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EARLY START

Trump Asked DNI To Intervene?; AG Jeff Sessions Offered To Quit During Exchange With Trump;CNN Exclusive: Russia Behind Qatar Mess?; Simultaneous Attacks Rock Tehran. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 7, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:10] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't feel it's appropriate to characterize discussions and conversations with the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: But Dan Coats may be ready to do just that. The director of National Intelligence is set to testify as a new report that the president asked Coats to intervene on the Russia probe.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: Growing signs of strain between the president and attorney general, the first U.S. senator to support him. Why won't the White House give Jeff Sessions a vote of confidence and why did Sessions threaten to walk?

ROMANS: And, James Comey's testimony to Congress is only a day away. What he will say, what he won't, and why he asked not to be left alone with President Trump. Welcome back to EARLY START, I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Some feel they are the most anticipated congressional hearings since Watergate. Five-thirty, Eastern Time, just one day away from testimony by former FBI director James Comey and suddenly the undercard is part of the main event. At this morning's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, a lineup of, well, Intel Community all-stars, if you will. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein all set to testify.

ROMANS: Overnight, DNI Coats at the center of breaking news. "The Washington Post" reporting President Trump asked Coats if he could intervene with James Comey to urge the FBI director to back off his investigation of the former National Security adviser, Michael Flynn. Unnamed officials tell the "Post" the private interaction came after a White House briefing on March 22nd. That's just two days after Comey told Congress the FBI was, in fact, investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

BRIGGS: The officials say Coats decided complying with the president's request to intervene would be inappropriate. CNN has already reported the president asked Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers to publicly deny his campaign cooperated with Russia in the 2016 election. Sources told CNN both Coats and Rogers were uncomfortable with the president's request and refused to comply.

Let's discuss all of this with "CNN POLITICS" digital managing editor Zach Wolf and Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner," both live with us this morning.

ROMANS: Good morning, guys.

BRIGGS: We appreciate you being here bright and early. Sarah, we'll start with you. What do you expect to come out of this Senate testimony today?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, there's a huge cast of characters before the Senate panel and I think you're going to see a broad variety of questions. I mean, keep in mind that technically the topic of this hearing is supposed to be surveillance, so from Republican members I think you'll see a good number of questions about these unmasking allegations.

You have Rod Rosenstein there so you probably will get some questions about these tensions between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the president because Rod Rosenstein would actually be best equipped to answer those questions probably, besides the attorney general himself. And with the acting FBI director sitting there, you'll probably also get some questions about the status of the Russian collusion investigation. None of those officials may answer any of the questions that we just mentioned but I think you are going to see just a broad range of topics addressed in this hearing today.

ROMANS: Yes. Zach, it might be that we are all watching carefully how carefully they don't answer those questions, you know. It will be the art of the dodge today, leaving it to the investigation. What do you make of this report that James Comey told Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, that he did not want to be left alone with the president?

ZACHARY WOLF, MANAGING EDITOR, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL: I think that -- I think that's really interesting, you know. We've seen sort of seeds of this. There was the thing early on where, you know, he was in the room -- in the room with Trump and tried to basically fade into the draperies, so it was clear from the get-go I think from what we've learned that Comey was not really comfortable being around the president because of the investigation that the FBI was overseeing. So I wouldn't say it's necessarily surprising but it's certainly interesting that he could have gone to the attorney general and said I don't want to be in the same room as the President of the United States, both of our boss. I mean, that's a pretty remarkable thing to consider if this report is accurate.

BRIGGS: Also pretty remarkable, Sarah, that Sean Spicer refused to say if the president had confidence in the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. This was the first U.S. senator to come out and publicly support. Gave a lot of credentials -- conservative credentials to the Trump campaign and it's still, really, the conservative cred for many in this administration because of people like Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. There aren't many conservatives around that give you confidence. So if, in fact, the president doesn't have confidence and if he offered to resign, how major would this be for not just conservatives on Capitol Hill but those around the country?

[05:35:00] WESTWOOD: Right, and it would be hard to overstate the significance of Jeff Sessions' departure from the cabinet. We don't know whether it's reached that level. I think it's clear that President Trump, at his core, still believes that the Russian investigation is a witch hunt. He still doesn't believe that this entire story has any merit and when you look at it through that lens his behavior makes more sense. The fact that he was personally offended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. The fact that he felt comfortable making these requests of Coats and other cabinet officials to intervene publicly and deny that there was any merit to these collusion allegations.

It's clear that he still, after all of what's come to light, doesn't believe that this is a story worth pursuing and, obviously, Jeff Sessions has a different view. As the attorney general, his job is to protect the integrity of the Justice Department and that is why he pulled back from this Russia investigation, but clearly, President Trump has not quite recovered from that move.

ROMANS: You know -- let me ask you, Zach, you know, one of the things about this whole drama is you -- as Sarah rightly points out, this seems to have really started with the recusal on the Russian investigation and Donald Trump in the days after that, you know, maybe misinterpreting the conversations he was having with James Comey. James Comey didn't want to be alone with him. We're going to -- we're going to know more about this, I think, tomorrow, but what does it say to you about the fact the president sort of can't just drop this or couldn't just drop this? I mean, all of this could be, I think, over if the president had just said we welcome a fair, and thorough, and quick investigation into Russia's meddling.

WOLF: Well, I mean, you know, they're getting the -- you know, Bob Mueller is doing his independent investigation so we're ultimately getting that anyway. I don't think, you know, with all of the smoke, and the smoke, and the smoke, and the smoke that we've seen from this Russian investigation we can infer that if he had just let it go this would all be over because the investigation would still be going on.

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: That's why it ultimately starts to feel like a cover-up when you hear about all these things that Trump did because the investigation -- we don't know what's going on with the official investigation but we keep learning things --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- about contacts, about the Russian meddling and all of that, and that's why it -- you know, there would have to be absolutely no there, there in order for it to have just gone away. BRIGGS: So, Sarah, the names you don't hear a lot about right now given all of this is Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders -- Democrats. That's what makes what Eric Trump said to Sean Hannity last night on "FOX NEWS" particularly eyebrow-raising. Listen to what he told Sean Hannity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC TRUMP, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION, SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I've never seen hatred like this. I mean, to me, they're not even people. It's so, so sad. I mean, morality's just gone, morals have flown out the window. We deserve so much better than this as a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Eric Trump has never seen hatred like this. They are not even people. Do you see hatred aimed at the president coming from the left right now?

WESTWOOD: Well, I think there's no denying that partisan temperatures are running extremely high right now. Obviously, the investigation right now is being driven more by nonpartisan law enforcement officials than Democrats on Capitol Hill, but that hasn't always been the case. Democrats have aggressively pursued this investigation, even when we didn't have a lot of the evidence that now suggests there was potential wrongdoing. He's correct that Democrats have pursued this president maybe with more vigor than they would have pursued another Republican but, clearly, there are some questions that need to be answered here that only law enforcement officials at this point are going to be able to get answers for.

BRIGGS: Zach, do you want to get the last word on that? Aren't the voices -- those from the Intelligence Community and world leaders -- it doesn't seem like Democrats are at the front of these accusations.

WOLF: No. I mean, you know, speaking definitively about this Russia element, I think he was probably misguided. But I will say that if you go in the country right now and talk to Democrats they are not exactly saying kind things about President Trump.

BRIGGS: That is true. That is certainly correct.

ROMANS: I see a son there defending his father. I mean, they're a tight --

BRIGGS: Absolutely. He's fired up.

ROMANS: They are a tight crew. They are a tight crew. All right, nice to see you guys. Thank you so much for getting up so early for us this morning.

WESTWOOD: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Thanks, guys. ROMANS: Thirty-nine minutes past the hour. Let's talk a little bit of money here. Anthem is pulling out of Ohio's Obamacare exchange in 2018, putting new pressure on Republicans as they try to replace the Affordable Care Act. Ten thousand five-hundred Ohio residents in 18 counties will have no exchange option next year. That's according to the state's Department of Insurance. Anthem blames a lack of predictability in the market for the move. It is reviewing the 14 other states it is involved in. Anthem is one of the biggest Obamacare players. Withdrawing completely would leave at least 275,000 Americans with no insurance option.

[05:40:00] Anthem joins a growing list of insurers exiting Obamacare next year, including Humana, Aetna, and some Blue Cross Blue Shield providers. They all blame uncertainty and big losses. Health insurers leaving the exchanges feel both sides of the health bill debate. Republicans say it proves the need for new legislation. Democrats say it shows concern the GOP plan won't include cost- sharing. The current Obamacare subsidies help pay for lower-income enrollees.

BRIGGS: So is it being sabotaged or is it collapsing or is it both, I guess, the question --

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- as we move forward. Well, did Russia plant a fake news report to drive a wedge between U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf? U.S. intelligence says yes. CNN with exclusive reporting this morning. We're live in Qatar.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: At least some of the blame for the diplomatic crisis facing Qatar may fall to a familiar foreign power, Russia. CNN reporting exclusively U.S. investigators believe Russian hackers breached Qatar's state news agency to plant a fake news report that contributed to the crisis among American allies in the Persian Gulf.

[05:45:14] BRIGGS: The Qatari government says the fake report falsely attributed remarks to the nation's ruler, remarks seen as friendly to Iran and that questioned whether President Trump would last in office. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh live in Qatar's capital of Doha. Good morning to you, Jomana.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Dave. A couple of weeks ago, if you recall, there was this story that came out on the Qatari state news agency attributing quotes to the rule of Qatar, the emir. Quotes that criticized neighbors like Saudi Arabia, praised Iran, and also critical of President Trump, questioning how long he was going to last in office. And we heard at the time from Qatari officials saying that their news agency had been hacked.

What we are learning now in this exclusive CNN reporting from our colleagues in Washington is that U.S. investigators believe that it was Russian hackers who planted this fake story with these fake quotes on the Qatari news agency. Now, what U.S. investigators are trying to establish is whether this was hackers tied to government Agencies in Russia or if this was criminal organization in Russia. That is not clear. But what they believe is the purpose of this is that it was trying to create a rift in this region amongst U.S. allies.

We've heard from Qatari and U.S. officials that the FBI sent a team to Doha and that they were investigating this. Some Qatari officials say that they will make the results of this investigation public once it's concluded, Dave.

BRIGGS: So, Jomana, the Pentagon and State Department have tried to remain neutral on this issue but the president seems to be weighing in, especially on Twitter. How has this muddied the waters here?

KARADSHEH: Well, you're looking at a very sensitive situation right now during this crisis. Qatar, of course, a vital U.S. ally in this region especially when it comes to military cooperation. The United States has 11,000 personnel here just outside of Doha and the United States military's central commandheadquarters are based here in Doha, so there's a lot of relationship -- a lot of concern about this relationship. So you've had U.S. officials -- senior officials in the past few days coming out saying that they want to see this crisis resolved and saying that they're grateful for the efforts and cooperation with Qatar.

And then, President Trump with those tweets that we saw yesterday, pretty much taking credit for regional countries here isolating Qatar and also pretty much in his tweets describing Qatar as a financier of terror, really signaling out Qatar other than other countries in the region that have been accused of that. So a lot of confusion here about where the U.S. stands when it comes to this crisis, Dave.

BRIGGS: Jomana Karadsheh live for us in Qatar, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, Amazon launches its latest move in the e-commerce battle with Walmart. The two titans go at it and it could mean lower prices for millions of shoppers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:52:35] BRIGGS: Breaking news. Two attacks unfolding simultaneously in Iran's capital. A bomb attack and shooting spree at a shrine and a shooting at the Parliament building where hostages are being held. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen monitoring events from London. Fred, you've spent a lot of time in Iran. Tell us why these attacks are so significant.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. Well, they're significant for many reasons. First of all, on the one hand, these attacks -- something like this rarely happens in Tehran so it's almost unprecedented, at least in the past seven to 10 years, for attacks of this magnitude and also this sophistication take place in Iran, and especially in Tehran. And then also, they appear to be coordinated attacks because the two sites that have been hit, the Shrine of Khomeini who was, of course, the founder of the Islamic Republican of Iran, and the Parliament building are both highly significant and highly symbolic sites for Iran.

These attacks appear to be very sophisticated. They involve both high powered rifles, apparentlyAK-47's, as well as suicide bombers, as well. It seems as though three people blew themselves up at the shrine and at least one person inside the Parliament. Apparently, there is still a hostage situation going on at the Parliament building with some people still holed up there. The security forces are trying to deal with that.

Now, ISIS has come out and claimed responsibility for this attack on their -- on their site. However, it's unclear whether that's really the case -- whether they have anything to back that up. Certainly, they haven't offered any sort of evidence. But the Iranians in the past couple of months, Dave, have been saying that they foiled several plots with people trying to smuggle weapons into the country. It seems as though this time they've not managed to do that so this attack is still ongoing and it's very, very big. It seems to be taking place in several parts of that very, very big city, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Fred Pleitgen with the latest on these two Iran attacks. The latest on "NEW DAY" just ahead. Thank you, Fred.

ROMANS: The Trump administration facing new ethics questions concerning Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's meeting with an oil industry group. Zinke addressed the American Petroleum Institute in March at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. That same day, the president killed an Obama-era regulation toughening standards on fossil fuel companies. Administration officials defending Zinke's appearance at the event saying there is nothing unusual about a secretary speaking to stakeholders.

BRIGGS: Bill Cosby's accuser Andrea Constand resumes her testimony today under cross-examination at Cosby's criminal sexual offense trial. Constand took the stand Tuesday telling jurors she saw Cosby as a friend and mentor, but that all changed in January 2004 when she says the comedian drugged and molested her at his home. Constand says she felt humiliated and confused. The 79-year-old Cosby claims they had consensual sex. He faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

[05:55:25] ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this morning. Global markets and U.S. futures mixed after Wall Street finished down yesterday. Stocks, oil, the dollar, all shifting over geopolitical concerns, including the upcoming U.K. election and Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey. The U.S. dollar fell to a seven-month low against a basket of currencies -- that Trump bump is over -- while investors shift to safe havens like bonds and gold. Gold us up 13 percent this year. Now, the Mideast rift is affecting oil prices. Crude fell six percent in the past two weeks. In econ news, the Labor Department says the U.S. hit a record six million job openings in April. Six million open jobs. There's 6.8 million people unemployed; six million job openings.

Uber fires 20 employees as the result of a sexual harassment probe. Uber was rocked by allegations earlier this year of systemic sexism at that company. That prompted an internal investigation. A source told CNN Uber looked into 215 claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying. Dozens of employees are still under review.

Amazon is fighting Walmart for low-income shoppers. It's offering a discount on prime memberships for anyone on government assistance. Amazon will charge them $5.99 a month -- that's half price. This move takes aim at Walmart. Their digital sales are skyrocketing. It's up 63 percent this year. Thirteen billion dollars of Walmart's overall sales last year came from shoppers on government assistance.

BRIGGS: Clash of the corporate titans.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: That could be good.

ROMANS: They want that dollar. All right, thanks for joining us, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" with all the latest out of D.C. Tomorrow, we want to remind you we're on at 3:00 a.m. We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has made multiple attempts to make an investigation go away.

ROMANS: "The Washington Post" reporting President Trump asked Coats if he could urge the FBI director to back off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be the most-watched congressional television since either the Watergate hearings or McCarthy hearings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What message do you have for Jim Comey ahead of his testimony?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish him luck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: James Comey is going to dispute President Trump when President Trump said he was assured that he was not under investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The attorney general told the president he needed space to do his job and if he couldn't have that then perhaps he shouldn't be there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he have confidence in his attorney general?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I said I have not had a discussion with him on the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, June 7th, 6:00 here in New York, and we have several major developments on the Trump White House in crisis.

Here's your starting line. "The Washington Post" reporting that the nation's top intelligence official, Dan Coats, told associates that President Trump asked him, too. The request, could he intervene in James Comey's FBI probe of a top Trump adviser. Now, in just hours, Coats will testify on Capitol Hill along with other intel officials. That testimony, a prelude to the blockbuster congressional testimony with fired FBI director Comey tomorrow. He's expected to refute President Trump's claim that Comey told him three times he was not under investigation.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: This, as we learn that Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign after a series of heated exchanges with President Trump. The White House still will not say whether the president has confidence in Sessions. And a CNN exclusive for you. U.S. officials believe that Russian hackers planted fake news that led to the escalating crisis between Qatar and other nations in the Persian Gulf. So we have all of this news covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is live in Washington. Bring us the latest, Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, the Senate Intelligence Committee is gearing up for two days of what is likely to be riveting testimony from top intelligence officials and, of course, tomorrow fired FBI director James Comey, all about the Russia probe. Now, today's hearing is scheduled to actually focus on the reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, but CNN has learned that senators plan to use this hearing to dig deeper into President Trump's controversies and the Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: America's top intelligence official Dan Coats set to testify today amid new "Washington Post" reporting that President Trump asked Coats to intervene and get the FBI to back off its probe of national security adviser Michael Flynn just two days after then- FBI director Comeyconfirmed the Bureau's investigation into potential collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.