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Trump, Bannon Double Down on Moore; U.S. to Recognize Jerusalem as Capital of Israel; California Wildfires Trigger State of Emergency; IOC Bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 6, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:12] STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Let the folks in Alabama decide for Alabama.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon on the attack in Alabama as President Trump doubles down on his endorsement of Roy Moore.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump hours away from making a significant announcement, naming Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite several warnings of potential violence.

ROMANS: And fire emergency in California. Authorities say these fires are out of control. They got low humidity, high winds, a two television productions have been put on hold here, and a whole lot of people are on the move right now.

BRIGGS: Jump on the freeway there in California.

ROMANS: Right. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Wednesday, December 6th, 4:00 a.m. in the East, 1:00 a.m. there in California. We'll get to the fire straight ahead.

But we start in Alabama where Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore starts the home stretch of his campaign today, the final six days with a boost from Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist headlining a campaign event just a day after the president himself endorsed Moore. Moore has been accused of sexual assault and impropriety involving teenage girls.

ROMANS: At last night's event, Bannon slammed several, quote, establishment Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Jeff Flake who earlier tweeted out this. A photo of $100 check, his donations to Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.

The White House meantime not backing down from the president's endorsement.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've said that the allegations are concerning. And if true, he should step aside, but we don't have a way to validate that and that's something for the people of Alabama to decide which we've also said and we maintain that. And ultimately, it will come down to the people of Alabama to make that decision.


ROMANS: CNN's Gary Tuchman covered the rally and has more for us this morning from Fair Hope, Alabama.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, "Sweet Home Alabama", the song, is now playing as this rally has come to an end, this Roy Moore rally that was held in a barn here in southern Alabama. It's a barn that's used as an event space and it was quite an event, a lot of attacks.

It was a Roy Moore rally but the reason so many people showed up was to hear Steve Bannon introduce him. And Steve Bannon went into attack mode. He attacked Democrats. He attacked members of the news media.

But then he really went off on people he called establishment Republicans, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, Arizona U.S. Senator Jeff Flake. But he really reserved his ire for Mitt Romney, the former presidential candidate.

Mitt Romney had tweeted the other day: Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate would be a stain on the GOP and the nation. And listen to what Bannon said.

BANNON: You ran for commander-in-chief. You had five sons, not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have 7,000 dead and 52,000 casualties. And where were the Romneys during these wars? Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in a pinky finger than your entire family has in his whole DNA.

TUCHMAN: We should tell you, many people in the state, particularly Roy Moore supporters, have said this election should be left up to Alabamians. And that's true. It's only Alabamians who will be waiting. But it was Steve Bannon, a non-Alabamian, who really got the headlines here today.

And he also got a tweet from Doug Jones, the Democrat who's running against Roy Moore. Doug Jones said after this event was over: we don't need an outside agitator like Steve Bannon carpet bagging in Alabama -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: Gary, thanks.

In a matter of hours, President Trump will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and he will order the State Department to start the process of moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

A controversial decision stirring up tensions in the Middle East. U.S. allies in the region warning the move undermines stability and sabotaged the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

ROMANS: Calls for protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank prompting this word of caution from the American counsel general in Jerusalem: United States citizens should avoid areas where crowds are gathered.

President Trump plans to sign a waiver delaying the embassy move for another six months. The entire process expected to take several years to complete.

Let's go to CNN's Ian Lee live in Jerusalem.

And, Ian, remind our viewers the significance of moving that embassy. What it says and why -- why it would stoke so many tensions.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's just look at it. Jerusalem is a city that both Israelis and Palestinians want to be the capital of their country. Now, Israel says that they want a United Jerusalem. The Palestinians say they want east Jerusalem and that was going to be determined through negotiations. At least that is the stand of the international community.

[04:40:02] And that's why you see all the embassies in Tel Aviv and not in Jerusalem even though has their government here in Jerusalem.

And so, the United States would be breaking essentially with the international community by moving the embassy and declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel. You know, we've had key American allies warn against this move because it could provoke a backlash on the street, and create instability in the region. Key allies like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have warned against this.

You know, the Israelis have welcomed it. We've heard from a number of officials saying that this is a long time coming that the United States were to do this, but you know, it also comes down to the peace process. What does this mean for peace between Israelis and the Palestinians? We've heard from a number of Palestinian officials who have said that if this move does go forward, which we're expected later today, they said it could kill the peace process and essentially sideline the United States.

ROMANS: All right. Ian Lee, we know you'll be watching it for us. And again, American citizens have been told to avoid large gatherings, large crowds, a lot of folks waiting to see what will happen when the president makes this announcement.

Thank you so much, Ian.

BRIGGS: All right. Significant new developments in the Russia investigation. In just hours, Donald Trump Jr. faces the House Intelligence Committee for a closed door interview. He's sure to be questioned about his contact with Russians during the campaign season and transition.

ROMANS: And meantime, more charges expected to be filed against former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates. Gates' attorney confirming federal prosecutors have warned him superseding indictments may be imminent. The special prosecutor has already charged Gates and former campaign manager Paul Manafort with 12 offenses related to money laundering and foreign lobbying violations.

And, of course, bail now in jeopardy after it was revealed he was ghost writing an op-ed about Ukraine last month with a Russian who has ties to the Kremlin's intelligence service. Manafort's lawyers expected to respond to the op-ed allegation tomorrow.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, advisors to Mike Pence, the vice president, increasingly anxious about his exposure in this widening Russia investigation. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut wants Pence to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Blumenthal wants to hear what Pence knew at the time about then- campaign adviser Michael Flynn's conversation with Russian officials. Seven people close to the vice president tell CNN Pence was unaware Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador about sanctions despite the fact he was the head of the transition team.

ROMANS: But unsealed court findings or court findings and new details about President Trump's own knowledge, Flynn lied to the FBI, all indicate that a wide circle of advisors were aware Flynn raised the sanctions issue with the ambassador. Now many say many in Pence's circle worry he will be called for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. Pence's team is pushing back on that idea. A spokesman saying nothing could be further from the truth. The vice president is focused on passing the largest tax cut in American history.

BRIGGS: President Trump's attorney shooting down claims special counsel Robert Mueller issued a subpoena to Deutsche Bank in order to get his hands on Mr. Trump's personal business dealings. Prosecutors demanded records from the German lender in recent weeks. The president has said inquiries into his financial dealings would be a, quote, violation of the special counsel's mandate.

ROMANS: Later this morning, the wives of the president and the vice president travel to storm-battered south Texas. First Lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence plan to meet with emergency responders and get an updated on the recovery efforts in the region that was, of course, devastated by Hurricane Harvey this summer. They will also meet with families displaced by the hurricane and they'll visit an elementary school and a food bank where they will help volunteers sort boxes of donations.

All right. The Republican bill is headed for conference this week, allowing the House and Senate to iron out some very big differences. But President Trump promises the final product will be better than either version.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a tremendous bill for jobs and for the middle class and I think people see that and they're seeing that more and more, and the more they learn about it the more popular, it becomes.


ROMANS: Perhaps because it's not very popular at the moment. A fresh polling shows fewer than one third of Americans approve of the GOP's tax plan. Both bills promise big corporate tax cuts that add to the deficit with no guarantee it will add jobs or raise wages. In fact, 41 percent of Americans believe it will raise their taxes.

A score from Congress itself finds winners and losers in every tax bracket. And the lowers grow over time. For example, under the Senate plan, 81 percent of Americans earning the median income get a tax cut in 2019.

Now, look by the year 2027. Only 14 percent still get a cut and a fourth would pay more while the biggest benefits go to the top earners.

[04:10:04] unless, of course, you live in one of those big blue states where the repeal --

BRIGGS: Which we do.

ROMANS: -- where the local income tax reduction will hurt middle class families. No question.

There's also this suggestion, Stephen Moore who is an architect -- you know, an advisor to the president on this and someone who contributes here on CNN. He's called this bill death to Democrats -- starves tax breaks for universities, for graduate students, for teachers and for the big blue states and public unions in the big blue states.

BRIGGS: If it's 29 percent nationwide, it's far lower in Connecticut, California, New Jersey and New York, and you talk to people around here, they say it could make me considerably worse off but looks like it's getting through one way or another.

Ahead, firefighters in Southern California battling four raging infernos. Thousands of acres already destroyed, 27,000 residents forced to flee. We'll have the latest for you next.


[04:15:02] ROMANS: Four deadly, destructive wildfires in California triggering a state of emergency there.

In Ventura County, over 50,000 acres burned, more than 150 structures destroyed, 27,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes and these evacuations are underway right now. Three other fires igniting on Tuesday, one in Los Angeles County, torching over 11,000 acres, in just hours. Another in San Bernardino County, injuring three people. And near Santa Clarita, 5,000 acres destroyed. We get from CNN's Sara Sidner in Ventura County for us.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, NASA has put out an incredible picture that if you zoom, you can see at least four different fires burning. And the biggest one is here in Ventura County.

This is the remnants of one of the homes that has been destroyed by the fire and if you look over to my left, you will see that that entire hill had fire coming across it. All it takes are strong winds to blow the embers from that on to a structure like a home and the home goes up very quickly. We've watched it happen time and again.

There are at least 150 homes that have been destroyed in this fire alone, and we're talking about three other major fires that are also burning. But this one so far, we're talking about tens of thousands of acres that have already been burned and it has been very hard throughout the day for firefighters to get it contained because of the winds that have been blowing through very strong winds that at some point some of the winds were upwards of 70 miles per hour.

Imagine that and the fact that it is so dry here and very, very difficult for them to get these flames under control. So far, there are no fatalities and that is the good news, but for the families who have not yet seen their homes, who have not been able to get back into the neighborhoods, this is devastating -- Christine, Dave.


BRIGGS: Boy, it is indeed. Sara, thanks.

Embattled Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers, the longest serving member of the House, also now the first member to resign over the nationwide reckoning over sexual harassment. Eighty-eight-year- old Conyers accused of sexual misconduct toward women on his staff, speaking for the first time since being hospitalized in his home district for stress-related symptoms.

Conyers endorsed his son to replace him in Congress. This morning, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos will join Gretchen Carlson announcing new legislation to fight sexual harassment in the work place.

ROMANS: Legislation in particular that allows people to sue and to not have to do this in secrecy.


ROMANS: You know, to do this in secrecy so that there's -- you know, when you settle these cases and it's quiet and the companies then can write them off as normal business expenses, there's no -- there's nothing to prevent it from happening again.

BRIGGS: No accountability and that's the case with Republican like Farenthold who's still in there despite I think an $80,000 plus settlements still hanging on.

ROMANS: So, we'll see what they introduced later today.

Seventeen minutes past the hour. Stunning development in the sports world. Russia banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics. We'll go live to Moscow for reaction, next.


[04:22:33] BRIGGS: The International Olympic Committee banning Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. The IOC setting what it calls a, quote, systemic manipulation of the anti- doping rules. It will, however, allow certain Russian athletes who prove they're clean to compete under the neutral Olympic flag, still get the Russian anthem if they win a medal.

So, how is this playing out in Russia?

CNN's Claire Sebastian joining us live from Moscow.

Good morning to you, Claire. How will they plan to fight this or are they just going to accept it?

CLAIRE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the big question here this morning, Dave. As yet, a conspicuous silence from the Kremlin, which isn't entirely expected. They have been pretty vocal on this in the past.

But just to give you the backdrop to this, this is about much more than just sports in Russia. This is intensely political. President Putin just last month suggesting that this was even part of an American plot to meddle in the Russian election which is happening in March, just a month after the Winter Games.

And in that vein, we're seeing strongly worded comments coming out in the wake of this decision. One Russian politician describing this as a humiliation and an insult. Another prominent Russian senator out this morning saying this is part of the West policy of containing Russia.

And as for the athletes that would be hoping to compete in the Winter Olympics -- well, they are still it seems formulating their response to this. There's a meeting scheduled for December 12th where the prospective Olympians will gather and figure outs whether they're going to go and compete under the neutral flag. So, a lot of questions still remaining about that.

But some very heightened emotions here this morning. And as I say, we still wait to hear an official response from the Kremlin, Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, no government response, but we are seeing some reports of 22 athletes challenging their lifetime bans with the court of arbitration for sport. I will check back with you next hour. Claire Sebastian, live with us from Moscow.

This is a huge development. Consider that the United States can't even put down our sanctions on Russia that were due a couple of months ago.


BRIGGS: This is one of the power houses in the Olympics. So, to take them out changes the entire dynamic.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

The president, President Trump, standing by his full support of Roy Moore. The president's endorsement causing major problems for the Republican Party.


TRUMP: We don't want to have a liberal in Alabama, believe me.




[04:29:26] BANNON: Let the folks in Alabama decide for Alabama.


BRIGGS: Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon on the attack in Alabama as President Trump doubles down on his endorsement of Roy Moore.

ROMANS: And the president hours away now from making a significant announcement naming Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite warnings of potential violence.

BRIGGS: State of emergency in California as authorities say the fires are out of control. Fifty thousand acres of Ventura County, hooped the 101 Freeway. A terrifying scene there on the West Coast. We get to that story shortly.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.