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EARLY START

Trump Pulls Out of TPP; Trump Reverts to Voter Fraud Claim; Spicer Speaks Up. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Donald Trump hours away from a meeting with the big three automakers after pulling the U.S. out of the trade deal that was a key Obama legacy. How will Wall Street react this morning?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And he just can't let it go. The president uses time with congressional leaders to push conspiracy theories about why he did not win the popular vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's an honor to do this. And, yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. But our intention is never to lie to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And the president's press secretary looking to ease tensions in the briefing room. What did Sean Spicer say in the briefing room after slamming the media from the podium over the weekend?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: Nice to see you this morning. I'm John Berman. It is Tuesday, January 24th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And this morning, you get a sense of things are going to be different. Clearly, the big three U.S. automakers do, that's why they're rushing to the White House for a meeting with president who lectured other business leaders in the Oval Office about keeping jobs in the United States for a meeting.

He also signed an executive order pulling the U.S. out of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. That was one of President Obama's key economic initiatives, although it was pretty much already dead. It didn't have congressional approval. President Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA as well. The president's tough positions on trade have won him a complicated mix of trade and scorn from a complicated mix of sources.

Listen to Bernie Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: It's one thing to kill the TPP, which is a positive step in my view. It's another thing to develop a trade policy which finally works for American workers and not the CEOs of large multinational corporations. And if Mr. Trump is serious about moving in that direction, I would be delighted to work with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Bernie Sanders, a liberal, a socialist, likes the fact that the president killed TPP. But some trade-friendly Republicans, including Senator John McCain, not so much. The senator says, "It will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers."

ROMANS: So, what changes now that the U.S. is out of the Trans Pacific Partnership immediately? Well, not much, but the move could shape the future of global trade. The agreement was 12 countries around the Pacific slashing import and export tariffs and allowing cheaper access to new markets. As Senator McCain mentioned, one country you don't see on that map is China.

This whole deal was a pivot. This whole deal, the point it, it was a way to counter China's growing influence. And now, President Trump's move to withdraw leaves China in position to fill that void. It is already moving that way and talking with all of these countries and negotiating its own big multilateral deal.

The U.S. negotiated three main protections here. Labor laws and all partners had to follow, plus rules to protect the environment and intellectual property. China is unlikely to seek those in its own trade deal, so a new agreement could produce cheaper goods with fewer worker protections there. And, of course, when there are fewer protections there, it makes it more advantageous to produce, right, and not produce in the United States.

The big question, will the remaining 11 nations press forward? Australia not committing either way yet. Overnight, officials from Japan and Singapore commenting that without the U.S., the deal as structured is essentially dead.

The idea here, John, and what many of the supporters of the TPP has said that it was good, open some of the markets with lower tariffs for U.S. goods. It would have been good for U.S. workers, for U.S. factories.

BERMAN: Yes. One irony here is that Donald Trump, the president, says he wants to be tough on China. One of things that President Obama thought would be toughest on China was TPP. So, now, that's gone away. It was pretty much gone already. You get the sense where the president is headed.

The president says he is committed to creating jobs. He certainly seems committed to creating controversy. Sources tell CNN that in a meeting with congressional leaders, for some reason, the president repeated his unsubstantiated, unproven claim, not true claim that he reason he trailed in the popular vote was that 3 million vote to 5 million people voted illegally.

House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer says the president also brought up the size of crowds of the inauguration. Sources tell CNN the meeting as a whole was more of an ice breaker than policy discussions. And those discussions about crowd size and popular vote, I don't think, was not the majority of the discussion. It was a small part.

Some of the top Republicans who were in that meeting described it as about building relationships, also pretty lighthearted with a brief discussion about Obamacare and infrastructure.

Mitch McConnell joked that the President Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer, you're seeing there, they just wanted to talk about New York, all of the people they knew in New York.

ROMANS: It's interesting. I think here were six photo ops yesterday, am I right? I mean, a half a dozen photo ops. So, after the sort of running war with the press, he's certainly letting the cameras in.

BERMAN: Well, but the thing is, is there's two things going on, right? He's trying to show he got a lot done and he did a lot yesterday, there's no question. But at the end of the day, he still talks about, you know, the unsubstantiated claim that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally.

ROMANS: All right.

[04:05:00] Despite Trump wading back in some of the same controversial waters, Republicans inside and outside the White House feel the administration is now back on track following the president's rough first weekend. The Republicans say spokesman Sean Spicer struck the right tone and that President Trump himself is looking presidential.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has the very latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, later this morning, President Trump will be sitting down with executives from American car companies to talk jobs. Yesterday, he went right to work, chipping away at former President Obama's agenda. He signed executive actions withdrawing the U.S. from the Tran Pacific trade deal and he banned federal funding for promoting abortions overseas, as well as ordering a freeze on hiring any new federal workers, but we added the caveat that the freeze did not apply to the military personnel.

The president also warned U.S. business leaders they'll be facing what he's calling a border tax on their products if they shift their operations overseas.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A company that wants to fire all of its people in the United States and build some factory someplace else and think that product is going to just flow across the border into the United States, that's not going to happen. They're going to have a tax to pay, a border tax, substantial border tax. ACOSTA: Meanwhile, the new White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

was doing since damage control after he and the president railed against the news media over their coverage of the size of the crowd of Mr. Trump's inauguration. On Saturday, Spicer got some of his facts wrong and inserting that the president's inaugural had the biggest attendance ever, which was not the case. Spicer said it's not his intent to lie to the press, but he also complained about the media's coverage of the inauguration was too negative. Here's what he had to say.

SPICER: Look, I have been doing this a long time. You've been doing this, too. I have never seen it like this. It is demoralizing. When you sit there and look out, you are in awe of just how awesome that view is and how people are there, and you go back and you turn on the television and you see shots of comparing this and that, and it's frustrating for not just him, but many of us that are trying to work to get this message out.

ACOSTA: And Spicer signaled the shift on immigration, indicating to reporters that young undocumented people in this country, the so- called DREAMers will not be prioritized for deportation -- John and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Our thanks to Jim Acosta.

The president is set to meet today with the new CIA Director Mike Pompeo, the Kansas congressman, former Kansas congressman was sworn in last night by Vice President Pence soon after he won the confirmation vote in the Senate.

Another key nominee. Rex Tillerson narrowly cleared a hurdle and will soon become the nation's top diplomat. He got through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But some of the president's other picks are running into roadblocks.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Manu Raju.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Donald Trump will be closer to getting his full national security team in place. This after last night, the Senate confirming Mike Pompeo to be the CIA director and also the Senate foreign relations committee, approving on a party line vote. The nomination for Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state.

Now, Tillerson, he's going to be confirmed by the Senate as early as next week and that came after Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican senator who had expressed concerns about Tillerson's nomination changed his mind and decided to vote for Tillerson after having private conversations with White House officials, with Vice President Mike Pence, and also with Tillerson himself that alleviated a number of his concerns, ensuring that that nomination will go forward.

Make no mistake: Donald Trump is probably going to get most if not all of his picks. But maybe just not in the time frame he wants -- John and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju, thanks for that.

You know, Democrats are slowing down the confirmation process for several of President Trump's remaining nominees. The Senate Judiciary Committee convinces at 10:00 a.m. Eastern to vote on Jeff Sessions for attorney general. The Democrats are expected to delay the vote for another week. Several Democratic panel members say they plan to vote against Sessions over concerns about the Alabama senator's commitment to civil rights.

Also this morning, the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on Tom Price's nomination to be secretary of health and human services. The Georgia congressman faces ethics questions after a CNN report uncovered questionable stock trades.

BERMAN: South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney, the president's pick for budget director, also on a confirmation hot seat this morning. Democrats are going to certainly ask him about his failure to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee. Last night, a Senate Committee abruptly postponed today's scheduled confirmation votes for Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry and Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke. No explanation was given.

ROMANS: Democrats are shooting down a plan by two Republican senators to replace Obamacare. Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine say their bill gives states more power on health care policy, increases access to affordable insurance and covers millions of Americans who are now uninsured. At the core of their proposals, any state that likes Obamacare can keep it.

Here is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's response. Quote, "Ultimately, this proposal is an empty facade that would create chaos, not care, for millions of Americans. Republicans should drop their disruptive plans and work with Democrats to improve, not gut the Affordable Care Act."

BERMAN: One point we know there, we saw Chuck Schumer's response here.

[04:10:01] It's unlikely that that proposal will get a majority of Republican votes either because it keeps if you want a lot of Obamacare provisions in place. It just goes to show how hard it will be for Republicans to come up with one plan they all agree with.

Those are frightening moments during the state of the state address in Minnesota delivered by Governor Mark Dayton. The governor was touting the success, what he considers a success of the Affordable Care Act in his state when he suddenly begins slurring his words.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

BERMAN: That's hard to watch. No cause for the fainting spell. None was given at least. But the governor's chief of staff said the event was hot and crowded. That the governor was checked by EMTs and allowed to go home. He plans to present his 2017 budget later this morning as scheduled. He is said to be doing fine. Now, he was joking with the EMT, you know, after the fact.

ROMANS: Forty-five minutes into that speech, you know? That was state of the state

All right. President George H.W. Bush is out of intensive care this morning and former First Lady Barbara Bush has been released from the hospital after her bout with viral bronchitis. Doctors at Houston Methodist planned to keep the 92-year-old former president in the hospital for now. Mr. Bush is recovering from respiratory problems stemming from pneumonia. We're told he is sitting up in bed. He is watching TV. He is grateful for all the good wishes.

I got to say, the doctors yesterday had this amazing press conference. We were on the air a that time, too, and they are therapy for each other, you know? He doesn't want to do his respiratory exercises, she's there to --

BERMAN: She makes him.

ROMANS: To make him do it.

BERMAN: You don't say no to Barbara Bush.

ROMANS: You do not say to Barbara Bush. But that is very strong couple.

BERMAN: The doctors in Houston at that hospital seem to like having the president. I mean, he rather he be at home, you know, enjoying things at his own pace, but he seems like a great patient.

ROMANS: He says he is going to the Super Bowl. Is this true?

BERMAN: He doesn't want to miss Tom Brady. Would you?

All right. Calls between President Trump's national security adviser and Russia's ambassador to the U.S. under investigation by counter- intelligence officials. We'll tell you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:16:15] ROMANS: New information this morning about a key adviser to the president under investigation. U.S. investigators are scrutinizing reviewing late December calls between the President Donald Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn and Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN the probe is part of a broader counter intelligence investigation of Russian activities in the U.S. Now, these calls were captured by routine U.S. eavesdropping, targeting the Russian diplomats, according to the intelligence and law enforcement officials.

But the officials said some of the content of the conversation raised enough potential concerns that investigators are still looking into the discussions amid a broader concern about Russian intelligence gathering activities in the United States. The officials all stressed that so far, there has been no determination of any wrongdoing. Among the communications being scrutinized are calls between Russia's ambassador and Flynn on December 29th. The calls came on the same day the U.S. announced further sanctions against Russia and the same day the U.S. expelled a group of 35 Russian diplomats the U.S. had accused of spying.

BERMAN: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he had discussed the issue with Flynn on Sunday. Spicer claimed there had been two calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador and that they covered only four subjects, setting up a call between the president and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, exchanging holiday greetings, offering condolences for lives lost in the Russian plane crash and conference about the ISIS presence in Syria.

Sean Spicer was asked about connections to Russia at his briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Has the president spoken to any of the intelligence agencies about the investigation into the Russian connections and will he allow that to go on?

SPICER: I don't believe he has spoken to anyone specifically about that and I don't know that we -- he has not made any indication that he would stop an investigation of any sort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Sources say that the FBI and intelligence officials briefed members of the then Obama White House about the Flynn calls to the Russian ambassador. The FBI, along with CIA, National Security Agency, and Treasury Department have assembled a task force to focus on Russian spying efforts in the U.S., an investigative efforts that includes meddling in the election and dealing with several people tied to President Trump.

ROMANS: All right. The deadly weather in Southeast already claiming more lives than all of the tornadoes last year combined. We have an update for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:23:04] ROMANS: New information this morning about recent U.S. airstrikes that killed more than 80 ISIS fighters in Libya. Sources tell CNN terrorists linked to the Berlin Christmas market attacks were believed to be inside ISIS camps bombed by the U.S. last week. On December 19th, Tunisian extremist Anis Amri drove a truck into the Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. It's unclear right now exactly how the terrorists in Libya helped Amri with the truck attack.

BERMAN: California Governor Jerry Brown has declared the state of emergency after dangerous weather hit his state, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage from flooding of roads and mud flows. At least 50 counties were hit extremely hard by severe storms. Four weather related deaths were reported there.

In the southeastern U.S., 19 people are dead following an outbreak of tornadoes. Georgia is one of the hardest hit. You can see these towns, these neighborhoods and the town of Albany. They were just shreds.

Twisters killed more people in the United States in one weekend than all of last year. Several people still unaccounted for.

ROMANS: Oh my.

BERMAN: Are the storms over in the southeast?

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Christine, the good news is that, of course, across the Southeast, conditions now beginning to improve. The storm system that spawned on the order of 50 tornadoes from Thursday through Sunday with a couple down around South Florida, finally beginning to exit the area. The severe characteristics of this storm system is also done with.

But certainly far from over when it comes to impacts left in place with this storm. In fact, this morning, around parts of the Northeast and Boston metro area, winds are 45 to 50 miles per hour already observed. Heavy rainfall coming down at the early morning as well. In fact, millions of people, about 16 million people underneath a high wind advisory. Generally for gusts up to 40 miles per hour, could see some areas near the coast up to 60 miles an hour.

And again, the numbers from Providence and Boston, out towards Portland, into the afternoon hours should begin to see the winds died down just a little bit. That's the initial concern here when it comes to the windy weather in the forecast.

[04:25:04] I want to show you what is in store with the temperature trend because we know the rains will begin to become more scattered in nature throughout tonight and the temps, not only they warm up for a couple of days, then a dramatic shift happens here comes Friday and Saturday and Sunday where we struggle to get up above the 30s. That is more in line for seasonal norms for this time of year, guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Pedram Javaheri, thank so much for that.

And the president, President Trump, remaking America's trade relationships with the rest of the world, pulling the U.S. out of the trade deal that was key to the Obama legacy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Drive on up to the White House. The big American car companies rushing to the Oval Office after the president officially kills a trade deal years in the making.

ROMANS: The president also reviving a debunked claim about voter fraud. Why did he go that route at his first White House meeting with congressional leaders?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: It's an honor to do this. And, yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. But our intention is never to lie to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)