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Attorney General Testifies This Afternoon; Will Trump Fire Mueller?; Trump's Weird Cabinet Meeting; Dennis Rodman Arrives in North Korea; Cosby Trial Jury Begins Deliberations; Warriors Win NBA Title. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 13, 2017 - 04:30   ET



JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, but I did meet one Russian official a couple of times.


[04:30:03] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, today, a major day for the Trump White House. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be under oath testifying about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and any involvement he may have had in the firing of James Comey.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Is president Trump weighing whether to fire special counsel Robert Mueller? A close friend of the president says the option is on the table.

ROMANS: It's being called the weirdest cabinet meeting of all time. President Trump's cabinet secretaries all taking turns to lavish the president with compliments.

What -- what on earth? Unprecedented. I'm just going to use that word again. I've never seen a cabinet meeting like that before, never. I had to watch it twice to make sure I wasn't dreaming it up.

BRIGGS: Speechless.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. You are the finest anchor I've ever sat next to. It was a privilege of the lifetime to be here.

ROMANS: It was a pleasure to be here.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, once again, all eyes on another pivotal Senate hearing for the Trump administration. Attorney general Jeff Sessions testifies at 2:30 this afternoon in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Among many critical questions, Sessions will likely be asked to respond directly to an accusation from fired FBI Director James Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: My impression was something big is about to happen, I need to remember every single word that is spoken. And again, I could be wrong, I'm 56 years old. I've seen a few things. My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering, and I don't know Mr. Kushner well, but I think he picked up on the same thing. And so, I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to.


BRIGGS: All right. So, we go now to Jessica Schneider, who has the latest.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, tough and intense questioning is expected today when the attorney general testifies. Several questions linger, including what role did Jeff Sessions have in the firing of James Comey, especially since Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation. Also, what is Sessions' response to Comey's contention that Sessions left him alone with the president and then didn't respond when Comey told the attorney general it was inappropriate?

And perhaps most pressing, did Jeff Sessions have a third undisclosed meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in April 2016? That's something that James Comey told senators in a closed-door session last week that investigators are looking into. So, all of these questions swirl, all as the White House is weighing whether to exert executive privilege. Press Secretary Sean Spicer would only say that it would depend on the scope of the questions.

But a senior administration official is telling our Sara Murray that the White House actually might hold back and hope that Jeff Sessions actually restrained on his own. So, there is a lot of anticipation for what will likely be another largely watched round of public testimony. It all begins this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and senators, meanwhile, they're still deciding whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be asked to testify in a classified briefing after that public hearing -- Dave and Christine.


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

The White House pushing back hard this morning against a claim by a longtime friend of the president that Mr. Trump is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Press secretary Sean Spicer rejecting the claim by Chris Ruddy that the president was weighing that option.

Spicer issued a statement overnight, saying, Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue. With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.

BRIGGS: In the wake of FBI Director James Comey's firing, the mere suggestion President Trump might terminate Mueller is drawing rapid fire from Capitol Hill. The top Democrat on the House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, tweeting: If President fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller. Don't waste our time.

For the latest, let's bring in senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, a friend of the president said Mr. Trump is considering the possibility of firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller. "Newsmax" editor Chris Ruddy told PBS the president is actually weighing such a dramatic move, but a source close to the president told CNN, there are many people advising the president to not fire Mueller.

Here's what Ruddy told PBS.

RUDDY: I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option. I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake.

ACOSTA: White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders did not deny what Ruddy is saying, only telling CNN that he speaks for himself. And a White House official also told CNN that Ruddy did not see the president before making these remarks -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House -- thanks, Jim.

If there are tapes of President Trump's private conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, they -- it could be a critical piece of evidence in the Russia investigation.

Now, after hinting he might have them, the president is now being coy about whether they even exist.

[04:35:02] And White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is, well, he's not exactly clearing things up.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president made clear in the Rose Garden last week that he would have an announcement shortly.

REPORTER: Do you have any sort of timeline on when that announcement will be?

SPICER: When the president is ready to make it. I think the president made clear what his intention is on Friday.

REPORTER: I mean, it's an open question. SPICER: I understand that, and he said he would answer that question

in due time. He's not waiting for anything. When he's ready to discuss it, he will.


ROMANS: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. CNN asked him if he thinks the tapes exist. He said, quote, "I don't think so", and then he added, "If there are, I'm on them."

We've seen the candidate, when he was a candidate actually, do this before.


ROMANS: Dangle a piece of information, reel it back --


ROMANS: You know, exactly.

BRIGGS: I don't think there are any tapes, do you?

ROMANS: I have no idea.

BRIGGS: All right. Talk about awkward, President Trump's first official meeting with his entire cabinet.

ROMANS: There is tape.

BRIGGS: Unfortunately, there is tape of this.

A bizarre competition, if you will, to see who could lavish the most praise on the boss. One by one, each secretary tried to outdo the last as the president listened without comment. Chief of staff Reince Priebus also heaping on the flattery.


TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HOUSE SERVICES SECRETARY: It's great to be here and celebrate this group. We are receiving, as you know -- I'm not sure the rest of you --

ELAINE CHAO, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Again, and also working again.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people.


ROMANS: Almost doesn't do it justice. It went on.

BRIGGS: A small sampling, really. ROMANS: And on and on and on. Usually -- I missed the first cabinet

meeting, too. Usually, it's a quick intro from the president and then, boom, you know, action items, down to business, the agenda right away.

BRIGGS: Yes. You know, are they doing him any favors? We'll get into that with David Drucker next hour.

ROMANS: And remember when he was on the international trip, the big, foreign trip he just took, what we heard from diplomats in Europe was they had all been briefing their heads of state --

BRIGGS: Flattery.

ROMANS: Flattery, lavish the praise and make sure you say the words Donald J. Trump, Donald J. Trump. It's about the president.

BRIGGS: Cabinet following the playbook.

The cringe-worthy cabinet session being mocked by Democrats. Take a look at Chuck Schumer's parody post.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: I want to thank everybody for coming. I just thought we'd go around the room.

Lucy, how'd we do on the Sunday show yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your tone was perfect. You were right on message.

SCHUMER: Michelle, how'd my hair look coming out of the gym this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have great hair. Nobody had better hair than you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we go any further, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda.



BRIGGS: So, if the Senate minority leader's making fun of the Trump cabinet meeting, well, you know the late-night talk show hosts could not resist.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: This is next-level weird. This is an unprecedented public stroke fest for an emotionally frail man, OK? That is absolutely chilling, right, Mark?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, boss, it's absolutely true! Whatever you say! It's an honor, sir!

SETH MEYER, COMEDIAN: That's right, there's never been a president who's done more. Even Bill Clinton took six years to get impeached. I might do it in six months, you guys. We are racing. We are racing ahead.


ROMANS: All right, all that material there for the late-night comics.

Another legal setback for President Trump's travel ban. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming a Hawaii judge's ruling that blocked the ban. The judges citing the president's own tweets in making this decision, like this one: People, the lawyers, and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a travel ban.

And this: The justice department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered-down, politically correct version they submitted to Supreme Court.

We'll be speaking with the Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin in the next hour. He filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday opposing the DOJ's request to put that revised travel ban into effect.

BRIGGS: The Democratic Attorneys General of Maryland and the District of Columbia are suing President Trump, saying he personally violated the Constitution. The lawsuit says the president is violating the emoluments clause barring the president from taking payments from foreign powers. They claim President Trump's worldwide network of luxury hotels and golf courses creates a conflict of interest, and they say his Washington hotel unfairly competes against properties in their jurisdictions.


KARL RACINE, WASHINGTON D.C. ATTORENY GENERAL: And what are we to do, sit back and allow the president to police himself? This is America. We have a Constitution. Our Founding Fathers were concerned about corruption. They were concerned about a president of the United States not focusing on the people's business, but being worried about personal business.


BRIGGS: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh says they will seek Trump's personal tax returns as part of the suit. Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the White House will move to have this suit dismissed.

[04:40:05] ROMANS: All right. Today is also a critical day in the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare. Senate Republicans meeting behind closed doors to learn key, new details of their health care plan. They will offer feedback to staffers who are working to triangulate between conservative and moderate demands. There are new questions about the process here, Dave, the secretive

process, the drama for developing this plan. Senator Bernie Sanders mocking it on Instagram with this photo, captioned: Senate Republicans just released the schedule of hearings, committee mark-ups, and public testimony for their health care bill.

All of that happening behind closed doors.

The president and Ivanka Trump heading to Wisconsin today to promote apprenticeship programs. The White House says such programs can help close the skills gap.

Anxiety over factory jobs is high in Waukesha, Wisconsin. That's where the president is going. More than 300 factory workers there are losing their jobs. General Electric is moving one of its plants to Canada.

CNNMoney visited those workers. Many of them voted for President Trump, hoping he would save their jobs.

All right. Those Wisconsin employees from GE, they join a growing list of unemployed factory workers in the state -- more than 125,000 since the year 2000.

What's so interesting to me, these factory workers we talked to, because of a conflict over the import export bank that finally was reauthorized -- anyway, they still lost their jobs. Canada came in, swooped in and had a really good deal for that GE plant.

They kind of blame Paul Ryan. They kind of hope Donald Trump is going to help them. They kind of understand that the machinations of Congress Might be why they lost their jobs. But in the end, there's -- these are really good-paying jobs that are going to be going to Canada.

BRIGGS: Let's see how the president and Ivanka turn the message this week in Wisconsin --

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: -- with that workforce development week. They're going to try to turn the narrative.

Meanwhile, speaking of a strange narrative, Dennis Rodman, former NBA star, arriving in North Korea. But why?

Here's what Rodman told CNN about whether President Trump approves of this trip.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy with the fact that I'm over here.


RODMAN: Trying to accomplish something that we both need.


BRIGGS: More on Rodman's strange visit to North Korea, next.

ROMANS: And product placement.


[04:46:35] BRIGGS: Relax, folks, Dennis Rodman is here to save the day. He has landed in North Korea. The eccentric NBA hall of famer spotted by CNN last night, connecting through Beijing's airport. Rodman would not say whether he plans to meet with Kim Jong-un. And while the State Department insists his visit is not official, Rodman is hinting President Trump approves.

CNN's Matt Rivers spoke to the former NBA star. He joins us live from Beijing.

Matt, what in the world is Dennis Rodman doing there?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question that everyone was asking him. We tried to pose that question to him a couple of times, first when he landed in Beijing, and then the following morning, we asked him again. That would be this morning here in Beijing.

Here's a little bit of what he had to say.


RIVERS: Are you here just as a private citizen? Have you spoken to President Trump at all?

RODMAN: Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy at the fact that I'm over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.

RIVERS: And what are you trying to accomplish, sir? From this dialogue?

RODMAN: Just open the door, to open the door, that's it.

RIVERS: Are you going to talk at all about the detained Americans?

RODMAN: Well, that's not my purpose right now.


RIVERS: And so, in terms of specifics, we didn't really get anything from Dennis Rodman. He just said he wants to open the door to dialogue, whatever that means. But as you said right off the top here, it's worth noting, again, that the State Department says this is not an official trip, that he is traveling only as a private citizen. And we don't know whether he spoke to President Trump, but we do know that he's one of the few humans on earth that has a personal relationship, both with Kim Jong-un and with Donald Trump. He's been to North Korea many times. He has met Kim Jong-un. And we

know he was on "The Celebrity Apprentice," president Trump's former reality show --

BRIGGS: Right.

RIVERS: -- two different occasions.


RIVERS: So, he knows the president, actually endorsed him in 2015. So, in terms of how this is going to play out diplomatically, we just don't know. We'll find out more. He has landed in Pyongyang.

BRIGGS: Sean Spicer, get ready to answer questions about Dennis Rodman.

Matt, thank you.

ROMANS: And the t-shirt product placement for the marijuana crypto currency is a little --

BRIGGS: Banking for the marijuana industry, they say.

ROMANS: Seems like he's sort of playing us somehow.

BRIGGS: They win.


All right. Tech stocks raising the market to record highs. Have they lost steam? We'll talk a little bit about this tech slump that we've seen lately.


[04:53:09] ROMANS: In just a few hours, jurors in Bill Cosby's sexual offense trial begin their first full day of deliberations. The jury of seven men and five women got the case Monday afternoon after hearing four hours of closing arguments, and the defense resting its case after just six minutes. The 79-year-old comedian is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

We get more this morning from CNN's Jean Casarez.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the jury had deliberated four hours Monday night when the judge called them into the courtroom and said, you've been here for 13 hours today, I think maybe we should call it a day. You will go back to your hotel room.

The day started off with Camille Cosby coming into that courtroom for the defense case, with her husband sitting in the front row of the defense side. The defense called only one witness, a detective, and then it was on to closing arguments. The defense really focused out on Andrea Constand, that you can't believe her, even calling her a liar. That her statements changed, they evolved, they were different, that it was a romantic relationship, and she didn't want anyone to know.

The commonwealth countered that by saying that you need to focus on Bill Cosby's words, listen to what he said, look at what he said.

They also began to describe the elements of the crime -- intoxication, admitting and administering intoxicants. Deliberations will continue, and this is a new day and there could be a verdict in the criminal case of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania versus Bill Cosby -- Christine, Dave.


BRIGGS: All right. Thank you, Jean Casarez.

Meanwhile, security video from a Penn State fraternity party showing the final hours of Timothy Piazza's life playing out in court Monday. Eighteen fraternity members are charged with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes related to the death of the fraternity pledge.

[04:55:04] Prosecutors say they helped piazza become dangerously drunk, then left him to die after he fell down a flight of stairs.

More now from CNN's Sara Ganim.


SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPODENT: Dave and Christine, you could absolutely hear a pin drop in the courtroom as prosecutors showed three hours of selected videotape, surveillance tape from inside that fraternity house where you could see 19-year-old Tim Piazza first go through what's called the gauntlet, which was a hazing ritual, and then his progressive decline, first as he stumbled and tried to walk around the house, staggering and falling and hitting his head repeatedly falling and hitting his head.

At some point, he becomes unconscious. And as the other brothers go to bed, the video that shows him thrashing around on the floor, clearly in pain, rolling around, trying to stand, getting up and then falling again over and over and over again, over a time period of about six hours. It was incredibly compelling to see that as prosecutors and the police narrated what was happening.

Now, during all of this, his parents elected to leave the courtroom. They told me it was something that they never want to see. At the end of all of this, though, there was no resolution, no ruling, a judge finding that they will have to continue this hearing several weeks down the road to a date that has yet to be determined. There simply was too much evidence, too much videotape that took up too much of the day.

So, as we move forward and wait for that next court date, the family attorney said that this family wants to continue moving forward toward justice and will not rest until they see some change come from this case -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: All right, thank you.

Many of the attorneys for the 18 defendants have said they will fight the charges.

ROMANS: All right. NBC and Megyn Kelly facing mounting pressure to pull an upcoming interview with controversial media figure Alex Jones, media figure-conspiracy theorist. Relatives of those killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, the little children who were killed in that school shooting, which Jones has called a hoax, those families are outraged.

Meantime, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urging NBC to cancel the segment. The executive producer of "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" says the interview will air, urging people not to judge the program until they see it.

It's interesting, a lot of folks this morning online talking about how unless it is a very thorough takedown of him, there's no business putting him on television, on mainstream television.

BRIGGS: "The Daily News" made no secret about how they feel about it. It's the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, the parents that lost children that are really incensed about this, and you can understand why.

Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors are NBA champions for the second time in three years. They beat the Cavs, 129-120, to win the title in five. The warriors were led once again by Kevin Durant, who scored 39 points, the unanimous choice for NBA finals MVP.


KEVIN DURANT, 2017 NBA CHAMPIONSHIP MVP: I just wanted to lay it all out there. You know, I put in work. I just had to trust in it. You know, we were really good tonight. You've got to tip your hat to Cleveland, man.

We did it. I told you when I was 8 years old. We did it. Yes.

STEPH CURRY, 2017 NBA CHAMPION: This is what we talked about this whole year, realizing this goal and understanding how important we both would be to the equation, along with our teammates. And we learned a lot about each other going through this journey, the way that he embraced the opportunity in the finals was unbelievable.


BRIGGS: Steph Curry scored 34 points in the clincher. Durant just the third player since 1969 to be named the finals MVP in his first season with the team, averaged 35 points a game. Unreal.

ROMANS: Good for them. BRIGGS: Dub nation.

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

Global stocks and futures rebounding after tech shares in the U.S. slumped for the second day in a row. You know, tech's strong year has brought the market to records, particularly these five companies. But concerns over their run, as well as a downgrade for Apple prompted that sell-off. Investors also looking ahead to a fed meeting tomorrow. Central bank is expected to raise interest rates.

GE's CEO, Jeff Immelt, stepping down after 16 years. He will officially leave his post August 1st. Immelt led General Electric out of its industrial past into the digital age. His tenure was defined by dramatic downsizing, including shedding NBC and GE Capital. But GE stock has struggled in recent years. It is down about 27 percent since Immelt took over.

Want a summer job? Look no further than Snapchat. McDonald's says it will use the social media app to fill its 250,000 summer positions. The company is rolling out Snaplications, a ten-second ad that swipes right to its career website.