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EARLY START

Why Was Trump's Lawyer at Classified Briefings?; Uncertain Future with North Korea; Weinstein to be Charged with Rape; Rockets Win Puts Warriors in Trouble. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: And North Korea says it's still willing to meet with the U.S., but chances are appearing increasingly slim.

[05:00:02] What's next for diplomacy after the president pulled out of that Singapore summit?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And Harvey Weinstein is about to be charged with rape. Sources telling us he will turn himself in to police in New York this morning.

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

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt, in for Dave Briggs again this morning.

Great to be back with you.

ROMANS: Nice to have you, especially on a Friday.

MARQUARDT: It is Friday, indeed. It is 5:00 a.m. here in the east. And there has been radio silence from lawmakers on Capitol Hill after briefings by justice and intelligence officials about a confidential source in the Russia investigation.

It's not clear this morning whether the standoff between House Republicans and Department of Justice is just diffused or about to blow. Two briefings and hours of talks yielding no clarity from the House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes. He is threatening to hold Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in contempt for not turning over documents which the source said he did not get.

ROMANS: The president and his conservative allies claim the FBI used a confidential source to spy on the Trump campaign. U.S. officials tell CNN the source was not a plant.

Thursday's briefings did include a rather stunning appearance by a Trump staffer that White House official admits was questionable.

More now from CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Two classified briefings, a surprise appearance by a White House lawyer and now, many more questions about what comes next as the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani says the team needs to know more about this FBI confidential source before they will agree to let the president sit down with the special counsel's office.

Now, the anticipation of the meetings and what they would entail was building all week with the guest list changing minute by minute. But then Emmet Flood showed up, the latest addition to the White House legal team, raising questions about why the man participating in the defense of the presidency would be involved in a meeting that had to do with congressional oversight.

But the White House is essentially saying nothing to see here. Both he and chief of staff John Kelly were only there for the start of the meeting and didn't actually participate in the briefing. But on the substance of what they heard, the Democrats say they have not heard anything to support this theory about the spy or a mole embedded in the Trump campaign.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Nothing we heard today changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.

JARRETT: The Republicans are not saying very much either. They haven't suggested that they need anything further at this point. In fact, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he did not hear anything that was particularly surprising -- Alex, Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: All right. Thanks very much, Laura Jarrett in Washington.

So, let's bring in CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, a historian and professor of Princeton University and the author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now".

Julian, good to see you again this morning.

ROMANS: Thank you.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me here.

MARQUARDT: All right. So, this meeting -- two meetings yesterday in Washington. Emmet Flood, the president's new lawyer, at these meetings rather stirring a lot of controversy. I want to show you what Rudy Giuliani, who is the personal lawyer to the president now, what he had to say.

He said, I can't understand why it is inappropriate for the White House counsel to be there. Maybe it would be more me or Jay Sekulow, but not one for representing the president inside the White House.

So, why is it inappropriate and why on earth was he there?

ZELIZER: Well, I think many Democrats and some Republicans feel that the president doesn't see any line between himself and his office and the Justice Department investigation into the administration, that involves the administration.

And this has been an ongoing problem. So, here you have a briefing about what happened with this informant, about an accusation that the president launched and the feeling was there shouldn't be any representation from presidential counsel in the room at all.

ROMANS: There was a lot of shock, we're told, when he was there. He wasn't on some of the early list of participants. He came to the beginning of the meeting apparently and then left, you know? He came and left.

Mark Warner, the Democrat, said, never seen the Gang of Eight meeting that included any presence from the White House. Those individuals left before the substance of it. Unusual times.

These certainly are unusual times. What do you make of what was learned in that meeting and what it says about what's happening at this point in the Russia investigation?

ZELIZER: Well, this comes after a really big accusation. The president launched an accusation in the previous days that the FBI had been spying on the campaign and here is a briefing. Democrats say they are not convinced by anything that they saw that something problematic had happened.

But this has deteriorated so much, this investigation. It is totally being done in a partisan atmosphere and with the president looming large over every step.

[05:05:02] MARQUARDT: But once we get past the controversy of Flood showing up at these two meetings and as Christine pointed out really at the top of these meetings. So, he didn't sit in on them. We get to the meat of what was actually said.

And remarkably few details are coming out about it. I just want to play a bit of sound from Mitch McConnell who was asked by Fox News what happened at the meetings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Were you surprised with what you learned?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing particularly surprising, but again, it was classified. So, there's no real report I can give to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: So, do you believe him on that? Do you think and as Democrats are saying not very much was learned.

ZELIZER: I do believe it, because that's further evidence there was a big problem other than the president's tweets. So, obviously, it is classified, so they can't go on television and just say exactly what happened. But there's a lot of indications from Democrats, from McConnell that nothing shocking was revealed in the meeting. So, that actually says a lot. They're not coming out. They don't

seem stunned by what they had seen. That undercuts a little bit of what the president said.

ROMANS: OK. Come back in a few minutes. I want to talk a little bit about North Korea. I also want to about where we think we are in this Russia investigation, given the news that potentially the president could have -- they want to sit down with the president at the beginning of this year.

MARQUARDT: Things seem to be moving a little bit faster. We'll see you in a little bit. Thank you, Julian.

ROMANS: All right. Six minutes past the hour.

Law enforcement sources tells CNN Harvey Weinstein is expected to surrender to New York police today to face rape charges. An avalanche of accusations against the disgraced Hollywood producer given rise to the Me Too and Times Up movement, leaving women around the world to come forward with accounts of being sexually harassed and abuse by powerful men. Weinstein has denied having any non-consensual sex with his accusers.

We get more now from CNN's Brynn Gingras.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Alex, yes, disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to turn himself in to a Manhattan location at some point later today. That's what we're learning from law enforcement sources that are familiar with this investigation. Of course, this is an investigation that has been going on for several, several months, ever since last year when that explosive article detailed many people making accusations against Weinstein.

Now, this is likely some sort of arrangement made with Weinstein's attorneys and the parties here in New York City, the NYPD, the Manhattan D.A.'s office that he would be allowed to turn himself in and then put under arrest. That is what we are waiting to see happen later today.

The grand jury was convened and has been going on hearing testimony, hearing evidence related to sexual misconduct after all of the claims of women have come forward against Harvey Weinstein that he is expected to turn himself in -- Christine and Alex.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Brynn, thank you so much for that.

MARQUARDT: All right. Is there a chance that the U.S. and North Korea will meet? Both sides are leaving the door open despite renewed hostilities. Our Christiane Amanpour joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:12:01] MARQUARDT: The future relations between the U.S. and North Korea uncertain at best right now that President Trump has pulled out of the Singapore summit. That was due to take place next month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many things can happen and a great opportunity lies ahead potentially. I believe that this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and indeed a setback for the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Issues with the two sides have been building. A senior official tells CNN North Koreans were a no show last week for meetings with the Americans in Singapore to discuss final preparations for that now canceled summit.

ROMANS: That raised alarms with the White House even before North Korea threatened nuclear war and called Vice President Mike Pence political dummy.

Let's go live to London and bring in CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

So, nice to see you this morning, Christiane. Thanks for being here.

We do have a response from the North Koreans. North Korean foreign ministry official saying this, we reiterate to the U.S. that we are willing to sit face-to-face at anytime and in any way. President Trump's statement on the North Korea and U.S. summit is a decision that is not in line with the wishes of those who hope for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula as well as the world.

Is this -- is this completely off here? Is there a chance this could be resurrected? What do you make of this?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not off. It's basically -- it's a reciprocal message from President Trump who also left the door open if the atmosphere around these talks which has became were highly charged sort of calms down. But I think once you sort of tear away and strip away the clutter of blame and what happened and all of that sort of hype that we've been experiencing from the White House, from North Korea over the last several weeks since the summit was first posited, if you strip all that away, you come down to one key issue, and that is that both sides definitely appeared to be too far apart on the actual substance.

The substance is denuclearization. But what does that mean to each side? And I think it was clear as this was getting closer, the June 12th summit, that there were very different expectations on both sides.

And the problem, of course, and I had spoken to many officials both in the United States who are, you know, work on the North Korea dossier and the denuclearization dossier, basically, North Korea, South Korea and President Trump put the cart before the horse. They got all excited about the possibility of a meeting for all of their own personal reasons and didn't do the leg work, the real leg work that's needed to come up with any kind of pre-negotiation or indeed negotiation which only afterwards would require the leaders to meet and seal the deal.

So, everything was happening backwards. And that's basically what happened. And then you throw into the mix the sort of pyromania if I could call it that, of comparing what might happen in North Korea to what did happen in Libya. And that, you know, that really, you know, sort of unsealed the deal.

[05:15:02] And basically, that's what Kim Kye Gwan said, the North Korean who just quoted. Before he said we're still willing to go for talks if the situation is right, he said the reason we got so hostile and he quoted President Trump's letter is because we were resisting the unilateral demand by the United States that we unilaterally disarm.

MARQUARDT: Yes. So much made by the pageantry and where this would all take place. The president seemed excited about the possibility of being on the DMZ and, of course, ended up in Singapore.

Christiane Amanpour, you were there last time that the North Koreans made a big to do about destroying part of their nuclear facility, now we have messaging from both sides saying they are willing to come back to the table. So, what does that mean? Like, the ball is in whose court at this point? Who makes the next move?

AMANPOUR: Well, that is a very, very good question, because you would think that it would either be between the two sides. North Korea and the United States if they get their channels of communication back open or you get the South Korean president to again act at mediator. But, of course, in a way, he has been a big loser because the optics show him as the, you know, mediator who came to Washington just two or three days ago, to really try to lobby President Trump to stay in this meeting. As he is leaving the United States and arriving back in his capital, you know, this all goes up in, you know, in smoke.

So, he has been discredited, if you like. It is important he tries to, you know, retrieve that credibility as a mediator, because he is a U.S. ally. If not, it's possible China, which is not a U.S. ally but a U.S. strategic competitor, may indeed find itself, you know, better off than it thought it was a few weeks ago and calling the shots certainly around North Korea and to Kim Jong-un when it comes to conditions for putting this back on track.

So, I think this is also a really important thing to look at as who is going to be in the driving seat going forward. But, look, there's no doubt. And all you have to do is look at the Iran deal. There were five months of secret talks before we even knew there may be a negotiation around their nuclear program.

And that took years at expert level, secretaries of state, foreign ministers, energy secretaries. You know, all the people who are experts, nuclear, technical people and then it was signed and then it was sealed and then it was enshrined in the U.N. So, it's a very long painstaking affair. And North Korea is much more complex than Iran ever was.

ROMANS: And I think the president is learning -- you know, the president, you know, prides himself on being a dealmaker and he looks at how much time it takes to do these big terrible deals and he says that he can just do it lickety-split. And we're learning that it is a little more complicated than that.

Just a couple of days ago, you know, Mike Pompeo was talking -- the secretary of state was talking about, you know, opening up that market to investment and, you know, American investment and relieving the suffering of the people. What does Kim Jong-un want? I mean, if you go back to very strict, strict sanctions and closed economy. I mean, what does Kim Jong-un want?

AMANPOUR: Well, first, it already is. Sanctions have not been relieved. Kim Jong-un absolutely does want to open up, absolutely wants U.S. investment. He really wants this meeting.

He has told his people that, you know, their policy now is they've done their nuclear. They are a nuclear power as far as they are concerned. They do have intercontinental ballistic missiles. Now, they want to reform and build their economy. That's what his vision is. How you get from A to B is the absolute question.

But here is another thing and it's really important. Is Mike Pompeo, is his credibility somewhat shook? Because he was saying up until the last moment that no, the planning is still going ahead, we are still going to do this.

And I know through reporting that one of the reasons that the North Koreans were standing offish under Tillerson was they ascertained that Tillerson had no relationship with President Trump. They needed to get to Donald Trump and they had nowhere to go. So, they thought Pompeo was the conduit. And now, Pompeo's legs have been slightly cut from under him as well.

So, it's all going to be really interesting to see if they can put humpty dumpty back together again. And in the meantime, it's really important to understand as well that President Trump's staffers, if you like, his people, in this regard have let him down. John Bolton, Mike Pence, by what they said, very hard line, have let him down.

And it's possible that in North Korea as well, hardliners are saying, see, see, see, don't go to the summit.

ROMANS: Right.

AMANPOUR: They are hardliners. They want us to bend over, unilaterally disarm, we're not going to do it. So, you have to sort of lay the table all over again.

ROMANS: All right. Christiane Amanpour in London, thank you so much. Have a great weekend.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Good reminder of how complex these international negotiations are. It's not just a matter of getting together and shaking hands and striking a deal.

All right. Well, the world champion Golden State Warriors just one game away from elimination.

[05:20:04] Lindsay Czarniak has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: The defending NBA champions are in trouble. Houston is just one win away from reaching the finals.

And Lindsay Czarniak is here with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: This thing could all be wrapped up Saturday. And I don't think anybody expected that.

MARQUARDT: Unbelievable.

CZARNIAK: It is crazy.

MARQUARDT: On the brink.

CZARNIAK: Yes, on the brink.

The Houston Rockets now one win away from pulling off quite the upset over the Golden State Warriors. Rockets rallying behind the city after last week's school shooting at Santa Fe high school. First responders and students from the high school were honored before last night's game five in Houston.

[05:25:03] And the Rockets gave them a performance to talk about. Chris Paul was really, you could call him the start of the show. He was feeling it.

Look at this. The outbalance three-pointer over Steph Curry. Look, and then given Steph a little shimmy taste of his own medicine. Steph said he appreciated that after the game.

Paul's coach Mike D'Antoni saying Chris Paul made something out of nothing leading the team. You see the double clutch. Justin Timberlake there, and JJ Watt reacting court side, Eric Gordon joining with team high 24 points.

After the game, James Harden acknowledging the tone of the night set from the beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES HARDEN, HOUSTON ROCKETS: It was an extremely emotional. (INAUDIBLE) You know, we're trying to bring them some, to kind of cheer them up a little bit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: Something fans are talking about this morning. Chris Paul did injure himself. He hurt his hamstring. He is now questionable for game six Saturday in Oakland.

To the NFL now, players and others continue to react to the NFL's decision to change the national anthem policy. We learned yesterday, players will now be fined if they choose to stay on the field and kneel.

There are new details this morning about the actual vote that took place at the owners meeting. It has been revealed the vote was actually a show of hands. So, while not every owner took part, there was no one who spoke up against the new policy.

Yesterday, President Trump praising the decision to enforce the new rule saying players who kneel, quote, maybe shouldn't be in the country. Players begin to weigh in on those comments, including Colin Kaepernick's college teammate Brandon Marshall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDON MARSHALL, DENVER BRONCOS: I say it's disgusting because of our amendment rights, in our First Amendment rights. You know, we have freedom of speech and freedom of protest. So, because somebody decides to protest something, now we have to be kicked out of the country? That's not how things should work in my opinion.

DOUG BALDWN, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: It's not American. It's not very patriotic. It's not what the country was founded upon. So, it's kind of ironic to me that the president of the United States is contradicting what our country is really built on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: Doug Baldwin there.

This issue is not going anywhere.

MARQUARDT: And at least one owner, the owner of the Jets, if I'm not mistaken, has said that he will pay the fines if the players continue to --

CZARNIAK: Christopher Johnson, yes, exactly. And that's interesting statement, right, because, obviously, you have this vote that has taken place and he comes out and says that, he is more in the support of his players. You get the sense that owners somehow could be divided as well.

MARQUARDT: You think there could be some momentum on that side from other owners.

CZARNIAK: Could be. But if anything would happen, I think it's big question, right? The NFL players association is up in arms about this because they weren't even consulted. So, it will be interesting to see what they can do if anything.

MARQUARDT: All right. Lindsay, thank you so much.

CZARNIAK: You got it, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. What was the president's lawyer doing at a classified briefing, two of them, on the Russia investigation? Even some White House staffers are perplexed. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)