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Washington Post: Trump Says He Made Up Facts in Trudeau Meeting; New Connections Revealed Between Stormy Daniels, Trump Organization; Source: Trump Looking to Purge Cabinet 'Dead Weight'; United Mistakenly Flies Dog to Japan. Aired 6-6:29a ET

Aired March 15, 2018 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now our closest allies will not know whether the president is speaking from fact.

[05:59:31] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking for solutions for paths forward.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why did they ban together to screw the United States on trade?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: These documents suggest that the Trump Organization has been intimately involved in the effort to keep Stormy Daniels quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking about a president that's engaged in behavior that is, A, immoral; B, that's possibly illegal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sitting Trump voters surprised that he wasn't Mother Teresa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I instantly burst in tears, just wondering where my dog was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has happened on more than one occasion on United flights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a really special dog. It's just sad the way he has to just leave.

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ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I still can't get that dog story out of my head. It's what people are asking me most about. It really makes no sense.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We will be talking about that on the program also.

CUOMO: Welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Thursday, March 15, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line. A truly stunning admission from President Trump.

"The Washington Post" reports the president boasted to donors last night that he made up facts in a recent meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This won't be a situation where he will just come out and say, "I never said that. Fake news." It was recorded.

"The Post" also reports Mr. Trump appeared to threaten to pull out U.S. troops from South Korea if he doesn't get what he wants on trade? Speaking of boasting, President Trump once said his cabinet was, quote, "the finest group of people ever assembled." CNN has learned the president is now eyeing a purge of cabinet members because of all of the scandals and misdeeds that he now considers these people dead weight.

CAMEROTA: And the Stormy Daniels scandal continues. New documents obtained by CNN suggest a deeper link between the Trump Organization and the $130,000 payment to a porn star. Trump's personal lawyer long maintained that he acted alone in what he called a, quote, private transaction.

But it turns out another attorney at Mr. Trump's company is involved in the legal battle to silence Stormy Daniels.

And President Trump, under growing pressure to condemn Russia's nerve agent attack in the U.K. The White House and his U.N. ambassador has denounced Russia's actions, so why not the president.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House. What have you learned, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn.

President Trump was in St. Louis last night, campaigning for a Republican candidate, but spent much of that time talking about himself in his speech. And then at a closed-door fund-raiser, it's his private comments that have raised a lot of eyebrows here in the U.S. and overseas. It revealed the degree to which he is willing to push U.S. allies to enact new trade policies which he says benefits the United States.

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PHILLIP (voice-over): "The Washington Post" reporting that President Trump admitted to making up facts at a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while recounting this familiar story.

TRUMP: He said, "No, no, you have a trade surplus." I said, "No, we don't." He said, "No, no, you have a trade surplus." I said, "Mr. Prime Minister, we do not."

PHILLIP: "The Post" reports that Mr. Trump added a new anecdote last night, telling the crowd that he made the claim, which turned out to be false, without even knowing if it was accurate. JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have consistently been,

you know, positive and contributing in a meaningful way at the NAFTA table. We're looking for solutions for paths forward.

PHILLIP: The president also blasting a number of America's closest allies, including South Korea, accusing them of only caring about themselves on trade. "The Post" reports that Mr. Trump seemed to threaten to pull U.S. troops stationed in South Korea if he didn't get what he wanted on trade. The veiled threat coming hours before a South Korean delegation arrives in Washington to discuss a potential meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: We've had a problem for years with North Korea. Let's see what happens.

PHILLIP: President Trump's new chief economic advisor, media analyst Larry Kudlow, will soon join the White House despite opposing Trump's tariffs plan.

TRUMP: We don't agree on everything. But in this case, I think that's good. He now has come around to believing in tariffs as also a negotiating point.

PHILLIP: Kudlow's appointment comes as one official says the president has been complaining that his cabinet fell well short of his expectations and that he wants to purge the dead weight. Sources tell CNN that Mr. Trump is growing increasingly frustrated with at least two embattled cabinet members, V.A. Secretary David Shulkin and Housing Secretary Ben Carson. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also causing alarm after failing to answer basic questions about schools in recent interviews.

LESLIE STAHL, "60 MINUTES": Have public schools in Michigan gotten better?

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: I don't know overall. I can't say overall that they have all gotten better. I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

PHILLIP: Anxiety is growing in the West Wing over additional departures as new documents obtained by CNN now directly link another Trump Organization employee with efforts to silence Stormy Daniels about her alleged affair with the president.

The documents show that Jill Martin, a senior lawyer with Mr. Trump's company, filed an arbitration document against Daniels last month. Well, the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, still insists that he paid that $130,000 to Stormy Daniels in his private capacity as the president's lawyer and he acted alone. And Martin says that she acted in her personal capacity as an attorney for Cohen. So this story continues to unfold and continues to unravel, Chris and Alisyn.

[06:05:15] CUOMO: All right, Abby. Thank you very much.

CNN political analyst joins us now from "The Daily Beast," editor-in- chief John Avlon; and senior political analyst Mark Preston.

All right, fellows. We want to give people the grist for the mill this morning and what supposedly happened with the president at this situation. What he was saying. So here is the transcript from "The Washington Post." You will be Trump.

CAMEROTA: Fantastic.

CUOMO: I will be Trudeau.

CAMEROTA: Here we go. OK. "Trudeau came to see me. He's a good guy, Justin," he said.

CUOMO: "No, no, no, we have no trade deficit with you. We have none. Donald, please," Trump said mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by "The Washington Post." "Nice guy, good looking guy. He comes in."

"Donald we have no trade deficit."

CAMEROTA: "He's very proud because everybody else, you know, we're getting killed. So he's proud. I said, 'Wrong, Justin, you do.' I didn't even know. I had no idea. I just said, 'You're wrong.' You know why? Because we're so stupid and I thought they were smart."

"I said, 'You're wrong Justin.' He said --

CUOMO: "No, we have no trade deficit."

CAMEROTA: "I said, 'Well, in that case, I feel differently.' I said, 'But I don't believe it.' I sent one of our guys out. His guy, my guy, they went out.

"I said, 'Check, because I can't believe it.'" Go ahead.

CUOMO: "Well, sir, you're actually right."

CAMEROTA: Oh, good. That's me. Sorry. "You're actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn't include energy and timber. And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.' It's incredible."

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I feel like I'm in church.

CUOMO: There's nothing like church about what we just read. That's why you have to go to church.

AVLON: That was, like, economics via Rodney Dangerfield. That was "Back to School."

CUOMO: What we just read is what takes you to church to ask for forgiveness.

AVLON: It should.

CUOMO: So look, we know that the president -- we, when I say "we," I mean everybody but the Trump base knows that the president flagrantly abuses the truth when it suits him. As part of his persuasiveness and maybe his own sense of self-delusion he needs about what's true and what isn't.

But what does it mean for Justin Trudeau to hear that this isn't what the president was talking about when they're still at the table about NAFTA.

AVLON: Oh, I think it's going to make great things. It's going to really help build trust in that NAFTA negotiation. It's not just that the president is bragging about lying. This is part of the Manhattan real-estate developer persona, right? You know, I'm going to just sort of riff these insults. All developers and do apologies.

But it also is the personal disrespect he's showing Justin Trudeau. That he's basically paying him off as, you know, a good-looking guy who I just blatantly lied to and I'm such a genius that I was proven right. That is -- most times, look, presidential words matter. This is basic. And they do not matter to President Trump. And what's more, he brags about lying.

CAMEROTA: OK. I see it differently.

CUOMO: Go on.

CAMEROTA: I see this as the best window yet we have into his style and belief that he doesn't really care about the details or the facts. They don't matter. He runs with a hunch.

So he has a feeling about something: "I feel that you're screwing me over. I don't need the facts. I don't need to know the details with the numbers. I feel that way." So he runs with it.

And ever since the time Newt Gingrich told me on our show that facts are for intellectuals. He'll go with feelings every day of the week. As a politician, he'll go with feelings every day of the week. That is what President Trump agrees with and what he relies on.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Doesn't that say something. Because Newt Gingrich himself considers himself the ultimate intellectual, right? For somebody to say that he would go for feelings.

AVLON: He's a chameleon.

PRESTON: Right. You know, here's the thing about Donald Trump. We know that he lies. And I'm sorry, for you out there, that it was watching right now that don't think that Donald Trump is lying, then that's a bigger problem than him actually lying. We know where Donald Trump is.

But it is that level of disrespect. It's the idea that Donald Trump would go out and be so careless and reckless with his words to talk about another leader. Not that he talked about another leader to, perhaps, a small group of his, you know, folks that he's very close with or his advisers, but the fact that he did it to a very large group. And he knew very well that would get out. CUOMO: And look, again, he can come out and say he didn't say we have it wrong. It was recorded and transcribed.

Now, that happens to be a threading of these two ideas. When Newt was talking to you, he was talking about the art of persuasion and working people in an election. That I'll go with feeling over fact, because people often vote on that. Fair point.

This, however, is the second part of the adage, you campaign in poetry, or B.S. in this standpoint; and then, you govern in prose. So this is about governing, OK? This isn't about convincing a group of people that he's your choice --

[06:10:12] CAMEROTA: And he will. He believes in going with his hunches. That's who he is.

CUOMO: That's fine. It's fine as an -- who he is. But who he is is a problem policy-wise, because this doesn't do on the international stage with other leaders, because they're not used to this type of, you know, just flagrant fact abuse. Not that they tell the truth all the time. But this is someone who revels in it and does it in an obvious way.

AVLON: These are politicians we're talking about on the global scale. But look, geopolitically, going with your gut is dangerous. That's one of the ways we got into Iraq. Facts matter when you're dealing with policy and we're dealing with international diplomacy and the American president, whose words really do matter.

And the larger problem isn't just politics and governing. It's actually one of the bigger problems that's polarizing our entire country is this -- oh, should we go with feelings or thinking, right?

CAMEROTA: Yes.

AVLON: And too many people on the extremes elevate feelings over thinking. And that's how we've lost the ability to reason together. And the president becomes a cheerleader, a poster boy for that idea. That's a deeper problem.

CAMEROTA: Of course. And you also don't know what to trust. Right? So when somebody admits that they're fudging the numbers, and they're fudging the truth, you don't know what to trust.

AVLON: -- that guy.

CAMEROTA: So that leads us to North Korea and what the plan is and the entire Korean Peninsula. So here is what the president said about this at the fund-raiser. I have to read it, because the audio hasn't been released. "We lose money on trade and we lose money on the military. We have 32,000 soldiers between North and South Korea. Let's see what happens."

PRESTON: Yes, in fact, let's just take them out. They've only been there since, you know, what '48 or '47.

CAMEROTA: But if that how you read that? You're saying, "Let's see what happens," to you is like, "Maybe we will take those 32,000."

PRESTON: He knows exactly what he's doing when he says those -- when he says the words. I don't think he necessarily thinks about what he's going to say. But when it starts to come through his brain and go out his mouth, he knows exactly what he's doing and that, in itself, is very reckless and very dangerous.

AVLON: That's a much bigger deal. A less fun dramatic reading but a much bigger deal than the first one. Because what he's basically threatening is to pull U.S. troops out of the DMZ over trade at the exact time that the U.S. is preparing to sit down with North Korea, a nuclearized tyrannical state. For South Korea, he knows he's got them over a barrel. It's not how you do things as president of the United States.

CUOMO: Look, fine point of criticism. He could justify the policy. People will agree or disagree. But it's fundamentally different as a proposition than the first one, in that in the first one, he's just lying about what the truth is. So the problem with that is everything he's saying there, his numbers are about right with the people he has there. And there is a deficit in terms of how we deal with trade with South Korea to keep them free from the North.

But that first one has to be harped on all day long. Because it's got to be relevant to people about the challenge of covering him, because he will lie, then deny it, and then blame you for calling you out. And there are too many people in this country who accept his rationale. But now you have the latest example of proof where he's just not telling the truth and he knows it.

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon.

PRESTON: And no doubt. Keep this phrase in mind as we move forward. Gaslighting. Look it up on Google. Because that's exactly what's going on right now with the president.

CUOMO: I watched the movie. I don't know that it's as great as they say it is. It's hard to follow. It's hard to travel.

AVLON: I think the term is actually more relevant than the Hitchcock film.

CUOMO: Yes.

AVLON: Appreciate the homework.

CUOMO: But it's not easy to follow.

CAMEROTA: More on this later. John Avlon, Mark Preston, thank you.

CUOMO: I'm just telling you, I watched it because we use it all the time.

Revealing new documents in the Stormy Daniels scandal. All right, here's the proposition. What exactly did the Trump Organization know about the president's alleged affair? When did they know it? Why is that relevant? Because it goes not to the affair but the coverup and, once again, the truth.

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[06:17:48] CAMEROTA: New documents obtained by CNN reveal another Trump Organization lawyer is involved in that legal battle surrounding the hush money payment to silence Stormy Daniels.

Let's bring back John Avlon. Also joining us now, CNN political analyst and Washington Post" congressional reporter Karon Demirjian.

So Karoun, let me start with you. Michael Cohen, the president's long-time personal attorney has always said that he just did this. He made the $130,000 payment himself. Nobody was connected to it at the Trump Organization. President Trump, Donald Trump then didn't know about it. So --

CUOMO: And he wasn't paid back, which is a critical piece for the FEC component.

CAMEROTA: OK. All right. So now documents reveal, no, in fact, there was another top attorney at the Trump Organization, Jill Martin. Her signature is on one of the legal documents that establishes the LLC or that at least is connected to the LLC. There you see her signature.

So what does this mean now?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It makes Michael Cohen's explanation that much less plausible. Because if he's going to announce today that Jill Martin was also doing this out of the goodness of her heart, or for some other reason, that begs the question of why are so many people in the Trump Organization connected to such a weird payment that seems to be based on a relationship that she's claiming to have with Donald Trump.

That people in Trump's orbit seem to have kind of tacitly, tangentially confirmed that it's actually something that, you know, has been dealt with legally. So the more people that kind of come into this, the more formal the arrangement, the more it raises legal questions for what this means in terms of Trump's potential liability. If these people were supposed to be paid back with campaign funds. And it's just a much less convenient excuse, which I think most people were not really fully buying anyway. Michael Cohen was delivering it.

CUOMO: Fine. That last point is maybe the most important part of the analysis. At the end of the day, who cares? Maybe there was an FEC violation. Maybe there wasn't. Either way, it's not going to impact in any real way on the president.

CAMEROTA: So people care about that. If there was an FEC violation.

CUOMO: But do they? I mean, do you think his voters care about any of this? And if we're talking about the broader population of voters, right, do you think this is what's going to really color their perception of President Trump? Even if everything winds up being true about the cover-up.

[06:20:03] CAMEROTA: I don't know. An actual FEC violation is something concrete.

AVLON: Look, let's be honest. It's not the FEC violation alone. It's the simple, apparent fact of a secret payment to a porn star through a Delaware corporation by his personal lawyer days before an election. That -- all of that is attention-getting, as well as unethical, as well as potentially illegal.

CUOMO: But you see in all the poll numbers, when people talk about what they think about President Trump, and why they voted for him or they didn't, a lot of this is baked in. Do you think he had the affair? Probably. How about the poll that's floating around out there now, that Trump people, do you think it's immoral if he had the affair? If he had the affair. It's 50/50. Fifty percent say yes, if he did this, it's immoral. Fifty percent say no. I mean, do you think this changes his fate?

AVLON: Look, politically, he can argue it's baked in the cake. That was an argument that Clinton's people trotted out, that this is something different. If this had been something that a Democratic politician had done, people would --

CUOMO: No question.

AVLON: -- be screaming -- be screaming holy hell.

CUOMO: But the standard is different with this guy for his base.

AVLON: And he's got 83 percent of the evangelical votes. His popularity is low enough that he can't afford to start having his base erode.

CUOMO: They've got him golfing, 1,500 power with all the mulligans they said they would give him. As long as he's right on the big- ticket items that they want him to get done, the judges. Being hard on pushing the right-to-life agenda. They've chosen that over the old character argument.

DEMIRJIAN: But the more this becomes a legally sticky issue for them, the less likely it is to go away. The more you keep kind of beating this in the airwaves, the more people have to listen to it, the more this becomes -- maybe if there's an FEC violation there, it just kind of adds more weight and more -- it solidifies the accusations that are made and makes it more difficult to ignore it. It raises the ick factor. Because then you get this dragged into, you know, legal situations. And there's probably more that comes out, too, about the details of what was done to cover it up, if that's where it goes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, quick.

AVLON: Just the fact that this is another unforced error that connects the Trump Organization and this payment itself is what is fascinating. It indicates that there's a certain amount of muscle memory around these kind of situations.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about the cabinet. Because this is more than just a parlor game of who's in, who's out. Things seem to be happening.

There's all sorts of reporting that the president was not satisfied with his original picks, and these are the people who may be on the chopping block. And there's a lot of them. I mean, from David Shulkin, Jeff Sessions, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, Ryan Zinke, Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos. And have made their own mistakes quite publicly in the past week.

So Karoun, what information do you have?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean, everybody is waiting to see where the president turns next. True, the Tillerson dismissal is a very, very big deal this week. And then McMaster's name started to be floated about.

I mean, from that list of faces and cabinet positions that you put up, really the president has a choice. Does he want to get rid of the people who were -- you know, bought really expensive dining room tables and spent taxpayer money on planes, lights and screwed up on "60 Minutes"? Or does he want to go for the people who has really kind of been his antagonist on his policy, whether it's Sessions. He's really upset is Sessions for a long time for recusing himself on Russia issues. He feels that worsened his lot.

Or McMaster, who you know, he poked at when he was overseas, representing the United States to allied nations in Germany.

So which way the president goes, I think, in large part, is going to depend on what he feels the public blowback to that is. And Sessions has a test this week, frankly, with the FBI director. Andrew McCabe, who's now been recommended for firing. So that may -- Trump wanted him gone. So we'll see if that's a test for Sessions, what he determines he's going to do in the next few days.

AVLON: Yes, I mean, the two buckets that these cabinet officials can be put into. They want people who are embarrassments or distractions. Mini scandals.

The other people who have committed the sin of telling the president no. And they tend to be from the national security apparatus or law enforcement. Losing them is much more dangerous for the country and the institution of the presidency. And if he all of a sudden does cut off McMaster, who's been widely respected, has the guts to tell the president what he needs to know and what he doesn't necessarily want to hear and replaces him with another TV cable host who's more inclined to say yes, that's bad for the country.

And the McCabe thing, if they fire McCabe -- and I know they have the recommendation as coverage now. That is a disgrace to fire somebody days before retirement NS take away their pension, really for what is a petty and political reason.

CAMEROTA: But was it? I mean --

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: But what if he didn't -- what if he did mislead about the Hillary Clinton investigation?

AVLON: This is purely presidential personal pique. We all know that to be true. He just now has the fig leaf of an excuse from the Justice Department.

CAMEROTA: All right. I like the alliteration. Nice line.

AVLON: Thank you. It's one of the many services I provide.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it is. John Avlon, Karoun Demirjian, thank you very much.

OK. Listen to this. Another P.R. disaster for United Airlines involving the mishandling of a family pet. A German Shepherd mistakenly flown by the airline to Japan instead of Kansas. Details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:29:05] CAMEROTA: United Airlines facing new criticism after they mistakenly sent a dog to Japan instead of Kansas. This comes just days after the airline had to apologize for a dog dying after being put in an overhead compartment on one of their flights.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us now with more. What's going on there?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, these stories are -- these are not good headlines for United. These stories are sad. They're upsetting, and they're part of an unfortunate pattern of mistakes by the airline.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARA SWINDLE, IRGO'S OWNER: They showed me the kennel. And the minute I said, "Irgo," up pops this Great Dane.

JONES (voice-over): United Airlines mistakenly shipping this Kansas- bound dog named Irgo more than 6,000 miles away from his intended destination, the 10-year-old German shepherd winding up in Japan, leaving his family frantic.

SWINDLE: I instantly burst into tears, just wondering where my dog was.

JONES: The family says Irgo, who was suffering from an ear infection, made the 16-hour flight with no food or water. He was examined in Japan and is flying back to Kansas with an escort.

SWINDLE: He is probably so scared and freaked out and probably hurting, too, because he doesn't have his medicine.