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Questions Grow Over Payoff to Porn Star; Tariff Rollout Today or Not; Florida Passes Gun Measures. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 8, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:01] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Press Secretary Sarah Sanders saying, quote, the arbitration was won in the president's favor. Daniels responds, yes, and he also won the popular vote. Daniels lawyer maybe on to something there, a copy of the restraining order obtained by CNN clearly states it is an interim order that can be modified.

For more on the controversy, we have senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the White House is dealing with the series of questions about Stormy Daniels, the adult actress and porn star and her potential relationship with President Trump before the presidential campaign in 2016. And was there hush money paid to her?

Now, that has been unfolding for the last several days. But at the White House press briefing on Wednesday, I asked Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, if President Trump knew exactly about the payment.

Did he know about the payment at the time though?


ZELENY: Did he know about the payment at the time?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of. There was no knowledge of payments from the president. He has denied all of these allegations. I believe I've addressed this question pretty extensively.

ZELENY: So, while Sarah Sanders tried to say she's answered all the questions and referred the other questions to the president's outside lawyer. The fact is the questions still remain. The White House says it has been asked and answered before the election but the reality is these are new questions because of new legal information.

Certainly, a busy week for the White House and it's only Thursday -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

Confusion overnight over the timing and details of President Trump's imminent trade announcement. He was set to sign tariffs on steel and aluminum imports today. But as of last night, the event was not on the White House schedule. Aides working, we're told, on the plan. It's just simply is not finalized yet. We don't know the fate of two of America's biggest trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

Here is trade adviser Peter Navarro last night.


PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: The proclamation will have a clause that does not impose tariffs immediately on Canada and Mexico.


ROMANS: That's a reversal from what Navarro said last weekend that no countries would be excluded. But he added it gives the U.S. time to negotiate NAFTA. The president also tied exemptions to NAFTA earlier this week. Navarro also reinforces what Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said yesterday.


SANDERS: There are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security and possibly other countries as well.


ROMANS: Sanders statements helped U.S. stocks rebound. The S&P 500 flat. It's been down 1 percent earlier on the day on those fears of a trade war. Wall Street fears a trade war.

It's not just investors. Trump's tariffs plans faces opposition from allies, from key aides and, from Republicans. A hundred House Republicans sent a letter to the White House saying, don't do these tariffs. It's also part of the reason Gary Cohn resigned as economic adviser. Many are concerned the tariffs could hurt other U.S. industries like manufacturing and agriculture, and that other countries would retaliate. In fact, China will make a necessary response in the event of a trade war.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us from Washington this morning, CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan.

Good morning to you, Tal.


BRIGGS: Look, Republicans in Congress have been unhappy with the president at times on immigration after that wide freewheeling meeting and again on guns. But on both issues, they seemed to get him back in line and tack him back to the right. It does not appear that is happening here on trade.

So, how real is the fracture with the president and just about every prominent Republican in Congress?

KOPAN: Well, if just look at the public statements and comments, there certainly seems to be a real fracture between the president and a handful of is advisers and large swath of the Republican Party. You know, again, as we were just describing, it's very hard to know what the White House is actually going to do. They sort of mixed their messages. They've said it's going to be absolute. No exemptions and then there maybe are exemptions and carve-outs. You know, there's an announcement, or maybe there isn't an announcement.

So, it seems to be sort of completely unformed at this point what exactly they're going to do and the devil is in the details on this. But there are certainly a number of warning signs from Capitol Hill saying, we don't like where this is headed.

ROMANS: And we know that the president's, you know, money team, Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin and Peter Navarro, have been out, you know, talking to the business press about we're not going to blow up things. We're not going to blow up things up. We can do these narrow tariffs and it won't be a trade war. So, they're trying to push that message.

Meantime, there is another story simmering here. The story about the adult film actress and what is alleged to be a relationship she had with the president and payoff before the election. You know, Congressman Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina, who had his own sort of scandal when he was governor there, this is what he said about this scandal.

He said: Hush money is a big deal, particularly if it's not ancient history. We are talking about a payment in October of 2016.

[05:05:00] That is not a long time ago. We're talking about money that was exchanged in the midst of a presidential campaign. I think that's problematic.

If the shoe were on the other foot and there was a Democratic presidential candidate who had done the same thing, Republicans would probably be holding hearings right now.

Why doesn't this Stormy Daniels debacle elevate from a boil from a simmer here?

KOPAN: Well, it's interesting. I mean, it's a couple things. You know, one, it's just the pace of the news under the Trump administration. I mean, it's absolutely right if this had happened under almost any other administration, it would have been several news cycles of nothing else, but because there is simply so much happening -- sometimes stories that in any other administration would be headline grabbers actually get lost in the shuffle.

But, you know, it's more than that. It's sort of this president came in with a completely different backgrounds than most politicians do and the Republican Party has already swallowed quite a bit of things that normally they would not expect from their politicians. And so, coming in with those expectations already, sometimes these incidents, these scandals, they don't rise to the level they normally would if you had a squeaky clean background because the lawmakers who are asked are able to say, well, we sort of -- we sort of knew there was stuff like this in the past.

ROMANS: Also "Access Hollywood" I think inoculated the president against -- I mean, he's already had a big --

BRIGGS: That's exactly right.

ROMANS: You know, he's already had this big scandal. And people -- you know, people elected him knowing that he is not -- he is not the traditional candidate.

KOPAN: Right.

BRIGGS: Yes. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to battle with the state of California, and they have done so with every issue. There's environment or offshore drilling or tax cuts and we could go on and on. It's really ground zero for the resistance.

But new is this immigration battle, have to do with, of course, sanctuary cities. Governor Jerry Brown says we knew the Trump administration is full of liars and on and on.

Here is what Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, said just yesterday.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Federal law determines immigration policy. State of California is not entitled to block that activity. Somebody needs to stand up and say no. You've gone too far. You cannot do this. This is not reasonable. It's radical really.


BRIGGS: Has the state of California gone too far?

KOPAN: Well, this is certainly going to be a very interesting piece of litigation. You know, it's a bit unusual for the federal government to take this step of proactively suing a state over a law they put on the books. One of the interesting wrinkles is the precedent he is citing is the 2010 Arizona law that the Obama administration sued in the sort of the opposite direction, saying the Arizona law went too far trying to enforce federal immigration laws that the federal government didn't want to do. This is sort of the opposite, the federal government saying based on the arguments that California is interfering and not going far enough.

But, you know, both sides certainly have legal arguments to make here. The politics of it are incredibly pitched. You heard radical extremists and liars and mendacity. It was a lot of rhetoric going around. Legal arguments themselves though are very interesting. And this could have the potential to make its way to the Supreme Court, be a very landmark case in terms of how the federal government and states can sort out these thorny issues.

ROMANS: Interesting. All right. Tal, come back in about half an hour. We'll talk more about it. Thanks.

KOPAN: Thanks.

BRIGGS: "The New York Times" reporting that President Trump took personal interest in conversations two of his aides had with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators. The president reportedly asked former chief of staff Reince Priebus if prosecutors had been nice to him. And he told White House counsel Don McGahn to publicly deny reports the president told him to fire Mueller. Something McGahn later had to remind the president he had in fact done.

ROMANS: The president's conversations with witnesses is significant because it demonstrates Mr. Trump ignored legal advice to avoid the appearance of interfering with the special counsel's investigation. "The Times" reports the president's follow-up was not illegal but would typically be handled by attorneys.

Just out of the close of their legislative sessions, Florida lawmakers have passed new gun violence measures defying a big push from the NRA.

We get more this morning from CNN's Athena Jones in Florida.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

The Florida House passed the school safety bill. So, now, it is headed to Governor Rick Scott's desk. The bill would do a number of things. It would raise the age to purchase a firearm to 21 years old from 18 years old, and it would establish a three-day waiting period to buy a firearm with some exceptions.

The bill would also ban the sale of bump fire stocks. That's the accessory that allows a semiautomatic weapon to fire like an automatic weapon. It would give law enforcement more power to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit or otherwise a threat. It would provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and for mental health services in districts across the state.

The most controversial provision in the bill would allow some teachers and other school staff to be armed as long as they go through 144 hours of training and meet other criteria.

[05:10:09] That is a provision that has gotten a lot of criticism from students and teachers from across the state, as well as from Governor Scott. He has said he is supposed to arming teachers. His office says he's also opposed to the three-day waiting period this bill establishes.

One thing that isn't clear is whether the governor would veto the bill because it includes those two provisions. Governor Scott said on Wednesday that once he receives the bill, he's going to review it line-by-line and talk about it with the families of Parkland victims. I should note that the governor, once he receives the bill, has 15 days to decide whether to sign or veto it, otherwise it automatically goes into effect -- Christine, Dave.


BRIGGS: All right. Athena Jones there in Tallahassee -- thank you.

President Trump will hold a video game summit at the White House today in the wake of the Parkland shooting. The president suggested violence in video games is at least partly to blame for real-life violence. Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing next week with a focus on Parkland and preventing more school shootings.

ROMANS: All right. Eleven minutes past the hour.

Has Amelia Earhart finally been identified? An American professor thinks he has cracked the mystery by challenging an 80-year-old theory.


[05:15:24] ROMANS: Millions in the Northeast preparing to dig out from the second nor'easter in less than in a week. We're still seeing near blizzard conditions in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire. Wet and heavy snow in Bridgewater, New Jersey, taking down power lines, starting to fire near several homes. You can expect more power outages as this scene repeats across the Northeast.

BRIGGS: And good luck digging your car out. In Morristown, New Jersey, up to two feet of snow fell in some areas. The storm paralyzed the I-95 corridor. Amtrak service suspended between Boston and New York until 10:00 a.m.

The latest now from meteorologist Derek Van Dam.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Impressive snowfall totals west of I-95, Dave and Christine. Some locations receiving over two feet of fresh snow. But look at the difference for the larger city locations like Central Park. Only 3.2 inches of snow from this latest nor'easter.

Now, the storm is quickly pulling off to the north and east. We still have snowfall through midday for places like Massachusetts, Maine, into New Hampshire and Vermont. In fact, we have winter storm warnings in effect for these locations. That will expire roughly about 1:00 p.m. with an additional six to 12 inches of snow for Maine. But perhaps only another two to four inches of snowfall expected near Boston.

Now, in terms of temperatures, really cooling things off for the East Coast, but warm enough to actually melt some of the fresh fallen snow. Forty-one degrees in the Big Apple today, 45 for Washington, Boston, you top 40 degrees.

Back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Derek, thank you.

New light is being shed on the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart. Bones were found in 1940 on a he Pacific island near the projected flight path of Earhart's doomed trip around the world. Now, analysis then from that period concluded they belonged to a man. But using new science, a University of Tennessee anthropology professor says, no, they belong to a woman about Earhart's size.

Based on the remain's stature, he said he is 99 percent sure they are Earhart's. The remains were also found with several possessions that could have belonged to Earhart, suggesting that she and Fred Noonan, her navigator, may have landed on that island either mistakenly or because there were some kind of a problem with the plane and eventually died there dehydration and starvation.

BRIGGS: Fascinating.

All right. Ahead, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland getting a surprise visit from one of their heroes. One student called the greatest moment of his life. Andy Scholes has details in the "Bleacher Report".


[05:22:18] BRIGGS: Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade making a surprise visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


You know, Dwyane Wade has been emotionally invested in what happened at Stoneman Douglas High School since the shooting and Wade trying to do what he can to lift the spirits of the students and teachers yesterday. He was mobbed when making a surprise visit during lunchtime.

One student posted a selfie calling Wade's visit the greatest moment of his life. Wade spoke to the students saying they have been an inspiration to him.


DWAYNE WADE, MIAMI HEAT STAR: I just want to come here today and hopefully for a moment, for a second, bring a little bit of this, bring a little excitement, bring a little joy. You guys have been going through and how you have been I have been amazed from afar and I'm inspired by all of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: One of the victims Joaquin Oliver was a huge Heat and Wade fan and was laid to rest wearing Wade's jersey. Wade met Oliver's family this past Saturday, giving them a special pair of shoes with Joaquin's name on them and Wade has dedicated the rest of the season to Joaquin.

Cavs star Kevin Love says the response from his essay on mental health has been overwhelming. And he's received more than 4,000 emails. Early this week, Love wrote for "Players' Tribune" detailing how he had a panic attack during a game in November. Love is encouraging everyone to be more sympathetic regarding mental health issues. He said spreading that message may now end up being his life's work.


KEVIN LOVE, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: I didn't realize that the response would be like it was or like it is, which is amazing and what we are able to do with this platform. But like I mentioned, everybody is going through something and everybody, you know, you have things that you can't see or can't touch that, you know, they are walking around with every day.


SCHOLES: Love crediting Raptors star DeMar DeRozan's public admission that he deals with depression and anxiety for helping him to open up.

Last night, DeRozan with an epic dunk in the fourth quarter against the Pistons, down one in the closing seconds. DeRozan putting Anthony a poster. That young fan could not believe what he just saw.

The game should have ended right there. But it did go to overtime. The game winner with the second left. Raptors win 121-119.

And, guys, elsewhere in the NBA, the Rockets won their 17th straight. They may never lose again.


BRIGGS: Ever. They're going to run the table, says our former Rockets ball boy, Andy Scholes.

[05:25:02] Thank you, my friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Candidate Trump survived the "Access Hollywood" tape, but will the president address the Stormy Daniels story today? Questions swirling over what the president knew about a hush payment and alleged efforts to keep -- to keep Stormy Daniels quiet.



MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: The idea that somehow President Trump didn't know anything about this, it is patently absurd.


ROMANS: That's the lawyer for Stormy Daniels. He says the president must have known about the hush payment to the adult actress. The White House now trying to keep this side show from becoming the main event.

BRIGGS: And major confusion surrounding the president's plan for tariffs. Today's rollout called off and staffers working through the night on the situation one aide calls absurd.

ROMANS: And in defiance with the NRA, Florida lawmakers pass new legislation to curb gun violence. Will the governor sign off on the plan?

BRIGGS: Welcome to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.