Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Eager to Release Memo; Questions Swirl Around Pompeo Meeting; L.A. School Shooting an Accident. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 2, 2018 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:52] RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: A Republican memo alleging abuses by the FBI is set to go public. The president refusing to stand in the way despite loud objections from intelligence and law enforcement.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: The head of the CIA is defending a meeting with top Russian intel officials on American soil. Why was Mike Pompeo welcoming somebody banned from the United States?

Good morning. Just after 4:30 on the East Coast. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ryan nobles.

MARSH: And I'm Rene Marsh. Again, about a half hour past the hour.

And President Trump poised to allow the release of a controversial House Intelligence memo alleging surveillance abuses at the FBI. The president hopes the memo might undermine the Russia investigation. The relentless move to release it sets up a clash between the White House and intelligence officials who warned the document distorts facts and could jeopardize national security.

On CNN last night, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia slammed House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes for pushing the memo's release.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We don't come from the Senate side, unless we have agreement in bipartisan way. They are working in this House intelligence on partisan participation. Devin Nunes, pardon the pun, he has neutered the confidence that people could ever have in the House Intelligence Committee.


NOBLES: The president reviewed the memo Wednesday, a day after he was picked up on the hot mic stating he was 100 percent determined to release it. A Trump adviser tells "The Washington Post" there was never any hesitation by the president. According to "The Post" the president believes this helps build a case for firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who oversees the Russia investigation. "The Post" also reports that the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also expressed reservations about release.

Our coverage starts this morning with Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

Jeff, good morning.



Today is the day that the classified controversial House GOP memo appears to be on the verge of being released. President Trump gave that order on Thursday, saying he read it and reviewed it. Of course, this setting up a confrontation between the White House and the FBI. The FBI director whom the president appointed said he had grave concerns over the release of this memo.

But the White House appears to be going ahead with this. The president on Thursday gave his final go ahead to his advisers. Now, this, of course, is the latest episode in this long running Russia investigation. We know the president was calling friends and associates saying he believes the release of this memo will discredit the investigation because it will show in his view there is bias in the top ranks of the FBI.

Now, of course, Democrats are crying foul. They believe this should not be released and a matter of national security. Of course, the Justice Department and FBI also believe the same thing.

After the president signs off on it, the House Intelligence Committee expected to release it today. Now, this, of course, not necessarily going to change anything except the rhetoric around this. It has been a distraction. Again, the investigation, of course, still going forward with Bob Mueller,l the special counsel here. But a big day in terms of the confrontation between the president, and his FBI director appointed only six months ago.

Today certainly proves to be a busy one here at the White House before the president flies to Mar-a-Lago tonight -- Rene and Ryan.


MARSH: And last minute changes to the Republican memo are not easing worries at the FBI. A U.S. official with inside knowledge says there are still grave concerns at the bureau. CNN learned top White House aides are worried FBI Director Chris Wray will resign if the memo is released. Wray has not directly threatened to step down, though.

BRIGGS: His predecessor, James Comey, offering support, tweeting, quote: All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart. American history in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up.

[04:35:02] Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.

MARSH: And the FBI agent association also publicly thanking Director Wray expressing appreciation for his willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with them as they work to protect the country from security threats. House Speaker Paul Ryan says that the memo does not target law enforcement.

Listen to his argument.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This memo is not indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice. It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general. What it is is the Congress' legitimate function of oversight to make sure that the FISA process is being used correctly, and that if it wasn't being used correctly, that needs to come to light and people need to be held accountable so that we do not have problems again, because this does affect our civil liberties.


NOBLES: Most Republicans are standing with the president on releasing the memo. But Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and John Thune of South Dakota both publicly expressing concerns about making it public.

MARSH: Well, CIA Director Mike Pompeo defending recent meetings he had with top Russian officials on U.S. soil. One of those officials, the head of Russia's foreign intelligence service is a target of U.S. sanctions and supposed to be barred from entering the U.S. The meetings came to light in a January 30th tweet from the Russian embassy.

NOBLES: A U.S. official says it is no accident that Russia announced the meeting and the target was sowing discord in the U.S.

Now, on Thursday, Pompeo defended the meetings in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He declared he and other officials met with Russians, quote, to keep America safe. Schumer kept his criticism, telling CNN yesterday if this administration is ignoring sanctions, that's very serious.

MARSH: And a State Department spokeswoman says that sanctions can be waived in cases of national security. Last year, the Russians also revealed an Oval Office meeting between the president and Russia's then-Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is fair to note that past administrations have also met with Russian intelligence officials.

NOBLES: Nikki Haley, meanwhile, slamming Russia at the Republican retreat in West Virginia. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. telling Republican lawmakers Moscow is not and will not be our friend. She also defended the administration handling of Russia even though it failed to impose new sanctions as mandated by Congress.

Here is Michelle Kosinski at the State Department.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rene and Ryan, look at the timing of this. I mean, this comes amid all of the controversy and development around the Russia investigation. It comes when members of Congress are questioning whether the administration is seeking to listen to them in their bipartisan effort to punish Russia for meddling in the U.S. election. We now see the administration, via Nikki Haley, deliver this very pointed speech. This was before Republican members of Congress at the retreat last night.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: There is no reason to think the Russian interference made a difference between who won and lost in the U.S. elections. But the very fact that they did it is an outrageous. But with all of the talk that goes on about Russia and its role in our elections, one huge fact has been massively overlooked. That fact is in the last year, this administration has been tougher on Russia than any American administration since Ronald Reagan.

KOSINSKI: Note that she is very careful to make the point in there too that even though she is clearly stating that Russia did meddle in the U.S. election, she says there is no reason to think that interference affected the outcome. And she says that the administration will continue to be tough on Russia until it starts to act like a responsible country -- Rene and Ryan.


MARSH: Well, a headline that should not get lost in all of the Russia news. The U.S. government runs out of money again in less than a week. The House plans to vote early next week on another short-term spending bill through March 22nd. The hope is to give lawmakers more time to strike an immigration deal and protect the nation's Dreamers. But there really hasn't been much movement on that issue.

NOBLES: Last night, President Trump tweeted: The Democrats just aren't calling about DACA. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have to get moving fast or they'll disappoint you again. We have a great chance to make a deal or blame the Dems. March 5th is coming up fast. March 5th, of course, is the president's deadline for a deal.

Listen to the remarks he made from the GOP retreat in West Virginia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some people call it dreamers. It's not dreamers. Don't fall into that trap.

[04:40:00] And I said the other night, you know, we have dreamers too. We have dreamers in this country too. We can't forget out dreamers. I have a lot of dreamers here.


MARSH: Well, President Trump told Republican lawmakers they will need to work with Democrats and make some compromises or just win a lot of seats in 2018.

President Trump will host Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull later this month at the White House. Now, the administration says that the two leaders will discuss terrorism and economic growth and defense cooperation. Trump and Turnbull got off to a rocky start a year ago when they reportedly got into a heated argument over an Obama-era refugee agreement. Turnbull also mocked Mr. Trump at a June event, according to leaked audio from an Australian network.

NOBLES: Mitt Romney, remember that name? Well, you're going to be hearing quite a bit about it in the next couple of days. He is one step closer to a U.S. Senate bid.

He is tweeting that he plans to make a formal announcement on February 15th. Romney, of course, is widely expected to run for the seat of retiring Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

Now, to qualify, Romney needs to collect 28,000 signatures from registered Utah Republicans or he can seek the nomination at the party's convention in April. The latter could be a little risky because of Romney's high profile criticism of the president. He is very popular in Utah. The former Massachusetts governor established Utah as his primary residence in 2014.

MARSH: All right. Well, coming up, officials now say the school shooting in Los Angeles was an accident, but a 12-year-old girl is facing charges this morning. We'll have more on that, next.


[04:45:54] MARSH: Well, new developments in one of the most notorious unsolved cases in the U.S., the death of actress Natalie Wood. New witness statement could alter the events surrounding Wood's 1981 drowning death.

The Los Angeles sheriff's departments say two new witnesses recall yelling, arguing and crashing sounds from the state room on the boat where Wood was last seen alive with her husband, actor Robert Wagner. The sheriff's department says it doesn't have enough information to make an arrest. But Wood's drowning remains suspicious. The investigation was reopened in 2011.

NOBLES: The Trump administration is stripping the top consumer watchdog of the ability of lending discrimination fighting. A division of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau goes after financial companies for discrimination. It's called the office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity. Well, now, interim director Mick Mulvaney is moving that office under his direct oversight while stripping it of its enforcement authority.

Instead now, staff will now just focus on advocacy, coordination and education. That's according to a memo that Mulvaney emailed to employees. Mulvaney, of course, a long-time critic of the CFPB. He was appointed by President Trump two months ago. Critics worry that now the agency won't be able to go after lenders that discriminate against minorities. The office has handled some of the CFPB's most high profile cases.

MARSH: The U.S. Olympic Committee was reportedly told of sexual abuse complaints against Larry Nassar as early as 2015, but failed to intervene. "The Wall Street Journal" says the former head of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny, alerted the committee that raises questions about why the Olympic committee which oversees USA Gymnastics did not reach out to athletes or Nassar other employees before allegations against him went public about a year later. Now, during that time, Nassar continued to allegedly abuse patients in Michigan.

NOBLES: An attorney for Penny refused to comment to CNN. A spokesperson for the USOC says that the committee learned of a doctor who is accused of abusing an athlete, but claims that the matter was reported to the FBI. Nassar who is already facing up to 175 years in prison is due back in court in Michigan today as the sentencing continues for abuses at a gymnastics club.

MARSH: Police investigating the shooting at a Los Angeles middle school Thursday, they say was not intentional. The 12-year-old girl, though, has been booked in a juvenile facility, charged with negligent discharge of a firearm. Five were injured in the shooting, four students and an adult. Two had significant gunshot wounds, including a 15-year-old boy shot in the head. Doctors were able to stabilize him saying he was very lucky.

NOBLES: The fired Hawaii state worker who started that false alarm about an imminent nuclear attack is putting out a new signal this morning. His lawyer says the worker plans to sue the state for defamation. While officials have not formally identified him, the attorney says enough information has been confirmed. That's led residents in Oahu, who know who he is, have made some death threats. The worker claims officials have made him appear incompetent. The state of Hawaii declined to comment to CNN affiliate KHON about the lawsuit threat.

MARSH: Well, the strong cold front is pushing through the Eastern U.S. today, bringing snow and rain for Groundhog Day.

So, let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He has a whole bunch more on us and including whether, you know, he may see that shadow. Groundhog.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, be prepared Ryan and Rene because this cold front will cold front is going to drop our temperatures drastically, compared to this time yesterday. In fact, daytime highs for the day today, only 33 in Boston, 31 in New York City. Yesterday, temperatures were in the middle and upper 40s. So, that shows you the cold arctic air settling in behind the front.

[04:50:01] You can clearly see it as we put our satellite/radar in motion. This is into the future I should say. And notice how the skies clear out behind our cold front. With the clear conditions overhead comes the cold arctic air and that settles in for a better part of the weekend through the New England coastline.

Look at the wind chill values from Minnesota through northern Wisconsin. They could drop between negative 25 to negative 40 degrees below zero. Just a head's up with the cold air rushing over the relatively warm lake waters of Lake Michigan. We have the potential of lake-effect snow for that region. Groundhog Day today, 14 degrees. It is feeling like winter to me.

Back to you.


NOBLES: Well, you may have notice Dave Briggs is not here today. That's because he's got a tough assignment. He is in Minnesota for the Super Bowl. Although Derek's forecast did not look very good for Minnesota.

Tune in tomorrow for "Kickoff in Minnesota". It's a CNN "Bleacher Report" special hosted by Dave. Hines Ward and Coy Wire will be there as well. It's 2:30 Eastern tomorrow afternoon. Don't miss it.

MARSH: All right. Well, Tesla's founder Elon Musk has an announcement. He sold out of flame throwers? If you're confused it was a stunt to raise $10 million for musk's tunneling business. Details on CNN "Money Stream" coming up next.


[04:55:48] NOBLES: Breaking news out of Shanghai, China. A van plows into the crowd of pedestrians injuring 18 people. The police have ruled the crash in accident. They say the vehicle caught fire, causing the driver to loose control and veered on the sidewalk.

A preliminary investigation found the 40-year-old driver was allegedly carrying hazardous material illegally and smoking. That is what caused the fire. The driver has no criminal record. The injured pedestrians were hospitalized, none have life threatening injuries.

MARSH: Well, new water restrictions have been imposed in Cape Town, South Africa, as the city faces the prospect of running dry. Residents are now being asked to curb the amount of water they use daily to just over 13 gallons. That's about half of the current limit. Officials estimate if water levels continue to fall, the second most populous city will run out of water by April 16th.

Cape Town is in the midst of the three-year drought, the worst in a century. A changing climate and rapidly growing population have made matters worse. Officials say residents have not been doing enough to curb their water use.

NOBLES: All of the miners trapped underground at a South Africa mine have now been rescued. The company that manages the Beatrix gold mine says a violent storm knocked out power to the mine Wednesday night. More than 1,000 miners were stuck until ground until power can be restored until the lift brought them to the surface.

The eldest son of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Fidelito Castro Diaz-Balart, has reportedly committed suicide. Cuba's state media says that the 68-year-old had suffered from depression in recent months. He was the only child of the Cuban leader and his first wife. Balart's relatives went into exile becoming prominent figures in Miami's anti-Castro exile community. His cousin Mario Diaz-Balart is a Republican congressman in Florida. NOBLES: All right. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream".

Global markets and U.S. futures are lower after a wild day on Wall Street. U.S. stocks wobbled between gains and losses, with the Dow swinging nearly 300 points before ending just 37 points higher. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 closed a tick lower. Strong earnings helped stocks rise but investors are still worried about interest rates. They're concerned that the era of low rates are coming to an end.

MARSH: Well, it was a tech earnings party on Wall Street yesterday with three of the biggest names. Apple and Amazon and Alphabet reporting after the bill. Apple posted a record $88 billion in sales. But it predicted iPhone sales this quarter will be below expectation. Amazon also reported its biggest profit in history nearly $2 billion. While Google's annual sales topped $100 billion for the first time. However, it also reported a rare loss, a one-time $9.9 billion charge on foreign earnings, a result of the new tax bill.

NOBLES: Tesla founder Elon Musk has an announcement. He sold out of flame throwers. Confused? I am. Yes.

It was a stunt to raise $10 million for Musk's tunneling business, The Boring Company. The company begun offering this $500 flame throwers four days ago and stopped taking orders after selling 20,000 of them. Did they shoot flames?

The Boring Company insists these flame throwers are safe. But each comes with a fire extinguisher. Musk repeatedly plugged the item on social media, tweeting when the zombie a apocalypse happens, you'll be glad you bought a flame thrower. It works hoards of the undead or your money back.

It doesn't sound safe.

MARSH: I'm still confused. Full disclosure.

NOBLES: It actually comes with a fire extinguisher?

MARSH: That does not sound safe.

NOBLES: No, it doesn't.

MARSH: EARLY START continues right now.


MARSH: A Republican memo alleging abuses by the FBI is set to go public. The president refusing to stand in the way despite loud objections from intelligence and law enforcement.

BRIGGS: And the head of the CIA is defending a meeting with top Russian intelligence officials on American soil. Why was Mike Pompeo welcoming someone already banned from the United States?