Return to Transcripts main page


Court Filing: Manafort's Ukraine Payments Connected to Russian Meddling Investigation; Trump on the Attack; Villanova Celebrates NCAA Title; Dow Drops 458 Points on Trade Fears. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 3, 2018 - 04:30   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight: Special counsel Robert Mueller cleared by the Justice Department to investigate whether former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort colluded with Russia.

[04:30:00] RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump on attack, ripping Democrats for not protecting Dreamers while slamming the Justice Department and FBI as, quote, an embarrassment to our country.

BRIGGS: Villanova rolling to its second college basketball title in three years. The hero of the game, he came off the bench.

Welcome to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

MARSH: And I'm Rene Marsh. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

And breaking overnight. A declassified memo reveals for the first time, special counsel Robert Mueller is authorized to pursue collusion charges against the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The document highlights payments to Manafort from the Ukrainian government which have links to Russian politicians and operatives. The memo says that -- the memo says the link compels investigators to examine Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

BRIGGS: The payments from Ukraine to Manafort already the basis for financial crimes charges he faces. Manafort wants the charges dismissed, claiming they're beyond Mueller's scope because Ukraine is unrelated to the campaign. The newly declassified memo was written in August by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It shows Rosenstein's strong backing for the special counsel despite constant attacks from the president.

MARSH: And President Trump on the attack as the White House makes another push for an immigration bill. In a call with reporters, West Wing officials called immigration laws loopholes that allow immigrants to cross the U.S.-Mexican border illegally. Loopholes they said must be closed. Pressed on specifics, though, the officials admitted this was largely the same proposals they've been pushing since last fall.

At the White House Easter egg roll, the president blamed the failure of DACA protections for Dreamers on Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have really left them down. They've really let them down. They had this great opportunity. The Democrats have really let them down. It's a shame. And now, people are taking advantage of DACA. That's a shame. It should have never happened.

REPORTER: Didn't you kill DACA, sir? Didn't you kill DACA?


MARSH: Well, after signing autographs on the south lawn, the president returned to his immigration drum beat on Twitter. More on that from CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Rene and Dave, President Trump picking up where he left off this weekend on this tweet storm about immigration, Amazon and host of other issues. The president on Monday night taking to Twitter yet again to bash Democrats over immigration policies.

Here are those tweets now, one of them, the president writes, quote: As ridiculous as it sounds, the laws of our country do not allow us to send those crossing our southern border back where they came from. A whole big wasted procedure must take place. Mexico and Canada have tough immigration laws, whereas as ours are an Obama joke. Act, Congress.

The president then went on: Must pass tough laws and build the wall. Democrats allow open borders, drugs and crime. We should point out this tweet storm began shortly after a news segment aired on a cable news station about immigration. We should also note that the president spent the weekend socializing with some immigration hardliners at his estate in Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach.

The president apparently spending time with Fox News hosts Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity, as well as a former Fox News executive Bill Shine.

Now, sources familiar with their conversation tells CNN that they told the president that his base believes he's being soft on immigration. They went further, even telling the president that the Republican success on the midterm elections in November depend on his ability to tout success and progress when it comes to the border wall. So, the president's frustrations boiling over, winding up on Twitter following conversations with those who often, as sources tell us, try to rile him up -- Dave and Rene.


BRIGGS: All right. Boris, thanks. Trade tensions and attack on Amazon rocking Wall Street. Nasdaq lost nearly 3 percent yesterday thanks mainly to Amazon. Amazon shares fell 5 percent after President Trump once accused them of not paying taxes and taking advantage of the Post Office. The Dow fell 459 points after China slapped tariffs on $3 billion with U.S. goods, retaliation for Trump's duty on foreign steel and aluminum.

The worry on Wall Street is a trade war. That would be devastating for U.S. customers and companies. But White House trade adviser Peter Navarro does not see that happening. Here is what he said about current U.S. trade relations with China.


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: I don't think this is going to be an action response, action response.

[04:35:03] That's not what this should be. That just leads to escalation and spirals. What I do know is that the president is firmly committed to a course of action which will level the playing field between the United States and China, and he has the full support of the American people.


BRIGGS: Yesterday, China slapped tariffs on 128 U.S. products, including pork, recycled aluminum, fruit, nuts and wine. Now, $3 billion is actually a small portion of the hundreds of billions of dollars shipped between the U.S. and China each year. But these tariffs aren't strategic. For example, take pork. Pork Producers Council warns this will have an impact on rural Americans and of the top ten pork producing states, eight voted President Trump in 2016.

MARSH: Well, President Trump is also targeting his own Justice Department, claiming it's dragging its field handing over documents related to Republican-led congressional investigations. He tweeted: So sad that the Department of Justice, end quote, and the FBI are slow-walking or even not giving the unredacted documents requested by Congress. An embarrassment to our country.

Well, the timing of the tweet is a little odd considering FBI Director Chris Wray recently promised round the clock shifts to speed up document production. The congressional request seek documents relating to the FBI probe of Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server and possible FBIJ abuses surveillance warrants targeting former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

BRIGGS: The wife of Andrew McCabe, the man fired as deputy director of the FBI, speaking out about President Trump's attacks on her family. Jill McCabe says the president's relentless taunts aimed at her husband, fired just shy of his retirement, have been a nightmare. Many of those attacks centered on Jill McCabe's 2015 run for the state Senate in Virginia.

Now, in a "Washington Post" op-ed, she writes this: To have my personal reputation and integrity and those of my family attacked this way is beyond horrible. It feels awful every day. It keeps me up nights. I made the decision to run for office because I was trying to help people. Instead it turned into something used to attack our family, my husband's career and the entire FBI.

The president claimed donations to Jill McCabe from Virginia's then- governor Democrat Terry McAuliffe an example of Hillary Clinton trying to sway the FBI investigation into her email server. But those donations came before Andrew McCabe had any oversight of the investigation.

MARSH: EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's job is in jeopardy. That according to a senior White House official who tells CNN the president is angry over Pruitt's ethical questions. Another administration official tells CNN there is nothing the president despises more than his own officials getting bad publicity.

Pruitt is under growing scrutiny after his decision to rent a condo and a condo for below market value from the wife of a prominent Washington energy lobbyist. He has also faced criticism for travel expenses and bringing his security detail on personal trips. No official comment from the White House.

BRIGGS: Vladimir Putin traveling to Turkey today. Topping the agenda today with his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan, the situation in Syria. The meeting coming at a time U.S. influence in the region is weakening and it seems Moscow is calling the shots.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen on the ground in Damascus for us this morning -- Fred.



Well, the U.S. certainly seems to be losing influence here, especially after President Trump announced a couple days ago surprisingly that America would be pulling out of Syria soon after defeating ISIS. Now, as you can imagine, a lot of the groups essentially America's ground forces in the fight against ISIS are pretty angry, especially the Kurdish forces. They say, look, they thought American would stand by their side even after ISIS is defeated.

The big winners in all of this appeared to be the Russians. You look at the situation here in Damascus where I am right now. The rebels have lost a lot of territory in their fight against the government of President Bashar al Assad, and it's essentially been the Russians negotiated the withdraw of the rebels from a lot of their territories.

Now, you also have Russian President Vladimir Putin going to Turkey today with the Turks and Russians and then also the Iranians in the next couple of days are going to be hacking out a plan that they hope will determine the future of Syria and once again America is not at the table as many here Syria wonder what America's long-term strategy is for this country -- Dave and Rene.


MARSH: All right. Thank you so much, Fred Pleitgen.

BRIGGS: Musical diplomacy rocks the Korean peninsula. Following Sunday's K-pop show by South Korean performers, singers from the North and South gave a joint performance overnight in Pyongyang.

[04:40:02] The show wrapping up a four-day visit by a group of South Korean artists.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul with more.

Good morning, Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Rene. Well, we have yet to hear any information on the joint performance. The pictures you're seeing there was on Sunday when the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un went to one of the K-pop concerts. He was said to be deeply moved by the reaction by his people, really quite remarkable when you consider the North Korean people are severely punished by the regime if they are caught watching any kind of South Korean pop culture from any smuggled merchandise. The North Korean leader appeared to be enjoying himself.

We understand there was a voiceover and none of the songs apart from the last one saying we want unification was played to the North Korean people.

One other interesting fact as well. There were some South Korean still photographers not allowed access, and they actually got an apology from North Korea, which is something you don't often hear about, in fact, an apology from the former spy chief. So, it really seems as, though, North Korea as well is trying to do everything it can not to rock the boat and to try to keep these thawed relations on track for now -- Rene.

MARSH: Paula Hancocks, thanks so much.

BRIGGS: All right. Talk of a dynasty, well-deserved for head coach Jay Wright. His Villanova Wildcats are national champions again for the second time in three years. They routed Michigan 79-62 in the national title game in San Antonio. Nova led by guard Donte DiVincenzo who scored 31 points off the bench and was named outstanding player in the Final Four. Nova may have saved its best for last, yes, but they were dominant through this tournament when all six games by double digits.

The Big Ragu, the player of the final four and Jay Wright's pinstriped suits, another title. Congratulations to all of them.

MARSH: Yes, congrats to them.

And a career decision from a Democratic congresswoman. She's under fire for how she handled a staffer accused of abuse. That congresswoman's story is coming up.


[04:46:24] BRIGGS: Tens of thousands of teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma flooding state capitols and refusing to back down. In Kentucky, they're fuming over a pension reform bill and demanding lawmakers improve public school funding. Here is CNN's Polo Sandoval.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Rene, teachers here in Kentucky have made it clear that this is much more about pay and more about pensions, but it's really about funding the upcoming academic year.

It's really this reform bill that was passed by legislators last week is what brought educators from across the state here to Frankfort, Kentucky. But what is keeping them here is their push for legislators to essentially not making any of these cuts for different components of education.

As you're about to hear from some of these teachers that is what brought them here and that is also the message that they want legislators to hear loud and clear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teachers will have to get second jobs in order to make ends meet. My husband even has told me -- he said you may have to get a second job to afford insurance and that's sad.

SANDOVAL: But something that's certainly helping here is that a majority of the school districts across the state were closed for spring break this week.

However, a small handful of districts, including some of the teachers that we just heard from, actually work at the locations where class is still in session. So that now begs the question what will happen come next week for the entire state as these teachers feel like they are certainly not getting much from lawmakers, then will they potentially stage a walkout?

In the meantime, the flipside of this, many of these conservatives in both chambers here at the Capitol maintain that this -- these kinds of cuts are also, this reform will be necessary in order to prolong the life of this pension plan -- Dave and Rene.


MARSH: All right. Well, Connecticut Democratic Congresswoman Elizabeth Etsy has announced she won't run for re-election in November. It follows the reports it took her three months to dismiss her chief of staff after he allegedly harassed and threatened a former aide.

Last week, Etsy told CNN she was not resigning. But on Monday, she reversed course, announcing on Facebook that she was ending her time in Congress, adding, quote: Too many women have been harmed by harassment in the workplace, in the terrible situation in my office. I could have and should have done better. Etsy also asked the House Ethics Committee to expedite the investigation into the matter.

BRIGGS: Sinclair Broadcasting Group defending its controversial promo video which went viral this week. The company's senior VP for news pushing back against critics who call it pro-Trump propaganda, saying its, quote, research, journalistic initiative focused on fair and objective reporting. The viral clip features local anchors at Sinclair stations across the country, reading the scripts slamming fake stories. It is written to sound like the opinion of the local anchors, when it is a mandate from management.

We should note, most of Sinclair stations are CNN affiliates.

MARSH: All right. Well, coming up, could Intel survive without Apple as a customer? Well, investors don't think so and its stock nose dived on reports of a possible breakup. CNNMmoney is next.


[04:54:17] BRIGGS: Sacramento County sheriff blaming professional protesters and instigators for the trouble at a protest vigil in which a deputy struck a woman with his patrol car and drove off. Sheriff's dash cam video shows people repeatedly kicking and banging the deputy's SUV. He says the officer likely did not know his car hit one of the protesters. Emotions boiled over after police shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man. The woman struck by the police vehicle is 61-year-old Wanda Cleveland, was treated at the hospital for bruises. The California Highway Patrol is investigating the incident.

MARSH: A 13-year-old boy who was stuck in a sewage pipe for at least 12 hours is recovering this morning. Authorities in Los Angeles say he was playing in Griffith Park when boards covering a pipe opened and gave way and he plunged 25 feet underground.

[04:55:10] CNN's Nick Watt has more.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Rene, a horrific story with thankfully a happy ending. Jessie Hernandez, a 13-year-old was at Griffith Park here in Los Angeles Sunday afternoon. He was playing with some friends when he fell into the sewer system, fell about 25 feet down into a pipe that they say is about (AUDIO GAP) maybe two feet of liquid at 50 miles an hour. Now, rescuers, about 100 in all, we had police officers and fire department, park rangers searched for him for over 12 hours.

Eventually, in the early hours, a sanitation crew found him in the manhole cover in between two highways, two freeways here in Los Angeles. He was apparently 11 feet down, he was losing, he was talking. They dropped a hose down for him, pulled him out. And the first thing that he asked for was a cell phone so he could call his family who were obviously very, very worried.

Now, rescue workers said that they had hoped that they would get him, but they knew that the window was closing.

Dave and Rene, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MARSH: Nick, thank you.

And a risk for severe weather today from the Gulf Coast to the Ohio Valley and even a little winter hanging on in the Great Lakes.

Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us live this morning.

Good morning, Ivan.


Yes, the battle of the seasons is underway, severe weather potential this evening and into tonight, along the frontal boundary. We have heavy snowfall potential with winter storm warnings flying across the Upper Midwest. As we put this in motion and be able to see as the snow continues to fly to North and across the South, you'd see this very distinct line setting up this evening and into tonight with large hail, damaging winds potential and not just straight line wind potential damage here, but tornadoes as well.

So, we'll watch this very closely from Houston and bull's-eye really from Little Rock to Indianapolis, heading into this evening. There's winter storm warning flying from Minneapolis, not so much across the city, but further south and east, slicing through Wisconsin and into Michigan as well, anywhere from six to 10 inches of snowfall.

April snow continues. The severe weather? Yes, no question about it. Look at the contrast in air masses, 20s and 30s for high temperatures today across the Midwest.

As you get south with the front, there we see the temps in the 70s and 80s. We cool down here and we'll do that again with that line of storms we'll be watching for later this evening -- guys.

BRIGGS: Thank you, sir.

Let's get a check on CNNMoney this morning.

Global stocks are lower today after trade tensions on the presidential attack on Amazon rocked Wall Street. The Dow fell 459 points when China slapped tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. goods. While the selloff in the tech sector left the Nasdaq down nearly 3 percent.

Amazon shares fell 5 percent after President Trump once again accused it of not paying taxes and taking advantage of the post office. Amazon was not alone, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google, all lost a collective $78 billion in value yesterday. Previously, the so-called FANG stocks have driven the market to multiple record highs.

Intel shares nose dived 6 percent on news it may have to survive without Apple. Bloomberg reports Apple plans to start making its own processors for Mac. Apple began using Intel processors in 2006 and since then, Intel has come to rely on Apple's business. Intel still makes most of its money from selling PC processors and Mac computers are a major part of that market.

Intel says the company does not comment on speculation. Apple did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Spotify making its Wall Street debut today, but it's approach is a bit unusual. You see, the streaming music services going around investment banks and taking itself public. Spotify plans a direct listing, meaning it will sell shares directly to the investors. That will save it hundreds of millions in fees, but could mean a volatile start, and nobody knows what the price will be when the stock starts trading. Spotify, the largest music streaming company with 159 million users worldwide.


MARSH: All right. Well, EARLY START continues right now.


BRIGGS: Breaking news overnight. Special counsel Robert Mueller cleared by the Justice Department to investigate whether former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort colluded with Russia.

MARSH: President Trump on the attack ripping Democrats for not protecting Dreamers while slamming the Justice Department and FBI as, quote, an embarrassment to our country.

BRIGGS: And Villanova rolls to its second college basketball title in three years. The hero of the game, he came off the bench. Still celebrating in Philadelphia this morning. Congrats to all those fans.

You know, Rene, they had to grease the light poles with some sort of material that they can identify. It might ay have been Crisco, it might have been something else. Philadelphia Eagles fans showed them that they need to do that.