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AG Barr Says Trump Tweets Make It Impossible to Do His Job; Some Passengers Able to Disembark Japanese Cruise Ship. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 14, 2020 - 04:00   ET




WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: The president's most loyal backer wants him to back off. What's behind Bill Barr's decision to speak up.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where I come from we measure your height from your neck up.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Mike Bloomberg pulling no punches as the president fires away on Twitter. The former mayor quietly building a coalition before he's even on the ballot.

KOSIK: Sweet. And nothing but the net with $10,000 on the line. So why won't that student get the full prize? I sense there's a controversy there.

Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. So glad to have you here, Alison.

KOSIK: Glad to be here.

JARRETT: It's Friday, February 14th. Happy Valentine's Day. Don't forget flowers never hurt. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York.

So how far does the president have to go to get a public scolding from his most fierce protector? Well, we just found out. The attorney general turning on his boss just days after Bill Barr overruled career prosecutors on sentencing recommendations for Trump ally Roger Stone. It's a move that drew cheers from the president but increased worries his improper influence is undermining the rule of law. And apparently Trump's critics weren't the only ones worried.


BARR: To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges who we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job. I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.


JARRETT: Barr's rebuke was unusual to say the least. Remember the last attorney general to defend DOJ in the face of Trump's attacks was Jeff Sessions who was sent off to the doghouse and never let out.

KOSIK: But there are questions now about whether Barr's push back was sincere, or all staged in coordination with the White House to quell a possible revolt within the DOJ. Four career federal prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case on the same day. People familiar with the matter say other DOJ attorneys have discussed resigning. And Barr's statement Thursday was in sharp contrast to what he said just last year. Listen.


BARR: One of the ironies today is that people are saying that it's President Trump that's shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that.


JARRETT: Remember this is an attorney general who has been more than willing to help the president out of a jam. Putting his spin on the findings of the Mueller report, heeding the president's demands to probe various conspiracy theories against his perceived political rivals. And even this morning "The New York Times" reports the prosecutor Barr assigned to look into the response to Russian meddling in 2016 is, quote, "hunting for a basis to accuse Obama officials of hiding evidence."

But bear in mind this is not a president who responds well to criticism. So even if Barr's motives are questionable, his words should carry some weight. Even the Senate majority leader thinks so.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The president made a great choice when he picked Bill Barr to be attorney general. I think the president should listen to his advice.


KOSIK: So the billion-dollar question this morning, what will we see on the president's Twitter feed? Kaitlan Collins has more from the White House.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Laura and Alison, this was an interview that really sent shockwaves throughout the West Wing, catching several officials off guard. Though there were questions about whether or not the president knew that the attorney general was going to sit down for this interview where he said his tweets make it impossible for him to do his job, and told the president, pretty bluntly, stop tweeting about these ongoing cases at the Justice Department.

The White House put out a statement shortly after, saying that the president had full confidence in Bill Barr to continue doing his job and that they believed he was able to air his opinions just like everybody else. But, of course, the question is what does the president, himself, say about this because we know he is someone who does not like to be criticized and certainly not by his own cabinet members in such a public way as Bill Barr did with this interview with ABC News.

Now, Barr said in that interview he believed the president had put him in an untenable position because he was weighing in on the sentencing for Roger Stone, this recommended sentencing, before Bill Barr, himself, had a chance to weigh in, which he said he had planned to do and had not discussed with the White House.


But now, Bill Barr has similarly put the president in an impossible position because he has to choose between trying to rectify the situation, as we've seen him do in the past when people have criticized him, and, of course, choosing with one of -- siding with one of his favorite and seemingly most loyal cabinet members. Though we're still waiting to see exactly what it is the president is going to say about all of this.

JARRETT: Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much for that.

Meanwhile an emboldened President Trump is not even denying he lied a few weeks ago about Rudy Giuliani's mission in the Ukraine. Here's what he said in November.


BILL O'REILLY, JOURNALIST ": Rudy Giuliani, but he's your personal lawyer. Giuliani's your personal lawyer, so you didn't direct him to go to Ukraine and do anything or put any heat on anyone?



JARRETT: And here's what the president told Geraldo Rivera on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GERARDO RIVERA, JOURNALIST: Was it strange to send Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine, your personal lawyer? Are you sorry you did that?

TRUMP: Not at all. Rudy was a great crimefighter. You know that maybe better than anybody.

RIVERA: Of course. Yes, I interviewed him. He was the first one I interviewed.

TRUMP: And Rudy is totally on his game.


JARRETT: The president is also bringing back a familiar face for the 2020 campaign. Former communications director Hope Hicks is expected to return to the White House in an advisor role. The longtime Trump aide resigned in 2018 in the heat of the Russia probe after telling lawmakers in closed door testimony she had told white lies in the course of her duties.

KOSIK: Michael Bloomberg apologizing on the campaign trail for the first time for the stop and frisk police tactics he defended in New York. In leaked audio this week, Bloomberg was heard supporting the policy in pretty crass terms. Last night he spoke at a launch event in Houston called Mike for Black America.


BLOOMBERG: There is one aspect approach that I deeply regret, the abuse of police practice called stop and frisk. I defended it looking back for too long because I didn't understand then the unintended pain it was causing to young black and brown families and their kids. I should have acted sooner and faster to stop it. I didn't, and for that I apologize.


KOSIK: Bloomberg's candidacy no doubt has President Trump's attention. He's invoking Bloomberg's relationship with the black community and the prospect of a Democratic revolt if the billionaire takes the nomination from Bernie Sanders.

JARRETT: Trump also once again called out Bloomberg's height. Bloomberg's response?


BLOOMBERG: Where I come from, we measure your height from your neck up.


JARRETT: The former New York mayor is quietly picking up support especially in delegate rich states that vote in March like Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and California. A lot of the Biden endorsements you see on the screen there came before recent struggles in Iowa and New Hampshire. Moderate Democrats, meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are looking for break out moments in South Carolina and Nevada before Bloomberg debuts his first contest on Super Tuesday.

KOSIK: President Trump says he would have no qualms about voting for a gay presidential candidate. Trump allies have targeted Pete Buttigieg's sexuality in recent days. One of them, Rush Limbaugh, was awarded the Medal of Freedom last week. Then the conservative radio host said the country is, quote, "still not ready to elect a gay guy who would kiss his husband on the debate stage." The president appears to disagree.


RIVERA: Would Americans vote for a gay man to be president?

TRUMP: I think so. I think there would be some that wouldn't, and, you know, I wouldn't be among that group to be honest with you. But I think that, yes, I think that it doesn't seem to be hurting Pete Buttigieg as you say, as you would call him. It doesn't seem to be hurting him very much.


KOSIK: It's the first time President Trump has publicly discussed Buttigieg's sexual orientation. Making fun of the Democratic rival's name, though, is not new.

JARRETT: A man testified to Ohio lawmakers Thursday that Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan begged him to contradict his own brother's accusations of sexual abuse by an Ohio State University doctor. Jordan, now one of President Trump's strongest defenders in Congress was then an assistant wrestling coach at the university. In 2018 Adam DiSabato's brother Mike exposed the abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss between 1987 and 1991.


ADAM DISABATO, BROTHER OF WRESTLER WHO ACCUSED OSU DOCTOR: Jim Jordan called me crying, crying, groveling on the Fourth of July, begging me to go against my brother. Begging me, crying for a half-hour. That's the kind of cover-up that's going on there.



JARRETT: Those statements of course coming on Tuesday from the brother. A spokesman for the congressman calls DiSabato's claim another lie adding that Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse and would have dealt with it if he had.

KOSIK: Microsoft says it's disappointed in a judge's decision to make it temporarily stop its work on the Pentagon's Jedi Cloud Computing Project. The software giant says this. "We believe that we will ultimately be able to move forward with the work to make sure those who serve our country can access the new technology they urgently require."

The contents of the decision are sealed, but the order is an early victory for Amazon which has protested the government's handling of the contract process. Earlier this week Amazon asked the court for permission to gather testimony from President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and former defense secretary James Mattis. Amazon claims Trump exercised improper influence over the Defense Department as it weighed bids for the project from Microsoft and Amazon.

Trump's disdain for Amazon and its CEO Bezos is very well-known. A book written by the speechwriter for former Defense secretary Jim Mattis says Trump called Mattis in December of 2018 and directed him, to quote, "screw Amazon out of a chance to bid on the contract." And never mind all of the tweets against Bezos himself and the tweets against "The Washington Post," which Jeff Bezos owns.

JARRETT: Right. Well, a tragic end to the search for a missing girl. A bizarre twist. She's not the only victim.



KOSIK: Police have found the body of a missing 6-year-old South Carolina girl. Faye Swetlik disappeared from her front yard on Monday afternoon after coming home from school. Her remains were found in the same community yesterday morning. And that's not all police uncovered.


BYRON SNELLGROVE, DIRECTOR, CAYCE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Also need to inform you that during the course of our investigation, a deceased male was located in the Churchill Heights neighborhood. That investigation has just begun.


KOSIK: Neighbors are being told by police they are in no danger.

This morning the prosecution in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial will deliver its closing argument. Weinstein's defense attorney told the jury yesterday prosecutors presented an alternative universe, and Weinstein was the target of a cause and a movement. She urged the jurors to use their, quote, "New York City common sense" and acquit him.

JARRETT: A New Hampshire man is facing charges for allegedly slapping a 15-year-old Trump supporter outside a polling place during Tuesday's primary. Police say 34-year-old Patrick Bradley walked past a Trump campaign tent and allegedly assaulted the teen and two adults who tried to intervene. He's also accused of throwing campaign signs and attempting to knock the tent down. The incident comes days after a Florida man told police he targeted Trump campaign volunteers by driving through their tent.

KOSIK: A California man who spent 14 years in prison for the murder of a newspaper columnist in 1985 has been exonerated with the help of genetic genealogy. Rickey Davis was convicted of second degree murder in 2005 for the fatal stabbing of 54-year-old Jane Hilton. But genetic genealogy, a combination of DNA analysis and family tree research triggered his release yesterday and was also used in another arrest. Davis says he is most excited about eating pizza again.

JARRETT: A halftime promotion turned into a highway robbery for a student at Northern Iowa university.

Dalton Hinsch made a layup, free throw, three-pointer and that half- court swish, all in 27 seconds, beating what he and the crowd thought was a 30-second clock to win $10,000. But officials rule he didn't get the last shot off in time.

The school's athletic department later tweeted, "Unfortunately, the insurance rules are it must be completed in 24 seconds." Hinsch didn't leave empty-handed, though. The event sponsor gave him $2,000 and a free trip to St. Louis for a tournament next month.

KOSIK: And the feeling in there just, you know, accomplishing that, that's enough to write home.

JARRETT: I don't know. I think he got screwed.


KOSIK: We should check that time, OK? The president said warm weather will help the coronavirus miraculously vanish by the spring. The CDC disagrees.



JARRETT: The CDC is dispelling President Trump's suggestion that warm weather will eradicate the coronavirus by April. Here is what the director of the CDC told our Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL: This virus is probably with us beyond this season or beyond this year. And I think eventually, the virus will find a foothold and we will get community- based transmission.


JARRETT: The 15th case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the U.S. Now some high risk passengers are being moved off that cruise ship still quarantined off the coast of Japan.

CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Yokohama. Will, what is the latest there?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Laura. So we know that 11 passengers have now disembarked from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is quarantined here in Yokohama.

And they have as you said moved to another quarantine location under the supervision of the Japanese government. These are the people over the age of 80 who have not had contact with somebody who tested positive for coronavirus. People who do test positive on the ship, of course, are continuing to be placed in hospitals across this country.

The Japanese health minister was actually on the ship today. He thanked passengers for, you know, their patience during what has been a really trying ordeal for many people. But this as Japan is really scrambling to try to beef up its response. $140 million has now been earmarked to try to fight coronavirus. They just minutes ago announced four new cases not connect to the cruise ship but connected in all likelihood to a taxi driver who has tested positive and has believed to infected a number of people here.


This of course raises a lot of concern about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which are coming up in a matter of months. This is something that Japan has invested billions of dollars in. It is the most important sporting event in this country in decades and they are desperate to prove to the world that the coronavirus will not in any way impact the games. The IOC actually held a press conference within last few hours and they said they're 100 percent confident that the games will move forward as planned.

Meanwhile, at that other cruise ship, the Westerdam which finally found safe harbor in Cambodia after being turned away here in Japan, also turned away from Thailand and the Philippines, passengers have been disembarking from that ship which has no confirmed coronavirus cases, and they're in the process of boarding planes to head back home. A very welcomed news for those passengers as passengers here in Yokohama hope that the end of the quarantine next week will allow them to go home as well.

But they might all have to be tested for coronavirus before they can get off the ship, which could actually delay when they're able to go home, Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Will. Thanks so much.

KOSIK: The last time the attorney general publicly went against the president it did not end well. What awaits Bill Barr today after telling the president to stop intervening at the DOJ.