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EARLY START

Intel Officials To Brief Bipartisan Group On Confidential Source In Russia Investigation; NFL Owners Say Players Must Stand For The National Anthem; North Korea's Harsh Rhetoric Returns. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 24, 2018 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:31:40] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president suddenly a fan of transparency. Lawmakers in both parties will now see classified Russia Intel today.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And more signs of strife between the U.S. and North Korea. A top official in Pyongyang calls the vice president a political dummy as doubts swirl about the planned summit in Singapore.

ROMANS: And NFL players have a choice. Stay in the locker-room, stand up or pay up. The new National Anthem rule that has players very angry.

And here's how the New York tabloids played that this morning. "Knee Kaep'd" in the "New York Post."

BRIGGS: "The NFL Dishonors the Flag" and "The New York Times" with an op-ed, "The NFL Kneels to Trump." He did get a big win on this one.

ROMANS: All right. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's 5:32 eastern time, 6:30 p.m. in Seoul. We'll be live there shortly.

But we start with back-to-back briefings on tap today for the nation's top Intelligence officials and a big shift. Democrats are now participating.

This morning, Intel officials sit down with House Republicans Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy to discuss the role of a confidential source in the Russia investigation.

Now, late last night after hours of schedule changes and updates, a second briefing 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.

ROMANS: The second briefing will actually be a gang of seven because House Speaker Paul Ryan has a scheduling conflict. He'll be updated separately.

A spokesperson says Chairman Nunes and Gowdy will quote "continue to lead in this space for House Republicans."

Now, Chief of Staff John Kelly expected to attend both briefings. A source telling CNN the president personally told Kelly and other aides he wants the process to appear nonpartisan so an alleged conspiracy by law enforcement against him won't be overshadowed.

BRIGGS: It's a drumbeat the president kept sounding on Wednesday. You can see here this tweetstorm. Then he took to the cameras.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: All you have to do is look at 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 happened.

I hope it's not so because if it is there's never been anything like it in the history of our country. I hope it's not true but it looks like it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: If you're wondering where the president is getting these ideas that turn conspiracy theories into his own personal reality, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW": The spying they did on the Trump campaign.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am shocked to hear that they put a spy in the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A spy inside the Trump campaign back to the FBI.

HANNITY: FBI spies.

GIULIANI: Or maybe two spies.

STEVE DOOCY, HOST, FOX NEWS "FOX & FRIENDS": It looks as if there could have been a second spy.

HANNITY: These spy revelations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spies in this campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That there was a spy inside.

ROGER STONE, ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To spy on the Republican candidate for president.

GIULIANI: If there's a spy, they got nothing from it.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: If they ran a spy ring, that is an absolute red line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A confidential source that was probing the Russians and now has turned into a spy.

BRIGGS: We know -- we know that the president knew the word spy would resonate with his media --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- and it did. All right.

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

[05:35:08] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

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

BEHAR: So what doesn't he like --

CLAPPER: -- which is what they do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Clapper accusing the president of distorting his comments.

Last night at an event to promote his new book, the former director of National Intelligence told our Dana Bash he's very concerned about the nation's direction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLAPPER: This was to determine what the Russians were doing to penetrate a 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.

And the institutions, and the values, and the standards that I spent 50-plus years of my life defending are under assault.

I am so bothered by this that I felt a duty to speak up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Do you believe there is a criminal deep state at the State Department?

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

LIEU: OK, thank you.

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

POMPEO: You know, this term 'deep state' has been thrown around. I'd say that the employees that work for me at the CIA, nearly uniformly, were aimed at achieving the president's objectives and America's objectives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

ROMANS: Jared Kushner's lawyer telling CNN special counsel investigators questioned his client for a second time in a 7-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. The Kushner team believes he is now finished with all ongoing inquiries.

BRIGGS: Meantime, Kushner has cleared a very different hurdle, getting a permanent security clearance. He lost the interim clearance in February. His initial application failed to list dozens of foreign contacts that he later included in updated submissions to the FBI.

ROMANS: Tax reform will raise some people's health insurance costs. Obamacare rates are going up next year, jumping an average 15 percent -- brand new numbers from the Congressional Budget Office -- and 10 percent of that rise is due to tax reform.

The new tax bill weakened Obamacare by ending the individual mandate to buy insurance. Republicans called it a tax burden. It requires Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty but repealing it essentially removes the stick, prodding younger and healthier people to sign up for Obamacare. And with only older and sicker Americans on the exchange that means it's more expensive.

The result, also millions more uninsured -- four million fewer by 2019, 13 million fewer by 2027.

And that gets expensive when people are out of the health care system and then they have a catastrophe. That is expensive for everyone.

BRIGGS: Easily the most underrated story of the day. Premiums are already through the roof. All right.

President Trump can tweet whatever he wants whenever he wants but a federal judge says he cannot block users from the Twitter feed. A judge in New York ruling that doing so is a violation of the First Amendment.

However, a Justice Department spokesman says quote, "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps."

You've got to be a muter, not a blocker.

ROMANS: Exactly.

BRIGGS: I guess muting is more effective --

ROMANS: Exactly.

BRIGGS: -- from what I hear.

ROMANS: Tweeting is just one of the issues Sen. Jeff Flake has with President Trump. The outgoing Arizona Republican leveling some of his -- he's had harsh criticism before.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: This is -- this tops it at this commencement speech to Harvard law students.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Our presidency has been debased by a figure who seemingly has a bottomless appetite for destruction and division and only a passing familiarity with how the constitution works.

And our Article I branch of government, the Congress -- that's me -- is utterly supine in the visit -- in the face of the moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: "Moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily." Flake went on to say the good news and bad news is the same. Our leadership is not good but it probably can't get much worse.

BRIGGS: Wow, OK.

A top North Korean official calls the Vice President of the United States a quote, "political dummy." Yes, really -- and says the U.S. risks a nuclear-to-nuclear showdown. Will these sides still meet in Singapore?

[05:40:00] We're live in Seoul with the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: All right, it's that time of the morning. Let's get a check on "CNN Money."

Asian stocks down overnight as the U.S. threatens tariffs on cars. A big sell-off for Asian automakers like Toyota, Honda, Hyundai. The biggest loser, Mazda, down more than five percent.

The Commerce Department will investigate whether car imports hurt American national security. A similar probe led to steel and aluminum tariffs earlier this year.

[05:45:01] Wall Street now closed higher yesterday thanks to the Federal Reserve. It hinted that it plans to keep raising interest rates gradually even as inflation rises.

Comcast is going public with its plans to crash Disney's bid for Fox. In December, Fox agreed to sell Disney its entertainment companies for $52 billion, but it has long been rumored Comcast will try to break up that deal.

Now, Comcast says it is preparing a higher all-cash offer but it hasn't decided yet, waiting on the fate of another big media deal, AT&T and Time Warner, parent of CNN. Now, the government is suing to block that merger. Sources say that if the deal survives, Comcast will likely go after Fox.

Elon Musk blasting the media's coverage of Tesla, saying he wants to rate the credibility of the press. On Twitter, the Tesla CEO is blaming critical coverage of Tesla on big oil companies that pay for ads on news sites.

He plans to create a site to rate journalists and news outlets, calling the service Pravda, Russian for "truth."

The timing is no coincidence. Tesla facing -- well, critical press from missing Model 3 production goals, losing top executives, and clashing with the government over an autopilot crash investigation.

BRIGGS: The consumer report of the Model 3 was not good -- difficult to use, big flaws -- and he's not happy about it.

ROMANS: I mean, they basically say they can't rate it, right? There's not enough there for it to rate. But it's Model S got rave reviews.

BRIGGS: Sure.

ROMANS: It was one of the best cars they'd ever seen.

BRIGGS: OK.

Fierce backlash, meanwhile, for the NFL after owners approved a new policy requiring players to stand during the National Anthem or stay in the locker-room. Several players started kneeling in recent years to protest police brutality.

Two of the more notable players, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, remain unemployed. Their former 49ers employer Jed York the only owner to abstain from the vote.

Here is new edict from Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. A club will be fined by the league if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem."

That was repeated four times -- that "show respect" line. Just for your keeping track.

The "Daily News" accusing the league of dishonoring the flag and being un-American. The cover includes names of people being killed by police.

The NFL Players Association says the move contradicts what the commissioner told them about the principles, values, and patriotism of the NFL.

Jets co-owner Christopher Johnson backing his players and their right to protest, saying "If somebody on the Jets takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players.

The Trump administration pleased by the new NFL policy. Vice President Pence tweeting "Winning." Remember, he left a Colts game last season after one player kneeled.

Though, we're glad he used a CNN news screenshot. Good to know where he gets his news.

One prominent NFL player texted, "It further erodes the relationship between players and the ownership. But it makes sense for them because their allegiance is to the dollar."

ROMANS: Oh.

BRIGGS: It's a great business decision for them if this goes away. Not sure it will.

ROMANS: Do you know how much the fine will be --

BRIGGS: We don't, yet.

ROMANS: -- because it could almost be another venue, right? You're going to go out there, you're going to take a knee and take the fine.

BRIGGS: But the fact that Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid remain unemployed --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- I think it ultimately will keep players from taking a knee this season. We'll see.

Speaking of, one of the things they want to protest is police brutality. Here, an NBA player who parked illegally was tased by police. Now the Milwaukee police chief apologizing after video shows it was the officers who escalated the situation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:52:44] BRIGGS: North Korea's harsh rhetoric is back with a bang. Pyongyang lashing out at Vice President Mike Pence like a fourth- grader, calling him a quote "political dummy" -- yes -- and warning about a nuclear showdown if next month's scheduled summit in Singapore fails.

CNN's Ivan Watson live in Seoul, South Korea.

Really escalating the dialogue here, Ivan. What's the latest on the summit?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a public spat between senior U.S. and North Korean officials with the question of whether or not the summit will actually happen.

But in this case, you have a top North Korean diplomat responding to Vice President Pence's pretty open threat that North Korea would go the way of Libya if it doesn't make a deal with President Trump. And recall in Libya's case you had U.S.-backed rebels overthrow the government and take the dictator Muammar Gaddafi -- drag him out of a ditch and shoot and kill him.

So the North Korean diplomat responded, calling this basically "unbridled and impudent remarks coming from a political dummy." But also making a pretty clear point that North Korea has developed its nuclear weapons specifically to avoid following in the same footsteps as Libya.

What this -- what impact this could have ultimately, Dave, on whether or not the summit takes place -- well, it's not entirely clear, but it can't be a good sign that North Korea and the U.S. are moving towards a grand bargain as has been proposed by the Trump administration.

You'll recall that President Trump has proposed some security guarantees for the Kim regime, as well as some untold prosperity for that quite poor country in the future if it gives up this nuclear arsenal it's worked so hard to develop. One side note. International journalists, including CNN, are on their way to North Korea's main nuclear testing site to see some kind of a ceremony that's supposed to signal its dismantling in the coming hours -- Dave.

BRIGGS: But, of course, no nuclear experts but Will Ripley will report from there shortly.

Ivan Watson live in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: All right.

In Hawaii, a lava flow from Kilauea no longer posing an immediate threat to a local geothermal power plant. The hardened lava actually creating a wall that blocked the flow then from reaching the facility.

[05:55:10] Take a look at this video from the Leilani Estates subdivision. That burning blue you see there is methane gas. It's a flame --

BRIGGS: Wow.

ROMANS: -- coming out of the cracks of a street.

Hawaiians are now three weeks into this natural disaster with no end in sight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACY WELCH, PAHOA RESIDENT: Uncertain that we're safe. We're not safe, we're not out of danger.

This is not over. It's continuing. We just don't know when it's going to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Overnight, the state's Tourism Authority declared Hawaii is open for business, folks. They are encouraging travelers to visit, insisting the dangers are quite localized and wider impacts on the islands are minimal.

BRIGGS: Fresh off his stirring sermon at the royal wedding, Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry plans to take part in a candlelight vigil and protest in front of the White House today. He'll be joined there by leaders from Christian churches who are concerned about what they call a dangerous crisis or moral and political leadership.

ROMANS: Organizers challenging President Trump's 'America First' foreign policy, calling it theological heresy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CURRY, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: We reject nationalism, racism in any form, no matter who it comes from -- whether it comes from the left or right. It doesn't matter who it comes from.

We must fashion social policies that reflect that and in the way that we engage in debate because this love thy neighbor stuff is not sentimental stuff. This is tough love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: No comment from the White House about the planned protest.

BRIGGS: A shocking incident of road rage caught on camera in Philadelphia. Now, police are looking for both the victim and the attacker.

Watch as this red pickup truck follows this silver SUV into a parking lot. The man then gets out the truck with a sledgehammer and begins smashing the SUV driver's side window.

ROMANS: The SUV tries to leave the parking lot but the passenger door opens. A man falls out. The driver of the pickup truck then strikes that man with a sledgehammer --

BRIGGS: Oh.

ROMANS: -- and breaks the rear window of the SUV.

Now, the victim did not call police.

BRIGGS: Unreal.

Milwaukee's police chief apologizing to NBA player Sterling Brown after bodycam footage showed a simple parking violation -- parked illegally in a couple of handicap spots. Later, Brown was tased by officers.

Police previously said the Milwaukee Bucks rookie became confrontational. But at a news conference Wednesday, the police chief acknowledged officers acted inappropriately and said they have been disciplined.

Here's some of the video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POLICE OFFICER: Take your hands out of your pockets now.

STERLING BROWN, GUARD, MILWAUKEE BUCKS: I've got both of my hands out (ph).

POLICE OFFICER: Get on the ground. Taser, taser, taser.

BROWN: Oh, oh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I counted six.

BRIGGS: Six cops.

ROMANS: Milwaukee's mayor says the needless escalation of the situation is what disturbs him the most.

Sterling Brown is planning to sue the Milwaukee P.D., saying in a statement, "My experience with the Milwaukee Police Department was wrong and shouldn't happen to anybody."

BRIGGS: Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals heading to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years after a four-nothing shutout in game seven over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

They now travel to Vegas, baby, to take on the expansion Golden Knights in the best of seven series which begins Monday night.

The Caps making it to their second Stanley Cup Final ever. Congrats to the great Ove there.

And the Boston Celtics now one win away from reaching the NBA Finals. They beat LeBron James and the Cavs 96-83 in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Boston undefeated on their home court this post-season -- a perfect 10 and zero. They can close out the Cavs in Cleveland Friday night.

LeBron has been to seven straight NBA Finals.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us this Thursday edition of EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

And the series finale of Cuomo and Camerota --

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: -- starts right now. We think it doesn't go down like "SEINFELD." It will be far better in terms of series finales. Enjoy it.

We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: It is absolutely inappropriate if this proceeds without any Democratic presence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took this kind of public pressure to have the most basic of bipartisan meetings.

TRUMP: They're going to all be in the room but I want total transparency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president was right. He was spied upon, he was surveilled.

POMPEO: I don't believe there's a deep state at the State Department.

FLAKE: Our presidency has been debased a figure who seemingly has a bottomless appetite for division.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn't make a deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This North Korean official calling his remarks stupid.

POMPEO: I hope that we can have this historic opportunity to do something that would transform the world for awfully long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)