Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's HHS Pick Under Fire for Stock Buy; 14 Cabinet Picks Still Await Hearings; Kerry Speaks Out; Istanbul Attacker Said to Confess; Warriors Blow Out Cavs, 126-91. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2017 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New overnight: questions facing the man tapped to lead the overhaul of Obamacare.

[05:00:04] A CNN investigation into Congressman Tom Price, the results just moments away.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A number of Trump's nominees are getting set to face a grilling from the Senate. But could unfinished ethics review get in the way, making for a thin cabinet when Donald Trump takes office Friday?

BERMAN: Before he leaves office, Secretary of State John Kerry with some parting words for President-elect Donald Trump. What he said the president-elect should not say.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you all this morning, especially you, Mr. Berman.

BERMAN: Especially me?

ROMANS: Who took yesterday off, sort of.

It's Tuesday, January 17th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the east.

Let's get started here with some new trouble for a Trump cabinet nominee this morning. A CNN report has Democrats calling for an ethics investigation of Congressman Tom Price. He is the president- elect's pick to be secretary of Health and Human Services. Now, the question, did he use his congressional influence for personal profit?

Our review of House records shows price bought $15,000 of stock in a hip and knee implant maker, Zimmer Biomet. And then just days later, he introduced legislation that would have directly benefitted that company. The Hip Act would have delayed the change in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, a change that would have seriously hurt that company Zimmer Biomet and not long after Price fired the bill, Zimmer Biomet's political action committee has donated $1,000 to Price's re- election fund.

After first keeping silent, Price is now responding. The aide said in a statement, "Any effort to connect the introduction of Dr. Price's legislation co- sponsored with Democrats, to a campaign contribution is demonstrably false. Dr. Price is fully complying with the recommendations put forth by the Office of Government Ethics."

A spokesperson for Zimmer Biomet did not respond to a request for comment.

BERMAN: All this has Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer renewing calls for an ethics probe of Price. He said in a statement, "This new report makes clear that this isn't just a couple of questionable trades, but rather a clear and troubling pattern of Congressman Price trading stock and using his office to benefit the companies in which he is investing. This report and his previous trades cast serious doubt on whether Congressman Price is fit to hold the office of Secretary for Health and Human Services."

Congressman Price has promised to divest from 43 companies, including Zimmer Biomet. If he is confirmed as health and human services secretary, Price would be a key player in the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. In fact, the president-elect says he is going to unveil his replacement for Obamacare only after Price is confirmed. Now, if this delays that, this could muck up that process.

ROMANS: All right. Tom Price is one of many nominees facing hearings this week. Time running out for them to complete the ethics and financial review process. Fourteen cabinet picks put sit for Senate hearings, and only five of them have finalized the paper work.

Our Jeff Zeleny previews on the Senate hot seat this week and what we can expect.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, three days to go before Donald Trump takes office and another round of confirmation hearings here on Capitol Hill. Up today, Interior and Education. Congressman Ryan Zinke from Montana is the candidate for Interior. Betsy DeVos, a long time education reformer from Michigan is the candidate for secretary of education. Now, both of these nominees, like others of Donald Trump, are expected to eventually be confirmed. But there are some specific questions about some of their policies.

But one thing that some Republicans are concerned about this week. There simply will not be as many cabinet members who are likely to be confirmed by the time Donald Trump takes office on Friday.

Up also this week, the treasury secretary nominee, perhaps one of the most controversial, as well as Tom Price. So, this week is setting up to be as contentious as last week. And one thing that we are seeing, some of these cabinet nominees simply have different views than Donald Trump on a number of issues. So, look for senators to exploit those differences or simply find out more about those differences here.

But regardless, three days from now, Donald Trump takes office whether or not all his cabinet secretaries are in place -- John and Christine. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

As far as those cabinet secretaries go, word this morning that the president-elect's nominee for labor secretary might be having second thoughts about taking the job. Business ally and Republican sources tell CNN that fast food executive Andrew Puzder is unhappy about the barrage of criticism unloaded by Democrats, unions, and some liberal groups.

One Republican told CNN, quote, "He may be bailing. He is not into the pounding he is taking and the paperwork."

After CNN first reported word of Puzder's doubts, he tweeted, "I'm looking forward to my hearing." That hearing was initially scheduled for this week, but now probably will not happen until next month.

ROMANS: And labor rights groups promised they will keep pounding him. They will keep pounding him.

BERMAN: And, by the way, if you are in the rough and tumble of Washington, you should expect this kind of thing, the things he's facing is not unusual by any standards.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

All right. Two of Trump's top money men are having hearings this week.

[05:05:01] Donald Trump's secretary of commerce pick, Wilbur Ross. He faces lawmakers Wednesday. We'll see how tough he plans to be on trade with China and Mexico and if the incoming administration is serious about slapping tariffs on imports and whether he is with the House and the better way plan for border repayment taxes, suggestion in "The Wall Street Journal" today that he is not hip to that.

BERMAN: That's worth reading. Big news.

ROMANS: The big news on the front page of "The Journal". Everyone read that.

The treasury secretary nominee, Steve Mnuchin, is on the Hill Thursday. Expect him to be hammered on the profits he made during the financial crisis, most notably from failed mortgage lender IndyMac. Mnuchin is also a Goldman Sachs alum, along with three other top picks. Wait a minute, I thought Goldman Sachs was the evil empire during the election, right?

BERMAN: Sometimes the empire wins.

ROMANS: The empire strikes back.

Including chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief economist adviser Gary Cohn and Jay Clayton, Trump's pick to run the Securities and Exchange Commission. He actually advised Goldman Sachs on the government bailout. He worked for the law firm and his wife works at Goldman.

This list clashes with the campaign rhetoric, of course. He blasted Hillary Clinton's paid speeches at Goldman. He even featured Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein in this campaign ad that was sort of ripping the financial -- his last word of the campaign was the video ad very gloomily, darkly talking about Goldman Sachs, and the boom, he reaches in and hires a bunch of people.

BERMAN: More apparently, it was a recruitment video.

Just three days until the inauguration, and the world listening very, very closely to every word that the president-elect speaks. In last few days, he made new comments about NATO, about China, about the European Union, about German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her immigration policy. He called it catastrophic.

Now, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry is weighing in on the effects of the president-elect's statements.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I thought, frankly. it was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics about the countries in a quite direct manner. And he'll have to speak to that as of Friday. You know, he's responsible for that relationship.


BERMAN: As for Chancellor Merkel, she says she will wait until after the inauguration to engage with Donald Trump.

ROMANS: President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Pence head to Washington today ahead of the inauguration. No details released about their schedule. Right now, the Trump transition team is trying to soothe the tensions with the African-American community over the president-elect's feud with the civil rights icon John Lewis.

Listen to spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway suggests the Georgia congressman is to blame for questioning the legitimacy of Trump's victory.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, INCOMING COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Donald Trump calls himself a counter-puncher. He does not draw first blood. That was the case here too. You can respect Congressman Lewis' vaunted place in our history and still defend yourself. I wonder why, in a week that starts -- starting off the week where you end being the president of the United States, he has to say that about your election.


ROMANS: The president-elect met with the son of Martin Luther King Jr. at Trump Tower on Monday and Martin Luther King III sounded a little bit like his iconic father, offering a message of reconciliation.


MARTIN LUTHER KING III, SON OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Things get said on both sides in the heat of emotion. And at some point, this nation, we've got to move forward. We can't stay -- I mean, people are literally probably dying. We need to be talking about how do we feed people, how do we clothe people, how do we create the best education system? That's what we need to be focused on.


ROMANS: He would not be drawn in to the feud with the president-elect and the congressman.

Now, the list of Democratic representatives not attending the inauguration now up to 41. The vast majority of them say they are boycotting.

BERMAN: All right. A lot going on this morning. Let's discuss with Ellis Henican, political analyst, bestselling author.

Mr. Henican, thanks so much.

Let's start with CNN's fine reporting on Tom Price, congressman from Georgia, you know, the nominee to be for the Health and Human Services, who bought a stock, made some proposals in Congress to help the company of the stock, and then got a donation from the company's political action committee.

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that is one brilliant broker he must have who would know to buy that stock exactly before Representative Price is getting ready to introduce legislation in Congress that would help that very company. I want that broker.

ROMANS: Is it career ending in terms of running HHS?

HENICAN: If that is the only case, maybe he can hold on to the idea, well, I didn't do it. My guy did. Let's figure out the details.

ROMANS: I'm always shocked that, you know, for most of my career covering the stock market, there were no rules against doing this sort of thing. There are now. For a long time, there is a lot of double dealing in Washington.

HENICAN: And you are not in Congress, I mean, with the power to introduce legislation to affect a particular company. It is something we all ought to be against.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. For a long time, it was OK. People in Congress could buy and sell stocks if they were introducing legislation.

Let me ask a little bit about the boycott and the 41 people who are not going to be going. Look, sometimes people don't go.

[05:10:01] John says it's cold. BERMAN: It's cold. You have to go through security. Some members

who have there a long time, they skip because they can skip.

ROMANS: But Kellyanne Conway talked a little bit about the boycott. She had this sort of take. Listen to this.


CONWAY: We hope that these Democratic members of Congress reconsider. They are welcome to the inauguration. If they want to contact any of us, they are welcome. I would note it is Governor Pence of Indiana, who is the only Republican governor to go. He went to President Obama's inauguration. Maybe he was previewing the platform for himself years later. But he went to show respect.


ROMANS: Interesting. I didn't know that fact. Interesting contradiction she's trying to lay out.

HENICAN: Yes, and lots of people go to the inaugurations when the other party wins. A little different this time. We did get through a campaign that was personal and very rough.

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton's going.

HENICAN: And, you know, God bless her. I think that makes her look big for going. There are still a lot of bruised feelings out there, I think.

BERMAN: Right. You know, people have their feelings hurt. What's good for the country?

I feel bad isn't necessarily reason not to go. The question is, what is best for the country? If you are going to talk about what is best for Democrats, wouldn't they be better off going and sitting there if they want and criticizing, or, you know, trying to poke holes in the Trump administration is doing.

HENICAN: John, you are asking a perfectly reasonable strategic question.


HENICAN: No, no, it happens once in a while. But it seems to me, you've got to ask the larger question. What is one's appearance at the event like that symbolize? Am I saying I support this? Am I saying I love my country? You have to answer that question first before you decide it is that you want to do.

ROMANS: What does Donald Trump believe? Because this is something that is really important here. You've got from "The Wall Street Journal", Trump warns on House tax plan. He seems to be breaking with a better way. That's a very big development. If he is not going to do this border repayment tax and reform tax, he's going to say, I'm going to put on tariffs. That shows some difference between him and the House Republicans.

HENICAN: Absolutely. And there's a parallel things with the Obamacare right now, between the incoming president and perhaps the incoming secretary of Health and Human Services. Representative Price, who have very different notions. It seems as well as we can tell, very different notions about what should replace Obamacare. Should we have universal insurance for all?

ROMANS: But it is interesting that he is really going his own way. I mean, a lot of people thought as he got closer to the presidency, he would merge. You look on NATO, if you look on E.U., if you look at one thing after another, China and the treatment of the world the past few days, he has given interviews, where he shows, he's going to say what he thinks right now and he doesn't seem to be influenced by the people around him.

HENICAN: That's absolutely right. I mean, my theory all along was that Donald Trump cared about a relatively smaller number of things. He had strong feelings on those things. But the rest of it, he was going to leave to the cabinet. But that list is growing I think.

BERMAN: But he has a lot of things he can give, some conservatives who may not be on board. Within the first two weeks, he tells us he's going to nominate a Supreme Court justice. That in and of itself may placate some people he has problems with in other areas.

HENICAN: Very, very true.

BERMAN: So, watch that to be sure.

Ellis Henican, we will see you again in a little bit.

ROMANS: Yes, come back in a few minutes.

All right. New details emerging after police capture the man they say opened fire in a crowded nightclub in Turkey New Year's Eve. Where he was hunted down and what he is telling investigators.


[05:16:37] ROMANS: Breaking overnight. The three-year search for missing Malaysia Airline Flight 370 has been suspended. In a joint statement, Australia, China and Malaysia led the search. Despite the best science, best cutting edge technology. They have been unable to locate that aircraft. MH370 vanished 2014 over the Indian Ocean en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, 239 people in board.

In response, the MH370 family support group Voice 370 issued its own statement saying, "In our view, extending the search to the area defined by the experts is an inescapable duty owed to the flying public in the interest of aviation safety. Commercial planes cannot just be allowed to disappear without a trace."

BERMAN: The suspected gunman who opened fire inside an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Eve is in police custody this morning. He and four others were arrested during a police operation late Monday. Now, he is speaking to investigators who have details about what happened.

I want to go live to Istanbul and get the very latest from CNN's Ian Lee.

Ian, what are you learning?

IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER: John, we have a name of the suspect that police are saying committed that attack at the nightclub. Abdulkadir Masharipov is the person they are saying did it, an Uzbek national, was trained in Afghanistan, came to Turkey about a year ago.

He was captured in the Esenyurt neighborhood, which is about 20 miles from the Reina nightclub. He was also caught with four other people. One Iraqi man, an Egyptian woman and two others from Africa.

This was a massive manhunt. Over 2,000 security personnel were scouring the country. They were going over thousands of hours of video surveillance looking for him. We also have a picture that shows the gunman after he was captured by Turkish authorities.

As you can see, he is bloodied, he is bruised, but he is captured alive. That is crucial as they look into who may have helped him and also what else they can glean in the information from him. We do know ISIS has claimed responsibility. So this will be important to find out the network that supported him -- John.

BERMAN: That's right. Did he have direct ties? Was he given instructions?

Ian Lee for us in Istanbul, thanks so much.

All right. The world champion Chicago Cubs honored at the White House. Christine Romans is very, very happy. They try to convert soon-to-citizen Obama, a diehard White Sox fan.

Coy Wire with this morning's "Bleacher Report", that's next.


[05:22:45] BERMAN: The Golden State Warriors looking to end a four- game losing streak against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers dating back to last year's finals.

ROMANS: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Ms. Christine. Good morning to you, Mr. John.

Before yesterday's finals rematch, LeBron James said the words that the Cavs aren't a real rivalry, saying it's nothing like the NBA rivalries of the '80s. But nobody told that to the Warriors. They were ready to rumble like old school WWF.

Check out Draymond Green going Andrew the Giant on Hulk Hogan. That's King James taking a hard fall. Cavs teammate Richard Jefferson gets in Green's face. They both get techs. Green says it looks like he was fluffing. But, you know, the Warriors went on to take it to the Cavs, 35-point victory in this one. Golden State wins, 126-91.

All right. Some worrying news this morning. Three Oregon football players hospitalized after conditioning workouts last week. They are still in the hospital. That's according to a newspaper "The Oregonian." No official diagnosis has been given for the players, but all three players are said to be in fair conditions. The university released a statement saying safety is paramount and they are monitoring the situation.

The Chicago Cubs finally breaking the 108-year curse by winning the World Series. They got to visit the White House yesterday. President Obama is a big Chicago White Sox fan, but he has a lot of folks on the staff who are lifelong Cubs fans. Check it out.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they won, the next day, she said, this is the best day of my life. I said what about me winning the presidency? What about your wedding day? She is like, no.

There were a lot of sick days during the playoffs. One of my staff members was caught being interviewed at a bar outside of Wrigley.


WIRE: You've got to love that stuff. Now, Michelle Obama is actually a big Cubs fan. Of all the ceremonies they had at the White House, she never really attended the sports ceremonies. This is one she was sure to be there.

ROMANS: That was so cool. And there were so many legendary Cubs in the, there were invited too. So awesome to see. It's great.

BERMAN: And they all said it was as good as their last visit to the White House with Theodore Roosevelt.

[05:25:02] ROMANS: Exactly. Coy, nice to see you. Thank you.

WIRE: You too, guys.

ROMANS: All right. With the process of repealing Obamacare under way, could the man charged with replacing it be in danger of a messy confirmation? A CNN investigation that we'll tell you about on Tom Price.


ROMANS: New overnight, an investigation into Donald Trump's choice to lead the Health Department. Did Tom Price use his political influence to help a company in which he is an investor?

BERMAN: Several cabinet nominees getting ready for hearings, but could ethics reviews make for a somewhat empty cabinet when Donald Trump takes office?

ROMANS: And a number of Democratic House members skipping the inauguration climbs. Now, the president-elect trying to mend fences with the African-American community after a dustup what one congressman dozens running in Friday's festivities.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Twenty-nine minutes after the hour right now. Nice to see this morning.

New trouble for a cabinet nominee. A CNN report has Democrats calling for an ethics investigation of Congressman Tom Price, the president- elect's pick to be secretary of Health and Human Services. The question, did he use congressional influence for personal profit? See if you follow the bouncing ball here.

A review of House records shows that Price bought as much as $15,000 worth of stock in a hip and knee implant maker, Zimmer Biomet. Now, just days later, he introduced legislation that would have directly benefit the company. It was called the Hip Act. It would have delayed a change in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, a change that would have hurt the company he had just invested in.

And not long after Price filed the bill, the company's political action committee donated $1,000 to Congressman Price's re-election campaign. After at first keeping silent, the congressman is now responding. CNN aired the story that then a Price aide said the stock was purchased by a broker without Price's knowledge.

The aide said in a testament, "Any effort to connect the introduction of Dr. Price's legislation co-sponsored with Democrats, to a campaign contribution is demonstrably false. Dr. Price is fully complying with the recommendations put forth by the Office of Government Ethics."