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White House Prepares for Possible Withdrawal of Veterans Affairs Nominee; North and South Korean to Meet at the DMZ; Golden State Killer Arrested; Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 26, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- tools are used for good, but that the company needs to keep moving forward.

Does that surprise you?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Stuns me. But when you talk to young people about their concerns, they don't privacy concerns. They continue to like.

ROMANS: So to sort of --

BRIGGS: And offer up their information to whomever wanted.

ROMANS: A digital generation.


ROMANS: They just assume that everyone knows everything about everything.


EARLY START continues right now with the latest on embattled VA candidate, Dr. Ronny Jackson.

The White House preparing for the possibility that President Trump's embattled pick to head the VA, and its 370,000 employees will withdraw his nomination.

ROMANS: The president's personal attorney Michael Cohen taking the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels hush money case.


ANNE MARIE SCHUBERT, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SACRAMENTO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: We found the needle in the haystack. And it was right here in Sacramento.


BRIGGS: Police say the arrest of an ex-cop ends the 40-year manhunt for the Golden State killer.

ROMANS: I'm really anxious to know how they were led to him. They said this rapidly developed during the past six days. DNA confirmed it but how did they know to zero in on him.

BRIGGS: And what a relief for Californians. You're talking a dozen murders. You're talking more than 50 rapes.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. We'll have more on that story in a moment.

It is Thursday, April 26th, 5:00 a.m. in the East, 6:00 p.m. in Seoul, South Korea. We'll head there, too. But first let's start at the White House.

New this morning, White House officials tell CNN they are preparing for the possible withdrawal of President Trump's nominee for secretary of Veteran Affairs, Ronny Jackson.

BRIGGS: And "The Washington Post" citing its own White House sources reporting Dr. Jackson has told colleagues he may remove his name from consideration. The White House physician huddled Wednesday afternoon with press office staff.

Earlier in the day Jackson was hit with a barrage of new accusations in a report from Senate Democrats, among them that he was abusive to colleagues, loosely handled prescription pain meds, and even wrecked a government car once while drunk. Jackson specifically denied that last allegations to reporters.


DR. RONNY JACKSON, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY NOMINEE: No, I have not wrecked a car. So I can tell you that. That's easy to deduct.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you move forward, sir?

JACKSON: Thanks, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you move forward?

JACKSON: We're still moving ahead as planned. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Still moving ahead?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you tell the president that, sir?

JACKSON: Thanks, guys.


BRIGGS: Still moving ahead. Earlier in the day, the White House strongly defended Jackson and the vetting that went into his selection.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Dr. Jackson's record as a White House physician has been impeccable. In fact, because Dr. Jackson has worked with an arm's reach of three presidents, he has received more vetting than most nominees.


BRIGGS: The allegations from the Democrats' report are just that. Allegations. Senate staffers are still working to substantiate them.

ROMANS: A day on the hot seat for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt with back-to-back House committee hearings. Pruitt faces a host of ethical allegations related to extravagant spending, raises for top aides and the below market rent he paid to a lobbyist's wife. The White House meantime keeping its options open. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about Pruitt's ethical challenges.


SANDERS: We're evaluating these concerns and we expect the EPA administration for them. And we'll keep you posted.


ROMANS: Pruitt's backers like Congressman Tom Cole also questioning his decision to reject the White House offer of help to prep for what Cole calls highly charged hearings.

BRIGGS: The Senate expected to confirm Mike Pompeo as secretary of State in just a matter of hours. The plan, first to hold a vote ending debate this morning, followed immediately by a final vote. Pompeo has enough support now to be confirmed with every Republican senator and at least four Democratic senators backing him.

ROMANS: Michael Cohen taking the Fifth in the Stormy Daniels hush money case. The president's longtime personal lawyer claiming he cannot testify in her lawsuit against the president because of the recent FBI raid on his home, office and hotel room, and the fact that he is under criminal investigation by the FBI and the former -- and the federal prosecutor, rather, in Manhattan. Cohen is trying to put the adult actress' civil suit on hold. No ruling yet from the judge.

BRIGGS: Rudy Giuliani, the newest member of President Trump's legal team, meeting face-to-face this week with Robert Mueller. The former New York mayor and federal prosecutor discussing a possible interview with the president by the special counsel. Both sides agreeing negotiations will continue. Giuliani sounding very confident Mueller has nothing on his client.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I can guarantee you this, when Mueller is finished, no matter whatever he does, he's not going to have a stitch of evidence that he colluded with the Russians. Now that's a disgrace. The case should be over.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: The "Washington Post" reports Giuliani pressed Mueller on a timetable for ending his investigation. Mueller told Giuliani an interview with President Trump would be essential for investigators before they can wrap up their obstruction of justice probe.

ROMANS: Let's bring in CNN political reporter Tal Kopan live for us this morning in Washington. Good morning. Love the blue, my dear.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

[05:05:03] ROMANS: Bright and early on a Thursday morning. Listen, let's talk a little bit about the Ronny Jackson situation because there could be developments on this story today. It's just one of those controversies that's sort of hanging out there. He said he's moving forward. Right? But the White House, we're told, is preparing for the potential that he may withdraw.

It's interesting because we've been listening to Obama administration officials, former Obama administration officials, say they don't know where these allegations are coming from. That's not the White House doctor that they know. Listen.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I knew Dr. Jackson. In my experience he was very professional, very courteous, very much under control. I never saw any of the behavior that's being reported here.

JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT As a medical practitioner, John -- Ronny Jackson is the highest caliber.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: He is a respected doctor and a respected member of the military and who has a pretty honorable career. So I don't know where this stuff is coming from. I don't know what's true. It is not my experience.


ROMANS: These are all allegations that, you know what, in a vetting process, would those allegations have at least surfaced. And is there, you know, any -- I don't know, is there any credence to the White House version that look, he served three presidents? If he is literally touching three presidents, what is the big concern?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. It's remarkable when you think about how long he's been really, you know, sort of under the microscope. There aren't many positions that are more under the microscope than that. And to have this be some sort of surprise is a really, you know, surprising in and of itself. But certainly, you know, this nomination came very quickly.

There was not necessarily the typical vetting operation. There has never been with this White House what seems to be the typical vetting operation of nominees. And look, there have been nominees for Cabinet positions that have been sunk by a lot less than this in the past. ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: You know, it's one of those positions where historically if there was even a whiff of some sort of controversy, a lot of nominees would just withdraw their name. You know, going through this process is exhausting on a personal level. You know, many of these individuals have to hire legal assistants or that type of thing to get through the confirmation process.

It's not an easy process for anyone and, you know, the committee that's investigating these allegations insists these are not, you know, one individual coming up with things. They say there are multiple individuals bringing these allegations. So, you know, it's not something that has no credibility in the first place. Certainly they haven't been unsubstantiated, but there is still enough of a reason that folks are looking into this and so we still don't know the answer at the end of the day. But there certainly is a point where you wonder if there is a personal toll that is just too much for an individual to go through.

BRIGGS: And the man certainly deserves a hearing.

ROMANS: Of course.

BRIGGS: As for the credibility, there are 23 current or former colleagues who've come forward with these allegations. But to your point about confirmation, Mike Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director and it was bruising to get them through confirmed again as secretary of State with the 51-49 margin. It's going to be hard to get him through.

But which of these allegations in your estimation, if true, are disqualifying? And ultimately when will the conversation return to the nine million vets covered by the VA?


BRIGGS: The 370,000 employees and the $200 billion budget and if he's qualified to run all of that?

KOPAN: Well, yes, Dave, that's a great point. And you know, a lot of the senators who say they still have questions they want answered say it's not even about these allegations. It's from the outset, they were concerned about his complete lack of management experience of an organization this size. So there are still lawmakers who even if all of these allegations were to go away would have strong concerns about whether he is actually the right person to, as you say, run an organization that is responsible for our nation's veterans, you know, and taking care of them when they return.

So that alone is a major question mark for a lot of senators. And, you know, I mean, It is up to them to decide which are deal breakers. But certainly some of these allegations about potentially drinking while on duty are stunning when you think about not just this president, but how many presidents this position has served. You know, again, it's still being sorted out but that certainly is a stunning accusation when you think about the responsibility of the White House physician.

ROMANS: Yes. All allegations at this point unproven by them. Let's talk about the Supreme Court. The president's travel ban in the hands of the Supreme Court. And we're getting these whiffs about which way the court may be going. Let's listen.


JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT: Let's say in some future time a president gets elected through his vehement anti-Semite. What emerges is a proclamation that say no one shall enter from Israel.

[05:10:02] This is an out-of-box kind of president in my hypothetical. And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have those, your honor.

KAGAN: And you know, he thinks that there are good, diplomatic reasons. And there might. Who knows what the future holds.

JUSTICE JOHN KENNEDY, SUPREME COURT: The statute says 1182 for such a period as he deems necessary and he can have continuing supervision over whether it's still necessary.


ROMANS: So conservative on the court and a swing vote Justice Kennedy appear to be leaning toward the president's travel ban.

KOPAN: Yes, you know, reading the court is always a bit of a risky gamble. But certainly these arguments did not go poorly for the White House and for the Trump administration. And so, you know, we're going to have to wait and see the opinion. Not that long because the court term of course ends in June. But we're going to have to wait and see how these justices actually come out and, you know, certainly the questions are often a bit of an indication, but also often designed to try to convince their fellow justices. So now they're going to go behind closed doors and they're going to argue this out and we'll see. But things probably looking a little bit more positive for the White House than they may have thought coming out of the appellate courts.

BRIGGS: Indeed. All right. Tal Kopan, we'll check back with you in about 20 minutes. Thanks.

ROMANS: Thank you for your time.

All right. Housing and Urban Development wants millions of low income households to pay more rent. HUD Secretary Ben Carson unveiled far- reaching changes to federal housing assistance Wednesday. Right now households pay 30 percent of their gross income in rent. The new plan kicks it up to 35 percent. It also triples monthly rent payments. It makes it easier for housing authorities to impose working requirements. The plan affects 2 million working age Americans who rely on rental

assistance. It does not affect the elderly or the disabled at least for the first fixed years. Carson says HUD's proposal will help stem the rising cost of housing assistance for taxpayers. But advocates condemn the rental hike. They argue that many low income Americans already work and HUD can't overhaul the rules on its own. It requires congressional approval. This keeps with, though, the Trump administration's world view. To push to tighten work requirements on government assistance. Earlier this month President Trump ordered federal agencies to review welfare work rules. Since then, the government has expanded work requirements for those on Medicaid and on food stamps.

BRIGGS: All right. More than a dozen murders, more than 50 rapes and now police say they've just solved a notorious cold case in the 1970s.


BRUCE HARRINGTON, BROTHER OF MURDER VICTIMS: For the 51 ladies who were brutally raped in these crime scenes, sleep better tonight. He isn't coming through the window. He is now in jail and he is history.


BRIGGS: More on the Golden State killer case and an arrest next.


[05:17:05] BRIGGS: "We found the needle in the haystack." The words of authorities in California following the arrest of a former police officer. The now elderly man suspected to be one of the state's most prolific serial killers and rapists. The so-called Golden State killer. His alleged campaign of terror, 12 murders, at least 50 rapes dating back 40 years.

More now from CNN's Dan Simon.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, what a scene here in the neighborhood where police are going through the suspect's house collecting evidence. We know this arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo came about after authorities collected what they described as discarded DNA from the suspect.

Now whether that was from the suspect's trash or by some other means, we don't know. But it was matching DNA that allowed police to say that they have in fact captured the Golden State killer.

Now this is somebody who really terrorized much of the state beginning in 1976 and it lasted for a decade. He is accused of committing at least 12 murders, 45 rapes and more than 100 robberies.


HARRINGTON: For the 51 ladies who were brutally raped in these crime scenes, sleep better tonight. He isn't coming through the window. He is now in jail and he is history. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Police aren't saying what openly led them to collect DeAngelo's DNA but they say the case against him really developed over the last six days. And once they were ready to make an arrest, police staked out his home and got him as he was leaving the house. They say he seemed very surprised by the apprehension.

Now DeAngelo himself was a police officer for two law enforcement agencies in the area. But he was fired from his last department for shoplifting in 1985. How he was able to elude authorities for so long and whether his law enforcement background played a role, we do not know. But authorities said they knew they were looking for a needle in the haystack but they knew the needle was there -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: Just a remarkable story. Dan Simon, thank you.

The jury deciding the fate of Bill Cosby in his sexual assault retrial will resume its deliberations this morning. Jurors got the case Wednesday and deliberated for more than 10 hours without reaching a verdict. They had a series of questions for the judge, including one that goes to the heart of the case against the comedian. The legal definition of consent. The 80-year-old Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He faces up to 10 years in prison on each count if convicted.

BRIGGS: All right. Folks, some vintage LeBron coming. The king keeping hope alive for the Cavaliers with the game-saving block and a game-winning three in the final seconds. Lindsay Czarniak recaps this signature moment in this morning's "Bleacher Report" next.


[05:24:13] BRIGGS: Do you remember as a kid playing sports counting down in your head, three, two, one, before hitting that game winner? I do.

LeBron James said last night that was exactly what it was like.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." What a signature move for him.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: An unbelievable moment if there was a moment, guys, to make you think that LeBron James just might be super human, right, last night, it would have been it. The game winner was electric. But his reaction after was enough to bring you to your feet and probably scare the Pacers in the process.

We start off here under 10 seconds to go in this game. It was tied at 95. Victor Oladipo driving. But LeBron James, check this out, the clutch block. We got to show this to you again. I mean, James just willed it to happen. Right? The Pacers claiming it was goaltending. It's the ball hitting the backboard there before James touched it.

[05:25:02] Three seconds left. LeBron finds himself with the ball. I mean, this is the moment, this is the tree, two, one moment that he talked about rehearsing as a little kid. Just as you said, he knew it before it left his hands. And the place goes wild. You could see what this meant to LeBron. Look at him up there on the scorer's table. He was enjoying every second of this. He even talked about what he said to his teammates in the huddle before he made that play.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Just give me the ball. Give me the ball. Deja vu for a regular season game we had versus Minnesota where I got a block on the other end and game winning for us. That team never stops. That team never stops and it's going to be even tougher on Friday.


CZARNIAK: Just an unbelievable night. He gets the water poured on him. And the Cavs can close up the series, by the way, on Friday game six but they'll have to do it in Indiana.

To another excited NBA fans, before the Rockets game five, the office of former president George H.W. Bush tweeting out a statement which said, "He is more focused on the Houston Rockets closing out their playoffs series than anything that landed him in the hospital." The Houston sports fan hoping his Rockets can get it done against the Timberwolves. And they did just that. And this one wasn't close. James Hardin dropping 24 and 12 and six. And rookie center (INAUDIBLE) scoring 26 with 15 rebounds. It was 122-104 win. Nothing to worry about for the former (INAUDIBLE) and the Houston Rockets take the series. They're going to face off against the winner of the Jazz- Thunder series.

And to hockey we go. Before the start of the pivotal game seven between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins honoring the victims of Monday's attack in Toronto with a moment of silence. The game itself anything but quiet, though. We're tied at four a piece in the third. The Bruins scored two quick goals ending any hope of a game seven win for the Leafs. This was the 26th game seven for the Bruins, the most fight any NHL team. The Bruins scoring four goals in the third period. They win 7-4 and will play the Tampa Bay Lightning next.

Such a difficult team to beat, guys.

BRIGGS: Covered a number of those Bruins game seven. Nothing like playoff hockey. Except for LeBron James.

CZARNIAK: Nothing like it.

BRIGGS: Hang on, was it a block or was it goaltending?

CZARNIAK: Are you kidding? It was a block.


CZARNIAK: Come on, Dave. What are you talking about? BRIGGS: I agree. The Pacers disagree.

CZARNIAK: Christine knows.


ROMANS: What she says.


BRIGGS: Whatever she says.

ROMANS: Thanks, Lindsay.

CZARNIAK: Always. Christine, always.

ROMANS: Exactly. 27 minutes past the hour. The fast-moving story of Dr. Ronny Jackson's troubled nomination to lead the VA could be coming to a head. That's next.