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EARLY START

Attorney General Barr Rebukes President Trump's Interference; CDC In Aggressive Containment Mode On Coronavirus; U.S. And Taliban Negotiate Seven-Day De-escalation Of Violence. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 14, 2020 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:00]

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. on April 10th.

EARLY START continues right now.

(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)

JARRETT: 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Two, one --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: So nice -- nothing but the net with $10,000 on the line. So, why won't that student get the full prize?

Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. About 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

So, just 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 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Barr's pushback there was unusual. Remember the last attorney general to defend the DOJ in the face of Trump's attacks? Well, that was Jeff Sessions who was sent to the doghouse and never let out.

KOSIK: But there are questions now about whether Barr's pushback was sincere or all staged in coordination with the White House to quell a possible revolt within 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.

(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: 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 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: So, the billion-dollar question this morning -- what will see on President Trump's Twitter feed?

Kaitlan Collins has more from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[05:35:06]

JARRETT: All right, Kaitlan. Thanks so much for that.

More ahead on all of this. Plus, the president said warm weather will help coronavirus miraculously vanish by the spring. Well, the CDC disagrees.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Have you ever had a friendly dog suddenly turn and snarl at you? Well, that's the unsettled position President Trump is in this morning after Attorney General Bill Barr, one of his most loyal defenders, scolded him for meddling with the Justice Department.

JARRETT: Let's bring in "Washington Post" congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian. Good morning, Karoun. Always nice to see you.

KOSIK: Good morning.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good morning.

JARRETT: All right, so everyone's wondering today was this staged? Was it in coordination with the White House or is Barr actually being genuine here in trying to send a message that he defends his troops at the DOJ?

[05:40:06]

In some ways, I wonder if that even matters because if nobody believes Barr, how does he move forward with this? How does he have any sort of persuasive plan with -- if everyone thinks that this is all just a sham?

DEMIRJIAN: Right. Well, this is the question, right, because Barr has been such a divisive figure since he started, really, with people thinking that he is a loyalist to the president. That he will do whatever he needs to do to be able to --

JARRETT: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: -- implement that strategy, basically, on behalf of the president regardless of what it means for the future sanctity of the DOJ.

This stance suggests that maybe he's adopting a different position in trying to defend the Justice Department against the president or simply say the optics of this are really, really bad.

JARRETT: Exactly.

DEMIRJIAN: And so, if you are tweeting and, you know -- you're not supposed -- the question is basically, is this something that is actually him saying wait a second, I'm sticking up for DOJ here because this is wrong or you're not supposed to say that publicly because it makes it that much harder for me to be able to operate in a way that I -- you know, that seems as independent as I want it to?

People have accused Barr of not being independent. He obviously has pushed back against those accusations. And this has been going on since he started in the job a few months before Mueller released his report.

And so, trust is at a low when you're talking about -- JARRETT: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: -- generally speaking in the population for if people believe what Bill Barr is saying and what his intent -- his intentions are.

And now he's kind of stuck in this position where he's basically got critics on both sides saying why are you criticizing the president and also, why aren't you acting more -- or enforcing more independence in the DOJ and setting that better example? Why are prosecutors resigning from this case in protest?

And he's in a position where he's not really got an ally in this fight, at least politically, because he seems to be speaking out against one side of the president and people who are questioning Barr's intentions or believe -- think that he may be acting against what the intent at the DOJ is.

JARRETT: Yes, questioning his intentions because why now? It's not new --

DEMIRJIAN: Right.

JARRETT: -- for the president to be attacking the DOJ. Not new for him to be attacking judges. You know, he's made his intentions very clear about how he feels about some of these cases on Twitter for many, many years now.

But I want to get your insight into something I couldn't help but notice yesterday. Lindsey Graham puts out a glowing statement about Barr, not even an hour after that interview dropped on ABC.

And I know you obviously cover the Hill closely. I just wonder -- people are focusing on the coordination between the White House. I wonder if you have any insight into if there was any sort of talks or coordination here between Barr and Graham or Barr and the Hill.

DEMIRJIAN: Right. Well, I think that it's interesting because Graham is in this strange position, right, wherein he's very close to the president. He is one of his loudest and most effective, frankly, spokespeople on the Hill for various policies the president puts out there.

But, Graham is also -- you know, has been an institutionalist who does care, to an extent, about --

JARRETT: Sure.

DEMIRJIAN: -- what -- preserving the sanctity of the Justice Department. And yet, so he is kind of in this similar position where if Barr is too tainted that causes a problem all the way down in the DOJ.

And so, him rushing to Barr's defense is kind of like trying to put a stinger in the dam of what might explode here of, you know -- Lindsey Graham has criticized the president for his tweets, too. That is kind of safe territory for people who ultimately do support the president to be able to say you're going too far here and you're making this more difficult than it needs to be.

We don't tend to focus in on those individual senators and their intentions as acutely as we are with Barr right now --

JARRETT: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: -- because they're not manning a huge department of the government whose basic tenets rest -- rise and fall on the independence and the integrity that they're able to project and leave -- the confidence they're able to leave with the public.

So -- but, Graham coming into this right now to say Barr is a great guy and an upstanding figure and kind of take his side in all of this kind of suggests that maybe Barr is in the same boat as Graham and a lot of others who don't think this is a perfect situation -- don't think this is a perfectly easy road with this president. And yet, still fundamentally want to support the president while not completely deep-sixing the institutions at the same time so that they can continue to operate.

And so, it --

JARRETT: Sure.

DEMIRJIAN: -- just kind of puts Barr in the same boat as so many other Republicans have been.

JARRETT: Well -- and, of course, Graham is facing increasing pressure from Democrats on his committee --

DEMIRJIAN: Right.

JARRETT: -- to bring Barr in for a hearing. We'll wait to see whether that actually happens.

We also want to get your thoughts on politics before you leave.

KOSIK: Let's switch to the race for the president. You know, looking at Michael Bloomberg, I know he's skipped four states already but he looks to be racking up endorsements for those March primary states.

What do you think about his strategy? Is it working?

DEMIRJIAN: I think it kind of depends on what happens in the rest of the early primary states. I mean, look, Bloomberg has always made it known that he is going to be looking not at the early primary states but down the line to Super Tuesday states.

[05:45:07]

And he's got a considerable bank account and funds that he can put into building up that operation. So that's certainly competitive, especially since we've had some people, like the Amy Klobuchars of this world, who did not have a big campaign chest and so are having to kind of race now to build an operation in places where they didn't have one because they -- because it was a surprise that they did as well as they did.

And so, I think it depends though on what happens in Nevada and South Carolina. Is there a clear front-runner that emerges from that or do we end up with a pretty mixed pot of who does well where?

I mean, if Biden is right about doing well in South Carolina, if Klobuchar can pull out a better finish than third place in Nevada, that might be a little upsetting to the fact that Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg kind of own the top of this race for the first two states. But I think that depends.

If you still have Sanders coming out of all of the first primary states in the number-one position with the wind at his back, that suggests that he's going to be the competition for Bloomberg to beat. And it doesn't necessarily stand to reason that other people have dropped out before Bloomberg comes in the race and he's going for a similar pool of voters -- a lot of these moderate candidates.

JARRETT: Sure.

DEMIRJIAN: So, I think we still have to see how this shakes out and if there's life still in a lot of the people who would be Bloomberg's direct competition as we get to the states where he has been planning his campaign to focus on.

JARRETT: All right, Karoun. Thanks so much. Have a great weekend.

KOSIK: Thanks for waking up early for us.

JARRETT: See you soon.

DEMIRJIAN: Thanks.

KOSIK: 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: 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 Japan.

CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Yokohama. Good morning.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Alison. You know, if there's any country that hopes that the coronavirus will die as the temperatures increase, it is Japan because months from now, they have the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. They've invested billions of dollars trying to make sure the games go off without a hitch. And they even held a press conference -- the IOC, today, in Tokyo -- insisting that they are going to move forward. They have 100 percent confidence that the games will go on as planned.

But, of course, they also have just announced additional coronavirus cases here in Japan not connected to the Diamond Princess but likely tied to a taxi driver who was infected. Japan, just in the last day or so, reported its first coronavirus death here in the country.

Again, the most severe cases are people who are senior citizens, and it's actually people over the age of 80 who have tested negative for coronavirus, who have been given the opportunity to leave the Diamond Princess and move into a quarantined facility under the supervision of the Japanese government.

It's a small number -- just 11 people disembarked from the ship today. But obviously, these are people who decided they wanted to get off the boat. And there are a lot of other people on the boat who feel the same way.

But it's a complicated situation. Japan is now acknowledging that they might have to test every single person on the boat for their peace of mind and the peace of mind for the communities they live in before they can disembark, which raises questions about whether they will all be able to leave when the quarantine period is scheduled to end on the 19th.

Japan's vice health minister was on the ship today thanking passengers for their patience.

Meanwhile, another cruise ship, the Westerdam, which found safe harbor in Cambodia after being turned away here in Japan and many other countries including Thailand and the Philippines. Passengers have been disembarking that ship and they are boarding planes and heading home -- a very welcomed journey for them as passengers here in Yokohama hope that they will follow suit in the coming days.

But still, a lot of questions, Alison.

KOSIK: Another five or so days of quarantine.

CNN's Will Ripley live from Yokohama, Japan. Thanks so much.

And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:53:27]

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

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 Paton Walsh is live for us at the Security Council in Munich, Germany. That's where Afghanistan's president is scheduled to speak, Nick, and this is where this potential deal is expected to be discussed. But a lot of pieces have to be put in place and agreed to before this potential deal even can stick.

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Absolutely. We may hear something concrete this afternoon when Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State; Mark Esper; and Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, who arrived just in the last hour behind me here give an appearance together. That may be where they announce when this reduction in violence that seems to have been mostly signed up to will actually begin. It could last seven to 10 days.

But really, it's a confidence-building measure between the Afghan insurgency -- the Taliban, in a shorter form -- and the Americans and the Afghan government. But a confidence-building measure borne of exhaustion. This is America's longest war, one out of which it's clear Donald Trump both wants to win but also reduce American troop numbers.

And there are greatly complex details that, according to a source I spoke to, are still actually being worked out now as we speak.

[05:55:00]

Who exactly is expected to be part of this reduction in violence? Will the Taliban will be able to get cohesion in their mixed ranks? Younger militants often fighting across a fast-ranging battlefield that often includes ISIS as well. Will the Afghan army still be able to move around freely in some parts of the country?

If that is successful -- if the Americans feel satisfied, then we may see talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. And then, possibly repositioning or even withdrawal of some U.S. troops.

Afghans, though, exhausted by the violence, looking for any real change at all. But, Americans wanting to know what this massive decades-long investment in Afghanistan has been for if essentially, the Taliban are getting their grips back on the leaves (ph) of power again -- Alison.

KOSIK: We'll be watching this one closely.

Nick Paton Walsh live for us in -- live for us in Munich -- thanks.

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

Here's meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Good morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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 - 22 degrees Fahrenheit. This is incredible. We're talking about -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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: Derek Van Dam, thank you.

The weight-loss drug Belviq is being recalled after researchers linked it to cancer. Japan's Eisai Pharmaceutical is voluntarily pulling the drug. The Food and Drug Administration says users were found to have a slightly higher risk of pancreatic, colorectal, and lung cancer. Doctors are being ordered to stop prescribing it.

KOSIK: A California man who spent 14 years in prison for murder has been exonerated with the help of genetic genealogy. Ricky Davis was convicted in 2005 for the death of newspaper columnist Jane Hylton, but a combination of DNA analysis and family tree research led to his release yesterday.

A pint-sized hero will be named an honorary firefighter for saving his family. Five-year-old Noah Woods awoke to flames in his bedroom Sunday. He grabbed his 2-year-old sister Lilly and went out an open window.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOAH WOODS, 5-YEAR-OLD HONORARY FIREFIGHTER: Got out the window with Lilly, got the dog, and got out -- I got myself out. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Cute kid; smart, too. Noah ran next door to get his uncle. Together, they alerted the remaining family members. Everyone making it out safely.

A halftime promotion turning into highway robbery for a student at Northern Iowa University -- watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Two, one --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Dalton Hinsch made all four shots in 27 seconds, beating what he and the crowd thought was a 30-second clock to win $10,000, but officials ruled he didn't get the last shot off in time. The school's athletic department later tweeted, "...the insurance rules are that it must be completed in 24 seconds."

Hinsch didn't leave emptyhanded though. The event sponsor did give him $2,000 and a trip to St. Louis for a tournament next month.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik. Happy Valentine's Day.

"NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You're saying you have a problem with tweets.

BARR: I have a problem with some of the tweets.

MCCONNELL: 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.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The attorney general is lying to the American people under oath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of confirmed cases and confirmed fatalities continues to rise each day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don't understand more about how they got infected and what happened, it's very concerning.

REDFIELD: This virus -- you start to think of like seasonal flu. The only difference is that we don't understand this virus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, February 14th.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A special day.

CAMEROTA: It's Valentine's Day. Happy Valentine's.

BERMAN: Happy Valentine's Day.

CAMEROTA: I'm waiting for my present. I guess you'll give it to me --

BERMAN: We're the cable news anchors who like each other. That's the --

CAMEROTA: That's what makes us special.

BERMAN: We're the ones who will actually send each other valentines.

CAMEROTA: That's true. Yours was fantastic.

BERMAN: Thank you.

END