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EARLY START

Trump Slams Leaks and Media That Report Them; Trump Backs Away From Two-State Solution; Rex Tillerson in Germany for G-20 Summit; The Bleacher Report; Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 16, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: -- growing this morning following a river of leaks that have proved embarrassing and damaging to the White House.

On the House side of the capital, two top House Republicans are demanding a probe of the intelligence leaks that led to the forced resignation of National Security adviser Michael Flynn. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of House Oversight Committee, and Bob Goodlatte, the Judiciary chairman, they've both written to the Justice Department's inspector general seeking an investigation into whether classified information was mishandled.

They said this, "We have serious concerns about the potential inadequate protection of classified information. Federal laws and the Constitution, distinguished law enforcement investigation authorities from intelligence collection authorities for good reason. The release of classified national security information can, by definition, have grave effects on national security."

Chaffetz's call for this investigation comes just days after he said his Oversight Committee would not look into the circumstances that led to Flynn stepping down.

BERMAN: Meantime, a bipartisan pair of senators is also very interested in the facts surrounding Flynn's downfall. We should add that Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is calling for a select- committee to investigate this. While that's going on, Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, they're on the Judiciary Committee, they have written the Justice Department and the FBI. They want action in a sit-down and an official briefing within two weeks. They also want transcripts of Flynn's call with the Russian ambassador.

They wrote, "Media reports raise substantial questions about the content and context of Mr. Flynn's discussions with Russian officials, the conclusions reached by the Justice Department, and the actions it took in response, as well as possible leaks of classified information by current and former government employees."

KOSIK: President Trump is also focused on leaks. He took direct aim at the Intelligence Community accusing it of leaking and the media for reporting those leaks during a news conference at the White House.

CNN's Jim Acosta was there and has the latest. JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John and Alison,

President Trump is defending his former National Security adviser Michael Flynn despite the fact that he just fired him this week. At a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president slammed the news media and leakers in the government for disclosing that Flynn lied about his calls with the Russian ambassador to the vice president.

Here's what the president had to say at that news conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media. As I call it, the fake media, in many cases.

From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It's criminal action -- a criminal act, and it's been going on for a long time before me, but now it's really going on. And people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: The president declined to answer questions from CNN about reports that Trump advisers were in contact with the Russians during the campaign and we're learning that Vice President Pence is focused on getting to the bottom of how he was misled. Pence was not informed about the matter for roughly two weeks after the president learned the Justice Department had questions about Flynn's actions -- John and Alison.

BERMAN: You heard right there. Jim reporting that Vice President Pence wants some answers. The administration denies that report that the vice president is focused on the Flynn firing and looking for answers and how he was misled. An administration official says the vice president has moved beyond the topic calling any claims to the contrary false.

Also a senior Republican source with knowledge of the investigation the Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials says it is likely that General Flynn will be called to testify along with former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and former CIA director John Brennan. This will likely happen within the Senate Intelligence Committee which is launching right now a broad investigation. Not just into the Flynn phone call, but into the ongoing Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. Perhaps they will get into what the president knew and exactly when he knew it.

An intelligence spokesperson says that General Flynn's access to classified information has been suspended pending review. That is a move considered to be standard procedure.

KOSIK: The Trump administration is looking for a new Labor secretary this morning. Andrew Puzder withdrawing his name just one day before his confirmation hearing amid growing concerns he would not be confirmed. It's a blow to the administration but also to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has said Puzder would be one of the best Labor secretaries in history. McConnell's wife even held the Labor job under President George W. Bush.

But Andrew Puzder also had quite a checkered past of his own as the CEO of the company that owns Hardee's and Carl's Jr. Decades ago, Puzder's ex-wife levied charges of domestic abuse against him, which she later dropped. She also appeared in disguise on Oprah Winfrey's TV show to talk about domestic violence.

His confirmation hearing was delayed five times and he recently revealed that he hired a housekeeper who was undocumented. Puzder's company is facing numerous labor lawsuits. He's also been a critic of Obamacare. He's criticized the $15 minimum wage.

[05:05:03] He's also looked very skeptically at the accuracy of the unemployment rate. So all this upsetting Democrats. Well, now the search is on for a new Labor secretary. Here you go, These are the three. These are the short list for the president. Former National Labor Relations board members Peter Kirsanow and Alexander Acosta, as well as former South Carolina Labor secretary Catherine Templeton.

BERMAN: President Trump is backing away from decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East. He says he would now not insist on a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The shift came at a news conference before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two men stood side by side before holding that meeting that they ultimately held and discuss other things.

The president did push the Israeli prime minister saying that settlement constrictions is not something that he supports.

What is the reaction in Israel this morning? CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem for us right now.

A little bit of a dueling message. No more pushing the two-state solution. But he did nudge the Israeli prime minister on settlements. I have a sense that the prime minister knew that was coming and isn't necessarily, you know, unhappy with the results.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And Netanyahu's government is absolutely hailing that press conference as the beginning of a new era. And we've heard that phrase both in Hebrew and in English. His right-wing government saying this is the end of a Palestinian state with the statements that came out from President Trump and from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many now putting pressure that as many in Israel's government now putting pressure on Netanyahu to continue settlement construction and even to annex parts of the West Bank.

They have effectively ignored that line from the press conference where Trump said halt settlement construction even if only for a little bit just so he can restart or make some moves on the peace process. That, however, is the line that Palestinian leaders have seized upon, saying that Netanyahu should heed Trump's call and should stop settlement construction to resume a peace process. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says he's ready for negotiations.

He's ready and still believes in a two-state solution even as Netanyahu refused to commit to a two-state solution which has been publicly stated opinion for years now. When he was asked, he said the term -- that is, when Netanyahu was asked he said the term two-state solution is a label. He said he doesn't want to talk about labels. He wants to talk about substance.

What is clear here, John, is that Trump's Middle East policies seems very far away from being formulated. It's still vague. It's still ambiguous. We've seen him change his policy on the embassy from moving it to Jerusalem. We've seen him change his policy on settlements. That policy very unclear still at this point.

BERMAN: All right. Oren Liebermann for us in Jerusalem. Thanks so much, Oren.

KOSIK: All right. Let's break down the latest news from Washington this morning. CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott joining us on set this morning.

Good morning to you.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning.

KOSIK: So look, you've got Democrats. You've got Republicans out for blood, out for facts. You've got the top Democrat on the House Intel Committee calling for an investigation. He is not the only one. Listen to what some of what he said and also Debbie Wasserman Schultz as well.

SCOTT: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If it's going to be thorough, we're going to have to look at General Flynn. We're going to have to get those transcripts and we're going to have to call him as a witness. And I don't think the House investigation can be cavened in a way that the Senate investigation does not. We have to follow the facts wherever they may lead.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: With every passing day, it gets more and more disturbing and more and more evident that there was collusion. This requires, it begs, it cries out for an independent bipartisan investigation. Donald Trump should be the first person asking for one. But since I think he likely was part of it, it is not surprising that that hasn't happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: And then you've got other Democrats asking for a 9/11 style investigation. This is going to be big.

SCOTT: It is going to be huge. And I think it's going to be huge in part because you've got different people asking for different things but who still want more information. So one, I have seen lawmakers say they just want to know more about this Flynn situation. But I've also seen other Republicans say they want to know more about the entire relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. And then there of course a few who say we probably should not look at our own party. I think most Americans do want not to move on which is what some lawmakers are requesting.

BERMAN: Look, I think the story right now from the House leadership at least is that they don't want to look into the substance of it necessarily. You see Chairman Chaffetz and Chairman Goodlatte saying they want to investigate the leaks.

SCOTT: Yes.

BERMAN: They're unhappy with how this information came forward. But they're not looking at the possibility of investigating the contacts themselves. The frequent contacts that we're reporting between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials during the campaign. We will see if they face the pressure to change that. But right now what they are saying and what the Trump administration is saying the same thing, Donald Trump is going after leaks. He's criticizing leaks. We heard him at news conferences before. And there's some irony in that, right?

SCOTT: Yes, there is.

BERMAN: Because Donald Trump during the campaign had a much different view of leaks. Watch this.

SCOTT: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable.

[05:10:02] It tells you the inner heart. You've got to read it. Through WikiLeaks today, it's just been shown that this is, as I have been saying, a rigged system. WikiLeaks. Some new stuff. Some brutal stuff. I may not read it to you but the hell with it, just trust me. It's real bad stuff. So today I guess WikiLeaks, it sounds like, is going to be dropping some more. WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So during the campaign, leaks good.

SCOTT: Right.

BERMAN: Now leaks bad. You know, aside from that, Eugene, what kind of pressure will House Republicans face to address the substance of the allegations? What would be the breaking point for them, do you think?

SCOTT: I think this is just one more move from many House Republicans that lawmakers -- not lawmakers, I'm sorry, but their citizens want to see them approach much the Trump administration much harder. I think we saw this past week in Utah, there were residents looking Jason Chaffetz in the face saying, do your job. And they weren't talking about something specific. They were talking more broadly. And to see him suggest that maybe there could be leaks that are more important and what could come from those leaks is going to be problematic to many of those voters.

KOSIK: And -- but some are concerned that some of the information that could come out during these congressional investigations could be classified information and then the worry that that classified information could be leaked to the detriment of, let's say, the United States.

SCOTT: Sure. But I think what Democrats are saying is that the broader concern at this point is national security. And if conservatives are as committed to national security as Trump campaigned on, they will want to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible.

BERMAN: Eugene Scott, stick around. We have more to ask you coming up in the next half hour.

A big, big meeting overseas for the newly minted secretary of State. His first face-to-face in that position with his Russian counterpart. This amidst all the swirling questions about the Trump campaign and Russian contacts. So will that come up today? We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:16:04] KOSIK: With growing scrutiny over the Trump campaign's communications with Russia, newly minted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Germany for the G-20 summit where he'll meet with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Let's go to Bonn, Germany and bring in international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson.

So this meeting between Lavrov and Tillerson, expected to take place on the sidelines but is expected to be a big step as the Trump administration kind of feels its way as to what the future direction is going to be for the relationship between Russia and the United States.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. This is the biggest meeting today that Rex Tillerson will have. He's met already with the Saudi Foreign minister today. They have been speaking about Yemen. He'll be with the British Foreign minister, Italian Foreign minister, with the Turkish Foreign minister, likely the French and the German as well. And that's just on the margins here.

But it's that meeting with Lavrov that's so important. The Russians -- the Russian Foreign Ministry had been complaining, they don't know who their main interlocutors are at the U.S. State Department. Well, today they'll get to meet their number one interlocutor. We're told that that they'll discuss issues of common interest. That's ISIS, that's counterterrorism, that's areas where the two countries can perhaps work together, begs so many more issues about what -- how President Trump wants to approach the conflict in Syria. Obviously coming into that conversation will be the possibility of new U.S. troops being deployed on to the ground inside Syria.

And again Ukraine will be a big feature of the discussion as well because the White House has said that sanctions cannot be lifted on Russia until Russia gets out of Crimea. That goes way beyond what the European nations have said that Russia has to meet the terms of the Minsk Agreement. And we've heard from the Kremlin already, pushing back on that issue, of not wanting to get their troops and their forces out of Crimea.

So a lot on Rex Tillerson's plate here. A very big meeting. And again this is just in the margins of what is already a very, very busy day, Alison.

KOSIK: Absolutely. All right. CNN's Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

BERMAN: Tennis star and swimsuit model Genie Bouchard was so sure the Atlanta Falcons will win the Super Bowl, she agreed to go on a date with a fan if they lost. So did she made good on the bet. I think these pictures sort of give it away? Coy Wire with details in this morning's "Bleacher Report" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:22:19] BERMAN: President Trump decided to break away from a different Obama tradition, one that usually happens around March.

KOSIK: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison and John. President Trump declined ESPN's request to fill out a March Madness bracket for the NCAA tournament. President Obama had made it a tradition to host an ESPN crew each year to fill out a men's and women's bracket. You can find actually two of those brackets at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. And according to the "Washington Post," though, the White House is looking forward to working with ESPN on another opportunity in the near future.

The NBA All-Star festivities tipping off in New Orleans this weekend. And Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis, known for that amazing unibrows says he's honored to represent his new adopted hometown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY DAVIS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: The city of New Orleans has given me so much. I learned a lot from being in the city for the past five years. I'm going to enjoy it. I'm going to try to represent them to my best ability in the all-star game. So when I'm out there and my name gets called as a start and hear the fans scream my name, really loud for me, it will be the best feeling in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WIRE: You can check out some NBA action tonight on TNT. Dwyane Wade and the Bulls hosting John Berman's Boston Celtics at 8:00 Eastern. And Isaiah Thomas is on fire.

One of the coolest things about the NBA All-Star weekend each year is the philanthropy that goes on surrounding the communities there. And part of their building bridges through basketball workshop, the NBA Cares Program will finish a recreational gym in Baton Rouge. Seven former NBA and WNBA stars were there for the grand opening and they're also able to put on a clinic for a lot of deserving young folks that were there.

A familiar face in last year's NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, 22-year- old Canadian tennis star Genie Bouchard currently ranked 44th in the world and she recently rocked the world of one of her fans. She made good on a bet that she has made with 20-year-old Missouri student John Goehrke on Twitter during the Super Bowl. She tweeted that she knew Atlanta would win when they were up 21-0. And John tweeted, well, if the Patriots win, we go on a date. And she agreed. Well, the Pats did come back as well all know and last night the two sat at a Brooklyn Nets game. It's court side, center court there. Check out that fur coat.

It was funny because Genie said that she didn't really actually know what this guy was going to look like. His Twitter avatar was just some random picture. And he showed up, he's actually a pretty looking guy. They don't make a bad looking couple. And guys, she also tweeted, lesson learned. Never bet against Tom Brady.

[05:25:01] BERMAN: That dude looked nervous, though. I have to say. During that date.

KOSIK: I think he looks more nervous than she does. But yes, I think she's doing all the talking in that one.

WIRE: No doubt. Some people were saying that he looked like he was cool, calm and collected. No, he was shaking in his boots, guys.

BERMAN: Exactly. All right. Coy, thanks so much, man.

WIRE: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. Republicans in Congress, some of them calling for an investigation, not into the substance of the Russian contacts with Donald Trump campaign officials. But they want to know who leaked the information.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Republicans in Congress calling for an investigation after leaks embarrassing to the White House. But it's not the content of the leaks some of them want to look into. It's who let the information go public.