Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Mueller Raises Threat Of Presidential Subpoena; Deputy Attorney General Says Department of Justice Can't Be Extorted; Trump's Former Personal Physician: Trump Dictated Health Letter; French President Macron Says Iran Nuclear Deal Is "Not Sufficient"; Kanye West Says 400 Years Of Slavery Was A Choice. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 2, 2018 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A subpoena for President Trump? His legal team preparing for that possibility in what could be a historic test of the president's power.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's longtime doctor had glowing things to say during the campaign because the president told him to. Now, Harold Bornstein claims his office was raided by Trump's bodyguard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KANYE WEST, RAPPER: When you hear about slavery for 400 years -- for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Stunning words from Kanye West. The response, as you might imagine, equally as passionate.

ROMANS: Yes, a lot of folks talking about this story this morning and wondering what's up with Kanye West right now.

BRIGGS: Yes, pretty awful stuff there.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

But we begin here with this. Would the special counsel try to get a subpoena if President Trump refused to sit for an interview? It now appears the answer could be yes.

The Trump legal team bracing for a dramatic subpoena showdown that could end up in the Supreme Court. Sources tell us Robert Mueller has raised the threat of a subpoena in at least one meeting.

BRIGGS: Some of the president's legal advisers gambling Mueller will not go that far but the legal posturing shows that while the president has not totally shut the door on a voluntary interview with Mueller's team, the odds are growing slimmer.

Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny with more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, in the wake of the revelation of new questions from Bob Mueller's team to the president, we learned late Tuesday night -- CNN reported that Bob Mueller has threatened the possibility of a subpoena if the president would not testify.

Now, the president's lawyers have pushed back on that saying look, they're willing to fight this in court. But the reality is there are two different tracks here, the legal track and the political track.

The president has always wanted to end this quickly. He says he has nothing to hide. But legally speaking, all the questions now when you look at that "New York Times" report this week -- some 49 questions -- can he answer them without subjecting himself to any legal peril here?

So the White House, on Tuesday, did not answer any questions saying if the president would or would not sit down with Bob Mueller.

So that, of course, hanging over the White House here amid so many other things going on -- of course, North Korea and other matters.

But will the president sit down? We still don't know the answer to that question -- Christine and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

The threat of impeachment by House conservatives not phasing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Republicans in the Freedom Caucus have drafted articles of impeachment against Rosenstein. The caucus has been feuding with Rosenstein for weeks, unhappy about the Justice Department's response to congressional document requests.

ROMANS: Critics see the impeachment effort as a way to pressure the department or hamper the Russia investigation which Rosenstein oversees. But, Rosenstein says he will not change course in the face of threats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I just don't have anything to say about documents like that that nobody has the courage to put their name on and that they leak in that way.

But I can tell you that there have been people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time and I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted. We're going to do what's required by the rule of law.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: "The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted."

Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows calls Rosenstein's response quote "a lot of rhetoric with little facts." He says Rosenstein's quote "stonewalling" of the investigation has quote "embarrassed the Department of Justice."

BRIGGS: It turns out a famously glowing statement about President Trump's health was dictated by Mr. Trump. That's the claim of Dr. Harold Bornstein -- that guy.

Mr. Trump's eccentric former physician who said back in 2015 he wrote that letter stating, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

Well, CNN has learned exclusively Dr. Bornstein now says he never wrote that letter -- Donald Trump did.

ROMANS: That's not the only bizarre headline surrounding Dr. Bornstein. He's going public with claims he was robbed when a White House aide arrived at his office and retrieved the president's medical records in February of last year.

Bornstein telling "NBC NEWS" Keith Schiller, the president's former personal bodyguard and confidant, led the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. HAROLD BORNSTEIN, FORMER PERSONAL PHYSICIAN FOR DONALD TRUMP: I feel raped. That's how I feel. Raped, frightened, and sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what exactly were they looking for?

BORNSTEIN: All of the medical records, his pictures -- anything they could find. They must have been in here for 25 to 30 minutes. It created a lot of chaos.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The White House and a source familiar with the handover of the president's medical records dispute Bornstein's description of it as a raid. They said it was standard operating procedure that the White House Medical Unit seized these records.

[05:35:06] ROMANS: And didn't really even need to seize them but there was some kind of conflict with the copy machine or something, right? I don't -- I don't know -- it's unclear.

BRIGGS: It's a pretty easy process. You don't normally send Keith Schiller and a Trump lawyer to take physical possession of records.

But let's discuss this with "CNN POLITICS" digital director Zach Wolf, who is live in D.C.

And according to our notes, it says "His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary." Those are the notes that Zach Wolf sent us. I don't know who wrote that.

Zach, what's the deal? You write about this. What's the deal with Donald Trump's now former two doctors?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, "CNN POLITICS": Yes, it's interesting. They both have given these glowing recommendations of the president's health and his heart health -- you know, all physical evidence to the contrary and we're sort of left with these impressions of these doctors that, you know --

In the case of Dr. Bornstein, things don't end that well because he feels like after he talks publicly about giving the president Propecia that then they send in Keith Schiller to take the medical records.

And then in the case of Ronny Jackson -- Dr. Ronny Jackson, who gave such a good, glowing review. He was nominated to be V.A. secretary and that didn't turn out so well. People probably haven't forgotten that one quite yet.

But it is a curious case, I think, that we have two doctors that are both saying things like this.

ROMANS: And the first case is just -- from the very beginning it's almost like a -- just such a New York character, right? Like the character in this -- in this reality show.

BRIGGS: All these characters are straight out of Central Casting.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the chances of a Mueller sit-down as they look like they're getting slimmer between the president and Robert Mueller, whose team is investigating the Russians and the Russian influence in the election.

What about the chances this morning of a subpoena to get the president to sit down with Bob Mueller's team?

WOLF: Well, it certainly seems and CNN has reported he sort of -- President Trump has sort of turned against the idea of wanting to sit down with Bob Mueller. Earlier he did and then he was vacillating.

And now, I think the latest CNN reporting is that he's sort of turned against it ever since that raid on Michael Cohen and now, he doesn't really want to sit down with Mueller.

And if you read those questions that "The New York Times" first had that Mueller wants to ask him -- wide-ranging, scores of questions -- you can imagine that that would make Trump and definitely, his lawyers a little bit nervous.

So, Mueller can subpoena him.

BRIGGS: Yes.

WOLF: Can basically compel him to testify and there is precedent for this. So we're sort of heading up to this legal showdown now of will Mueller sort of basically force the president to talk about the Russia investigation?

BRIGGS: Right. Precedent in that during the Ken Starr investigation of Bill Clinton, prosecutors subpoenaed Mr. Clinton.

But will this head to the Supreme Court?

WOLF: I mean, you could imagine if the -- if the Trump lawyers stand in the way of it and they won't comply it's got to go someplace at some point and the Supreme Court is the law of the land so they would have to weigh in.

BRIGGS: Nineteen seventy-four, the United States versus Nixon comes into play there.

ROMANS: And meanwhile, the -- we heard from Rod Rosenstein yesterday. He said the DOJ will not be extorted. This idea that there could be people who are drawing up impeachment papers against him.

And listen to what he told our Laura Jarrett yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA JARRET, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Any reaction to the news that certain members of the House Freedom Caucus have talked about drafting up articles of impeachment despite your best efforts to comply with their document requests?

ROSENSTEIN: They can't even resist leaking their own drafts.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you care to elaborate on that?

ROSENSTEIN: I saw that draft. I mean, I don't know who wrote it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: What do you make of this --

BRIGGS: Wow.

ROMANS: -- the pressure these -- I mean, you've got to go to work every day with nerves of still, I think, if you are Rod Rosenstein, with the people calling them witch hunts and threatening to fire you every other day.

WOLF: Yes. If you're able to go to work every day under threat of President Trump firing you, and that's essentially what he's doing, then I'm not sure the House Freedom Caucus threat of impeachment is going to change your activity very much. It's just kind of the state of the -- you know, city that we're living in right now.

BRIGGS: Yes. Let's just remind folks, Rosenstein's a registered Republican and these are House Republicans on the attack. Just another extraordinary turn of events in the nation's capital where you are. Zach Wolf, we appreciate it. Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right.

A series of new headaches for embattled EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. Two of his top staffers at the agency stepping down just days after Pruitt's management and spending practices at the EPA came under scrutiny during congressional hearings.

Among those leaving, Pasquale Perrotta, the special agent in charge of Pruitt's security detail. That detail has ballooned under Perrotta, creating expenses like seats in first class that have drawn the attention of watchdog groups.

[05:40:00] ROMANS: Now, "The New York Times" reports lobbyist J. Steven Hart, whose wife rented a $50-a-night condo to Pruitt, also asked Pruitt for help getting three people on the agency's prestigious Science Advisory board.

The EPA did not respond to a request from "The New York Times" for a comment.

BRIGGS: CNN has also learned a top aide to Pruitt directed staffers to consider opening a fully-equipped EPA office in Pruitt's hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Democrats say e-mails show the order came from Pruitt's now-chief of staff Ryan Jackson.

The EPA inspector general opened an audit of Pruitt's Tulsa visits that eventually expanded into all of this 2016 travel, including expenses trips to Morocco and Italy. The trip to Morocco, in particular, said to have cost $100,000 -- with a lobbyist mind you, according to reports.

ROMANS: Right. If you read a physical newspaper like I do --

BRIGGS: We're old school.

ROMANS: -- you're going to see gross bugs on the front of every page of every paper because temperatures are going up and our bug-borne diseases are, too.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: Why has this number nearly quadrupled in the U.S. since 2004 and what can you do about it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:45:24] BRIGGS: An important report from the Centers for Disease Control with summer on the way. Diseases transmitted through tick, mosquito, and flea bites have nearly quadrupled nationwide. Cases of what are called vector-borne diseases have jumped from about 27,000 cases in 2004 to 96,000 reported in 2016.

The CDC says among the factors at work here, people moving into forested areas where disease-carrying ticks reside, rising temperatures that extend the season, and people and goods moving around the planet at ever-increasing rates and speed.

It is a massive problem. I have --

ROMANS: Be careful out there.

BRIGGS: My dog has Lyme at the moment.

All right, let's check in with Chris Cuomo with a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY."

Counselor, the question of the morning is can the president be compelled to sit down with Bob Mueller if he refuses a voluntary interview?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but first, I had Lyme disease, like your dog --

BRIGGS: You?

CUOMO: -- and it is terrible.

ROMANS: Yes.

CUOMO: It is such a misunderstood malady.

BRIGGS: It can be deadly.

CUOMO: There are so many different forms. There is one form, at least -- listen to this guys. I know this now because I live out on Long Island, right --

BRIGGS: Yes.

CUOMO: -- Southampton. Lyme disease is like a plague out there. So there are people --

BRIGGS: In Connecticut, too.

CUOMO: Absolutely -- Dave's right.

So there's a type that makes you literally think you are going insane. That it manifests like schizophrenia. People have been put into the hospital for mental health treatment.

ROMANS: Really?

CUOMO: They finally figure out it's Lyme and it gets better. So anyway, it's a really good thing. It's a great story and a great thing to bring to light.

BRIGGS: I did not see that coming, Chris Cuomo. ROMANS: I didn't either.

BRIGGS: I did not see that coming.

CUOMO: Some say that I still have it in manifesting different types of mental health problems.

BRIGGS: You are insane.

CUOMO: They know. But look, I take it as it comes.

So, let's game out -- Dave, you look like some prosecutors' best dream of how they might look in life, so you be the prosecutor and I will be Trump, and I will show you how this plays out with the subpoena.

You ask me to come in for an interview and I say you know, I thought about. This is a witch hunt, you're unfair, we're not doing it.

Next --

BRIGGS: Subpoena.

CUOMO: OK. No, I'm not going to comply with the subpoena because I'm the President of the United States and you can't make me go -- an executive privilege.

You then say?

BRIGGS: Nineteen seventy-four, Nixon?

CUOMO: Thank you very much. The Supreme Court has been clear on this.

ROMANS: Wow, well done.

CUOMO: The president cannot move away from this type of testimony if their personal testimony is going to be important -- now that's a legal standard -- to evidence of criminality. You can't use being president to move away -- to suggest never crime.

I say all right, I lost there. I plead the Fifth.

What do you got now, handsome?

BRIGGS: Boy, I got nothing.

ROMANS: Nothing.

CUOMO: Two things.

BRIGGS: I got nothing.

CUOMO: One, you'll say you can't just blanket immunity on this. Let's litigate.

It may be a selective Fifth. Maybe you have to talk about things that don't exactly relate to you. It could be litigation.

Or you say fine, I give you immunity, Mr. President. Now, come in and testify.

There's one catch with immunity. It is you do not get immunity against perjury.

BRIGGS: Oh.

CUOMO: And that is the scenario of how this could play out if the president wants to fight it all the way.

ROMANS: Professor Cuomo --

BRIGGS: Wow.

ROMANS: -- thank you so much. That was --

BRIGGS: Those law books paid off, Chris Cuomo.

ROMANS: That was very well done.

CUOMO: You know, actually I just Googled it on the way in here.

ROMANS: Yes, stop -- stop.

BRIGGS: Wikipedia -- well done.

ROMANS: All right, Chris. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

BRIGGS: We'll see you in just about --

ROMANS: We'll see you in about 12 minutes.

BRIGGS: -- 10 minutes.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning -- smart aleck.

President Trump rode into office promising higher growth and faster wages. No question the economy is strong. The jobless rate near a 17 year low, wages picking up. The stock market up 30 percent since the election.

For nearly a decade now, Americans have benefitted from cheap loans, low prices, and a soaring stock market. But market pros say nine years into the bull market the sands are shifting.

The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates which means more expensive auto loans and mortgages. The benchmark mortgage rate is at a 4-year high and still rising.

Americans are also paying more for the everyday things they like to buy, like gas. Gas prices this summer are expected to be the highest in four years.

And for those who own stocks, the S&P 500 is flat for the year. The timing is fascinating. Higher gas prices and mortgage rates just as Americans head to the polls this fall. What will it mean for the midterm elections? There's no way to know yet.

Another wrinkle here. The Republican-led Congress keeps spending. Could that hurt the GOP? That's the big question -- the fiscal restraint of the GOP, especially as a pricing budget deal and tax cuts likely mean a trillion dollar deficit in the next two years.

Global stocks mostly higher right now. U.S. futures mixed after Wall Street rebounded a bit on talk of trade negotiation, not conflict.

[05:50:06] Mexico's economy minister said a new NAFTA deal is likely. President Trump's trade chief says he wants to open up China's economy to foreign companies, not change the whole system. All these factors at play right now.

Top economic advisers head to Beijing this week for trade talks.

The Dow closed slightly lower. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose. It was helped by a two percent jump from Apple.

Apple iPhone sales were decent during the first three months of 2018 but profits soared. Why? The nearly $1,000 iPhone X. Its high price tag helped sales rise 16 percent to hit $61 billion.

Apple also launched -- announced plans to turn its tax savings, Dave, into a gift for shareholders. It's going to give away $100 billion to investors -- $100 billion. That's like two Teslas. I don't mean the car, I mean the company, to investors.

And watch out Tinder. Facebook getting into the dating game.

It announced a new feature that lets users set up a dating profile. It won't be visible to friends or appear in news feeds but the dating feature will play matchmaker for millions of users.

It also -- well, it encourages them to spend more time on Facebook. This is Facebook's latest addition aimed at keeping people on the site longer. They've got job postings, payments, and online food delivery -- all of it meant to keep you there longer so you will be there and see more ads and they can make more money.

BRIGGS: And what you missed play out there was the great John Berman making a cameo over your shoulder.

ROMANS: Was he walking back there?

BRIGGS: He's on at 9:00 but he wanted a little early camera time. He wanted us to tease his show --

ROMANS: Do you think that he was checking us out?

BRIGGS: -- at 9:00 a.m. -- John Berman.

ROMANS: Checking us there, all right. BRIGGS: Ahead, most European leaders standing by the Iran nuclear deal, but the French president says it doesn't go far enough and wants a broader deal. We're live in Paris with the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:09] ROMANS: French President Emmanuel Macron criticizing the Iran nuclear deal. Most European leaders stand behind it but Macron concedes it is not sufficient and a broader deal needs to be negotiated.

CNN's Melissa Bell tracking the latest developments live from Paris. Tell us about his position here?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Emmanuel Macron, once again Christine, has been speaking out about his very unusual position. You're right, it's very different to the one adopted by other European leaders.

He was in Australia, once again saying he doesn't know which way Donald Trump's going to go on May the 12th when it comes to recertifying the Iran deal, but he has this new proposal.

Essentially, what he's been doing is saying to the European allies -- fine, we have this deal -- it works. It's good enough at monitoring Iran's current nuclear program but we need much more. We need to look at that program. Beyond 2025, we need to look at Iran's role in the wider region and we need to look at Tehran's ballistic missile program.

Precisely, Christine, those points that Donald Trump wishes to see addressed.

And then, of course, all of this is really about appealing to Donald Trump and saying look, the rest of the world is now willing to consider these other points -- these other pillars, to use Emmanuel Macron's jargon. But the first point -- the first pillar of any deal has to be sticking with the Iran nuclear deal that deals with that nuclear program up until 2025.

Essentially, the French president is really trying to reconcile what had appeared to be, until last week when he first raised the idea of this new deal Christine, irreconcilable positions. And whichever way Donald Trump decides to go on May the 12th this is probably the best bet the world has had of finding some sort of compromise.

ROMANS: All right. Melissa Bell for us in Paris where it is noon. Thank you, Melissa.

BRIGGS: All right.

After a week of controversial tweets and frankly, what feels like a lifetime of controversial tweets, Kanye West took a bizarre turn. Listen to what he told TMZ about slavery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WEST: You hear about slavery for 400 years -- for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like you was there for 400 years and it's all of you all? You know, like -- it's like we're mentally imprisoned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: West later asked TMZ employees quote "Do you feel like I'm thinking free and feeling free?" That's when Van Lathan, a TMZ employee, fired back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN LATHAN, EMPLOYEE, TMZ: I actually don't think you're thinking anything.

I think what you're doing right now is actually the absence of thought and the reason why I feel like that is because Kanye, you're entitled to your opinion. You're entitled to believe whatever you want, but there is fact and real world, real life consequence behind everything that you just said.

The rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that's come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: West later took to Twitter to clarify his comments saying, "Of course, I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. My point, he said, is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved."

Suffice it to say there was no choice in slavery. You think he does this by design to drum up controversy?

ROMANS: To drum up controversy and to be in the news? I don't know but I know --

BRIGGS: I don't know.

ROMANS: -- a lot of people are talking about it and a lot of people are very unhappy with that characterization.

BRIGGS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's legal team is getting ready for a standoff.

ZELENY: The president will decide if he wants to roll the dice and sit down with Bob Mueller's team or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The public does not believe that there is evidence, so far, that the president has colluded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We may be seeing some attempts of both sides to flex some muscles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This presidency is kind of like a 'choose your own adventure' where every ending ends in a constitutional crisis.

ROSENSTEIN: The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rod Rosenstein has an obligation to follow the law. That's all we want him to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The impeachment of Rod Rosenstein would be a pretty good way to assure the defeat of a lot of moderate Republicans in the House.