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Explosive Book Outlines Bannon-Kushner Rivalry; New Revelations on Trump White House; North and South Start Talks; Massive Winter Storm Lashes Northeast; Snow Doesn't Stop Patriots; Brown Practices in Snow; Tell-All Book under Scrutiny. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET

Aired January 5, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:31:01] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So the new book on the Trump administration gives a glimpse into the tense rivalries in the White House. You've got Steve Bannon's allies. You've got the president's children. And they're all waging a civil war in the West Wing for the president's attention.

Let's bring back John Avlon and A.B. Stoddard.

And we go with exhibit A. Part of the by now deep enmity between the first family couple and their allies and Bannon and his team was the Jarvanka conviction -- so we're going with Jared and Ivanka on that --


CUOMO: Jarvanka conviction that Bannon had played a part in many of the reports of Kushner's interactions with the Russians. This was not, in other words, merely an internal policy war. It was a death match. For Bannon to live, Kushner would have to be wholly discredited -- pilloried, investigated, possibly even jailed.


JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean "Game of Thrones" got nothing on this. For Bannon to live, Kushner must die, politically that is. Look, this was in part a policy fight. You know, you can characterize it as the globalist versus the nationalist or in more unkind ways. But the personal qualities of this fight, the deep, bitter feelings between -- which have been reported in the past. This just, I think, explores them in a new level.

And there was an enormous amount of leaking, enormous amounts of bad blood. And whatever policy veneer it was wrapped in it was personal. And what's truly stupid is this, you never win a political fight with a family.


AVLON: You don't.

CAMEROTA: How does Steve Bannon not know that? AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But, A.B., I'm more interested in what the thinking was behind the Charlottesville stuff, right? So obviously remember that exploded and became so inflammatory when the president said, well, there are good people on both sides and didn't want to condemn the people -- the neo-Nazis and the people who are marching for the KKK. This is a little insight into how he felt about the KKK and why he seemed sympathetic privately.

The president kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK. That is, they may not on actually believe what the KKK believed and that the KKK probably does not believe what it used to believe. And, anyway, who really knows what the KKK believes now?

CUOMO: Why else would you join the KKK? Do they have good benefits? Is there like an insurance plan or something that goes along with it? Why else where you join?

CAMEROTA: This is insightful, I think, A.B., that he's -- he was -- he wanted to be able to say there are good people on both sides. So he's ruminating. But surely they can't be as bad as we've all heard. Maybe there's something in it for everybody.



AVLON: Go ahead.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes. I mean, yes, you can pass.

STODDARD: Almost idea --

AVLON: I'll be your life line if you like on this one.

STODDARD: So I'm now visualizing that the KKK hands out really good swags so it's worth the $10 bucks to join as a member.

CUOMO: You're not really with the brand, but the benefits package is just too good, A.B.


So, look, I mean, we remember this famous moment with Jake Tapper when Donald Trump, then candidate, didn't remember who David Duke was or what white supremacists, you know, want and the KKK. He does this all the time on these topics. He tries to take both sides. He tries to ask questions about what it really means and tries to muddy the waters.

The interesting thing about this anecdote in the Wolff book, of course, is that we all remember Chief of Staff General Kelly's face in that just unbelievable sort of simultaneous -- in these sort of spontaneous eruption at a press conference, in the elevator hall when Gary Cohn, who is Jewish, and Steven Mnuchin, who is Jewish, stood beside the president as he was talking in this really excited and angry way about Charlottesville.

The people who everyone was counting on before the election to sort of prevail upon the president, like his daughter Ivanka and his son-in- law Jared to sort of calm him down and moderate him, don't have any power. And that -- this anecdote reveals that, that they wanted him to come after Charlottesville out with a full-throated response, rejecting all hate groups and white supremacists and everyone else in a formal and forceful way. And, instead, he got on the phone with Steve Bannon and Steve Bannon very much urged him at the time -- and this has already been reported months ago -- to sort of hang in with the people who were good on the wrong side of this.

So -- so it --

[06:35:14] AVLON: Which itself accepts the conflation between the alt- right and the KKK and the neo-Nazi groups. And the fact that any president -- what the president was being lobbied to do was to act presidential and it's an office of moral leadership. And this is not a tough call. And this background rumination, well, some of them I assume are nice people, actually, I'm sorry, that was his announcement reference to the Mexican-American community.

CAMEROTA: That was public. Oh.

AVLON: But that reaching for equivalence, the reaching for rationalization is deeply outside our best standards as a nation and as a president. It's absolutely insane that the president is apparently ruminating this way in private about trying to find a silver lining (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Right. And, look, and you don't need any of the excerpts of the book to make the case of this level of dysfunction. You only know -- need to know what the president has said himself. He said, I never gave this guy access. I never talked to him about it. Well, then how did he get in that White House? How did he get so much access?


CUOMO: That would never happen in another administration if the person at the top didn't want it.

Steve Bannon, he says, look what happens to sloppy Steve now. This guy lost his mind. Well, then why was he so close? If the family matters so much -- and, again, you know, A.B., I grew up in this business, OK.


CUOMO: If you went against well someone named Cuomo around my father, you had a big problem on your hands. You better be right, unless his name was Andrew Cuomo, and then Andrew had his own place where he had to kind of fight his own battles. But -- so for Bannon to have existed as long as he did, as controversial as he is, as tied to the alt-right as he has said he wants to be with "Breitbart," it tells you everything you need to know. You don't need to know the book. Trump does what's good for Trump. And he plays it as long as he can that way. STODDARD: Trump and Bannon really had a strong connection because

Trump really saw him as, A, a Goldman Sachs alumni who was a naval officer and had been educated at Harvard. All things that really mattered to President Trump. And at the same time was -- you know, had made a lot of money and wasn't like these scrubs around him, these political hacks, you know, who are desperate for their next government paycheck. And so he was at a different level.

But Bannon played this so shrewdly. He basically was this Trump whisper who convinced the president that he and he alone understood that the president was a leader of an historic movement and that he was not only changing the country, but perhaps the world. And that was something that Jared and Ivanka and Gary Cohn and others were not telling the president. And so he was always saying, look at these people around you. They just don't understand the forgotten man and woman. I do. I understand your message to them and how much it resonated. And this is why you're such a great leader.

And President Trump loves that kind of thing.

AVLON: Of course.

STODDARD: It's exactly why Bannon hung around so long.

AVLON: Of course. And now totally kicked to the curb. Dismissed as sloppy Steve, who I thought was the bass player for the Doobie Brothers. But also the incredibly unkind way. I mean the Mercers, his -- Bannon's benefactors for years kicking him to the curb after -- in the wake of President Trump's denouncement. And now questions about (INAUDIBLE) --


AVLON: Yes, only so much.

CAMEROTA: I mean only so much.

AVLON: That's right.

CAMEROTA: A.B., John, thank you both very much.

CUOMO: All right, another big story this morning is what's going on with North and South Korea. The North accepting the South's invitation to begin peace negotiations. So there's a big, how did this come to be question. We're going to take you inside that with a live report, next.


[06:41:46] CUOMO: A pretty big development. North Korea accepting an invitation from the South to start formal peace talks. It will be the first high-level contact between the two countries in more than two years.

We have Will Ripley live in Seoul, South Korea, with the latest.



These talks will be happening at Panmunjom (ph). To put into context, this is the area where that North Korean soldier ran across the border. The talks will ironically be happening very close to where that high-profile defection happened. North Korean officials will be walking over, sitting down and talking for the first time since December of 2015. At the top of their agenda, talking about logistics to get a North Korean delegation here to South Korea for the winter Olympic games in Pyeongchang.

This is something that both sides want. Kim Jong-un wants to show his athletes marching on a global stage. And the South Korean government wants to show that they can engage with the North. In order to bring about this, President Moon here in South Korea and President Trump agreed to postpone joint military exercises that were scheduled to kick off during the Olympics. Those will happen at a later date.

And so far North Korea has been quiet, despite our early reports of an impending ballistic missile test. Everyone's hoping for a peaceful Olympics.

But the question moving forward, will these initial discussions lead to something bigger. Bigger talks. Perhaps a meeting between Kim Jong- un and South Korea's president. And what will they be discussing after the Olympics? Well, talking to improve inter-Korean relations, talking about divided families in the North and South.

And, of course, the big bullet item, North Korea's nuclear program. The U.S. and its allies, including South Korea, want Kim Jong-un to give up his nukes, but the North Koreans have said that won't happen. So, after these talks and after the Olympics, do we go back to the tensions and the military escalations or is this a positive, diplomatic development, Alisyn? We'll have to wait and see.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. You've laid out the questions perfectly, Will. Thank you very much for all of the reporting from the region.

So, after a massive snowstorm, the East Coast now faces bone-chilling cold. How long will this deep freeze last? We have the latest forecast, next.


[06:47:27] CAMEROTA: The Northeast is digging out after an intense snowstorm that hammered the reason with blinding snow. Look at your screen. Hurricane-force winds and a record storm surge. This severe weather killed at least 17 people this week. Now, new records are being broken today.

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

The temperature is crazy as well. JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It really is. The very cold behind

this system, now that the storm has pushed out, we are left with very, very cold temperatures. In fact, 100 -- nearly 140 million people under some sort of wind chill alert this morning. And you can see, these are the alerts just for the East and the Midwest.

We are feeling like 19 below zero in Pittsburgh this morning. New York feels like 10 below zero. New York, 1 below. And temperatures are going to stay very cold. These are high temperatures over the next couple of days. New York only getting to 11 degrees on Saturday, 18 on Sunday.

As far as the snowfall totals that we had during the storm, impressive. Fourteen inches across portions of Connecticut. New York and Terryville, 16 inches. Some areas close to 20. So you can bet, very old temperatures all through the weekend. And 1,000 more flight cancellations today, Chris, added to the more than 4,000 yesterday.

CUOMO: All right, Jen, thank you very much. We'll keep checking with you and see how things are getting back on track.

Now we have a big story in sports to talk about. Full disclosure, I'm a New York Jets fan, so I like bad news about the Patriots. But this could be a big headline, Coy Wire. Their coach, Bill Belichick, he's putting out some signals there. Some of it's about the weather. Some of it isn't. What's going on?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, let's talk about the weather first because it's coming off of Jennifer talking about this and that blizzard hitting the Boston area. And those conditions would pale in comparison to the fury that would be unleashed if any Patriots player missed a practice. So Tom Brady was asked, is it tough getting to the facilities in weather like this. Listen.



TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Pretty tough. The car is tough. Everything's tough this time of year, especially in the cold and I feel everyone in New England's probably having a crappy day today.

MATTHEW SLATER, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Well, we all know there's weather. Coach has mentioned that several times to the team. So I wouldn't want to be the guy who's late.


WIRE: The Patriots aren't even playing in this weekend's round of playoff games. They have a bye. But they're still scared to be late to one of Belichick's meetings. A few years ago four players showed up a little bit late to a team during -- because of a snowstorm and coach sent them home.

Now, also up there in the Boston area, the Celtics. They had a snow day and practice was canceled but that didn't stop Jaylen Brown from getting some shots off inside.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No days off, team!


[06:50:16] WIRE: No days off. Twenty-year-old braving the elements like a kid off from school. He tweeted with Bill Belichick's favorite hashtag, no days off. So the sports world feeling the effects of bomb cyclone.

CAMEROTA: But having fun in it, like my children.

WIRE: Exactly right.

CAMEROTA: That -- that was very heartwarming. Thank you, Coy, for all that.

WIRE: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: All right, so we've been talking about Michael Wolff's bombshell book about the Trump White House, but how much of it is true? We discuss this with Maggie Haberman, our favorite journalist, who has extensive coverage of the White House. That's next.


CAMEROTA: All right, so President Trump is slamming this new behind- the-scenes book as phony and full of lies. And the accuracy of some of the author, Michael Wolff's, reporting is in question. So let's talk about that.

Joining us now is CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman. Maggie has interviewed the president numerous times and her reporting is mentioned in the book.

Maggie, we also want to mention, you contributed to a new report about the Trump administration and the Russia inquiry, but we will get to all of that obstruction of justice talk at the top of the hour if you'll stick around. If we don't scare you away.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'll wait. I'll just do this one.

CUOMO: One drama at a time, if you please.

CAMEROTA: One drama, yes.


CAMEROTA: Don't rush us. HABERMAN: OK. It's very early. We've got time.

[06:55:00] CAMEROTA: Listen, you are a reporter with great sources in the White House and great access. So when you read Michael Wolff's book, do you believe it?

HABERMAN: I believe parts of it. And then there are other parts that are factually wrong. I mean the thing about Michael Wolff and his style, which apparently nobody in the White House appears to have done a cursory Google search on him and sort of what his M.O. is, but he believes in larger truths and narratives. So he creates a narrative that is notionally true, that's conceptually true. The details are often wrong. And I can -- I can see several places in the book that are wrong.

CAMEROTA: Such as -- I mean do you have any examples?

HABERMAN: So, for instance, I mean he in accurately describes a report in "The New York Times." He inaccurately characterizes a couple of incidents that took place early on in the administration. He gets basic details wrong.

CUOMO: Inaccurately reported that we reported the substance of the dossier.

HABERMAN: Correct. Correct. He inaccurate -- he described in the book Rupert Murdoch's quote, an expletive idiot about Trump. And then in his own column a day later it was expletive moron. So that's --

CAMEROTA: See, that's sloppy.


CAMEROTA: The stuff about the CNN dossier, that is public knowledge that CNN didn't publish the dossier.

HABERMAN: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: He says they did. That's -- that's one -- one fact check away from getting it right.


CAMEROTA: But he doesn't do it.

HABERMAN: But he doesn't -- well, he doesn't do it and he also doesn't care. I mean in their -- Michael Wolff and Donald Trump are not dissimilar people, right? I mean there is a reason they knew each other before the president became the president. Wolff privately refers to him as Donald, not Trump or the president and so forth. And so there is some kind of a similar style there.

CUOMO: Well, the president says, I don't know the guy. I never let him in. I never talked to him. If that's not 100 percent true, and certainly shame on his team then for letting Wolff get the access. HABERMAN: No, it's more than -- it's more than not 100 percent true. It's a lot false. What they're hanging it on is this thing of we didn't -- they are frustrated, and I understand why, that Wolff is overstating the access he had to the president. That is true.

He spoke to the president by phone early on where the president called to complain about this piece by Glen Thrush in the -- that had the president in a bathrobe, which he was very upset about.

But then there was another time where -- you know, and the folks in the White House kept saying, that's all that happened. But yesterday I learned that Wolff was in the Oval Office at one point, walked in by one of Trump's aides, and the explanation was, well, that's not -- that was not for the book.


HABERMAN: And that's -- that's how they try to split it every single time. When you are writing a book, it is all for the book. And they did the thing that that world always does, which is try to have it both ways. They didn't make -- they didn't give him Trump repeatedly, but advisers close to the president made clear to other aides in the West Wing, you know, we want you to -- we want to play ball with him to a certain degree and so they did.

CAMEROTA: I heard it immediately in the president's tweet. I hear the language parsing immediately.

HABERMAN: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: Let me read it for everybody.

I authorized zero access to White House. Actually turned him down many times for author of phony book. So, like, oh, you want to write a phony book? Then you get no access is what he's saying.

Here's the sentence. I never spoke to him for the book.

HABERMAN: Right. See, that's the thing.

CAMEROTA: Right. So he did speak to him.

HABERMAN: Right. He did speak to him. That's right.

CAMEROTA: But Michael Wolff didn't either say, this is going to be explicitly for the book --


CAMEROTA: But he spoke to him. And so now it's in the book.

HABERMAN: Well, and --

CAMEROTA: Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist. Look at this guy's past and watch what happens to him and sloppy Steve. HABERMAN: This is like 70 -- this is like 70 of Trump's favorites all like thrown into one, you know, personal insults. Look at his past. There's always some -- look at his past or look at her past.

Look, Wolff did something weird in the book, which is Trump called him to complain about our story and Wolff describes it in the book as, he called a passing New York media acquaintance. I don't know why you don't just say he called this author.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: That's weird.

There are a couple of things like that that are weird. There are quotes that he puts in quote marks where he was, you know, told these things secondhand in many cases, and yet he went with it anyway and he didn't go check with the original source. That's how he chooses to do his reporting. That is fine. There -- that's his prerogative.

CAMEROTA: But that breaks with standard protocol of journalism, we should just mention.


CAMEROTA: I mean --

HABERMAN: Well, right -- right --

CAMEROTA: That's how he chooses to do it but that's not really how reporters do it.

CUOMO: Well, look, it depends.


CUOMO: These types of books that are access-driven books, it's not the same as when we're calling to bang out the facts of something that happened.

CAMEROTA: I agree. I didn't -- I agree with you. I agree.

HABERMAN: No, where he -- where he violates journalistic protocol is he has a history of telling people they're off the record.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: And not just with this book. This is going back to the Murdoch too and other books.

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: And then -- and then disregarding that.

CUOMO: Right. Now he flips it the other way. He has a very long statement about this. You can read it for yourself --

HABERMAN: That's right.

CUOMO: Where he explains any irregularities in sourcing on the Trump people. That they didn't have protocols. They didn't have rules. They would say something was off the record and then repeat it to others. You know, they would say something was confidential, but then it would be widely known. He even uses the word somisdot (ph), which is an odd choice of words for him. It's a Russian protocol term of how dissidents got out information during the war years.


CUOMO: I don't know why he used that term. It's the only inflammatory thing I saw in there that -- that's going to sound like a cheap shot about the Trump people. But he explains it as being their fault, not his.

HABERMAN: Well, that's OK. And that's -- I mean, look, I wasn't present for these conversations that he had with him. It is certainly clear that this White House, many of the aides there, are just lacking in sort of basic established professionalism in dealing with reporters and the way this normally works. But as a journalist --

[07:00:01] CAMEROTA: Or maybe they want to get the story out. I mean maybe it's not unprofessional (ph). Maybe they want to get the story out.

HABERMAN: Some of them do and some of them -- some of them do and some of them don't. But, I mean, I guess the point is -- and, look, and there's -- they would -- they would certainly not be the first people in history to tell someone something on the record and then say, I was taken out of context, which is