Meetings at Capitol; House GOP Reverses on Ethics Office; 5 ISIS
Members Detained in Istanbul Attack. Aired 4-4:30a ET>
[04:00:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The next commander in chief mocking the intelligence agencies that keep the country safe, blaming them for delaying his planned announcement about what he knows about the Russian hack.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Obamacare takes center stage on Capitol Hill today. President Obama meeting with Democrats trying to save the law. Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Republicans trying to take it apart.
BERMAN: And new Congress off to a raucous start. Why House Republicans scrap a plan to undermine the ethics watchdog that oversees it.
ROMANS: What a 24 hours.
BERMAN: That was crazy, right?
ROMANS: That was really crazy.
BERMAN: All right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.
ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, January 4th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. Good morning, everyone.
BERMAN: Good morning, Christine.
ROMANS: Good morning to you.
And happening today, or rather, not happening, according to transition officials, remarks Donald Trump promised by today about a Russian hacking, including information he said only he knew. Other transition official tells CNN the president-elect is likely to sit down by the end of the week for the intelligence community's final report on Russian hacking.
Trump explained his remarks this way in a tweet. "The, quote, 'intelligence' briefing on so-called Russian hacking was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange."
BERMAN: A lot of quotation marks in that tweet. That is what the president-elect says now. But U.S. officials tell us there was no delay in briefing the president-elect on Russian hacking. The national director of intelligence, James Clapper, was never scheduled to be in New York for the top-level briefing until Friday. One U.S. official suggested that Mr. Trump may be, quote, "confusing his presidential daily briefing with the final intelligence of Russian hacking ordered by President Obama." Officials say President Obama has yet to see the final report himself.
This latest twist, we should note, is the third at least version on this subject in the last four days from Trump or his team. First, Trump said that he had information only he knew when it came to Russian hacking, that he said that he needs to wait until a final report to make a final judgment and now he's alleging this delay.
ROMANS: All right. So, this morning on Capitol Hill, dueling meetings, Republican and Democrat, on the future of Obamacare. President Obama set to meet behind closed doors with House and Senate Democrats at 9:00 to strategize ways to protect the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, he will be meeting with House Republicans to discuss plans for repealing Obamacare.
Already, Senate Republicans have taken the first official step toward a repeal, a budget resolution filed Tuesday puts the wheels in motion toward overturning key parts that make Obamacare work. Now, it's still a far cry from this swift and complete repeal promised by Trump on the campaign trail. That would require 60 votes in the Senate. Republicans don't have that.
BERMAN: High drama on Capitol Hill in the dramatic reversal as a brand-new Congress is sworn in. Just 12 hours or so after Republicans voted behind closed doors to gut the House independent ethics watchdog, those same Republicans decided it was not worth a big fight on day one. Maybe that has something to do with intense criticism from Democrats, maybe the media attention this move received, or maybe it was the opinion from the soon-to-be occupant of the Oval Office.
CNN's Manu Raju with the very latest from Capitol Hill.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, John and Christine.
The 115th Congress convening yesterday with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Members who were reelected and elected for the first time getting sworn into office, getting ready for a very, very aggressive agenda, one in which the House Republican and Senate Republican leadership want to try to implement Donald Trump's vision of repealing Obamacare, replacing Obamacare, overhauling the tax code, trying to get rid of major regulations and, of course, confirming Donald Trump's cabinet and also a ninth Supreme Court justice.
Now, that doesn't mean there wasn't controversy yesterday. In fact, there was a significant amount of controversy after House Republicans try to move forward with a rules package that would have gutted a key ethics watchdog, that actually polices members of Congress. A lot of members do not like the way it has conducted itself over the last eight years.
So, they voted to try to kill it essentially. And it got a lot of pushback. Angry voters called their lawmakers offices, demanded they do not vote for this when it became public. And then Donald Trump tweeted, said that he did not think that this was a good idea on the first day of the new Congress.
Immediately afterwards, House Speaker Paul Ryan convening an emergency meeting to get rid of that proposal as part of a broader rules package. And the members agreed, relenting, agreeing on a rules reform package. Now, that bill, that measure also angered Democrats however because it would fine Democratic members who staged protests or sit-ins on the House floor without permission.
[04:05:02] So, a lot of controversy on the first day of the new Congress. It's just a sign of things to come as they deal with things like Obamacare and tax reform -- John and Christine.
ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju, who had a very busy day yesterday -- thanks, Manu.
Chuck Schumer, the newly minted Senate Democratic leader, declaring that he is ready to take on Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues. Overnight, Schumer telling MSNBC he's prepared to block the Trump Supreme Court nominee who is not, quote, "mainstream". Supreme Court confirmation requires 60 votes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We are not going to settle on a Supreme Court nominee. If they don't appoint someone who is really good, we're going to oppose them tooth and nail. It's hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would choose that would get Republican support that we could support. So, you're right.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And so, you would do your best to keep the seat open?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Earlier, Schumer gave his very first floor speech as Senate minority leader, declaring Democrats would hold Trump accountable for his campaign promises to, quote, "truly make America great."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: What we will always do is hold the president-elect and his Republican colleagues in Congress accountable. Accountable to the working people, to whom the president-elect promised so much. Accountable to the people of all colors and creeds and sexual orientations in this country, for whom he is president. Accountable to the millions of Americans who voted for him. With all due respect, America cannot afford a Twitter presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Among the promises Schumer says Democrats will hold Trump to increasing economic growth by more than 5 percent and pushing for a big infrastructure package.
BERMAN: Three of Donald Trump's cabinet picks will meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, the president-elect's pick for secretary of state. Tillerson has just agreed to relinquish control of nearly a quarter billion of dollars on Exxon stocks he owns, putting it in a blind trust if he is confirmed.
Also on Capitol Hill today, General James Mattis, Trump's nominee for defense secretary. General Mattis needs a special waiver from lawmakers before he can head up the Pentagon.
And attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, who is one of Trump's more controversial picks because of his record on race relations. He is already running into opposition. More than a dozen members of the NAACP staged a sit-in at the Alabama senator's resident. Their president, Cornell Brooks, was handcuffed and arrested by police. Brooks is calling on Sessions to withdraw his name from the selection process.
ROMANS: All right. Bill and Hillary Clinton will attend Donald Trump's inauguration later this month. Aides to both Clintons confirming they have RSVP'd for the event. And former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura will also be there. His father, George H.W. Bush, will not be attending because of health issues. Former President Jimmy Carter also has confirmed he will be on hand.
BERMAN: The peaceful transition of power --
ROMANS: All right. Ford said it's scrapping plans to build a new car plant in Mexico and instead they will create hundreds of jobs in the U.S. But critics are calling it crony capitalism. The big question is, the president-elect cutting deals with companies in return for favors once he takes office.
CNN's Poppy Harlow asked Ford CEO if that was the case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK FIELDS, FORD CEO: Well, first off, we didn't cut a deal with the president-elect. We did what's right for our business, first and foremost. That's what drives us in every business decision that we make.
But we look at a lot of factors, Poppy, and one of the factors that we see is again this more positive U.S. environment for manufacturing and investment here. And we take that into account in our investment decisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: So a good business decision.
Two and a half hours before that announcement, Trump curiously tweeted this at Ford's rival GM, "General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers tax-free across border. Make in USA or pay big border tax."
All right. So, the Ford deal would add 700 jobs to an existing plan in Michigan, part of the $700 million investment in electric and self- driving cars. The automaker believes that electric vehicles will outsell gas-powered cars in the next 15 years.
The broader auto industry, by the way, has yet to recover from the huge losses during the recession. Look at that, in 2007, more than 1 million Americans making cars and auto parts. That tally was cut by nearly half, 900,000 Americans. Hiring since has leveled off there.
We'll get the final sales for 2016 later today. The auto industry could beat the record set in 2015. So, beating its record set in 2015, but not back to the employment level in 2007 and a drop in sales this year.
Another thing about the GM tweet that I found interesting, you know, Mary Barra is one of his business advisory panels. You'd think he'd call up on the phone and ask Mary Barra, what's going on with the Chevy Cruze. You know, the production of Chevy Cruze plant there, in part because, John, gas prices are cheap, people are buying big cars and SUVs.
[04:10:04] They're not buying little cars.
BERMAN: The president-elect did this with Lockheed Martin and Boeing also. I mean, he plays both ends of this. It's all a negotiation. And he got some results from Ford.
I mean, look, Ford, the CEO, I thought one of the remarkable things he said was sort of gushing plays he got. He talked about the more positive manufacturing environment in the United States because of president-elect. Not President Trump, President-elect Trump.
ROMANS: He said it was a volt of confidence in the leadership of President-elect Trump.
Another interesting thing about the Ford deal, look, if you want to be right there front and center on tax reform that could end up saving you lots of money, maybe way more money than a $700 million investment in a U.S. plant, then this is an investment in that kind of --
BERMAN: The $700 million investment and a relationship --
ROMANS: Maybe it's not cutting a deal, but it is a smart investment.
All right. The CIA director is now speaking in public about the debate over Russian hacking. What does he say to those who question his agency? That is next.
BERMAN: This morning, new denials from Russia over allegations that it hacked the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign officials during the U.S. election. The White House says it is now 100 percent certain because of the digital fingerprint the hackers left behind. A spokesman for the Kremlin insists his country could not possibly be involved, as a bipartisan group of senators here in the U.S. prepares to unveil new sanctions against the Russian.
Let's get the latest from CNN senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen live in Moscow this morning.
There's a lot of he said, he said, they said on this right now, Fred.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, John. You're absolutely right. That's exactly how I would define the past 24 hours that we've been dealing with the story both here in Moscow, and, of course, over there with you guys over in the U.S.
As well, with the State Department spokesperson John Kirby coming out saying, look, this evidence is rock solid, all the intelligence agencies have it. We've seen it. And that it's absolutely clear, what he says, the Russians were involved in the U.S. electoral process and tried to influence it.
[04:15:06] Now, I was able to speak to Dmitry Peskov, he's a spokesperson for Vladimir Putin. He said absolutely not.
What you just said about that Cyrillic keyboard that we've been talking about, that apparently, all this was traced back to. He said, look, anybody can use a Cyrillic language keyboard anywhere around the world. And once again, he denied any sort of involvement by what he calls official Russia.
Now, one of the things that we recall that the Trump administration -- the incoming Trump administration folks have been saying is that, look, they question what the intelligence community is saying. They say in the past, the intelligence community was wrong, for instance, on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003.
However, yesterday, the director of the CIA, John Brennan, was on PBS, and he said, look, a lot has changed since then. Let's have a listen to what he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: In the aftermath of that, there was a total review of the review process and the analytic process and assessments that are done with the intelligence community. With a number of steps that were taken to make sure that we're going to be as accurate as possible.
And so, it's been light years since that Iraq WMD report has been done. And there has been tremendous, I think, further development of our analytical capabilities as well as our intelligence collection capabilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: John Brennan there talking about the developments in the U.S. intelligence community. You know, it's interesting to follow this debate here in Russia because there is obviously a lot of coverage of what's going on in the U.S. of these hacking allegations. But at the same time, you can really feel how the Russians and their government are looking towards the future.
I spoke to a former senior adviser of Vladimir Putin, somebody who is very, very close to the Russian president. And he said, first of all, he believes that Putin does have a great deal of admiration for Donald Trump, that the two men are similar in the way that they deal with issues. But he says, right now, the Russians are looking towards the future, waiting to see whether or not Trump will be as positive towards the Russians as he seemingly now once he takes office.
BERMAN: It will be fascinating to see what happens in 16 days.
Frederik Pleitgen, great to have you with us. Thanks, Fred.
ROMANS: All right. In Syria, five-day old cease-fire is already crumbling this morning. Government forces now launching attacks against rebel troops in and around Damascus that has the rebels threatening to pull out of peace talks. Turkey's foreign minister is already saying those planned talks could fail if the cease-fire does not hold.
And there's a widening water crisis for 4 million people in Damascus right now. Acute water shortages in Syria's capital city, caused by attacks against two nearby springs that serves 70 percent of the Damascus' population.
All right. In media news, a big move for Megyn Kelly. She is leaving FOX News for a new job and time slot on NBC. Why she said it was time jump.
[04:21:23] ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, authorities have identified the shooter in the New Year's Istanbul attack that killed 39. You can see, that is image, selfie video, that police have released of the shooter. This as the state agency reports five members of ISIS have been detained in connection with the attack.
Meantime, the Turkish parliament is looking to extend an emergency rule in Turkey by another three months. It was first imposed by the government after a failed military coup last summer.
Let's bring in CNN's Ian Lee live in Istanbul with the latest.
And, Ian, we've been looking at that selfie video for about 24 hours right now. They are saying they've identified this man. There's a fingerprint, we know. Are they in the course of getting him?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the foreign ministry, yeah, they know who he is. They haven't released his nationality. But they say they're getting these clues which will help build this case to figure out if he had any help.
Now, they did arrest those five ISIS members, they said, in Izmir, which is the third largest city here in Turkey. They said those men helped the gunman carry out that attack. They're also interrogating 16 other people figuring out if they had anything to do with the attack.
Turkey is extending its emergency powers for another three months. This is not only to help combat ISIS but also to go after the people they say who are behind the coup.
Also, we're going to hear from Erdogan in about -- less than an hour from now. This is the first time we've heard from the president since that deadly attack that killed 39 people.
The president also speaking with President Obama yesterday. They went over a number of things. Both Obama offered condolences for the recent attacks happening here in Turkey. They also talked about standing united against terror.
But we've also heard from the Turkish government while the bond is close between Turkey and the United States, they said that there is a crisis of confidence right now. Turkey and the United States, not always seeing eye to eye on many issues, especially those happening in neighboring Syria.
ROMANS: All right. Ian Lee in Istanbul for us -- keep us posted on that manhunt and any other political developments. Thanks.
BERMAN: This will be Megyn Kelly's final week of FOX News. She's joining NBC News where she will host a daily daytime show and Sunday news magazine show. Sources tell CNN Fox was prepared to offer Kelly $20 million if not more to stay, but she insists her top priority right now is spending more time with her family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm very grateful to NBC for this opportunity and I'm deeply thankful to FOX News for the wonderful time I've had here. I've grown up here and been given every chance a young reporter could ever ask for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: No word on a replacement for Kelly on FOX. And it's not clear when she will start her new NBC job because of her FOX contract that expires in July. She will be forced to sort of sit on the sidelines for the next six months. But the fact that FOX is letting her finish out the week there is a sign they'll let her do that.
ROMANS: Let's talk to Brian Stelter, our media guru, in the next hour about just the landscape and what this all mean to her.
BERMAN: Twenty million dollars a year -- leaving that on the table is a lot of money.
ROMANS: It's a pay cut for you, wasn't it?
BERMAN: Exactly. Pay cut, exactly.
ROMANS: All right. Twenty-four minutes past the hour.
Convicted church shooter Dylann Roof set to represent himself in the sentencing phase of his trial beginning in just a few hours. The judge declared Roof mentally competent to act as his own attorney. He's expected to make an opening statement but not call any witnesses.
[04:25:02] The 22-year-old was convicted last month of fatally shooting nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The jury must choose between life in prison or the death penalty for Roof.
All right. Bitter cold air moving across the U.S. and a chance for snowfall. Snowfall in the Southeast. Let's get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John and Christine, things getting very interesting the next couple of days, across a pretty large area of the country. And look at this, the temps this morning, the ambient air temperature, not the wind chills, 14 below zero in Bismarck. Fargo, minus nine, Duluth, minus six. Incredible bearings as you work your way towards the south where temperatures still hanging on into the 40s and, of course, even the Northeast, into the 30s and 40s.
But all of that is about to change. See that frigid air right there? It's going to being to migrate off to the east as it sets up shop here. We get some moisture that really begins to push in as the disturbance develops across the Gulf of Mexico. So, you put this together, that's where it get very interesting for parts of the South.
But Nashville, high temperature, about 39 degrees. New York City into the upper 40s. While Chicago, only into the teens. Some lake-effect snow showers possible today but certainly not a major blockbuster storm system across the Great Lakes.
But notice across the south, here's the temperature trend down into upper 30s for highs come Saturday afternoon. Washington around 31 degrees as well. But the freezing line indicated in pink, shows you north of this line where snow showers are possible. This will be early Saturday morning, Atlanta, certainly Columbia, South Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, could be in line for some wintry weather over the next couple of days. We will follow this carefully as well into the next few days -- guys.
ROMANS: All right. Pedram, thank you.
BERMAN: All right. Today was supposed to be the day that Donald Trump revealed what he knew that no one else did about the election hack. Or the hack into the DNC and Clinton campaign officials. But now, he's pointing a finger at the intelligence community for the delay. These agencies are pushing back. That's next.
ROMANS: The big reveal from President-elect Trump on ice. He's not saying what he knows about the election hack, despite a pledge to do so, and he's blaming the intelligence agencies for this delay. More ahead.
(Byline: John Berman, Christine Romans, Manu Raju, Frederik Pleitgen, Ian Lee, Pedram Javaheri)
(High: The next commander in chief mocking the intelligence agencies that keep the country safe, blaming them for delaying his planned announcement about what he knows about the Russian hack. Obamacare takes center stage on Capitol Hill today, with President Obama meeting with Democrats trying to save the law and Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Republicans trying to take it apart. The new Congress was off to a raucous start, with House Republicans scrapping a plan to undermine the ethics watchdog that oversees it. Authorities have identified the shooter in the New Year's Istanbul attack that killed 39, as five members of ISIS have been detained in connection with the attack.)
(Spec: Donald Trump; Government; Politics; Obamacare; Policies; Republican Party; Congress; Turkey; ISIS; Crime; Murders; Terrorism; World Affairs)