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EARLY START

Mueller's Grand Jury; Mueller Follows the Money; Trump Call With Mexico's President Leaked. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 4, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[04:03:56] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That's all it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump fighting back after reports emerged that grand jury subpoenas have been issued in the Russia investigation.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: And CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller is following the money, investigating possible financial crimes as part of the ongoing probe into the Trump campaign.

Good morning, and welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

The president fired up in West Virginia last night. We'll play you some more of what he had to say.

It is Friday, happy Friday, August 4th, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

It was a major advance in the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. A source familiar with the matter telling CNN a grand jury has issued subpoenas relating to Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. CNN has learned the subpoenas seek both documents and testimony from people involved in that meeting. Mueller's team continuing to probe whether the president or any of his campaign associates colluded with Russia during the presidential campaign -- a probe that the president has repeatedly slammed as a witch-hunt.

KOSIK: A spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment on the reports which were first reported by the "Wall Street Journal" and "Reuters". The White House response coming from the special counsel to the president, Ty Cobb, noting in a statement that grand jury matters are typically secret, but adding the White House favors anything that accelerates conclusion of Mueller's work, quote, fairly.

The president's outside lawyer, Jay Sekulow, is downplaying the importance of the subpoenas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: This is not a surprise because the impaneling of a grand jury in situations like this, when you've got an investigation, is typically how they move forward. That's -- it is really very much a standard operating procedure when you've got a situation like this. But with respect to the impaneling of the grand jury, we have no reason to believe that the president's under investigation here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: CNN's Athena Jones on the road with the president in West Virginia has more on his reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison and Dave.

In the wake of news that special counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting last summer at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, the president's team out swinging here in Huntington, West Virginia, in a state he won by more than 40 points in November. The president spent five minutes blasting the Russia story as a, quote, total fabrication and a hoax, and blasting Democrats for what he called their obsession with it.

Listen --

TRUMP: Are there any Russians here tonight, any Russians?

They can't beat us at the voting booths, so they're trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They're trying to cheat out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us.

JONES: President Trump's latest tirade signaling he has no plans to stop talking about this ongoing investigation which he has repeatedly termed a witch hunt -- Alison, Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Athena, thanks.

With the FBI Russia investigation now at the one-year mark, Robert Mueller is following the president's money. People familiar with the investigation tell CNN federal investigators have seized on President Trump and his associates' financial ties to Russia as potentially fertile ground for the probe. The sources describe an investigation that has now widened to include possible financial crimes.

KOSIK: The turn in the investigation seems to cross the red line. President Trump warned special counsel Mueller about in an interview last month with "The New York Times."

CNN's Pamela Brown has the latest. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Does anyone really believe that story?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Russia investigation continues to widen, as federal investigators explore the potential financial ties with President Trump and associates to Russia. Sources tell CNN financial links could offer a more concrete path to any potential prosecution. Investigators are delving into possible financial crimes including some unconnected to the election.

For the president, that's going too far. He's warned that delving into his businesses is a, quote, violation.

Trump has maintained there's no collusion and he has no financial ties to Russia.

TRUMP: And I can tell you speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia.

BROWN: Now, one year into this complex probe, the FBI has reviewed financial records related to the Trump Organization, the president himself as well as his family members and campaign associates. CNN has told investigators have combed through the list of shell companies and buyers of Trump branded real estate properties. They scrutinized the roster of tenants at Trump Tower in Manhattan, reaching back several years.

And officials familiar with the investigation tells CNN special counsel Robert Mueller's team has examined the backgrounds of Russian business associates connected to Trump --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Moscow, it's Miss Universe 2013.

BROWN: -- dating back to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant he hosted in Moscow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you to Aras Agalarov and the Crocus Group for their amazing hospitality.

BROWN: CNN could not determine whether the review has included Trump's tax returns.

But even investigative leads that have nothing to do with Russia, but involve Trump associates, are being referred to the special counsel to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate.

TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

BROWN: President Trump keenly aware of the increased financial focus, regularly denounces the investigation.

TRUMP: Russia is fake news. This is fake news put out by the media.

[04:10:01] BROWN: Trump's team seeking to limit Mueller's investigation. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's

point is that he doesn't want the special counsel to move beyond the scope and outside of its mission, and the president's been very clear as have his accountants and team that he has no financial dealings with Russia. And so, I think we've been extremely clear on that.

BROWN: CNN has learned new details about how Mueller is running his special counsel team. More than three dozen attorneys, FBI agents and support staff, experts in investigating fraud and financial crimes broken into groups, focused separately on collusion and obstruction of justice. There is also focus on targets like Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, and General Michael Flynn, his fired national security adviser.

CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious of Manafort when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected amongst suspected Russian operatives, discussing their efforts to work with Manafort to coordinate information that could hurt Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House, according to U.S. officials.

In Flynn's case, the focus is now on his lobbying work for the Turkish government which he failed to disclose as required by law.

While both deny any wrongdoing, the approach to the Manafort and Flynn probes may offer a template for how the focus by investigators on possible financial crimes could help gain leverage and cooperation in the investigation.

(on camera): The president's attorney, Jay Sekulow, said to CNN in a statement, quote: The president's outside counsel has not received requests for documentation or information about this. Any inquiry from the special counsel that goes beyond the mandate specified in the appointment, we would object to.

And for context, investigators don't have to go directly to the president's lawyers to get financial information. Investigators can issue subpoenas to financial institutions and get records from the Treasury Department.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Pam, thanks much.

Former national security adviser Susan Rice has been given permanent clearance to classified information. A senior official says current national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, wrote to all his predecessors in that job extending their security clearances. The official calls this common practice and says it doesn't mean Rice or other ex-national security advisers now have open access to any classified data they want. Some House Republicans, though, have criticized Rice for improper unmasking Trump associates in intelligence reports. KOSIK: It's a stunning leak. Transcripts obtained by "The Washington

Post" suggesting President Trump may never have intended to deliver on a campaign promise to make Mexico pay for a border wall. We'll go live to the Mexico for reaction next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will build the wall, 100 percent. I promise, we will build the wall.

And who's going to pay for the wall?

AUDIENCE: Mexico!

TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?

AUDIENCE: Mexico!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Certainly was a rallying cry and central theme for Donald Trump's campaign. Build a wall along Mexico's border and make Mexico pay for it.

Leaked posts suggest Trump never intended to follow through on the promise. In January 27th phone call, Trump tells Mexico's president, quote: It will work out in the formula somehow. I'm willing to say that we will work it out, but you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I'm going to say that we are working it out in terms of dollars or pesos. It is the least important thing, end quote.

For more on the fallout from these explosive transcripts, let's bring in CNN's Patrick Oppmann live from Mexico City.

Good morning to you.

First, Patrick, let's start. Has the government reacted at all to the leaked transcript?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No official reaction as of yet. And it's got to be like a nightmare they can't wake up from, Dave, because for months, they have tried to reset relations with Washington, tried to get past this issue of the law. And, of course that has not happened.

Many Mexicans through are reacting, like in the U.S., they're going line by line through these transcripts and they're just blown away by what they read. A lot of people here seem to think that Enrique Pena Nieto was pushed around by Donald Trump. Others say that the relationship with the U.S. is so important that he can't push back too hard.

But a lot of people here say that they were just so shock to see how Donald Trump goes from one moment, from flattering Enrique Pena Nieto about this eloquence and the fact he speaks fluent English, to bullying him, saying that there will be tariffs on Mexican products, that the U.S. could send troops down to Mexico if Mexico doesn't fight back harder against the drug cartels, of course, a war that's cost thousands of Mexican lives. So, many people here were just shocked to read the president's comments.

And also, somewhat shocked to see that President Trump at least in the transcripts seems to think that the wall is something -- that it's more of a political issue than an actual thing that will be built. So, of course, both leaders say at the end of the conversation that they will try to move past this disagreement and not talk about it anymore. Of course, everyone here is talking about it today. That has not worked -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes. And you wonder in a larger context how other world leaders will fear their conversations with President Trump will be leaked, might it make them clamp down in the future. But time will tell.

Patrick Moynihan (ph), live for us in Mexico City -- thank you, sir.

KOSIK: Those are interesting transcripts to read.

BRIGGS: Oh, yes, including the one with Malcolm Turnbull of Australia. Very interesting. But the leaks here have to scare this administration.

KOSIK: Oh, yes, whether you support the president or not, it is -- it is disturbing that a discussion with the foreign leader could be like this.

[04:20:01] BRIGGS: Sure.

KOSIK: OK. Next, a young woman who encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself in a series of text messages sentenced to 15 months in prison. We have more on the landmark case, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: In a landmark ruling, a Massachusetts judge has sentenced Michelle Carter for 15 months in prison for her role in her boyfriend's suicide. Prosecutors say Carter sent Conrad Roy numerous text messages, one reading, just do it, urging him to take his own life in 2014. Both teens were battling mental health issues. Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter back in June. The judge stayed the sentence Thursday, allowing Carter to remain free on appeal.

BRIGGS: Firefighters tackle a spectacular fire at one of the tallest buildings in the world without any injuries or loss of life. Remarkably. The 84-story Torch Tower unfortunately lived up to its name. It's there in Dubai. One side of the building lit up, engulfing about 30 to 40 residences.

Officials say the building was evacuated, the fire was put out in about two hours.

[04:25:00] No immediate word on cause, but the tower has caught fire before. Its exterior paneling went up in a dramatic blaze two years ago. Just remarkable that no one -- no lives were lost there in Dubai.

KOSIK: Thankfully.

BRIGGS: Yes.

KOSIK: Yes.

All right. A major development in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. A grand jury has issued subpoenas. We'll discuss more, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We didn't win because of Russia, we won because of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It's just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That's all it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: President Trump fighting back after reports emerge that grand jury subpoenas have been issued in the Russia investigation.

KOSIK: And CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller following the money. Investigating possible financial crimes as part of the ongoing probe into the Trump campaign.