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EARLY START

Trump Loses Hope; New Questions For Kushner; Trump: Take Guns Now, Due Process Later. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 1, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:01] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know about that. Chaotic 48 hours at White House punctuated by this Hope Hicks stepping, down leaving the president without one of his most trusted aides.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Now pressure ramping up on Jared Kushner. A new report says big loans went to his family business after he met with those lenders at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Take the guns first, go through due process second.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Take the guns first and go through due process second. President Trump leaving the Republicans and the NRA shell-shocked, appearing to back Democratic gun measures. In fact, tact to the left of them. Now, several big companies are trying to take the lead on gun violence.

ROMANS: The NRA supported this candidate in such a big way. Now as president --

BRIGGS: No one is a bigger champion of the Second Amendment, said the president.

ROMANS: He said take guns away from the mentally ill before due process.

BRIGGS: But was that Tuesday Trump versus Thursday Trump? We are the day after Wednesday, Dave Briggs and Christine Romans.

Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us.

ROMANS: It is Thursday, March 1st, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And a lot to get to today. The president who values loyalty above all else is now without one of his most loyal aides. White House communications director Hope Hicks resigning. The longtime Trump staffer set to depart in the coming weeks. She has been through thick and thin with this president. The decision comes just a day after Hicks admitted what she told white lies to protect the president. BRIGGS: A White House official says there is, quote, nothing

nefarious about Hicks leaving. The president calling her outstanding, a great person whom he will miss. But an ally close to the president tells CNN the president berated Hicks after her testimony to Congress Tuesday. A tearful Hicks announced her departure to the White House communications team saying she felt like now is the right time to go.

ROMANS: One of Hicks' close confidants tells us, quote, the last few weeks were really, really hard on her. The friend says Hicks started thinking about resigning when the Rob Porter spousal abuse scandal erupted. Hicks and Porter were romantically involved.

BRIGGS: Those keeping score, that is four White House communications directors plus one who took the job but never served, Jason Miller, in just over a year's time. The average for that job, 580 days.

ROMANS: All right. Another damaging report this morning concerning Jared Kushner. "The New York Times" reporting his family's real estate business secured substantial loans after Kushner held meetings at the White House with lenders. Those loans include one for $184 million from Apollo Global Management, after the company founder went to the White House to discuss infrastructure.

BRIGGS: Another loan for $325 million from Citigroup came shortly after a White House meeting between Kushner and the Citigroup's CEO. Kushner stepped out as CEO of the Kushner Companies when he started at the White House. But "The Times" reports he has retained a vast majority of his interest in the firm. Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, told "The Times" he has taken no part of any Kushner Company's business since he joined the White House.

ROMANS: The battle lines between Jared Kushner and Chief of Staff John Kelly appeared to be even more entrenched after Kushner's security clearance was downgraded. A source says Kushner remains exasperated like Kelly's decision, openly asking others in the West Wing why Kelly is doing this.

BRIGGS: And feeling that everyone is out to get him.

Now, "The Wall Street Journal" questioning whether Kushner and first daughter Ivanka should have positions in the White House at all. "The Journal" on its typically conservative newspaper suggesting they could serve the president better from the outside.

Quote, Mr. Trump's second year could determine his presidential fate as Mr. Mueller's probe rolls on and midterm elections give Democrats a chance to take the House and impeach him. Mr. Trump needs the discipline that Mr. Kelly has imposed. Mr. Kushner and Ivanka have to decide if they would serve themselves better by walking away from their formal White House roles.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us now live from Washington, CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan.

Tal, I'm going to put a list of things on the screen that happened in the last 24 hours. Wow. BRIGGS: On one screen or do we need several to give through, though.

ROMANS: We need like three screens. So, how do you characterize the last 48 hours, Tal?

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, you know, on the one hand, a part of me is like, well, it's another two days in the Trump administration. I mean, it sort of feels like this is the pace of news that we have grown accustomed to. But, you know, it's remarkable. And its continued headlines that sort of point to disarray, to a reorganization, a reshuffling. And, you know, it's easy to get sort of sidetracked by the palace intrigue aspects of all of it.

But keep in mind, I mean, these are the people crafting policy for the United States and steering the ship. It has broader implications beyond simply the sort of whiff of chaos and the drama that we're, you know, sort of focused on with the personalities. This has serious consequences for, you know, the way our nation has led.

ROMANS: You know, Hope Hicks is, some called her sort of Trump's Prozac, right? What is the White House like without Hope Hicks I wonder?

KOPAN: Yes. I mean, we're going to have to find out.

[05:05:01] You know, she -- she certainly was very close to the president with him arguably the longest, the closest to him other than his children in the White House. You know, with him from the beginning, reports she was the last person to walk him to the residence every night. I mean, it's hard to imagine the Trump administration without Hope Hicks. But I guess we're going to see what that's like.

BRIGGS: Yes, it's interesting, right? I mean, most Americans probably have no idea who she is. We never hear her speak. But we understand her role is integral in this White House. It should be interesting in terms of guiding this president. Who he confides in now that Keith Schiller and her are gone.

But let's talk about another person under fire in this White House, Jared Kushner, the first son-in-law, someone who the president also confides in.

KOPAN: Yes.

BRIGGS: This new reporting suggests that two people whom he met with at the White House then provided major loans to the Kushner companies, who Jared has stepped away from, but we're talking about $184 million from one. The co-founder of Apollo Global Management and then another for $325 million from Citigroup. That's more than $500 million. This is why White House visitor logs should be public.

How does Jared Kushner survive all of this given that his clearance has already been downgraded? KOPAN: Well, Kushner's clearly under fire in this White House. But,

you know, at the end of the day, President Trump surrounds himself with people he trusts. He has gone already to great lengths to keep those people even when his advisers recommend he doesn't. So, you know, there is always a chance he just powers through and continues.

But keep in mind, ethics officials have said from the beginning, ethics laws aren't just about preventing impropriety, but preventing the appearance of impropriety and the appearance that someone could be bought or influenced. And that was always their concern, having these individuals in the White House who have these complicated business holdings and have international connections, that have, you know, various things that could be loaned to or donated to or, you know, hotels that could be stayed at. It's a concern that even if these loans were on the up and up, just seeing them causes questions. And that's why ethics officials have so much concerns about these individuals being in these positions.

ROMANS: All right. To guns now, a remarkable day on the gun front. In the morning, you had the Dick's CEO saying they will no longer going to sell guns to 18 and 19 and 20 year olds. Remarkable that they were going to be limiting some long guns in some of the -- in the rest of their stores. Walmart also following suit, saying it's going to raise the age to buy guns.

And then the president having this bipartisan meeting about guns where he said this shocker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Take the firearms first and then go to court because that's another system, because a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures. You could do exactly what you say, but take the guns first, go through due process second.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Talking about the mentally ill. He's talking about people who should clearly not have guns. But to say you seize the guns first and you do due process second, "The Daily News" this morning characterizes it like this. Not very favorable.

BRIGGS: Well said.

ROMANS: Quote, Trump up in arms. The NRA must be just like reeling here.

KOPAN: Yes. Well, you know, a couple of things. First of all, you know, as Dave alluded to earlier, you've got the Tuesday versus Thursday Trump situation as Lindsey Graham put it. But this notion that we've seen him convene one of these bipartisan meetings before where he sort of free-wheeled and suggested things that are really contrary to the Republican base on immigration and then two days later had completely return to the sort of the right entrenched Republican position that really scuttle the deal at the end of the day. So, I think a lot of lawmakers are saying, well, we'll believe it when we see it.

But, you know, let's remember, while this is definitely a position and not so much the NRA, President Trump has not shown a high regard for due process, let's say. I mean, this is also a president who's reportedly musing about perhaps using capital punishment on drug dealers and has often talked about throw them in jail or kick them out. I mean, he doesn't seem to be one who really has a lot of esteem for lengthy court process to protect some of these rights.

So, it's not entirely a shocker that on this point, too, he would also say, why slow down with these sort of steps. Let's get to the heart of the issue.

BRIGGS: But it's one thing to infuriate NRA leadership. This is every gun owner's biggest fear in the United States, that you're going to start taking their guns. This is a Republican president.

(CROSSTALK)

BRIGGS: This is a guy who say there's no greater defender of the Second Amendment than me, so that's why it's so astounding regardless of where he goes from here on this issue on Friday.

Let's listen to the interesting interaction between the president and California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein positioned to the president's left in this extraordinary meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[05:10:07] TRUMP: Dianne, if you could add what you have also and I think you can into the bill.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Joe, are you ready?

TRUMP: Can you do that? Joe, can you do that? Pat? Can you add some of the things you're not going to agree with?

FEINSTEIN: If you help.

TRUMP: Well, no, I'll help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: You can listen, you can just watch that. You can put it on mute to see the body language of Dianne Feinstein loving where the president is going on guns is astounding. He is tacking to her left, positioned to her left, regardless of where he goes. How shocking was that?

KOPAN: I mean, it's remarkable. And keep in mind, there was always this potential. It is one of the things that earned him some votes. There was always a potential that Trump is a rare politician who was not beholden to a particular partisan ideologies.

That was sort of part of the mystique, this notion that he is not that familiar with the long entrenched positions and he doesn't care as much about the outside groups or, you know, the sort of third rails of politics. Again, we haven't yet seen him actually follow through. So, this -- if this is an instance where he actually follows through and says, you know what, to heck with the outside groups, I'm going to do what I think is right, it could be a remarkable watershed moment.

But a lot of people are waiting to see, you know, sort of the proof in the pudding on this and not get too excited, Dianne Feinstein's body language aside, simply by a statement or a suggestion.

BRIGGS: Sure. As you covered it, Steven Miller, Tom Cotton brought the president back to the right on immigration. Who does that on guns? Several people in that room.

ROMANS: Maybe he becomes the disrupter. And then, you know, that -- you know, the liberal elites or political elites whose approval he craves really, maybe he gets that approval in the end and wins.

BRIGGS: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

ROMANS: That's true.

All right. Tal, nice to see you this morning. Come back in about 30 minutes.

Ahead, the teacher strike in West Virginia is not ending today as planned. The latest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:16:14] BRIGGS: All right. Some big news from "The Washington Post." Special counsel Robert Mueller investigating a period of time last summer when President Trump appeared to drive Jeff Sessions to quit. Mr. Trump publicly attacking Sessions in July of 2017, describing him as beleaguered, very weak, and disappointing. Mueller's team reportedly questioning witnesses about the president's state of mind and determine whether he was trying to force Sessions out to undermine the Russia investigation.

ROMANS: "The Post" also reporting Mr. Trump has been referring to the attorney general behind the scenes as Mr. Magoo. A new attack yesterday with the president now calling the attorney general disgraceful. And this time, Jeff Sessions is responding.

Here is CNN's Laura Jarrett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, at long last, after months of public attacks by the president and too many tweets to count, the attorney general finally hit back. The rare statement from Jeff Sessions just hours after the president essentially called him a disgrace and took a shot at the inspector general, the internal watch dog at the Department of Justice. Sessions said in part: As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.

Now, the back drop to all of this drama is that on Tuesday, Sessions had told reporters that the inspector general would deal with the allegations outlined in the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican memo, the so-called Nunes controversial memo outlining purported surveillance abuses by the FBI surveilling Carter Page, the former Trump associate. And he said he would make sure that the inspector general would make sure the process was carried out appropriately.

But clearly, that wasn't good enough for the president who took direct aim at the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, as a so-called Obama guy.

But the real question now is what does this statement from the attorney general mean for his future at the department and whether it will have any affect on how the president treats him? Dave, Christine?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Yes, another fascinating development there. Laura Jarrett, thanks.

Meanwhile, an abrupt shift, all public schools remain closed in West Virginia today. Governor Jim Justice and union leaders had announced a deal that end the teachers' strike. The deal had been subject though to approval by legislators. But thousands of school employees and their supporters returned in the capital, demanding immediate action on health insurance and proposed pay increase. Today marks the sixth day of the walkout.

All right. Ahead, the Rockets' James Harden with the move that broke Twitter and left his defender on the ground. No one enjoyed it more than that guy, Houston native Andy Scholes tries to recap it unbiased in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:23:29] BRIGGS: All right. Scholes will have to wait a minute for that James Harden highlight.

First, a hopeful high school baseball player turned down by Texas University because he comes from a state where recreational marijuana is legal.

ROMANS: OK. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good morning, guys. This story is getting a lot of people talking today. Gavin Bell, high school baseball player, in Aurora, Colorado, he's hoping to play college ball, so he e-mailed a coach in Texas Wesleyan University in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to see if he would be recruited there.

Well, this is the response he received from coach Mike Jeffcoat: Thanks for the interest in our program. Unfortunately, we are not recruiting players from the state of Colorado. In the past, players have had trouble passing our drug tests. We made a decision to not take a chance on student athletes from your state. You can thank your liberal politicians. Best of luck wherever you decide to play.

Bell was very surprised to hear his state's marijuana policy was keeping him from attending a university.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAVIN BELL, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR BASEBALL PLAYER: That's not what I am about. I'm about playing baseball and getting good grades in school. Back then, I wasn't even 18 to have any say with this. And now, it's brought upon me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Now, Bell's former coach was shocked when reading the e-mail and decided to go public with it after complaining to the university and not getting a response. Texas Wesleyan has released a statement that reads in part: The comments made are in no way reflection of Texas Wesleyan University, its values or its recruiting practices. Adding the matter is now under investigation.

[05:25:03] All right. Warriors at Wizards last night, Steph Curry wearing custom shoes highlighting his partnership with the My Brothers Keeper alliance, which is founded by former President Barack Obama. My Brothers Keeper seeks to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color by igniting efforts on national and local levels.

Curry auctioning those shoes off after the game with the proceeds benefitting local communities connected to that organization. Curry scored 25 points as the Warriors beat the Wizards last night, 109-101.

The red hot Rockets meanwhile beating the Clippers last night, 105-92, for the 14 straight win. And Wesley Johnson's ankles may never been the same after that move by James Harden right there. Harden just staring at Johnson on the ground for what seemed to be an eternity before making the three. And the Beard saying afterwards he crossed over Johnson so bad, he almost didn't know what to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES HARDEN, HOUSTON ROCKETS: I was looking at him. He was looking at me. I just shot it.

REPORTER: You look like you didn't want to shoot the three at first and then --

HARDEN: I was going to shoot it, but I wanted to see what was going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Yes. And, guys, there's like two reactions to that play. There was like, oh what, across, and then oh, I feel bad for Wesley Johnson.

BRIGGS: It was deadly. I have to get back to the Curry story. As much as I love that move and I know you're a Houston guy, Curry wore the shoes in D.C. on the day he was going to ordinarily visit the Trump White House. So, you're telling me he is not trolling Trump with the shoes by honoring Obama in D.C.? Coincidence?

SCHOLES: President Obama and Curry, you know, they had a strong relationship when he was in office.

BRIGGS: Sure.

SCHOLES: They shot those mentoring videos. So, I'm sure there was --

BRIGGS: He could have debuted those shoes any other time.

SCHOLES: At anytime, yes. Absolutely.

BRIGGS: Not to take the spotlight off Mr. Harden. Your MVP, right?

SCHOLES: Oh, hands down. There's no other option.

BRIGGS: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: For the sixth time since the election, President Trump and his team looking for a new comms director. More on the historically chaotic 48 hours at the White House.