Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Sen. Cory Booker Versus Sen. Jeff Sessions; Nepotism Controversy over Kushner Appointment; Clemson Wins National Championship; Russian Troops Edging Toward Georgia. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 10, 2017 - 04:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:31:01] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: a sitting U.S. senator ready to stand in the way of one of his colleague's cabinet nomination. Cory Booker says he will testify against Jeff Sessions for attorney general. We'll tell you why.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Jared Kushner is not facing confirmation hearings, but he is facing push back after getting a top job in his father-in-law's White House. Now, House Democrats are ready to take action.

BERMAN: All right. This was worth not sleeping. Clemson dramatic fourth quarter comeback to deny the Crimson Tide their one-millionth national title. We'll tell you how it all happened. Show you some amazing, amazing plays.

I don't want to stop watching. Let's keep watching. Let's keep watching. Oh, that was a good catch.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Breaking overnight: word that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker will take the unprecedented step of testifying against the confirmation of another sitting senator. This doesn't happen. Booker has been added to the witness list for Senator Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing on Wednesday. That's the second day of Sessions hearings which begin today.

Booker says he is concerned about Trump's pick for attorney general, especially what he calls Sessions failure to defend civil rights, minorities and LGBT Americans.

In a statement, Booker said this, "I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague. But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of the nominee is a call to conscience. The attorney general is responsible for ensuring the fair administration of justice. And based on his record, I lack confidence that Senator Sessions can honor this duty."

Also set to testify against the Sessions confirmation is civil rights icon, Representative John Lewis.

Sessions is winning support from Republicans, like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice, like Sessions, is from Alabama, wrote a letter praising Senator Sessions as a friend and a man, quote, "committed to justice, as well as law and order."

BREMAN: You know, it's unlikely that Sessions will not be confirmed. He will almost definitely be confirmed. But it will be uncomfortable. I mean, to see one sitting senator testify against the colleague like that is something you don't see in the Senate, which is seen as very clubby and often differential to each other. So, one will wonder what will take place there. One also wonders, Cory Booker, if he's got his eyes on something beyond.

ROMANS: It's a dramatic move. It's a dramatic move for Corey Booker.

BERMAN: All right. New questions this morning surrounding the appointment of Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner to a senior White House post. Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee are asking the Justice Department and the Office of Government Ethics to review Kushner's appointment as senior adviser to the president. They say it may violate conflict of interest and nepotism laws.

Kushner is resigning from all of his other jobs. He is transferring some, but not all assets. One asset he is transferring is "The New York Observer" to a family trust. He will work in the White House for no pay.

As for the nepotism issue, Kushner's lawyer, Jaime Gorelick, who worked, by the way, in the Clinton administration, she is seen as someone friendly to Democrats. She says the president-elect or when he will be president, has sweeping authority to pick the advisors he chooses and that the nepotism laws don't cover the White House. It covers agencies and the White House, as Christine Romans duly points out, is not an agency.

Donald Trump still has yet to explain how or if he will separate his own business interests from the presidency. He might do that tomorrow in the scheduled news conference. He spoke briefly to reporters yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: All I can say is it's very simple, very easy. Get ready for a (INAUDIBLE). It would be very, very easy to do.

REPORTER: Have you already started that process?

TRUMP: Yes, very much so. A lot, but it's really a very simple process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: CNN will have full coverage of this news conference. The first for Donald Trump in nearly six months. That news conference, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

ROMANS: Also starting today, confirmation hearings for Trump's secretary of homeland security nominee, General John Kelly.

[04:35:02] This as the confirmation hearing for secretary of education nominee, Betsy DeVos, has been postponed to next week. The hearing had been set for tomorrow. The official reason for the delay is to accommodate the Senate schedule. But Senate Democrats have been pushing for postponement, so a federal ethics watchdog can finish its review of the Michigan billionaire's background and her investments. Democrats say they are concerned about potential conflicts of interest DeVos may have.

BERMAN: New questions are being raised this morning about Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson whose hearings begin tomorrow. Federal filings show that during Rex Tillerson's time as CEO of ExxonMobil, the oil giant did business with Iran, Syria and Sudan, through a foreign subsidiary. At the time, those countries were under U.S. sanctions as states sponsor of terrorism. The SEC documents were unearthed by the liberal American Bridge Super PAC and shared first with "USA Today."

ExxonMobil says the deals were legal because a subsidiary was based in Europe. The transactions did not involve U.S. employees.

At tomorrow's hearing, Tillerson will also certainly be questioned about his business ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Tillerson was given an award by Vladimir Putin.

But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob corker says he does not think Tillerson's views on Russia will be a problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I don't get the sense his views on Russia are out of the mainstream at all. So, look, obviously on both sides of the aisle, people will ask that question when he's here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Today will be busy on Capitol Hill. Let's just say the next ten days will be very busy on Capitol Hill. Two big Senate hearings today on top of the confirmations under way. Senior intelligence officials including the heads of the CIA, the FBI and NSA testify in open session about Russian hacking activities and the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a full hearing focusing on civilian control of the U.S. Armed Forces. Now, that's a big issue since two of Donald Trump's cabinet nominees are recently retired generals.

For the very latest on all of this, I want to bring in national security reporter Ryan Browne, live for us in Washington bright and early this morning, 4:36 a.m. EARLY START time.

Good morning.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Good morning, Christine.

That's right. This will be the first time the leaders of the intelligence community, the NSA, CIA, FBI and the Director of National Intelligence will actually have a chance to face questions from the Senate after they release their report Friday which said that Vladimir Putin had ordered Russian services to hack into U.S. elections systems and behind the disinformation campaign in order to undermine the U.S. democratic process, damage Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and had expressed what they said was a preference for now President-elect Donald Trump.

Now, we can expect that there will be a lot of questions about Russia's role in the election from both sides of the aisle, and there are senators, a bipartisan group of senators are moving today actually to ratchet up sanctions against Moscow, in retaliation for what they said is the intrusion that they committed during the election.

And late -- you know, earlier in the day, we will hear, at the Senate Armed Services Committee, there will be the hearing on what you talked about the civilian control of the military. An issue that's come up because Trump's pick for defense secretary, General James Mattis, hasn't been out of uniform, or retired long enough, to serve as defense secretary. So, a special waiver is going to have to be pursued to allow that.

Now, General Mattis is pretty popular and people don't necessarily think that his confirmation will be stopped. But this will, some people are opposing it on the basis of maintaining civilian control, like New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. This will give him an opportunity to voice that opposition in a hearing today.

ROMANS: All right. From D.C., bright and early this morning, thank you so much for that.

BROWNE: Sure.

BERMAN: Bernie Sanders, senator of Vermont, is calling on Democrats to challenge, but not obstruct incoming president, Donald Trump. The Vermont senator and former challenger for the Democratic nomination appeared at a CNN town hall in Washington last night. He blasted Republicans for, quote, "shamelessly" refusing to consider President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.

But he told our Chris Cuomo there on the right that Democrats should take a higher road.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: What the GOP did the day literally on the day that President Obama was inaugurated, they sit down and they said, OK, our strategy is going to be that we will be obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. We will do everything that we can to make sure that he accomplishes as little as possible and then we'll go to the American people and say, see, this guy didn't accomplish anything. Vote for us.

No, I don't think that's what we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: On the issue of Obamacare, Senator Sanders says the Democrats damn well won't stand for repeal without a viable replacement.

ROMANS: All right. Senate Republicans are scrambling to develop a plan to quickly replace key elements of the Affordable Care Act. GOP leaders will not say which parts of the law they see as replaceable immediately.

But now, a breakaway group of Republicans is actually trying to delay a larger repeal until March. Bloomberg reporting five GOP senators want to extend the target date for an Obamacare repeal bill to March 3rd. The party is under increasing fire for demanding immediate repeal of the law without offering anything concrete to replace it, potentially costing millions of Americans their coverage.

[04:40:06] BERMAN: Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay of Missouri plans to file a police report against Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California. Duncan Hunter removed a controversial painting from the walls of the Capitol. Clay had put it up. Critics complained it was anti-police.

Take a look at it. It was done by an artist in high school in Congressman Clay's district. You can see some of the police officers there are depicted as pigs. This painting did win a contest.

Congressman Hunter did not like it. He personally unscrewed it from the wall when he walked past it and delivered it to Congressman Clay's office. So, a fight right now over that painting.

ROMANS: All right. The president, President Obama, putting the final touches on his farewell address. He will deliver that tonight. Aides say it will be less of a victory lap and more of a call to action for the next generation.

According to spokesman Josh Earnest, the president intends to deliver just such a forward looking speech that is in Chicago tonight, briefly examining the progress of the last eight years, but focusing more on what he believes the nation must do to confront the challenges ahead.

That speech begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. So, for you early birds, we will let you know what happened.

BERMAN: Exactly. Maybe you'll be sleeping. We'll give you the highlights.

As for highlights, an epic comeback and really a finish for the ages last night in the college football championship. Clemson beat the Crimson Tide of Alabama. They scored 21 points in the fourth quarter in this comeback.

Alabama took the lead, you can see right here, which is over two minutes to go. A 30-hour touchdown run from freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Watch this. Jalen Hurts scrambled to score a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

You think the game is over at this point, but no. The Tigers' Hunter Renfrow caught a touchdown of the game, a two-yard pass, which is one second remaining to give Clemson their first national title since 1981. Alabama, it would have been their fifth title in the last eight years under coach Nick Saban.

Clemson, very, very happy. It was an amazing game. You see the celebration last night at Clemson on campus. I imagine it's still going on. If you are watching the news this morning at this bar in Clemson, congratulations to you.

ROMANS: Wow. They really take football seriously.

BERMAN: They do this in economics class.

ROMANS: Do they?

BERMAN: You know, in business administration.

ROMANS: I thought that was the student newspaper staff.

BERMAN: Do they have newspapers in college?

ROMANS: Stop, you break my heart.

All right, 4:42 a.m. in the East. Police in Florida expanding their search for the man they say killed a police officer following a month on the run. We've got that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: All right. The cost of two pieces, key pieces of the American dream are heading in opposite directions.

First, mortgages are becoming more affordable for some home buyers. The Federal Housing Administration will drop the rate of mortgage insurance by more than 18 percent, or a quarter of a percentage point. It will save homeowners an average of 500 bucks this year. Those taking out larger loans will see an even bigger savings. The FHA backs loans to protect lenders if a borrower defaults.

Home buyers can put as little as 3.5 percent down, 3.5 percent down in some cases. But the hitch is you have to pay insurance, right? Officials say the program is sufficiently funded after four years of gains in the housing market to cut those insurance prices.

If you have a child, you will probably spend that extra money very quickly. Here is how a key part of the American dream is going in the other direction. Parents, brace yourself. The total cost of raising a child born in 2015 now averages more than $233,000. And that only covers expenses from birth to age 17.

BERMAN: Oh my God!

ROMANS: It does not factor in the cost of college. The overall growth and child rearing cost is slowing from recent years, cold comfort. Thanks in part to lower gas prices. It costs less to get in their soccer games.

BERMAN: My kid doesn't take gas. He runs on food, like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.

ROMANS: The biggest expenses are housing, food and child care. You know, I talk to USDA economists about this before. Look, you're telling people not to have kids. That's really expensive.

Apparently, the more children you have, there are economies of scale on the housing and the gas front, because when you take both of them to school in the car, they don't both use the same amount of gas. That is why I justify my three little cost centers because, apparently, my third one does not cost $233,000 a year.

BERMAN: The other thing, we're talking about the macro economy, and I didn't realize this. You need more children to increase productivity. One of the drag is people having fewer children?

ROMANS: Well, yes, this is true. But it's hard to tell people to have more children when it costs $233,000 a piece. And that's before college. I mean, you're going to be broke, Berman.

BERMAN: That's why I'm here at 4:00 a.m.

All right. Hundreds of law enforcement officers blanketing Orlando, searching for the gunman who shot and killed a female officer outside of Walmart. The suspect fled in a vehicle, fired shots at a pursuing officer, carjacked a different vehicle, and eventually sprinted into an apartment complex. A second Orlando law enforcement officer, a deputy sheriff, was killed when he crashed his motorcycle looking for the gunman. Just so much tragedy going in that city right now.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Ryan Young.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Orlando, there's an all-out manhunt for Markeith Lloyd. $60,000 is being offered by the police departments in this area to catch the man.

Now, if you look behind me, there is a mobile command center that officers have been using throughout the day. They believe they have been pinned in to a certain neighborhood. But so far, they have not been able to find this man.

The officer who was shot and killed, Master Sergeant Debra Clayton. She was told by someone at Walmart that they believe they saw Markeith Lloyd. And when she approached less than two minutes later, she was shot in the chest. She was able to return fire, but police believe he was not able to hit Markeith Lloyd before he was able to get away.

Others officers responded to the area. He took shoots at them as well. Now, Markeith Lloyd has been on the run for more than 30 days. Police

believe he shot his ex-girlfriend who was pregnant at the time. She died. But for 30 days, they have not been able to find him.

JOHN MINA, ORLANDO POLICE CHIEF: Markeith Lloyd needs to turn himself in, not tonight. Not tomorrow. He needs to call and turn himself in now so we can bring this to a peaceful resolution.

JERRY DEMINGS, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF: We're not going anywhere. If we don't have this individual by nightfall, we're not going anywhere. We're going to stay at it until we find him.

YOUNG: And Master Sergeant Debra Clayton is a woman that so many people in this community apparently love.

[04:50:01] In fact, she had a child in college. She was recently married. And so many people talk about her good works throughout the community. She even helped get 200 kids in their first job this summer.

Officers here tell us they will work hard to find the man who they believe killed her in cold blood.

Reporting in Orlando, Ryan Young, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Ryan.

The Iraq war veteran who allegedly opened fire inside Ft. Lauderdale's airport has been appointed a federal public defender, after telling a judge he has no job and only $5 to $10 in the bank. Esteban Santiago has been ordered held until a detention hearing scheduled for next week. He said "yes" when the judge asked him if he understood the charges against him and the possibility he could face the death penalty.

BERMAN: Fifteen Jewish community centers in several states had to be evacuated Monday after receiving bomb threats. The centers were located in New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. No explosives were found with any of the facilities. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive says it is aware of the threats and is prepared to assist local police if asked.

ROMANS: Convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof has offered no defense against the death penalty. He is representing himself. He rested his case without putting on any witnesses or evidence. Instead, he simply told the jury, quote, "I am not going to lie to you. There is nothing wrong with me psychologically."

Roof was convicted on 33 federal charges in the shooting deaths of nine people in 2015. The jury now will now decide if he gets the death penalty or life in prison. Deliberations could start as soon as today. Just a terrible case all around.

All right. Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer is planning to leave early. But her departure depends on one very big deal going through. We'll get a check on CNN Money stream, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: More than eight years after Russia caused a global uproar by moving in two breakaway provinces in Georgia, there are concerns more of the same is on the way.

[04:55:01] It is happening slowly, but Russian forces are slowly trying to create a new border. Now, neighboring countries are concerned they could be next.

CNN international correspondent Erin McLaughlin joins us now.

Erin, you had a fascinating look at this.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Essentially what E.U. monitors are saying is that Russian forces are trying to create a new border inside the country of Georgia. They call the process borderization.

And recently, U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, as well as some others visited the region, and when they returned, they expressed some serious concerns about what they saw there. When we went there, we spoke to locals who told us they're in a desperate situation.

I spoke to one 81-year-old Dato Vanishvili. He says he went out for errands one day and returned to find a razor wire fence cutting through his land. He says that he was told that his home was now in Russian territory. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DATO VANISHVILI, GEORGIAN CITIZEN (through translator): I was angry when they came. They said it was Russian territory. So, if you don't want to be from Russia, leave. Where should I go? Help me if you can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: Sometimes, Russians are using wire fencing, as we saw on the case of Dato Vanishvili. Other times, they are using green signs. Earlier this year, they piled a three-mile long trench straight through an orchard causing a lot of concern on the ground. E.U. monitors tell me that these actions are unilateral. They're not negotiated, seemingly based on old Soviet maps.

Now, we reached out to the Kremlin as well as South Ossetian officials for comment on these activities, nothing, no word so far -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Erin McLaughlin with a fascinating look at what is going on inside Georgia right now. Thanks so much, Erin.

All right. Now, nine hours of drama on the seas Sunday with the tense relations between the U.S. and Iran nearing a boiling point. U.S. defense officials confirmed that the Navy fired warnings shots at Iranian boats. Five Iranian vessels buzzed to within 900 yards of the USS Mahan and two other U.S. ships near the Strait of Hormuz. Pentagon officials say there were a total of 35 such encounters in 2016.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check of CNN Money Stream this morning.

Dow futures edging, oh, a bit lower right now. You know, why? Well, the U.S. dollar is falling ahead of Donald Trump's big news conference tomorrow. Investors want to hear more on his plans for (AUDIO GAP).

In London, the FTSE 100, look at that, near a record high. Other global stock markets mixed, despite some strong Chinese manufacturing data. Watch oil, it is up, still above $52 a barrel.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer planning to end her tumultuous run at the company and SEC filings shows Mayer will step down from Yahoo's board of directors, but only if its sale to Verizon goes through. That deal is on shaky ground after two huge hacks were revealed late last year.

If it happens, it would end Mayer's four year tenure leading Yahoo, during which she struggled to turn Yahoo around. Last year, Verizon agreed to buy Yahoo's Internet properties for $4.8 billion. But reports say the company is asking for deep discounts following news of those hacks.

The company that makes some of America's favorite candy is making a big move into pet care. Mars, the maker of M&Ms, Snickers, Milk Way and Kit Kat bars, my personal favorite, is buying a company called VCA. This deal is worth $9.1 billion.

Apparently, there's a lot of money to be had in taking care of your pet. It gives Mars a network of 800 small animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. It also offers lab services for pets in all 50 states. Mars already has a solid pet care presence. It owns pet food brands like Pedigree, did you know what? Whiskas? Sheba? Owned by the candy company and it runs Banfield animal hospital.

BERMAN: It's funny. So, I read the headline in this overnight that Mars is buying. I figured, first of all, I don't read off the headlines of business stories, because I figure you have my backs, that I don't have to take about it. So, I figured it was a different company than the Mars Candy Company, because, look, why would Mars candy be in, you know, pet supplies?

ROMANS: There is synergy between --

BERMAN: What synergy? You want like dog hair in your M&M's?

ROMANS: Gross. No.

BERMAN: It's not synergy.

ROMANS: There's synergy. These are things people care about, it makes people happy. Eating candies and taking care of your pet.

BERMAN: I buy that. ROMANS: You don't even have a dog.

BERMAN: No.

ROMANS: Your kids want a dog.

BERMAN: No, I have college tuition to pay.

ROMANS: I am team dog. Berman kids, team dog.

Check out the new CNN Money Stream app. It's business news personalized, the stories, videos, tweets, and topics you all want in one feed. Download it now in the App Store and Google Play.

BERMAN: All right. EARLY START continues now.

(MUSIC)

BERMAN: Breaking overnight: this is something we have not seen before by a sitting U.S. senator. Cory Booker says he will testify against his Senate colleague during confirmation hearings. Jeff Sessions up for attorney general. Cory Booker will testify against him. He's not the only one.

Jared Kushner's new role in his father-in-law's White House. Not up for confirmation, but that's not stopping Democrats from challenging this move from the president-elect. We'll tell you how.