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EARLY START

GOP Senators Unload On Trump; Clinton Campaign, DNC Helped Fund Dossier Research; Obama-era Uranium Deal Yields New Questions, New Accusations, New Investigation; China's New Leadership Unveiled. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 25, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: What does it mean for the future of conservatism and for the Republican Party?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And, the Clinton campaign and the DNC had a hand in that dossier of allegations about President Trump and Russia. What role did they play?

Welcome back to EARLY START this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

It was an extraordinary day in this country's politics. How many times have we said that over the last nine months?

It's 5:30 eastern time.

We start with this unprecedented attack on a sitting president from members of his own party. Republican Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee both free from the constraints of a reelection bid unloading on President Trump.

Flake, blunt and emotional on the Senate floor, saying he regrets the compromised state of America's moral authority and his own complicity in what he calls a quote "alarming and dangerous state of affairs."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Senator Flake making the stunning announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2018.

That development coming after the president reignited his Twitter war with Sen. Corker, belittling the Tennessee lawmaker while falsely claiming, again, he supported the Iran nuclear deal. The president's tweets drawing this response from Corker. "Same

untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff

BRIGGS: Wow. Corker spoke to our Manu Raju on Tuesday and, as you might imagine, did not hold back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I don't know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in the way that he does, but he does.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you regret supporting him in the election?

CORKER: Well, let's just put it this way. I would not do that again.

RAJU: So you wouldn't support him again?

CORKER: No way. He's proven himself unable to rise to the occasion.

RAJU: Do you think he's a role model to children in the United States?

CORKER: No.

RAJU: You don't?

CORKER: No, absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Six remarkable minutes of interview there.

The White House is dismissing the scathing criticism from both the senators. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calling their comments petty and even applauding Flake's decision not to seek reelection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I certainly think history is going to look at this president as somebody who helped defeat ISIS, who built an economy that was stronger than it's been in several decades, who brought unemployment to a 16-year low, who's created over 1.7 million jobs since being elected.

I think those are the things that people actually care about, not some petty comments from Sen. Corker and Sen. Flake. And I think they're a lot more concerned about the big policy initiatives that this president is driving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: President Trump was able to sidestep his feud with Republican senators during a lunch with them on Tuesday. In fact, he tweeted his satisfaction with his quote "multiple standing ovations." But that lunch was before Flake's speech on the Senate floor.

They had a little meat loaf, did they, at this lunch which is intended to celebrate unity in the Republican Party.

ROMANS: Let's go live to Washington and bring in Zach Wolf, digital director of "CNN POLITICS."

So those are the two optics from yesterday. A president who says he got a standing ovation talking to other Republican senators, talking about tax cuts. And then, these remarkable, on-the-record comments from two sitting senators.

So, you know, what's the way forward here for the GOP?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS: Well, that's a great question.

I would point out we did see the two scathing -- the floor speech and the interview. We didn't -- we didn't lay eyes on the standing ovations that he tweeted about, so just keep that in mind.

But, you know, the way forward, I think, is for Jeff Flake and for Bob Corker, they have 14 months left in office.

What are they going to do with that? Are they going to sort of try to dismantle this Trump presidency? Are they going to vote against the Republican agenda? I think those are open questions.

I don't think they can be counted on as votes in a way that they -- that they once could, so that's an important dynamic here.

But, you know, President Trump -- it's not often the president comes up to Capitol Hill to, you know -- sort of hat in hand, trying to get senators on board with his agenda. And I think it speaks to the sort of position of weakness that they are in when it comes to tax reform, which is the next big thing that they have to do.

BRIGGS: Yes, and it could be weakened in the future if they lose the slim majority in 2018.

But, Corker also told Manu, "I think the debasement of our nation will be what this president will be remembered for."

[05:35:03] What will Corker and Flake be remembered for? Let's consider that Flake is at 18 percent approval in Arizona. That's the context here.

WOLF: Right. I mean, you know, he's making the decision to retire before likely having been retired in a primary, so it's not like he's -- you know, it's just an important thing to keep in mind when you consider Flake kind of bomb-throwing on his way out. He was -- you know, made this stand against President Trump much earlier when he wrote a book, you know, very critical, essentially, of the White House.

So, you know, he makes this statement but you have to remember he probably would have lost his reelection bid. So that might take a little bit out of it in the long run.

ROMANS: Well, and so what is the view from the -- from senators -- sitting senators who are going to run for reelection?

Yesterday, there was this remarkable exchange between Wolf Blitzer and Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN "THE SITUATION ROOM": But when he lies about something and you know it's a lie, shouldn't you speak out?

SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: That's your job.

BLITZER: But, that's your job. You're a United States senator. You're an equal branch of the -- a co-equal branch of the U.S. government.

RISCH: Wolf, if I went around criticizing a statement that was made the president, or any one of my fellow senators, or any one of my -- or any one of the congressmen up here, or people in Idaho who hold public office, and I stood up and talked every time they talked and said I don't like this, I don't like that, and criticizing, I'd be busy all day long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: What do you make of that? I mean, does it mean that maybe senators Flake and Corker are the outliers here?

WOLF: Yes. Well, I think the lesson for a sitting senator is that if you go to war with the White House, as Flake and Corker did, you probably are not going to be a senator for very much longer if you have an election campaign coming up.

Trump still has great power in the -- in the -- you know, in the base of the Republican Party. He has Steve Bannon out there, who's agitating for primaries against pretty much every senator who's -- Republican senator who's running for reelection.

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: So it's really dangerous, politically, to stand up to the White House and Jeff Flake was very clear about that.

You know, Chris Cillizza, I think, put it well yesterday. He called this Jeff Flake's kamikaze mission. He was, you know, kamikazeing with his own political career and he's making a big statement, but he's also not going to be in the chamber next year.

So if you're a senator, the first thing for most of them is self- preservation and standing up to Trump does not equal that.

BRIGGS: But, I mean, Corker, Flake, McCain, they'll be there for 14 months. This is a long time. The entirety of the legislation that he'll need for another run -- ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- will be during that time.

But I want to move on to this Hillary Clinton news, something the president has not tweeted yet at 5:37. But certainly, when he does it will be about this news that the DNC and the Clinton campaign helped fund research that led to this now infamous dossier -- to this GPS company.

ROMAN: Fusion GPS.

BRIGGS: Fusion GPS. Basically, it's opposition research, a "Washington Post" story that CNN can confirm. How significant is this news?

WOLF: It's a relatively big deal. I mean, this was sort of the -- one of the things that kicked off -- the news of this dossier helped kick off the entire Russian investigation that has turned into this onion peeling back and the Bob Mueller special investigation. You can tie it all back to, in some way, to this -- to this opposition research and, you know, that's one of the first things we sort of learned about.

And it's kind of remarkable that the Clinton campaign, knowingly or not, helped fund this through their law firm. They did not share that information even though we're hip-deep into figuring out what happened --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- with Russia. They -- you know, they kind of decided not to tell anybody that, which I think is really interesting.

But, you know, yes -- so it's hard to keep track of all this. It certainly doesn't help --

ROMANS: It shows you how dirty the oppo research business is, too. I mean, the Republicans funding it and --

BRIGGS: They started it.

ROMANS: Right, and then -- and then Democrats paying for it, too.

Just real quick, this is what Sarah Sanders has to say about the -- about the -- that "Washington Post" story. "The real Russia scandal? Clinton campaign paid for the fake Russia dossier, then lied about it and covered it up."

And she's -- she has a link to a Maggie Haberman from "The New York Times" tweet with a "Washington Post" link. Just earlier in the day -- just hours earlier she had -- well, do we have that sound bite? Let's play what she said a couple of hours earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: As I've said many times before, I wouldn't use "The Washington Post" as my source, Jeff. You should know better than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That was our Jeff Zeleny talking about --

BRIGGS: But she just did.

ROMANS: -- a fact-check about the Corker and not supporting the Iran deal, kind of trying to have it both ways. But this is clearly going to be -- this will be a talking point for the White House today.

WOLF: Absolutely, and you know, it just shows you there's a lot we still don't know about what went on with Russia during the -- during the election, so who knows what else we'll find out.

[05:40:07] BRIGGS: From this case, they want to have their fake news and quote it, too. It's the cake analogy but it's --

ROMANS: Hey, that's nice.

BRIGGS: -- have their fake and quote it, too. Nice job there by Sarah Sanders.

All right, Zach Wolf, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BRIGGS: You like that?

ROMANS: That's pretty clever at 5:40 in the morning.

All right.

The Senate killing a rule making it easier for consumers to sue banks. It's a major Wall Street win under the Trump administration. The vice president, Mike Pence, cast the tie-breaking vote last night.

Gone now is the consumer financial protection rule that would ban forced arbitration clauses. This is the -- this is the fine print, right, that banks, credit cards, and other financial companies tuck into their contracts so that when you use their credit card you give away your right to sue them.

It forces you to resolve disputes outside of the court system. It blocks you from banding together with other people who are aggrieved by their credit card company or their bank in class-action lawsuits.

Republicans call the rule an overstep by the CFPB head, Richard Cordray. He is a President Obama appointee and the White House is basically trying to undo anything he does.

The financial lobby claims class-actions benefit trial lawyers, not consumers, but consumer advocates disagree. They say that arbitration favors the companies. It puts the leverage and the power with the companies. And, you know, a good example here, victims of Wells Fargo have complained that they have had trouble suing because of these arbitration clauses. They are having trouble getting justice from Wells Fargo.

Trump has vowed to loosen regulations on Wall Street and this is the administration's most significant loosening of post-crisis Wall Street regulations yet. The White House cheered the move. The vice president calls it a win for everyday consumers.

This rule was finally issued in July after five years of work and lobbying. The CFPB -- the watchdog group found that customers struggled to open arbitration cases against their banks. This was meant to make it easier and now, the White House has killed it.

BRIGGS: All right.

Two weeks before President Trump heads to China, President Xi is consolidating his own power. The new leadership leaves no heir apparent and it could extend his influence for decades. We're live in Beijing with what this all means.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:46:36] BRIGGS: Welcome back.

China's new top leadership is unveiled without an heir apparent to President Xi Jinping. This comes a day after China's communist party cemented Xi's power by enshrining his name in ideology into its constitution. So how long does Xi intend to rule and what does all this mean for the United States?

CNN's Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing with the answers Hey, Matt.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Dave. Well, it's really kind of an open-ended question at this point but something the U.S. should be paying attention to.

Over the last week, there's something called the party congress that's been going on here in China. It happens every five years. A very important political event where China sets up its political leadership for the next five years.

And what we've seen happen is Xi Jinping really completed a power grab that he's been working on for the last five years, his first term. And he has garnered enough political power for us to say that he has really collected that kind of political capital in a way that we haven't seen since Mao Zedong, frankly, decades ago, the founder of communist China.

He's done that in a couple of ways.

One, by doing -- getting his name enshrined in the communist party constitution, as you mentioned off the top. The only other person to do that is Chairman Mao. Secondly, he revealed his standing committee to the public earlier today. That's the committee of seven people that make the majority of the political decisions for China. On that committee, only Xi Jinping allies.

Why are we telling you all this? Why does it matter for U.S.-China relations?

Well, now we know that Xi Jinping is going to be in power until at least 2022. And given that on that standing committee there's no successors, really, that seem to be all that apparent, Xi Jinping could be in power well beyond that. And in diplomacy, it matters who you're talking to and how far they're going to be in office, how long they'll be in office.

Finally, keep in mind, about two weeks from now Donald Trump making his first state visit here to China and he will be meeting for some very high stakes diplomacy with Xi Jinping. Xi Jinping will be coming into that meeting very, very confident his domestic situation is secure. Donald Trump facing a bit more instability on the Homefront.

BRIGGS: A bit more instability, indeed.

All right. Matt Rivers, a huge state visit November 8th. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump is expected to sign a Senate- approved $36.5 billion aid package for hurricane and wildfire relief. Most of the funding goes to FEMA's disaster relief program and the national flood insurance program.

BRIGGS: In Puerto Rico, more than half the cell towers are now operational and one-quarter of the island has power. But new questions are being raised about a small Montana utility firm with ties to the Trump administration winning a $300 million contract to restore Puerto Rico's crippled electrical grid.

ROMANS: The CEO of Whitefish Energy, a 2-year-old firm, is friends with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. A spokesman for Whitefish Energy says that the secretary had nothing to do with the firm winning the contract. House and Senate committees are both calling for a review of that deal.

BRIGGS: All right. Time for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Alisyn Camerota will talk with Jeff Flake.

ROMANS: Hey.

BRIGGS: Imagine you have a few things to ask of him, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I have been compiling some questions, yes. I'm up to about a dozen. I hope they give me a lot of time for this interview.

We have too much news today, basically.

So, yes, we had Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake who, of course, gave that stunning speech on the Senate floor. We'll ask him all about that, as well as his future plans.

And then, our fact-checkers are in overdrive this morning because we have to revisit the uranium one deal. What's that all about and what is it that the administration is saying about it, and Republicans on Capitol Hill?

[05:50:08] And, of course, the Iran deal and what Sen. Bob Corker's relationship is with that.

I could go on but I would take up the next 10 minutes with the tease. So just know that we are going to be getting to the bottom and bringing you the facts this morning.

BRIGGS: And, Chris Cuomo will talk to Rob Portman, a senator from Ohio, so it will be interesting to find out what other senators think about what Flake and Corker said yesterday.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BRIGGS: It should be a great show.

ROMANS: It will be a great show.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, guys.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Just a week after blowing past 23,000, the Dow halfway to its next milestone already. The reason behind it? I'll tell you on "CNN Money Stream," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:55:22] BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, two people fatally shot on the campus of Grambling State University. According to law enforcement, the shooter fled the scene. A university official says the incident began with an argument in a dorm before spilling into a courtyard where the shooting occurred.

We'll bring you updates on CNN throughout the morning.

ROMANS: All right. The Mega Millions lottery is about to get harder to win and more expensive to play. After Friday night, the price of a ticket doubles to two bucks and a new range of numbers means the odds of winning the jackpot are even longer, 302.6 million to one.

The Mega Millions game has faced tough competition from Powerball, which raised its ticket prices and lengthened its odds two years ago and has since featured huge jackpots topping $200 million nine times.

BRIGGS: I'm still playing, Romans. I'm still playing.

ROMANS: Throw your money away, man.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, the Dodgers strike first, beating the Astros in game one of the World Series. With the score tied at one in the sixth, Dodgers third baseman Justin

Turner once again clutched. It turned out to be the game winner. The two-run homer puts L.A. up 3-1.

The Dodgers got a great performance from their ace. Clayton Kershaw struck out 11 over seven.

The fall classic feeling like the middle of summer. The temp, 103 degrees, making it the hottest World Series ever. Game two tonight at Dodger Stadium should be much cooler, 94 for first pitch.

ROMANS: All right. Also red hot, the stock market. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stock markets, right now, mostly lower, taking a little bit of a pause after a very big performance yesterday. The Dow jumped nearly 200 points. That's a record high. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also record highs.

You can thank strong earnings. Companies are making boatloads of money. Yesterday was led by Dow stocks Caterpillar and 3M. 3M had its best day since 2009.

We're now halfway through the busiest week of earnings season and we're going to be looking today for Coca-Cola, Boeing, Visa.

It's been just one week since the Dow blew past 23,000. It's already halfway to the next milestone, folks. And stocks have never been more expensive.

President Trump likes to take credit for this recent bump. Remember the latest rally, just the tail end of what has been the second- longest bull market in history. How long it keeps going, no one knows. But I'm telling you right now, the magic elixir at the moment happens to be hopes for tax cuts.

McDonald's, one of the hottest stocks on the Dow this year, rising another two percent after an earnings win. Revenue was high, sales rose six percent worldwide. McDonald's has had a really good turnaround. Low prices and new menu items winning back customers from rival chains.

One of those chains, Chipotle, struggling. Its sales came up short last quarter, hurt by costs related to a hack in April and yet another food safety scare. Shares down nine percent after hours. That is a big move.

Twitter is promising greater transparency for political ads. The company will now label all political advertising, providing information about who bought the ads and what they spent.

This comes as Twitter and other social media companies faced scrutiny over ad sales to Russian trolls, but these new guidelines might not have prevented those ads from happening. The majority of the Russian- bought ads focused on issues, not specific candidates, including divisive issues like race, refugees, immigration, and gun control. Those Russian troll farms really finding the Achilles' heel in the

American --

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- social fabric and just --

BRIGGS: And they'll be back, and we're a long way from solving this problem. People are still going to click on these. What's going to solve it, I don't know, but at least they're doing something this time.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks for joining us this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

Two Republicans with harsh rebukes of the president. One of them, Jeff Flake, is on "NEW DAY."

Rob Portman, what will he say about these criticisms? He also joins "NEW DAY."

We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLAKE: We must stop pretending that the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal.

BLITZER: When he lies about something and you know it's a lie, shouldn't you speak out?

RISCH: That's your job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

CORKER: I don't know why he lowers himself and debases our country.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: All this stuff you see on a daily basis on Twitter -- this Twitter or that -- forget about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His coalition to get things passed is now in some jeopardy.

BRIAN FALLON, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Bob Mueller's team has corroborated many key aspects of the dossier. There's no shame in the fact that the campaign sponsored this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of motivations in the White House today to distract a little bit here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did they spend a year covering it up?

(END VIDEO CLIP)