Return to Transcripts main page


House Intel Committee Republicans End Russia Probe; Nor'easter Number Three Hits 44 Million In NY and New England; Police: Austin Package Bombs Appear Related; U.K. Blames Russia For Nerve Poisoning. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 13, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:24] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: No evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: That's the finding of Republicans on the House Intel Committee -- no collusion. But does it matter since they are defying the entire Intelligence Community and have lost all credibility?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A special election with big implications in Pennsylvania. Today, we get the strongest sign yet if Republicans are in trouble for the midterms.

BRIGGS: And police in Austin, Texas urging vigilance. Three package bombs in just over a week with two of them deadly. New information overnight adding to theory these could be hate crimes.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs. It's 5:30 eastern time.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is --

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: What is this? Is it Tuesday? Is it only Tuesday?

BRIGGS: It's a nor'easter day.

ROMANS: It is a no --

BRIGGS: That's all we know. And it's Election Day as well.

ROMANS: It is, in Pennsylvania. And gosh, a lot happening --

BRIGGS: Oh, there it is.

ROMANS: There is it.

BRIGGS: WHDH in Boston. ROMANS: That's Boston.

All right, have fun taking care of the kids at home --

BRIGGS: Good luck.

ROMANS: -- from school today.

BRIGGS: That's an exasperated sigh from all the parents --

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: -- watching us. All right.

Let's begin with politics here at 31 past minutes past the hour.

In a move stunning even by current standards, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee declaring unequivocally there was no collusion. Republicans breaking from the Intel Community over the question of Russian interference in the election, concluding the Kremlin was not trying to help Donald Trump win.

They are shutting down their yearlong investigation despite not interviewing some key witnesses.


REP. MIKE CONAWAY, R-TX.: We've interviewed 73 witnesses, we've looked at 300-plus thousand documents to try to find what there might be. We've seen some, perhaps, meetings that were inappropriate or were ill-advised to have taken. We've seen some chance coincidences where people bump into each other in various places.

But no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians or the Clinton campaign and the Russians. But the Putin purported preference for Trump, we think, is not supported by the evidence.


BRIGGS: The president tweeting his approval in all caps -- he's yelling at you -- praising the Intel Committee for finding no evidence of collusion with his 2016 campaign.

But one Republican member of the committee, Tom Rooney of Florida, offering some harsh words for the panel.


REP. TOM ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: And we've gone completely off the rails and now we're just basically a political forum for people to leak information to drive the day's news. So we've -- as you said -- as you alluded to, we've lost all credibility.


ROMANS: The Republicans' move accelerating the disintegration of the House Intelligence Committee into a forum for partisan warfare.

Ranking member Adam Schiff says committee Democrats were forced into battle with Republicans.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think it really is all too easy and a bit of a copout to say well, the puck's in both their houses.

The reality is the mission of the chairman from the beginning was to protect the president, not follow the facts wherever they would lead. And that was a fundamental problem that we had to deal with and it left us in the position of either going along with essentially a whitewash or calling out the majority every step of the way, and that's the course I think we were forced to take.


BRIGGS: The GOP staff, this morning, plan to give Democrats a 150- page draft report and Democrats expected to produce their own report arguing collusion did occur.

ROMANS: With the House Intel Committee and its Russia probe imploding, special counsel Robert Mueller is forging ahead, his boss overseeing the investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offering his full support in an interview with "USA Today."

Rosenstein says, "The special counsel is not an unguided missile. I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel."

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us this morning is CNN contributor Salena Zito, staff reporter for the "Washington Examiner" and columnist for the "New York Post." Author of "The Great Revolt."

It gets into these swing states like --


BRIGGS: -- Pennsylvania, which we'll get to in a moment.

She's with us from Pittsburgh. Salena, good morning to you.

Let's just start real briefly on the findings of the House Intel Committee because on the far right, Trump supporters say no evidence of collusion. On the left, they're waiting for Bob Mueller and the special counsel and they'll come out with their own report.

If you're in the middle and you're just sick of this crap you listen to Tom Rooney, who says we've lost all credibility.

What can we make of these findings?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, REPORTER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER," COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK POST," AUTHOR, "THE GREAT REVOLT": (via Skype): Tom Rooney, who is from Pittsburgh by the way, is part of the Steelers family.

You know, Rooney, I think, really expresses the sentiments of a lot of people. Whether you are a Trump supporter, whether you are a Hillary supporter, whether you didn't show up and vote at all, I think people are just -- believe that Washington is become so caught up in a swirl of partisan politics it's really incredibly difficult to wade through and weigh out every piece of evidence, every statement, and say OK, this is conclusive, this is what's happening.

[05:35:14] I think a lot people are just sort of stepping back from the constant swirl and waiting to see what Mueller says. And I think once that happens there'll be a lot more clarity not only for Washington but also for the American people.

ROMANS: Yes, the leaks and the pieces of information, and trying to --

ZITO: Yes.

ROMANS: -- talk to people who have been deposed and figure out what -- it's just -- there's a lot of -- a lot -- you're right, swirling around there.

Let's talk about what's happening in your district, PA 18. What will decide that race?

ZITO: Well, it's really fascinating.

First of all, as we all know, special elections are incredibly difficult to figure out in terms of who's going to win. All polling points to Conor Lamb having the lead but special elections, you really don't know who's going to show up on a cold Tuesday to vote for a member of Congress in a seat that doesn't even exist anymore.

Because the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court redrew all the seats, the seat that these two men -- Rick Saccone, the Republican and Conor Lamb, the Democratic -- are running for doesn't even exist anymore so that makes this race even more interesting.

You know, today, I'm looking for -- in terms of the deciders, I'm looking at union voters. They have not weakened their support for Donald Trump but when they look at Lamb and they look at Saccone they have two men that are essentially on the same page with the exception of right-to-work, and that is taking them away from Saccone and towards Lamb because Saccone is a right-to-work Democrat -- or Republican.

And both of these men are running essentially on the same issues. Lamb has refused to criticize Trump. He supports his tariffs and he's not running as a Democrat but more as an Independent.

BRIGGS: And both are running against Nancy Pelosi, which is interesting.

ZITO: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: Which may hold implications down the line in 2018.

We want to ask you about that rally on Saturday night. You're not just part of this district, you were at the Trump rally on Saturday night when the president came there and talked more about Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Oprah Winfrey than he did about Rick Saccone. The star of the show -- the 75-minute WWE match -- was the star, the president.

And, Seth Meyers, interestingly enough -- a late-night comedian -- put this in its proper perspective -- listen.


SETH MEYERS, HOST, NBC "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Now, as for the candidate Rick Saccone, who Trump was ostensibly there to support, he barely came up. Trump's like the friend you invite you to your karaoke birthday party who shows up late, doesn't bring a gift, and then sings "Stairway to Heaven" 10 times in a row.


BRIGGS: It's funny but it hits at the central point here. The president has made this race about him. What does that mean if Saccone loses?

ZITO: Well -- well, first of all, Seth Meyers also has Pittsburgh roots. Just thought I'd point that out to you.

You know -- I mean, look, I talked to people that attended the event. The president -- they were there for the president. And what this means for the president if Saccone loses is you've got to put more pressure in these races. You can't just show up a couple of days ahead of time.

I really do not believe, based on the people that I've interviewed across the -- and this is a vast district. It took me an hour to get to a coal miner's rally the other day for Lamb, so this is a massive district in terms of geography.

So, you know, I think that what it tells the Trump administration is that you have to tell better stories about your candidate. Saccone did not have the best sort of message about what he's done and what he's accomplished in life. And you have to have less about a race about Nancy Pelosi because that didn't work in this race. You've got to talk more about his accomplishments.

And I think that if Saccone loses, that's one of the things that the Trump administration has to remember going forward into the midterms.

BRIGGS: It's all about Pittsburgh, right? I mean, you made that --

ZITO: Yes, right?

BRIGGS: -- clear.

ZITO: Center of the universe. BRIGGS: All right. So do some exit polling for us today. We'll be following you on Twitter @SalenaZito. Thank you, my friend.

ROMANS: Thanks, Salena. Nice to see you.

ZITO: Thank you.

BRIGGS: OK, Stormy Daniels wants to talk. Her attorney sending a letter to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen offering to wire $130,000 back by Friday if it allowed her to speak freely. Cohen and the White House deny any sexual relationship between the president and the adult film star.

[05:40:05] ROMANS: A source close to the president tells CNN he's been asking friends how they think he should handle the Stormy Daniels scandal. We're told the president is being advised not to fight attempts to break the confidentiality agreement because it would make him look guilty.

Here's Stormy Daniels' lawyer on CNN.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: They can run and they can hide but we're not going home.

I've run out of superlatives to describe this explanation that we've heard from Mr. Cohen, who now expects the American people to believe that he took a home equity loan out on one of his homes in order to pay $130,000 on behalf of a billionaire running for president.


BRIGGS: CBS says it is moving forward with an interview Anderson Cooper conducted last week with Stormy Daniels despite the prospect of a potential legal challenge from Cohen.

ROMANS: All right.

The White House blocking the biggest-ever tech deal, citing national security concerns. President Trump ordering Singapore-based Broadcom to end its hostile takeover of Qualcomm, the top U.S. maker -- computer chip maker, an industry that touches everything from smartphones to cars.

Trump writes, "There's credible evidence that Broadcom might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States."

His order follows the rare intervention of a panel that vets foreign deals -- the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) -- and their concern, China. Broadcom is known for cost cutting. The panel worries that will slow Qualcomm's development of 5G wireless tech and means the U.S. falls behind China in the race to 5G.

Broadcom disagreed but the Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the decision was based solely on national security sensitivities and did not make any other statement about Broadcom.

This isn't the first time the administration has blocked foreign investment, especially where tech and China are concerned. Last September, it ended the takeover of an American chipmaker by a Chinese government-backed private equity firm.

Forty-one minutes past the hour and your schools are closed. I'm so sorry. Dave's crying over here.

We have another nor'easter -- another one here battering New England this morning. Dangerous travel conditions for anyone who has to go out. Millions of parents forced to watch their children again.

BRIGGS: No mas, no mas.

ROMANS: The forecast, next.


[05:46:50] BRIGGS: Stop me if you've heard this before. Another nor'easter churning from New York up through New England. It could affect at least 44 million people with hurricane-force gusts, blizzard conditions along the Massachusetts coast. Schools closed in cities including Boston, Hartford, Providence, Portland, Maine and, of course, my town, unfortunately.

Expect a very rough or impossible commute this morning. Amtrak suspending service between New York and Boston until at least 11:00 a.m. Air travel also will be affected, especially at Logan.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joining us live from the Weather Center with why so many schools are closed yet again. Good morning, Ivan.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, Dave, because we're going to get crushed with snowfall I think here in some areas.

In fact, what I'll do for you here is I'll draw a line of where I think we're talking. East of this, very heavy snowfall and very strong winds. To the west, I don't think you're going to get much and that includes the city of New York, right.

NYC will not get much. One to two inches at most. But eastern Long Island will be getting hit not only with the heavy snow but also with some very gusty winds.

Our area of low pressure continues to intensify. Our coastal low -- our winter hurricane, right? Forty-one mile an hour wind gusts in Boston, Providence now at 28. These will continue to go up as we head throughout the day.

Winter storm warnings for the entire area you see in pink. And then right along the coast, that's where we upgraded to blizzard warnings. Basically, that means we're going to involve the heavy snow with wind gusts between 45 and 65 miles an hour. It's going to be whiteout conditions, I think, by later on there this morning and into the afternoon. Still thinking 12 to 18 inches. I wouldn't be surprised to get some areas up around eastern (ph) Mass with 20 inches of snowfall. But they've really -- the totals kind of go down as you go further south and west away from the storm. So in New York, again, anywhere from one to three inches.

I'll put the clock into motion. Here we are at 6:00 a.m. almost, right? By 10:00 a.m., look at the wind gusts in Nantucket and parts of the south shore in Boston. They're 60 to 65 mile an hour winds.

This is going to be a quick-moving storm so I think this morning we will have the potential for some coastal flooding, but then the storm goes away as we head through the next several days and then things will begin to wind down.

But on the good side, as you've been mentioning, the parents get to hang out with the kids and nowhere to go this morning.

ROMANS: Wait, that's a good sign?

BRIGGS: That's a good sign, Ivan. I just got that dreaded text no one wants at 5:30.

Thank you, sir.

CABRERA: Yes, you bet.

ROMANS: I'm running out of tricks. I'm running out of tricks.

All right, thanks, Ivan.

BRIGGS: And statics (ph).

ROMANS: New information overnight about that deadly package bombings in Austin, Texas. It's feeding the theory the attacks could be hate crimes. Authorities have already said the three incidents in 10 days appear to be related.

Two of the explosions happened Monday. The first came on March second.

Two people were killed, one badly hurt, all of them black or Hispanic.

BRIGGS: Now this morning, "The Washington Post" reporting both victims killed are relatives of prominent members of Austin's African- American community.


BRIAN MANLEY, CHIEF, AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT, AUSTIN, TEXAS: The United States Postal Service has reviewed their records and that we do not believe that this was at all a delivery that came through the postal service, and we're checking with our other package deliveries services as well. But the initial indication from them is that this was not a package that was delivered by any mail service, so it was placed on the front doorstep. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Authorities warning all residents to be careful with packages. Austin police responded to 82 calls of suspicious packages last night alone.

[05:50:04] ROMANS: All right. The British prime minister wants answers from the Russians today about a nerve agent attack in the U.S. And once again, on Russia, the White House refuses to say much at all.



THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: It is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent.


[05:55:00] ROMANS: British Prime Minister Theresa May's forceful statement to the House of Commons but she's getting little help, so far, from President Trump.

May telling lawmakers the military-grade nerve agent used against a former spy has been identified as a substance developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson standing firmly by Britain and harshly condemning Moscow.

BRIGGS: In a statement, Tillerson said quote "From Ukraine to Syria and now the U.K., Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens."

Tillerson went much further than did the White House.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The attack was reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible. We offer the fullest condemnation and we extend our sympathy to the victims and their families and our support to the U.K. government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're not saying that Russia was behind this act?

SANDERS: Right now, we are standing with our U.K. ally. I think they're still working through even some of the details of that and we're going to continue to --


BRIGGS: Point of fact, Sanders said that after the prime minister had blamed Russia for the assassination attempt.

For more, let's go to London and international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson. Good morning, Nic.

Theresa May saying if it's true it's an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. What do they want to hear and when do they want to hear it from the ambassador?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They need to hear it by the end of today. They want to hear a yes-no on the question that Theresa May has put and she's going to decide what she'll -- what she'll do from there. What measures she'll put in place.

So what she's hearing from the White House is not going to fill her full of -- full of the sort of strength of the special relationship that she knows needs to be strong at a time like this, facing an adversary like Russia where she wants President Trump, not just the secretary of state, at her back.

But, of course, what we know in Moscow at the moment is they like very much what they're hearing from the White House because they think it divides Britain from the United States. We know that's one of President Putin's favorite tactics.

We've heard from the Foreign Ministry spokesman after Theresa May spoke. We have a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman saying that this was -- what Theresa May said was just fairytales.

We've also heard today from a Russian senator who said actually, this nerve agent Novichok that the Soviet Union made in the seventies and eighties -- we stopped making it in the nineties, he said, and guess what? We destroyed the last of the stock in September last year under the auspices of the international chemical weapons watchdog.

We're checking out that line right now with that organization. Nothing back yet. Theresa May, no doubt, will be doing the same, Dave.

BRIGGS: And we're told the U.K. foreign secretary said any potential punishment against Russia would be tomorrow.

Nic Robertson live for us in the U.K. Thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right, it's that time of the morning. Let's get a check on "CNN Money."

Global stocks mixed right now after the Dow and the S&P fell over lingering fears about a trade war. President Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum would make those imports more expensive. Bad news for companies like Boeing, Cat, United Technology. Shares of all three yesterday fell at least two percent.

But the Nasdaq -- wow, it rose as Amazon and Apple both hit all-time highs pushing Apple's market value past $925 billion, putting it on a path to becoming the first trillion-dollar company. What is Apple doing with all that cash? Well, buying the Netflix for magazines, Texture, the digital service that lets readers access more than 200 magazines for a monthly fee.

Senior V.P. Eddy Cue says Apple is committed to quality journalism but did not disclose the price. And with a $925 billion market value, he explained to CNN's Dylan Byers why Apple isn't making bigger media purchases.


EDDY CUE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNET SOFTWARE AND SERVICES, APPLE: We're not after quantify, we're after quality. We don't try to sell the most smartphones in the world, we don't try to sell the most. We try to make the best one and hopefully, the other piece happens.

And so, when you think of content, great storytelling is what's important.


ROMANS: It's unclear how Apple will integrate the service of what it means for Apple news. It comes as Apple looks to beef up services like music streaming and mobile payments.

Nice to see Dylan Byers there as South by Southwest.

BRIGGS: Yes, absolutely.

ROMANS: So, real cool.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Enjoy the snow out there in Boston. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me the strongest piece of evidence that supports collusion because there just isn't any.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They claim there's no collusion, there's no collusion. They never once looked for collusion.

ROONEY: They were trying to help Trump at some point. They were also trying to hurt our side.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't agree. They were attracted to him because they thought that he would be much better for them.

MAY: It is highly likely that Russia was responsible.

SANDERS: The attack was reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rex Tillerson has come out condemning Russia. That has not been met at all by the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A loud boom. It shook the windows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a pool of blood everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the third, over the past 10 days.


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, March 13th, 6:00 here in New York.