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EARLY START

Billy Bush Speaks Out; California Wildfire; Pres. Trump Endorses Roy Moore; Twists On Trump's Legal Strategy; Earthquake Strikes Oklahoma; House of Cards' Final Season; LiAngelo Out of UCLA. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 5, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:04] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN EARLY START ANCHOR: It's not on the same page. We have the latest on the Russia investigation.

BILLY BUSH, TELEVISION HOST: You're reopening wounds on them too. Enough is enough. Stop playing around with the -- people's lives.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN EARLY START ANCHOR: There he is, Billy Bush venting in his first public interview since the Access Hollywood tape went public. What he says about the president and the wave of sexual misconduct claims. Now, it's certain thing.

Good morning everyone. Welcome to Early Star. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Tuesday, December 5th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. We'll get to all of those stories shortly.

But first, breaking news right now, Southern California almost 8,000 homes under mandatory evacuation as a huge deadly wildfire rages out of control. This is the scene just north of Santa Paula. Further, official state the flames have now burned 25,000 acres.

ROMANS: More than 260,000 customers right now are without power. Thomas Aquinas College and the Santa Paula Unified School District, they've just announced their closures for today. Officials say one person has been killed in a car accident related to the fire. Again, these evacuations are under way right now. We'll have the latest throughout the morning.

BRIGGS: One week before Alabama voters go to the polls, a new fracture in the Republican Party over Senate candidate Roy Moore. On Monday, President Trump for the first time threw his full support behind Moore. First in his tweet, "Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama".

ROMANS: And then, in a phone call to the candidate, the campaign says the president called Moore a fighter and finished out by saying "Go get 'em, Roy."

Last night, the Republican National Committee joined the president in backing Moore after walking away from him last month over allegations and improper sexual conduct. And official saying the RNC will now transfer money to the Alabama Republican Party. BRIGGS: But Moore's potential Senate colleagues are refusing to budge the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee was Colorado's Cory Gardner sticking to the position he laid out last month.

He said then he believes Moore's accusers and added if he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.

Many other Republican Senators not so thrilled with the idea of working side by side with an accused child molester.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: It's unfortunate. We're going to have a tough enough time in the coming years and be in the party of Roy Moore, it's not going to help.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: I've learned long ago that voters don't want to be told from Washington who to vote for. I've made my position clear on Mr. Moore. But again, it's not up to me or the president, it's up to the people of Alabama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Also digging in as a committed Moore opponent, the former Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney. He tweeted, "Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate would be a stain on the GOP nomination. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity".

BRIGGS: Not shying from the fight, Moore responded "Either Mitt Romney has lost his courage or he doesn't care about truth anymore. Sad day, America's reawakening was led by Donald Trump, not you, Mitt."

All showing in deadly race, the Washington Post has Moore's Democratic opponent Doug Jones up by 3 points within the polls margin of error.

ROMANS: Now, the president is set to attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum on Saturday after holding a rally in Florida on Friday which means he'll be in two states that border Alabama without ever actually being in Alabama before the election. But you can bet that coverage in that TV with TV market will be there.

BRIGGS: Yes, Mobile Alabama within the Pensacola TV area.

Series of new twists in President Trump's constantly lift of shifting legal strategy for the Russian investigation. The president opens his can of worms on Saturday with the tweet saying, he knew Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump fired him, an assertion that raises questions about the obstruction of justice.

Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd claimed he drafted that tweet and offered another defense that the president cannot obstruct justice because, as chief law enforcement officer, he has every right to express his view of any case.

ROMANS: That claimed drew howls (ph) of protests from critics and by late Monday, a White House lawyer Ty Cobb was downplaying it, telling the Washington Post that there is not president's official legal strategy, Cobb, that's it's interesting as a technical legal issues.

But the president's lawyers intend to present a fact based defense not a mere legal defense as for whether the president can in fact obstruct justice. Well, it is worth noting articles of impeachment against both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton did include obstruction charges.

BIRGGS: And we've now another White House lawyer told President Trump in January. He believes Flynn had misled the FBIS as well as Vice President Pence. And that raises new questions about what the president knew when he urged then FBI Director Jim Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn. Something, by the way, the president says never happened.

[05:05:02] ROMANS: All right. Let's bring CNN Political Analysis, Julian Zelizer, Historian and Professor at Princeton University, welcome this morning.

Let's begin here with president's legal strategy. And I'm going to say legal strategy with I don't know legal strategy? What is this legal strategy here because it's confusing?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the legal strategy seems to be to make a Nixonian claim that the president has total control of the executive branch and thus the president cannot obstruct justice. And there are many critics instantly pushing back on this from the fact we have two presidents who were impeached or attempted to be impeached for this issue. The Supreme Court rulings that argue this is not the case. But that seems to be the strategy that at least unfolded over the weekend.

BRIGGS: Legal scholars are split on this. Some do agree with the president that you cannot obstruct justice as the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, but the political optics of that are interesting because if you go back to the campaign, one of the central arguments against Hillary Clinton and the Clinton as in general is that they had their own set of rules, that they were above the law. Here's what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one will be above the law. We will have one set of rules for everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Julian, that didn't aged well.

ZELIZER: Right. What you're assuming, consistency matters and it doesn't necessarily matter at least to the administration. But you have the president's own words that can be used against him. You also have many Republicans who were supportive of the impeachment effort against President Clinton where obstruction of justice was one of the issues.

So, if we're consistent, then these kinds of statements will come back to haunt him. And I don't think there's a consensus that this can't be part of an impeachment proceeding. So, he is in dangerous waters.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the endorsement for Roy Moore. The president out there "Go get 'em, Roy", called them up to go get them, Roy. Now, the RNC is giving funding to the Alabama Republican Party. RNC is on board.

Although Cory Gardner and his Republican Senatorial Committee not on board. So there is a split there. Roy Moore, even before this child molestation accusation, he is said homosexuality should be outlawed.

He has said a Muslim should not serve in Congress. He has said that 9/11 and I believe Sandy Hook happened because of the immorality of the American people. I mean, even before this, he was on savory candidate for the Republicans. And now, two important endorsements for him, what does it mean?

ZELIRA: Yes, two pillars of the Republican Party including the president are going all in for Roy Moore who is an extremist on many issues, and who is under many allegations of sexual harassment, assault and molestation and more. And the party is making a decision. The party is saying we would rather support him, have that vote in the Senate then back away from this.

And so this is something they will have to live with. The Republicans, even if some oppose him, will own this candidate.

BRIGGS: For teams -- well, you talk about ethics, (inaudible) say there's no such thing as immoral victory but there is indeed a moral loss depending on how this goes. How long could this potentially plague Republicans if they win this seat?

ZELIRER: Well, it could certainly be part of 2018 mentor --

ROMANS: The party of Roy Moore.

ZELIRER: The party of Roy Moore and the party of Donald Trump, and if that blows back against them and the Democrats take control of Congress in part because of this, this would be long term. Because then, the Democrats will have power again. And even if that doesn't happen this will come back because he will be there and he will continue to make statements that are far off center from where the American public is and we'll hear more about the allegations.

ROMANS: We heard Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee weigh in on this. And then, it was interesting this weekend. We heard President Obama in France talking about a temporary absence of American leadership on climate change. Some of the old voices are coming back in to the debate, one wonders if we'll hear more of that.

ZELIRER: Absolutely. I think the resisting -- the resistance to entering the fray again has stopped. I think there's feeling that thing are unsettled and some of these old leaders either literally want to be part of the political game again like Mitt Romney or someone like President Obama carries the same. This shouldn't be happening and watching his legacy unravel in front of him. He wants to get back and try to fight in a way that he can.

BRIGGS: Well, the backdrop to that is some say Romney wants to run for Senate in Utah if Orrin Hatch retires. The president is urging Orrin Hatch to stay on the Senate. He does not want a vocal credit.

(CROSSTALK)

BRIGG: Yes, yes. All right. Julian also seen about 30 minutes.

ROMANS: Thank, Julian.

All right. Billy Bush speaking out for the first time since NBC fired him last year. Overnight, he told Stephen Colbert he felt like he got hit in the gut when he first heard himself with Donald Trump on that infamous Access Hollywood tape days before it leaked.

[05:10:03] And that the president delivered a second death punch by recently questioning the tapes authenticity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: He, last week, for some reason came out with, "That's not my voice on the tape." Like I said, you can't say that. That is your voice. I was there. You were there. That's your voice on the tape. And what that does, though, is multiple -- I told you about my own personal problem with it. But then you've got 20 women at the time I don't know that the exact numbers because there's more, but 20 women who used their names.

We've got powerful people being held accountable now. And sometimes there's an anonymous source. All of these women came out with their names and told their detailed accounts. 20 women don't get together and say, "Hey, you know, what would be really fun? Let's take down a powerful guy together, ha-ha."

No, they don't. And their names would -- and I said OK. You're reopening wounds on them too. Enough is enough. Stop playing around with the -- people's lives. That upset me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS (voice-over): Now, I was to side note to the Billy Bush interview there told Colbert former TODAY SHOW host Matt Lauer spoke privately to NBC executives trying to save Bush's job when the tape leaked last year, interesting when you consider the context that Lauer made that uncomfortable with his own indiscretions so.

ROMANS: Right, right. All right, new this morning Congressman John Conyers is reportedly ready to call it a career of its claims on sexual harassment and a family member wants Conyers' job.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [05:15:36] ROMANS: Michigan Congressman John Conyers will make an announcement on the radio this morning. No official word yet on the content, but the "New York Times" reports, Conyers plans to announce he will not seek reelection under the allegations he sexually harassed former members of his staff. The Times sights Ian Conyers, the grandson of the Congressman's brother, who tell the Times he plans to run for that seat.

BRIGGS (voice-over): The 88-year-old Conyers is the longest serving member of the House. He already gave up his position as ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi have both said Conyers should resign. But the younger Conyers expects the congressman to finish his term.

ROMANS: In Oklahoma, a 4.2 magnitude earthquake strike near the town of Harry last night. CNN affiliate KOTV reported the epicenter located 50 miles or so from Oklahoma City. There have been no reports of damage or injuries so far. We'll bring you more information at as it becomes available.

"House of Cards" lives for one final season. Netflix announcing the political drama will return for an eighth season six episode. Robin Wright will be the lead actor and former star Kevin Spacey cut out of the show completely. The fate of "House of Cards" and people who work on the show have been unclear since Netflix cut ties with Spacey last month following accusations of sexual harassment and assault by multiple men. Production on the final season expected to resume early next year.

BRIGGS: They are Houston Strong. Sports illustrated naming Texan star J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve, the World Series Champion Astros, they're Sports Persons of the Year for 2017. The two being honored for combination of on field performance and civic contributions in the wake of hurricane Harvey which devastated Houston and its surrounding area this past summer, Watt has raised more than $37 million and relief aid, both Watt and Altuve honored today at a ceremony in New York.

Later on LaVar Ball pulling his son LiAngelo out of UCLA, what's next for the Big Ballers? Andy Scholes with bleacher report next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: Set your DVRs folks or just sit here and watch LaVar Ball in 8:00 o'clock Hour talking with Chris Cuomo. On Monday, LaVar Ball told his son LiAngelo out of UCLA a month after he was arrested in China for shoplifting.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes more in this morning bleacher report, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning guys. You know, after the shoplifting incident in China, UCLA said the three players were going to have to earn their way back on to the team. Well, apparently, LaVar was tired of waiting for that to happen.

He told ESPN, "We get back over here and the consequences were even stiffer than China. So basically, they're in jail here." The LaVar also saying LiAngelo will not be transferring to another school. The goal is to get ready for the NBA.

Right now, LiAngelo is not a highly regarded NBA prospect. Now, President Trump has been involved in this story. He helped LiAngelo get released in China and then called LaVar "Ungrateful fool when he refused to thank him."

Now, as you said, LaVar going to be joining NEW DAY at the 8:00 a.m. Easter hour to discuss his feud with President Trump and why he pulled his son out of UCLA.

All right. Monday night football between the Steelers and Bengals with one brutal game. First quarter, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier goes limb after delivering hit. He was carted off the field and spent the night in the hospital.

The Steelers say he had an MRI and CT scan. He is not going to require surgery, NFL never reporting he suffered spinal contusion. Later in the game, JuJu Smith- Schuster give blind side Vontaze Burfict with that block right there. Burfict also had to be carted off the field but he would get off of that cart and walk into the locker room in his own.

Now, near of the end the game, Antonio Brown hit just drilled on this touch down catch. Somehow, he held onto the football as the flags reined down on him, 11 personal fouls were called in this games as the Steelers win 23-20.

All right. We had them fireworks in game between the Pelican and the Warriors last night. Late in the game, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins started jawing at each other. They both immediately get ejected and then try to go at each other as they continue to argue. The second time in three games Durant has been ejected.

The Warriors would win the game anyway. But bad news with the team late, Steph Curry rolled his ankle with just 70 seconds left in the game. MRI was negative but he left the arena on crutches. Now, the Warrior's next game is in Charlotte with Curry probably out and he was got been joking mood in despite the injury, kind of joking the most thing he was worried about was telling his dad they weren't going to be able to golf later day in Charlotte, so.

BRIGGS: Yes, golf on the ankle. That's tough. He's a great golfer, Dell Curry. He should probably on the tour. All right, Mr. Scholes, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you. The president is on board with Roy Moore. "Go get 'em, Roy," he says.

The Republican senators aren't warming to the idea. The GOP is split one week before a crucial vote in Alabama.

[05:25:02] BRIGGS: And competing theories from Donald Trump's own lawyers on the Russia probe. Are they relying on facts or legal strategy to clear his name? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIGGS: The president and the RNC on board with Roy Moore. "Go get them, Roy", said the president. But this would be Senate colleagues are not, a new split of the controversy for the Senate candidate one week to Election Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly, the idea that our president is above the law is Nixonian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The president's legal strategy causing widespread confusion, even his own lawyers are on the same page. We have the very latest on the Russian investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You're reopening wounds on them too. Enough is enough. Stop playing around with -- people's lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: And Billy Bush venting in his first public interview since the Access Hollywood tape went public.