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Exodus Continues: Trump Loses Gary Cohn; Stormy Sues Trump; Northeast Braces for Big Snowstorm. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 7, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:13] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like conflict. I like having two people with different points of view. I like watching it. I like seeing it.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A cage fight has now cost the president his top economic adviser. Gary Cohn is out after getting overruled in the battle over new tariffs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Stormy Daniels is ready to talk. She's suing the president over their nondisclosure agreement. She claims it's void since he never signed it.

BRIGGS: And from a Stormy to a storm, a nor'easter, part two. Major snowfall coming to the Northeast today. Tens of millions facing dangerous conditions. The full forecast is moments away.

But the snow will not wait for the forecast. It is already falling here in New York City.

ROMANS: It is.

BRIGGS: An ugly commute.

ROMANS: It is.

BRIGGS: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, March 7th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Now, why would anyone think there's chaos in the White House? Just hours after President Trump tweeted this claim, there is no chaos, only great energy, there was word of another crucial departure. Top economic adviser Gary Cohn will resign in coming weeks following a fierce disagreement with this president over his decision to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

BRIGGS: But stayed after the president defended white supremacists in Charlottesville, but tariffs were the final straw. A senior administration official says Cohn had to choice but to leave, having lost the internal fight on tariffs. A Republican congressman involved says Cohen's absence will mean, quote, more instability in the White House.

ROMANS: The announcement Cohn is leaving came shortly after an afternoon news conference with the Swedish prime minister, where Cohn failed to fill a seat with his name on it. There it is, the empty Gary Cohn chair.

And the president presumably knowing his top economic adviser was resigning, he said this --


TRUMP: Many, many people want every single job. You know, I read, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump -- believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office, the West Wing.

I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House, and I'll have a choice of the ten top people having to do that position. Everybody wants to be there.


ROMANS: Gary Cohn was a stabilizer. Gary Cohn respected by Wall Street. Gary Cohn was a salve to the stock market.

Knowing Cohn was quitting over tariffs, the president stood firmly by them.


TRUMP: We do it in a very loving way. It will be a loving, loving way. They'll like us better, and they will respect us much more.


BRIGGS: Republican opposition to the tariff plan growing by the day. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally breaking his silence Tuesday, saying he has genuine concerns the new tariffs could spark a trade war.

ROMANS: All right. His sudden departure, Gary Cohn's sudden departure is already rattling Wall Street. Dow futures falling as much as 400 points overnight, the S&P 500 futures sliding about 1 percent. That set the tone for global stocks.

The entire global stock market basically fell because of Gary Cohn. Asia slipped lower, while Europe opened down an hour ago.

Why is his resignation shaking the markets? His presence reassured investors. The former Goldman Sachs executive was pro-business, instrumental in passing the tax cuts that juice corporate profits. He was also pro-free trade, a moderate globalist voice to President Trump's nationalist instincts. Like Trump's plan to slap tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, Cohn opposes that. He was working to soften the final product, even orchestrating a meeting with companies hurt by higher steel and aluminum prices.

But now that he's gone, the fear is a trade war. The president's protectionism freaks out Wall Street. Not only can it undo all of his pro-business work, you know, his tax cuts and deregulation, but it threatens the global economy. That could lead to more inflation, sparking faster interest rate hikes.

So, Gary Cohn will be a huge, huge loss. Wall Street very concerned about this.

All right. Adult entertainer Stephanie Clifford, call her what you will, porn star, I'm not sure how to label her here, Stormy Daniels is suing President Trump. She wants a judge to rule the nondisclosure agreement she signed is void because then-candidate Trump did not sign it. The deal, of course, regards an alleged sexual encounter between the two.

BRIGGS: The suit filed in the California court says Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, signed the document on the president's behalf. But a person familiar with the agreement tells the "Washington Post" it required the signature of Cohen or Trump but not both. The lawsuit claims after Cohen tried to stop Daniels from coming forward before the election, Cohen has kept trying to silence Daniels, even as recently as last week, following what a suit calls a, quote, bogus arbitration proceeding.

[04:05:08] ROMANS: No comment from Cohen on that claim. Cohen has admitted to making a $130,000 payment to Daniels before the 2016 election but denies the Trump administration or campaign was involved or that the campaign violated campaign finance law. He also says the president vehemently denies any encounter with Daniels.

BRIGGS: Now to a different kind of storm, far more dangerous in some respects. For the second time in a week, a powerful nor'easter threatening more than 50 million people from Philadelphia to Boston, all of them facing winter storm watches or warnings. And remember, crews are still working to restore power to more than 100,000 customers after last weekend's storm. About 1,900 flights already canceled today. So, if you're traveling, folks, check with your airline before leaving home.

For the latest on the storm, let's turn to meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

Ivan, good morning to you. What is on the way?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: So, you mentioned the differences. This time around, Dave -- and good morning, everyone -- it's going to be heavier snow event here because we have colder air on the way. It's not going to be as strong as far as the winds. I think we'll have additional power outages, likely will, it will be the heavy snow on the branches bringing them down.

So, here's the set of the coastal low gets going, in fact, it's just beginning, right? This is just the beginning of the storm. We have the apparent low we were tracking yesterday across the Midwest, that is now transferring energy to the coastal low, the one that's getting going. Look at the lightning. This will continue heading up to the north.

But it's already crashing with cold air. So, I mentioned there, snowy in New York already. It's the heaviest of the snow is yet to come. We're going to have all day to do that. And there you see the rain/snow line. This is just going to kind of meander over the next several hours, Philly into the snowfall.

But all of us pretty much under a winter storm warning. That includes 50 million people across the Northeast. Let's fine-tune this, though, because this is going to be a tricky forecast, especially along the coast, because warm enough air I think is going to be making for lower snow totals right along the coast.

For example, Atlantic City in New Jersey, probably not going to get that much as far as snow. You drive further to the north and west, Philly getting heavier snow, and then really getting in on blockbuster snow totals, anywhere from 12 to 18 inches further north and west.

Here's Boston, as well. Same deal. Cape Cod and the islands, forget it. You're getting rain, no snow. But you work your way up, and there's Boston. This is 95, locally 128.

To the north and west, north and west of the city, that's when we get into the very heavy snowfall. Worcester County. The potential was 15 to 20 inches. So, some of us, a lot of us will get crushed as far as the snowfall. It's just lower amounts a little further to the east.

By the way, in New York, I think likely going to be looking at more like six to nine inches. Again, the storm doesn't even peak until later this afternoon and evening.

BRIGGS: The lines move a little bit, and a lot of snow on the way --

CABRERA: Twenty miles. Huge difference.

BRIGGS: Appreciate it, man. Thank you. We'll check back next half hour.

Meanwhile, two Republican chairmen are calling in Attorney General Sessions to appoint a special counsel. Congressman Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy want to investigate possible Obama-era abuses of surveillance law. The lawmakers sent a letter to Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, urging an investigation into a warrant obtained on former Trump adviser Carter Page. The FISA warrant was the subject of that much-criticized memo from GOP House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes.

Goodlatte and Gowdy said the special counsel is needed because the scope is too broad for the Justice Department, the I.G. in particular.

ROMANS: The Trump administration could impose new sanctions on Russian individuals and organizations as soon as next week. Senior official tells CNN the Internet Research Agency is among the entities being sanctioned. The Kremlin-linked troll farm was at the heart of an indictment naming 13 Russian individuals.

Yesterday, the president said his administration will fight attempts to meddle in the upcoming 2018 midterms.


TRUMP: We'll counteract whatever they do. We'll counteract it very strongly. And we are having strong backup systems and we've been working actually -- we haven't been given credit for this, but we've actually been working very hard on the '18 election and the '20 election coming up.


ROMANS: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats says conversations are underway on how to counter the threats of Russian attacks on the midterms. Now, less than eight months, Coats told lawmakers the White House is engaged and has been.

BRIGGS: A Middle East businessman with ties to current and former aides to President Trump reportedly cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Sources say George Nader attended secret meetings during the presidential transition between the United Arab Emirates and Trump associates. Nader was stopped and questioned by the FBI at Dulles Airport in January as he returned from an overseas trip. He's been talking to Mueller's investigators since then and providing information to the grand jury.

[04:10:00] The special counsel's questions point to an investigation beyond Russian meddling in the election to broader questions about foreign influence during the campaign and beyond.

Ahead, breaking news. Three police officers shot in Missouri. One has died. Investigators looking for answers this morning.



TRUMP: I think that they are sincere, but I think they're sincere also because the sanctions and what we're doing with respect to North Korea including, you know, the great help that we've been given from China. I really believe they are sincere. I hope they're sincere. We're going to soon find out.


BRIGGS: President Trump sounding optimistic although cautiously so after South Korea announced North Korea is willing to talk to the United States about giving up its nuclear arsenal. This stunning development coming after historic negotiations between the two Koreas in Pyongyang. Kim Jong-un also agreeing to refrain from conducting nuclear and missile tests while those talks are ongoing.

[04:15:06] Andrew Stevens is live for us in Seoul this morning.

A lot of questions here, Andrew. A lot of skeptics on the story. What are we to believe broke the North Koreans? Was it sanctions? Was it the threat of a military strike? Do we have any hint? ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, all of the

above, Dave. It's -- we don't know. This is an absolute dictatorship in North Korea. We don't knowing the thinking of Kim Jong-un.

If you talk to people in South Korea, particularly analysts who have been following the story for decades, some of them, they will say that the sanctions did play a part, that the economic news has been tightening on North Korea. They saw that it was only going to get worse, and they needed to do something. Other will say this was North Korea playing off the same playbook, they're buying for time, as well.

Certainly, though, whatever the reason is, there is still skepticism down in Seoul, as well. In fact, the president, President Moon of South Korea saying today that it's far too early to be optimistic about this. We're just at the beginning of this process. He said the international sanctions would stay, as well. Even if South Korea wanted to lift them, and there's no suggestion they do, they'd have to stay.

Remember, the U.S. is keeping its strategy of maximum force on North Korea, until there's some sort of tangible evidence. So, really, it comes down to the next steps, which are going to be this meeting in between the leaders at the end of April, and, of course, talks between the U.S. and North Korea. We don't know when it's going to happen, but that -- and after that, there has to be this tangible move, Dave, that North Korea is starting to dismantle its nuclear program. That is going to be a massive undertaking from North Koreans and so many people down here say it won't happen.

BRIGGS: Andrew, you have to wonder down the road, who will conduct these talks on behalf of the United States. We have no real diplomats in the region, being the only one who might have worked just retired. A lot of questions moving forward.

Andrew Stevens, live for us in Seoul -- thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Britain's top diplomat, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the U.K. would respond robustly if it discovered Russia was behind the suspected poisoning of a former double agent. And Britain's home secretary expected to chair an emergency meeting this morning to discuss the ongoing investigation.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin live in Salisbury, England, with more.

What an amazing and mysterious story, Erin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. This is a mystery. We do not know what happened to 66- year-old Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. They were found on Sunday just behind me the park bench you see over there unconscious.

Authorities believe they were exposed to some kind of unknown substance, still working to identify that. You see the bench behind me now covered by a police tent. This entire sort of nondescript shopping mall now cordoned off, the subject of an intense investigation that is now being considered by the highest levels of British government.

You mentioned there, Amber Rudd, home secretary, chairing a COBRA meeting, a meeting normally reserved for emergency responses. And the reason why Russia really is at the center of this investigation is because of who Skripal is. He's a former Russian intelligence operative who in 2006 was convicted of spying for the British government, sentenced to 13 years in jail, released as part of a spy swap in 2010. He settled here in Salisbury, now lying unconscious and in critical condition alongside his daughter in a British hospital -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Keep us up to date with developments in that story. Erin McLaughlin, thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, the Texas primary is done. Ted Cruz looking ahead to the fall election.


TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN AD: If you're going to run in Texas, you can't be a liberal man, because liberal thought is not the spirit of a lone star man --


BRIGGS: No, wait until you hear the trick Cruz pulled from the Trump playbook. Love some Charlie Daniels.

We're back in a moment.


[04:23:46] BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, a police officer killed and two others injured in a shoot-out at a home in Clinton, Missouri, about 75 miles southeast of Kansas City. A local station reporting the officers came under fire while responding to a 911 call. The state highway patrol said the victim barricaded himself but was later found dead. Last night's shoot-out happening exactly seven month after another Clinton officer was shot and killed during a traffic stop. We'll bring you more as it becomes available.

ROMANS: The Texas primary barely finished when Ted Cruz took an opening shot at his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, Congressman Beto O'Rourke. It was straight from the Trump playbook.


TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN AD: Liberal Robert wanted to fit in, so he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin --


ROMANS: Those lyrics, "Liberal Robert Wanted to Fit In," seemingly a play on Little Marco or Lyin' Ted, and Cruz pointing Beto's real name is Robert. Ted Cruz's real first name, by the way, is Rafael.

BRIGGS: Did not know that.

Cruz and O'Rourke both won their respected primaries, and will square off in November. Democrats look to be headed to runoffs in three races for Republican-held House seats that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democratic voter turnout was the highest in Texas for a non- presidential primary since back in 2002 energy.

[04:25:07] Republican Governor Greg Abbott won his primary. On the Democratic side, a runoff will determine who faces Abbott in the fall.

The great escape this was not. A police chase in Fairfax County, Virginia, ending when a drunk driving suspect tries to make a run for it. But the man forgot the key was still in drive and ended up running him over. Police say the guy is fine physically, but he certainly has other problems. This was his first DWI and he faces a long list of other charges.

That's tough day for him.

ROMANS: I don't know whether to laugh or cry on that one.

All right. No chaos says the president, no chaos. The results say otherwise. A top moderating force is leaving as economic adviser Gary Cohn heads for the exits. Wall Street does not like it.

BRIGGS: And if you're just waking up, bad news in the Northeast. Get ready for a brutal day. Fifty million under winter weather advisories from New Jersey to Maine.