effective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Frustration in Congress after Steve Bannon refuses to answer questions in the Russia probe. He'll have to be more forthcoming after a subpoena from the special counsel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: That you could even say in your testimony that Norwegians were preferenced by him because they're so hard working --

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: I didn't --

BOOKER: Excuse me, let me finish.

NIELSEN: Happy to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Yes, the eye roll. The homeland security secretary facing another intense grilling there on Capitol Hill. Some anger, some pushback after again saying she can't remember whether the president used a vulgarity about African nations. Her answer on that has continued to evolve, though, whether she said the president was using Norway as an example of merit-based immigration. That debate is not over.

Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you all this morning, bright and early this Wednesday, January 17th, 5:00 a.m. exactly in East.

And there are three days to go on a government shutdown. On Capitol Hill, the sides are actually farther apart. House Republicans last night introduced a short-term spending bill that would fund the government through February 16th.

It includes six years of funding for the children's health insurance program. It delays various unpopular Obamacare taxes. Republicans hope the add-ons put pressure on Democrats to support the bill. Right now, even some Republicans oppose it.

BRIGGS: The chairman of the hard right house freedom caucus, Mark Meadows, says there are enough noes and undecideds among members that the measure won't pass with just GOP votes. Meantime, Democrats face their own tough choices. Many of them coming out against stopgap funding without a long-term fix for DACA. But some Democrats, especially ones facing tough races in the fall, worry about taking the blame for a government shutdown in this fight for Dreamers if there's no agreement in sight.

ROMANS: On that front, White House chief of staff John Kelly meets with the congressional Hispanic caucus later today.

From Capitol Hill, Phil Mattingly with more on the search for a funding deal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Christine and Dave, we're basically at the point now of waiting, waiting to see what's going to happen in the House. Waiting to see what's going to happen in the Senate.

I give you some context here. There are really two questions right now: can House Republicans on their own get the requisite number of votes to pass a short-term continuing resolution, basically a government funding bill, likely into mid-February? If they can, then the drama moves over into the Senate where, obviously, Senate Republicans are going to need Democrats to come on board, at least nine, potentially more than that depending on absences, to decide whether or not the government will remain open past Friday night.

As to where the lines are currently drawn -- well, take a listen to the two leaders in the Senate. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: With no imminent

deadline on immigration and with bipartisan talks well underway, there is no reason my Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issue of illegal immigration.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: A very fair, bipartisan deal remains on the cable. It's the only game in town. We're making steady progress on building additional support in both houses of Congress. There's a deal to be had this week.

MATTINGLY: If you paid attention closely, you can see where the positioning is right now. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell making very clear if Democrats don't come along, Republicans will most certainly attack them for leading to the government shutdown and for a government shutdown that is basically entirely because of an immigration issue.

What Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is saying is, Democrats have made very clear they need, they want a resolution to DACA. And as it currently stands, there is a bill that's on the table -- a Gang of Six bill, a bipartisan proposal.

Here's kind of the outlines of that, though: President Trump has made clear that proposal's not sufficient. Republican leaders, while quiet about it, have also said, according to aides, that they agree with the president on this. That means when it comes to DACA, there's no deal in the offing at any point in the near future. That means all focus will be on the continuing resolution.

And for the near term, that means all focus will be on House Republicans. Right now, House Republican leaders trying to figure out a way to craft the bill that can get their defense hawks that are worried about another continuing resolution without raising the current spending caps, as well as enough for conservatives to get the requisite number of votes to move it forward.

That's the first step. Then comes the Senate. Right now, we wait -- Christine and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Phil Mattingly, thank you.

A long day of questioning on Capitol Hill for former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. There's more to come for him.

According to multiple sources, Bannon informed the House Intelligence Committee he has been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury.

[05:05:06] Bannon faced ten hours of congressional grilling on Tuesday, and things got combative when lawmakers pressed him about the transition.

ROMANS: Bannon's lawyer cutting off the questioning, forcing the committee to issue a subpoena compelling his testimony. Sources say Bannon was still not forthcoming.

Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the committee, claims Bannon was instructed by the White House in advance not to respond on certain topics. Schiff calling Bannon's refusal to cooperate unprecedented.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: This was effectively a gag order by the White House preventing this witness from answering almost any question concerning his time in the transition or the administration, and many questions even after he left the administration. The scope of this assertion of privilege, if that's what it is, is breathtaking. It goes well beyond anything we have seen in this investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes says Bannon risks being held in contempt of Congress if he does not answer questions. Bannon's attorney told the committee his client will answer questions when he goes to the special counsel because executive privilege will not apply. Bannon is one of several key Trump associates coming before the panel. Among the others are Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, and deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn who sources say testifies today.

ROMANS: All right. Let's bring CNN politics digital director Zach Wolf this morning.

So much to get to. An amazing day of news, and it continues here with three days to go until a shutdown.

Here's what house Republicans offer for this continuing resolution, right? Extending the spending until the 16th, another stopgap, right? Six-year children's health insurance program. Maybe that could appeal to some Democrats. Delays some unpopular Obamacare taxes and allows the DOD to fund defense missile upgrades.

But it doesn't even sound that they're there. I mean, Mark Meadows says they don't enough Republicans for this, and Democrats aren't getting the deal they want on DACA or on the Dreamers. We're at an impasse it seems.

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it is, it does. And, you know, with not very much time to figure out a path forward in the House -- time to figure out a path forward in the House, then it has to go to the Senate. So, it seems like there's a lot of things that have to happen here. That's not to say it can't happen, things can happen very quickly on Capitol Hill once they find the paths forward, make the chess pieces align on the board in the way that they want to.

But it's very complicated. And right now, it's just hard to see how they do it in the next three days.

BRIGGS: Yes. Clearly, no chance they get an immigration deal in these three days. Can they get the C.R.? If they have a government shutdown, who takes the blame here? Because the DACA deadline is March 5th. On the other side, Mark Meadows say his members may have enough to save this. Who will take the blame if we shut down the government?

WOLF: Well, I mean, you know, Democrats are certainly, they have one piece of leverage in Washington now. That's spending bills. On the other hand, Republicans control the White House, they control the House, they control the Senate.

It's hard for me to understand how Republicans wouldn't take some or most of the blame for this in the public's eye if the government shuts down, simply because nay control the entire government. On the other hand, Democrats are standing up here. You know, could potentially stand up here on the DACA issue.

ROMANS: And there's also this just back and forth over the president, what role the president is playing in all of this. You know, this 10:00 to 12:00, two-hour period where the president seemed to really change his mind, you know, Dick Durbin, Democrat, say the president was sandbagged in his position about DACA and the immigration bill.

Senator Lindsey Graham seems to say the same thing. Listen --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think somebody on his staff gave him really bad advice between 10:00 to 12:00 on Thursday. I think the president I saw on Tuesday is the guy I play golf with. I actually like the guy. He's actually funny. I thought he commanded the room. And the conversation at 10:00 on Thursday was pretty consistent with the guy I saw Tuesday. Something happened between 10:00 and 12:00.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So, what does the president want? That's what I think is the big question here. And who is influencing the president on this?

WOLF: That's something we need to figure out. There are people who said maybe it's the chief of staff, it's John Kelly, but Lindsey Graham has hay point. There was president Trump -- has a point. There was President Trump who has lawmakers around him, was surrounded by two Democrats on either side, and talking about how we're not that far from immigration reform.

ROMANS: I'll sign whatever you bring me, it will be a labor of love and now suddenly --

BRIGGS: I'll take the heat.

ROMANS: Right, and it's been completely changed.

WOLF: And then, you know, in his press conference, he was saying, he was talking about the wall and things like that. So, you know, Lindsey Graham at another point yesterday called it the two Trumps, the Tuesday Trump and the Thursday Trump. [05:10:06] But, you know, in -- you could argue that that's sort of

down the road a bit. They have to find a way to get this past the House and Senate first before they can even get it to the White House. And honestly, once they get something to the White House, I would be very surprised if Trump didn't sign it.

BRIGGS: All right. So something very rare happened on Capitol Hill yesterday. And Steve Bannon actually led to a bipartisan move. Steve Bannon, yes, because both parties wanted a subpoena because Steve Bannon refused to answer questions claiming privilege.

Here's what Sarah Huckabee Sanders said about Steve Bannon's refusal on Capitol Hill to answer questions about the transition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Did the White House tell Steve Bannon not to answer certain questions before the House Intelligence Committee today?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's a statement I'll read, as with all congressional inquiries touching upon the White House, Congress must consult with the White House prior to obtaining confidential material. This is part of a judicially recognized process that goes back decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Is that yes? Is that a yes?

BRIGGS: Is that a yes? And if the White House's chief argument is this is a witch hunt, why would you then urge Steve Bannon to go and claim privilege on Capitol Hill?

WOLF: Probably because there's something that he could say that they don't want him to say or at least after I see Steve Bannon not talking and the White House appearing to say that maybe they don't want him to talk. I start to wonder, what does the man have to say?

Now, this -- we should note -- won't carry weight when he goes to the special counsel. And that sort of investigation carries a little more weight because Robert Mueller is the guy indicting people. So that's kind of a different measure there. But not talking to Capitol Hill, that's kind of a -- the judicial or the legislative and executive branch are sort of at odds a lot. But this is a new one.

ROMANS: All right. Zach Wolf, come back in a few minutes. So much to talk about. We'll talk more about what's happening today. Thank you.

WOLF: Sounds good.

BRIGGS: All right. A clean bill of health for President Trump with room for improvement. The president's doctor also discussed his cognitive health more than a week after the president called himself a very stable genius.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:16:21] ROMANS: The patient is 6'3", 239 pounds, 71 years old, blood pressure 122 over 74. The patient, of course, is Donald Trump. Dr. Ronny Jackson pronounced the president in excellent health, but he wants Mr. Trump to lose 10 to 15 pounds.

BRIGGS: The president also asked for his own cognitive test, hoping to push back against all those questions about his mental fitness.

Chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta was at the briefing. The doctor has more from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, I got to say, first of all, I've never seen anything quite like this. I've been covering these sorts of stories for some 16 years now. And having the White House doctor come out, speak to the press, take basically every last question they had to ask for about an hour was a pretty remarkable thing.

All sorts of things were asked. But the two big areas, Christine and Dave, were his heart health and his mental health. With regard to his heart health, we know that the president is borderline obese. We know he has high cholesterol and we know he has evidence of heart disease. And over the last year since he's become president, those numbers have worsened a bit, which is why the doctor increased the dosage of his cholesterol-lowering medications.

But Dr. Jackson also very clear about the fact that they did test to evaluate the function of the heart right now. Forgetting those risk factors, how is the heart right now? And he says based on things like an echocardiogram and a stress test, his heart's doing well.

In fact, he said has no concerns for the rest of this term. And he says he would have no concerns if the president was elected to another term.

They also pointed out that the president asked himself for a cognitive exam known as the Montreal cognitive assessment exam. Think of this as a screening test for dementia. On this particular test that takes about 10 minutes, there are various things about your spatial relationships, how well you understand that, your orientation, your communication skills. And he said the president scored a perfect score, 30 out of 30 on that.

DR. RONNY JACKSON, PRESIDENTIAL PHYSICIAN: Absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or his -- you know, his neurological functions.

GUPTA: So, for Dr. Jackson, he sort of really laid that issue to rest, saying that is not a concern for him. They will follow up on these things every year and the years to come -- Christine and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Dr. Gupta, thank you, sir.

Another winter storm bearing down. States of emergency in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina, 70 million people now under winter storm warnings all the way from Texas to Maine. That storm churning toward the Northeast. It could be a messy morning commute.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us live from the CNN weather center.

All right, give us the facts.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, the facts are that it's extremely cold. We're talking about parts of the reason for the state of emergencies in place across the south could be very much for wind chill that are 10 to 5 below zero this morning across places such as Jackson, Birmingham, into Atlanta. That is brutally cold wind chills.

Schools, of course, closed across the region partly because of that. You don't want kids out and about waiting for a school bus in such temperatures. And granted, there's snow coming down, as well.

But look at the wind chills, forecast in Atlanta into the next hour or so. Getting down to minus 2, minus 8 in Birmingham, 10 below in places like Nashville, and you see the cold air begins to really filter in to the East around Charlotte, to, toward the later morning hours. But that's the perspective. We expect the cold to return in the night hours.

It could be the top ten coldest days in Atlanta in the past two decades by this afternoon if highs fail to get to 30 degrees. But all of this tapers off quickly. The snow showers, whatever comes down across the south, will be short-lived. I think around 5:00, 6:00 p.m., much of the Eastern Seaboard sees conditions quiet down. Total accumulations generally four to six inches across portions of New England, around New York less than an inch; around Boston, about two to three inches.

[05:20:06] And the broader perspective shows everyone is impacted by this across the eastern seaboard, but it's going to be limited and short-lived, which is the good news -- guys .

ROMANS: It's winter. That's what happens in winter.

BRIGGS: All right. Jacksonville Jaguars star Leonard Fournette rear- ended on a Florida interstate. Andy Scholes with the impact on this weekend's AFC title game in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: All right. Let's talk some sports. Rookie sensation Leonard Fournette big reason why the Jags are in the AFC championship game. One person discovered a way to perhaps slow down the running back.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning "Bleacher Report."

[05:25:01] Hey, Andy.

SCHOLES: Hey, good morning, guys.

Jaguars' running back Leonard Fournette, he was involved in a minor three-car accident yesterday. Luckily no one was injured. Fournette's just fine. Someone rear-ended him causing him to hit the car that was in front of him.

And the bumper from Fournette's Maybach fell off and was damaged. A cool move, Fournette signed it and gave it to one of the highway patrol troopers. Tell you what, that's a cool piece of memorabilia.

Jacksonville's highway patrol tweeted a picture of Fournette with the trooper saying he was a true professional for the way he handled everything, even taking a picture with the boy that was involved in the crash. The Jaguars, they play at the Patriots on Sunday.

All right. Another ugly night for the NBA, Timberwolves and Magic. Arron Afflaio gets into it with Nemanja Bjelica. Afflaio throws a wild punch. Both players had already received technical fouls four minutes prior to this fight. They were ejected after the skirmish.

Bjelica said he was trying to defend himself. Afflaio, he didn't speak with reporters after the game.

All right. For the second week, the Eagles playing at home, top seed in the NFC, underdogs against the Vikings in the city of Philly. It's embracing the role after beating the falcons' lane Johnson. He pout this dog mask and walk around the -- put on this dog mask and walk around the field. He tweeted all fans are welcome to wear dog masks to Sunday's game.

You just have to take them off to go through security. I tell you, what dog masks has have been flying off of Amazon as fans prepare for the game. That's going to be a creepy stadium if all the fans are wearing dog masks. Those are scary looking masks in my opinion.

BRIGGS: Yes. Those are spooky. They belong in Cleveland. The dog pound --

SCHOLES: Yes, the dog pound is where you see it.

BRIGGS: Yes. All right, Andy Scholes, thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Well, a deal on a government spending plan is increasingly in doubt. Republicans can't agree on their own proposal. Now, more than Democrats saying no deal about a plan for Dreamers and the deadline, folks, only three days away.

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