Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

Trump Targets FBI: Mueller Bashing Goes Mainstream; GOP Warnings; Frigid Week to New Year's. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:14] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's holiday Twitter rage directed at the FBI. He targeted the deputy director as hostility of the special counsel's Russia probe is amplified.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKES (R), ARIZONA: By and large, we're appealing to older white men and they're just limited number of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Two of the outgoing Republican lawmakers lamenting the direction of the Republican Party. Hear their warnings for the president and the GOP.

BRIGGS: And Santa's gift for much of the country: a frigid final week of 2017, the coldest air of the season, and icy conditions, already sent one plane off a runway.

Good morning everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

And you, how was yours?

KOSIK: Mine was good. I was here working.

BRIGGS: Oh, very good.

KOSIK: I bet you opened lots of gifts.

BRIGGS: A lot of gifts still opening.

KOSIK: Good to hear.

OK. Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. I'm sitting in for Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, December 26th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And President Trump ready to tackle what remains of 2017 as the Christmas holiday comes to a close. It was just last evening the president tweeted this. It's back to work in order to make America great again, which is happening faster than anyone anticipated.

So, as the year rapidly comes to a close, the president's latest tweet storms are giving us a peek of what we can expect for 2018. BRIGGS: Over the holiday weekend, the president railed against the

FBI, growing conservative efforts to discredit the special counsel's Russia probe. He also slammed the media, playing the hits, complaining he isn't getting enough credit for his accomplishments, and he touted recent stock market gains and a GOP tax bill, a rallying cry Republicans will need as they head toward midterm elections.

We get more from CNN's Sara Murray at Mar-a-Lago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave, it was a quiet Christmas Day for President Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump. They spent the day ensconced at their Mar-a-Lago resort, but they fit in plenty of activities on Christmas Eve. They made calls to children who are tracking Santa. The president delivered a message to troops deployed abroad via video conference, and then the two went to a Christmas Eve service at the church that they were married at.

But, of course, this would not be the president without a Twitter tirade here and there. And on that, he certainly delivered over the weekend. He took aim at the FBI, he took aim at the media and he aired one of his deepest grief advances of 2017, the notion that he is just not getting enough credit for his accomplishments in his first year in office, particularly when it comes to the economy.

As we head into this week, the White House insists this will be more of a working holiday now that the Christmas festivities are done. But they gave very little indication of how the president will be spending this week. We'll keep you posted.

Back to you, guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: All right. Sara Murray, thank you.

And the president's tweets getting the motion attention, targeting FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Mr. Trump taking aim at McCabe's wife. Jill McCabe accepted campaign cash from Virginia governor and Clinton ally, Terry McAuliffe's political action committee when she ran for Virginia state senate. To be clear, though, those donations all occurred before McCabe took over as deputy director of the FBI and before he would have had any oversight into the Clinton e-mail investigation.

BRIGGS: The president also noted McCabe's pending retirement which emerged last week. Two sources telling CNN McCabe told senior officials months ago he was planning on retiring in the coming months. Several sources familiar to the situation say McCabe is not being forced out. McCabe stat down for two extensive interviews last week with House committees examining Russian collusion and the Clinton e- mail investigation.

KOSIK: Former President George W. Bush's ethics chief calling out the president on Twitter for his anti-FBI tweet. Richard Painter saying using Twitter on Christmas Eve to intimidate a witness in a criminal investigation is not a very Christian way to celebrate the holiday but it does make Mr. Mueller's job easier and that's a nice thing to do. Merry Christmas.

BRIGGS: Several Republicans including Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley have called for McCabe's removal. Democrats argue the GOP criticisms of McCabe and the FBI are meant to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller as this Russia investigation intensifies.

KOSIK: Two outgoing Republican lawmakers with a harsh assessment of the president and Republican Party. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent warning of Trump's negative influence on the GOP. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: Look at some of the audiences cheering for Republicans sometimes. You look out there and you say those are the spasms of a dying party, when you look at the lack of diversity sometimes.

[04:05:02] Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy. If we continue to go down that path just to drill down on the base, then I think you'll have a lot of people realize there's no future for them in this party. I know a lot of them.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Certainly the president has been a factor. You know, I've often said this administration at times has taken the fun out of dysfunction. You know, I expect a certain amount of dysfunction in government and sometimes you can laugh at it, but it's not so funny anymore. Now, this test has changed. The issue is loyalty to the man, to the president. And for some, loyalty is not enough. You have to be angry and aggrieved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Interesting stuff. Flake said if Trump finishes his term and faces reelection, he will possibly face an independent challenge, and possibly a Republican challenge. Flake did not rule out himself in 2020, though he added that's not in the plans right now.

ROMANS: Meantime, the biggest newspaper in Utah with a harsh Christmas editorial for seven-term Senator Orrin Hatch. After backing Hatch's last run, "The Salt Lake Tribune" says Hatch had called it a career. The paper cites what it calls its utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power. Hatch did promise 2012 would be his final campaign but has started putting together a 2018 run.

BRIGGS: Now the paper says Hatch is part of a dismantling of two national monuments and his role as Senate finance chairman helping pass this GOP tax overhaul are enough. Quote: Over the years, Hatch stared down a generation of two of highly qualified political leaders who were fully qualified to take his place. That's not only not fair to all those passed over, it's basically a theft from the Utah electorate. It would be good for Utah if Hatch having finally caught the great white whale of tax reform, were to call it a career. If he doesn't, the voters should end it for him.

KOSIK: South Korea announcing it will create a team to take on North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile program. The move comes amid calls for South Korea to establish a group that exclusively handles North Korea affairs. The bureau will be made up of four divisions including the newly launched North Korea nuclear deterrence division.

BRIGSS: It will also include a policy division, an arms control division and a missile and space division, which is part of a reorganization of a group already focused on weapons of mass destruction. This comes as North Korea slams a new round of tough U.N. sanctions as an act of war, reiterating it has plans to give up its nuclear weapons.

We have more from CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Alison, Dave, North Korea is calling it an act of war, that these new U.N. sanctions are being levied. They are some of the toughest sanctions, trying to close any loopholes, ban North Korea from being able to export fuel, gasoline, industrial equipment, ban them as much as possible. Even put a lid on North Korea's sending workers outside the country to earn wages. That money, of course, coming back into the regime pocket.

So, they're trying to close all the efforts that they can as much as possible within humanitarian reason for North Korea to earn any cash that it could put towards its nuclear and missile weapons program. The idea would be, of course, that this would encourage Kim Jong-un to give up that program. To move towards denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which is what the U.S. wants.

But, look, at this point, there is no indication that Kim has any intention of doing that, of course, just testing one of the longest range missiles in recent weeks, looking for more weapons testing efforts in 2018 and it does appear that we're headed into 2018 the very same way 2017 unfolded. North Korea being one of the most significant national security challenges for any U.S. president -- Alison, Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: OK. Barbara Starr, thank you.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, touting the roll the U.S. played in negotiating a budget cut for the United Nations. The deal cutting $285 million for next year. That's out of a budget of over $5 billion in another $8 billion spent on peace keeping. The U.S. mission to the United Nations says the new cuts reduce the U.N.'s bloated management, bolster support for U.S. priorities and instill more discipline and accountability.

BRIGGS: One of the Trump administration's goals has been to reduce to amount of the contributions the U.S. makes to the U.N. According to "PolitiFact", right now, the United States provides almost a quarter of the organization's budget. The president recently suggested the U.S. could cut off aid and nations that voted against his move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

[04:10:03] KOSIK: OK, let's switch gears a bit. The president spent part of Christmas taking credit for declaring an end to a suppose war on Christmas. He said on Twitter: People are proud to be saying merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase "Merry Christmas".

BRIGGS: Boy, also extending Christmas wishes and holiday trolling, President Obama tweeted this family photo. At this point, Mr. Obama's Christmas tweet for the record much more popular than President Trump's. Right now, it has over 1 million likes, 200,000 retweets, while president's Christmas video has 165,000 likes and nearly 43,000 retweets. And that is the popularity contest for the day.

KOSIK: Oh, yes.

All right. The Secret Service now interviewing a Los Angeles psychologist who says he sent the manure-filled package found at Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's home in Bel-Air. He says the manure filled box was a political protest against the recently passed Republican tax bill. Investigators say it was left in a neighbor's driveway Saturday and prompted a response from the LAPD's bomb squad. Mnuchin was not at his Los Angeles home at the time.

Did they explode that package?

BRIGGS: I don't know. It's too bad that wasn't one the packages stolen off the front porch.

KOSIK: Right? Oh, yes. That's what you get for stealing.

BRIGGS: That would have been great had that happened.

OK. A Christmas scare for JetBlue passengers, their flight doing a 180-spin when it touched down in Boston. Now, conditions will get even more icy and dangerous for the last week of the year. We'll have the forecast for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Quite a scare but no serious harm when a JetBlue flight slid off the taxi way at Boston's Logan Airport. Officials say Flight 50 from Savannah, Georgia, skidded on ice after landing around 7:15 Monday night.

[04:15:00] The plane spun around until it ended up facing the opposite direction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were straight and all of a sudden started fish tailing and, yes, it started getting rough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once I realized we were going off the runway, I was like, uh-oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, we started sliding and then we started spinning and spinning, and spinning and ended up in a snow bank.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: They look like they're in good spirits considering what they went through. Firefighters helped passengers off. They were able to be bussed to a terminal. Authorities say no one was injured, thankfully, and this happened after snow forced the airport to close its runways for a short period Monday morning.

BRIGGS: Wintry weather going to leave quite a mark this week. We'll see the coldest air of the seasons in the plains and those dangerous wind chills move east for New Year's Eve. We're talking 8 degrees for the ball drop.

Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Alison.

What a way to end 2017, right? We've got big time cold air in store over the next couple of days and the arctic blast already being felt across the Great Lakes, parts of the Upper Midwest. And when we say big time cold blast, we're talking about wind chills this morning as cold as 20 below to 25 below zero.

So, when you look at these numbers, we often say protect the 3 P's, the pets, the pipes, the plants. This is absolutely for some would be a life threatening scenario to be outdoors for more than several minutes. And of course, you take a look at the perspective into the early morning hours. The ambient air temperature in places like Minneapolis, minus six, you factor in a light breeze, 24 below zero, what it feels like, 16 below in Chicago and work your way out further look into the afternoon hours, the best they can do in Minneapolis, zero for high temperature, mind you, 24 is the normal high temperature for this time of year.

And again, that's the concern. We get there for only a few minutes, and literally by the time the sun sets, we dip below zero and stay there for the foreseeable future. The arctic air wants to scoot off towards the east. And it's not just that. It's a multiple shot of cold air here we're watching today.

So, enjoy the 29 in New York City here. The store -- what's in store here really drops us down eventually into the lower 20's by New Year's Eve, single digit low temperatures potentially when the ball drops. We're going to watch this very carefully going into this weekend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: OK. Thanks very much. And some investors might be wishing 2017 never ends, and that's

because the Dow has had its best year since 2013. It's up 25 percent for the year. And if the holiday spirit lifts the Dow above 26.5 percent by the end of the year, it would be this strongest gain since 1995 when it spiked 33 percent.

And it's not just the Dow that's on fire. Look at the S&P 500, it's up 20 percent. That's the best performance in four years. The Nasdaq has left both behind, up nearly 30 percent.

So, yes, the euphoria on Wall Street has been driven by a combination of things, very healthy fundamentals, strong economic profit growth, along with excitement about the Republican tax overhaul. The lowered corporate tax rate and intensives to return overseas profits, that gets spark a wave of share buy back that makes stock look even more attractive for 2018.

Now, many analysts, because of that, they are raising the forecast for next year, but kind of idling the background of this revved up economy, this revved up stock market is inflation, which could really push the Federal Reserve to speed up interest rate hikes and also make the dollar stronger. That could also wind up hurting corporate profits. We shall see.

BRIGGS: All right. The California highway patrol mourning the loss of a patrol officer killed when a suspected drunk driver slammed into his patrol car. Authorities say 33-year-old Andrew Calamari (ph) was a married father of three and the vehicle's passenger seat parked on the shoulder of Interstate 880 in Hayward at the time of the crash. The other officer in the vehicle was treated for minor injuries. The 22-year-old suspect suffered serious injuries remains in the hospital. Officials say he may have also been under the influence of marijuana.

KOSIK: United Airlines has apologized to a passenger who claims the airline gave away her first class seat to a Texas congresswoman. An airlines spokeswoman says their internal system show Jean-Marie Simon cancelled her Houston to Washington flight last week after a weather delay, but Simon denies she ever cancelled. She says she ended up on the flight in coach only to see Democrat Shelly Jackson Lee in what had been her first class seat. United says Jackson Lee's upgrade was automatic and not because she was a member of Congress. The airline gave Simon a $500 travel voucher.

More than 50 years after her role in the sound of music, actress Heather Menzies-Urich has lost her battle with brain cancer.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

KOSIK: My dad walked around the house singing that song.

Menzies-Urich played Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 classic.

[04:20:01] Her son says she was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago and her health declined rapidly. She married actor Robert Urich in 1975 and launched a foundation to raise money for cancer research after his death in 2002. Urich is survived by three children and eight grandchildren. She was 68 years old.

BRIGGS: A Christmas tribute from Arizona Cardinals wide receiver to Larry Fitzgerald to Senator John McCain who is battling brain cancer. Fitzgerald plays in the senator's home state and previously visited Vietnam, touring places where McCain was tortured as a prisoner of war. In a letter to "Sports Illustrated", Fitzgerald offered holiday wishes and prayers that McCain lives another 20 years.

As soon as my boys are of age, I'll tell them stories about the quality of the man I've gotten to know. I'll tell them Senator John McCain will be revered and respected for as long as the United States of America has a place in this world and his legacy will outlive us all.

A couple of gifts from two Pennsylvania football teams, some late Christmas gifts as the Eagles clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Steelers also get a first round vie. Here's the Eagle's late night game against the Raiders. It was ugly quite frankly, tied at 10 entering the fourth quarter when finally Philly got enough to get over the top, nine points in the fourth quarter, to just get by. The Raiders' Derek Carr struggled mightily in this game, 22 yards passing in the fourth quarter and a couple of picks. You see that slop fest leading to an Eagles touchdown as they won 19-10.

Steelers and Texans earlier in the day. Steelers, a lot of injuries throughout this team, throughout this season, but Le'Veon Bell enough to get this strong 34-6 win. You see Roethlisberger there. This was a blowout, 34-6 Pittsburgh all over Houston who has struggled without their quarterback.

In the loss, though, one of the greatest catches you will ever see. DeAndre Hopkins in the corner of the end zone doesn't look that great there, but in slow motion this thing defied logic. Up in the air, reaches out with his right hand, tips it to himself. How he caught that ball and got both feet down, I will never know.

But that is easily the catch of this football season. One of the great touchdown catches we shall ever see.

KOSIK: Very cool.

BRIGGS: A tough ending for Houston, but that is spectacular.

KOSIK: Nice job. Pitch in for that sport world, filling for Coy Wire.

BRIGGS: It was a good day in football. Too relatively ugly games but good news for Pennsylvania football fans.

KOSIK: All right. Election chaos gripping Russia this morning. A top critic of Vladimir Putin won't be allowed to challenge him. Now, the opposition is calling for a boycott. We're live in Moscow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:26:37] BRIGGS: Four-twenty-six Eastern Time. Russian President Vladimir Putin's would-be opponent in the upcoming

presidential election is being told he cannot run. Opposition activist Alexey Navalny now calling for a boycott of the election in response.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen live for us in Moscow.

Good to see you, Fred. Why can't he run?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you. Good morning, Dave.

He can't run because he has a past criminal record. Now, he was indicted a couple of years ago on corruption charges and he says that all of was politically trumped up specifically for the reason to prevent him from running in a Russian presidential election.

Now, Navalny says he believes that Vladimir Putin is afraid of him, and that's the reason why he won't let him run. Obviously, the Kremlin is saying, look, this is just part of the political procedure. If you have had a conviction in the past, then you simply can't run for president.

Of course, Navalny supporters are not taking that at face value. On the one hand, he wants to appeal this ruling by the election committee. But as you stated, he also says that he wants to call for a boycott of the election.

Now, there are some other political candidates who are actually supporting Navalny. One of them is called Ksenia Sobchak, and she just actually submitted her papers to run as well. But she's also calling for the election commission to allow Navalny to run. So, this is certainly something that Vladimir Putin is going to have to deal with in the run up to the election in March of 2018, which no doubt, is going to be a very interesting one. Of course, Putin running for a fourth term in office, Dave.

BRIGGS: Fascinating. Fred Pleitgen for us in Moscow, thank you, sir.

KOSIK: And while you were opening Christmas gifts, bashing the Russian special counsel was getting louder. How will conservative groups up the ante with the president's angry tweets about the FBI?

BRIGGS: And it's about 25 degrees outside here in New York. That's on the warm side for the rest of the week, the rest of the country.