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EARLY START

President's Sales Pitch; White House on Wiretap Claims; WikiLeaks Bombshell on CIA; China Suggests DPRK Suspend Nuclear Activity; Deadly Military Hospital Attack. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 8, 2017 - 04:30   ET

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


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump makes his pitch to get Republicans to line up behind the new health care plan. Party leaders are confident. Rank and file, not convinced.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: White House still trying to explain the wiretapping claims after Republican lawmakers left without any answers to fend off some growing questions.

[04:30:07] BRIGGS: And purported CIA hacking tools are revealed, thanks to WikiLeaks. Are cellphones and TVs helping the CIA gather intelligence?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good evening, everybody. I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

This morning, the future of the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, it depends on whom you ask. President Trump now giving 100 percent support to the health care plan.

A lawmaker at president's meeting with House Republican leaders tell CNN his endorsement came with a stern warning. We are told the president said failure to pass legislation after seven years of promises will lead to a, quote, "bloodbath in the 2018 midterm elections."

Mr. Trump even channeled President Obama's most famous unfulfilled health care promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor. This will be a plan where you can choose your plan. It's a complicated process, but actually, it's very simple. It's called good health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: President Trump's effort to get resistant Republicans on board has not done the trick, at least not yet. New objections voiced by rank and file groups, powerful conservative groups and some key senators signal threats to the bill's very survival.

One aide to a conservative House member telling CNN, "The bill is dead. Too many conservative groups are coming out against it. There's no way they'll have the votes to pass it in its current form."

This morning, two House committees with jurisdiction over the measure will have their say at markup sessions.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has more from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, it took less than 24 hours for that big bold House Republican Obamacare repeal plan do get into big bold trouble, more or less, conservatives, not just in the House but also in the Senate rejecting it outright. Some saying they will be opposed to it no matter what, even if there are potential changes that are made.

But an interesting element here -- House Republican leadership, aides and lawmakers that I've spoken to over the course of the last couple of days say they are confident going forward. How confident? Well, listen to Speaker Paul Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We want 218 votes. This is the beginning of the legislative process. We've got a few weeks. We'll have 218 when this thing comes to floor, I can guarantee you that.

MATTINGLY: Guys, that's a clip and save moment right there -- a bold guarantee from the speaker, but one that comes from knowing everything that's working behind the scenes. Obviously, House leaders, House chairs are working behind the scenes to bring their members along. But what gives them the most hope right now is what they're seeing from the White House -- President Trump, Vice President Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price all getting behind this plan over the course of the last 24 hours, and that matters.

The belief is that with those individuals behind it, especially with President Trump behind it, they'll move those conservatives into line. Unify this going forward. But obviously, the House is the first step. And they have to go to the Senate. There is a lot of battles to come and there are a lot of roadblocks ahead -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: This morning, this White House is on its own depending President Trump's blockbuster charge that President Obama had him wiretapped. And nary a Republican lawmaker could be found to back up Mr. Trump's claim which he tweeted Saturday without any proof, urging Congress to investigate.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer on the hot seat Tuesday explaining why it is the lawmakers' job to look into the president's apparently baseless claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's not a question of new proof or less proof or whatever. It's -- the answer is the same, and I think that -- which is that I think there is a concern about what happened in the 2016 election. The House and Senate Intelligence Committee have the staff and capabilities and the processes in place to look at this in a way that's objective. And that's where it should be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Even House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a strong Trump supporter, says there is no evidence yet backing the president's wiretapping claim but he says his committee will look into it. The panel holds its first public hearing on Russian election interference on March 20th.

BRIGGS: I thought an NBC reporter put it well in the press conference with Sean Spicer yesterday. And she said, if the president has this evidence enough to make this accusation on Twitter, why would an investigation? Why would congressional resources need to be applied? There was no real answer to that question.

ROMANS: And there are question whether the president does have the ability with the stroke of a pen to say this is now declassified information and this is where it comes from. He is the one that holds the source.

BRIGGS: Right. So, again, why would we need investigation? It continues.

WikiLeaks claims its latest document dump reveals how the CIA hacks its way into TVs and telephones all over the world to spy on people. According to documents purported from the agency's internal records, the agency uses spying techniques that make them appear to be from hackers in Russia. WikiLeaks also claims nearly all of the CIA cyber weapons had been stolen are now in the hands of foreign adversaries.

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta offered up this warning in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: What WikiLeaks is doing and continues to do is to leak the most sensitive information about how our intelligence operations conduct their business.

[04:35:07] So, I would think that if the president is truly concerned about leaks, he would not support WikiLeaks, nor would he support any other kind of intelligence leaks that damage our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The CIA citing standing policy declined to stay whether the documents are genuine. Some feel this is worse than Snowden's hack of the NSA. ROMANS: All right. The state of Hawaii will file the first legal

challenge to President Trump's new travel ban. Later today, attorneys for the state plan to ask a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the order. It takes effect in nine days.

Lawyers in Hawaii argued the revised plan still contains constitutional and statutory defects. Senate Republicans are also trying to block the revised plan. They have introduced legislation to undercut the funding to enforce the president's order. It will need the backing of at least a dozen Republican senators to pass.

BRIGGS: With an eye on this and other legal challenges ahead, President Trump has nominated Noel Francisco to be solicitor general. He's been filling the role in an acting capacity. The solicitor general argues the government's position before the Supreme Court and plays a critical behind-the-scenes role in deciding whether the U.S. will challenge decisions in thousands of cases each year.

Francisco worked on the president's revised travel ban and hails from the law firm Jones Day. The president also announcing he's hired 26 attorneys to serve in the White House' counsel's office. That's four more than that President Obama had when he took office.

The president facing backlash for proposing a major cut in funding to the Coast Guard. The plan includes a $1.3 billion cut to the coast guard which is a branch of the military. Two sources tell CNN the proposal is to help shift money to the Department of Homeland Security, trying to increase its budget by 6 percent.

But critics say the Coast Guard has played a big role in getting migrants into the country. They seized 200 tons of cocaine.

ROMANS: Wow.

BRIGGS: That is three times the amount seized at the border and within the United States combined.

ROMANS: Interesting.

BRIGGS: A pivotal role in enforcing our border and protecting it.

ROMANS: Interesting.

All right. Thirty-seven minutes past the hour on this International Women's Day. Organizers of January's women's march are planning a nationwide protest today, that's January of course. This is dubbed "A Day Without A Woman". It's billed as a show of economic solidarity with walkouts, rallies and marches planned in cities like New York, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Women are being asked to skip work to demonstrate their clout.

And Lady Liberty appears to be behind them. Look at this. Seriously, the statue went dark for two hours last night, before the lights came back on. A lot of folks on social media think the Grand Old Lady of the harbor was taking a stand against the Trump administration. National parks officials, however, they fact-checked that. They tell

us the outage was likely caused by work being done on a new backup generator.

BRIGGS: Highly suspicious, my friend.

ROMANS: I know, but it is interesting and funny.

BRIGGS: There's a lot businessman Bob Nardelli sees from President Trump that he likes. Nardelli is a leadership guru and a former CEO of Chrysler and Home Depot. On health care, tax reform and rolling back regulations, he says Trump is pursuing the pro-growth policies America needs. Where outsiders see chaos, he sees a business management style.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB NARDELLI, FOUNDER & CEO, XLR-8: He clearly is approaching this as a CEO. If you think about it, in my 40 some years in management, I've always said your prior majority list can't be vertical, it has to be horizontal. And you have to do things concurrently, not sequential, if you want to get them done efficiently --

ROMANS: Right.

NARDELLI: -- effectively and on time. And then you have to make sure you've got the most talented and cohesive group around you to help implement. You must drive forward. You have to manage, if you will, like program manage your leadership team, because you can't do-it- yourself.

So, I think he's really leading like a CEO. It's his background. It's what he's done. It's his comfort zone. And he has to grow into being presidential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He says grow into being presidential. He says Washington needs to catch up to the pace President Trump is setting specifically on tax reform. The Washington machine, he says, must deliver by the August recess as the treasury secretary promised.

Dave, he says, it's already baked in. You look at the stock market expectations for growth, tax reform is baked in. They must deliver on that.

BRIGGS: And the Fed hikes coming?

ROMANS: The Fed hikes are coming and it won't hurt the economy, if they can continue to make progress on the legislative agenda in Washington.

BRIGGS: That's a big if right now.

ROMANS: That's an if. BRIGGS: Well, with the U.N. set to take up the growing threat from

North Korea, China now offering a suggestion to get Pyongyang to slow its nuclear program. A live report from Seoul, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:44:14] BRIGGS: Members of the U.N. Security Council today discussed North Korea's ballistic missile launch after condemning the launch in a statement. It was a big focus at the first State Department briefing under the Trump administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We are very concerned with the escalation, the continuing testing and augmenting of its weapons program is of great concern. And it's getting to the point where we need to do -- we do need to look at other alternatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Now, we hear China is suggesting that North Korea suspend its nuclear and military activities but in exchange for what?

CNN's international correspondent Alexandra Field joins us live with the answer from Seoul.

Good morning to you.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Dave. Good morning.

[04:45:00] Look, tensions have certainly heightened in the wake of this missile launching seeing condemnation coming from all sides, including the U.N. Security Council, which strongly condemned the actions of North Korea, calling their behavior destabilizing and also saying that North Korea has flouted the resolutions previously passed by the security council. They're, of course, not the only ones condemning that missile launch that we saw earlier this week when North Korea sent up four ballistic missiles. You've got the U.S., South Korea, Japan and North Korea's closest ally China condemning that act.

China's foreign minister is now speaking out not only once again not only condemning the launch and the fact that North Korea is flouting the resolution that have been placed on it. But also suggesting this, that North Korea should call off its missile and nuclear activity and that in exchange the U.S. and South Korea could agree to suspend the joint annual military drills that they do. These are two-month long exercises that annually rankle North Korea.

Kim Jong-un perceives these exercises to be preparation for an invasion, a threat from the U.S. in the South Korea. But in the wake of the missile launch earlier this week, you did have U.S. President Donald Trump speaking to the acting president here in South Korea, two parties agreeing that they will proceed with those joint military drills despite North Korea's continued objections to them. The North Korean threat certainly again raising tension here in the

region. It is something that the U.S. secretary of state will be addressing in his first official visit to the region. That is now scheduled for next week. He'll be visiting Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul. A major topic of discussion will be what to do about North Korea and the missile and nuclear threat it continues to pose to neighboring countries here, Dave.

BRIGGS: Alexandra Field live for us in Seoul. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking news, a deadly attack at a military hospital in Afghanistan. This came near the U.S. embassy in Kabul. The attack included at least one explosion and gunfire.

I want to bring in CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He's been following the developments from Beirut.

Good morning.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is an attack right at the very symbolic heart of the Afghan security apparatus. The diplomatic quarter of Kabul, as you said, a stone's throw from the American embassy compound that shore impenetrable.

But this morning, about 9:00 in the morning local time, men it appears disguised in medical personnel clothing, got in, they have weapons. They appear to have grenades. They appear now to have panned out across the floors of that building.

Afghan officials say their special forces have held them back but there are terrifying images of people on the balconies there outside of their hospital rooms. Commandos landing on the hospital roof itself. This is a place where Afghans, soldiers and police wounded are frequently taken. At a time when they're experiencing record casualties, over 6,000 dead between January and November in the army and police in Afghanistan alone, way more than the U.S. lost in its entire war effort now. Now, its longest war, over 11,000 injured.

This is something you'd normally expect the Taliban to be behind. But they've issued a statement saying it was not us. The death toll may continue to rise. Instead, opportunistically, we have seen ISIS step forward and says their commando is behind this.

They're pretty influential. They have a bit of clout east of the country, mostly. They've been trying to project power inside the capital here. It's not clear if they're really behind this or as I say opportunistically claiming the attack. The Taliban have distanced themselves from it. The Taliban don't strangely want to be seen to be attacking medical infrastructure.

But this is a very a symbolic. It comes at a very difficult time for the country itself where just over half of it now, according to one U.S. watchdog, is in fact fully under government control and it has a very difficult summer ahead here. Political crisis and security ones no more heavily amplified by this attack on Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh in Beirut for us -- just a terrible story. Thank you so much for that this morning.

Forty-eight minutes past the hour.

There's a little girl on Wall Street this morning. She showed up overnight and has captivated downtown and really the business community. This little girl is standing defiantly in front of one of the world's most iconic symbols of capitalism, staring down capitalism eye to eye. I'll tell you why she's there and what company is brilliantly behind it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:53:43] ROMANS: A letter signed by all 100 U.S. senators calling for increased security at Jewish community centers, day schools and synagogues nationwide. It follows a new wave of bomb threats against JCCs and Anti-Defamation League offices in seven states now. Since January, there have been more than 100 reported in U.S. and Canada, as well as vandalism to headstones at Jewish cemeteries and major cities.

BRIGGS: A team of NTSB investigators headed to Biloxi, Mississippi, after a deadly collision between a freight train and a charter bus that apparently got stuck trying to cross the tracks. Officials say the bus was carrying a group of senior citizens from Texas on a sightseeing trip. Four passengers were killed, 41 others needed medical care. A CSX spokesman said they're cooperating with the investigation.

ROMANS: Wildfires consumed more than a million acres in four states. Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, they're blamed now for at least seven fatalities. The fire is fed by strong winds forced thousands of evacuations. Five firefighters were injured battling the blaze in Texas.

All right. Will firefighters get help from the weather? That is the big question this morning.

I want to bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is tragic to hear the number of fatalities going up and firefighters who've been injured battling these blazes. Here you can see some of the smoke plumes on satellite imagery as they sweep off towards the east in these huge blazes.

[04:55:06] We still have enhanced and critical fire danger across much of this region. Why? Because we're still looking at low relative humidity, temperatures that are running a good 10 to 15 degrees above where they should be for this time of year. And it's still windy.

Now, firefighters aren't going to be battling these blazes with 60 or 70-mile-an-hour winds. We might expect some gusts up around 35 miles per hour. And, wow, winter makes a return visit. You may expect some flight delays if you're traveling in the region from around Minneapolis to Chicago towards Buffalo. As a weather system sweeps across this region could produce 60, 65-mile-per-hour wind gusts.

And just when you thought the springtime temperatures will pretty lovely like in New York, 60 degrees -- well, watch out -- because the bottom starts to fall out for the weekend. High temperatures in New York only around 39.

Back to you, guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Karen, thank you for that.

A surprise for tourists in the White House when it reopened for tours. It's been closed for a while. Look at that, President Trump greeting a group of school children. Even pulled aside a lucky fifth grader. Look, she's so excited.

Look who else was hovering in the background. Hillary Clinton.

BRIGGS: Oh, the optics of that one.

ROMANS: The first lady was hanging right over President Trump's shoulders. Don't show her, that got an awful lot of attention.

BRIGGS: Just a reminder, Hillary is looming over your shoulder.

ROMANS: Sometimes, the Twitter sphere and social media is mean. And sometimes, it's just outright funny. There were some funny stuff yesterday.

BRIGGS: Can you imagine anyone besides Alec Baldwin playing President Trump on "Saturday Night Live"?

ROMANS: No.

BRIGGS: You may have to, folks. Actor Alec Baldwin telling "Extra" channeling Trump is taking a toll on him and he's ready to retire it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLI)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: His policies aside which you hate. I thought he would just relax and say, hey, man, there's a style that president has to have. I think the maliciousness of this White House has people worried, which is why I'm not going to do much longer by the way. That impersonation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Baldwin has made 10 guest appearances this season as Trump and just hosted for a record 17th time. He's not done.

ROMANS: Yes. And he also said in that interview, he said, at some point, people are going to get tired of seeing him as Trump, you know? So, he said, I'm not going to do it much longer.

BRIGGS: Not yet.

ROMANS: But he says people won't be able to take it forever.

All right. Let's get a check on CNN Money Stream, Dave.

Dow futures are flat ahead of a steady trickle of important job data leading up to Friday's big monthly jobs reports. Shares in Europe are down, stocks in Asia, they closed mixed overnight. This become a pause really in markets this week.

When the president tweets investors listen. The pharmaceutical industry has taken a heat. President Trump sending out this tweet Tuesday morning, just before 9:00 a.m., "I am working on a new system where there will be competition in the drug industry, pricing for American people will come way down." So did pharma stocks, they plunged, several of them, at the open, like Allergan, Pfizer, and troubled EpiPen maker, Mylan. They recovered somewhat but still finish lower. The president has blasted the pharmaceutical industry before. No details on this new system.

The biggest mystery in business Tuesday is now solved. Here she is, this bronze little girl showed up mysteriously overnight Monday, defiantly facing down the iconic bull that is a symbol of capitalism in America. It's down there on Wall Street.

She captivated tourists and bankers downtown, but who put her there? It turns out State Street Global Advisers is behind the statue. This bronzes statue is titled "Fearless Girl". And it's no coincidence that today is International Women's Day.

The CEO of State Street says in a statement, the company is calling for more women on their clients corporate boards. They have 3,500 companies that they invest in. And they want to see more women on the boards. It says leadership is dependent on diversity of thought and women are key to that success.

Women account for only 16 percent of all corporate board seats among the largest U.S. companies. That's according to the Government Accountability Office. Dave, there are other studies that show where there is strong leadership in companies. And women on the boards, they have higher returns than companies that have -- sort of the less diversity of opinion.

BRIGGS: Sixteen percent. That's nationwide or in the world?

ROMANS: Sixteen percent, that's the largest --

BRIGGS: Staggering statistic.

ROMANS: Some other countries do better. There are some Scandinavian countries that do very, very well, you know?

BRIGGS: I'm curious how many are on the State Street board. One would you assume it would be higher than 16 percent. ROMANS: Well, it sounds like they have a mission there.

BRIGGS: All right. EARLY START continues right now.

(MUSIC)

BRIGGS: President Trump all in on the House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. He says he's proud to support it, now the sales pitch to get his party in line.

ROMANS: The White House left to fend for the president's wiretapping claims after Republican lawmakers are left without any answers themselves.