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EARLY START

Mueller Team Questions Kushner About Flynn; Trump Tweets Draw Outrage; Lauer Fired: When Will He Speak?; Trump Calls Kim Jong-un 'A Sick Puppy.' Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:27] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The Russia special counsel taking no chances with Michael Flynn. And to make sure there's nothing they've missed, investigators turn to another key figure, Jared Kushner.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Outrage and condemnation after the commander in chief tweets out violent videos from a far-right fascist British hate group. Now, even the most staunch American ally voicing anger.

ROMANS: And still no sign of Matt Lauer since his abrupt firing from NBC over accusations of sexual misconduct. New accusers coming forward in the hours after he was taken off "TODAY."

Thirty-one minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

What it must be like for Matt Lauer, a New Yorker, assuming he's not going to get up and look at the papers.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: But they are ruthless --

ROMANS: "Dirty Rock."

BRIGGS: -- as they could be this morning. Brian Stelter will join us live on that in just a bit.

But first this morning, new signs the Russia special counsel investigation zeroing in now on former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

As first reported by CNN, senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, met earlier this month with special counsel Robert Mueller's team. A source familiar with the meeting tells us Flynn was the main topic of conversation.

ROMANS: The source says investigators wanted to see if Kushner has information that might clear Flynn of wrongdoing. This, after Flynn's lawyer told President Trump's legal team last week he would no longer share information about the investigation with them. And that is just one of the indications a possible plea deal for Flynn is in the works.

Justice correspondent Pamela Brown has more for us this morning from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE AND SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Christine and Dave.

CNN has learned that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, has met with Robert Mueller's team special counsel earlier this month.

Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn worked together closely. Foreign policy was in Kushner's portfolio, Flynn was the former national security adviser, so their schedules would intercept, their paths crossed. So it would make sense that the special counsel team would interview Kushner about Flynn, specifically.

The lawyer for Kushner, Abbe Lowell, told us Mr. Kushner has voluntarily cooperated with all relevant inquiries and will continue to do so. And it's important to note that all appearances here that he was interviewed as a witness. Most defense attorneys would not let a client be interviewed in this capacity if the belief was that the client was a target, and so he was interviewed as a witness here.

But that does not mean that he won't be called back to the special counsel for another interview about other topics beyond Michael Flynn. And he was really at the nexus of many parts of this investigation so it would make sense that he might be called back down the road, at the very least as a witness to discuss these other aspects of the investigation with Robert Mueller's team.

Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: All right, Pamela Brown, thanks.

There is condemnation around the world of President Trump for retweeting violent anti-Muslim videos from a far-right fascist U.K. political group, but not a hint of criticism coming from inside the administration.

The president often warns about Europe and the U.S. being threatened by immigration from Muslim-majority nations but he has seldom shared anything as offensive or explosive as these videos.

ROMANS: One video falsely claims to show a young Muslim migrant attacking a boy on crutches. In fact, the Netherlands government says both of those young men are Dutch. That is not an immigration story.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defending these retweets, though. She insists the president is only trying to start a conversation about border security. She also downplayed questions about the authenticity of these videos. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about. That's what the president is focused on, is dealing with those real threats, and those were real no matter how you look at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: A White House source tells CNN administration staff has resigned itself to the idea the president will never stop tweeting.

There have been some head-scratching moments lately though, like the president's assault on the Free Press and his Pocahontas reference alongside Navajo code talkers beneath a portrait of Andrew Jackson.

Also, the potential fallout from these latest tweets is wide-ranging and could impact foreign policy.

Later this morning, the president meets with the Crown Prince of Bahrain in the Oval Office.

ROMANS: President Trump's anti-Muslim retweet is drawing outrage in the United Kingdom.

BRIGGS: And a rare reprimand from the British government, itself. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May saying "British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far-right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents: decency, tolerance, and respect."

[05:35:10] President Trump responding to Great Britain's polite phrasing with a brash tweet after first tweeting the wrong Theresa May.

He told the prime minister, quote, "Don't focus on me. Focus on the destructive Islamic radical terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!"

ROMANS: All right, I'm doing fine. I started coughing during your read. I'm very sorry about that.

BRIGGS: It happens.

ROMANS: It happens.

Let's bring in "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan. Good morning.

TAL KOPAN, REPORTER, CNN POLITICS: Good morning.

Let's talk about the conversation that Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president is trying to begin.

What kind of conversation begins with one false -- you know, basically, false premise in one of these videos? The other two very, very disturbing. KOPAN: Yes. She talked about a real threat even if the video is not real, which is puzzling in and of itself. But they never actually discussed what threat they're referring to and it's not clear to me that there is one from this video.

I mean, in fact, you know, the person that was supposed to be a migrant in the video is not, but rather Dutch born and raised there. But even so, it's not clear to me what an altercation between two individuals would have to do with border security either, so it's befuddling but it's not necessarily out of step with a lot of what this administration has done.

And certainly, there is a conversation that this administration wants to have about elements of immigration that bring violent tendencies to the U.S., even if studies show that there's no disproportionate violence or crime committed by immigrant communities. In fact, that tends to be at a lower rate than the native-born population.

But they continue to push elements of a narrative that there is some sort of threat linked specifically to immigration and people crossing our borders.

BRIGGS: For context on this, "InfoWars who was OK with saying Sandy Hook was faked -- the shooting of schoolchildren. That 9/11 was an inside job. Even the editor of "InfoWars" tweeted that it's bad optics to retweet this group, so that gives you some context.

So, Republican Congressmen obviously fleeing reporters -- did not want to talk about this.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner did join Wolf Blitzer. A serious senator who has been critical of this administration at times attempted to answer what needs to be done to stop the president from tweeting these things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: I've also said that perhaps one of the best ways we can address the president's Twitter feed is to develop some kind of software where you hit send once, it doesn't send. Then you give it a little bit of time and you hit send again and then it sends.

So perhaps we need to find a new software tool available to make sure that we think about some of these things before we send them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I have one that -- I have a software tool. It's call restraint.

BRIGGS: Sure, I'm like --

ROMANS: Restraint, it's already in here. It's hardwired. It should be.

BRIGGS: I can't tell if Cory Gardner is kidding there or not. This guy has been very critical of Roy Moore. He's a very serious senator.

Is he kidding? This is something we'd want to restrain our kids, not a 71-year-old president.

KOPAN: I don't know. The 'are you sure you want to tweet that' button, I don't even know if that would do anything in this case.

Look, I mean, the president has shown time and time again that this is who he is. He shoots from the hip. He says whatever is on his mind, whether or not it's on message with the news of the day that the White House wants to push.

That's just who he is. It was who he was during the campaign --

ROMANS: Yes.

KOPAN: -- and it has been now for almost a year of the presidency, and so we can't be surprised by it.

But certainly, you know, I think the communications professionals of the world are pulling their hair out wondering why this White House can't just deliver a disciplined message. But at the end of the day, the president is the boss of the White House and this is the way he wants the messaging to look.

ROMANS: Three-point-three GDP growth yesterday. You could have just left it there, Mr. President.

A tax vote that's going in your direction. You could have just left it there.

The CFPB -- his guy won the first legal round of the CFPB. There were all these stories yesterday --

BRIGGS: The markets -- 255 points the prior day.

ROMANS: The day before, yes. I mean, there were all -- and he did take credit. He did tweet about those things. I'll be honest with you.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: "Looks like another great day for the stock market. Consumer confidence is at a record high. I guess somebody likes me (my policies)!"

Again, him taking credit for it but he could have left it there. This was really just a bridge too far, you know?

KOPAN: Yes, and you have to intentionally -- retweeting doesn't happen accidentally. So to Cory Gardner's point, I mean, there is a confirmation button that comes up when you retweet something. So, you know, it wasn't quite a whole quote. Two tweets, which required more effort.

ROMANS: Right. KOPAN: But still, this was an intentional decision by the president to selectively retweet.

ROMANS: It does overshadow -- however, I will say the controversy of the sort of retweeting the hate group did overshadow some of the really significant and painful analysis of the president's tax bill that shows it is not something that's for the middle-class, in terms of tax cuts. It's for big companies.

[05:40:00] The White House keeps saying that it's going to explode the economy and that's going to mean higher wages and jobs for everyone because a lot of critical analysis of the tax bill that's going through so quickly with little discussion -- all of that did overshadow some of the criticism of his tax plan yesterday.

KOPAN: Yes. I mean, it's a double-edged sword, for better or worse. People were not talking or asking about the tax plan yesterday as much as they probably would have been if he hadn't tweeted this.

And, you know, it did have a substantial step yesterday. We voted to move forward with it.

ROMANS: Yes.

KOPAN: You got all the lawmakers --

BRIGGS: All 52.

KOPAN: Yes. The lawmakers who were signaling concern, so far have been willing to move it along. Now, we're at the stage where amendments could be offered but soon, it's going to be the moment of truth time for the Senate before -- we'll see how far it is from the House and whether they can --

These are major, major events and you're right, Christine. While on the one hand, it does undermine Republican messaging to have -- be having to answer questions about the president's tweet, it does also undermine --

ROMANS: Take the heat off.

KOPAN: -- Democrats' ability to try to call attention to what they see as a problem in the bill. So --

ROMANS: It's set to vote tomorrow, I think, right?

KOPAN: Yes, that's a good argument.

BRIGGS: And all signs are Republicans have unified around the notion of this tax cut tax reform or whatever you want to call it --

ROMANS: I just hearing there's --

BRIGGS: -- bill. I think it gets through.

ROMANS: I keep hearing failure's not an option. BRIGGS: Right.

KOPAN: Absolutely. I mean, they want to pass something so I wonder what it's going to look like?

ROMANS: We'll have to find out.

All right, thanks. Tal, nice to see you.

KOPAN: You, too.

ROMANS: Come back soon.

The shock has not worn off from the sudden firing of Matt Lauer from the "TODAY" show after those accusations of sexual misconduct. When will we hear from him? When will Lauer speak up?

Our Brian Stelter joins us live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:46:02] BRIGGS: All right.

Still no word this morning from now former "TODAY" show host Matt Lauer after the stunning news NBC has fired him over an allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. And now, NBC says it has received new accusations against Lauer since his firing.

ROMANS: Senior media correspondent Brian Stelter joins us this morning. He has been working this story vigorously the last 24 hours.

We still have not heard from Matt Lauer. I assume he's got a team and he's trying to figure out his response.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, HOST, CNN "RELIABLE SOURCES": That's right. He does an outside P.R. firm. He has chosen not to say anything so far, which means he's not confirming or denying.

Normally -- gosh, the past two months since the Harvey Weinstein scandal there's a predictable pattern.

First, there's a bombshell news story, damning allegations, women accusing powerful men of misconduct. Then there's disciplinary action.

The difference here with NBC is it happened the opposite way. First, there was a firing. Matt Lauer suddenly fired from his job. Then we started to find out about the accusations against him.

And I think the other big difference in this case is we have not heard from the accused person.

We've seen a lot of awkward statements from various powerful men -- Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. These men have been in these situations where they try to kind of half-apologize, half-defend themselves. I would argue no one's gotten it right.

So maybe Matt Lauer is just wisely trying to stay silent rather than comment at all.

BRIGGS: So we have the "Variety" story, we have "The New York Times" investigation.

STELTER: Right.

BRIGGS: And at the heart of all this is that Howard-Bacon Nixonian question. What did the president know and when did he know it?

But what did NBC know and when did they know it?

STELTER: Yes. If you'll look at the tabloid covers this morning, the "New York Post" and the "New York Daily News." Here's the "New York Post," for example. You'll notice NBC's logo is all over this, right? It's not just a story about Lauer, it's a story about the company, and it always is in all of these different cases.

The short answer to your question is current NBC news management says they had never received a formal complaint about Lauer. Now, could there have been some more informal conversations going on? In other words, if you're an intern and you tell your direct boss that Lauer might have acted inappropriately but it doesn't go all the way to human resources.

I wonder if that may have been what happened in some of these cases. Certainly, that's what "Variety" magazine is suggesting.

Meanwhile, "The New York Times" says, and I've confirmed, that two new complaints were filed with H.R. yesterday, meaning after Lauer was fired, two women contacted the company and said something like this happened to me as well.

ROMANS: Well, you wonder what the climate was like there. What kind of climate was around Matt Lauer that the -- you know, you just -- they have to have some real soul-searching over there at NBC about what that climate was like.

STELTER: And that's true, by the way, with --

ROMANS: Oh, absolutely.

STELTER: -- where there's a star system, right? The idea is people might look the other way.

ROMANS: Power can corrupt people. Power can corrupt.

I want to talk about the climate though.

Geraldo Rivera tweeted something that really got a lot of attention.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: "Sad about Matt Lauer. Great guy, highly-skilled and empathetic with guests and a real gentleman to my family and me.

News is a flirty business and it seem like current epidemic of sex harassment allegations may be criminalizing courtship and conflating it with predation. What about Garrison Keillor?"

Whoa, whoa.

STELTER: Fox actually came out and said whoa, Geraldo. We don't agree with you. We're just -- we are quote, "troubled by the comments and addressing them with him." And then later in the evening, Geraldo issued a weird apology on Twitter and tried to backtrack a little bit.

I think he was channeling what we've heard from other men. Try to very carefully say, which is maybe the pendulum's swinging too far in the opposite direction now. There's been some talk about that -- some backlash to the backlash --

BRIGGS: Yes.

STELTER: -- that's been on social media.

But I think it's obviously very sensitive because it takes on this suggestion that maybe these women shouldn't be believed or shouldn't be taken seriously.

BRIGGS: The psychology of this is fascinating for Matt Lauer. When you look back at an interview he had with Bill O'Reilly who was, of course, fired by Fox News --

STELTER: Right, right.

BRIGGS: -- and hammering aggressively Bill O'Reilly -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, FORMER HOST, FOX NEWS: True.

MATT LAUER, FORMER ANCHOR, "TODAY": But think about those five women and what they did. They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think of how intimidating that must have been, how nerve-wracking that must have been.

Doesn't that tell you how strongly they felt about the way they were treated by you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:50:12] BRIGGS: Brian, what does that interaction tell you?

STELTER: Well, first of all, it tells me I wish someone would ask Matt Lauer the same exact questions he was asking Bill O'Reilly.

I think it speaks to the idea that people, whether it be Matt Lauer or somebody else, at the top of your profession who has been protected for a long time and able to avoid any allegations against you for a long time, that they may feel somewhat invincible somehow. ROMANS: Were they -- what I have found in some of these cases -- you know, Charlie Rose, something he said in his statement, too. It's almost as if they have convinced themselves that it is a normal behavior -- a normal, consensual behavior to drop your pants in a newsroom -- you know, in your office, and it is not. That is not a consensual situation when a person in power takes their pants off in front of someone.

STELTER: Right. If you're trying to sleep with a young female staffer, trying to hit on those staffers in the office, that's absolutely not normal. It's also infidelity, by the way.

It's also -- there's also a question of morality, not to mention the legal questions that then a company faces. All of this is incredibly complex.

And yet, we're talking about allegations, some of them from many years ago, some of them more recent.

You wonder about culture. You wonder about culture change in these companies. This case raises a lot of questions about Lauer and about NBC.

And at the same time, can I just say you have a lot of women at NBC who say I don't recognize the man I'm reading about.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: Yes.

STELTER: And it goes to the --

BRIGGS: Savannah clearly did not.

STELTER: That's right, and it goes to that comment. Just because it didn't happen to you doesn't mean it didn't happen. And I think there's been an awakening about that in past couple of months as well as we've seen these power centers in New York, in L.A., and Washington, and elsewhere have to have this real reckoning.

BRIGGS: It continues. All right, Brian Stelter.

STELTER: Yes.

BRIGGS: You'll stay on it for us. Thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: Fascinating. Thanks, Brian.

A big reversal on Wall Street. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:24] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel -- hmm -- Little Rocket Man -- rocket fuel for the American economy. He is a sick puppy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Well, so much for President Trump's measured tone on North Korea. The president mocking Kim Jong Un during a speech in Missouri Wednesday night on tax reform.

Earlier at an emergency meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the regime has brought the world closer to war.

Let's bring in CNN's Paula Newton, live for us in Seoul, South Korea. Paula, what's the latest?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, in the last few hours we have had the North Korean regime release video of that rocket launch.

But I want you first to look at the split screen. It's the Hwasong-14 against the Hwasong-15. There's only a few more -- few months apart in terms of the way we've seen it.

It is significant. You don't even have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. It's big, isn't it?

What does that mean? It means it has menacing capabilities, much more than the world has been expecting in the last few years. And that means that it becomes a global threat, but especially to the U.S. mainland. It can basically hit anywhere.

What to watch out for, for the next few hours? The Trump administration is promising stricter sanctions. There is a lot of debate though, Dave, as to whether or not those stricter sanctions will actually have any effect on North Korea, which could be fully nuclear-capable by the end of next year -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Showing no signs of slowing.

Paula Newton live for us in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: All right.

It's just about that time, Thursday morning. Let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" right now.

Global stock markets mixed following a really interesting reversal on Wall Street. The worst performing sectors of the year, like airlines and retail, had a great day. They rallied but big tech stocks tanked.

The Nasdaq fell more than one percent, led by big drops in Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Netflix.

Meanwhile, the Dow hit an all-time high thanks to movement on tax reform and bank-friendly comments from Jerome Powell, President Trump's nominee for Federal Reserve chief.

The U.S. economy also posted its fasted economic growth in three years.

Chipotle's founder is out as CEO. The troubled fast-casual chain is looking to replace Steve Ells. Ells founded Chipotle in 1993 but will give up his role as CEO and become executive chairman.

Chipotle was once the darling of the restaurant industry but has struggled in the past few years, mainly due to health scares and a massive data breach.

That's it for us this morning. Thanks for joining me -- and us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs:

ROMANS: But not you.

BRIGGS: The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, now says a visit from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed after his anti-Muslim retweets.

"NEW DAY" has the latest for you right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Jared Kushner has met with Robert Mueller's team.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The special counsel's team really wanted to talk about Michael Flynn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jared Kushner is a crucial witness in virtually every part of Mueller's investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's tweet sparking an international incident.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Our allies in England are mad as hell.

SANDERS: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a president who's paying almost no attention to the responsibilities as an international leader.

STELTER: Three women telling "Variety" magazine they were harassed by Lauer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of fear among women at NBC. They weren't sure how to react if he pursued them.

BILL CARTER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they're going to feel a rolling impact from this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your new day. It is Thursday, November 30th, 6:00 here in New York, and here is your "Starting Line." Several big developments in the Russia investigation.