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AG Barr Tells Trump to Quiet Down; Trump's Focus on Bloomberg; Astros Apologize For Sign-Stealing Scandal. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 14, 2020 - 05:00   ET



WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


ANNOUNCER: Three, two, one --


KOSIK: Sweet. Nothing but the net with $10,000 on the line. So why won't that student get the full prize? We will investigate this hour.

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

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Friday, February 14th, Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Don't forget the card and the candy. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

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 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.


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 before whom 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 push back there was unusual. 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 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 had discussed resigning.

And Barr's statement Thursday was in sharp contrast to what he said just last year.



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 that Barr assigned to look into the Russian response to Russian meddling back in 2016 is, quote, hunting for a basis to accuse Obama officials of hiding evidence.

Now, bear in mind, this is not a president who responds well to criticism, so even if Barr's motives here 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 and 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. 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 this 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 with people who 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: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

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


Here's what he said back in November. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

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



JARRETT: All right, didn't direct him.

Here's what the president told Geraldo on Thursday.


GERALDO RIVERA: 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 crime-fighter. You know that better than anybody.

RIVERA: Of course. Yes, I interviewed him --

TRUMP: Rudy's totally on his game.


JARRETT: Two completely different answers, no follow-up.

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 long time Trump aide resigned in 2018 in the heat of the Russia probe after telling lawmakers in closed door testimony she had told white lies.

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 a 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 apologized.

(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 this time --


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


JARRETT: The former New York mayor is quietly picking up some usual support 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, they came before recent struggles Biden had in Iowa and New Hampshire. Moderate Democrats like 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: The president pinned the Medal of Freedom on Rush Limbaugh, then the conservative host told listeners the country isn't ready for a gay president. Does the president agree?



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, 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 very first president Trump has publicly discussed Buttigieg's sexual orientation. Making fun of the Democratic rivals name, though, not new. JARRETT: 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 ability to launch a 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 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. Two earlier resolutions called on the president to back off support for Saudi Arabia. Both were vetoed by the president.

JARRETT: Renewed questions for Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan. A man testified to Ohio lawmakers this week, Jordan begged him to contradict his own brother's accusations of sexual abuse by an Ohio State University doctor. Jordan, 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: A spokesman for the Congress calls his claim another lie adding that Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse. A lot of questions there.

KOSIK: The Houston Astros apologized for the sign stealing scandal, but it doesn't seem like anyone is buying it.

Carolyn Manno has the "Bleacher Report" right here live, coming up next.



KOSIK: Houston Astros' players offer an apology for the sign-stealing scandal that tainted their 2017 World Series title.

JARRETT: Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good to see you.

KOSIK: Good morning.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, you guys. This was something that certainly had to be addressed. The Astros

kicking offspring training with a news conference, talking about the elephant in the room really, a lot of critics saying their attempt at damage control sounded a little bit hollow.


ALEX BREGMAN, HOUSTON ASTROS THIRD BASEMAN: I'm really sorry about the choices that were made by my team, by the organization and by me. I've learned from this and I hope to regain the trust of baseball fans.


JOSE ALTUVE, HOUSTON ASTROS SECOND BASEMAN: The whole Astros organization and the team feel bad about what happened in 2017.


MANNO: Astros owner Jim Crane also expressed remorse but deflected one of the most pointed questions.


REPORTER: Is it cheating?


REPORTER: Do you use the word cheating, was this cheating?

CRANE: We broke the rules and you can phrase that any way you want.


MANNO: The Astros fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow over the scandal. No players were punished.

Meantime, in the NBA, Celtics and Clippers in a double overtime thriller last night. Boston's Jayson Tatum continuing to show everybody just what he is capable of, 39 points and 9 rebounds in the 21-year-old's final game before appearing in his first all-stars game. Celtics take this one 141-133. Boston heads into the all-star break having won eight of their last nine. They're rolling right now and Tatum certainly helping.

And President Trump will give the command for drivers to start their engines before this Sunday's Daytona 500. He will be the grand marshal for the NASCAR season opener. The presidents have visited Dayton International Speedway for memorable races in the past. George W. Bush attended the Daytona 500 as president back in 2004.

Trump, though, the first sitting president to be given an honorary role in pre-race ceremonies.

And White Sox on spring training, but one of the team's most notable fans in mid-season, do you guys remember Sister Mary Joe, the Chicago nun with the soul crushing curve ball? She was back at this week throwing heat in the middle of a snowy Chicago bull pen. The Marian Catholic high school teacher went viral back in 2018.

You guys remember she threw that perfect ceremonial first pitch? It was so fun and everybody loved it.

I don't want to hear anybody who's going to the NBA all-star weekend talking about how cold it is in Chicago when Sister Mary Joe can be out there without a coat, just throwing breaking balls left and right.

JARRETT: No complaints.

The Chicago folks know to tough this out.

MANNO: I know.

JARRETT: They know how to deal with this.

MANNO: Exactly.

JARRETT: Good to see you. Have a great weekend.

MANNO: You too.

KOSIK: Thanks.

JARRETT: All right, a halftime promotion turned into highway robbery for a student at Northern Iowa University.


ANNOUNCER: Two, one -- throw it!


JARRETT: Dalton Hinsch made a layup, free throw, three-pointer and that half-court swish in 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. I say not enough.

KOSIK: What do you say, Caroline Manno? She's sitting here. Come on, did you say the clock?

MANNO: I say he was robbed. It's crazy. I agree with you. Come on, the details, the details. Not cool.

KOSIK: All right, 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.


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, the 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.

Microsoft says it is disappointed the judge's decision to temporarily stop its work on the Pentagon's Jedi Cloud Computing Project. The contents of the decision are sealed, but the order is an early win for Amazon, which protested the government's handling of the process. Amazon claims President Trump exercised improper influence over the Defense Department as it weighed bids for the project. Trump's disdain for Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos is very well-known. Earlier this week, Amazon asked for permission to gather testimony from the president, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Defense Secretary James Mattis.

A book by the speechwriter for Mattis calls Trump -- says that Trump called Mattis in the summer of 2018 and directed him to, quote, screw Amazon out of a chance to bid on the contract.

JARRETT: Billie Eilish releasing her theme song for the upcoming James Bond film "No Time to Die". The 18-year-old singer is the youngest artist ever to both write and record a Bond theme. She'll perform it live for the first time at the Brit Awards in London next week.

"No Time to Day", the 25th Bond film, hits theaters in the U.S. on April 10th.

EARLY START continues right now.


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