Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Job Protection For Special Counsel?; Hillary Trolls Trump At Grammys; Afghan Military Base Attacked; Deadline Day For New Russia Sanctions. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 29, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:30:50] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats want job protection for the Russia special counsel. Does Robert Mueller need it? We'll tell you what Republicans think of the idea.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: State of the Union is only a day away. The president will make his pitch to the nation but he won't hit the road to sell it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CORDEN, HOST, GRAMMY AWARDS: Stand by, take one.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Surprise -- that's just one note from a politically-charged Grammy awards. We have the big moments and who took home top honors -- hint, Bruno Mars.

We have reports this morning from the White House, from Moscow, and London, where we are following another deadly terror attack in Afghanistan's --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- capital.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody, this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Five thirty-one Eastern time.

It was a -- the music was center stage at the Grammys but the politics were unusual and very present. We'll ask Philip Wegmann, who you saw there from the "Washington Examiner," about that in a moment.

But first, Democrats weighing new steps to protect Bob Mueller following news the president wants to fire the Russia special counsel -- or wanted to way back in June but again, did not. A congressional aide tells CNN Democrats will seek extra protections for the special counsel in the upcoming spending bill talks. Current funding expires next Thursday.

Now, the details are still being worked out but among the ideas being floated, giving the special counsel the right to challenge his firing in court.

ROMANS: Another idea stipulates that a special counsel can only be fired after a judge finds misconduct or other good cause.

Republican reaction, so far, is mixed on whether legislation is really needed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It probably wouldn't hurt for us to pass one of those bills. There are some constitutional issues with those bills but it certainly wouldn't hurt to put that extra safeguard in place, given the latest stories.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I've got legislation protecting Mr. Mueller and I'll be glad to pass it tomorrow. I see no evidence that President Trump wants to fire Mr. Mueller now. I don't know what happened back last year.

But it's pretty clear to me that everybody in the White House knows it would be the end of President Trump's presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: The president and his staff has fully cooperated. That's why they're moving forward and I think we'll just continue this investigation and see where it goes. I don't think there's a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Red state Democratic Joe Manchin of West Virginia tells CNN's Jake Tapper he's not ready to back such legislation yet, saying the president was probably just blowing off steam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I believe in the rule of law and it pertains to all of us. We're all treated the same and if any of this has happened it will come out.

But, you know, people from New York have a different way of talking and speaking and I take that literally. And I said, OK, he blew off about some things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The latest Justice Department official to find himself in President Trump's crosshairs, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That's according to four sources, two of whom tell CNN the president has vented, at times, about removing Rosenstein from overseeing the Russia probe but the president's advisers convincing him it is a disastrous idea.

BRIGGS: A growing number of lawmakers say the Trump administration could sink an immigration deal by doing too much at once. Democrats voicing fierce opposition to a White House proposal that does offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers but demands $25 billion for a border wall and sharp cuts to family immigration visas.

ROMANS: Democratic leaders accuse the president of leveraging the Dreamers as ransom while severely cutting legal immigration.

Republican Congressman Will Hurd, one of two congressmen behind a bipartisan House bill to address Dreamers and the border, agrees the White House deal is too broad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: I still believe that a narrow bill is most important -- the thing that we can get through our Congress -- both houses -- the House and the Senate, because the more things you add, you start creating coalition of opposition. And so, let's keep this narrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: White House officials reject suggestions that the president is asking for too much, calling the path to citizenship a dramatic concession.

[05:35:00] BRIGGS: President Trump delivers his first State of the Union address tomorrow night. An official tells CNN the speech will look more unifying.

But the president has no plans to take the message on the road this week which is rather unusual for a president trying to sell an agenda, especially when it comes to infrastructure. Some of Mr. Trump's advisers believe he's missing an opportunity.

A senior White House official telling CNN there is frustration in the West Wing because of the president's ongoing indifference to domestic travel unless a big rally is involved.

ROMANS: Expect some Twitter reaction, potentially, from the president this morning after trolling reached new heights at the Grammy Awards.

In a spoof called "Fire and Fury Spoken Word Auditions" celebrities from John Legend, to Cher, to Snoop Dogg and others all read excerpts -- different excerpts during the audition. And then, one final reader gave it a try.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's. Nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely pre-made.

CORDEN: That's it, record it. That's the one. CLINTON: You think so?

CORDEN: Oh, yes.

CLINTON: The Grammy's in the bag?

CORDEN: In the bag.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The bit there from Hillary Clinton got big cheers from the New York audience, but not the administration.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeting, "I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the Fire and Fury book killed it. Don't ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it."

ROMANS: The president's son, Don Jr., weighed in with some counter- trolling. "Getting to read a fake news book excerpt at the Grammys seems like a great consolation prize for losing the presidency."

BRIGGS: Plenty of political notes at the awards show. Camila Cabello addressed being a Dreamer. U2 played with the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop, mentioning s-hole countries, which was bleeped.

The #MeToo movement also a dominant theme. Stars wore white roses to the ceremony and Kesha gave an emotional performance with a #MeToo theme.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KESHA, AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: (Performing at the Grammy Awards).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A powerful moment there surrounded by women. The singer, of course, has been in a legal battle with producer Dr. Luke, stemming from 2014 allegations he drugged, emotionally abused, and sexually assaulted her.

BRIGGS: As for the music, Grammy night was pure gold for Bruno Mars. The R&B singer won the most trophies, including three of the Grammy's top honors -- Record of the Year, Album of the Year, "24K Magic," and Song of the Year, "That's What I Like."

ROMANS: It was a big night, as well, for Kendrick Lamar --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- winning five Grammys, including Best Rap Album. And, Alessia Cara won the Grammy for Best New Artist -- congratulations.

BRIGGS: So let's talk about all of this with Philip Wegmann, commentary writer for the "Washington Examiner." Good morning to you, sir. PHILIP WEGMANN, COMMENTARY WRITER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Hello.

BRIGGS: It was a heck of a night at the Grammys. I think the white roses, the Kesha performance were welcomed and were powerful.

Did they go too far? Were they too political with the "Fire and Fury" reading, bringing in Hillary Clinton?

WEGMANN: Well, I missed the Grammys. I actually didn't stay up for them. But did a bunch of celebrities make misinformed comments about politics? Did they do that?

I mean, we expect this sort of thing. And look, the theme for last night was to honor some of the victims of sexual harassment. So what did Hollywood decide to do? Bring in Hillary Clinton, who is infamous for bullying victims of sexual harassment and then have her read from -- have her --

ROMANS: Oh, and infamous --

WEGMANN: You know, have her read from Michael Wolff's book, someone who accused a sitting U.S. diplomat of sleeping her way to the top? That's ridiculous. That is just the best way to lose all credibility.

ROMANS: Well look, I think that a lot of people this morning are saying come on, this went way behind the music.

But to people in that room -- to them, all of this is the same big ball of wax -- the President of the United States, the #MeToo movement. They don't see the politics in America separate from the #MeToo.

BRIGGS: It was far more political than Hollywood took it than the Grammys.

ROMANS: The --

BRIGGS: The Grammys were far more political than the Emmys, which was --

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: -- an interesting look --

ROMANS: I would say this is the most political I've seen in an awards show.

BRIGGS: I would --

ROMANS: Would you agree?

BRIGGS: I would totally agree --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- in that. And let's move back to politics now and both sides of the aisle differing on whether or not protection is needed for the special counsel Bob Mueller. Is it needed to protect his job?

WEGMANN: Well, so, President Trump has a hard enough time getting along with the Republican majorities on Congress.

If he wants to wake up the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the best thing that he could do is fire Bob Mueller ahead of the midterm elections. It would be political suicide. But he hasn't done that and said he's actually offered to do an interview with the special counsel.

So some of the calls for legislative protections, I think that we need to be cautious and realize that those are also messaging as well.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the State of the Union coming here in just one day. The countdown clock to be determined here.

[05:40:01] You know, we're told that people close to the president would like him to really go out and sell whatever this unifying message is going to be that he's going to deliver tomorrow. I know he is expected in West Virginia this week. That was already a previously scheduled appearance.

What do you make of the tone we should expect from the president's speech, and will he go out or why won't he go out and really try to follow through and sell that?

WEGMANN: Well, if the president listens to his advisers I think that the tone will be overwhelmingly positive. He needs to focus on the things that he's achieved last year instead of going after -- going after his opponents with small jabs.

ROMANS: Right.

WEGMANN: That doesn't advance his agenda.

As far as taking it onto the road, it might be to the president's benefit that he actually stays silent. That he doesn't risk that exposure that the president has gotten himself into all sorts of trouble with some of these scandals, with some of these statements. Maybe less is more.

BRIGGS: The question isn't what he says. I think we know he's going to strike a unifying tone in the State of the Union.

But, Ari Fleischer points out he has little message discipline -- it's a former White House press secretary for those who don't know -- who seemed to derail himself with a tweet days later instead of building on that momentum.

So I think you've got to watch the speech and the 24 hours that follow to see how he lets that message take over.

But let's quickly touch on immigration. A very broad bill that's hit by both sides. The right and the left --

WEGMANN: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- seem to hate it, but the middle maybe liked it.

Are we likely to see a more narrow immigration bill get through Congress?

WEGMANN: I think that both sides are going to have to give on something.

But if we rewind to the government shutdown just last week, I think what we saw is the Democrats were asking for -- asking for everything. They were asking for this president to go back on one of his major campaign promises and then, he sort of did.

I mean, he is accepting amnesty for almost two million Dreamers and he's asking for $25 billion in a trust fund for that wall, which is around the same neighborhood of what Chuck Schumer was reportedly offering the president ahead of the shutdown.

But let's be honest about this. That money in a trust fund is probably going to be enough for him to get a photo op in front of the wall ahead of 2020, and little else.

So this seems like the president has given a little bit to Democrats already. It seems like they should be willing to take a deal or risk another repeat of the episode we saw last week.

ROMANS: I think their bigger concern is, honestly, not the $25 billion for the wall -- the wall, by the way, that he said Mexico was going to pay for -- but it's the dramatic change in how we admit people to this country. Limits to legal immigration --

BRIGGS: Yes, the legal immigration -- yes.

ROMANS: -- and family-based -- some call it chain migration. I think that's what they're really concerned about because --

WEGMANN: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: Yes. I think they're saying tailor it to --

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: -- the border wall and the Dreamers and leave the rest out of it --

ROMANS: Right, interesting.

BRIGGS: -- for now, yes.

ROMANS: All right. Philip Wegmann, nice to see you this morning. Thank you for dropping by --

WEGMANN: Yes, thanks for having me. ROMANS: -- bright and early from D.C. on a Monday morning. Thank you.

WEGMANN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: All right.

The Trump administration is considering a federal takeover of 5G networks to protect U.S. phone calls from possible Chinese spying.

According to documents obtained by Axios, President Trump's national security team may centralize the U.S.' 5G networks. Government control would be unprecedented. It would certainly be controversial.

5G is the next generation of wireless and for companies, it's a multibillion-dollar opportunity. Major wireless carriers have already spent billions on 5G. Two of the largest, AT&T and Verizon, plan to roll out networks this year.

But these documents suggest the government -- the government should build its own network and rent access to carriers, the best way to combat China's threat to cybersecurity.

The Trump administration has taken a hard line against Chinese investment in the U.S., especially in critical industries like telecom. In fact, Reuters says AT&T scrapped plans to sell phones built by China's Huawei after members of Congress lobbied against it.

It's not the first time there have been security concerns over Chinese devices. In 2012, they were investigated for providing opportunities for espionage.

BRIGGS: When you hear government control, I know conservatives get a little bit wary of that. Is that --

ROMANS: At the same time, though, you hear these big concerns that for too long a pro-market philosophy in Washington has allowed Chinese companies -- stated-owned and stateside companies to buy American companies and American technology that allows them to spy.

BRIGGS: That's interesting stuff. All right.

Breaking overnight, nearly a dozen killed in a terror attack on an Afghan military base. This is just the latest assault in a surge of violence in Kabul.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:48:35] BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, another deadly terror attack in Afghanistan. Afghan officials say 11 military personnel were killed and 16 wounded in an attack on a military base in Kabul.

ISIS is already claiming responsibility. Four of the five attackers are dead. The attack comes amid a surge in violence in Afghanistan.

An ambulance packed with explosives blew up on a crowded street in the Afghan capital Saturday, killing 103 people.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh with the latest from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, this attack caps a shocking week, really, for the Afghan capital. It's supposed to be the ring of steel into which millions of people have fled the violence in the rest of the country to try and get some kind of shelter. But today, the military academy under assaults by ISIS who swiftly claimed this attack.

Rewind to Saturday and it was the Taliban who say they were responsible for using an ambulance as a suicide car bomb to get through security in a hurry and then detonate a device that claimed over 100 lives. It's important to focus on that number. It is quite staggering.

A few days earlier, ISIS said they were behind an attack in the east of the country against a children's charity. And or 10 before that, it was the Taliban that attacks a key hotel on the outskirts of Kabul.

You can see here a pattern, ISIS versus the Taliban. They are both trying to appear the most extreme, the most brutal. The Taliban have been fighting the Americans for 16 years now. They have been in a decades-longer fight themselves.

[05:50:03] ISIS, newer, younger, kicked out of Iraq and Syria, finding perhaps a hole in Afghanistan.

This is really the impact on Afghan civilians now. These two groups try and show who can be the most savage.

Donald Trump, the president, has said he will win in Afghanistan. He's sending hundreds more troops there in a hurry to train Afghan forces.

But this kind of carnage, this kind of brutality just continues to escalate. Much of the world's attention has drifted away from Afghanistan but that's no consolation to the now dozens of Afghan families who are counting their losses from this last week -- Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Nick Paton Walsh.

Today is the deadline for the Treasury Department to implement new sanctions against Russia. The sanctions passed in the House and Senate in July by near-unanimous votes but the administration has been slow to name names and meet some mandated deadlines since then.

Let's go live to Moscow and bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. Good morning, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Christine, and certainly, a lot of Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin very concerned about the naming names part in that report that is set to come out today.

One of the things that it's going to do -- it's not just going to put out the names of some of these oligarchs but also their financial situation and the financial details also of, potentially, their spouses and their children as well.

That, of course, has a lot of them concerned and the Russian government so concerned that they blasted the move in a comment earlier today by the press secretary for Vladimir Putin. He said that all of this is an attempt to influence Russia's upcoming election and that this report was timed to do so. So a lot of anger here in Moscow.

But there's also some pressure on the Trump administration as well, Christine, as President Trump will then have to make the decision whether or not this new list is going to be the basis for new sanctions in regards to Russia's alleged meddling in America's election in 2016.

And many are also going to look and see whether or not that report is going to get published in full with all the names and all the information or if some of it will be deemed classified in an attempt by the Trump administration to not further sour relations between Washington and Moscow.

So, a lot of interesting stuff is going to happen here today, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, really fascinating. All right, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. Thanks, Fred.

All right. Planning to listen to the latest Grammy winners on your Spotify?

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Well, the U.S. government just made the streaming service pay more for its music. Who's going to get that cash? You might be surprised.

"CNN Money Stream," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:23] ROMANS: A potentially major security oversight on U.S. military bases. An interactive map that shows where people are using fitness devices revealing highly sensitive information about the location of soldiers.

The global heat map from GPS tracking company Strava uses satellite information to map locations of people wearing these devices.

BRIGGS: In war zones, in deserts in countries like Iraq and Syria, the map is almost entirely dark except for scattered pinpricks of activity outlining the locations of known U.S. military bases and other potentially sensitive sites. The Pentagon says the Department of Defense takes these matters very seriously and is determining whether any additional training or guidance is required.

ROMANS: All right, 57 minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this Monday morning.

Global stock markets are mixed right now but strong earnings drove Wall Street to another round of records Friday. The S&P had a great day. It jumped 1.2 percent. That's the biggest one-day gain in 10 months.

It's another star-studded week for earnings including some of tech's biggest names. Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft all report this week. Expect big profits. Tech was the best-performing sector of 2017.

U.S. stocks are off to a great start for the year. Look at this. All major indices are up at least seven percent so far.

All right. If you plan to listen to the latest Grammy winners on your Spotify account, guess what? The U.S. government just made it pay more for its music. All the streaming services -- Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora -- they must pay a fee every time you listen to a song.

Reuters reports a copyright royalty board ruled they must increase those fees over the next five years to give a larger share to songwriters and artists. As you know, many have long complained about low payouts from streaming services. That is about to change.

Russian bots retweeted President Trump nearly 500,000 times in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign. During that time, Kremlin-linked troll accounts made up four percent of all of the Trump retweets. That's what Twitter told the Senate Judiciary Committee, but says this behavior represents a very small fraction of overall activity.

Still, four percent of the retweets --

BRIGGS: That's staggering.

ROMANS: You know, these platforms have been accused of just blindly allow trolls to use their platform to influence the 2016 election. And you make such a good point, Dave, that this is -- this is not that did happen. It is still happening.

BRIGGS: It never left. And that #releasethememo hashtag, the Russian bots --

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: -- have been forwarding that.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: They'll be back in 2018 and 2020, wow.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

"NEW DAY" has Poppy and Chris, and Brian Stelter recapping a very political Grammys.

We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: The president has never intimated to me in any way a desire to fire Robert Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if he did do this it would be clear obstruction of justice.

GRAHAM: I've got legislation protecting Mr. Mueller and I'll be glad to pass it tomorrow.

MCCARTHY: I don't think there's a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller. Right now, there is not an issue.

CORDEN: Welcome to this, the 60th annual Grammy Awards.

JANELLE MONAE, AMERICAN RECORDING ARTIST: To those who would dare try and silence us we offer you two words, Time's Up.

LOGIC, AMERICAN RAPPER: Bring us your tired, your poor, and any immigrant who seeks refuge.

CAMILA CABELLO, AMERICAN-CUBAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: We remember that this country was built by Dreamers for Dreamers chasing the American dream.

CLINTON: He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Surprise, surprise there at the Grammys. We'll talk about that.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

CUOMO: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your new day. It's Monday, January 29th, 6:00 here in New York.

As you can see, Alisyn is off and Poppy Harlow joins me. Always nice because I get you twice.

HARLOW: This is the last Monday --

CUOMO: There's two of you.

HARLOW: -- for sure, that I'm going to be here.

CUOMO: All right. It's been -- we wish you all the best. It is amazing --

HARLOW: Thank you, my friend.

CUOMO: -- how --