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Intel Officials to Brief Bipartisan Group; NFL's New Anthem Rule; GOP Donor Speaks Out on Guns; Celtics Push Cavs to Brink of Elimination. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2018 - 05:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want transparency. Even the Democrats, I really believe, on this issue, it supersedes.

[05:00:01] I think they want transparency, too.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president suddenly a fan of transparency. Lawmakers from both parties will see classified Russia intel today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. NFL players, they have a choice. Stay in the locker room, stand up or pay up. The new national anthem rule that has players very angry.

BRIGGS: And after the last week's deadly shooting in Texas, the NRA held firm to its positions. We'll talk to a major conservative donor who says the gun lobby is out of step with voters and lawmakers should now step up.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It Thursday, May 24th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin in Washington, though. Back-to-back briefings on the jam- packed schedule today for the nation's top intelligence officials and in a big shift, Democrats are now invited. They have a seat at the table.

This morning, intel officials sit down with Republicans Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy to discuss the rules of a confidential source in the Russia investigation. Late last night, after schedule changes and updates, a second meeting was added for a bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the Gang of Eight. Democrats and some Republicans have accused the White House of politicizing sensitive intelligence.

BRIGGS: The second briefing will actually be a gang of seven. House Speaker Paul Ryan has a scheduling conflict and will be updated separately. His spokesperson says Chairman Nunes and Gowdy will, quote, continue to lead in this space for House Republicans. Chief of Staff John Kelly expected to attend to both briefings. A

source telling CNN the president told Kelly and other aides he wants the process to appear non-partisan so an alleged conspiracy by law enforcement against them won't be overshadowed.

ROMANS: It's a drum beat the president kept sounding on Wednesday. First in a series of tweets and then for the cameras.


TRUMP: All you have to do is look the basics and you'll see. It looks like a very serious event. But we'll find out when they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happen. I hope it's not so, because if it is, there has never been anything like it in the history of our country. I hope it's not true, but it looks like it is.


BRIGGS: If you're wondering where the president keeps getting the ideas that turn conspiracy theories into his own personality reality, this may clear it up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spying they did on the Trump campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm shocked to hear they put a spy in the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spy inside the Trump campaign back to the FBI.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or maybe two spies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks as if there could have been a second spy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spy revelation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spies in this campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That there was a spy inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To spy on the Republican candidate for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is a spy, they got nothing from it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they ran a spy ring, that is an absolute red line.


ROMANS: And that, folks, is surrogate messaging to the core there.

James Clapper fighting back after the president misquoted him to advance his conspiracy theory about FBI spying. Here is what the president claims the former director of national intelligence said followed by Clapper's actual words on Wednesday.


TRUMP: I mean, if you look at Clapper, he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday inadvertently.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: Was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: No, they were not. They were spying on a -- term I don't particularly like, on what the Russians were doing, trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence. That's what they do.


BRIGGS: Clapper accusing the president of distorting his comments. At the event last night to promote his new book, the former DNI told our Dana Bash he's very concerned about the nation's direction.


CLAPPER: This was to determine what the Russians were doing to penetrate the political campaign. Not to spy on the campaign per se but rather what the Russians were doing to infiltrate, to gain access and potentially to exert leverage. The institutions and values and standards that I spent 50-plus years of life defending are under assault. I'm so bothered by this that I felt a duty to speak up.


ROMANS: The president's claims about the existence of the deep state directly contradicted by his secretary of state. Here is Mike Pompeo testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe there is a criminal deep state at the State Department?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have not seen the comments from the president. I don't believe there is a deep state at the State Department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. You formerly served as CIA director. Do you believe your colleagues at the CIA are part of the criminal deep state?

POMPEO: This term deep state has been thrown around. I would say employees that worked for me at the CIA nearly uniformly were aimed at achieving the president's objectives and America's objectives.


[05:05:04] ROMANS: Again, the president of the United States said there a criminal deep state.

BRIGGS: Criminal deep state.

ROMANS: Pompeo also told lawmakers he believes no government organization is exempt from malfeasance.

BRIGGS: Jared Kushner's lawyer telling CNN special counsel investigators questioned his client for a second time in a seven-hour sit-down last month. The president's son in law and senior adviser was grilled about potential Russian collusion, his contacts with foreign nationals and potential obstruction issues. Kushner was first interviewed by Mueller's team last November.

Kushner team believes he is now finished with all ongoing inquiries.

ROMANS: In the meantime, Jared Kushner cleared a different hurdle, getting a permanent security clearance. He lost his interim clearance back in February. His initial application failed to list dozens of foreign contacts that he later included in the updated submissions to the FBI.

BRIGGS: North Korea's harsh rhetoric back with the bang. Pyongyang lashing out at Vice President Mike Pence, calling him a political dummy, and warning him about a nuclear showdown if next month's scheduled summit in Singapore fails.

Ivan Watson live in Seoul, South Korea, with the latest.

Ivan, conflicting messages to say the least. What's the latest on the summit?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the question of whether or not the summit will happen still hanging in the air. We're now following a public spat between senior U.S. and North Korea officials. On Monday, Vice President Pence made an implicit threat, a pretty clear threat, saying that if North Korea doesn't accept a deal with President Trump, that it could end up like Libya.

Well, now, a senior North Korean official has fired back, saying that Pence is a political dummy and going on to say that he, quote, spat out nonsense. That the DPRK would follow in Libya's footsteps. It has to be underline that in order not to follow in Libya's footsteps, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region, arguing that this nuclear deterrent was to prevent something like the overthrow of Libya's Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.

She went on to make other serious threats saying like we could have dialogue with the U.S. or we could have a nuclear-to-nuclear showdown. Of course, raising more doubts about whether this summit will actually take place in Singapore between Presidents Trump and Kim Jong-un on June 12th.

Recall that President Trump is offering security guarantees and some kind of economic prosperity to the Kim regime if it gives up its nuclear weapons -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Te president says we'll know next week. We'll see what happens.

Ivan Watson live in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump preparing the next front in the trade battle: cars. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will investigate whether car imports hurt national security, claiming imports has, quote, eroded our domestic auto industry. A similar probe led to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs earlier this year.

This follows Trump's promise to the automakers after decades of losing jobs to other countries: you have waited long enough, calling the auto industry critical to U.S. strength. The investigation covers auto parts, as well as cars, SUVs, vans, light trucks. Any tariffs would hit Asian automakers the hardest. About a third of all U.S. car imports are from Asia. Think Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai. The announcement calls a selloff of their stocks overnight.

The biggest loser, Mazda, down more than 5 percent. Though Mazda does not produce cars in the U.S., but many foreign automakers do, do have plants here. However, they also export parts and cars to the U.S. from Asia, Mexico and Canada. Auto tariffs would be the next front for the White House trade battle, including ongoing talks with China.

It says that it causes abuse of national security rules. It also puts new pressure on Canada and Mexico, NAFTA talks have stalled mainly, Dave, due to auto provisions. I mean, you look at the North America auto market, and that's what it is, a North American auto market. You have consumers on all three countries --


ROMANS: -- and you have production and --

BRIGGS: Going back and forth across the border.

ROMANS: Yes, and supply lines there, you know, parts are coming in from Mexico and Canada.

BRIGGS: Going back out, manufactured here. We will talk more about that later in the program.

But next, 288 school shootings in the country since 2009. That has not done much to change gun laws. We will talk to a conservative donor who says it is time to stand up to the NRA.


[05:13:35] BRIGGS: Plenty of talk, not much action following last week's deadly school shooting in Texas last week. We have seen this before.

But now, one major Republican donor calling on Congress to move on this issue and he's calling out the NRA. Let's welcome in Dan Eberhart. He is the CEO of Colorado-based energy

company Canary LLC.

Good morning to you, sir.

ROMANS: Good morning.

DAN EBERHART, GOP DONOR: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

BRIGGS: You're quoted on "The New York Times" in saying the NRA is really out of step with suburban GOP voters. Will we see that in the midterms? Why will you stop giving to NRA leaning causes?

EBERHART: Sure. I think what is going on is you have to look at the fact that only 20 percent of gun owners are members of the NRA. And you've got to look at the fact that to win an election, the Republicans need to get, you know, half or half plus one or whatever the case may be. And I think that they need to focus on the suburban owners. I think they need to focus on the middle, you know, 100 million Americans who decides who governs in this country.

And I think that you can stand up to the NRA like Pat Toomey did after Sandy Hook and like Rick Scott is doing now and still win and still be successful and win elections.

ROMANS: Is this a moment or movement is I guess my question on the end, on the issue of gun violence in schools in particular, because there have been so many and nothing changes. Does it take Republicans to change it?

EBERHART: Oh, that's where I think the secret sauce is. I think Republicans have got to stand up. Gun control is just a solution around the edges here. It is also about mental health. It's also about school hardening.

[05:15:02] And I think it's also a part -- you know, some limited gun control moves can make sense.

ROMANS: You've been saying gun control makes some conservative and guns owners go just cringe. Gun violence -- we should be saying gun violence. It's about mental health and gun violence.

EBERHART: Well, I and I think it is a little bit of both. But I think that we've got to get over this taboo of school shooting happens and everyone runs to the corners.

ROMANS: Right.

EBERHART: You know, the liberals run and say we need passive amounts of gun control and a lot of the conservatives run to the NRA corner. The great middle I think is where the country is.

Look, everyone knows somebody who is a teacher. Everybody knows somebody's going to will go to school this morning and everybody wants them to be safe. We need to drop the fact it is all gun control and we need to focus on mental health. We need to focus on school hardening. Republicans also need to step up.

BRIGGS: You are a Colorado-based energy company. They all know gun violence too well with Columbine, with the Aurora movie theater. That's my home state.

But anytime, anytime a Republican lawmaker starts to move on guns, they are voted out of office. The NRA takes them out, for lack of a better term. How will you get others to follow you?

EBERHART: Sure. So, you know, just for example, in Florida, the spokesperson says you are with us or you die. And I think that that's got to change.

And I think there's examples of that. Being Pat Toomey I mentioned earlier, and I think Rick Scott has really come up with in Florida, you know, actually got something done with some limited small gun control measures and funding for school hardening, and funding for mental health, and I think that could be a national model for what we could do.

BRIGGS: Yes, Rick Scott stepped up there in the state of Florida.


Let's talk about the other headline. The investigation into auto imports could be hurting national security that the commerce department is going to look into that. You like the president's tax cuts. You like what he's doing on the economy. You don't like what he is doing on trade?

EBERHART: Yes, sure. So, I'm a big fan of President Trump in general. I think he's done a lot right with the economy, with Gorsuch appointment and several other things.

But I think on trade, he's just got this flat wrong. I was against the steel and aluminum tariffs. It is destructive to the manufacturers the country and I think they're destructive for consumers.

I'm just not sure where he is coming from with the auto tariffs. I think the biggest auto manufacturers are importers -- the places we import from are Germany, South Korea, Japan, and I think those are our friends. Why are we trying to anger our friends?

BRIGGS: But are they all a big bluff? Whether it's the steel and aluminum tariffs against China? The auto imports, 25 -- is this all just a big bluff?

EBERHART: Well, maybe it is. Maybe this is a negotiating tactic to help us get NAFTA through. The auto stuff is the part that is falling apart with the NAFTA -- remodeling NAFTA and redrafting NAFTA. So, maybe it is a strategic -- strategy that we are not privy to at the moment.

ROMANS: You know, I wonder if traditional Republican -- if Republican donors like you, it's the tax cuts and strong economy and really a humming economy and low unemployment, if that's enough to sort of overshadow the worries about trade at this point?

EBERHART: Sure. I think -- in the aggregate, I think it is. But I think that we need a better trade policy that correlates with the economic growth that we're after, and with -- you know, having -- consumers having more buying power and more money in their pocket. I don't think what Trump is doing with aluminum or steel tariffs or with the proposed auto tariff is really the way to do that.

BRIGGS: All right. Dan Eberhart from Canary LLC back in Denver -- tell everyone hello. Good to see you.

EBERHART: Thank you for having me.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the Boston Celtics are one win away from advancing to the NBA finals. Lindsay Czarniak has all the highlights in this morning's "Bleacher Report."


[05:23:00] BRIGGS: LeBron James and the Cavs on the brink of elimination.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak is tired this morning. She's got more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

BRIGGS: Tired, but thrilled.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I am thrilled, I'm just going to say it. Congratulations, Washington.

BRIGGS: We'll get to that in a minute.

CZARNIAK: That's not what we're starting.

OK. No one has been able to stop the Boston Celtics on their home court in these playoffs. Everybody knew that. Cavaliers certainly knew that it was going to be a huge undertaking to become the first. They just didn't have enough to fight off this young Boston team.

So, what we have now is a Celtics team that's one win away from a trip to the NBA finals. Clearly, that means LeBron James and Cavaliers are on the verge of elimination. Last night, LeBron James looked wiped out.

And teams, we can tell you, who win game five to take a 3-2 lead win the series 83 percent of the time. These teams played like everything was on the line.

Here is what a defeated LeBron had to say after the game.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: We look forward to having the opportunity to force the game seven. So, you know, the game is up to us to see if we can come back for one more.


CZARNIAK: All right. So, we're going to see who can take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference when the Rockets host the defending champion Warriors tonight on our sister network TNT.

Now we go to the NHL. Last night, game seven of the eastern conference final, the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning fighting for the chance to face the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final.

Washington's game seven history is awful. They've won only four of their last 11 game seven opportunities. They have the biggest star, you see him there, Alex Ovechkin, number eight. But until this year, he had never made it past the second round.

Last night, he did it early. He set the tone. He scored just over a minute into the game. The Caps made playing on the road feel like home. They got great goaltending. Washington wins 4-0, advancing to the final for the first time since 1989.

Alex Ovechkin has waited 13 years to get this far.


[05:25:01] ALEX OVECHKIN, WASHINGTON CAPITALS: I can't explain my emotions. I'm just happy for my boys, for the organization, for the fans, finally. You know, I can't wait to come back home to play for the Stanley Cup Final. It will be nuts.


CZARNIAK: Oh, yes, it is.

And to the NFL now. Owners wrapping the final day of meetings in Atlanta with the announcement of the new national anthem policy meant to end protests on the field. Under this new policy, all team personnel, that includes players, must stand on the anthem on the field. Though players do have the option to remain in the locker room if they choose not to stand.

Anyone who does not stand while on the field will be fined by the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell said it was unanimous vote among owners. However, 49ers CEO Jed York said he did not vote. Here is how he explained it.


JED YORK, 49ERS CEO: We're going to close concession sales during the national anthem. I don't think that we should profit during the national anthem if we're going to ask people to be respectful. We want to make sure that we have an all encompassing sort of solution to how we look at this and not point the finger at one group or another and really come together and have a conversation with our players.


CZARNIAK: The overall player reaction is not positive. Eagles defensive star Chris Long tweeting: This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking action to improve it.

You know, some team owners are vocal about the support for the players. Christopher Johnson says he will play any fines that his players accrue.

BRIGGS: I think you'll hear that from several owners, but this problem is not over now. It will only continue and the players think they just stabbed your finger in their eye --

CZARNIAK: This is a band aid.

ROMANS: And so many of these players, they're doing this to raise awareness, you know? And they're irritated, so irritated that some much time has been spent talking about the NFL angle and not why they are protesting in the first place.

BRIGGS: Like the NBA star tased after parked illegally, these are the things they want to drive --

CZARNIAK: Right. I mean, they could look at the NBA and the way NBA players handle it and the league has done their --

BRIGGS: Lindsay, thanks. Good to see you.

ROMANS: All right. The president escalating the spying claims and his attacks on the intel community. Now, that same intel community will share classified details on the Russia investigation with lawmakers in both parties.

ROMANS: And 1968 was one of the most consequential years in history. Don't miss a special two-night CNN original series event, starting Sunday at 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN.