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Former Trump Aide Refuses to Comply With Subpoena; Kim Jong-un Wants to Write New History; Netanyahu Confidant to Work With Investigators. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 6, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:14] SAM NUNBERG, FORMER AIDE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: They want me over at the grand jury. Screw that. Why do I have to go? Donald Trump caused it because he's an idiot.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Dizzying. Defiant? Potentially damaging? A series of interviews from a former Trump campaign adviser raises the questions. Craziest, numerous questions to America. Is Sam Nunberg unhinged or did he just blow up the Russia investigation?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And the president getting push back from allies foreign and domestic about his plan for new tariffs. A former Treasury secretary now calls it the most irrational economic policy of a president in the last half century. Even Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, now standing up.


ROMANS: And telling the president, this, we don't think, is a good idea.

Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Tuesday, March 6th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East. "The Bachelor" finale was last night. It had more twists and turns than did the Sam Nunberg sound that played out across cable news.

We're sorry, America. But we'll recap it for you. OK?

One-time Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg has three days to decide if he'll still to his word and refuse to comply with a grand jury subpoena in the special counsel's investigation. It's a matter of great interest not only because of the cable news circus Nunberg whipped up but because claims he made could have -- could have -- a real impact on Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

He's supposed to appear Friday but in a series of interviews that could be called defiant, could be called erratic, could be called bizarre or all three, Nunberg said no way.


NUNBERG: They want me over -- they want me over at the grand jury. Screw that. Why do I have to go? Why? For what?


ROMANS: This week's whirlwind began with a grand jury subpoena for Nunberg seeking documents related to the president and top campaign officials. Nunberg has already spent more than five hours being interviewed by the special counsel's team. Yesterday he seemed to dare Mueller to come after him.


NUNBERG: You know what?

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER": You're actually willing going to go jail for this? Sam?

NUNBERG: I'm not cooperating. Arrest me.

TAPPER: You're not cooperating, arrest you?

NUNBERG: Yes, I'm not cooperating. You're more than happy -- if you want to arrest me, arrest me, because you know what? At this instance, and I'm not a fan of Donald Trump, Jake, and you know that.

TAPPER: I know. You had a big falling out.

NUNBERG: I'm not a fan of his. You know what? When they start asking for stuff like this Trump is right, it's a witch hunt.


BRIGGS: That falling out Mr. Tapper mentions, Nunberg was repeatedly hired and fired by the Trump team, the last time in 2015 for a racially charged Facebook post.

Throughout the day Nunberg leveled a series of allegations, most damning if true. Nunberg says he thinks Mr. Trump was aware during the campaign of the Trump Tower meeting between Russians and campaign officials including Don, Jr.


TAPPER: President Trump says he knew nothing about the meeting. Do you -- do you think that that's true?


TAPPER: You don't think that's true?

NUNBERG: No. It doesn't -- and Jake, I've watched your news reports. You know it's not true. He talked about it for a week before and I don't why he did this. All he had to say was yes, we met with the Russians. The Russians offered us something and we thought they had something, and that was it. I don't know why he went around trying to hide and he shouldn't have.


ROMANS: Both President Trump and Don Jr. have denied the president knew about that meeting. Nunberg also says he believes Trump may very well have done something with the Russians during the election. That's what he said. May very well have done something, his words.

He also singled out former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.


NUNBERG: Do you think I would communicate with Carter Page?

TAPPER: I'm guessing --

NUNBERG: Carter Page is a scum bag.

TAPPER: OK. So the answer is no. You would not communicate with Carter Page.

NUNBERG: So the answer is no. And Carter Page was colluding with the Russians.

TAPPER: So Carter Page was colluding with the Russians, you think?

NUNBERG: Yes. I believe Carter Page is colluding with the Russians. Carter Page is a weird dude. I don't think he should have been involved in 2that campaign.


BRIGGS: "Weird dude." That goes for a lot of things last night.

Carter Page tells CNN Nunberg's claim is laughable. Inside the West Wing officials were stunned calling the interviews, quote, "nuts." Press Secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed the significance of all of Nunberg's remarks.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As we've said many times before there was no collusion with the Trump campaign. Anything further on what his actions are, he hasn't worked at the White House so I certainly can't speak to him or the lack of knowledge that he clearly has.


[04:05:05] BRIGGS: Of course Nunberg was just getting warmed up when that sound bite occurred. Nunberg fired back at the White House press secretary in very, very personal terms.


NUNBERG: If Sarah Huckabee wants to start debasing me, she's a joke. OK. Fine, yes, she's unattractive, she's a fat slob, OK, fine. But that's not relevant. Her -- the person she works for has a 30 percent approval rating. OK.


ROMANS: All right. Rounding out all the interviews, Nunberg told our Erin Burnett he had an idea for a compromise.


NUNBERG: I was thinking to save time, I have been advised against this. Maybe I'll just give them my password. My e-mail password because why do I have to go --

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: So then you're going to comply?

NUNBERG: Then I would comply. Yes.

BURNETT: So now you're saying you might comply.

NUNBERG: I have no problem complying in itself. What I'm not going to do is sit, Erin, for 15 hours after I sat with them -- I have no problem if they get the e-mails.


ROMANS: It's just --


ROMANS: If Nunberg does not hand over documents and show up for the grand jury Friday, he could be held in contempt, punishable by a fine or jail time. No one is above the law. I mean, this is a process that he regrets clearly that he is somehow involved in, tangential to, but, you know, there is a legal process under way here.

BRIGGS: Let's just be clear. Erin had to ask if he had been drinking. And it wasn't unusual question. I feel the need to shower this morning after listening to Mr. Nunberg.


BRIGGS: But we're not done yet because Congressman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee now needs to interview Mr. Nunberg as part of its Russia investigation. The committee's top ranking Democrat wants to explore Nunberg's claim yes, the president may have known about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, but Republican Mike Conaway who is running the House investigation indicating the probe could wrap up soon with no plans to question Nunberg.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump's new tariffs facing a backlash from allies, aides, fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. But Trump has no plans to back down. He wants to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and our second biggest trading partner is not happy. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warns Trump it will hurt NAFTA

negotiations. He called Trump Monday. Trudeau made a case for Canada's exemption. Right now no countries are exempt.

That's how trade wars gets started, right? You have tariffs on one, somebody else retaliates, somebody retaliates on something else. The president, he told reporters he is not worried.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think so. I don't think you're going to have a trade war.


ROMANS: Remember just a few days ago he said a trade war is good and you can win it.

Speaker Ryan and other top Republicans disagree with the president here. Ryan spokeswoman says he is extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and he's urging this White House to not advance with this plan.

Meanwhile economic adviser Gary Cohn plans to set up a meeting between the president and companies hurt by the tariffs. Companies like Ford and GM. Carmakers import lots of steel. The new tariffs could cost both companies $1 billion per year. Each company. Look at the percent of the profit there. That's analysis from Goldman Sachs.

It's one reason former Treasury secretary Larry Summers, no fan of this president and this White House, by the way, a Democrat. He calls this the most irrational economic policy any president has introduced in the last half century.


LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER SECRETARY, U.S. TREASURY: There are 50 times as many people in the United States who work in steel-using industries as there are in steel-producing industries. 50 times.


SUMMERS: And all of them are losing because the firms they work for are now going to have 25 percent more expensive inputs. That can't be rational policy.


ROMANS: This policy would not just hurt U.S. carmakers. Retaliation threatens all U.S. exports particularly harmful to Midwest farmers. Manufacturers buy most of that imported metal, by the way. Higher costs will force companies to raise their prices or cut jobs. Top five states that depend on manufacturing jobs the most? Guess who they voted for for president? BRIGGS: No surprise there. Just a question for you. If Canada does

not receive an exemption, how then the president will make this national security argument? Canada is our number one importer.

ROMANS: And that's what Justin Trudeau is talking about there. You know, look, one of the criticisms here is that the president and this plan are actually driving our allies and friends away from us at a time when we need to be working with them to blunt the rise of an autocrat in China.


ROMANS: Right? You know, you look at these two stories and they really overlap.

BRIGGS: A lot to unpack there.

All right. The 2018 election season officially kicks off today in Texas with eight months until the general election. Texas Democrats and Republicans make their picks for the state's top offices. Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz among those expected to breeze through primary contests.

[04:10:03] Cruz expected to face a stiff challenge, though, in the fall from Democratic state rep Beto O'Rourke who is expected to win the Democratic primary later today.

ROMANS: A lot of the focus will be on contests in north Texas. With several Republican retirements in Congress, Democrats are trying to build on their party's momentum since President Trump took office. Early voting for Democrats more than doubled from 2014.

BRIGGS: The 10th longest serving senator in U.S. history is about to retire. Mississippi Republicans That Cochran who is 80 years old announcing he'll retire effective April 1st due to health issues. That means both of the state's Senate seats will be on the ballot this fall. Republican Governor Phil Bryant will appoint an interim successor for Cochran until November's special election. That election will be a so-called jungle race. Candidates appear on ballot with no party affiliation. Whoever wins the seat will finish out Cochran's term which ends in 2020. Normally safe Republican territory but we remind you, Alabama happened.


BRIGGS: Who knows?

Ahead, another nor'easter bearing down on the East Coast. And this one will leave a lot of snow behind. Big cities getting ready for close to a foot of snow. The forecast for you next.


[04:15:18] ROMANS: The Florida House will now have its say on new gun measures in the wake of the Parkland shooting. The state Senate narrowly passed a bill Monday that would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. Require a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and ban the sale or possession of bump-fire stocks. It would also give law enforcement more power to seize weapons from those deemed mentally unfit.

BRIGGS: The Senate, they wrote a controversial provision in the bill allowing teachers to be armed. Florida Governor Rick Scott took issue with some aspects of the proposal. A spokesperson says the governor will review the bill before deciding whether to sign it. The legislative session begins on Friday.

ROMANS: Oregon's governor signing a new gun law that closes the Intimate Partner loophole. Now preventing convicted stalkers and domestic violent offenders from buying and keeping guns. The bill had bipartisan support in the state legislature. Governor Katie Brown -- Kate Brown called it a milestone, though she said lawmakers have more work to do.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight. Washington state will be the first in the nation to have a law protecting net neutrality. Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill even as the FCC tries to overturn federal net neutrality. Those policies require Internet providers to treat all online content the same. It means they cannot deliberately speed up or slow down specific sites to hurt their business rivals. The law had bipartisan support in Washington state. It takes effect June 6th.

Hunker down, folks. Winter readying one last punch to the northeast. Another big storm brewing for tonight and tomorrow and it could drop significant snow in New York and Boston.

We get more from meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey guys, good morning.

Another nor'easter but unlike the last one, this one will not have as much wind so we're not talking 90-mile-an-hour winds. That's excellent news. The problem is we have cold enough air unlike last time. So this will be more of a snow event than our last nor'easter.

Here comes the lowest. It continues to push to the east. Low actually comes out of the Midwest. It's been snowing pretty good there but it's when it hits the water, it will have a secondary coastal low developing and there comes the snow. It will be accompanied by 40, 50-mile-an-hour winds. So at times it will be white-out conditions.

No question about it, this is going to be a mess for travel all up and down I-95 and then of course the residual delays that will begin to come out. So six to 12 inches, up to a foot of snow. Some areas could be looking at 12 to 15 inches of snowfall. The closer you are to the water, the better chance that your snow totals will be kept down because we'll get a low warm air from the Atlantic as the storm gets a bit closer.

But this is the timing in Philly, six to eight beginning at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday. And then throughout the day, the snow begins to move into New York and eventually ending up in Boston. Guys. BRIGGS: All right. Thanks so much. Should be wicked.

Ahead, the North Korean dictator says he wants to write a new history with the South. But overnight, Seoul says it's going ahead with the military buildup anyway. A live report is next.


[04:22:34] BRIGGS: Kim Jong-un telling a delegation from South Korea he wants to, quote, "write a new history of national reunification."

So after an unprecedented meeting between the two Koreas in Pyongyang Monday are possible talks between North Korea and the United States any more likely?

Let's ask Will Ripley, he's live with us from Beijing this morning. Good morning, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we could get some insight in just the next few minutes, Dave, because that delegation arrived back from North Korea in Seoul moments ago. And soon they'll be heading to Washington to brief counterparts in the United States about exactly what happened.

What was Kim Jong-un like sitting across the table. What's his personality, his temperament? These are things that world leaders don't know because frankly he hasn't really met with any with the exemption of Dennis Rodman and a former top leader of China's Communist Party back in 2015.

But, you know, while it was a friendly meeting, a dinner meeting that lasted more than four hours in a very important building in Pyongyang, the headquarters of the Workers Party of Korea, where these talks go? Even if there are talks with the United States, there is a key sticking point. And it's the nuclear issue.

North Korea has said it's not giving up its nuclear weapons. 38North, the North Korea watchdog, says they're noticing increased activity at the Yongbyon nuclear reactor where North Korea has vowed to mass produce its nuclear weapons. Something that Kim Jong-un said he was going to do, something he is now doing. He also said he was going to try to improve relations with South Korea. He is doing that as well.

The United States has said they will not accept a nuclear armed North Korea. And if North Korea doesn't disarm, there could be a military confrontation on the horizon. So clearly right now diplomacy but where this is heading, really uncertain -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Nobody knows. Will Ripley live for us in Beijing, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Goodwill and controversy as President Trump hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. Just hours before the visit a person with close ties to Netanyahu agreeing to work with investigators in a corruption case involving the Israeli leader and his inner circle.

CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem with more -- Oren.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, this trip was supposed to be a welcome break from the investigation against the prime minister and his inner circle. But just a short time before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down with President Donald Trump, another blow to the prime minister when one of his closest confidants, Nir Hefetz, his former family spokesperson, also turned state's witness agreeing to work with prosecutors and investigators.

That makes the third Netanyahu confidant to agree to work with investigators. So that cloud of the investigations following Netanyahu on his trip to Washington to meet with Trump and then from there on to New York.

[04:25:02] As for the meeting itself, there were no real surprises there. Trump and Netanyahu famously get along well and that was on full display. That largely what the meeting was about. The optics of these two leaders sitting there together, smiling together, shaking hands, and agreeing to keep working together. Both of them talking about the strongest ever ties between Israel and the U.S. Trump saying he may come to Jerusalem for the embassy opening in May.

ROMANS: All right. Oren Liebermann, thank you so much for that this morning.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, in a series of interviews so bizarre, Erin Burnett had to ask former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg this question.


BURNETT: Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath.

NUNBERG: Well, I have not had a drink.

BURNETT: You haven't had a drink. So that's not --


BURNETT: Anything else?



NUNBERG: No. Besides my meds.


NUNBERG: Anti-depressants. Is that OK?


BRIGGS: So that happened. Nunberg says he won't cooperate with the special counsel's team, but some of his claims sure might interest him.