Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Already Tweeting His Reaction To The James Comey Memos; A Big Wall Street Bank About To Be Slapped With A $1 Billion Fine; President Putin Is Ready For A Meeting With President Trump. Aired: 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 04:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, HOST, EARLY START: Breaking overnight. President Trump already tweeting his reaction to the James Comey memos just turned over to Congress and leaked to the media.

CHRISTINE ROMANS: Rudy Giuliani joins the Trump legal team telling CNN he plans to give the Mueller investigation "a little push."


ROBERT SCHULTZ, SHERIFF, GILCHRIST COUNTY: What do you expect happens when you demonize law enforcement?


BRIGGS: A Florida sheriff not holding back after the ambush and murder of two of his deputies.

ROMANS: A big Wall Street bank about to be slapped with a $1 billion fine for charging people for insurance they didn't need and fees they shouldn't have to pay.

Good morning, welcome to "Early Start." I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Friday, April 20th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East, 11:00 a.m. in Moscow, 5:00 p.m. in Seoul. We are live from both of those locations shortly, but here they are Christine, the memos took 45 minutes to leak to the media. That is where we are in 2018.

We will talk about them shortly. We start there with President Trump up late last night tweeting on his reaction of the declassified versions of the Comey memos provided to Congress and leaked to the media.

The President wrote, "James Comey memos just out and show clearly that there was no collusion, no obstruction. Also, he leaked classified information. Wow. Will the witch hunt continue?"

Now, critics find some of those assertions questionable.

ROMANS: Many of the memos obtained by CNN were written by then, FBI Director James Comey hours or minutes after seven different conversations with President Trump. The memos back up much of what Comey has already said publicly and

adds some remarkable new details. More now from CNN justice reporter, Laura Jarrett in Washington.

LAURA JARRETTE, JUSTICE REPORTER, CNN: Well, the memos are out and they almost read like unedited pages from Comey's book providing a glimpse into how Comey interacted with the President despite the so- called cloud of the Russia investigation hanging over them.

Discussions of loyalty, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and just a clear sense of those salacious rumors about Trump's visit to Moscow in 2013 really got under his skin at least, according to Comey.

Now, in one of the unclassified memos, it includes this now famous conversation where Trump allegedly told Comey, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go. To letting Flynn go." But there is also new information, including a claim, that President Trump told Comey at a dinner at the White House back in January of 2017 that he had "serious reservations" about Mike Flynn's judgment.

And that former Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus actually asked Comey if Flynn was under surveillance just days before Flynn was fired.

Now almost immediately, lawmakers jumped on this news with Democrats like Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi tweeting that the release of these Comey memos are just further proof of Trump's contempt for the rule of law.

But Republicans say the memos are more indicative of what they don't say and they actually prove that former Director Comey never felt obstructed and that he never wrote that he felt threatened. Dave, Christine.

BRIGGS: So, they're all in the eye of the beholder. Thank you, Laura. As for the salacious details, she mentioned there, those details about Mr. Trump's visit to Moscow that bothered him so much.

Here is just one except, "He then went on at great length explaining that he has nothing to do with Russia. He has a letter from the largest law firm in DC saying he has gotten no income from Russia. He was not involved with hookers in Russia. Can you imagine me? Hookers? I have a beautiful wife and it has been very painful."

ROMANS: In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Comey admits he has no evidence President Trump is compromised by the Russians, but he claims it is " possible." And he says there are two reasons why.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: One, the President is constantly bringing it up with me to deny it and in my experience as an investigator, it is not an iron clad rule, but it is a striking thing when someone constantly brings up something to deny that you didn't ask about. And then second, I have always been struck with my encounters with him

that we would not criticize Vladimir Putin even in private which struck me as odd. Now, those are not definitive. Those aren't conclusive facts. But I am not -- the reason I am saying it's possible is there are things that lead my common sense to believe it is possible.


BRIGGS: #it'spossible. James Comey also talking to Jake Tapper about the case against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe moments before the interview, the Justice Department's Inspector General sent his findings on McCabe to the US Attorney's Office in Washington for possible prosecution.

McCabe is accused of lying to internal investigators. Comey was cautious with his comments.


JAKE TAPPER, ANCHOR, CNN: If they ultimately bring a case against Andrew McCabe, would you be a witness for the prosecution?

COMEY: Potentially. I don't know whether the reporting is accurate. I know it's CNN reporting, but I don't know it of my own accord. But sure, given that the IG's report reflects interactions that Andy McCabe had with me and other FBI senior executives, I could well be a witness.



BRIGGS: Shortly thereafter, this tweet from President Trump. "James Comey just threw Andrew McCabe under the bus. The Inspector General's report on McCabe is a disaster for both of them getting a little/lot of their own medicine."

ROMANS: All right, Rudy Giuliani is joining President Trump's personal legal team. The former US Attorney and New York City Mayor tells CNN he will be helping push the Russia investigation toward a conclusion.

Giuliani says he has known Robert Mueller a long time. He says he will ask the Special Counsel for a list and then checking off that list might go as quickly as a couple of weeks. Giuliani says the President never indicated to him any intention to fire Mueller because he knows it would be "counterproductive."

Giuliani told CNN, "Bob is the best we can do," adding, "Mueller is fair."

BRIGGS: Sources telling CNN Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein informed Trump last week that Trump is not a target in the investigation of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Rosenstein was not referring to the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller's investigation which is separate, but Mueller's team has also told Mr. Trump's lawyers, the President is not a target of their Russia probe.

The Justice Department says Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months in New York because of his business dealings.

CIA Director, Mike Pompeo now has one Democrat in his corner in his bid to become Secretary of State. North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp announcing her support for President Trump's embattled nominee, but Pompeo still faces an uphill battle and may need more Democratic support because Republican Senator Rand Paul opposes him. John McCain battling brain cancer and Arizona's Jeff Flake remains undecided.

ROMANS: You said yesterday, watch those red state Democrats to see if he can get some support.

BRIGGS: That's the key.

ROMANS: All right, a major new setback this morning for the Trump administration's efforts to pressure sanctuary cities. A federal appeals panel has blocked the Justice Department from requiring cities to cooperate with immigration enforcement if they want to continue receiving Federal policing grants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to add new conditions to the police grants. He demanded local jurisdiction to give DHS access to jail facilities and 48 hours notice before releasing undocumented immigrants who are wanted by Federal authorities.

The Appeals Court siding with the City of Chicago, called the Attorney General's move a usurpation of power.

BRIGGS: President Trump lashing out at governor Jerry Brown. Threatening to pull funding for California's National Guard deployment unless the troops help with immigration enforcement at the Mexican border.

Governor Brown agreed to deploy up to 400 guardsmen but will not allow them to round up immigrants or help build a wall. President Trump thanked the governor in a tweet last week, but is now calling the deployment a "charade."

ROMANS: Russian's Foreign Minister saying a short time ago that President Putin is ready for a meeting with President Trump. CNN'S senior international correspondent, Sam Kiley, live in Moscow with the latest. Bring us up to speed.

SAM KILEY, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, this is the latest overture from, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister saying that Vladimir Putin would be happy to meet Donald Trump giving the impression perhaps that this is in response to a recent offer of a meeting coming out of the White House, it isn't.

This was an offer of a meeting perhaps made of the cuff by Donald Trump when he congratulated Putin on his re-election as the Russian President back in March, but it is being reheated at this time in an attempt, I think, certainly by Lavrov, to try to warm relations with the United States, particularly at a time when they are very, very cold indeed with the US's other major ally, the United Kingdom whose Parliament has put together a super committee to continue to monitor what they perceive to be Russian aggressive influence operations on the United Kingdom.

ROMANS: Interesting, Sam, so it looks like the President said to -- invited the Russian President to the US and said he would be happy to make a visit to Moscow himself? Is that what we are reporting?

KILEY: Yes, essentially. Donald Trump in congratulating Putin has said, you know, why don't you come over and have a visit and it was positively received, but there is no planning behind this. It is not a formal offer. There is no diplomacy that has gone into this, but it is Sergey Lavrov saying, sure, we'd love to send Vladimir Putin over at some state.

It would look great for the Russians to suddenly have their President pop up in the White House right now at a time when the United States and her allies have been close at times to some open conflict really over Syria.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, Sam Kiley for us this morning in Moscow. Thank you for that.

At ten minutes past the hour. Wells Fargo facing $1 billion in fines for selling unnecessary products to consumers. Sources say the penalty could be announced today.

A joint settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency -- its punishment for forcing 575,000 clients to buy...


ROMANS: ... car insurance they did not need and charging mortgage borrowers unfair fees. Wells Fargo declined to comment but this is another blow to the Wells Fargo reputation still recovering -- trying to recover from a sales scandal two years ago.

The bank opened 3.5 million accounts without customers' knowledge. That along with other consumer abuses prompted unprecedented action from the Federal Reserve back February. It barred Wells Fargo from growing any bigger than it is now until it cleans up its act.

This settlement will be the toughest action yet by the Trump administration against a Wall Street bank. It is also noteworthy for a CFPB under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney. As a Congressman, Mulvaney tried to abolish this financial watch dog for consumers. Under his leadership, the agency has delayed pay day loan rules and weakened a fair lending division.

So, this is actually a case of a Mick Mulvaney-led CFPB that is doing something on behalf of consumers. So, interesting.

BRIGGS: Perhaps much to the relief of Elizabeth Warren and some on the left that feared he would just gut the CFPB.

ROMANS: I'm not sure how relieved (inaudible)...


BRIGGS: No, not with a billion dollar fine though for Wells Fargo.

ROMANS: You know, there's some people in the banking community were grumbling a little bit like maybe it's just too much pressure on Wells Fargo that already has been really slammed by the Fed, so maybe this was too much.

I don't think that those consumers who had fake accounts made in their name didn't think so.

BRIGGS: They're not relieved at all.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Okay, ahead, two sheriff's deputies are dead this morning, ambushed as they sat in the restaurant eating lunch. You will hear from the Sheriff next on "Early Start."


ROMANS: Two sheriff's deputies ambushed and killed in a restaurant in a small town 50 miles west of Gainesville, Florida. Police say, 30- year-old Sergeant Noel Ramirez and 25-year-old Deputy Taylor Lindsey were having lunch yesterday in Trenton when a gunman walked up to the restaurant window and opened fire.

Deputies responding to the scene found the shooter identified as 59- year-old John Hubert Highnote dead outside the business. No official word on a possible motive, but the sheriff has his suspicions.


SCHULTZ: What do you expect happens when you demonize law enforcement to the extent it has been demonized with every type of hate, every type of putdown that you can think of, the only thing these men were guilty of was wanting to protect you and me.


ROMANS: The sheriff calls his two fallen deputies the best of the best.

BRIGGS: In Texas, the so-called killer granny became the subject of a nationwide manhunt has been captured. Two Federal Deputy Marshals arrested Lois Riess at a restaurant in South Padre Island.

The 56-year-old is accused of gunning down her husband and then a woman in Southwest Florida. Authorities believe she shot the woman who resembled her to assume her identity. Riess had been on the run since at least late March. She is currently being held in jail.

ROMANS: No criminal charges will filed in connection with the death of Prince. Officials say, the entertainer died of an accidental fentanyl overdose after taking counterfeit Vicodin pills laced with the powerful painkiller, but there was no evidence showing how Prince got the fake pills.

Take a look at this newly released surveillance video showing Prince and his bodyguards arriving at the office of Minnesota doctor, Michael Schulenberg. Dr. Schulenberg saw the singer twice in the weeks before his death.

He just agreed to pay $30,000.00 to the government to settle civil allegations that he prescribed drugs to someone else knowing they were for Prince actually prescribing them in the name of his bodyguard to protect, ostensibly to protect Prince's privacy, but you are not supposed to do that.

BRIGGS: No, indeed. Okay, President Trump will not attend tomorrow's funeral for Former First Lady Barbara Bush. The White House saying First Lady Melania Trump will attend the service without the President to "avoid disruptions and show respect" for the late First Lady's family and friends.

Former Presidents Clinton and Obama and their wives will attend the funeral. Former President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn sent their regrets. More than 1,500 people are expected to attend the private funeral. There is a public viewing today at Saint Martin's Church in Houston.

ROMANS: Students from more than 2,500 schools across the country plan to walk out of class today demanding lawmakers take action against gun violence. The event launched by a Connecticut high school sophomore is taking place on the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.

At 10:00 a.m. Eastern in each time zone, students plan to walk out of school to observe a moment of silence for all shooting victims.

BRIGGS: A day most of us will never forget. I was there that day and every day thereafter as a student journalist for weeks, but it comes at a time as these Parkland students are on that "Time" 100 most influential in the world, but their voter registration drive has really fallen flat right now in Florida, something they were hoping to really energize, so stay tuned for how they do in that.

A plane in trouble. A passenger who didn't hesitate to help. You will hear from him what happened during a Southwest flight after the engine exploded in midair. Next.


BRIGGS: It's 4:23, Eastern Time. Southwest Airlines opposed a recommendation to perform ultrasonic inspections on the fan blades of its plane engines last year insisting it needed more than a suggested 12 months' work to do.

The recommendation came from the engine manufacturer itself. You remember, a snapped off fan blade triggered Tuesday's engine failure that blew at a window killing a female passenger who was partially sucked out of a plane.

Forty-three year old Jennifer Riordan was wearing a seatbelt, but could not be saved despite the heroic efforts of Texas firefighter and fellow passenger, Andrew Needum who desperately tried to pull her back into the cabin.


ANDREW NEEDUM, FIREFIGHTER: The events that took place on the flight are -- they are what they are. God created a servant heart in me and I felt a calling to get up and do something, to stand up and act.


BRIGGS: Some of the passengers on Southwest flight 1380 are receiving $5,000.00 checks and a $1,000.00 travel voucher along with the letter from the airline asking for an opportunity to restore their confidence.

ROMANS: Speaking of confidence, Lance Armstrong says, he is making peace with the US Postal Service after years of legal wrangling, the disgraced cycling star has agreed to pay $5 million to the US government in a breach of contract dispute.

The battle stemmed over Armstrong's use of performance enhancing drugs which he denied for years, while the Postal Service sponsored his team to the...


ROMANS: ... tune of $31 million between 2001 and 2004. Now, the contract he had had an anti-doping clause. Armstrong won the Tour De France a record seven times, but was stripped of those titles following his doping revelation.

BRIGGS: Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth making history again, as she becomes the first Senator to cast a vote on the Senate floor with her newborn by her side. Duckworth thanking her colleagues for changing long-standing rules to allow newborns on to the Senate floor and even breastfeeding them during votes.

She gave birth to her second child, Maile a month ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, how does it feel to be here?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does it feel to be here with Maile?

DUCKWORTH: This is terrific. I just think it is amazing. I want to thank all my colleagues for the unanimous consent vote so we can do this. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is pretty young to be making history.

DUCKWORTH: She is. Hope hope we are not setting expectations too high for her.


BRIGGS: What a story.

ROMANS: Love it. Love it.

BRIGGS: She has been -- throughout her whole career and she tweeted a picture of the outfit for her baby saying, "I made sure she has a jacket so she doesn't violate the Senate floor dress code." Bravo, Senator Tammy Duckworth.

ROMANS: And the little duckling onesie. Love it. All right, why does James Comey believe it's possible President Trump may have been compromised by the Russians?


COMEY: It is a striking thing when someone constantly brings up something to deny that you didn't ask about it and..."


ROMANS: You will hear from the fired FBI Director, next.