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Headlines Surround President Trump; Stormy Daniels Polygraph; Allegations Cast Shadow Over Trump; Austin Mayor on Bombings; Trump Congratulated Putin. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The president denied her claims, saying, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago. Zervos' lawsuit claims Trump damaged her reputation by essentially calling her a liar.

Then there's former "Playboy" model Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with the president in 2006. McDougal is suing a media company to be released from a 2016 legal agreement preventing her from discussing the alleged relationship with Trump.

These lawsuits come as sources tell CNN that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation continues to agitate the president. President Trump facing scrutiny over his reluctant to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory.

PHILLIP: "The Washington Post" reports that President Trump ignored warnings from his national security advisers, including a note in his briefing materials that read, in capital letters, do not congratulate. A White House official tells CNN that President Trump did not read his notes from his advisers before speaking with Putin, whose sweeping re- election has been widely condemned as a sham.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't get to dictate how other countries operate. What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that's not something that we can dictate to them how they operate.

PHILLIP: "The Post" reports that Mr. Trump also overruled guidance to condemn the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. Instead, the White House emphasizing that the purpose of the call was to discuss shared interests with Russia on Iran and North Korea.

TRUMP: We had a very good call. And I suspect that we'll probably be meeting in the not too distance future.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIP: Well, President Trump also did not bring up election meddling in his conversation with Russia or the sanctions that were imposed. And that prompted a strong rebuke from a Republican senator, John McCain, who is still not back in Washington.

And this morning, Erica and Chris, the president just tweeted a second ago about this Austin bombing -- bombings and these revelations this morning. He says, Austin bombing suspect is dead. Great job by law enforcement and all concerned.

So we'll be hearing more, I'm sure, from President Trump on this today as this situation in Austin unfolds and hopefully is resolved.

Erica and Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right. But we do want to remind people not just to jump at that piece of information about the bomber being dead. The police say there could be other packages out there. They don't know if he was working with somebody else. So caution is still the command from those who know what they're talking about.

Abby, thank you very much.

Let's bring in reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza, and CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, author of "Make It Rain: How to Use the Media to Revolutionize your Business and Brand."

Great title.

Good to have you both here.

All right, so let's talk about the various legal actions of this variety that the president has on his plate right now. Let's start with Stormy Daniels.

The lie detector, does that get Cillizza's glasses moving when you hear that there's a lie detector test and Stormy Daniels passed the lie detector test?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: I mean, sure, it's a piece, but I don't think that -- I mean I think there's enough science out there about lie detector tests and how reliable they are. It's better that she passed it than that she failed it for Stormy Daniels and her lawyer. If she failed it, my guess is we wouldn't be seeing that picture. I mean that is not the best picture ever, but we wouldn't be seeing that picture. But I don't think it's conclusive.

At the same time, I don't know that the real debate is, did Donald Trump engage in an extramarital affair with Stormy Daniels. The -- to me the debate is, Michael Cohen paid -- Donald Trump's lawyer/(INAUDIBLE) paid this woman $130,000 from a shell company that he created in Delaware. Why? He says Donald Trump didn't have anything to do, he didn't think he had an affair, he didn't think -- OK, well, he paid her for some reason and she is now trying to get out of this hush agreement that the payment -- that, to me, the legal piece is the key and what she tells. But I would not -- I would urge people, do not overestimate -- let's

say she gets to tell her full story, which, candidly, I think she probably eventually will because I think everything comes out in the end in this modern environment. Let's say she does. What will we learn that we don't know about Donald Trump? I don't know that he was elected as the beacon of moral turpitude in this country. Maybe it will change --

CUOMO: He may have been elected as a beacon of moral turpitude, but he was not seen as a moral giant when he was elected.

CILLIZZA: Right. It's a good point. And that's -- so that's --

CUOMO: Key distinction. Key distinction, Cillizza.

CILLIZZA: Yes. That's the -- that, to me is -- I -- so I don't know.

I mean, look, I think this story is generating and will continue to generate a massive amount of publicity. I think the fact that you've seen two other women who made accusations prior and they're now coming out and saying, well, wait a minute, there's a legal venue that I can now seek out? I think that is all important.

I do not think that this is the thing that somehow people flip the switch and say, wait a minute, Donald Trump might not have been the greatest husband ever? I mean I don't know that that's stunning information.


[06:35:08] AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think I see it a little differently in -- because we're in this era of Me Too, Time's Up. So what we didn't know pre-election was that he was engaged in trying to keep a woman silent. So I think that's the distinction in this story is that all of this effort to keep her from telling her story. So we knew about affairs. So there's no secret that Donald Trump had affairs and he cheated on his wife. I agree with you there, Chris. That's --

CUOMO: And nothing illegal about these kind of deals.

MARTIN: Nothing illegal about consensual sex, relationships between adults.

CUOMO: Or getting someone to sign an NDA about it.

MARTIN: Nothing illegal about it.

But this -- this full court press to keep her quite I think is different. And I think that could change how women, the 54 percent of white women in particular, who voted for Trump may have thought about him and hopefully will think about him as this story continues to be told.

HILL: There's another full court press, though, that we're seeing here too that we haven't seen in the past, in other issues that Donald Trump has had that have played out in the press and have played out legally, and that is this drip, drip, drip of information and the constant airtime, right, for the attorney, for Avenatti. And even on Twitter, Stormy Daniels is fairly active. So it's this constant drip of information where they are actually not letting up. And that's a change.

MARTIN: Yes. And this is so ironic because Trump, you know, prides himself on using the media, telling the narrative, controlling the narrative. Now Stormy Daniels and her lawyer are controlling the narrative. And even though they may not win this case in court, because there's some issues with the legal case. In the court of public opinion, they're winning. This is a story that's front and center. And when you look at that with Karen McDougal and now the former "Apprentice" star, you've got the president involved in potentially three civil lawsuits. He could be subjected to deposition, discovery where he has to answer questions under oath, and subpoenas. That is unheard of. That's unprecedented in modern times. Think about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and then Donald Trump and two porn stars and an ex "Apprentice" star. No comparison.

CUOMO: Well, Clinton had his own menu of foibles and problems also. But in terms of what would up being the central focus --


CUOMO: Again, the biggest legal consideration, potentially, only potentially, to come out of this is if, in all caps, Donald Trump were to sit down with investigators.

CILLIZZA: Correct.

CUOMO: And because of this money and silence and FEC (ph) and maybe, that they asked him about it because it's not a given that they would ask him about something like this --

HILL: Right.


CUOMO: And he were to lie.

Now it becomes Clinton scenario where it was Lewinsky but he lied in front of that grand jury and that wound up being the basis for the impeachment. That's his concern.

But let's talk about these other ones because now it has created momentum for other shoots.


CUOMO: You have "The Apprentice" contestant who's saying, I'm suing you for defamation because you lied about what happened with me, you hurt my character and now I'm going to sue you.


CUOMO: That's a legit lawsuit according to a Manhattan judge who said it's going to go forward.

CILLIZZA: Oh, absolutely.

CUOMO: Even though he's a sitting president. No one's above the law.

And then you have the playmate who says that "The National Enquirer" paid for her story and then killed it, but now she's bound by that deal and she can't speak. And she seems to be alleging some kind of bad faith on their part --


CUOMO: That they did this to help the president and silence her. What's your take on those two?

CILLIZZA: Well, so I think -- the Summer Zervos one is --

CUOMO: "The Apprentice" contestant.

CILLIZZA: "The Apprentice" contestant, is the one that seems to me, though a defer, that has the most sort of legal umph to it, a defamation case.

Karen McDougal, you'd have to see what the specifics of the NDA said. I mean it's hard -- it's hard to know whether they said, well, we will -- I'm sure they didn't say, we're definitely not going to publish this. I'm sure it said, we'll publish this when we deem fit.

HILL: When we want.

CILLIZZA: Which is a very subjective measure.

The wait, though, to Areva's point, the weight to all of it, we're talking about it. We're going to continue to talk about it. We know the president watches cable television and lots of it. It affects how he reacts, not just to this, but to lots of other things like Russia, like China, like the fact that the government shuts down in three -- I mean, this is the thing is, we know that he is someone who is swayed by the winds of how coverage works.

You're now seeing a lot of throw weight being put behind this. And I do think there's an emboldening factor. Whatever you think of Stormy Daniels, it seems quite clear to me that -- I mean I remember the campaign. This story has already gotten significantly more attention than any of the allegations, and there were many, more than a dozen women, who came forward during the campaign. So I wonder --

CUOMO: She also has a lot more connective tissue to Trump.

CILLIZZA: Much more.

CUOMO: And I don't want to -- I'm not (INAUDIBLE) and I'm not a --

CILLIZZA: Sure, the $130,000 settlement --

CUOMO: Right. I'm not saying that to disparage any of the other claims.


CUOMO: I'm just saying on the proof that was presented. We know they knew each other.

CILLIZZA: There's more there there.

CUOMO: We knew they had a relationship.


CUOMO: We know he was trying to help her in different regards personally and professionally. So there was some substance there.

In terms of --

MARTIN: And he's going to -- he's doing things in this case that he hasn't done in other cases.

CUOMO: Right.

[06:40:01] MARTIN: He's talked about suing other women who have come forward, but he hasn't done that. In this case, there's a lot of effort being put forth with high-powered lawyers to keep her from telling this story. You don't do all the things that they're doing in court if this is a nonstory.

CUOMO: What's the biggest exposure legally, though? You think the defamation case?

MARTIN: I think the defamation case because the truth is the defense in a defamation case.

And one thing to note about these lawsuits, the plaintiffs may lose the lawsuits, but lawsuits allow you to talk about things in a public forum that otherwise would not be talked about. So even though there are these nondisclosure agreements, guess what, you get to talk about them in pleadings. You get to tell your story of the affair in pleadings that are public documents in a courtroom, even though the judge may later determine that the case has no merit.

CUOMO: And he could wind up being deposed in the defamation case if he doesn't settle. We'll see what happens.

Areva, thank you very much. Good luck with the book. Cillizza, as always, we'll see you back in a little bit.

All right, a programing note for you. Anderson Cooper has a big interview with the former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal. What happened? Tomorrow he's going to be talking to her. Tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. on "AC 360." You'll get what you want to know about that.

HILL: We are also keeping a very close watch on what is happening in Austin. We know the serial bomber there is dead. The threat to the city, though, the mayor of Austin tells us ahead why it may not be over.


[06:45:35] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: All right, a big piece of information. Very important to people living in Texas, especially Austin. Police believe the man responsible for all these bombings since March 2nd is dead. The he exploded one of his devices in a vehicle when he had been contacted by police, and that took his life. But there's a lot more to this story and to the threat.

So right now we want to bring in the mayor of Austin, Texas, joining us right now. He's been doing a whole round of interviews.

Do we have the mayor ready?

All right, good, Mr. Mayor, good, can you hear us? Can you see us OK?

MAYOR STEVE ADLER, AUSTIN: I'm here. I can hear you, yes.

CUOMO: All right, Steve Adler, thank you for joining us. We saw you this morning at the presser. We know this is all developing. We want to get your take on this headline and the assurances from police that they believe the man who is mainly responsible is gone but also that they believe there's a continuing threat.

ADLER: You know, they don't know whether there is a continuing threat or not. And they are real confident that the suspect here is responsible. But the investigation continues because there's still outstanding questions. We're still asking people in our community to be vigilant and to continue to notice things that are around them that are suspicious or out of place. We don't know where this suspect has been the last 24 hours. So it's important that we continue that level of vigilance.

But I'll tell you, there is a sense of relief in this community, as well as just extreme gratitude and thanks for this army of law enforcement agents that have been here, our local chief police chief, Manley (ph), the assets that have come in from the surrounding area from the state and the -- and the over 500 federal law enforcement agents that have been here in Austin on the ground. They've done an incredible job.

CUOMO: And a hyper vigilant community, giving information, telling about the packages as soon as they saw them, different tips from the different stores, all very important now.

So the two continuing considerations are, one, more packages, and then potentially other people. What have they told you about in terms of thinking this man may have worked with somewhere -- someone else, their level of confidence that he's the only person involved and the reasoning behind there may be other packages?

ADLER: I think there's a high level of confidence that the suspect today was absolutely involved. The open questions are the ones that you just mentioned, and that's why the investigation is continuing.

CUOMO: The -- have you seen the image that came out of one of the FedEx stores of the man that the police believe was behind this. A twenty-four-year-old white male, no name released. Have you seen the image? We got it from our affiliate, KEYE, of the man with the yellow hair. Looks like it might be a wig. Have you seen that?

ADLER: I have seen that image.

CUOMO: To your knowledge, is that the man that police believe is the subject?

ADLER: My understanding is, is that is the person that the -- that the police believe to be responsible.

CUOMO: All right, we're putting it up there now for people.


CUOMO: I -- we've been very slow on this, mayor, and you can understand why, especially with any concerns about anybody else who might have helped him.

ADLER: Sure.

CUOMO: We didn't want to give any false confidence. But this is the man in there. He seems to have gloves on, which was obviously something that would be of concern from someone trying to conceal their identity and, again, if that hair is a wig.

But motive becomes the main question now. We have some reporting that says this man's motive was no type of political message or terroristic threat but that it was just mayhem was his motive directed against no specific group. Is that what you're being told?

ADLER: At this point, whether -- what the law enforcement is telling us is they don't know what the motive was and that that's one of the questions that hopefully will get answered as the investigation continues. But at this point we don't know what the motive was.

CUOMO: The fact that they found him at a hotel suggests he wasn't a local, that he was traveling around. What does that mean to you in terms of what this was all about?

ADLER: You know, I'm not going to speak to any more identification of the -- of the suspect other than what the police chief said, a 24- year-old white male.

[06:50:02] CUOMO: All right. And we don't know yet know for sure whether this was part of an organization or a specific message or in any way calculated to put across some type of specific message. But as you get the information, we're sure you'll put it out. You guys have been great in releasing the information that was pertinent to the public.

ADLER: Absolutely. CUOMO: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. I hope that the threat is completely gone and the people of Austin can rest easier. It's a great city. Thank you for joining us.

ADLER: Thank you very much. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, there's a lot of political news this morning as well. "The Washington Post" has a report this morning that the president ignored the advice of his national security team not to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his re-election. That literally had been written for him in caps on one of those little cue cards that they give him. But he did it anyway. He also intentionally did not mention during their call the recent nerve agent attack or the meddling in U.S. elections and any sanctions about that.

So let's bring back Chris Cillizza and also joining us now is CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian.

It's good to have you both.

So, the president doesn't have is to do anything that he doesn't want to do when it comes to talking to people.


CUOMO: This is all advice. But there is a reason that his national security adviser said don't congratulate Putin. What is that reasoning?

CILLIZZA: Well, I mean, first and foremost, because this is not a capital -- lower case d or capital d democratic election in any meaningful way. He got 76 percent of the vote. He controls not only all levels of government in Russia, he also controls the media. This would not stand up to a free and fair election standard. No one would dispute that except maybe Vladimir Putin.

Then the reasons that you suggest, Chris, the fact that we know Russia meddled actively in the 2016 election and has plans to do so and probably is already underway with doing so for 2018 according to the intelligence community. The fact that Britain has said, yes, Russians are responsible for poisoning this ex-Russian agent and his daughter on British soil. Britain, our most local ally.

He does what he wants. And he has the right to because he's the president of the United States. I think the issue is, it's not necessarily strategic. If this was strategic, that he wants to he get in with Putin for some way, shape or form, I don't know that it's that. I think it literally is the best way to get him to do something is tell him not to do something. It's a virtue guarantee. He does not like to be managed. He does not like when people who are allegedly in the know dictate terms to him. So by writing, do not congratulation in all caps on his briefing papers, I think you're virtually assuring that he's going to go off book and do it.

CUOMO: Assuming he read them. Assuming he read them.

HILL: Well, that's the other thing, is that part of the reporting is that he didn't --

CUOMO: Right.

HILL: He didn't read them.


HILL: And we have -- and we have seen this in other reporting before that he does not often read what is given to him.

But, you know, to pick up on what you said, Chris, and, Karoun, I'll throw this one to you, if you want him as his advisers to do something, knowing that if you tell him to do it he's going to do the opposite, would it not have then made sense to either, a, not mention anything about congratulating Putin or not or to tell him, hey, you know what, maybe you just want to say a little congrats, because could that have pushed him the other way?

DEMIRJIAN: I think to try to use reverse psychology to game out, you know, how the president's going to engage with other adversary leaders that are, you know, a very powerful nation is a little bit of a risky game. I think it's probably, you know, a dereliction of duty if his advisers are just saying, oh, well, we'll tell him to do something that we don't actually want him to do. What if he decides to listen to them that time because it actually, you know, lines up with what his inclinations were in the first place. So that's a little bit of a risky sort of a deal there.

And, you know, his advisers are trying to kind of keep him in check. Look, there is also the added thing, the list that Chris made of all the reasons not to just outwardly warmly congratulate Putin, very valid. Add to that the fact that there's an investigation going on of, you know, allegations that the president has ties to Russian officials that would be linked to Putin. So there's just, you know, that -- that veneer too that you might want to avoid.

But, look, this is standard advice that when you're dealing with Russia, you need to kind of maintain a position of strength and also distance because there are various malign activities that are going on that the intelligence community has connected directed back to Russia and to leaders in Russia. Their -- that your allies are saying that you consider it -- like the United Kingdom are saying that you consider it an incumbent necessary thing for the United States to be backing you up on questions of poisoning somebody on their soil.

And also it's just -- that this is -- this is not something that you can kind of freelance on and expect that it will not kind of tarnish the reputation of your office and your presidency because, remember, the United States is -- for decades been saying like we're supposed to set an example for, you know, what we expect other countries to do. And by saying, oh, you know, congratulations Putin, that sounds really nice. You're just -- we're just going to deal with you only as an equal leader of another nation is breaking with precedent and kind of undermining the various policy objectives that we've tried to project and the criticisms that we've made about the way Russia runs its political business. [06:55:21] CUOMO: Well, here's what we know. We know that there's

something we don't know, which is, there is a reason that the president continues to soft sell on Russia. There just has to be. He could be watching right now. Mr. President, good morning to you if you're watching. Please, put out a tweet. Have one of your people come out and say why you insist on going soft on Russia. I know you'll say, well, we put out the sanctions, but you did everything you could not to.

HILL: Yes.

CUOMO: Why? Why is it? Answer the question for us.

HILL: All right, we'll watch for that. We'll watch for the tweet.

CUOMO: You never know.

HILL: A lot going on, obviously, this morning. We'll continue to drill down on what's happening out of Washington.

But also this breaking news out of Austin. The serial bomber there is dead, according to officials. The latest details. What we're hearing from officials about a motive, how he was tracked down, and why officials are saying the threat may not be over.


[07:00:07] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is on assignment. Erica Hill joins me.

And, once again, we have breaking news.