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Massive Storm Bears Down on Northeast; Bannon Calls Meeting Treasonous; Ball Family in Lithuania; Tie-Breaker in Virginia House of Delegates. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 4, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:33:24] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so there's this huge winter storm hitting the Northeast with very powerful winds and blinding snow. Some areas are under blizzard warnings with up to a foot of snow expected.

Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray, who's live in the Weather Center.

Where is it right now, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Alisyn, it is right off the coast of the mid-Atlantic and it's continuing to strengthen rapidly. And you can see, all of these blizzard warnings, winter storm warnings all up and down the East Coast.

And we've added a few since yesterday morning. You can see, the eastern portions of Long Island under a blizzard warning. Portions of Jersey and even Boston included in that blizzard warning as well with wind gusts potentially up to 60 miles per hour with that blinding snow, as you mentioned.

Here's the radar. And you can see all of -- this is the low right here just off the coast of North Carolina. And you can see all of the snow fanned out from Washington, Philadelphia, New York, even Boston getting a little bit of it as we speak.

Zooming into New York, you can see Long Island right there getting some pretty heavy snow. But as we go forward in time, this is going to continue to strengthen even more. And so we'll start to see those winds pick up even more. Hurricane-force winds possible off the coast of Cape Cod. And then as it continues to push to the north a little bit later this evening, it's going to be a fast mover, guys. This is going to push out very quickly. But temperatures behind it are going to continue to drop tomorrow and Saturday.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Whoo. All right, Jen, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

So, we're going to go to break. The president's allies say the gloves are now off. Steve Bannon attacked the Trump family. Why is the president's former chief strategist getting so personal? We're going to ask two people who know him well, next.


[06:38:17] CUOMO: In an odd move for a president but not for Donald Trump, his lawyer is issuing a cease and desist letter to Steve Bannon after he described Donald Trump Junior's meeting with Russians at Trump Tower as treasonous in a new book. But Bannon, on his radio show this morning, says he still stands by the president. Take a listen.


CALLER: I don't care what Trump says. He would have never gotten in without you.

STEVE BANNON: That's good. Thank you for the kind words. And, by the way, nothing will ever come between us and President Trump and his agenda. Don't worry about that. Don't worry about us in the MAGA agenda, President Trump, it's a -- we're tight on this agenda as we've ever been.


CUOMO: What you didn't hear Bannon there say is that he takes back or was falsely quoted when talking about Trump's son and son-in-law.

Joining us now to discuss this is Kurt Bardella, political commentator, former spokesman for "Breitbart News," who recently left the Republican Party and joined the Democratic Party, and Keith Koffler, who wrote a biography of Steve Bannon called "Bannon: Always the Rebel."

All right, gentlemen, thank you for being with us this morning.

Let's take on the main notion, OK, which is that Steve Bannon says that that meeting in Trump Tower was treason. Now, first, do we believe that that's what he means, Kurt Bardella? Is that what he wants people to think he believes?

KURT BARDELLA, FORMER BREITBART NEWS SPOKESPERSON: Well, without question. He wouldn't have said it if he didn't mean it. One thing we know about Steve Bannon is, he doesn't mince words. He doesn't speak poetically. He speaks bluntly. He speaks directly. And if -- and if that's what was reported, that's what was said, that was the intent. And let's just be honest, if that wasn't his intent, he'd be the very first person out there saying he got it wrong. Michael Wolff got it wrong. He'd be demanding retractions. They'd be sending a cease and desist letter to Michael Wolff if he felt that he was misquoted or misrepresented.

[06:40:02] CUOMO: So, Keith, how do you square him saying, well, I'm with the president, he's a great man, with going after his son and son-in-law and saying that they committed a treasonous act?

KEITH KOFFLER, AUTHOR, "BANNON: ALWAYS THE REBEL": Well, first of all, I think that he may -- he probably did say that and I think he probably regrets it. Steve Bannon is not always as calculated as people think. He does make mistakes. He did say that around July or August, which was the time that he was sort of being moved out. I don't think he respects Donald Trump Junior incredibly, so it may be something that he would want to walk back now.

But I think what we're seeing now is that, you know, Bannon has said this. You never know. Trump gets angry at people. He brought Reince Priebus into his administration after Priebus basically tried to drum him out of the primaries. Anything could happen. And I think he's trying to stick close to the president, at least for now, and see what happens. He's playing it cool. And he may come out OK. And they may even reestablish their relationship.

CUOMO: Really? You think that he could reestablish a relationship with Steve Bannon after the president says he lost his mind and he went after his son for treasonous activity?

KOFFLER: I mean, I don't think that's likely, actually, and I think that it's possible because Trump -- anything is possible with Trump. Haven't we learned that? But, you know, I think that -- that more likely he will end up in a war with Trump.

You know, right now Trump remains popular with the base. But what Bannon is going to be doing -- I think really the ones that should be celebrating this morning are Democrats because Bannon is Trump's conduit to the base, other than Trump, who is the best conduit to the base. But he also has Bannon.

Bannon -- Trump may think that he won the popular vote, but he did not. He won the electorate by 10,000 votes here, 10,000 there. He cannot afford to lose the debate. He can win a war with Bannon, but if Bannon ends up injuring him, he will lose the 2020 election because any diminution of support from the base, as caused by Bannon, could cost Trump the election.

CUOMO: Well, look, unless, you know, you get off on negativity in general. I don't know that there's much cause to celebrate for anybody in this because even the Democrats should want a strong and competent White House. You know, they may not agree, but they should want it to be competent. It's such an important part of the democracy.

Kurt, one of the main allegations here against Bannon will be, he's not loyal. Anthony Scaramucci is going to be on the show. And for all the critics that he has, he has been consistent in saying, especially early on, Bannon is not loyal to the president. He's not about team. He's about himself. Is this what we're seeing in these statements that Scaramucci, even Trump himself, who questioned Bannon's loyalty, they were right?

BARDELLA: Absolutely. Well, and I feel like this is something that's been brewing since February of last year when Steve Bannon appeared on the cover of "Time" magazine, which I think started this chain of events that's led us to this point where Trump is ousting Bannon very publicly. You look at the period of time that Bannon gave this interview to Wolff and made these statements, he was fighting with Trump Junior, and Ivanka and Jared through the press every day. He was leaking things about them. Even the pages of Breitbart would run incredibly negative stories about Trump's family members. And that was all at the direction of Steve Bannon.

When Steve left the White House last August, he gave a quote where he said, the Trump presidency that we won and fought for is effectively over. I think that gives you a window into at least at that moment in time how Steve Bannon felt about the president and his family.

CUOMO: So why did Bannon, this morning, Keith, go out of his way to say, you know, we're still locked in with Trump, he's a great man, we're there step for step?

KOFFLER: Because he knows that Trump remains popular with the base. But, look, you know, he's -- Bannon is going to be watching as this goes along. There are certain apostasies that Trump is already considering. He may do a deal with Democrats on DACA. He's already passed a tax bill that is largely, basically, as Trump I think has admitted, a corporate tax bill, which is not exactly a populist move. I think Bannon will wait and watch, assuming they remain at war, and see how popular Trump remains with the base. And if Bannon turns on him and says, hey, wait a second -- and this is what "Breitbart's" been doing and this is what -- a little bit about what Kurt was referring to about the stories there, they're going to be watching Trump and saying, are you staying with the religion? Are you staying with the populist religion? And, if not, they're going to go after him and that could be damaging to Trump.

CUOMO: What are your sources telling you, Keith, about whether or not they talk, Bannon and Trump?

KOFFLER: Yes, they said five calls on the call logs. They've talked more often than that I think on cell phone. I don't know exactly how many times they've talked, but I know that -- you know, one of the things about them is that they get along. And the interesting thing, you know, for Trump, it's family over everything. He loves his family more than anything.

However, he is closer ideologically to Steve Bannon and maybe in terms of his personality to Steve Bannon than he is to someone like Jared Kushner. They love to talk. They use salty language. They get along. Bannon has listened closely to -- I mean Trump has listened closely to Bannon for many years. And so, you know, I think that is something to be considered as the relationship goes forward.

[06:45:01] CUOMO: Well, it will be interesting to see if they talk and, if so, when after these kinds of comments.

Kurt, so what does this mean, you think, in terms of Bannon's goals with what to do now? He says he's still going to support the president, but how do you square that with what he just said?

BARDELLA: Well, I think you're going to see kind of a contrition tour from Steve Bannon, which is really what we heard this morning on his radio show with that clip that you played.

One of the big things, too, that happened in the last 24 hours, "The Washington Post" reported that Rebecca Mercer, part of that Mercer family that funds Bannon's enterprises, that funds all of his initiatives, that funds "Breitbart," that they're done with him. That they're not going the fund him anymore. That is a huge, catastrophic blow to Steve Bannon.

Part of the things that gave Steve leverage, power and influence was the idea that he had a billionaire in his pocket that gave him resources, deep pockets to be impactful in the political process. If that's gone, coupled with the fact that "Breitbart" itself has lost more than 3,000 of its advertisers throughout the last year in a campaign that's being led to boycott them for the type of content that they run, financially they're in a very precarious position. So I think Steve is going to do everything that he can to try to get back in the president's good graces.

CUOMO: A little bit of inside baseball, but you make a good point there, Rebecca Mercer also does a lot on school choice and, you know, things that aren't overtly politically partisan. But there's this talk now that Peter Thiel (ph) wants to start a conservative media outlet and that Mercer money may go there, which shows maybe there's a shifting away from Bannon that could be dangerous because of his own mouth.

Anyway, Keith, Kurt, thank you very much for giving us some insight into the man at the center of all of this intrigue this morning. Appreciate it.

KOFFLER: Thank you.

BARDELLA: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, we'll have much more on the bombshells inside that Michael Wolff book as new excerpts are expected to be released this morning. And we will read them to you.

But first, the basketball playing Ball family has arrived in Lithuania. What did that look like? We have details in the "Bleacher Report," next.


[06:50:33] CAMEROTA: LaVar Ball is going global, drawing quite the crowd upon his arrival in Lithuania. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Wow. What a crush.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Alisyn. His two interviews with Chris Cuomo here on CNN has made him a really big deal in Lithuania.

This "Bleacher Report" is presented by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

Check the scene. LaVar Ball, the guy who pulled one of his sons from UCLA and the other out of high school to go play pro basketball to Lithuania arrived there with his two sons yesterday and it was madness.


LAVAR BALL, FATHER: (INAUDIBLE) in the house. Let's go. Which way we headed? We're happy to be here. We're happy to be here. Let's keep it moving and grooving. This is great. This is awesome. We're happy to have a new chapter in our lives.

My expectation is for my boys to have a lot of fun playing in front of people. Like I tell them, basketball is just entertainment (ph). And we're coming to Lithuania to entertain (ph).


WIRE: Are you not entertained? LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball will be entertaining in Prienai, a city of about 9,800 people. These kids are coming from the sunshine state, metro Los Angeles, where there are over 13 million people and about 70-degree weather this time of year. From the golden state to a Baltic state. The entire country of Lithuania has about 2.8 million people and 30-degree temperatures right now. LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball will play their first game there in Lithuania next Tuesday. We'll be keeping in tune with that.

CUOMO: It will be interesting to watch. You know, lucky for them, they're playing inside, right, so the weather won't be that much of an issue. But how do they develop? How do they keep a profile going, especially for the young kid who was still in high school? You know, will he mature enough to be able to make it to the next level? It's a dicey move by Ball, even though we know he's playing it big.

And, by the way, that shirt, tie and vest game, strong. Strong.

CAMEROTA: What about --

WIRE: On point like decimals, trying to be like you, Chris.

CUOMO: He's got a line for everything, this guy.

CAMEROTA: He does.

CUOMO: All right, take care.

A race that could determine who controls Virginia's House of Delegates is going to be decided by picking a name out of a bowl. One of the two candidates joins us next.


[06:56:18] CAMEROTA: Four hours from now a name will be drawn out of a bowl in Virginia to determine the winner of the 94th district of the House of Delegates. At stake is the balance of power. If the Democrat wins, then they would split the 100-member house 50/50.

So here to react is the Democratic candidate, Shelly Simonds.

Good morning, Miss Simonds. How are you feeling at this hour? SHELLY SIMONDS (D), VA DELEGATE CANDIDATE: Good morning.

Oh, gosh, it's just such a crazy situation. And, you know, I'm trying to stay strong. I've got thousands of supporters in Newport News and people in my community who frankly need health care. Health care in Virginia is really on the line.

CAMEROTA: Everything you have worked for, your political future will be decided by the fickle finger of fate four hours from now. Is that the right answer?

SIMONDS: You know, I wish it hadn't come down to this. I would much rather have the people of Newport News, Virginia, decide the fate of this election, you know, that's for sure. And, you know, last night I was at home trying to prepare for the coin toss and I thought, you know, there's -- there are no speeches, there's no preparation I can do that's going to get me ready for a coin toss.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's good news, that you don't have to prepare. There's no homework involved in a coin toss. Actually, they're going to pull the name out of a bowl, as we have said.

So what happens if you lose? Then what?

SIMONDS: You know, I have had a pretty long career in politics. I've been on our local school board and I've run for office before. And I'm going to continue to stay engaged.

My big issue is really fighting for teacher pay raises in Virginia. Right now teachers are paid about $7,000 below the national average in Virginia. And we have a teacher shortage crisis. So, you know, education is going to continue to be a big focus for me, win or lose.


SIMONDS: And, you know, I have made a lot of friends in the general assembly.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean -- I mean in terms of the process. I've read that you don't want a recount. If you lose, why not demand a recount?

SIMONDS: You know, all options are on the table for us. I think that yesterday, when I did make an offer to my opponent to try to make this coin toss binding, that he misrepresented my intention. But, yes, I mean, I'm not going to unilaterally disarm. All options are on the table for us if we lose this coin toss.

CAMEROTA: OK. I see. Because you had made an offer that the coin toss -- that the pulling the name out of the hat would stand and that you wouldn't demand a recount. However, when your opponent reneged -- or whatever, refused to agree to that, now you're rethinking. And so you're saying that you also would want a recount.

SIMONDS: Oh, yes. Yes, it was always a deal. We were offering a deal to him. And he didn't take it. So now we're onto the coin toss. And, after that, you know, anything is on the table. And it is sad to think that I could win this coin toss and still not necessarily be seated because of Republican maneuvers that they could do in the House of Delegates. And it's kind of a tough conversation.

CAMEROTA: Such as? I mean what are those maneuvers?

SIMONDS: They could vote not to seat me on Tuesday. And, you know, I've got my family here, my kids here, and it's like, how many times does mom have to win before she can be seated in the Virginia House of Delegates.

[07:00:03] CAMEROTA: Yes, this is an interesting lesson for your kids and not one that you had intended to teach them.