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Redemption for Shaun White; Replacement for Kelly? Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired February 14, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Redemption for Shaun White in South Korea, winning gold in the men's halfpipe. A live report with all the Olympic headlines you missed overnight.

A historic and spectacular performance by Shaun White, the greatest snowboarder ever. There is another side to the story.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: There is. We will get to that.

BRIGGS: There's a #MeToo aspect to it. We'll get to it.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs on this Ash Wednesday.

KOSIK: Good morning, I'm Alison Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour. Happy Valentine's Day.

Conversations over who could replace embattled White House chief of staff John Kelly, that's heating up this morning. CNN is reporting that President Trump called associates in recent days discussing possible replacements for Kelly in the wake of the Rob Porter spousal abuse scandal.

Multiple sources telling us the president has made no decision to push Kelly out, but they say names being floated, if he does, include chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, House majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and budget director Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney has already denied he is under consideration.

And, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said yesterday the president has confidence in Kelly.

BRIGGS: This all comes as the White House struggles to control fallout over allegations, the former White House staff secretary, physically abused his two ex-wives. Porter denies the accusations.

Chief of Staff Kelly defending his handling of the situation telling "The Wall Street Journal" quote, "It was all done right."

But scrutiny only intensified on Tuesday after the director of the FBI upended the White House timeline of events.

KOSIK: OK, let me give you a quick recap.

On Monday, the White House said top officials learned the quote "extent of the allegations last Tuesday and that Porter's background check was still ongoing."

But then yesterday, FBI chief Chris Wray told the Senate Intel Committee the Bureau notified the White House of the allegations months ago.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March and then, a completed background investigation in late July. Soon thereafter, we received a request for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November. And then, we administratively closed the file in January.


BRIGGS: This all comes as we learn Porter was actually in line for a promotion at the same time the abuse allegations were emerging.

KOSIK: President Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen says he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to porn star Stormy Daniels who once claimed she had an affair with Mr. Trump. It is the first time Cohen has acknowledged making the payment since it was first reported last month by "The Wall Street Journal."

Sources say Cohen paid Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, out of the concern the accusation could damage Mr. Trump. Keep in mind, this was weeks before the 2016 election.

In a statement Cohen says this. "The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone. Just because something isn't true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr. Trump."

BRIGGS: Cohen says he was not reimbursed by the Trump campaign or from the organization. He's previously said the president denies any affairs with Daniels. She has dodged questions about an affair in recent weeks but has not publicly denied it.

KOSIK: Joining us now, "CNN POLITICS" digital director Zach Wolf, live in our Washington bureau. Good morning to you.


KOSIK: You know, the first -- the first thing that I wanted to ask you out of the gate is John Kelly -- Chief of Staff John Kelly. Do you think he's going to survive this? Do you think he wants to survive this?

You know, he told "The Wall Street Journal" that all was done right. And then, there's an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" basically saying maybe not so fast that he should be out because it was -- it was -- it was Kelly who sort of brought order to the White House, got rid of Steve Bannon, got rid of Amarosa, controlled the flow of information at the White House. Was in charge of a success -- we're thinking of tax reform. Should he stay, should he go? Does he even want to stay?

WOLF: Well, I will say I am 100 percent out of the predictions business when it comes to what's going to happen with the staffing decisions in this White House. And, you know, just look at one of the people who they say could be a replacement for John Kelly, Gary Cohn. It was just a couple of months ago people were talking about how he might be on his way out.

So, when you're dealing with a mercurial president like this and ultimately, it comes down to President Trump and what he wants, his -- he likes people and then they're in, they're on the outs.

Kelly, clearly, I having a bad week or eight days. It's hard to see how he sort of reestablishes his credibility with the press certainly, and maybe with people inside the White House if he, indeed, did ask them to tell -- to not tell the truth and cover this up. That could still come out.

[05:35:09] So, you know, it's hard to see how he sort of regains that.


WOLF: But at this point, it's not really clear to me what's going to happen.

BRIGGS: And we once thought the same thing about Rex Tillerson though, right, and he's still here -- still as secretary of state.

But the timeline really is a mess for this White House and Chris Wray laid it all out. If you look back at all the opportunities this White House had to learn about what was going on they clearly botched it.

And here is Sarah Sanders' explanation of what happened.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I wouldn't have access to that information. I wouldn't know the answer to that. I can only give you the best information that I have and that's my understanding.

We're simply stating that we're giving you the best information that we're going to have. We relay the best and most accurate information that we have.


BRIGGS: So, it's the White House Personnel Security office now who's at fault for all of this. Sarah Sanders was either lied to or she is willingly lying to the American people.

How do they put this behind them?

WOLF: Well, I mean, the kind of options that you have are diversion, which is something that this White House has done in the past. I mean, some other news story could come and we could be focused on something else.

But I think there needs to be some sort of accountability on this. They need to figure out -- there needs to be an accounting in some way. It's reached that point. There's no way they can just kind of, you know, ignore it and move on.

KOSIK: You know, something else to come out of that intel hearing yesterday was, of course, Russia and the stern warning coming from -- unanimously coming from those intel officials.

I want you to listen to Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, speaking before the mic -- listen.


DAN COATS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts has successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.


KOSIK: OK, the message couldn't be clearer. Will the White House do anything to stop this from continuing?

WOLF: Well, it doesn't sound like President Trump is going to be the one directing any sort of action. He apparently doesn't even believe still to this day that Russia meddled despite the testimony there of his own director of National Intelligence that's not a Democrat or a career official. That's a former Republican senator, who was put in that job by President Trump, standing next to a bunch of other Trump appointees. So it's not like there is a partisan bent on the idea that Russia meddle.

And moving on frm there, I think one of the few people who doesn't believe it at this point, according to CNN's reporting, is still President Trump.

BRIGGS: Yes. The chairman of the Senate Intel Committee, Sen. Mark Warner, said "We still do not have a plan."

This has to come from the president. Who else can tell the Intelligence Community to act on this? Time will tell, Zach, but it doesn't look good for 2018.

We appreciate you being here. Zach Wolf.

KOSIK: Zach, thanks very much. OK.

President Trump calls the immigration debate now underway in the Senate, the last chance for Dreamers. But negotiations are off to a rocky start with Democrats and Republicans in a standoff over how debate should even proceed.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell trying to open the session with a vote on legislation to punish sanctuary cities. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer objecting to the measure because it has nothing to do with the Dreamer Act.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: There's no reason -- no reason not to come together and get a solution this week. This has been going on endlessly. They shut down the government over this. I want to see what they want to do.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Finding 60 votes for something that meets the needs of both sides and can deal with the Dreamers and border security is not easy. We all know that immigration is fraught with peril but this is the closest we've come and everybody has to make a really final effort.


KOSIK: Everybody has to make a final effort. But with the floor debate faltering, a bipartisan group of senators claims to be making progress behind the scenes on an immigration plan that could get the 60 votes needed to pass.

BRIGGS: A second federal judge temporarily blocking the Trump administration from ending DACA. That, of course, the program protecting young immigraitons brought here illegally as children. The New York-based judge ruling Dreamers in states who filed suit likely to succeed in their claim.

President Trump's decision to end DACA was arbitrary. Last month, a federal judge in California came to the same conclusion. DACA was originally set to end on March 5th.

KOSIK: OK, time for an early start on your money.

President Trump discussing the state of the steel industry with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday, saying he's considering a range of options to address imports that he believes are hurting U.S. steelworkers.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can not be without a steel industry. We cannot be without an aluminum industry. And so what we're talking about is tariffs and/or quotas.


[05:40:05] KOSIK: The president said these restrictions would help save struggling steel companies from foreign competitors like China that dump low-price metal on the U.S.

This is an issue he was very vocal about on the campaign trail and he framed it as a national security issue, saying he doesn't want the U.S. to rely on steel from a country it could be fighting with in the future.

Republican lawmakers, though, they're urging caution. They're saying they don't want to start a trade war over steel and aluminum dumping issues.

It is the administration's lastest jab on trade. According to the Commerce Department, trade investigations rose 81 percent in the frst 12 months of Trump's presidency, with tariffs imposed on solar panels, on washing machines, lumber, and paper.

Of course, the fate of NAFTA still in question.


KOSIK: That's the deal among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. That still hangs in the balance.

BRIGGS: Yes. Mike Lee and Roy Blunt, some senators -- some direct pushback --


BRIGGS: -- from the president. Very careful warnings on how he proceeds. All right.

Ahead, Shaun White making halfpipe history at the Winter Games. Coy Wire has all the latest action from PyeongChang, next.


[05:45:43] BRIGGS: All right. Snowboard superstar Shaun White soaring to historic gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

KOSIK: Coy Wire has more from PyeongChang. Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Good morning, Alison and Dave.

Thirty one years old, Shaun White. He captured his third Olympic gold medal and redemption after he failed the medal in the 2014 Sochi Games.

But more than his age, it was his mind coming into these games that was holding him back. Just four months ago he attempted this trick in New Zealand that left him with a gash and over 60 stitches in this face. He said earlier this week that that incident had him questioning why he's even still competing.

Well, now we know why. Needing to do something incredible.

In his final run to take the lead, White did that same trick and he nailed it. He scored nearly a perfect 100. He secured the United States' 100th gold medal in the history of the Winter Games.

Once his scored was announced Shaun burst into tears. His dad reportedly said that he had never even seen Shaun cry before. He was sobbing when he hugged his mom, dad, and family who where there.

All right. Allow us to introduce you to a plumber that's now starring for Team USA snowboard cross team. At 32 years old, Jonathan Cheever is seeing his dream of becoming an Olympian finally come true. And in order to pay the bills as he's pursued his dream, he's had to work alongside his dad, Mark, and brother, at D&J Mechanical. It's a compny his dad started and is named after Jonathan and his brother Derrick. Let's just say that being a plumber isn't always as glorious as being an Olympian. Listen to this.


JONATHAN CHEEVER, AMERICAN SNOWBOARDER: I'm sure you can imagine being a plumber -- job sites and things I wont talk about on the podium. Putting in a water here or a toilet. I've been a licensed plumber since 2004 and I'm a grinder.


WIRE: Now, Jonathan told a story about how for three hours one time at a restaurant he had to clean out coffee grinds because they -- the acidity can erode the pipes. He said it was awful. Stuff pouring all over him.

But, Jonathan competes later tonight, Eastern time, so we'll see if he can go from plumbing pipes to a gold medalist here in PyeongChang.

KOSIK: I'm all for having that plan B. You know, just in case the Olympic thing doesn't work out.

BRIGGS: Well listen, if coffee grinds is the worst thing he's cleaned out of pipes as plumber, he should be thankful.

KOSIK: Good point.

BRIGGS: We wont get into it.

WIRE: This is morning television. People aren't eating breakfast yet.

BRIGGS: Coy Wire, it's a great story. Thank you, my friend.

KOSIK: Thanks, Coy.

BRIGGS: As for Shaun White, he had the 100th United States gold medal of the Winter Games, but there is a #MeToo aspect to this story.

Just moments after clinching that gold, Shaun White was asked about sexual harassment allegations launched by Lena Zawaideh. She's a drummer in his band, "Bad Things."


SHAUN WHITE, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: You know, honestly, I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip, so -- but I don't think so. I am who I am and I'm proud of who I am. And my friends, you know, love me and vouch for me and I think that stands on its own, so thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: Now, back in August 2016, Lena Zawaideh filed an amended complaint to a civil suit alleging White had sexually harassed her. For his part, White admitted to sending her sexually explicit and graphic images. Last February, the pair reached an undisclosed settlement.

There was a press conference that you saw there. There was only eight questions asked in this press conference, all by male reporters. Christine Brennan, who is a CNN contributor and "USA Today" columnist wrote about this extensively in "USA Today," tried to ask a question. Again, no female reporters were called upon. It could be coincidence, maybe not.

KOSIK: There is her tweet.

BRIGGS: Maybe we haven't heard the last of this story. We shall see.

KOSIK: Yes, there's her tweet. "Thanks for asking all the questions."

You know, it really makes you question freedom of the press --

BRIGGS: Well --

KOSIK: -- and freedom for women --

BRIGGS: -- we'll see. It could have been coincidence.

KOSIK: -- to ask questions.


KOSIK: All right. When you're picking out your Valentine's Day bouquet today one company says they have a bouqet that -- get this -- lasts an entire year. Details coming up on "Money Stream" next.


[05:53:40] KOSIK: Welcome back.

Israeli police say there is sufficient evidence to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on criminal charges in two separate corruption cases. The prime minister insisting all allegations against him will be dismissed.

CNN's Ian Lee live for us from Jerusalem.

You know, Netanyahu, throughout this investigation, has said that there will be nothing because there is nothing, but investigators look like they've found something.


Last night, Israelis were glued to their televisions as the prime minister gave an impassioned speech in defense of himself, saying again that there was nothing. And then early this morning, we're also getting a statement from the

prime minister. In it, he says, "After reading the recommendation reports, I can say it's a radical and biased document with holes like swiss cheese and it does not hold water."

The next step in this process is this recommendation is going to the attorney general. It's going to be up to him to decide whether or not to move forward with the courts or just toss it out. If it does go into the courts it could be years before we have a resolution going all the way up to the high court. And even then, if they find him guilty, that's only when he'll have to step down.

There is a lot of political pressure though, right now, from the opposition. They are demanding that he steps down.

[05:55:00] Netanyahu's coalition partners, on the other hand, have said that they're with the prime minister. Although this morning, we did hear from his education minister, one of the coalition members, who said that Prime Minister Netanyahu was not living up to the standard expected of Israeli leaders.

KOSIK: And Netanyahu is Israel -- the second longest serving Prime Minister. CNN's Ian Lee live from Jerusalem. Thanks very much.

And a hiker who fell over 700 feet off the south side of Mount Hood in Oregon has died. Officials are not releasing his identity. Seven other climbers from two groups who were stranded on Hogsback cliff, they've been rescued. Police say strong winds, sunny conditions are all causing rocks and ice to fall, making the popular climbing spot extremely hazardous.

BRIGGS: Passengers called it "the scariest flight" of their lives after part of the cover tore off the right engine on a United flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. Just imagine what you'd think if you saw this outside your window. Passengers say they heard a big metallic bang, then the plane began to shake for more than 40 minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- but it's going to be, you know, you just -- I don't know how they did it. Thank God for that crew. That's all I got to say because they were calm and they held every -- it was just horrible.


BRIGGS: An emotional time. United spokesman say the plane made an emergency landing in Hawaii. The passengers did get off at the gate just as they normally would, although a bit frightened.

KOSIK: Nothing normal about that.


KOSIK: OK. A high ranking Chicago police officer shot and killed in downtown Chicago. Officials say Commander Paul Bauer, a 31-year veteran, was gunned down while pursuing a suspect who fled from other officers. The 53 -year-old had been in the area, attending active shooter training, when he heard an alert and responded to the scene.

BRIGGS: There was an honor procession Tuesday night for the slain police commander. Bauer leaves behind a wife and a daughter. Police recovered a gun from the unidentified suspect who was reportedly wearing a protective vest. He is now in custody.

KOSIK: OK. Let's get a check on CNN MoneyStream this morning. Global stocks are mixed at the moment with U.S. features pointing higher. Oh, the stock market finally calming down a bit Tuesday after two volatile weeks with the Dow closing higher for the third day in a row.

But don't get too comfortable, the smooth ride, it may not last because we're getting a couple reports on inflation, consumer and producer prices coming out this week, so investors are going to be watching to see if there has been a pick-up in inflation. Fears about inflation, that's initially what drove the market sell-off that began on February 2nd and included two 1,000-point plunges in the Dow.

Nearly a third of main street businesses say this is the best time in decades to expand. That's according to a survey from the National Federation of Independent Business. It's the highest level of enthusiasm since 1973. Wages and prices are also seeing a boost. Thirty percent of small businesses reported paying employees more. That's the highest since 2000. And the NFIB credits the Republican tax bill for the sense of optimism.

All right. You can say anything with flowers. It's Valentine's Day, but sending a limp bouquet, making the wrong impression, not a good idea. So a flower company named or called Venus Et Fleur specializes in boxed roses that this company says -- get this -- that these roses last an entire year.

The company works with a farm in Ecuador to develop a special coating that preserves each rose's texture, its shape and even the smell. The company harnessed the power of celebrity to promote their buds sending bouquets to Khloe Kardashian, DJ Khaled and Gigi Hadid to share on social media.

But these roses, they are not cheap. A single flower costs me $39 bucks, a box 42, Dave, it'll cost just $400. But you know what? You don't have to send roses for an entire year.

BRIGGS: You're not off the hook. That's a great gesture for Valentine's Day, but you're not off the hook for the entire year, fellas.

KOSIK: All right. Thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. New Day starts right now. See you tomorrow.