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FBI Raids Trump Attorney Michael Cohen; How Will Trump Respond to Syria Attack?; Zuckerberg Testifies Today on Capitol Hill. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 10, 2018 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:12] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president, President Trump, publicly considers firing the special counsel after the FBI raid on his personal attorney Michael Cohen.


TRUMP: It will be met and met forcefully.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: An angry president also facing a critical test on another front -- how to respond to a chemical attack that killed dozens in Syria.

ROMANS: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg expected to take the blame for the company's data scandal when he is grilled by lawmakers just hours from now on Capitol Hill.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt. Welcome back. Good to be with you again.

ROMANS: Thank you.

It is Tuesday, April 10th. It's 4:00 a.m. here in the East, 4:00 p.m. in Beijing, 11:00 a.m. in Beirut. And we will have reports from those cities in a moment.

But, first, this morning, we are waiting to see what action President Trump might take in response to an FBI raid on the home and office of his long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen. FBI agents acting on a search warrant triggered by referral from special counsel Robert Mueller and his Russia investigation, to the U.S. attorney here in New York City. The president's anger at Mueller was on full display in the cabinet



TRUMP: Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens. But I think it's really a sad situation when you look at what happened.

And many people have said, you should fire him. Again, they found nothing and in finding nothing, that's a big statement to have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now, and actually much more than that. You could say it was right after I won the nomination it started.

And it's a disgrace. It's frankly, a real disgrace. It's an attack on our country in a true sense. It's an attack on what we all stand for.


MARQUARDT: Now, the extraordinary raid on the president's lawyer with its implications with attorney-client privilege would have to have been approved by top officials at the Justice Department, likely including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The president yesterday renewed his attacks on Rosenstein and his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as our Gloria Borger reports.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Christine and Alex, these raids were really extraordinary. About a dozen FBI agents searched multiple locations, including Michael Cohen's office and a hotel room where he had been staying.

A source tells me the raids were largely about the payment Cohen made to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. But also concerned election laws, as well as smaller Cohen personal investments. This all came as result of the special counsel's office referring an investigation to prosecutors in New York, and that's according to Michael Cohen's attorney.

We know that the bank red-flagged Cohen's $130,000 payment to Daniels last October and the warrant involved the payment to the porn star, Cohen's communications with the president and campaign. As a result, it's likely Cohen's computer, his phone and his personal financial records were a part of the search.

Cohen's attorney, Stephen Ryan, called the raids, quote, completely inappropriate and unnecessary. And people close to the president say he sees this as a special counsel's office really crossing a red line and he is furious with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right now, maybe more than the special counsel Bob Mueller.

So, what does this mean for their futures? Only the president knows. Gloria Borger, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you for that, Gloria.

President Trump blamed the, quote, witch hunt against him on Democrats who claims were behind the raids on Cohen -- Democrats behind the raids on Cohen. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: Democrats all or just about all, either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that worked for President Obama, they're not looking at the other side. They're not looking at the Hillary Clinton horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed. They're not looking at all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about.


ROMANS: But in fact as former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Preet Bharara points out, most of the Justice Department officials involved here are Republicans.


PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: The Southern District of New York, this attorney's office, which I used to lead, are all people who are Republican and all people who have basically been hand-picked by Donald Trump. If it's true that the southern district of New York is taking over this part of investigation based on a referral from Bob Mueller's office, it's being done because people think it's very serious, people think it's totally warranted, and people think there's evidence that a significant enough nature that you're going to risk doing something sensitive like raiding a law office.


[04:05:16] ROMANS: Worth noting, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are also, of course, Republicans.

MARQUARDT: Now, "The New York Times" reports that Robert Mueller's team is looking into a $150,000 payment to the Donald J. Trump Foundation by Ukrainian billionaire. The money was on honorarium, solicited my Attorney Michael Cohen for a 2015 speech that then- candidate Trump gave via a video hookup to a conference in Ukraine. The event is sponsored every year by the Ukrainian billionaire, businessman Victor Pinchuk.

The payment was the largest donation to the charity in 2015, apart from gifts from Trump himself. It's an amount that the former head of the IRS Taxes Exempt Division told "The Times" was, quote, unusual for such a short speech. "The Times" reports it was discovered when investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization for information on foreign business deals.

ROMANS: All right. Tough talk from President Trump in the wake of the latest deadly chemical attack against civilians in Syria. The president says he will decide on the U.S. response quickly and he claims it will be very tough whether it involves Russia, Syria or Iran or all three.


TRUMP: We are studying that situation extremely closely. We are meeting with our military and everybody else and we'll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours. We are very concerned when a thing like that can happen.

This is about humanity. We are talking about humanity. It can't be allowed to happen.


ROMANS: Russia and Syria denying any involvement in the attack, claiming rebel forces in the region fabricated it. They call this some sort of a hoax.

CNN's Ben Wedeman tracking the latest developments live from Beirut.

What do you have for us, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, well, everybody in this part of the world is very -- watching very closely what went on at the United Nations yesterday. Many have concluded at this point that there will be some sort of military action by the United States alone or some of its allies.

But it's not at all clear, the scope of the possible attack, keeping in mind that a year ago, President Trump did order a cruise missile strike on the Syrian air base in response to the alleged chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, which is a town south of Aleppo. That, of course, did not result in any dramatic or palpable change in the course of events in Syria.

Now, if this is going to be a more expanded U.S.-led operation in Syria, of course, it runs the risk of some direct confrontation between U.S. allies, Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, all of which are on the ground in Syria. And, of course, that risks a broadening of the conflict of perhaps beyond the boundaries that President Trump who just a few days ago said he wanted to get the U.S. out of Syria could stumble into.

So, the risks are very high and worry is we are on the verge of something very dangerous here in the Middle East. And, of course, many people are noting that, yes, perhaps as many as 50 people were killed in the alleged chemical attack on Douma on Saturday night. They point out, however, that perhaps as many as half a million Syrians have been killed in the war there, and by and large, the international community has sat by and watched -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much for that this morning.

Nine minutes past the hour.

More problems for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. E-mails contradicting his claim he knew nothing about the big pay raises about the two aides. "The Atlantic" reports Pruitt requested the raises in March, but was turned down by the White House. Both aides received pay hikes anyway with Pruitt claiming to be out of the loop.

But in one e-mail exchanged with the EPA's HR Department, one of the aides writes Pruitt told her she would be getting an increase. An EPA spokeswoman says the email does not prove that Pruitt did in fact know about the raids.

The acting director of the Government Ethics Office, David Apol, just sent a letter to the EPA, outlining areas of concern with Pruitt's conduct.

MARQUARDT: Well, Chinese President Xi Jinping is announcing his government will significantly lower tariffs on vehicle import this year. In a speech on Tuesday, President Xi said he's willing to cut auto tariffs and further open China's economy to global trade.

[04:10:02] The pledge comes amid the exchange of economic threats between the U.S. and China. President Xi did not mention President Trump by name, but did complain about limits other governments have put on trade with China.

ROMANS: All right. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a message for Congress. It's my fault. Zuckerberg will testify on Capitol Hill today and according to prepared remarks, he will take the blame for Facebook's failure to protect user data and laying out steps to prevent it from happening again. Zuckerberg will tell lawmakers it's clear now that we didn't do enough to prevent the tools to be used for harm. That goes for fake news and foreign interference of elections and hate speech.

This week, Zuckerberg faces questions from two congressional panels about how Facebook handles user data but the hearings will likely address broader concerns about Facebook.

MARQUARDT: I'm going to pick up here, including it's role in spreading misinformation and election meddling. Zuckerberg's testimony continues and apology tour for Facebook's most recent crisis. It allowed a firm with ties to the Trump campaign to access the info of 87 million users without their consent. The majority, more than 70 million, live here in the U.S.

Now, that has angered users and advertisers and investors. Facebook has lost tens of billions of dollars in market value since this crisis begun. The stock has still not recovered. We're just below $160.

Now, breaking overnight, the deadly plane crash of a small plane unto an Arizona golf course. The latest straight ahead.

And details of a secret settlement revealed for the first time at the Bill Cosby trial.


[04:15:37] ROMANS: A terrifying scene in Arizona after it appears a small plane crashed on the golf course in Scottsdale, erupting in flames. More than a half dozen emergency vehicles responded. According to the FAA, the plane went down after taking off from nearby Scottsdale Airport. Nobody on the ground was hit. Officials say there were multiple fatalities. Right now, they are not saying how many, but that there were apparently no survivors. We'll bring you more information as soon as we get it.

MARQUARDT: There's been a bombshell to open the Bill Cosby retrial. Prosecutors revealing the entertainer paid $3.4 million settlement to accuser Andrea Constand in 2006 after allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting her. In a matter of hours, Cosby's legal team yet to respond this morning.

We get more from CNN's Jean Casarez in Norristown, Pennsylvania.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Alex, the defense is set to have opening statements this morning when court convenes around 9:00.

But yesterday afternoon, it was all about the commonwealth. Their theme was trust. And the betrayal of trust that Andrea Constand was given three blue pills, three little friends Bill Cosby told her that would help her relax and following that, she was drugged, they asserted. Bill Cosby, having to help her to a sofa, saying that he then sexually assaulted her.

Also, the prosecution told the jury you will hear evidence about the civil confidential settlement between Bill Cosby and Andrea Constand in 2006. For the first time, the jury and America was told the actual amount of that settlement, $3.38 million. That was given to Andrea Constand.

But there were qualifications, that the facts, the allegations, the information learned during the pendency of that civil suit would never been made public. And Bill Cosby admitted no guilt whatsoever.

Finally, the prosecution talked about mistake, absence of accident, plan and scheme, talking about the other women who would take the stand to say me too. I also was drugged and assaulted by Bill Cosby. It was very vague, but then the prosecution went back to Andrea Constand. With her, it was no mistake. You will see when she takes the stand. You will hear from Andrea Constand -- Alex and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that, Jean.

A federal lawsuit accuses three Michigan State basketball players of raping a female student in 2015. It claims the university discouraged her from reporting it to police. The alleged victim who was 18 at the time claims there was a de facto policy of suppressing sexual allegations against sports stars. It's the third rape allegation against multiple MSU basketball players since 2010. Only one was reported to police.

The university is under investigation by state and federal agencies over its handling of the Larry Nassar case. That's the U.S. gymnastics case.

MARQUARDT: And seven top officials at the classified ads Website, excuse me, arrested this morning after a grand jury issued a 93-count indictment. It alleges conspiracy, facilitating prostitution, and money laundering. The website has long been criticized for failing to crack down on sex trafficking on its platform.

Among those charged were the founders of the site Michael Lacey and James Larkin. According to the indictment, Backpage earned more than $500 million in prostitution related revenue from the site, and illegally routed the proceeds through unrelated entities.

ROMANS: Five hundred million --

MARQUARDT: A lot of money.

ROMANS: Sure is.

All right. Nineteen minutes past the hour.

More National Guard troops on the move this morning. They are headed for the U.S./Mexico border. We have the latest from Arizona, next.


[04:23:45] MARQUARDT: Welcome back.

Two hundred and twenty-five Arizona National Guard troops are taking a position along the state's border with Mexico this morning. Governor Doug Ducey sent the troops off on Monday on the mission he calls Operation Guardian Shield. They are the first wave of up to 4,000 National Guard troops authorized by President Trump to head to the border. He signed a memo last week warning of a security crisis at the border.

But we really should note, this is despite the fact that illegal border crossings are at historic lows right now.

The Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he plans to boost his state's National Guard force on the border to at least 1,000 troops.

ROMANS: All right. New details this morning emerging about the fire that broke out this weekend in the high rise apartment in Trump Tower. The fire on the 50th floor left one man dead. Six New York City firefighters were injured battling this place.

We get more this morning from CNN's Brynn Gingras. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Alex, this morning, the cause for the fire in Trump Tower over the weekend is still under investigation. And we know from the FDNY source that there were no working smoke alarms inside the apartment where the fire broke out, killing 67-year-old Todd Brasner.

Now, we also know that there was no sprinklers throughout the building, but that's not against the law. In 1999, the city actually passed a building code law stating that only new construction with four apartments or more were required to install the sprinklers.

[04:25:10] And all older buildings were grandfathered in. That included Trump Tower which was built in 1983.

Now, Mr. Trump, according to "The New York Times", was part of the lobbying group to not get the building part of that new law, didn't want those sprinklers having to be added in to the building as citing for one, the cost it would be to have that installation with the older high-rises.

Now, later on, when Trump was building Trump World Tower near the U.N., he did install sprinklers which he wasn't required to. So, he had somewhat of a change of heart there. Today, there is now a local city law maker that is hoping to have the entire law changed, requiring all buildings, high rises and all, to have sprinklers throughout the buildings. And he's hoping that Mr. Trump and other developers would get on board -- Christine and Alex.


ROMANS: All right. Brynn, thank you.

President Trump said to be angry after FBI agents raided his home and office -- the office of his personal attorney Michael Cohen that is. All of the details, next.