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EARLY START

Donald Trump, Jr. Faces House Intel Committee; Democratic Senators Call On Franken To Resign; Raging Wildfires In Southern California; Trump Recognizes Jerusalem As Israel's Capital. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 7, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:31:02] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump, Jr. refusing to tell the House Intelligence Committee about conversations he had with his father over that now-infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Al Franken expected to make a big announcement this morning. Dozens of his colleagues urging him to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations.

BRIGGS: Firefighters in Southern California racing against time and intense winds as all of L.A. County is now under extreme fire danger warnings. This is a terrifying situation out there in California. We'll go live there shortly.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

And, Donald Trump, Jr. on the House Intel hot seat for eight hours, and it's what the president's son refused to tell House members that's raising eyebrows this morning.

The main focus of Wednesday's closed-door session, a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Don, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer, designed to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

House investigators pressed Trump, Jr. about his father's knowledge of that meeting but he refused to tell them what he and his dad discussed, citing attorney-client privilege.

BRIGGS: President Trump did participate in the crafting of his son's initial response to reports of the meeting. That statement turned out to be misleading, suggesting it was about Russian adoptions while failing to mention the purpose was to gather information on Clinton.

Here's the ranking member of the House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He acknowledged discussing that matter with his father but refused to answer questions about that discussion on the basis of a claim of attorney-client privilege. In my view, there is no attorney-client privilege that protects a discussion between father and son. This particular discussion revolves around a pivotal meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: All right. Schiff, by the way, is going to be live on "NEW DAY" this morning, so tune in for that.

And for more on Donald Trump, Jr.'s testimony let's turn now to CNN's senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison and Dave.

Now, Donald Trump, Jr. had a marathon session with the House Intelligence Committee talking about his interaction with the Russians during the campaign season. And one thing that they focused on in particular was that June 2016 meeting in which Donald Trump, Jr., we now know, was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign from Russians and was informed that Russians -- the Russian government wanted to help his father's campaign.

Now we are learning that Donald Trump, Jr. did have a meeting with his father after the reports were published but he did not tell the committee yesterday what he and his father were talking about.

In fact, he cited attorney-client privilege, saying that because attorneys were in the room there was no reason for him to disclose this information because it was covered by attorney-client privilege. That's something that Democrats balked at.

Now, at the same time he was asked about the response that initially was misleading about the Trump Tower meeting when the White House -- when Donald Trump, Jr. said it was mainly about Russian adoptions -- well, it turns out that the White House was involved, at least to some extent.

Donald Trump, Jr. said that he texted with Hope Hicks who is now the communications director for the White House. Did not talk to his father about that response, but talked to Hope Hicks about the response.

And given the fact that we now know that was not a fully accurate picture about what happened, it is raising a lot of questions among investigators about whether or not the White House was trying to work to mislead the public and potentially even the investigation. We'll see what the White House has to say later today -- Alison and Dave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Manu Raju, thanks. Meanwhile, an unidentified whistleblower claims former National Security adviser Michael Flynn told a business colleague sanctions against Russia would be quote, "ripped up" and he did it will President Trump was being inaugurated.

The whistleblower telling his story to Congressman Elijah Cummings. He claims Flynn texted his associate that a plan to build nuclear reactors with Russia in the Middle East was quote, "good to go right after sanctions against the Kremlin were dropped."

[05:35:06] KOSIK: The whistleblower's account is the strongest claim to date suggesting the administration was focused on unraveling the sanctions that President Obama had just imposed, and that Flynn had a personal motivation to make it happen.

Last week, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian ambassador.

BRIGGS: As calls for his resignation mount, embattled Minnesota Democrat Sen. Al Franken expected to make an announcement today, presumably about his political future.

Thirty-two of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, including party leader Chuck Schumer, now say Franken should step down.

It comes as a sixth woman accuses Franken of inappropriate touching.

Let's go live to Washington and bring in "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan. Tal, good morning to you.

KOSIK: Welcome back, Tal.

TAL KOPAN, REPORTER, CNN POLITICS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Kirsten Gillibrand has really been out front in all of this. Here's what she said about no longer tolerating sexual harassment in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Obviously, there were new allegations today and enough is enough. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard.

I do not feel that he should continue to serve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: All right, credit where it's due, albeit a bit slow. They have drawn that line against sexual harassment. Franken appears to be on his way out. John Conyers, longtime Democratic congressman, is out.

But it is Washington so you have to view this a bit skeptical. Is it, perhaps, a political play claiming the moral high ground with Roy Moore, perhaps, on his way to the Senate and Blake Farenthold staying put in Texas despite an $84,000 sexual harassment lawsuit and Republicans saying nothing? Is this a political play?

KOPAN: Well, I don't think you can say it's only a political play.

Certainly, you know, it took Democratic senators a while to get here and actually -- I watched Gillibrand speak the day before she came out against Al Franken and it was almost torture watching her say she wasn't ready to call on him to resign that day, even as she was saying we can't tolerate any of this behavior.

So, you know, certainly, you can say this is a matter of Democrats getting their house in order and saying if they want to have a no- tolerance policy they have to start with themselves. And yes, one of the effects of that is that they then have the ability to call on their Republican colleagues to have the same level of scrutiny of their members.

So I think it's all a swirl of these factors. But certainly, if you're a party, you can't call on the other party to close ranks around a member if you aren't doing the same with your own members.

BRIGGS: We certainly haven't heard the last of this as we approach 2018.

KOSIK: Oh yes, you said it.

OK, let's stay on Capitol Hill for a moment and where the tax bill is still being hashed out between the House and the Senate. So the ink's not even dry and we're already seeing the GOP kind of -- kind of focus on something beyond the tax bill, and we're talking about entitlements.

I want you to listen to what House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show yesterday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt. And then, welfare reform, too. We think it's important to get people from welfare to work.

We have a welfare system that's basically trapping people in poverty and effectively pay people not to work, and we've got to work on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: OK. Then, Bernie Sanders pounced. He tweeted this.

"There it is. Paul Ryan just admitted that after providing $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top one percent and large corporations Republicans will try to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and help for the most vulnerable Americans."

Have at it, Tal.

KOPAN: Yes, this is going to be tough for Republicans, there's no doubt. I mean, this has been a third rail of American politics for quite a long time. You typically -- once a benefit is given to the public, don't take it away.

It's a very difficult lift just on its face and Democrats are going to hammer them on this, without a doubt. And especially use President Trump's own comments from the campaign trail saying he didn't want to go after Medicare and Social Security.

It's going to be incredibly difficult and, you know, Republicans have not shown a particular ability to muscle through very difficult bills. Their tax cut bill is still not done and signed yet.

So, you know, this may be aspirational -- we'll see. But if this is what they turn to next it's going to be a heavy lift.

KOSIK: Yes. It's important to note -- to point out that President Trump did say that he wouldn't cut Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare.

BRIGGS: And he hasn't weighed in on this. It just becomes difficult when you consider that the tax bill adds a trillion and a half, at minimum, to the deficit to then return to concerns of a debt and the deficit, but we'll see how they make that pivot.

Speaking of, the president has been relatively quiet on Twitter the last couple of days. I recommend he stay off of it this morning because of the hashtag #DentureDonald. #DentureDonald is trending on Twitter across the country. Here's why.

[05:40:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And God bless the United States. Thank you very much.

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, THE COMEDY NETWORK, "THE DAILY SHOW": President Trump is wearing dentures, people. I know that this is just a theory right now but we need to get to the truth. So I say forget the Mueller investigation and bring on the molar investigation. We know what's happening, people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Yes, the molar investigation. You are not a dentist, a doctor -- you are not a lawyer. We asked you not to weigh in on privilege, but what's happening here? Any thoughts on that?

KOPAN: Well look, I think it's evidence of how once you're in that hot seat and you're in the presidency, people look at everything you do. And, you know, it sort of comes with the territory. You have to be prepared for people to analyze every move.

And, you know, it is also understandable for the American people to be concerned about the health of the commander in chief. And while we have no idea if there are any issues here, that level of scrutiny is going to happen.

And, as you say, his Twitter has been quiet lately. But you have to wonder what he might say about Trevor Noah if he sees that clip.

BRIGGS: Thanks. Thanks -- I couldn't resist.

Tal Kopan, thank you. We appreciate it.

KOSIK: Thanks so much.

BRIGGS: All right.

KOSIK: A --

BRIGGS: What's coming up?

KOSIK: A state of emergency in California as firefighters are battling four wildfires and thousands of residents are fleeing. We're going to go live to Southern California, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:45:51] KOSIK: It's about 45 minutes after the hour.

Four raging wildfires consuming Southern California. Over 100,000 residents in the San Fernando Valley and 50,000 more in Ventura County forced to evacuate.

The Thomas fire in Ventura burning 90,000 acres and the flames have now reached Los Angeles. That's America's second-biggest city.

The director of California's Fire Protection giving a dire forecast, saying the color-coded system that forecasts wind strength has reached the top level of purple, adding we've never used purple before.

BRIGGS: Yikes. All of L.A. County under an extreme fire danger warning. Several homes in Bel Air destroyed. The 405 Freeway, the nation's busiest highway, shut down for most of the day.

Nearly 300 Los Angeles schools closed. UCLA has closed its campus today.

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik tweeting these images from the International Space Station. It really gives you a sense of the size of these massive fires.

Let's get the latest now from CNN's Dan Simon, live in Bel Air.

Dan, we understand those winds that Alison mentioned, the biggest detriment. How windy is it now?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, it's relatively calm, Dave, but of course there is concern that the winds could pick up. That you might see even hurricane-force winds and that can really make things even worse here in Southern California. Let me show you where we are here in Bel Air. You can see the folks here from Engine 71 putting out some of the hotspots. This is one of the homes that was destroyed in Bel Air.

And this firefighter right here just trying to get rid of some of the flames that are still smoldering inside this garage. It looks like he's pretty much gotten them out.

And as far as the Bel Air neighborhood itself goes, they are pretty optimistic that they've locked this fire down. That they aren't seeing any active flame at the moment. But, of course, again, the wind being the critical factor if the winds do pick that there perhaps might be a flying ember somewhere that could spread this fire even more.

But things have really been paralyzed throughout the region -- throughout Southern California.

And right now, as a matter of fact, in Ventura County we just saw things really picking up there with the wind. We saw some flames getting dangerously close to some homes. There is a brush fire there that's active that crews are continuing to work on.

But, wow, you have so many people that have been evacuated throughout all of these communities. And again, the critical factor being just the wind. That if the winds continue to die down, if the weather cooperates, then fortunately -- or at least hopefully, people will be able to get back to their homes -- Dave.

BRIGGS: All right, man. One of 2,000 firefighters on the line.

Dan Simon, thanks so much.

Time for a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY" and Chris Cuomo joining us. Chris, good morning to you. You are always --

KOSIK: Good morning, Chris.

BRIGGS: -- all over the legalese of what's going on in this Russian investigation. So, attorney-client privilege really under the microscope today. Does it fit what Donald Trump, Jr. was claiming yesterday?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Nope.

BRIGGS: Blunt.

KOSIK: There you go. There's your answer.

BRIGGS: Rip off that Band-Aid. All right, buddy. What's coming up on the show?

CUOMO: Listen, though, people can Google. There's actually a case. I think it's called U.S. Shoe or United Shoe. But just Google attorney-client privilege and shoe and I think the case is going to come up. Do it while we're doing this.

BRIGGS: I'm on it.

KOSIK: He's on it.

CUOMO: Dave, I'll think of something else to say why Dave Googles it.

But there are basically five categories of it and what was going on there -- usually, the attorney is the one who says I can't talk to you about this because it's privileged with my client.

But there are different conditions. It's a little amorphous. There's not a straight test for it.

But this is not the kind of situation if, for no other reason, there was someone else present during these conversations. And there is an exclusivity to attorney-client privilege, meaning that if you aren't my client and you and I are talking, then I won't be able to testify against you because, you know, I was recommending you.

So I have to be hired to do that. That has to be your legitimate intention is to use me as counsel. It has to be exclusive to you and me. It can't be in furtherance of a crime or a fraud, or a court can compel me to disclose whatever it is anyway.

[05:50:02] So, here's a test. You can Google it, you can see. This seems to be strategic.

Now, remember this, though. There are big questions that are of importance about this meeting. One, why did he seem to mischaracterize it, OK, and that could go in different directions.

What did the president know and when did he know? Why is that important? Well, because it will go to a reckoning of coordinated behavior.

But remember, at the end of the day, collusion is not a crime. Conspiracy is a crime and it's people's agreement to commit a crime. So you'd still need a crime in furtherance of this cooperation --

BRIGGS: Right.

CUOMO: -- and coordination.

And that's why the third question that's important for Trump, Jr. is what happened after this meeting?

So we're going to tackle all of that -- all the different vagaries.

And we're also going to look about with Al Franken. Who thinks he resigns today?

BRIGGS: (Raises hand).

CUOMO: What do you think? You think that's what's going to happen?

KOSIK: (Raises hand).

CUOMO: Both of you, huh?

BRIGGS: Yes.

CUOMO: It's interesting because, you know, his office pushed back so hard --

BRIGGS: Yes.

CUOMO: -- on that reporting. Maybe that wasn't could let the news get ahead of him.

KOSIK: I think he wanted it on his own time.

CUOMO: But it's a very interesting turn of events and it's a very interesting pressure dynamic. And I don't know that it's as simple that it's being covered as right now.

Anyway, were you able to find the case or was it --

BRIGGS: Nineteen fifty, a case. The United States versus United Shoe Machinery Corporation. How about them apples? Cuomo is good.

KOSIK: Nice job.

CUOMO: It's my new haircut.

KOSIK: You're very good.

BRIGGS: He's not just --

CUOMO: Don't touch the top. Don't touch the power alleys.

BRIGGS: It's what's in there, dude. All right, we'll see you in a little bit.

CUOMO: Don't touch the power alleys. I ain't Dave Briggs. I've got to hold on to what I have.

KOSIK: We'll be watching, Chris. Thanks so much.

CUOMO: Thanks, man. See you in a bit.

Ahead, global backlash after President Trump announced he's moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Even U.S. allies condemning the move. We'll go live for the latest reaction in Israel, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:04] BRIGGS: All right.

The decision by President Trump to officially recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital sparking strong reaction across the Middle East. Saudi Arabia warning of serious consequences, while the Palestinian president is condemning the move, saying the president made quote, "the biggest mistake of his life."

Let's go live to CNN's Ian Lee live in the West Bank where protests are underway, picking up there at just about 1:00 p.m. -- Ian.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, behind me is some chanting and protesters have been gathering in Al-Manara Square. That's the main square here in Ramallah. But you've had protests like this all over the West Bank, as well as Jerusalem and Gaza. People angry about President Trump's decision.

I'm going to show you over here. You have -- just to show you kind of the mood. You have these stores that are closed and that's because there's been a call for a general strike in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Closing down the stores, closing down the schools. People going out into the streets to voice their anger.

We've heard a lot of frustration just talking to people here. They're frustrated with -- for a couple of reasons.

First, with the United States. They say the United States has always portrayed itself as a partner in peace and they say that the United States showed their true colors. That's what people are telling me, saying that they were always with the Israelis.

The other thing that we're hearing from people, too, is frustration with their political leadership. They say that they don't feel that they've been represented well and they say that's why you're seeing people go to the streets.

And one thing a protester told me is that the people on the street are going to be driving this narrative, not the politicians. That they're angry, they're fed up.

One person said that this is going to be the next Palestinian Intifada and we heard that earlier this morning from a Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza, saying this will bring about the third Palestinian Intifada.

So really, a lot of raw emotions here in the Palestinian territories.

BRIGGS: Back here, many say the president kept a promise and the status quo got us no closer to a Middle East peace deal.

Ian Lee live for us. Thank you.

KOSIK: OK. President Trump is meeting today with leaders from both parties to try to avoid a government shutdown. And if lawmakers don't pass a government spending bill by Friday, the government will shut down and that could wind up putting a real dent in the economy.

The chief economist at S&P Global published a report on Thursday titled, "With A U.S. Government Shutdown, Ho Ho Ho Will Become Boo- Hoo." She argues that a shutdown would hurt consumer spending heading into the holidays.

The S&P Global team estimates a $6.5 billion loss from real GDP growth for each week of a shutdown. That would knock off two percent off GDP.

Now, growth has strengthened over the past two quarters despite hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and a tight labor market.

It's never a good time for a government shutdown.

BRIGGS: Never, no.

KOSIK: Thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF: In my view, there is no attorney-client privilege that protects a discussion between father and son.

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: From my perspective, all of our questions were answered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only reason you come up with a cockamamy legal strategy is to conceal something.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: And there's a pattern. Those are grounds for termination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Franken's going to speak to this. He's acknowledged that his conduct was very serious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are the Republican voices? Where is their outrage? This is a time where we can make a culture change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is burned down to the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest threat is and will always continue to be the wind. Grab your family members, grab a couple of things that you need, and get out now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)