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Lawmakers to See Confidential Intel; South Korean President Visits White House; Kilauea's Growing Threat; LeBron Scores 44 as Cavs Even Series with Celtics. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:05] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The investigators are about to be investigated. Lawmakers get to see classified information related to the Russia investigation after top intel officials met with the president.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Critical day ahead of the North Korean summit. South Korea's president comes to the White House to ease concerns about whether Kim Jong-un will abandon his nukes.

ROMANS: Live in Hawaii. Look at that, 11:00 p.m. No signs of slowdown for the Kilauea volcano. Eruptions from the lava fountains and glass flying in the air. We have more from Hawaii for you.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

You wonder about the tourism impact here. Bookings, some bookings are down.

BRIGGS: A couple of cruise ships skipped Hawaii.

ROMANS: But outside of the volcano national park, things should be up and running as normal.

BRIGGS: Tourists are largely unaffected.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs. It's Tuesday, May 22nd, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

You can see, it's 11:00 there in Hawaii. We check in there in a moment.

But we start with the president. He demanded it, and now, Republican lawmakers will get their chance to review highly classified information about the Russia investigation. Top officials at the Justice Department agreeing to share the information over the bureau's use of confidential intelligence during the 2016 campaign.

ROMANS: This decision coming after President Trump met with three top intel and justice officials at the White House.

Let's get more this morning from senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, it's another chapter in the development of President Trump's ongoing war with his own Justice Department. Some fascinating moments here at the White House on Monday, when the deputy director of the Department of Justice, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is supervising the Russia probe, came to the White House to meet with the president, as did the FBI director and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats.

They talked for an hour or so Monday afternoon. The result of it is essentially that the Department of Justice is going to at least look into the president's complaint that there was a confidential source, he says, inside the campaign, who was potentially providing information to the FBI, which launched this entire Russia investigation in more than a year and a half ago. Now, there has been nothing to back that up or corroborate that, but the inspector general at the Department of Justice is going to look into this.

One thing that came out of the meeting, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is apparently going to be sitting down with some congressional leaders in the week here to look over highly sensitive classified documents. Now, that is something they have been trying to look into. But at the root of all of this, it's a political fight over this Russia investigation. The president wants the investigators to be investigated.

The president's re-election committee was sending out a blast e-mail saying to fight the biggest scandal that has happened in Washington in decades. It's clear the president and advisers are trying to raise questions about this investigation. They seem to know something more about the investigation than we do. They seem to know that something may be coming. So, the president clearly putting more emphasis on trying on this to discredit all of this -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you for that.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also a target from outside the White House. CNN has learned a group of external Trump advisors are campaigning to attack Rosenstein as part of the deep state plot against the president. They have been pressuring Trump friendly media outlets to force Rosenstein to reveal private details of the Russia investigation.

Leading that group is former campaign strategist Steve Bannon, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former deputy campaign manager David Bossie. None of those reached for comment by CNN were willing to talk on the record about this.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's go live to Washington and bring in Phil Wegmann, commentary writer for "The Washington Examiner".

So, to see you, Phil. ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: So, the strategy has emerged. Investigate the investigators. Here is what Chuck Schumer said about this latest move by the president.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The president's behavior is the kind of grossly autocratic behavior we'd expect we'd expect in a banana republic. Not a mature democracy. By now, we should all recognize that President Trump's latest demand is just another example of a relentless campaign to distract from the serious wrongdoing being uncovered by the Russia probe.


BRIGGS: Phil, your reaction?

PHILIP WEGMANN, COMMENTARY WRITER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I mean, a banana republic. I don't know how many cliches we can fit in the sound.

I mean, look, we all thought that Trump was crazy when he claimed last March that his phones were being tapped. Now, there was some sort of FBI informant inside his campaign. Now the narrative from someone who was there to protect the Trump campaign --

[05:05:01] BRIGGS: Phil, hang on, his phones weren't tapped. Are we on the same page there? That was incorrect. His phones were not tapped. That was a lie.

WEGMANN: So, what it goes back to the argument the Trump administration was making that was their close --


BRIGGS: Which was a lie.

WEGMANN: So, they were saying someone was taking a closer look at their campaign. What we have seen so far is that the Justice Department and the FBI were taking a closer look. It seems there is something there. If it does and back up the exact quote of the phones were being tapped, but it does go to the sense of those words.

Something was going on. And I think that we've seen this play out for more than a year. We are trying to figure out what happened. Regardless where are you on the issues --

BRIGGS: How is this unlike when the president said there was 3 million illegal votes? And yes, there may have been dozens. So, we should find proof I'm wrong. I'm not seeing -- this is the same thing, right?

WEGMANN: So, it's the sense of the claim here. And I think that the administration and what we have been arguing about for over a year is to figure out what happened on the Trump campaign. We are seeing now credible reporting coming out of "The New York Times" and "Washington Post", also "The Daily Caller" going to the fact that there was source inside of the Trump campaign. The argument is shifted from whether he was there to protect the Trump campaign from foreign interference or to seeing, you know, perhaps if he was doing something nefarious. There was someone taking a closer look.

ROMANS: Or, or, or he was somebody. They were bringing in dozens and dozens of foreign policy experts and people with all kinds of, you know, academics in there, or he was a guy brought in by someone else on the campaign and he happened to be an FBI informant on other international matters.

WEGMANN: So, the fact we are having this back and forth right now, I think it goes to one thing. This is a bizarro situation. At this point, the only thing that can clear this up for the health of the institutions themselves.

And you're right, Dave, there are some many semantics back and forth, and the president isn't doing himself any favors. And we need to be precise with our language. You're absolutely.

But at this point, I think transparency is the only thing that is going to clear this up for the health of the institutions and for the health of our republic.

ROMANS: I mean, is it clear what's happening is the president is saying investigate the investigators, so you stop talking about what they are investigating, right? Isn't that the bottom line?

WEGMNAN: I think that we're seeing here is that, you know, the president has constitutional authority over the DOJ to push this. Obviously, this is unprecedented. But the information that they are pushing for is information that has been subpoenaed by Congress already.

So, the longer I think that Rosenstein holds out, the longer he keeps this, you know, shrouded in mystery, the more of this false deep state narrative is going to emerge. And what, what did the Russians want to do from the very beginning? They wanted to sow discord and undermine faith in the institutions. The longer we have this, you know, left- wing, right-wing Russia collusion narrative, you know, both of those narratives, I think that we play into their hands.

BRIGGS: What do you think from the start if the president said let's let the investigators do their investigation, bob Mueller is a legitimate guy, I have done nothing wrong, where do you think we'd be today? You think we'd have this deep state conspiracy?



WEGMANN: No, look, I think if the president said I took an oath to defend and uphold the United States Constitution, and part of the oath is making sure foreign agents don't ever meddle in our elections again, and he didn't make the decision to get rid of Comey, you know, none of this would have happened and we would be better off today.

But at this point, there are a lot of interesting questions about what has happened with the special prosecutor and what happened during the campaign trail, and I don't think that either side has a monopoly on exactly what happened. I don't know who to believe at this point. And again, transparency is the only thing that's going to help us find our way out of this, because, look, the actors who are in place now, they're going to leave, but the institutions are going to stay. We need to make certain that those are not undermined.

BRIGGS: We agree on transparency. You don't come up with theories and then tell the Department of Justice to go investigate those theories without any evidence, there was not someone embedded in the campaign to spy, imprecise language? Yes, it's not true.

WEGMANN: We don't know what that person was put there to do.

ROMANS: There may have been a Martian who came and were looking to overthrow the United States. We should investigate whether there was a Martian who came.

WEGMANN: Guys, at this point, would we be surprised? Would be surprised?



ROMANS: Let's talk about China because I really want to get to this China trade deal over the weekend. You know, to me, essentially, this isn't a deal. This is a framework. Be very clear. This is the U.S. presses the pause button on all those threats the U.S. made. Bring ZTE back to life and maybe we're going to get more, a promise of more purchases of U.S. goods.

I want to read something that Catherine Rampell in "The Washington Post" said in an op-ed pages. China knows what it wants out of these bilateral negotiations. The White House plainly does not. Trump officials have offered shifting and at times contradictory demands and objectives, further complicated by administration in-fighting, public turf wars, reversals, retractions, clumsy errors.

[05:10:08] In short, over here on Team USA, it's been amateur hour.

Clearly, Wall Street loves the amateur hour because it means there is no trade war. Does it fulfill the promises the president made on the campaign trail to get tough on China?

WEGMANN: I think that the only thing that we're realizing right now is that, you know, trade wars aren't good and the only thing that's easy about them is walking away. I don't know whether or not this administration has decided to put a pause on the trade war talk because the elections are coming closer and closer and the good economy helps Republicans ahead of those midterms. ROMANS: True.

WEGMANN: Or if they're finally coming to the realization that this was, you know, a bad idea to begin with.

I don't think that there is any sort of, you know, economic clarity here. I think they have sort of exhausted themselves here, and the markets are doing well. And that's the only thing that I think that this president is actually paying attention to.

BRIGGS: Do they bluff? Are we bluffing? It feels a bit that way.

ROMANS: You know, there is nothing written down. By the way, Secretary Ross has to go to China and now has to work out the details of this framework before it can actually be a memo of understanding.

All right. Phil Wegmann, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: See you in a bit.

ROMANS: Three more weeks to go before U.S. and North Korea summit. President Trump meets with the South Korean President Moon at the White House today. Sources tell CNN administration aides are growing increasingly skeptical about the meeting with Kim Jong-un and if it will actually take place after recent harsh rhetoric from the North Koreans.

Let's bring in Ivan Watson. He is live from Seoul with the latest developments.

And, Ivan, you make a good point that the momentum just seemed unstoppable there for a while, until it stopped.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we have seen another iteration of kind of what seems like a bump in the road today where North Korea has invited journalists to attend what it says will be a ceremony for the dismantling of its main nuclear reactor, testing site rather. South Korea was invited last week and North Korea has basically stopped receiving the faxes with the South Korean journalist visa applications and leaving them out to dry and not invited with the rest of the journalists that include CNN going to what is supposed to be that ceremony.

South Korean government has expressed regret over that. And this is notable because on a daily basis now, since basically last Wednesday, North Korea has been bashing South Korea in its state media, slamming it for, among other things, conducting joint annual air defense exercises with the U.S. Air Force.

Why is that important? South Korea is the mediator who has helped bring Pyongyang and Washington together, Pyongyang now bashing South Korea. How do you try to get Pyongyang and the Trump administration together when the man in the middle is now the target of anger from the North Korean regime? Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Fascinating. We know you'll be there for us following all the twists and turns. Thanks, Ivan Watson, in Seoul.

BRIGGS: All right. The pictures never cease to amaze. Lava fountain. Glass shooting up in the air. More concerns about toxic gasses and evacuations. The latest from the eruption of the Kilauea volcano, next on EARLY START.


[05:17:57] ROMANS: Live pictures right now after 11:00 p.m. from Pahoa, Hawaii. The ongoing eruption of the Hawaii's Kilauea volcano posing danger on several levels this morning. There was another explosive eruption at the summit just before midnight eastern at 6:00 p.m. in Hawaii.

And now, there are concerns there will be more evacuations.

More from Stephanie Elam in Hawaii.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, from this vantage point, you can see that the Kilauea eruption continues. Let me step out so you can get a good luck at this lava fountain that continues to explode up to the sky here.

At times, it gets stronger and softer. But the force is still quite obviously there, adding to that river of black lava that has coursed down the side here into the ocean and from here and from helicopter as we have seen the plume where the lava is running into the ocean is still very much releasing steam. That mixture of something called laze of hydrochloric acid, as well particles of glass which could be dangerous to the skin, the eyes and breathing as well.

That plume has been nonstop since the lava has hit the ocean and continues to hit there. The air quality is also still a very big concern for the people who live here as those plumes of volcanic gasses continue to erupt from the earth. Also, in the distance, you hear the loud sonic boom sometimes, every now and then. That would be volcanic gasses escaping from the earth, sometimes tossing up lava bombs, huge molten rock pieces that can come out of there. So, that's a danger as well.

But at this point, officials are asking anyone who lives south of this risk zone that runs here on the big island to be prepared without much notice, that they may actually have to get out of here as the lava continues to flow -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: Just really something.

All right. Stephanie Elam, thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Celtics and Cavs, game four of the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron James not about to let this slip away.

[05:20:03] Lindsay Czarniak shows us the king dominating his court once again in the "Bleacher Report."


BRIGGS: All right. LeBron James showing why he is the king of the court against the Celtics in last night's NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Lindsay.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guys. He kept saying he wasn't concerned. He showed us why. And now, the tone of the series has changed, because the Cavaliers are winning without LeBron James doing it all alone.

Don't get me wrong, his performance last night, you can classify the performance as epic. LeBron leading the Cavaliers with 44 points and some help from his friends.

Yes, take a look at this. Kevin Love's over the top full court pass to LeBron James for the layup. And then later on, this jumper made history, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time lead in playoff shots made. Cavs go on to win 111-102.

Now, it's the best of three series. If they want to stay in this, LeBron knows they've got to do something that no other team has done in these playoffs. And that's win in Boston.


[05:25:00] LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: It's a hostile environment. We understand that. We know that. There's no love in there.

If you don't got your own dream, if you don't play for that team, if you don't bleed green, they got no love for you. So, we got to come out with a bunker mentality. Understand this is us.

They have not lost a post-season game on their home floor, but they are playing confident. We know that. It will be a tough game. If we play like we did in three and four, then we have a good chance.


CZARNIAK: This is going to be exciting to watch.

To hockey now, the Washington Capitals with their backs against the wall in game six of the Eastern Conference final. They also dominated earlier. It was a do or die game for them against Tampa Bay.

T.J. Oshie came in to this one with no goals in the previous six games. He described the mindset last night as direct urgency. He scored a pair of goals in the 3-0 shutout. That means the winner of tomorrow's game seven, say it again, game

seven, in Tampa will advance to the Stanley Cup Final against Las Vegas Golden Knights. I got so (INAUDIBLE), I can't even talk about it.

In just two and a half miles down the road where the Capitals were working to force a game seven, national phenom Juan Soto did something special. At 19, he's the youngest player in the majors. He was called up to fill a void, launching the first pitch he saw out of the park. A three-run home run for Soto, the first teenager to homer in the bigs. His teammate Bryce Harper did it in 2012.

The crowd went bananas, but not just at National Park. Look at this, the organization had the game on at the team's academy in Soto's native Dominican Republic. Check it out that reaction he affected. Priceless. The 19-year-old proving big in his major league debut.

BRIGGS: He's a kid.

CZARNIAK: What were you guys doing at 19?


CZARNIAK: I don't know.

BRIGGS: Not fit for the cameras. I heard Han Solo and Juan Soto. Am I the only one heard that?

CZARNIAK: No, I did hear. That's so funny.

BRIGGS: That movie opens this week.

CZARNIAK: Movie on the brain.


CZARNIAK: As long as you did not hear Chewie.

ROMANS: Thank you, Lindsay Czarniak. Great stuff.

All right. The investigators are about to be investigated. Classified information related to the Russia probe on its way to the lawmakers.