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EARLY START

Trump Tweets He Fired Flynn Because Flynn Lied To FBI; Trump Slams FBI After Flynn Plea Removal Of Agent; Congress's Dueling Tax Bills; Billy Bush Speaks Out On Access Hollywood Tape; Trump Set To Recognize Jerusalem As Israeli Capital. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 4, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- auto sales 2017 will likely mark the first full year decline since the great recession. After years of record highs, car sales are slowing. And while November's sales were mixed for major automakers, total industry sales are down 1.5 percent this year. U.S. sales are on track for 17.1 million vehicles in 2017, that's below last year's record of 17.6 million cars.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. EARLY START continues right now.

President Trump directs his wrath at the FBI after Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying in the Russia probe. Now obstruction charges to hinge on a tweet that raises questions why the president fired James Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tweeting comment regarding an ongoing criminal investigation at your own peril, I'd be careful if I were you, Mr. President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A bruising battle over taxes moves on to the next phase. The House and Senate leaders will start to reconcile their two bills. We'll tell you where the GOP has big gaps to close and what all (inaudible).

BRIGGS: And Billy Bush is back out of the shadows in a scathing op-ed he makes clear the president said exactly what you heard on that "Access Hollywood" tape. So, what will Bush say on the "Late Show" with Stephen Colbert could be an interesting appearance.

Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, December 4th. It is 5 a.m. in the east, noon in Jerusalem, 7 p.m. in Seoul. Welcome, everyone.

President Trump returning to an old playbook following the newest criminal charges in the Russia probe. He is lashing out at the intelligence community. This comes after former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his discussions with the Russian ambassador during the transition. BRIGGS: In a series of tweets over the weekend, the president attacked the FBI and its former Director James Comey. In one he writes, "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more fake news. Covering Comey live." That puts the president directly at odds with what Comey told Congress in June.

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JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I understood him to be saying is he wanted me to drop any investigation connected to Flynn's account of his conversations with the Russians.

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ROMANS: President Trump's most notable tweet on Flynn turning states evidence came Saturday. I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies.

BRIGGS: Critics quickly pounced saying if he fired Comey knowing the FBI was investigating Flynn, that on its own may constitute obstruction of justice. The president's personal lawyer, John Dowd, now claims he drafted the president's tweet. But top Democrats in Congress say obstruction is very much a part of the wider investigation.

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SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The Judiciary Committee has an investigation going as well and it involves obstruction of justice. And I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of case of obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Jeremy Diamond with more from the White House.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Christine and Dave. Well, the president spent part of his weekend on social media attacking the FBI after Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his investigation filing its first charges against the Trump administration official, of course, that is Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, who on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

And the president picking up on a different story this weekend to go after the FBI's reputation saying that it is in tatters. This was regarding an FBI agent that is detailed to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. He sent text messages to another FBI agent that could be interpreted as anti-Trump or pro-Clinton.

These were text messages sent during the 2016 election. The president in a series of tweets said "Tainted, no, very dishonest. FBI agent's role in Clinton probe under review led Clinton e-mail probe."

That's because this agent is one of the lead investigators on the Clinton investigation. The Justice Department's inspector general is now investigating the handling of that investigation.

But the president's tweets this weekend appearing to hit at the FBI's reputation as he said, "It was in tattered." And well, that led to former FBI Director James Comey, who of course, has feuded in the past with the president.

The president actually fired Comey. Comey took to Twitter to defend the FBI. Here was his tweet, "I want the American people to know the truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. The FBI is and always will be independent." Christine and Dave, back to you.

ROMANS: Jeremy Diamond, thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us now for the first time on EARLY START, Laura Barron-Lopez. He is a congressional reporter for "The Washington Examiner." Good morning to you. Welcome to the program.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Good morning.

[05:05:02] BRIGGS: Stop me if you heard this one before, but the president may have got himself in bigger trouble with a tweet. How big a problem might that tweet be that the president sent out that John Dowd, the lawyer for the president now says he wrote?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, it definitely could be big problem given the fact that the president appeared to say that he knew that Flynn lied to the FBI when he fired him. So, if the president knew that Flynn had committed a crime and then the next day told Comey that he should see to letting this investigation go, then that looks like a pretty strong attempt to obstruct justice.

And so, if that wasn't already under the per view of Special Counsel Mueller's investigation, it definitely is something drawing more scrutiny now.

ROMANS: So, surprising to me that the White House lawyer, one of the president's lawyers said, no, I wrote that. I composed that tweet for the president to decide whether he wanted to tweet, which is kind of a new thing.

My assumption is the president gets up at this time every morning and starts watching morning television and starts tweeting, right? What do we know about this claim from John Dowd, one of his attorneys, that he wrote this tweet?

BARRON-LOPEZ: That's right. I mean, we never really heard before that Trump's lawyer has penned any of his tweets for him, drafted any tweets for him. So, this claim by Dowd is pretty unusual, and, you know, it's difficult to say if it is even true.

That being said, it is also difficult to say if even what the president tweeted is accurate. Again, you know, the president has tweeted lies before. So again, that's something that will come under investigation likely. It wouldn't be surprising if Mueller and his investigators also want to talk to Trump's lawyer about -- what specifically he said about this.

BRIGGS: Yes, especially with the pointed tweets. I think we've all assumed Dan Scavino, the social director sends out some of the innocuous tweets that make a generic statement about things, but pointed tweets like this have always been in the words of this president and official statements from him.

But the president does have a point, when he starts tweeting on 7:42 a.m. on Sunday morning, Sunday morning tweets is the title of a book at some point in the future. But he has a point when pointing out this FBI agent who Bob Mueller had to fire from the special council investigation, who was once in charge of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, sent out anti-Trump texts when Bob Mueller became aware of them, he fired him. How big a problem might that be as we look back at the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, look, I mean, we've seen that President Trump wants to relitigate the 2018 election. Mueller knows that he wants this investigation to look apolitical which is what special counsel is supposed to do.

He's not supposed to be partisan and so any whiff of that and that needs to be stamped out especially since we have a president that wants to discredit the FBI and discredit the CIA and intel officials as much as possible when he feels he's under attack by them, and so that's what we saw Mueller do in that case.

ROMANS: So you're a congressional reporter, you cover Congress, and if we weren't talking about Michael Flynn and the Russia probe, we would be talking about once in a generation tax reform. How bruising do you see the House and Senate this drive to agree on something that is essentially not populous, this is corporate tax relief?

BARRON-LOPEZ: You're right. Even though they do have to go to conference, so they have to work out the differences between the House bill and the Senate bill, really the biggest hurdles were already passed. So, passing it individually in the House and in the Senate.

And I honestly do not think that they're going to have that much difficulty coming to agreement in conference and getting this through, especially since Republicans don't want to reach the end of the year without any substantial legislative wins even though it is, as you said, a very unpopular bill.

ROMANS: Yes. They're going pass it. We'll see what kind of fallout there could be.

BRIGGS: We may not know for a while, well past 2018.

ROMANS: All right. Laura, come back in a few minutes. We'll talk some more. Nice to see you this morning.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Thank you.

ROMANS: Let's talk about that. Both the House and the Senate bill promised big corporate tax cuts and they add to the deficit with no guarantee it will add jobs or raise wages. There are some differences here. This is what they have to iron out. Let's talk about what it means for your tax return.

First off, personal tax cut in the House version is permanent. The Senate bill, those tax cuts on the individual tax cuts expired by 2025. Also, different, the individual tax rates, the House has four tax brackets. The Senate has seven tax brackets.

[05:10:10] It lowers rates for all of them including for the top earners, down to 38.5 percent in the Senate version. The Senate version also keeps some popular tax breaks that the House eliminates like deductions for mortgages, medical expenses, student loans.

While both increase the 12 tax credits, the Senate bill is more generous there. One thing both versions agree on, permanent corporate tax cuts, the GOP argues that will mean higher wages for you eventually. There is no guarantee.

In fact, the current tax plan might raise taxes for all low income and most middle-class Americans by the year 2027 while giving the biggest tax cuts to the top earners and eliminating the estate tax. That mainly affects the wealthiest Americans.

The president said he was willing to agree to 22 percent of the corporate tax rate, not 20 percent. Still a hefty, hefty tax cut from the 35 percent stated now.

BRIGGS: Assuming they need some more revenue, but what would that mean in terms of the changes that the House is willing to accept? It's hard to tell because they're willing to accept the mandate. Paul Ryan has made clear he is open to that.

All right. It looks like Billy Bush is back. Done laying low in the wake of that notorious "Access Hollywood" tape that got him fired from NBC. The former co-host starting with a message to President Trump in a form of an op-ed in the "New York Times" headline, "Yes, Donald Trump, you said that."

Bush says he was prompted to speak out by news reports suggesting the president is questioning the authenticity of the tape. Bush says the reports of Trump casting doubt on the tape, quote, "hit a raw nerve."

ROMANS: Bush writes, "Every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act he was performing. Surely, we thought none of this was real. We now know better. I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women that came forward with their stories about him and did not receive enough attention.

This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. The leader is wantonly poking the bear." Bush is set to appear on "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert tonight.

BRIGGS: Yes. It was interesting when Billy said one thing the president said to him also resonated. People would just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you. That stuck in Billy's mind and that's what we see with this fake news. Just keep telling people that over and over again.

President Trump expected to name Jerusalem as Israel's capital this week, but there are strong objections in the Middle East. And some safety concerns for American personnel abroad. We're live in Jerusalem ahead.

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[06:16:40]

BRIGGS: President Trump is expected to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's next capital. U.S. officials say the decision could come as early as tomorrow and would overturn 70 years of international consensus. The State Department security offices planning for possible violent protests at U.S. embassies and consulates.

CNN's Ian Lee live in Jerusalem for us. Good morning to you, Ian. What is the expected reaction there if the Trump administration makes this announcement?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. There's a reason why previous U.S. presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, didn't move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because of the possible ramifications of announcing that Jerusalem is Israel's capital in the absence of a peace deal.

It would alienate regional allies. We know President Trump has been working hard to cultivate good relations with Arab leaders, something he's been successful at. But we've heard from the Arab League, which condemned the possible move so did the Egyptians.

The Jordanian foreign minister warned of dangerous consequences that could incite violence and damage the peace process. Also, Palestinian Liberation Organization's secretary-general, Saeb Erekat, said that if the United States goes forward with this that it would disqualify the United States from any role in the peace process.

And he's been in D.C. pushing the Palestinian cause. Noticeably missing, though, from all of this, Israeli officials, which is unusual because in the past they've enthusiastically advocated for declaring Jerusalem Israeli's capital.

Yesterday, we heard from Jared Kushner. He said the president is still mowing over the option, but we will be watching U.S. diplomatic missions as they have increased security ahead of the potential announcement -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes. That announcement could make Kushner's job brokering Mid-East peace that much harder. Ian Lee, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. Back home here, the Eagles get their wings clipped after nine straight wins, the 12th man proved too much in Seattle. Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report" next.

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[06:23:11]

BRIGGS: All right. College football playoffs are all set, but as usual, it's not without controversy.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this Monday morning "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. You know, the first three spots were easy, the big debate came down to whether the play-off committee would put in two loss big 10 champ in Ohio state or one loss Alabama.

The committee decided that Bama was unequivocally better than the Buckeyes. Ohio State's 31-point loss to Iowa in the end is what did them in. This is how the playoffs look like for New Year's Day. Clemson will play Alabama in the playoffs. The two met for the championship the past two seasons. They'll play in the Sugar Bowl. Heisman favorite Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma will take on Georgia in the Rose Bowl.

Philadelphia Eagles winning streak finally coming to an end last night at the hands of the Seahawks. Russell Wilson on his game throwing three touchdowns in this one. Seattle hands the Eagles the second loss of the season, 24-10.

According to ESPN, the Giants could fire head coach, Ben McAdoo as early as today. Ownership reportedly not happy with the way Eli Manning's benching has been handled. The Giants losing to the Raiders yesterday, 24-17.

Former Jets quarterback, Geno Smith started for New York. Sunday morning Gino's former coach, Rex Ryan, said he liked Gino but wouldn't want him as his quarterback. Gino fired back at Rex after the game.

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GENO SMITH, GIANTS QUARTERBACK: And I really was upset. We saved his job in 2013. We fought our (inaudible) off for him to say that shows how much of a coward he is.

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SCHOLES: The Patriots beat the Bills easily yesterday, but you wouldn't have known as you see them on the field. He gets into it with Josh McDaniels after told Brady he missed a wide-open receiver just berating him on the sideline. Then in the fourth quarter after an interception, Rob Gronkowski hits the Bills Tre'Davious White with a WWE style elbow drop right there.

Now he left the game and placed in concussion protocol. Gronk was flagged on the play but not ejected. He will face a suspension for that. After the game, he apologized.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB GRONKOWSKI, PATRIOTS TIGHT END: I'm not in the business of that. There was a lot of frustration. And I was just really frustrated at that moment and it just happened naturally through motions and frustration. And just want to apologize to Tre'Davious White.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Finally, Tiger Woods with a successful return to golf over the weekend. He shot eight under at the Hero World Challenge finishing in eighth place. Get this, Tiger started the weekend at 101 to win the masters in April. Those odds, guys, have now dropped all the way down to 15-1.

So, we get to see Tiger for the first time in ten months. He does pretty well. And everyone's getting all excited about him coming back and having a chance to win the Masters. We're still a long way away from that possibly happening.

BRIGGS: Let's pump the brakes on that one. You did see with a bad back, it's not on day one or day two but usually on day three that he blew up on that Saturday. He looked great. The speed is back. He can drive the ball long. No real holes in the game, Andy. Should be good. Should be fun to watch.

SCHOLES: The best Tiger come back we've seen.

BRIGGS: In years -- absolutely.

ROMANS: All right. Andy, thanks.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, President Trump with a weekend full of attacks on the FBI after the Michael Flynn guilty plea. Now even some fellow Republicans warning the president to watch his comments.

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