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Mitt Romney Rips President Trump In Op-Ed; Trump Holds Firm On Border Wall Funding; Detained America's Family Denies Russia Spy Claim; South Braces For Heavy Rain And Possible Flooding. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired January 2, 2019 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:45] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: "The president has not risen to the mantle of the office," so says Mitt Romney. He is making his presence known in a blistering op-ed just before he takes his Senate seat.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Today, the first bipartisan meeting since the government shutdown began. Is a deal possible to end the shutdown costing 800,000 government workers their paychecks?

ROMANS: The family of an American detained in Russia denies any charges of espionage. Was Paul Whelan detained as payback for the Russia investigation?

BRIGGS: And somebody in New York waking up $425 million richer before taxes. We have the lucky numbers and where the ticket was sold.

Happy New Year, everybody. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And for the rest of us we have credit card bills from all of that shopping.

BRIGGS: Oh, that's our gift to start the new year.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Thirty-one minutes past the hour. Happy New Year, everyone. Nice to see you.

Our top story this morning, Mitt Romney unloading on President Trump before he even takes his seat in the U.S. Senate. The incoming Republican senator from Utah writing this scathing op-ed in "The Washington Post". He claims the president's behavior over the past two years is, quote, "evidence that he has not risen to the mantle of the office."

Romney has been a frequent critic of the president but they appeared to mend fences after the 2016 election when Romney was being considered for Secretary of State.

BRIGGS: While Romney says he agrees with some of Mr. Trump's policies, he writes, "A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. It is in this province where the incumbent's shortfall has been most glaring."

The op-ed indicates Romney is planning to be the president's new Republican foil in the Senate with Bob Corker and Jeff Flake both departing.

ROMANS: President Trump's 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, responded to the Romney op-ed. He tweeted this. "Jealousy is a drink best served warm and Romney just proved it."

Mitt Romney will speak with Jake Tapper today. "THE LEAD" airs at 4:00 p.m. eastern on CNN.

BRIGGS: All right, let's go live to Washington and bring in "CNN POLITICS" digital director Zachary Wolf --

ROMANS: Hi, Zach.

BRIGGS: -- who loves him some warm drinks called jealousy. I don't know where Brad was going with that.

But let's start with Mitt Romney, my friend -- and Happy New Year to you. I know this, Mitt Romney's going to be very busy in 2019 because he says he will "speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions."

That's going to cover an awful lot of territory given this president's words and tweets.

But how effective will Mitt Romney be? What can he accomplish?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS: So part of the question, I think, is what is he trying to accomplish? Is he just going to be criticizing the president when he feels that it's necessary? Is he going to lead some kind of revolt in the Republican Party against the president? I kind of doubt that.

We've seen a lot of criticism of President Trump from people like -- you know, you mentioned Jeff Flake, Bob Corker. They're both jobless at the moment having decided not to run for reelection, in large part because of backlash against them for opposing him.

So I think -- I think what will be interesting to find out is, is this Mitt Romney sort of the vanguard of a new -- Republicans newly- embolden to criticize the president or is this sort of the last gasp of anti-Trumpism in the GOP after the president has effectively taken the party over?

ROMANS: And it's one thing, you point out, to criticize. It's another thing to vote against him. And he made a point in that op-ed of saying there are some policies in the Trump administration, most notably cutting that corporate tax rate, that he agrees with.

WOLF: Right. It almost -- when I was reading it, it almost felt like it was the anonymous op-ed. He was praising the very same things that a lot of Republicans have liked about the Trump administration and being frustrated by just about everything else.

ROMANS: He makes a point, though, this is about the character of the president, the character of the office. It's about the character of the American people. And I think that's what he was trying to draw the bigger picture. That he could agree with some of the policies of this president but that he was concerned about the character of this president and what it meant for the nation.

BRIGGS: And look, Romney's 71, he's rich, and he has a 6-year term. He doesn't care about reelection, arguably. He wants this to be his lasting legacy, you could suggest.

[05:35:04] Let's move forward, though, to today at the White House -- this meeting with House and Senate leaders trying to get an end to the shutdown on day 12. And one thing it appears that the president wants is his favorite thing on the golf course, Zach, a mulligan. He wants a mulligan for this moment on December 11th -- listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am proud to shut down the government for border security Chuck because the people of this country don't want criminals and people that have lots of problems, and drugs pouring into our country.

So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.


BRIGGS: Yes, he wants a mulligan for that moment Zach, but can he end the shutdown on this day 12?

WOLF: It depends on if he's going to -- he's going to take what -- essentially, what's given to him. Nancy Pelosi holds a lot of cards because nothing's going to get through the House that she doesn't OK.

There's this indication that Democrats are going to pass bills that would essentially fund the government and even the Department of Homeland Security. Is he going to -- through February, so that they can find a way to come to some different agreement on -- you know, on security and on whether or not to have a wall?

So the question is can they find enough safe -- face-saving measures in this? Can he find a way to find -- you know, to be OK with what Democrats are handing him because that's ultimately what he's going to have to do if they want the government to reopen.

ROMANS: If this meeting today -- is this meeting about really getting some work done and finding some -- I guess some wiggle room -- some in between on the border wall funding or is this a photo op? What do you think this is here today?

WOLF: I honestly don't know. I'm not sure anybody does. The protip I would give you is if you start seeing them broadcast live or with a tape delay during this meeting on T.V., you know not much is going to come out of it.

ROMANS: All right. That's an inside Beltway protip from Zach Wolf --

BRIGGS: This is a good protip.

ROMANS: -- this morning. All right, Happy New Year. Thanks for stopping by. A lot to talk about --

WOLF: Thank you.

ROMANS: -- and we will be --

BRIGGS: Get a glimpse of what divided government looks like today.

ROMANS: Absolutely.


ROMANS: All right. U.S. Customs and Border Protection investigating an incident at the California border with Mexico. Agents using tear gas, pepper spray, and smoke on a group of migrants who were trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

Some of the migrants allegedly throwing rocks as others lifted children over the razor-edge wire in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

CBP estimates about 150 migrants approached the fence. One-third of the group turned back when they saw the agents. Twenty-five people were taken into custody.

BRIGGS: The family of an American citizen detained in Russia strongly denying claims by the Kremlin that he is a U.S. spy. Retired Marine Paul Whelan was arrested in Moscow Friday on suspicion of espionage.

His brother telling CNN Paul has been to Russia many times for work and personal business and that he was in Moscow for the wedding of a former fellow Marine.


DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN: He's not the sort of person who would stumble into a strange environment or make poor choices that could cause him risks. But, particularly, he wouldn't have made choices that would have gotten him sideways of the Russian government and its espionage act.


BRIGGS: David Whelan says the family only learned about Paul's detention from media reports on Monday.

More now from CNN's Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Morning, Dave. Morning, Christine.

You know, this may sound surprising but actually, the family of Paul Whelan was relieved to hear that he'd been taken into custody by Russian authorities. Let me explain that.

You see, they knew he was going to Russia and then come the 28th, last Friday, he suddenly goes silent. He doesn't call home. Even his friends in Russia didn't know where he was. And given what they know about their son and about their brother that is totally out of character.

They were so worried they actually thought that maybe he'd been the victim of violent crime, possibly even death, which is why when the Russian authorities said no, he's alive but we've arrested him for spying, that there was a sense of relief.

But then also, a realization that, of course, wait a minute here -- spying? That just is not the person they know. They say it's not his character.

A bit about Paul Whelan. He is a Canadian or born in Canada, but he's an American citizen. Actually served in the U.S. Marines -- served overseas in Iraq and then worked in local law enforcement. And now, works as a consultant for private security for a major auto parts manufacturer here in Detroit.

He went to Russia not for work, but he was there to be at the wedding of a fellow former Marine. And then, he gets arrested.

So the initial fears the family had have been replaced by new ones that somehow he may now be a pawn in a kind of showdown between the United States and Russia -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right, Martin Savidge. Thank you for that.

So what is Russia saying about all of this? Let's bring in CNN's Matthew Chance. He is live in Moscow for us -- Matthew.


Well, in short, what they're saying is very little beyond the initial statement that they put out when Paul Whelan was initially detained back on the 28th of December. That's when they said they arrested him.

[05:40:09] The FSB, Russia's main counterespionage agency, saying that a U.S. citizen has been taken into custody who was caught spying in the Russian capital. That's as far as their statement goes.

In terms of consulate access, we know that the U.S. has requested that kind of access and indicated that the Russians have 72 hours before they have to grant that access to U.S. diplomats so they can interview Mr. Whelan about his condition and the kind of way in which he's been treated. That 72 hours has certainly lapsed because it's now the second of January, obviously.

And we don't know yet, though, whether that access has actually been granted. And so there's still some concern over that. I'm in close contact with the U.S. Embassy here in Moscow. They can't confirm or deny whether access has been granted.

In terms of the timing of the detention, though -- well, that's raising a lot of questions because it comes just a couple of week after Maria Butina in the United States -- she's a Russian pro-gun lobbyist -- pleaded guilty to conspiracy after U.S. prosecutors accused her of attempting to infiltrate conservative groups in the U.S. like the NRA and the Republican Party. She's going to be sentenced soon.

There is some possibility that a prisoner swap may be in the mind of the Kremlin, but that's just speculative at this point.

ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance for us in Moscow. Happy New Year to you, too. Thank you.

BRIGGS: OK, Netflix has pulled a comedy feature from its site in Saudi Arabia. Is the government trying to censor criticism of the Jamal Khashoggi murder?


[05:45:21] BRIGGS: The shooting death of a U.S. Marine at the Washington, D.C. barracks remains a mystery this morning. The unidentified Marine was on duty early Tuesday morning when he was killed. A Marine spokesman confirms the fatal gunshot wound was not self-inflicted.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are unclear and the killing is being investigated by D.C. police.

ROMANS: A devastated Texas mom is demanding to know who killed her 7- year-old daughter in a drive-by shooting Sunday morning. Jazmine Barnes was one of four children in the car. Her mother, LaPorsha Washington, threw her body over her oldest daughter in the front seat but she could not protect three other children in the back seat, including Jazmine.

Washington suffered a gunshot wound. She has been released from the hospital. She is struggling to come to grips with the loss of her little girl.

Nick Valencia has more.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this is an absolutely heartbreaking way for a family to start their new year mourning the death and the loss of a 7-year-old little girl, Jazmine Barnes. She was in a car with her mother and three siblings leaving a Walmart parking lot on Sunday morning in the Houston area when out of nowhere, unprovoked, a gunman opens fire.

Very few details are given about the gunman's description. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez saying that the suspected shooter is a white male in his 40s, had a beard, was wearing a hoodie, and was driving a red pickup. But still, the make and model of that pickup has not been released nor have any license plate or any other distinguishing characteristics.

It was earlier that the mother of that 7-year-old, who was also injured in the shooting -- she was shot in the arm. She talked about the incident.

LAPORSHA WASHINGTON, MOTHER OF JAZMINE BARNES: I just want him to be a man and turn himself in. I will never get to see my child again.

(INAUDIBLE) whatever that was going on in your head. And I don't know if it was some kind of hatred -- violent hatred -- if it was a hate crime or what it was.

But when you fired that first shot and you seen my kids in that car, you should have stopped. You should have stopped. You took my baby from me.

VALENCIA: The Harris County Sheriff's Office says that there is still no official motive and they're not taking anything off the table -- not even a potential for this being a hate crime. The suspected shooter is said to have continued to open fire as he fled the scene.

They're asking for the public's help in combing through any surveillance footage that they might have to catch the suspected shooter -- Dave, Christine.


BRIGGS: Nick Valencia, thanks.

Netflix facing criticism for pulling an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj's show "PATRIOT ACT" from its service in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom filed a legal complaint claiming it violated the country's anti-cybercrime law.

But this particular episode centered on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's alleged role in the killing of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


HASAN MINHAJ, COMEDIAN, NETFLIX "PATRIOT ACT": At one point, they were saying that he died in a fist fight, Jackie Chan-style. They went through so many explanations. The only one they didn't say was that Khashoggi died in a free solo rock climbing accident.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRIGGS: A spokesperson for Netflix says they strongly support artistic freedom worldwide. But the group Human Rights Watch says, quote, "Netflix's claim to support artistic freedom means nothing if it bows to demands of government officials who believe in no freedom for their citizens -- not artistic, not political, not comedic."

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Business" this morning.

Minimum wages are rising in 2019. According to the National Employment Law Project, at least 19 states raised their minimum wage on or around New Year's Day. Now, many of those increases are to $15 bucks an hour.

Minimum wage workers from Maine to Missouri to Arizona will see bumps in their paychecks immediately.

According to a Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, business owners across the country say these increases will boost consumer spending, reduce employee turnover, increase productivity and customer satisfaction, and help the economy.

But even as some states raise the minimum wage, the federal minimum has been stuck at $7.25 for the past decade.

The bump comes after a rough year for stocks and fears about economic growth. In 2018, the S&P 500 fell 6.2 percent, the Nasdaq fell four percent, the Dow slipped almost six percent -- the worst year for stocks since 2008 and only the second year the Dow and the S&P fell in the last decade.

And take a look at where we are right now. Watching futures as we start up a new trading year.

BRIGGS: Yikes.

ROMANS: You have Dow futures lower here to the tune of 369 points. That's about 1 1/2 percent. We saw losses in Europe and Asia as well.

So watch this space. We'll see if we can find some footing here this morning.

Tesla buyers can say bye-bye to a $7,500 tax credit. The federal government's tax credit for buying plug-in vehicles will be cut in half for Tesla buyers for the first six months.

[05:50:03] For Tesla, the tax credit is being cut as it gets ready to offer a $35,000 version of the Model 3, its lowest-cost model. The expiring tax credit will make the Model 3 then at least $3,750 more expensive.

The credit starts to phase out three months after the end of the quarter during which an automaker sells 200,000 eligible electric cars in the United States. That's the formula here. Tesla reached that mark in July, the first automaker to do so.

General Motors is next up for the phase-out of the tax credit, as expected, in April.

BRIGGS: A tax credit and those low gas prices, bad news for electric carmakers like Tesla, presumably.

ROMANS: But, you know, I think some electric carmakers -- they buy an electric car because they want to buy an electric car.

BRIGGS: Probably true.

ROMANS: I think that is the drive -- I think it's a philosophy, not economics sometimes, that drives that decision.

BRIGGS: All right. We'll be right back.


ROMANS: Most of America's rail systems have missed a critical safety deadline. The Department of Transportation says only four of the nation's 41 rail systems met the Monday deadline to implement positive train control, which can prevent collisions and derailments. The others, including Amtrak, have either applied for or have been granted extensions.

The chairman of the NTSB told Congress last February, 150 accidents, which caused 300 deaths since 1969, could have been -- could have been prevented by the technology.

BRIGGS: Several water fountains shut down at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport after passengers aboard a Frontier flight became sick. At least six passengers who traveled to Tampa fell ill after leaving Cleveland.

Health officials have not confirmed what caused the illness. The airport's water fountains will remain shut off until tests are completed.

Passengers had to wait at least an hour and a half before they were allowed off the affected plane.

They have been asked to monitor their health over the next few days.

ROMANS: Sad news from Purdue University. Tyler Trent, known as the superfan of the Purdue Boilermakers, lost his battle with bone cancer Tuesday. The 20-year-old inspired college football fans across the country.

[05:55:05] He was named an honorary captain for Purdue when the Boilermakers faced Auburn in the Music City Bowl last week.

BRIGGS: He also received the Disney Spirit Award in December.


TYLER TRENT, PURDUE SUPERFAN: At the end of the day, there's always light at the end of the tunnel. And, you know, as long as you rely on your faith things will -- things will work out. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Trent helped raise more than $100,000 at a student-run event at Purdue to support children's hospital at Indiana University Health.

Tyler Trent was just 20 years old.

BRIGGS: The woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart in 2002 is now living near an elementary school in Salt Lake City. Wanda Barzee was released from prison in September after five -- five years early. Barzee is serving five years of federal supervised released but guidelines don't set limits on how close she can live to a school.

Smart says anyone with a history of child abuse should not be allowed anywhere near a school, family, or a community center.

ROMANS: From the dumb criminals file. Take a look at this guy caught on surveillance video trying to steal a bicycle outside a police station in Gladstone, Oregon. Police shared the video on their Facebook page.

You can see the man in a hoodie trying to cut the lock off the bike directly outside the station. Within 30 seconds, an officer with a Taser comes out to confront him and put him in handcuffs.

BRIGGS: Another storm expected to drench the south with heavy rain and possible flooding. Let's get meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, Dave and Christine.

The southern U.S. yet at it again here. Of course, we ended 2018 on a wet note across the Gulf Coast states. And, once again, we have the weather pattern set up here to bring in not only heavy rainfall this go-round, but even wintry weather.

And, in particular, western and central Texas another round of wintry weather where icing is a possibility. In fact, just the gamut here of the winter weather alerts. We do have an ice storm warning, a winter weather advisory, winter storm watch and even, of course, winter storm warnings in place, as well, across portions of the four corners states.

But notice the I-20 corridor west of Dallas there. Some icing possible over the next 36 or so hours. It's about a half an inch to, in some spots, three-quarters of an inch of ice that could accumulate with some of the freezing rain that's in store. And that will be problematic in a lot of ways, of course, when it comes to transportation across that region.

But the flooding also a risk across portions of east Texas into Louisiana, eventually into Mississippi as well for an additional two to four inches possible over the next couple of days across this region. And the warm in advance of this pushing temps up into the 60s across the south, even almost 80 degrees across northern Florida, while about 38 for a high out of New York City.


BRIGGS: All right, P.J.

Back now to Texas, where college football bowl games were in the spotlight on New Year's Day.

And there was a big upset in the Sugar Bowl. The Longhorns defeating Georgia 28-21. Q.B. Sam Ehlinger led the Longhorns with three rushing touchdowns as Texas completes its first winning season since 2009.

Your play of the game --


ANNOUNCER: Certainly, the play of the day on New Year's Day. Uga down there in the super dome and Bevo's not having it.


BRIGGS: The Longhorn's Bevo -- the Longhorn's mascot went after Uga, the Georgia Bulldog, targeting you might argue. No one was injured. Uga doing just fine this morning.

Ohio State's Urban Meyer coaching his last game in the Rose Bowl and the Buckeyes sent him off in style. Q.B. Dwayne Haskins, who might be playing his last game in college football, threw three T.D.s. Ohio State survived a fourth-quarter comeback by Washington to win 28-23.

ROMANS: All right, speaking of winning, the new year is off to a very good start for one lucky resident of New York State. One winning Mega Millions ticket was sold for last night's $425 million jackpot in Glen Head, Long Island. It's about 25 miles from here in New York City.

The cash option for the jackpot is $254.6 million. The winning numbers were 34-44-57-62-70. The gold mega ball was 14.

The rest of us are going to pay off credit card bills for Christmas --


ROMANS: -- and that person is --

BRIGGS: We start off the new year in debt.

ROMANS: Yes, they can buy a company.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. Happy New Year.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs -- yes.

ROMANS: It says, "I'm Chewbacca." BRIGGS: If you could read the prompter right now it would say "I'm Chewbacca." Happy New beard, everybody. Happy New Year. We'll see you tomorrow.


SENATOR-ELECT MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. He's playing the members of the American public for suckers.

BRIGGS: Incoming senator Mitt Romney criticizing President Trump's character in a scathing new op-ed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure that it indicates that the president is going to lose much support in the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump has invited both parties to the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it doesn't appear that either side really has an endgame in sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has kind of painted himself into a corner here and it's not clear how he gets out.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, January second, 6:00 here in New York.

Happy New Year. Happy 2019, a year brought to you exclusively by Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I am drunk with power.