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U.S. Expels Russian Diplomats over UK Nerve Agent Attack; Trump Orders Expulsion of Dozens of Russian Diplomats; Daniels Breaks Silence in "60 Minutes" Interview; Source: Trump Complaining about Coverage of Stormy Daniels. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2018 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone, John Berman here.

The breaking news comes from the White House. The Trump administration has announced it is expelling, kicking out 60 Russian diplomats. This is over that nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent that took place in the United Kingdom.

Joining me now to discuss this, senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. Lay out the process here, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. Yes. 60 diplomats from the U.S., that's a significant number. That's more than many here in the U.S. expected. It is more than Britain expected, which has been hoping that the U.S. would come out with a robust response after the UK kicked out 23 Russian diplomats following this attack. So when you think about over the summer, when there was this tit for tat of expulsions and closing of diplomatic facilities between the U.S. and Russia.

Vladimir Putin said that the number was now equal of diplomats in the U.S. and Russia at 455. So, when the U.S. is kicking out 60 of them. That's 13 percent of Russian diplomats that are in the U.S. The State Department now tells us that 12 of them are in New York, 48 of them are spread throughout the United States, and the U.S. is closing its consulate in Seattle because they say it is located so close to a U.S. submarine base there. And they're not just calling these people diplomats. They're calling them intelligence operatives, aggressive collectors of intelligence. And the kicking them out is going to protect the U.S. from Russia spying on it.

Here is a statement that the White House put out. "With these steps, the United States and our allies have partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences. The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government's behavior."

And administration officials this morning used some strong language, calling Russia's actions aggressive and repeated, reckless. Calling this attack in the UK attempted murder. Although one former Obama official points out to us that this statement that I just read comes from the press secretary. He, at the time, felt that the Obama administration should have done more and more aggressively punished Russia for its behaviors. He said why doesn't this statement come from President Trump and Vladimir Putin needs to hear from the president himself that chemical attacks are unacceptable and will be met with the force of all of the pressure that the presidency can bring to bear.

Now, as for those 12 Russian operatives that are going to be kicked out from the U.N. in New York, Nikki Haley who has been outspoken on Russia's behavior in the past said that these are spies, you know, that they're thought to be spying on the U.S. And the statement she said, "Here in New York, Russia uses the United Nations as a safe haven for dangerous activities within our own borders. Today, the United States and many of our friends are sending a clear message that we will not stand for Russia's misconduct."

This is a big response. When the administration this morning was asked, what happens when Russia responds in kind, because it generally threatens and then acts on expelling the same number of diplomats, the administration wouldn't comment on that but they said that if Russia does retaliate, then the U.S. could well respond again, either in similar fashion or in some other way, John.

BERMAN: All right, Michelle Kosinski for us at the State Department. Michelle, thank you very, very much. The big question now is how will the Russians respond? Let's go to Moscow. Matthew Chance is there. Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John thanks very much. Well, you know, the Russians will be looking at this sort of escalation in the expulsions with some concern, I expect, because it is not just the United States that have expelled 60 diplomats and intelligence workers from the United States. But it has been done, of course, in conjunction with the western allies, the European Union, as well as 14 countries in the EU have also announced that there will be expelling amounts of diplomats from their respective countries as well.

And then, of course, there was the 23 Russian diplomats expelled from Britain, just a few weeks ago, when Britain pointed the finger of blame at Russia for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, in Southern England. There has just been some reaction coming quickly on state media from the Russians about these latest expulsions from the United States and from the European Union. They called them provocations, and unfriendly acts. That's as far as they have gone so far in the past. The Russians said categorically that they'll reciprocate with any expulsions with a similar number. And that's what they did with the British. They expelled 23 British diplomats last week.

[10:05:12] And so, I think the prospect is that the -- we'll be seeing more diplomatic expulsions from Moscow.

But, of course, the danger, John, is that Russia and the west is getting into a dangerous spiral of tit for tat diplomatic measures and who knows where that's going to end. Certainly it means that the international community or at least the west has come together in condemning Russia for its alleged use of nerve agents on the streets of Salisbury. But you get a sense, because there are so many people, so many countries taking so much action at this time. That it is much broader than that. You got a sense that the patience has been lost with Russia violating international norms, whether be it in Syria or Ukraine, or with the Olympic doping or with the MH-17 being shut down and countries are coming together to send this united message of, you know, united message against Russia.

BERMAN: Matthew Chance for us in Moscow. Matthew, thank you very much.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby and Bob Baer, CNN intelligence and security analyst, as well as, a former CIA operative. Admiral, I want to start with you here. This is the United States taking a stand along with a number of other NATO nations and allied nations against Russia, saying, know, this will not stand or at least we do not approve of these expelling 60 Russian diplomats, your reaction?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. I think this is a positive step. I think this is a good move by the president and the administration. I'm glad to see it. It sends two strong messages to Putin. One is we're going to hold you accountable for your crimes. And number two, you're not going to be able to continue to divide and sow chaos and discord in the west, that the west can be united and is united on behalf of the UK, but also, on behalf of one another. And so, I think even though this is rather symbolic, it's not going to stop Putin's aggression. It does send a powerful signal to him that he's not going to like for sure.

BERMAN: Any practical impact to this, Bob?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Not a whole lot. It is a message, if you notice the diplomats in Washington and at the U.N. weren't involved in hacking our elections. Even in you know the Lincoln assassination was done from out of the country. It is a symbolic gesture which Putin -- will get noticed and he will expel American diplomats and spies from Moscow. But at the end of the day, I don't think this is going to be enough to stop this guy. I agree with Admiral Kirby, he's going to keep going. He's been very aggressive over the last five or six years in showing no signs of repenting.

BERMAN: Does the rhetoric, Admiral, need to match the action or expelling 60 diplomats is something. I mean the United States could have decided not to take action here. This is happening, but does the president need to speak out on this specifically to the American people. If not, Vladimir Putin himself, they spoke by phone last week and didn't say anything.

KIRBY: Yes. I honestly would like to see something come from the president himself. I think that would be powerful. I think it would be -- make this even more - a stronger message. That said, John, I don't think we should get too wrapped up around the axle on this. I mean when the administration announced this, they did it from the White House, the State Department, and ambassador Haley, almost simultaneously. The language was very similar, clearly this was a well thought out coordinated decision and rolled out appropriately. So, yes, I would like to see him say something, but I won't get hung up on that.

BERMAN: That's good context there. And the White House has been doing these background briefings with reporters all morning and they want to make it clear that the president has been involved from the beginning. It's important to them to get that message out.

Bob, you know, put this in the very interesting category. John Bolton is the incoming National Security adviser, has a dim view of how important it is to expel diplomats in this type of thing, when the Obama administration at the end of its tenure expelled diplomats because of the Russian election meddling. John Bolton said it wouldn't do a darn thing. Listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I don't think that will have much impact at all.

JOHN BOLTON, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: You make the Russians feel pain. The White House press spokesman you had on at the top of the show said, President Obama is sending a signal. That's utterly useless. So if you make them feel pain and others feel pain, then the possibility of deterring future conduct like this increases. That's what we need to do.


BERMAN: So, you know, a year ago, John Bolton says expelling diplomats doesn't do anything. I'm not sure that you know April or May, John Bolton when he works in the White House will feel the same way. But if you want to make the Russians feel pain, Bob Baer, how do you do it?

BAER: You go after Putin's money. You go after the oligarchs. You hit him in their pocketbooks. That's what's really going to hurt them. Putin is one of the richest men in the world. That country is run by corruption. And if you undermine that system, its finances, you will make them feel pain and Bolton is absolutely right. I don't usually agree with him, but he's right on this. You really have to make them feel pain and expelling 60 diplomats does not go far enough.

[10:10:12] BERMAN: Glad I could bring you and John Bolton together. Bob Baer, Admiral Kirby, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate it, gentlemen.

Stormy Daniels breaks her silence during an interview on "60 Minutes". The highest rated "60 Minutes" apparently in more than a decade. She claims she was threatened, physically threatened to stay quiet about her relationship with the president. You will hear her in her own words coming up.

Plus, the White House perhaps on the verge of a new shake-up, could a cabinet member be on the way out? Which one and when? The president, by the way, says the White House is operating like a smooth machine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:15:04] BERMAN: The highest rated "60 Minutes" in more than a decade. Stormy Daniels last night, maybe more than 20 million people watched her tell her story about an alleged sexual relationship with then pre-president Donald Trump, many years ago. She gave details and she also said she was physically threatened to stay silent. Listen.


STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: I was in a parking lot, going to a fitness class with my infant daughter. Taking, you know, the seats facing backwards in the backseat, diaper bag, you know, getting all the stuff out. And a guy walked up on me and said to me, "Leave Trump alone. Forget the story." And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, "That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom." And then he was gone.


BERMAN: That was new. We had not heard that before. I'm joined now by CNN's MJ Lee. MJ, no one is disputing that Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 to stay quiet about this alleged relationship, but we sort of got some new colors surrounding this payment.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right. You know the reason this interview was such a big deal is because for first time we were hearing her on camera describe this affair, not through her lawyer, not through a written statement, not through a message on social media. And one of the biggest questions that she had to answer was about the $130,000 payment. She says that she got this money through this hush agreement from Michael Cohen and that payment has raised some credibility issues, right? Why does she take the money? Why does she repeatedly deny the affair and her answer basically was that it was because she felt threatened and because she felt like she didn't have a choice. Here is what she said about that.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "60 MINUTES": Was it hush money to stay silent?

DANIELS: Yes. The story was coming out again. I was concerned for my family and their safety.

COOPER: I think some people watching this are going to doubt that you entered into this negotiation-- because you feared for your safety. They're going to think that you saw an opportunity.

DANIELS: I think the fact that I didn't even negotiate, I just quickly said yes to this very, you know, strict contract. And what most people will agree with me extremely low number. It's all the proof I need.

COOPER: So you signed and released a statement that said, I am not denying this affair because I was paid in hush money. I'm denying it because it never happened. That's a lie?


COOPER: If it was untruthful, why did you sign it?

DANIELS: Because they made it sound like I had no choice.

COOPER: I mean no one was putting a gun to your head?

DANIELS: Not physical violence, no.

COOPER: You thought that there would be some sort of legal repercussion if you didn't sign it?

DANIELS: Correct. As a matter of fact, the exact sentence used was, "They can make your life hell in many different ways."

COOPER: They being...

DANIELS: I'm not exactly sure who they were. I believe it to be Michael Cohen.


LEE: Now, following this interview Michael Cohen and his lawyer hitting back really hard, sending a letter saying they want Stormy to cease and desist in making false and defamatory statements and even asking for a retraction and an apology. And as for the Vegas incident that she described in the parking lot, where she says a man came up to her and physically threatened her daughter. They say that the incident probably never happened that the person doesn't exist. And I think the question going forward is going to be will they be able to present evidence that actually shows that these threats might have come directly from Michael Cohen.

BERMAN: Stormy Daniels also last night going into more detail about the one apparently sexual encounter that she had with Donald Trump. She said the sex was consensual, but she didn't want to do it.

LEE: Right. All of this comes back to that one day in the summer of 2006. She says that she met Donald Trump, of course, at a charity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. She describes in -- again for the first time on camera in full detail what happened in the hotel room. I'm just going to let Stormy's words speak for themselves on this one.


DANIELS: And he's like -- "Have you seen my new magazine?"

COOPER: He was showing you his own picture on the cover of a magazine.

DANIELS: Right, right. And so I was like, "Does this-- does this normally work for you?" And he looked very taken -- taken back, like, he didn't really understand what I was saying. Like, I was -- does, just, you know, "talking about yourself normally work?" And I was like, "Someone should take that magazine and spank you with it."

And I said, you know, "Give me that," and I just remember him going, "You wouldn't." "Hand it over." And so he did, and I was like, "turn around, drop them."

COOPER: You told Donald Trump to turn around and take off his pants.


COOPER: And did he?



LEE: On a much more serious note, obviously the timeline of this alleged affair has raised a lot of questions because summer of 2006 was very soon after Donald Trump married Melania Trump and only months after they had their son Barron. Here is what Stormy Daniels said when Anderson asked her, did the issue of his family ever come up.

[10:20:06] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Melania Trump had recently given birth to a son, just a few months before. Did he mention his wife or child at all in this?

DANIELS: I asked. And he brushed it aside, said, "Oh yes, yes, you know, don't worry about that. We don't even -- we have separate rooms and stuff."

COOPER: And you had sex with him.


COOPER: You were 27, he was 60. Were you physically attracted to him?


COOPER: Not at all?


COOPER: Did you want to have sex with him?

DANIELS: No. But I didn't -- I didn't say no. I'm not a victim, I'm not -

COOPER: It was entirely consensual.

DANIELS: Oh, yes, yes.

COOPER: You work in an industry where condom use is -- is an issue. Did -- did he use a condom?



LEE: Very, very hard to know too what Melania Trump's reaction to all of this has been, she's a first lady who has really avoided the public spotlight.

BERMAN: MJ Lee, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate it. It does raise a lot of questions.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Areva Martin and Mark Geragos. Mark, one person we have not heard from is the president. President Trump has stayed completely silent on this issue and you think that's telling.

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it is telling. I think what is he going to do? Can you imagine doing the interview where the reporters are asking him, by the way, President Trump, did you drop trough and get spanked by Stormy Daniels? You know when we look at this in a couple of years, John you're going to be able to probably use this as a marker for the decline of western civilization. I now it is ratings gold, I get that. But this is such a flashback to what was going on in the '90s and Whitewater with Clinton that I can't believe I'm seeing it twice in the last 25 years.

BERMAN: But Mark, do you think that's a sign that the president and his legal team think that Mike Avenatti does in fact have something more and that they're nervous that could drop?

GERAGOS: Well, you know, the tweet that I think you're probably referring to, which is the disc that said, you know, that -- that implies that he has something. It looks like Mike Avenatti is probably taking a page from Trump's own book. Remember when Trump was tweeting out that Comey better watch out after he fired Comey that he may have the tapes.

I think it is the same thing. I have not understood all along why the Trump legal team is giving this so much oxygen, because I always suspected that the reason must be is that they got texts or they got video, they've got a selfie. Now that you have seen the interview and she's talked about a onetime consensual thing, I'm even more perplexed why they have given this more oxygen than it deserved, because the McDougal interview to me was more telling. It was an ongoing relationship. It was 10 months. She obviously has feelings for him, whereas this woman, it looks like, you know, for lack of a better term, wham, bam and whatever.

BERMAN: Leave that aside for a second. Areva, it is interesting because the president could sue for defamation, here, if he felt that Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal for that matter was saying something just not true or defamatory, he could sue. Lord knows he's done it before.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes that's what's so interesting about this, John. What we learned last night is that in 2011, Michael Cohen knew that Stormy Daniels was poised to tell her story. And he got involved to kill a story in "In Touch" magazine. He could have sued her at that point in time for defamation. But he didn't. He could have offered her the same negotiated hush agreement and $130,000 in 2011 but he didn't. He waited until 11 days before the 2016 presidential election to negotiate this agreement and to pay her, raises serious questions about whether this is an in kind campaign contribution.

And although Michael Cohen continues to state Trump and his organization had no knowledge or involvement. I think what we saw last night was a cover letter addressed to Michael Cohen as the vice president and special counsel to the Trump organization to the Trump Towers. We saw an e-mail where Cohen is using the Trump organization's e-mail. So I think it undermines any argument that Michael Cohen continues to make about him acting in some kind of friend capacity, rather than an official capacity as a representative of the Trump organization.

BERMAN: So, Areva, you do think there is a legitimate campaign finance case to make here?

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. I think the investigation that is ongoing should continue. We saw last night the former chair, Republican, talk about how this case has similarities to the John case and he said, the former chair said this case is even more compelling because of the timing. -- It was a year before the election where his donors paid money to keep his affair with a woman who had his child secret. And in this case, in the Trump case, it is only 11 days before the election. Can't help but raise serious questions when we know Michael Cohen had this information at least five years prior to the election.

[10:25:04] BERMAN: Now, Mark, I know you have a dimmer view of the election violation case. Last night in this interview, you also saw someone raise the possibility that Robert Mueller ultimately could ask some questions here. We know from Sam Nunberg, former Trump adviser, that the special counsel has asked some questions about Michael Cohen in some of these relationships.

GERAGOS: It is interesting because the reason that I have such a dim view of the federal election commission is because, look, it is an ineffectual governmental body to begin with, the Department of Justice is never going to step in on this particular discreet area, just not going to happen. The fact remains, however, that if they want to use this, and when I say they, the special counsel says they want to put -- they want to turn up the heat, this is kind of a federal method of investigation/prosecution. They want to turn Michael Cohen. They could use this to try to turn Michael Cohen. My guess is that it won't have much effect on him, but certainly it would be one of the arrows in the quiver of a special counsel to say, look, we can always come after you for the federal election commission violation, blah, blah, blah. I don't think it gets a whole lot of traction frankly.

BERMAN: In theory Rod Rosenstein might have to approve Robert Mueller expanding the investigation into that area. That would put him in a heck of a position. Mark Geragos, Areva Martin, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

Be sure to watch "AC 360" tonight. Anderson will have more on his one on one with Stormy Daniels at 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Five senior staff departures in just three weeks and now a close friend to the president says one or two major changes could come to the administration. Who's next on the president's list? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)