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EARLY START

AG Barr Tells Trump to Quiet Down; U.S. and Taliban Negotiate 7-Day Escalation of Violence. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 14, 2020 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:51]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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: And nothing but the net with $10,000 on the line. So why won't that student get the full prize? A controversy brewing I think.

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

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. 31 minutes past the hour here in New York.

So how far does the president have to go to get a public scolding from his most fierce protector? 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 was 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: So what changed? 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 political rivals. And even this morning "The New York Times" reports the prosecutor that 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

[04:35:03]

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, thanks for that.

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 back in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't direct him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: "No, I didn't direct him." Well, here's what the president told Geraldo Rivera on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALDO 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Totally different answers. 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 advisory role this time. The longtime Trump aide resigned in 2018 in the heat of the Russia probe after telling lawmakers in closed door testimony that 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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 that screen there came before recent struggles that he has in Iowa and New Hampshire. Moderate Democrats Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are looking for breakout moments in South Carolina and Nevada before Bloomberg debuts his first contest on Super Tuesday.

A bipartisan rebuke of the president. Eight Senate Republicans voting with Democrats to pass an Iran War Powers Resolution. The measure curbs the president's responsibility to launch an military operation against Iran without congressional authorization. It's in response to the deadly U.S. attack that killed a top Iranian general last month, and it passed despite a White House threat to veto to it.

KOSIK: The Senate does not have the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. This is not the first time senators have pushed back from both sides of the aisle against President Trump's Middle East policies. They also passed resolutions calling on Mr. Trump to stop supporting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and to block the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. Both were vetoed by the president.

The U.S. is escalating its crackdown on Chinese tech giant Huawei charging it with racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets. The Trump administration has been battling Huawei for more than a year now claiming it poses a national security risk. Officials have urged the allies not to use Huawei's 5g equipment and added it to a trade black list. The charges also reveal new details about Huawei's alleged business dealings in Iran and North Korea.

The Justice Department accuses Huawei of helping Iran's government perform domestic surveillance during demonstrations in Tehran in 2009.

[04:40:01]

Huawei says the new charges are an attempt to, quote, "irrevocably damage its reputation," adding, "The government will not prevail on these charges which we will prove to be both unfounded and unfair." Earlier charges allege Huawei committed bank fraud and violated economic sanctions against Iran. Huawei also denied those claims.

JARRETT: All right, a popular weight loss drug off the market because of cancer risks. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JARRETT: January 2020 goes into the books as the hottest on record. A government report says temperatures last month surpassed the previous record set in January 2016. That includes some notoriously cold spots like Russia and parts of eastern Canada. Globally it marks the 421st consecutive month of above average temperatures.

[04:45:05]

Eleven million people under wind chill advisories in the upper Midwest this morning. And that surge of arctic air will move into the northeast for the weekend.

Meteorologist Derek Van dam is in the weather center. Good morning.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Great Friday morning, Alison and Laura.

One word to describe this morning's cold weather across the Midwest, brutal. Check this out. These are temperatures, what it would feel like on your skin as you step outside. In Minneapolis, it feels like negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit. This is incredible. We're talking about negative 10 degrees in Chicago right now. That's what it feels like on your exposed skin.

That's why the National Weather Service has issued wind chill advisories. Those are valid right through the course of the morning hours from Minneapolis southward into Chicago, and just outside of the St. Louis region.

This is some of the coldest air of the season we're experiencing across the Plains and into the Great Lakes. It's all thanks to this cold front that's moving eastward. By the way, that's helped spark off a few lake-enhanced snow flurries just downwind from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

This is the cold front that will provide a few showers across the Florida Panhandle today. And then that system moves on and we see another clipper system bring a few snowflakes to the Great Lakes, once again, for Saturday and Sunday.

Temperatures today, 15 for Chicago, 38 for the nation's capital, 31 for New York. Here's your seven-day forecast for the Big Apple.

Back to you.

JARRETT: All right. Looks like a nice weekend. Thanks, Derek.

The U.S. Navy is reprimanding several sailors for wearing matches "Make Aircrew Great Again," MAGA, on their uniforms during President Trump's visit to the USS Wasp last year. The Pentagon says the patches violated the rules because they gave the appearance of a connection between the DOD and the president's 2020 campaign. The investigation also found the sailors were not trying to make a political statement. The Navy says it has taken appropriate administrative measures.

KOSIK: An infant who developed a mold infection at Seattle Children's Hospital has died. The parents of 5-year-old Elizabeth Hutt say their infant daughter fought the infection for months but just could not beat it. The main operating rooms at Seattle Children's were shut down last year in May and again in November after the hospital detected the common mold Aspergillus in the air. The Hutt family has joined a class action lawsuit against the hospital.

JARRETT: It's just terrible. Well, the obesity drug Belviq is being recalled after researchers linked it to cancer. Japan's Eisai pharmaceutical company is voluntarily pulling the drug off the market. The Food and Drug Administration says users were found to have a slightly higher risk of pancreatic, colorectal and lung cancer. Anyone on Belviq is being told to stop taking it. The doctors are being ordered to stop prescribing it.

KOSIK: A pint-sized hero will be named an honorary firefighter today for saving his family. 5-year-old Noah Woods awoke to flames in his bedroom on Sunday. He didn't panic. Instead he grabbed his 2-year-old sister Lily who shared his a bedroom and went out the only possible exit, an open window.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH WOODS, 5-YEAR-OLD HONORARY FIREFIGHTER: Got to Lily, get the dog, and got out -- and got myself out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Adorable and smart. Noah ran next door to get his uncle. Together they alerted the remaining six members of his family. Everyone made it out safely, just a few minor burns and smoke inhalation.

JARRETT: Instead of back to the future Uber is going for board to the past. The company is testing a toll free number in Arizona so people can book a car without a smart phone. Prospective passengers can call 833-USE-UBER to talk to a live human being who will book a ride on the app and give a price quote. Confirmation details will be sent by text message. Uber says this service is being designed for older people who may not own their own smart phone.

KOSIK: OK, everybody look at the clock during this story. Apparently this is where the controversy is. A halftime promotion turned into a highway robbery for a student at Northern Iowa University. Watch.

Dalton Hinsch made a layup, he made a 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. Officials ruled he didn't get the last shot off in time.

The school's athletic department later tweeted this, "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.

JARRETT: A 6-year-old girl in Sacramento, California, got quite a surprise on a trip to the supermarket with her mom. Daphne Kenney found a $100 bill wrapped in a note on a shelf in the cereal aisle.

[04:50:00]

The note said to whoever finds this, I love you. Daphne's mom says at first they thought it was someone else's grocery list, but quickly realized it was something else entirely.

KOSIK: And that completes our block of children doing amazing things.

Thought the tax man wouldn't come for your Fortnite winnings? Think again. CNN Business has the details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JARRETT: The next few days could be big for the U.S. and Afghanistan. An announcement expected soon on a deal to reduce violence with the Taliban. So far Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said the U.S. and the Taliban have negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence.

[04:55:06]

The last few weeks have been deadly for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. There have been two ambush attacks and a military plane crash.

CNN's Nick Paten Walsh is at the security conference in Munich, Germany, where Afghanistan's president is scheduled to speak.

What are you expecting today there, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, in the middle of the afternoon here Mark Esper, the U.S. secretary of Defense, Mike Pompeo, secretary of State, Ashraf Ghani, Afghan president, and the head of the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan are expected to have a meeting here.

Now, that may be when they choose to announce when this reduction in violence will actually begin. But it is unclear still at this stage. And I understand from a source close to talks they're still hammering out the key details here.

Who is included in this reduction of violence, remember after America's longest war there are so many different sides now fighting in Afghanistan, an element of ISIS, different factions within the Taliban, too. So working out precisely who is expected to stop fighting for a period of time is key. And then if that is considered to be successful remember this is kind of a step of confidence, a way of building trust inside here will then mean see possibly further talks between the Afghan government and the insurgency and then possibly a repositioning or even withdrawal of U.S. troops.

But the broader question here frankly for ordinary Afghans after intense brutal suffering is will this stop daily lives being lost and what kind of Afghanistan will be negotiated through any talks between the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban?

Remember a lot of people frankly fearful of the insurgents taking back control. And for Americans most importantly is how fast the troops come back and does the residual force there have still within its power to ability to fight al-Qaeda, they were still very much in Afghanistan and keep in place the original reason why the U.S. went there in the first place,

A lot of heavy lifting still to be done behind me here. A key day for America's longest war and the U.S. too also here to push messages on Huawei and Iran strongly towards their European allies. Back to you.

JARRETT: All right, Nick. Thanks so much for that. See you soon.

Well, extensive damage caused by Nazi bombing during World War II discovered in the clock tower of Big Ben. There was also broken glass in the clock's dials and major decay to hundreds of intricate carvings. The iconic London attraction has been undergoing renovations since 2017. The newly discovered damage driving the cost of restoration from $80 million to more than $100 million. Plans are still on track to finish next year.

KOSIK: Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Taking a look at markets around the world. It looks like a mixed picture for Asian markets and European markets seem to have mixed picture as well. Stocks closed lower on Thursday as fears over the rising number of coronavirus cases in China weighed on markets. Investors are concerned about how much the outbreak will affect the global economy. The Dow closed 128 points lower. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500, they fell slightly snapping their three-day winning streaks.

Tesla is taking advantage of the huge rally in its stock price, announcing plans to sell up to three million additional shares. The offering would raise up to $2.3 billion for Tesla. It was only two weeks ago that CEO Elon Musk dismissed the idea of a new offering telling investors the company which is now profitable had all the cash it needed.

Its stock closed up nearly 5 percent after the announcement. Well, Tesla said it will use the proceeds to improve its balance sheet and use the money for general expenses.

Think Uncle Sam isn't coming for your Fortnite winnings? Think again. For months they advised players their in-game currency could be subject to federal taxes. By applying the same policy to in-game money that it enforces on Bitcoin. The IRS guide could affect millions of gamers or their parents. But on Wednesday the IRS deleted all mentions of the in-game currency. The IRS chief said including them had been a mistake. Still experts believe money spent in games like Fortnite will need to be reported under a new question the IRS is including on this year's tax forms. So watch --

JARRETT: Are your kids into Fortnite?

KOSIK: No, thank goodness. So that means watch out for it on next year's forms.

JARRETT: Exactly.

Well, thanks to our international interviewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers EARLY START continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Mike Bloomberg pulling no punches as the president fires away on Twitter.