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EARLY START

Trump Says Jeff Sessions' Job Safe for Now. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:14] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The attorney general's job is safe for now. Jeff Sessions could be replaced once the midterms are done.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's fighting to restore what we call regular order. Just try to treat one another again like we used to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Passionate tributes to John McCain before his final flight to Washington. Today McCain is granted an honor only few are. He will lie in state at the U.S. capitol.

BRIGGS: And are NFL teams colluding to keep Colin Kaepernick out of the league? An arbitrator refusing to rule that out.

To my knowledge, no mention of the NFL last night at the Trump rally in Indiana.

Good morning, Kaylee.

HARTUNG: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. Welcome to EARLY START.

HARTUNG: And I'm Kaylee Hartung in for Christine Romans. It's Friday, August 31st. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East. To get through the show with us and then welcome to your holiday weekend. Some of us have to work.

BRIGGS: Three-day weekend.

HARTUNG: Some of us do.

BRIGGS: Yes.

HARTUNG: Not all of us.

BRIGGS: We're going to savor that for a moment.

(LAUGHTER)

HARTUNG: So it appears it's no longer a matter of time if President Trump will fire his attorney general, but when. The president in an interview with Bloomberg says Jeff Sessions' job is safe through the midterm elections but he makes no promises after that.

We know the president is angry over Sessions' recusing himself from the Russia probe, but a source tells CNN what may be more frustrating is that Sessions' recusal prevents him from addressing stories that have spread in conservative media about the origin of the Russia probe. Mr. Trump said as much in the Bloomberg interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd just like to have Jeff Sessions do his job and if he did, I'd be very happy. But the job entails two sides. Not one side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The president also telling Bloomberg he sees the Mueller investigation as, quote, "illegal," and did not say whether he would comply with a subpoena.

So the question of who would replace Sessions and oversee the Russia probe taking on far greater importance.

We get more now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Kaylee, President Trump answered a lingering question that has been hanging over the White House and indeed the Justice Department.

Will he dismiss or fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions? Well, he told "Bloomberg News" that Jeff Sessions' job is safe at least until November. That did not stop the president, however, from going after the Justice Department at a rally Thursday night here in Evansville, Indiana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now. What's happening is a disgrace. And at some point I wanted to stay out, but at some point if it doesn't straighten out properly, I want them to do their job. I will get involved and I'll get in there if I have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So the president not specific at all about how he will get involved. He has made that suggestion from time to time over recent months that he will get involved. But he has not yet done so. Of course his lawyers and others have warned him against interfering in the Russia investigation.

But one thing was clear, President Trump clearly had Russia on his mind even though he rarely talked about it as he rallied Republican voters here in Indiana. Clearly focusing on the 2018 midterm elections even if he talked far more about his own race, his favorite race, back in 2016 -- Dave and Kaylee.

HARTUNG: Thanks, Jeff.

And President Trump also telling Bloomberg's Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, did not betray him by agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors in the Michael Cohen investigation.

We learned last week Weisselberg received immunity. He was one of the Trump executives who reimbursed Cohen for the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. But the president doesn't seem all -- at all concerned about the CFO talking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hundred percent. He is a wonderful guy. It was a very limited little period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARTUNG: Trump refused to say whether he knew before the election about the Stormy Daniels payment despite past claims he did not. Trump also knocked the threat of Democrats trying to impeach him, saying, "I don't think they can impeach somebody that's doing a great job." He says it would set a precedent making it too easy to remove future presidents.

BRIGGS: President Trump also defending his response to John McCain's passing, telling Bloomberg he did not missed a chance to unite the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We had our disagreements. And they were very strong disagreements. I disagreed with many of the things that I assumed he believed in. But with that being said, I respect his service to the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was in the room during the interview. Mr. Trump joked that she was, quote, "having a nervous breakdown" during his answers about McCain.

[04:05:02] HARTUNG: The senator's body arriving in Washington last night from Arizona. The family was greeted by Defense Secretary James Mattis.

McCain will lie in state today at the U.S. capitol where the public can pay respects. And before that the McCain family including his 106-year-old mother Roberta, they will attend a ceremony at the capitol. Vice President Pence is expected to deliver remarks and of course be the one there representing the White House.

BRIGGS: On Thursday, thousands packed the Phoenix church to say good- bye to Arizona's favorite son. Among the speakers, former vice president Joe Biden who talked about their friendship and how they both lamented a bygone era in Washington. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: All we do today is attack the oppositions of both parties, their motives. Not the substance of their arguments. The last day, John, on the Senate floor, look what he was fighting to do. He was fighting to restore what we call regular order. Just how to treat one another again like we used to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Arizona Cardinals' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald spoke about their unlikely friendship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY FITZGERALD, ARIZONA CARDINALS WIDE RECEIVER: He ran for president. I run out of bounds.

(LAUGHTER)

FITZGERALD: He was the epitome of toughness and I do everything I can to avoid contact.

(LAUGHTER)

FITZGERALD: I have flowing locks and well, he didn't. He didn't judge individuals based on the color of their skin, their gender, their backgrounds or political affiliations or their bank accounts. He evaluated them on the merits of their character and the contents of their hearts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARTUNG: Fitzgerald in uniform. The Cardinals paid tribute to McCain before last night's preseason finale in Arizona. Funeral service will be held tomorrow at the National Cathedral in Washington then John McCain will be buried on Sunday at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

BRIGGS: Today is deadline day for NAFTA. The U.S. and Canada making a late-night push to modernize the trade agreement but there's no deal yet. President Trump telling Bloomberg the two are close, but it may not be today. The U.S. and Mexico and Canada have been reworking NAFTA for more than a year.

Canada rejoined the talks after months on the sidelines giving the U.S. and Mexico time to work out their own deal. Now Canada and the U.S. must come together and President Trump pledging this new deal will be better for the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are replacing NAFTA with a beautiful brand new U.S.-Mexico trade deal. And as we speak, Canada -- and we love Canada, right? But they have to get rid of those barriers and they have to get rid of those big tariffs. We've really developed a very good relationship. Look, we love Canada. But they have to treatise fairly. They haven't treated us fairly. This country is tired of being ripped off by other countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Of course Congress must approve any new deal and there are still a few sticking points between the U.S. and Canada especially over Canada's dairy market. The Trump administration wants more access for U.S. farmers. Canada imposes a 249 percent tariff on dairy products while Canada wants to protect its domestic industry.

HARTUNG: And there's a new sign of trouble between the United States and North Korea. Pyongyang accusing the U.S. of taking hostile actions behind the, quote, "curtain of dialogue." The regime referring to a South Korean report that U.S. Special Forces have been carrying out covert training in South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. The U.S. forces in Japan tell CNN they are not aware of the alleged drills. But U.S. aircraft and ships operate from Japan daily in support of allies.

BRIGGS: This happened just hours after President Trump told Bloomberg he can be patient with Kim Jong-un, saying he has more patience than anyone in the world. Trump says his relationship with Kim remains, quote, "good." He notes that North Korea released several Americans and stayed away from nuclear missile tests despite taking no firm steps to denuclearize since that June summit.

HARTUNG: President Trump now telling lawmakers he wants to scrap a pay raise for civilian federal workers. An across-the-board 2.1 percent pay increase for federal workers was slated to take effect in January. But in a letter to House and Senate leaders, Mr. Trump described the pay increase as, quote, "inappropriate." He also said the nation's budget couldn't support it. Congress does have an opportunity to overrule the president if lawmakers pass a spending bill that includes a federal pay raise.

The Senate and the House will negotiate the final measure in the coming weeks. It's not clear if the president would approve a budget that includes the pay raise.

BRIGGS: How about some fast food politics now? In-N-Out Burger under searing pressure from Democrats in California after a public filing revealed the restaurant chain donated $25,000 to the state Republican Party.

[04:10:06] The late CEO Rich Snyder was an evangelical Christian and supporter of Republican candidates. The burger chain doesn't make its founder's Christian values a secret with bible quotes printed on its wrappers. California's Democratic Party chairman now calling for a boycott of In-N-Out, but it's worth noting according to the campaign finance filings, In-N-Out Burger also donated $80,000 since last year to a political action committee that typically supports Democratic candidates.

All day on Twitter you saw the #boycottinnoutburger. This is not new. We saw this with Chick-fil-A recently. Politics is everywhere. Sports, food. It's all around us, all encompassing.

HARTUNG: But if you've ever had a burger from In-N-Out, I am guessing party loyalty may only go so far.

BRIGGS: They're OK.

HARTUNG: Especially in the state --

(CROSSTALK)

HARTUNG: Really?

BRIGGS: Sorry. Sorry.

HARTUNG: OK. This is a fight. This is a fight for another time.

BRIGGS: Yes, we'll discuss it to break. I'm a Five Guys guy.

HARTUNG: We'll discuss. We'll discuss.

BRIGGS: Yes. All right.

HARTUNG: And after the break, coming up, the death toll is rising overnight from a head-on crash between a tractor-trailer and Greyhound bus in New Mexico. More about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:15:17] HARTUNG: In New Mexico, at least seven people are dead in a head-on highway collision between a tractor-trailer and a Greyhound bus. Dozens more were injured, including children. Authorities say that this truck blew a tire, lost control and crossed the median, striking the bus along Interstate 40 in McKinley County, that's northwest New Mexico.

Now aerial footage shows the truck on its side with the contents spilled all over the median. Passengers on the bus, they tried to climb out of windows as bystanders grabbed ladders from their cars to try and rescue them.

BRIGGS: A California man charged after allegedly making a series of threats to the "Boston Globe." Robert Chain is accused of making threatening phone calls after the paper announced earlier this month it was calling on newspapers across the country to publish editorials standing up to the president for attacks on the media. Court documents say on the same day This was the same day the editorial campaign was published Chain called the "Globe's" newsroom and said, quote, "You're the enemy of the people and we're going to kill every f-ing one of you." Chain spoke after his court appearance in California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT CHAIN, CHARGED WITH MAKING THREATS TO BOSTON GLOBE: There is no free press in America. America was saved when Donald J. Trump was elected president. Had the criminal Hillary Clinton, the criminal Hillary Clinton, who by the way whose e-mails were just hacked by the Chinese now --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Wow. That was his wife who pulled him away. In all Chain allegedly made at least 14 threatening phone calls to the "Boston Globe." He faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

HARTUNG: Now after igniting more than a month ago, the deadly Carr Fire in California is finally 100 percent contained. Authorities say the catastrophic blaze burned almost 230,000 acres and destroyed more than a thousand homes. It began July 23rd sparked by a vehicle driving on a flat tire. Crews will patrol the burned area for several more days. The fire is blamed for eight deaths. And that Hirz Fire nearby continues to burn.

BRIGGS: The Food and Drug Administration warning consumers about the potential dangers of eating food prepared with liquid nitrogen. The FDA says serious injury can happen from eating food such as ice cream, cereal or cocktails prepared by adding liquid nitrogen and ingesting it immediately after. Officials say in some cases there has been damage to skin and internal organs. They also warn if liquid nitrogen is inhaled, it may cause difficulty breathing, The FDA did not release how many reports of injuries it has received.

I'm frightened. I'm now wondering what do I eat that requires liquid nitrogen?

HARTUNG: I think you'll be safe and OK.

BRIGGS: OK.

HARTUNG: And so just fine without your liquid nitrogen ice cream on your menu on your Labor Day weekend.

BRIGGS: Good thing to know heading into the holiday weekend.

HARTUNG: You know, there is one more chance to barbecue like on this holiday weekend. What will the forecast do? Will it cooperate? Find out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:22:44] HARTUNG: It will be a service fit a queen. A star-studded final farewell on tap today for the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Funeral service in Detroit will feature musical tribute from Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Arianna Grande, Faith Hill and many more. Former President Bill Clinton will be among the speakers.

BRIGGS: Dozens of pink Cadillacs will line the streets of Detroit paying homage to Aretha's 1985 single "Freeway of Love."

Outstanding last night, dozens of artists and celebrities paid tribute to Aretha at a free concert at a park in Detroit. Tickets went so quickly many decided to go to the venue and stand just outside to hear the music. Aretha Franklin died two weeks ago from pancreatic cancer.

HARTUNG: A big legal victory for Colin Kaepernick. An arbitrator allowing his collusion grievance against the NFL to proceed to a trial-like hearing. The league had requested arbitrator Stephen Burbank to dismiss the case.

Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season and the former 49ers quarterback claims that team owners conspired to keep him out of the league after he refused to stand for the national anthem as protest against social injustice. His hearing is expected to take place later this year.

BRIGGS: At the U.S. Open, a chair umpire is taking heat after he appeared to give a pep talk to Nick Kyrgios during his second round match Thursday. Kyrgios is known for his meltdowns and appeared to be having one in the second set. Chair umpire Mo Lahyani left his seat and was spotted giving him a pep talk. The ump saying things like I want to help you. You're great for tennis and I know this is not you. That talk appeared to work. Kyrgios coming back to win. As for the 23-year-old player he is downplaying the whole issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK KYRGIOS, AUSTRALIAN TENNIS PLAYER: He was just telling me this is not a good look. Like I wasn't feeling good. I know what I was doing out there wasn't good. You know, I wasn't listening to him. But I knew, you know, it wasn't a good look. So it didn't help at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The U.S. Tennis Association says the umpire left his chair because he was concerned about Kyrgios' health. But the "New York Times" says an investigation is under way into his actions.

HARTUNG: What is the weather going to look like on this holiday weekend?

[04:25:04] If you're in the Midwest, there is a severe weather threat, while the northeast is going to cool down for the holiday weekend. Here's meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Kaylee and Dave. The long-awaited holiday weekend is upon us. You'll feel a big difference as you step outdoors today compared to earlier in the workweek where it was extremely hot and humid. Temperatures have come down quite a bit thanks to a cold front that's passed just to our east.

And unfortunately with that cold front comes a small chance of a light shower or two through the day today and into the weekend as well. We have a chance of severe storms across the northern plains.

Look at where the storm prediction center has highlighted the areas from southern Minnesota into western Wisconsin, parts of Iowa. Damaging winds, large hail a possibility so look out, Minneapolis all the way to Des Moines and into Omaha. Rainfall totals with some of those slow-moving thunderstorms that finally fire up later today could easily produce over an inch to two inches of rain locally.

Now we do have a warming trend as we head into early parts of next week. Labor Day weather forecast looking rather stormy into Chicago to end off the weekend. Boston will be cool. Atlanta stays hot and muggy.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: All right, Derek. Thanks.

HARTUNG: Hot and muggy Atlanta? Hot and muggy Atlanta.

BRIGGS: Shocker for you, right?

HARTUNG: That's where I'm headed back to.

BRIGGS: Enjoy that. OK.

Ahead, the president putting the attorney general on notice. Jeff Sessions --

(LAUGHTER)

BRIGGS: Jeff Sessions -- it's the hot and muggy weather, Kaylee. Jeff Sessions' job is safe for now, but the midterms, they could be the breaking point. Mine just happened.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)