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EARLY START

GOP Memo Changed, Was White House Involved?; Another Loyalty Request; North Korean Athletes Arrive in South Korea; Countdown to Super Bowl LII. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 1, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Rene Marsh. It is Thursday, February 1st. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East, 7:00 p.m. in Pyeongchang, where things are starting off this morning, that is where the Olympics --

[05:00:05] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, right on the edge of the Olympics. Are you excited?

MARSH: I'm excited. I know you are.

BRIGGS: I love the Olympics.

MARSH: Sports guy.

BRIGGS: Yes.

MARSH: Well, an escalating public feud with the FBI and the president over a classified memo which the president could release as soon as today. FBI Director Chris Wray clashing very publicly with the president over the memo pushed by Republican Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intel Committee. Wray issuing a rare public warning expressing grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy.

BRIGGS: The comments from president Trump's own FBI chief coming after two days of private talks where top Justice Department officials tried to convince the White House not to release the memo.

Here is Chief of Staff John Kelly on the document's release.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Our national security lawyers in the White House that work for me, work for the president, they are slicing and dicing it and looking at it so that we know what it means.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see it?

KELLY: I did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think?

KELLY: It will be released pretty quick I think and the world can see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: President Trump was overheard after the State of the Union telling a Republican congressman he will 100 percent release the memo.

MARSH: Well, Chairman Nunes accused of making significant changes to the classified memo. The ranking Democrat on the House Committee Adam Schiff said Nunes sent a memo to the White House that was quote materially different than the one the committee approved along party lines.

BRIGGS: Congressman Schiff demanding the committee vote again on whether they should release it. Nunes spokesman does not dispute changes were made but only how significant they were, saying, quote, in the increasingly strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo, the committee minority is now complaining about minor edits to the memo and including grammar fixes and two requests by the FBI and the minority themselves.

MARSH: What is not clear is exactly what changes were made and why his staff was pushing to check for the changes and whether the White House had any hand in the changes at all.

BRIGGS: Nunes refused to tell colleagues whether his had spoken to the White House.

Democratic Committee member Mike Quigley tells CNN he does not believe Nunes was being candid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He is with a few staff, I think, acting as an agent for the White House and has for an entire year. This is the president of the United States acting to defend himself legally and politically at the expense of our national security, and complicit in that is the speaker of the House and Chairman Nunes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Congressman Nunes also a key figure in another episode of Donald Trump asking for loyalty from the FBI official. CNN reporting exclusively Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited the White House in December to ask the president for help fighting off document requests from Nunes. Mr. Trump wanted to know where the special counsel's Russia investigation was heading. Our sources tell us the president also asked Rosenstein if he was, quote, on his team.

MARSH: We're told the deputy attorney general was surprised by the president's question and responded, of course. We're all on your team, Mr. President.

That conversation could raise further questions about whether the president was seeking to interfere in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. No comment from the Justice Department or the White House. BRIGGS: All right. Let's bring in CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan,

live for us in our Washington bureau this morning. Good to see you, Tal.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's start with the split, if you will, with the White House and their own FBI and Justice Department. How significant is this?

KOPAN: Well, certainly, it's got to be confusing for the American people to a certain extent. You rarely see this aggressive going after one of the premier law enforcement institutions in the United States. Typically, the Justice Department is sort of held separately and its law enforcement agencies as sort of above partisan politics.

So, you know, who you think is in the right right now may be heavily influenced by your existing sort of political leanings. But, you know, just that fact alone is fairly significant that you have a rare instance of a political split over how the American people are viewing the Justice Department and FBI which is a remarkable turn of events for an American institution that at least for many years recently had been viewed with a lot more sort of evenness across party lines.

BRIGGS: Yes.

MARSH: You know, a lot of this has gotten to politically messy. But, Tal, as far, you know, will the president release it? Will he not? We are hearing he will.

I mean, break it down for us. What does he have to gain by releasing it and what does he lose potentially as well by releasing it?

[05:05:00] KOPAN: Yes, that's right. Rene, you know, when you look at what he has to gain, and this is what Democrats are accusing Republicans of. It certainly makes the case stronger based on what we know about the memo which only a few people have seen. What we know about the memo is it sort of makes the case there were abuses of the FISA system, you know, abuses by the FBI.

When you have the president who has already been accusing the intel community and FBI of coming after him in a way that is unfair -- by releasing the memo he can feed that narrative and continue to feed the seeds of doubt in his supporters' minds if there is any substance to the investigation into Russian meddling. But at the same time, when you talk about what he has to lose, I mean, certainly his relationship with the intel community has been strained.

Again, we are talking about the fraying of trust in American institutions. Which, you know, to a certain extent, broadly, it's incredibly concerning in the American public. So, it's not an easy choice necessarily when you factor in all of those things.

BRIGGS: All right. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intel Committee, he has been running around time for the past year, basically actively auditioning for a role in POTUS P.I. in the future, but all the while, Paul Ryan is really escaped scrutiny in all of this and Adam Schiff, the Democrat, Nunes Democrat counterpart takes to "The Washington Post" to write about that. He says Ryan lacks the courage to stop Nunes. And as Ryan seems not to understand the central bargain underpinning the creation of the intelligence committees after Watergate, goes on to say, because they pledged to handle classified information responsibly and without regard to politics.

Devin Nunes deserves some criticism here. What about Paul Ryan? And how does he escape scrutiny in all of this? He could stop any of it.

KOPAN: Yes, it is incredible how the Republicans who are not involved in this are sort of trying to stay far away as possible, which, you know, to an extent means that they are sort of silent on whether or not. And you do hear Republicans expressing concern about the sullying of the FBI's name and whether, you know, that's fair. Many Republicans have expressed confidence in the FBI as a non-partisan institution.

You don't hear a lot of that from Paul Ryan. He's sort of -- in some ways, taking a position by not taking a position. But certainly the reporting is that so far, at least behind the scenes, he's also backed up Devin Nunes and allowed him to continue his work. When the Justice Department officials came to him with complaints, he sort of stood by the chairman. So, certainly Democrats are now pointing their ire at him as well trying to lump him in with colleagues.

BRIGGS: All right. Tal, you cover immigration, so let's ask you about the likelihood of an immigration deal getting done in about 30 minutes. Thank you.

All right. Special counsel -- she chuckled, so we know where we're learning.

Special counsel Mueller training his sights on White House communications director Hope Hicks and her role in the aftermath of the Trump Tower meeting between senior campaign aides and a Russian lawyer. "The New York Times" reporting this morning that Hicks allegedly told President Trump on a conference call that e-mails by Donald Trump Jr., quote, will never get out. The e-mails prove the purpose of the meeting with the Russian was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

MARSH: That's right. Three sources tell "The Times" that a former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo was concerned that Hicks could be thinking of obstructing justice. Corallo plans to tell the special counsel all about this call. Hicks' lawyer denied she ever said that or suggested that the e-mails would be destroyed.

BRIGGS: Another prominent Republican House member Trey Gowdy is calling it quits. The South Carolina congressman who chairs the Oversight Committee says he will not run for a fifth term. A former federal prosecutor, he says he plans to return to the justice system. There has been a spike of Republicans headed for the exits ahead of the midterm elections.

At least 38 have announced they are leaving their seats. Unlike many of his Republican colleagues, Gowdy was not facing a tough re-election campaign. Democrats need to pick up 24 House seats in November to retake the majority.

MARSH: The GOP retreat in West Virginia going on as planned today after a train carrying dozens of Republican lawmakers hit a truck, you're looking at those images there. That happened on Wednesday. The driver of that vehicle was killed. Four people remain in the hospital. All members of the Congress and their family members on the train are OK.

Minnesota Congressman Jason Lewis was taken to the hospital for a potential concussion. The NTSB said it's sending its go-team to the scene to investigate exactly what happened.

The president will make remarks at the retreat today.

BRIGGS: The deadline to raise the debt ceiling moving closer thanks largely to the new tax law. If Congress doesn't raise the debt limit by early March, the Treasury Department will run out of cash. That's according to the Congressional Budget Office.

[05:10:02] It originally estimated the U.S. had until April, but the new tax bill reduces government revenue. So, starting today, workers will pay about $15 billion less in payroll taxes each month. That's great news for you, but with less money coming in, the special accounting measures the treasury uses will tap out sooner than planned. In a letter this week, Secretary Steve Mnuchin told lawmakers the treasury can fund through February, but urged them to increase the limit as soon as possible. If they don't, it will prevent the U.S. from paying its bills on time and defaulting would be chaotic, could shake financial markets and delay social security checks or other government payments.

MARSH: Well, this weekend is the Super Bowl. President Trump has decided not to do a Super Bowl interview this weekend. Sources at NBC say that the White House has rejected their interview request. They say the president still has the open invitation if he happens to change his mind. A pre-Super Bowl sit down with the commander-in- chief has been tradition over the past decade.

When FOX televised the game last year, Mr. Trump was interviewed by then-FOX anchor Bill O'Reilly.

BRIGGS: I'm excited for the Super Bowl.

MARSH: So am I.

BRIGGS: Also the Olympics, eight days away. Activity in Pyeongchang overnight includes the arrival of North Koreans.

We're live at the site of the Olympics, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:15:32] MARSH: Well, North Korea's athletes arriving in South Korea ahead of the Winter Games which kickoff in a little more than a week. It is closely watched as observers hope for a potential breakthrough in the tension with the Korean peninsula.

Our Paula Hancocks is part of the CNN team covering the Olympic games from Pyeongchang. She joins us live this morning.

Good morning, Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Rene.

Well, the final North Korean delegation has now arrived here in South Korea. Just not long ago, there was a plane that flew from North Korea to South Korea which is highly unusual in itself, the two countries still technically at war. And yet, at this time, talks progressed and the delegation of 32 members came into South Korea. They'll be going to the athlete's village next.

We just have the opening ceremonies for two athlete villages in Pyeongchang and also about a half hour drive where some of the Olympic venues are located. We have a number of ice hockey players, women's ice hockey teams are joint with the South Korean and North Korean players playing alongside each other and, of course, they will also be marching out of the opening ceremony under that unified flag.

This is what President Moon Jae-in of South Korea wanted when he said this was built as the peace Olympics. He wanted North Korea to be part of it and they are. So, it is a significant moment for the organizers of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. It is the biggest Olympics ever with the athletes and according to the South Koreans, it will be the peace Olympics -- Dave.

MARSH: All right. Paula Hancocks reporting live for us this morning in South Korea -- thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. The Eagles pulling out all of the stops to beat the Patriots. Will a wrestling match do the trick?

Andy Scholes is live in frigid Minneapolis with the bleacher report. He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:21:58] BRIGGS: All right. Tom Brady making his eighth appearance in the Super Bowl this Sunday. This one extra special is due to close ties with the state of Minnesota.

MARSH: That's right. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report" from Minneapolis.

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys.

You know, Tom Brady grew up as California kid, he grew up in California. But his mom's family is from Browerville, Minnesota, population of less than 800 people. It is two hours away from here in downtown Minneapolis. Tom Brady telling us yesterday the state of Minnesota has a special place in his heart. Much of his mom's family still lives here. He says some of his favorite memories growing up is when he would come to Minnesota in the summer and spend time on his grandfather's farm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: It is very special. I come here my entire life. Since I was a baby I have been coming to Minnesota, in summers and winters. I love the experience. I love the life here. Some of the great memories as a kid were coming here and milking cows with my grandpa and hanging up in his silos and up in his haystack up in the barn.

It was great. I love it here. It's a great state. Obviously I love the people, obviously. And my mom's here and it is a special connection.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: And Brady also joked that in his previous trips to Minnesota, he had no problems getting tickets for family and friends here in the state. This time it is proving a little more difficult considering it is the Super Bowl. He is still working on it.

The Philadelphia Eagles meanwhile, we're wearing seeing dog masks over the last two weeks as they embraced the underdog role. Yesterday, their start defensive player Fletcher Cox was the talk of the media session as he was wearing a Lucha Libre mask for the entire time. Now, he wore it the entire time, because he was told, if he did, he would have special power during the Super Bowl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLETCHER COX, EAGLES DEFENSIVE TACKLE: It was a gift from Mexico. He told me to put it on, kept it on the whole time after the picture. I thought I would look cool during the interview. Yes. It is a gift. He is not getting it back by the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: So, Cox has a big game in the Super Bowl, we may see more of the Lucha Libre wrestling masks here at the big game. We are inside here this morning because it is physically impossible to be outside. Negative two outdoors right now. I tell you what, going outdoors later to do fun festivities.

BRIGGS: That's without the wind.

SCHOLES: That is without the wind. And I'm going to brave the outdoors this afternoon to do some fun stuff. I wanted to see how that goes. I plan on wearing 320 layers.

BRIGGS: I'm going to join you, buddy.

MARSH: Dave saw negative 18 wind chill, and he's a little nervous. He doesn't think he has enough clothes.

BRIGGS: I'm supposed to get on a plane in two hours, Scholes, but I may reconsider. I will see you in a couple of hours, though.

[05:25:01] Looking forward to it.

SCHOLES: I'm not used to this.

BRIGGS: All right. Have fun.

MARSH: All right. Back in Washington, D.C., a public dispute escalating with the president and his own Justice Department. We learned a Republican memo alleges abuses at the FBI was changed after the Intel Committee saw it. Did anyone help Chairman Devin Nunes? That story is coming up.