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Russia Vows to Retaliate After Diplomats Expelled Around the World; Trump's Poll Numbers Rebound Based on Economy; Trump Silent About Stormy Daniels Scandal; Is North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un in China? Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2018 - 06:00   ET



RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The U.S. and our allies have made clear to Russia that actions have consequences.

[05:59:15] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hit them in their pocketbooks. Expelling 60 diplomats does not go far enough.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: This is multiple countries saying all of these actions have to stop.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We will not tolerate Russia's continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: This coordinated response is significant, but the president's silence speaks volumes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Avenatti and Stormy Daniels have opened up a lot of political peril for the president.

SHAH: The only person who's been inconsistent is the one making the claims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am tired of being called a liar, and I know she is, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's certainly very uncharacteristic of the president to remain silent about something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a president who has secrets. You have to believe there are more secrets to come.


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, March 27, 6 a.m. here in New York. And here's our starting line.

The Russian government vowing to strike back. Nearly two dozen countries are expelling Russian diplomats in retaliation for the nerve-agent attack in the U.K. on a former spy. President Trump is seeing as the main cause of this wave of expulsions by Russian authorities after ordering the largest ever expulsion of Russian officials in U.S. history.

The White House also disputing a porn star's claim that she was threatened to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. Now, Stormy Daniels is going to sue the president's personal lawyer for defamation.

This comes as a source tells CNN President Trump is still talking to Rob Porter, the former White House aide who resigned amid allegations that he physically abused his two former wives.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, of course, has spared few people from his stinging tweets, except Russian President Vladimir Putin and Stormy Daniels. Will the president remain silent today?

Despite the stories of extramarital affairs, a new CNN national poll finds President Trump's approval rating up 7 points in one month to the highest level in nearly a year. So we'll tell you how the president fares on the issues and the controversies.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Michelle Kosinski. She joins us in studio with our top story.

Hi, Michelle.


So we haven't heard from the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, yet on these expulsions. But the Russian ambassador has said that the time is coming that the U.S. will realize this was a grave mistake. And they've already vowed to kick out U.S. diplomats in return.

But the U.S., in turn, is warning if Russia does that, then the U.S. will take additional action. Let's take a look at this. This is unprecedented. Nearly two dozen countries working together to kick out this mass expulsion of Russian diplomats. We've never seen this before.

In the U.S., that means 60 of them will have to go. They have a week to pack their bags and get out. Twelve are them are coming from the U.N. In New York, 48 are spread at consulates and embassies around the U.S. And the U.S. isn't even calling them diplomats at this point. They're calling them aggressive spies and saying that the U.S. is going to be safer without them. This is going to significantly hurt Russia's ability to spy on American soil.

Now, we also haven't heard from President Trump on this. There was a statement from the White House yesterday, but that came from the press secretary. I remember it was only days ago that President Trump ignored the advice of his national security team, not to congratulate Putin on his election win.

But this does send a strong message. Many are hoping this is just a first step in getting tougher on Russia, but it is something. This accounts for 13 percent of Russia's entire diplomatic contingent in the U.S., Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So interesting, Michelle. Thank you very much for all of that background.

So how will Russia respond to the expulsion of these 60 diplomats? Let's discuss with CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN Political and National Security Analyst David Sanger.

So David, tell us what this means.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It is impressive in the numbers, Alisyn. I mean, we've never seen a case, certainly since the end of the Cold War, in which so many countries got together.

And the fact that the European Union, not known for his decisiveness, certainly not known for its speed, managed to get this together in five or six days is impressive. And the fact that they did it in defense of the British government in the midst of all the Brexit discussion, tells you that there is still some unity on central security issues.

The downside of this, if there is one, is that it probably does not go far enough. At the end of the day, you will see a good number of Russian diplomats, many of them spies, most of them spies, leaves. I'm sure by the end of today or tomorrow, you'll see a similar action by the Russians against each of these countries.

And then we'll be in something of a stalemate. We won't have as much view, using CIA agents and others into Russia. They won't have as much view into the U.S.

What's missing here is the creativity from coming -- that comes from looking at the kind of sanctions that the Russians would have a hard time doing a tit-for-tat response to.

CUOMO: Hey, John, I want you to get in here, but just David, just quickly, just for context and to make sure we're not having it both ways. Because we come after Trump saying, and true, we haven't heard him voice, which is, you know, by default what he's made his main tool, right? Is his voice and his -- his opposition to things.

But when have we ever done more in terms of sanctions or who we got rid of? I mean, Obama administration got rid of people but nowhere near in much and it was only focused in the U.S. When have we ever done more than this?

SANGER: You know, in terms of expulsion of diplomats, I'm not sure, Chris, we ever have. And it is getting harder to make the argument that the president has not gotten tough with Putin. This is certainly a tougher move, for example, than President Obama took when he expelled 30-some-odd diplomats after the election issues.

[06:05:17] What is missing, though, Chris, is two things. One the president's own voice.

CUOMO: Right.

SANGER: And second, an overall strategy that explains to us how we're either going to contain the Russians or engage them.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The key point that David is making, that you're making, is the Trump team deserves credit for this. This is tough, substantive action against Russia as part of a multilateral coalition to punish them for poisoning folks on foreign soil. That is a good step forward, and it's three times the number of diplomats that Britain expelled, who had it happen, almost. This is big, and it deserves credit.

The problem is the continuing disconnect, when the toughness on the administration from the Pentagon and relative silence from the president. And that still has to be explained, because the president has criticized his own attorney general and his Senate majority leader more than he has Vladimir Putin. That -- that speaks to a larger problem.

But this action is tough; it is decisive. The way it could go further, as David said, is so particularly the United States and Britain to start seizing oligarchs' assets. That would really be tough action, because a lot of them are kept overseas. And that's something they would have a tough time retaliating against. That would get their attention in a different -- different way.

CAMEROTA: David, it's also just so uncharacteristic, obviously, of the way the president has treated Vladimir Putin and Russia. You know, he's always stated that he wants to have good relations with Russia. I mean, that seems to be one of his sort of defining principles of his presidency.

So how do we think this happened? Who do we think influenced the president to do this?

SANGER: Well, I think he's got an entire national security staff who have been consistently tougher on issues of super power competition and particularly Russia than he has been.

And we've seen this before, Alisyn. And really, if you go back to December when the president first turned out his national security strategy, and then January when they turned out the defense strategy, there was a common line through each of these, which is that we have moved from an age of combatting terrorism as our first priority to an age of combatting super-aggressive revisionist super powers, by which they meant Russia and China.

And it was a really fascinating, fundamental shift in American policy. And yet, when the president got out to give the State of the Union and other speeches on foreign policy, not that he's given that many lately, this was completely missing.

So there's this huge disconnect, as John has indicated, between the policy of the administration and the words of the president. And that would be one thing, but the stranger thing is that, when pressed, it was clear that he never even raised these issues in private with Putin in that phone call.

CUOMO: All right. So we have some new numbers. Let's see how all this reads in people's minds. You're talking about this specific issue. Forty-seven percent say too easy; 4 percent too tough. About right, 41 percent.

Now, the big headline is that the president has ticked up here. He is still below where President Obama and, let's say, President Reagan was at this time in their term. But that's not really apples to apples, because they were dealing with crushing economic situations. Reagan had 9 percent unemployment. Obama, we know what he was dealing with. We all lived through the Great Recession. But he -- his numbers are up. These are some of his highest numbers, John.

And the big thing that's buoying his satisfaction among voters is the economy. That's his highest number. It's not at 50 percent, but it's damn close.

AVLON: Right. That's what's striking. It's not actually 50 percent. But the economy is going gangbusters and has improved since he became president. So people are naturally giving credit for that. It dovetails with his reputation as a great businessman. To your point, when that economy starts going down, the numbers are soft.

His strong approval is at 28. That seems to be his core. But you've got to give him credit. A really decisive uptick in the --

CAMEROTA: Seven points. A big deal.

AVLON: In the past month. It's a big deal.

CAMEROTA: Particularly given that there have been lots of controversies and other things and despite all of that, seven points.

CUOMO: That's something that's very hard to sell to politicians but is true. It's the benefit of a low number, David. I mean, you know that. One of the upsides of having bad poll numbers is, they're going to come up. Everybody has a baseline around 40, 45, 46 percent that you'll get to eventually, if things are OK. So he's coming low. He's going to get some pops. How they jump on it, we'll see.

David Sanger, appreciate it.

John Avlon, you're the man.

All right. The White House fighting back after this Stormy Daniels interview. Twenty-two million people watched this. That's more than their first interview with Donald Trump when he became president. OK? So why is he not talking about this himself? We do know what he's privately telling aides. We'll tell you next.


[06:13:36] CAMEROTA: The White House says President Trump continues to deny having an affair with Stormy Daniels and does not believe that she was ever threatened to keep quiet.

Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels is suing Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, for defamation.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House with more on this.

Hi, Abby.


Well, President Trump is not usually one to hold back in his attacks on Twitter. But he has been uncharacteristically restrained in attacking Stormy Daniels.


PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump, a self-declared counter puncher, remaining uncharacteristically quiet about his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels and the purported effort to cover up the story.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You had sex with him?


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


PHILLIP: But behind the scenes, "The Washington Post" reports the president has attacked Daniels, asking confidants if the episode is hurting his poll numbers and even griping that Daniels is not the type of woman he finds attractive.

"The Post" also reporting that the president watched Daniels' "60 Minutes" interview, didn't think Daniels appeared credible and has been asking his aides what they thought.

SHAH: I'm not going to get into what he saw. There are clips of it playing all over in the morning news shows.

PHILLIP: Sources tell CNN that Mr. Trump knows the stakes and is resisting commenting to avoid making the controversy worse. The president leaving his defense to White House staff.

SHAH: The president strongly, clearly and has consistently denied these underlying claims, and the only person who's been inconsistent is the one making the claims.

[06:15:09] The president doesn't believe that any of the claims that Ms. Daniels made last night in the interview are accurate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't believe she was threatened?

SHAH: No, he does not. PHILLIP: The White House continuing to insist that the president was

unaware of the $130,000 paid to Daniels days before the election by Mr. Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen.

SHAH: False charges are settled out of court all the time, and this is nothing outside the ordinary.

PHILLIP: Daniels's lawyer filing suit against Cohen on Monday for defamation.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: He made some statements earlier this year whereby he basically said that the affair never happened, in not so many words and made my client out to be a liar.

PHILLIP: This as CNN learns the president has kept in touch with the subject of a different controversy, former White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Porter resigned last month amid allegations that he physically abused both of his ex-wives. "The New York Times" reports that the president has told some of his advisers that he hopes Porter returns to work in the West Wing, although he acknowledges that he probably can't bring him back.


PHILLIP: Well, in spite of all of this, President Trump is actually seeing some of the highest approval ratings of his presidency. It's gone up about 7 points, according to a new CNN poll out.

And on the policy issues, this is where we see where exactly this might be coming from. He is getting his highest marks on the economy and his lowest marks on gun control. But here you see the voters giving him 48 percent approval rating on the economy. Second highest, foreign affairs. Then trade and finally gun policy is at 36 percent. Something that is particularly salient after this weekend March for Our Lives protest here in Washington.

But President Trump here going into his second year with approval ratings that are probably as close as you can get to where he was at the very beginning of his tenure. And he -- as he believes, the economy is a big part of this. The stock market doing fairly well and economic confidence fairly high right now, Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. Alisyn and I were just negotiating what elements go when.

CAMEROTA: I get this one.

CUOMO: Best part of the show. I'm 0 for 2,050.

All right. Let's get into it with CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

The first metric of relevance would be ratings. Twenty-two million people. You can Final Four me all day about how they had a pumped-up audience going in to -- we have a Final Four every year. CAMEROTA: I guess people were interested.

CUOMO: We haven't seen an audience like this since the Obamas won and went on the show. And I think it was kind of like, you know, step for step. Trump when he won went on, bragged about the ratings. Beat him by 3 million people.

Why the resonance when so many people were saying, "Well, I know what this was already. But we already know what happened." Twenty-two million people?

AVLON: A porn star suing the president after the Final Four. Yes, no, people are going to pay attention. That's sex, politics and sports. That's basically America, Chris. I mean, you know, there's a lot of interest in that combination of things.

CAMEROTA: It's interesting. I think it's interesting to look at the ratings because -- and here's another data point. This is the poll that shows who Americans believe. Sixty-three percent of Americans believe the women. Twenty-one percent believe the president. Fifteen percent are undecided.

And yet, Jeffrey, I mean, people were interested, I guess, in the titillating nature of this, and they believe the women. Meanwhile, his approval ratings have gone up, as we showed in the last segment, by seven points in the past month.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: These approval ratings have bounced around somewhat. I don't think we need to make -- it was -- it had been as high as 40 before, as low as 35 --

CAMEROTA: I get it.

TOOBIN: I mean sample size --

CAMEROTA: My point is, it doesn't seem to be hurting him. But legally, the next move that Stormy Daniels is doing is suing Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer, for defamation. What do you think of that case?

TOOBIN: Well, I think what you need to think about with Michael Avenatti's strategy in all of these cases --

CAMEROTA: Her attorney, yes?

TOOBIN: -- her attorney, is based on one thing. Getting out of an arbitration proceeding that will allow him limited very discovery and a secret proceeding, and getting into federal court, where he can take depositions and depose the president and depose Michael Cohen.

CUOMO: How does he do that?

TOOBIN: Well, by having lawsuits like -- like a defamation case. If it proceeds, he will certainly be allowed to depose --

CUOMO: Ancillary proceedings off the contract to get away from the contract in case it's enforced.

TOOBIN: Christ -- correct.

CUOMO: Did you call me Christ?

TOOBIN: I was -- it was a combination of "Chris" and "correct," and it came out --


CUOMO: Religious. Usually go --


TOOBIN: I thought no one heard that. But I heard it. Now what was I talking about?

CAMEROTA: I don't know.

TOOBIN: Go ahead. Ask him something. He's smarter than I am. I don't know.

CUOMO: Ancillary proceedings off of this. If that's the strategy of Avenatti.

CAMEROTA: Well, wait a second. Isn't the real strategy to never have it go that far and to get more money?

[06:20:00] TOOBIN: No. No, his -- I mean, look at the ego that he has displayed, Avenatti, the lawyer. He wants to depose the president of the United States. He wants to put the president under oath and say, "Did you have sex with these women?" That's -- and the only way to do that is to have a lawsuit that is in federal court, not an arbitration.

CAMEROTA: OK. So hold on a second. Because Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, and Michael Cohen's lawyer were on Anderson last night, and they had an extremely high-brow legal discussion. No, they didn't. It devolved into some name calling. Watch this.


AVENATTI: Let's talk about Michael Cohen. What kind of man this is. This is the kind of guy who claimed, in connection with that story, that there's no such thing as spousal rape. This is a legal genius.


AVENATTI: Completely false. The guy doesn't even know the law. He's a thug. Your friend is a thug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. That's a million dollars, a million dollars, a million dollars.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone coming on here --


AVLON: That's a regular outtake from "Inherit the Wind" there.

TOOBIN: I was the guy sitting between them.

CAMEROTA: He was trying to stay out of the food fight.

TOOBIN: All the testosterone was washing over me the whole -- it was -- I had to take a shower after it.

CUOMO: Hard to be in there.

TOOBIN: Had to take a shower after.

AVLON: You have no thug.

CAMEROTA: What he was saying was every time you call my client a name, it's an extra million-dollar fine.

TOOBIN: Well, that's -- there is a provision in the contract that suggests each violation is a million dollars. But I mean, we were in a silly zone there.

AVLON: Yes, it doesn't matter if it's on TV, apparently.

But look, part of it is, is this is a challenge to say that Cohen's core claim, right, which is "Yes, I made the payment, but there's no merit to the claim" is absurd and cannot stand up, actually, under court, not on cable TV or fighting through press releases.

But in terms of the political implication of it, because obviously Jeff is going to clean the clock on the legal interpretations. What strikes me is the number 3 to 1. People -- the American people believe the president's accusers, including a porn star, over the president of the United States. That's not a credibility gap, folks. That's a credibility chasm. And you can't simply hope this goes away. That is a real commentary on the president's credibility.

TOOBIN: But you have to hope it goes away, because what can you do about it? I mean --

AVLON: If you're in the White House?

TOOBIN: Yes. I mean, what can they do? They start to make people believe him? I mean, it is what it is, isn't it?

AVLON: I think that's the problem they got. They're going to keep sort of deferring. They're going to keep offering sort of statements to try to deflect.

CUOMO: Although, you know, here's the balance. One, the reason that this matters to me is lawsuits change the dynamic of just the he said/she said, or you know, this personal perfidy of the presidency, not just to be alliterative about it. If it goes to a deposition, if he gets asked about these matters, it

gets tricky. That's the fair analysis.

But that said, I think Avenatti may be helping the president here over time. Because look, I've said it to his face. He's coming off like a hype man. He keeps promising things he doesn't deliver. The media is eating it up. But at some point, he's got to deliver. And we'll see. If he doesn't, this falls flat on its face.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey Toobin, John Avlon, thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So coming up in the next hour, we're going to talk with one of Michael Cohen's attorneys, David Schwartz. The first question is why is Schwartz talking for Michael Cohen? He loves to talk for himself. We'll ask him.

CAMEROTA: Then this story. There's a mysterious train seen in Beijing. Who is on that train?

CUOMO: Is that a hint?

CAMEROTA: This is a hint right here on your screen. Is it Kim Jong- un? Hmm? If so, what is the North Korean leader doing in China? We have a live report on all of this next.


[06:27:55] CAMEROTA: Heavy security in Beijing and the sighting of a mysterious train fueling speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was visiting China.

CNN's Andrew Stevens is live in Beijing with more. What have you learned, Andrew?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an intriguing story, Alisyn. And as you say, an armored train appearing in Beijing. A cloak of secrecy and security sort or descending on the occupants. We're not told who they are. We're not told what they're doing. We do know that train has now left a little bit more than 24 hours later.

Everything does, though, point to the fact that it is Kim Jong-un. No official line on that. A CNN source, though, someone with deep knowledge of North Korea, says it's a strong possibility that it is Kim.

And it certainly looks like something out of the Kim playbook. The train, for example. That was what his father used when he came to China for a meeting back in 2011. And again, there was complete secrecy about that meeting like there is with this one. Now, this would be the first time also that Kim has actually left North Korea since he took over the top job, if you like, back in 2011, which is pretty extraordinary in itself.

And as I say, China is stone walling on this. So the ministry of foreign affairs was asked outright a couple of hours ago, is Kim Jong- un in Beijing. The reply -- the reply was, Chris, "I have no idea." But it does point to Kim. The timing is important, because we've got

the upcoming summit between the two Koreas and, of course, the meeting with Donald Trump and Kim. China wants some influence in those meetings, and North Korea, by the looks of it, wants to restore some of the relations that have been pretty frosty between Beijing and Pyongyang. So maybe this is a start to restore those -- those relations, Chris.

CUOMO: The recent Trump move would certainly incentivize the Chinese to want to mess with the U.S.'s game a little bit with North Korea. But sometimes it's what they don't tell you that reveals the truth of a situation.

Andrew, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

All right. So there is going to be a question about citizenship status -- citizenship status -- in the census included in 2020. They haven't been asking that question for a while. It's controversial. Why is it happening? The request of the Justice Department, saying it was needed to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. Now, remember, that's about disenfranchisement. This is a very different take on what we're trying to protect against in our elections. President Trump's reelection campaign endorsed the idea in an e-mail to supporters last week.