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U.S. Expels 60 Russian Diplomats, and Russia Vows Revenge; Trump Mum on Story Daniels Scandal. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 27, 2018 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --- one week to pack their bags and get out.

[07:00:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot stand by when the sovereignty of our allies is threatened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My suspicion is that this is something that the president didn't demand, which he decided not to oppose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the right response but the president has yet to respond to Russia's attacks here in the United States.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: My client is interested in the truth and nothing but the truth. Period.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her story is the one that keeps changing. The president's story has been the same.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because the president has been consistent in his denials doesn't make it credible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been completely silent on this issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you think Stormy Daniels and McDougal are the last ones we're going to hear from, I think everyone is really sadly mistaken.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to your NEW DAY. The Russian government is vowing to strike back after nearly two dozen countries expel Russian diplomats around the world in retaliation for the nerve-agent attack in the U.K. on a former spy.

The Kremlin blames President Trump for putting pressure on allies after he ordered the largest ever expulsion of Russian officials in U.S. history.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, the White House is disputing a porn star's claim that she was threatened to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. Now Stormy Daniels is suing 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. The question is, is there some move to bring Porter back? Would that be even possible. Let's bring in our coverage with CNN's Michelle Kosinski. She's got our top story.

Hey, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. So there's no word yet from Vladimir Putin himself on these expulsions.

But the Russian ambassador has already warned that the time will come that the U.S. realizes this was a grave mistake. So we fully expect them to kick out U.S. diplomats in return, although the Trump administration has already warned right back, that if Russia does that, the U.S. could take additional action.

But let's take a look at the scope of this. Right now, it is up to two dozen countries working together for the biggest mass expulsion of Russian diplomats in history. In the U.S. that means 60 of them. Twelve out of New York. The rest spread around the country. The closure entirely of the consulate in Seattle.

This constitutes 13 percent of the entire Russian contingent in the U.S. The administration isn't even calling them diplomats at this point. They're calling them spies, aggressive gatherers of intelligence.

Someone else we haven't heard from yet on this, President Trump. Even the statement that came out of the White House was not in Trump's name. It was from the press secretary.

So you know, it was only days ago that he congratulated Putin on his election win against the wishes of his own national security team. He didn't bring up the poisonings on the call. Although, this move does send a message, one that many are hoping is just the beginning -- Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Michelle, appreciate it. Good to have you hear in the studio.

So how will Russia respond to these coordinated expulsions of diplomats? Let's discuss. We've got CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN political and national security analyst, David Sanger.

David Sanger, let me ask you. Do we care how Russia responds? Isn't this about showing strength, and this was somewhat of an open question of what this administration would do, given the president's reticence to take on Vladimir Putin?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think you have to start, Chris, with the thought that this is the strongest step, as Michelle pointed out. It's twice the number of diplomats that President Obama sent out of the country after the conclusion that the Russians had meddled in the election. He did that just before he -- he left office. And it, I think, puts a serious dent in the critique that many have

been leveling at the president that he has gone very soft on the Russians. It does not explain why it is that he is unable to discuss this in public, is unable to discuss it directly with President Putin. He did not take it up in that phone call you mentioned earlier.

And it also doesn't give us a window into a larger strategy for whether we're trying to contain Russia, engage them or something in between.

So at this point, you know what's going to happen next. The Russians will expel a similar number of Americans. That will decrease the CIA's view into Russia, just as we have decreased Russian intelligence views into the United States.

And the big question is, was there something a little more creative the United States could do, going after oligarchs' money, exposing Putin's money, that might have been harder for the Russians to go do such an easy tit-for-tat retaliation against.

CAMEROTA: John, isn't this confusing? I mean, isn't this a confusing move because of the president's reluctance for the past year to do anything harsh against Russia and because of his stated goal to have better relations with Russia. Why did he do this move?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you've got a multilateral coalition that the United States couldn't very well sit out. But more than that, I mean, it's notable that the United States has expelled almost twice as many Russian diplomats/spies as Britain did --


[07:05: 13] AVLON: -- where this actually occurred. I think it speaks to this divergence within the administration. The national security team has been very tough on Russia. The president has been virtually silent. And as David pointed out, that contradiction is fairly stark. And the president is --

CAMEROTA: Usually the president wins when there's that contradiction. I mean, from what we've seen.

AVLON: Yes. But -- but credit where credit is due. The Trump administration's actions are very tough and appropriately so in sort of an old-fashioned coalition. But the question is, the president sort of dragged his feet. Did he drag his feet on this, as he had with sanctions, which he reluctantly signed?

CUOMO: We also have to be careful about what his metric is. His metric is most often, is this good or bad for me? How will this play in the media? How is this playing in the media?


CUOMO: So this is going to be basically received as a positive move because of what Russia is alleged to have done. He'll probably like it. Now look at what the poll numbers show. Another motivation for the president here. Is he too easy on Russia? Forty-seven percent. About right, 41 percent. Too tough, 4 percent.

So David, you know, again, with the caveat that he looks at things through the lens of what this means to him, it's the only rational explanation for why he ignores Russian interference. He thinks it's putatively bad for him. This move will play well. Do you think it might encourage more moves where Russia is involved? There's plenty on the table.

SANGER: There certainly is. In the one area where the president has certainly wanted a no-go, there's been any retaliation for their activities in -- in the election.

Although, you did see, again, some limited sanctions against individuals related to the Internet Research Agency and others. So there's this very funny disconnect of the president saying things that are so simplistic as if, you know, what's the matter with having a good relationship with Russia, congratulating Putin on an election that we think was, at least partially, fraudulent, and then not engaging publicly.

And then you read the policy of the administration, and policy is fascinating. Because the policy says, this started in December and accelerated in January, that terrorism should no longer be the central focus of American national security strategy, but instead dealing with revisionist super powers, meaning Russia and China, should be.

And it would -- it's a really interesting, important fundamental shift in American strategy that the president himself has never once articulated. And that leaves Vladimir Putin asking the question, who should I believe? The cabinet members, the bureaucrats in the National Security Council or what the president tells me?

AVLON: I mean, the strategy is actually, I think, correct and admirable. But the president's silence is obviously the thing to drill down on. Because that fundamental contradiction speaks to something. He has gone after his own attorney general, his own -- his law enforcement agencies and pop culture figures over nothing more than Vladimir Putin. He clearly has. There's more than enough evidence over the course of the campaign, as the presidency, to be tough on Vladimir Putin. But he refuses to articulate that personally. Even this was a statement, albeit tough from the White House.

So we'll have to -- you know, at some point we're going to have to square that circle. At some point, you're going to have to get to the bottom of why the president, facing a clear strategic imperative to confront Russia, refuses to speak to it personally.

CUOMO: Ordinarily, this would be fine, because this would be this -- the typical operating design of a White House. But this president is different. He lets you know what's on his mind, and he has a pattern of only talking about what he thinks is good for him. So silence usually shows some kind of concern.

AVLON: That's usually not consistent with the oath.

CAMEROTA: All right. Well, we'll see if he speaks about it today. Thank you, gentlemen, very much.

SANGER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: No. The White House says the president continues to deny having an affair with Stormy Daniels, and he 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 all of this. What's the latest, Abby?


President Trump is usually not the one to hold back on Twitter when it comes to attacking people who are attacking him. But he has really held back when it comes to this Stormy Daniels story.


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.

[07:10:08] "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.

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: 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.

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: With all this controversy swirling around this president, we've actually seen something interesting. A new CNN poll shows his poll numbers are actually up about seven points to 42 percent. That's about as high as it was in the months after he was just elected president.

And some indications in the poll numbers show a little bit of why. One of the reasons could very well be his standing on the economy. He has a 48 percent approval rating when it comes to handling the economy. Foreign affairs is next up at 39. And foreign trade is 38.

But it is gun policy that is down toward the bottom at 36 percent. With those March for Our Lives protesters here in Washington over the weekend, that issue, clearly, the president not getting a lot of high marks on. But he's also touted the economy as the big reason why he thinks he's doing so well.

And right now, Chris, the poll numbers seem to indicate that that might be an accurate depiction of what's going on in terms of where the American public sees this presidency.

CUOMO: Well, it looms large as his biggest and really only purely positive that we saw in this poll. So he's certainly putting his eggs in the right basket. That's an Easter reference.

CAMEROTA: I saw that.

CUOMO: Thank you very much. All right. We've heard from Stormy Daniels. The question is why have

we not heard from the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, a strong advocate for Trump and himself? His attorney will make the case for Cohen, next.

CAMEROTA: And later, I talk to teenagers, including two from Parkland about the gun issue and whether they think this movement will end soon.


CAMEROTA: Do you feel as though all the students and all of their momentum and all of the energy is a movement or a moment?


CAMEROTA: That's coming up this hour. Stay with us.



[07:17:18] 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.


AVENATTI: Your friend is a thug.

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A million dollars.




CUOMO: The hype getting hot and a little bit of hysteria there. The attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels escalating his battle with Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney. And the latest turn in this deal, Daniels is now suing Cohen for defamation.

Joining us is David Schwartz, friend of Michael Cohen's, as well as his attorney in another matter, not this one. Counsel, thank you for taking the opportunity.


CUOMO: It is good to see you, but the first question is an obvious one. As handsome as you are, why am I not across from Michael Cohen? He is an avid defender, an ardent defender of the president and himself.

SCHWARTZ: Sure. He's an avid defender of the president. He's going to handle this case in a court of competent jurisdiction. That's what this is all about. You know, he's involved. There are a lot of investigations going on. And it's best that he doesn't handle this case on TV. And cases are litigated in front of -- as great as you are, Chris, cases are litigated in front of judges in courts. In this case, both cases are completely frivolous.

CUOMO: But Avenatti, the lawyer for Daniels, is playing the hype game in the court of public opinion, and it is working. Because you just had more people watch Stormy Daniels on "60 Minutes" than watched Donald Trump after he won the election. Are you worried that the resonance is going to create relevance?

SCHWARTZ: First of all, the "60 Minutes" interview, what was that? It was a big thud. Yes. He's a master at building up the situation. He's a master at P.R. But when you come -- he showed us pictures of videos, of CDs, showed us all of this. It's a big thud.

What did we learn from that "60 Minutes" interview. That 12 years ago, some guy came up to her in a parking lot and threatened her. You know, up until that point, he was leading us to believe it was Michael Cohen, that Michael Cohen was the one threatening. What did we learn from that interview? Michael Cohen didn't make one threat. Michael Cohen's never spoken to Stormy Daniels.

So what this guy says is a threat is a complete fiction. I don't know where he's from. But you know, you're from Queens, I'm from Brooklyn. You know, that ain't a threat where we're from, where two lawyers speak to each other about a damages clause in a contract, and somehow he interprets that as a threat.

CUOMO: So let's look at the different avenues of legal exposure for Cohen. This latest suit is defamation. That is you said that Cohen is -- by saying this is a lie, that none of this happened that way, it's defamatory. You hurt her reputation.

[07:20:09] SCHWARTZ: That's not the statement.

CUOMO: So he hasn't called her a liar?

SCHWARTZ: No. Defamation is a very -- you have to look at the statement itself. And what's one of the elements of defamation? A false statement.

CUOMO: Right. SCHWARTZ: All he said was, the only statement in question is it

doesn't matter whether something is true or not. It could still hurt a person. And I will do anything to defend Mr. Trump. That's the statement at hand.

One of the elements that has to be proven is --

CUOMO: Well, now, hold on. She's also alleging to her attorney that Cohen has said that the way this deal was done and threats that were made that all of those suggestions are lies, and that's what they're saying is the truth. So they're saying it's defamatory.

SCHWARTZ: The defamatory statement is -- defamatory statement is in that complaint.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHWARTZ: And this -- that case will be dismissed on motion papers. That case is going nowhere.

CUOMO: No discovery.

SCHWARTZ: No discovery at all. A judge -- on defamation, a judge will look at that statement. It doesn't even pass the smell test. It doesn't come close to defamation.

Now I'm handling a defamation case for Michael Cohen against BuzzFeed. And there are serious defamatory statements in that case. And I hope we talk about that at some point in the future.

CUOMO: Wait a minute. Are you acknowledging that he was being defamatory about BuzzFeed, Michael Cohen?

SCHWARTZ: No, no. No, we're suing.

CUOMO: You're suing them for defamation?

SCHWARTZ: You said I'm handling a legal matter.

CUOMO: I was going to say, you're going to be one and done here, Schwartz.

SCHWARTZ: Let me make that clear.

CUOMO: Please.

SCHWARTZ: We're suing BuzzFeed --

CUOMO: Right, right.

SCHWARTZ: -- for the fake dossier of all the statements --

CUOMO: Right.

SCHWARTZ: Michael Cohen, you know, was in Russia. Michael Cohen was -- was, you know, doing all these things. CUOMO: Right.

SCHWARTZ: And I'd like to discuss that case at another time.

CUOMO: Right. And I've made that invitation to Michael, as well. When he wants to discuss those things, he's going to have an opportunity to be tested upon the same.

Then there's the other exposure of how this deal went down. Stormy Daniels, her attorney, cannot bring an action against you for campaign violation. That would have to be the FEC. I say you as counsel for Cohen. Does he still maintain that he paid this $130,000 of his own money, and it wasn't done with eyes towards helping the campaign?

SCHWARTZ: First of all, Avenatti is litigating that in his papers.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHWARTZ: What's -- what's his end game? You're right, it's a federal elections campaign issue investigation.

CUOMO: Well, he'd say it's ancillary to his theory of the case that this was under duress, and it was done under threats and done wrongly.

SCHWARTZ: So bottom line is, $130,000 paid. It's pursuant to a contract, a legal contract. It's to protect reputation. It's to protect business and it's to protect family. It has nothing do with the election.

CUOMO: Timing?

SCHWARTZ: Timing, all right. That's all speculative and guesswork. But it has nothing to do --

CUOMO: It's correlative. It may not be causation, but it's correlative. Just weeks before --

SCHWARTZ: You hit it. There's no causation.

CUOMO: I'm not saying that's the issue. I'm not saying there's no causation.

SCHWARTZ: You can't base a case on speculation. That would be a very dangerous precedent, because every person running for Congress --

CUOMO: Why did --

SCHWARTZ: No. Because any business transaction that's done could be considered a campaign contribution. Do you realize how -- how dangerous that is --

CUOMO: It would have to involve the principal, the candidate in this case, and it would have to be done in a way that seems to try to motivate the campaign during that time. When he created the LLC, I know he says he didn't create the LLC just for this purpose. But whatever. When he created the LLC. Why did he do this then? He had years to settle this case.

SCHWARTZ: Because this is when it all went down. And to create an LLC --

CUOMO: Avenatti says he went to them. Cohen went to her.

SCHWARTZ: Avenatti makes no sense whatsoever. LLCs are created every single day for CEOs, lawyers, doctors, politicians to enter into NDOs so they could avoid litigation and save the embarrassment for their family. It happens all the time.

CUOMO: Right. But who did Cohen approach Stormy Daniels through counsel and say, "I want to do this deal right now."

SCHWARTZ: Stormy Daniels was shopping the best deal she could possibly shop. So people call it hush money. I call it legal extortion. Because when you -- when you have a situation from 12 years ago and now, all of a sudden, you want to try to collect as much money as possible, that's called extortion.

CUOMO: Motivations aside, are you saying that the way this worked, the timing matters. That Cohen didn't, close to the election date, seek out Stormy Daniels and say, "Let's quiet this up right now"?

SCHWARTZ: She admitted on "60 Minutes," she was shopping the best deal possible and then her lawyer called it. She said it ran on "60 Minutes." And that her lawyer called her and said, "This is going to be the best deal." They were shopping it to all kinds of places.

CUOMO: So you're saying that her lawyer shopped it to Cohen?

SCHWARTZ: I'm not speculating on how --

CUOMO: Who matters.

SCHWARTZ: -- who contacted who first. OK.

CUOMO: Kind of matters.

SCHWARTZ: It kind of doesn't matter. OK? Because she was shopping this deal around and let's, for argument's sake, let's say Michael reached out first. Doesn't matter. It's no violation of campaign -- campaign election. It's not -- it's not a violation of FEC at all.

[07:25:10] CUOMO: So Avenatti's big stick that he's using in the court of public opinion is Cohen is hiding. He won't come out. He doesn't want to talk about this. The president told him to be quiet, because they know they have exposure. If he felt so good about these facts, he'd come out and argue them himself.

SCHWARTZ: The facts are great. And -- and you're going to see him come out in a big way. Who knows? Maybe it will be with you. Because I know that you -- he's been on your show many times.

CUOMO: He always has the opportunity to be tested. SCHWARTZ: He will -- he will come out in a big way on this case.

Once the facts settle out in court, he will be all over the place, and he will absolutely annihilate this guy.

CUOMO: The other two main components are -- of this that -- the Daniels and Avenatti case depends on this. One, this wasn't a legitimate agreement and two, the damages clause is unconscionable. So this million dollars every time they say it, it won't -- it won't stand up in court, and it wasn't a deal because Trump didn't sign it. What's your rebuttal?

SCHWARTZ: It was an air-tight agreement. The agreement was between E.C. LLC and Stormy Daniels.

CUOMO: Why was there a signature line, D.D.?

SCHWARTZ: I'll get to that. There was a contract. There was consideration. Money was paid to Stormy Daniels. Rock-solid agreement. There was a signature line for D.D. to give Michael Cohen the option, if he wanted to make D.D. a party. He chose not to. Two parties to a contract. Signed, it was a quid pro quo between the two parties. Money was paid.

She's in violation of this agreement. And agreements are agreements. We're governed by contracts in this country. And when you violate an agreement, which she did, there's going to be a penalty.

CUOMO: A million dollars per penalty is seen as being a threat by Avenatti.

SCHWARTZ: Well, a threat. OK, so he damages the -- first of all, she had a lawyer. Right? So she had a lawyer negotiating a contract. So if Michael Cohen was speaking to the other lawyer and said, OK, you know, your client is going to be liable for damages, and it's a million dollars per breach. I don't know where this guy is from. I don't know -- that's not a threat. That's something that's enforcement of a damages.

CUOMO: One other question here that's a material fact for people. The $130,000 is an odd number. People keep contextualizing it for Karen McDougal. They have nothing to do with each other in terms of she got 150,000. But the numbers aren't close because of any coordination. They had nothing to do with each other. They were done years apart. But where did that number come from?

Cohen suggested it, or it was suggested to him.

SCHWARTZ: It's part of a negotiation. So there's always numbers thrown around, and they settled on $130,000. It's not that odd. It's really not that odd. It's a negotiation. I've settled on numbers, you know, $127,000. It just -- it's the way the negotiations are --

CUOMO: Right. But usually, it's a metric of some type of perceived damages. I'm just wondering, because it would bolster your case that she was shopping this and this was the number on the table. If that was the number that was presented to Cohen. You're saying it was a negotiation.

SCHWARTZ: She admitted it on TV. She got as much money as she possibly can. She said it. That was the -- she said it. That was the best deal she could get. And you know what else did she admit to? She admitted to the fact that she entered into a strict contract. You remember that language?


SCHWARTZ: She knew that she was entering into a contract. She knew what the terms were. And that was very telling.

CUOMO: Another thing that we're trying to get to here is that her lawyer at the time -- and then I've got to wrap after this -- is saying that this is, in his reckoning of how this went down. He needs to be released from his privilege with her. You know, with the confidentiality that he has. Avenatti hasn't made that happen yet. It's interesting why he doesn't want that lawyer to speak. We'll see what happens.

Mr. Schwartz, thank you, Counselor. Appreciate you representing it. Let your client know, he's always welcome here to be tested.

SCHWARTZ: He knows, and he respects that.

CUOMO: All right. Alisyn.

SCHWARTZ: All right, Chris. President Trump ordering the largest ever expulsion of Russian diplomats. Is he now being tough on Russia and why? A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee joins us next.