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EARLY START

FBI Raids Trump Attorney Michael Cohen; How Will Trump Respond to Syria Attack?; Zuckerberg Testifies Today on Capitol Hill; Chinese President Xi Vows to Cut Auto Tariffs. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 10, 2018 - 04:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[04:30:34] 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.

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ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump publicly considers firing the special counsel after an FBI raid on the office of his personal attorney Michael Cohen.

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TRUMP: It will be met and it will be met forcefully.

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

MARQUARDT: 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.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alex Marquardt.

ROMANS: Nice to have you here. Nice to be back. I'm Christine Romans. It's 31 minutes past the hour.

Anything happened over the past week or so?

MARQUARDT: Not much. No news at all. Very quiet.

ROMANS: All right. Picking off right where we lift off this morning, we are waiting to see which action President Trump might take in response to an FBI raid on the home of his -- and office of his long- time personal attorney Michael Cohen. FBI agents acting on a search warrant triggered from referral from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation to the U.S. attorney in New York City. Now, the president's anger on Mueller was on full display in the cabinet room. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

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ROMANS: The extraordinary raid on the president's lawyer with these implications for attorney/client privilege would have to be 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.

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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.

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MARQUARDT: All right. Thanks to Gloria.

President Trump is blaming the witch hunt against him on Democrats who he claimed were behind the raids on Cohen's office. Here's what he said.

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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.

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

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[04:05:07] 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.

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MARQUARDT: And it's also worth noting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, are also, of course, themselves Republicans.

ROMANS: 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 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 unusual for such a short speech. "The Times" reports it was discovered when investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization for information on foreign business deals.

MARQUARDT: All right. There's been 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 of them.

Now, Russia and Syria vehemently deny any involvement in the attack, claiming the rebel forces in the region fabricated it. They called it a hoax.

CNN's Ben Wedeman -- oh, first, we're going to listen to the president.

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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.

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MARQUARDT: Now we turn to CNN's Ben Wedeman who joins us live from Beirut.

Ben, after what the president has said, is Syria now bracing for a U.S. strike?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is a good possibility. Keep in mind, a year ago, President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on Syria after the alleged chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, which is a town south of Aleppo. In that case, the target was a Syrian air base. But it didn't afterward seem to change much in terms of how the war in Syria progressed.

Now, yesterday, in a very stormy debate at United Nations, we heard both sides making their cases and we heard the American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, using not very diplomatic language when describing Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

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NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Only a monster does this. Only a monster targets civilians and then ensures that there are no ambulances to transfer the wounded. No hospitals to save their lives. No doctors or medicine to ease their pain.

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WEDEMAN: And, of course, this incident in Douma outside of Damascus has refocused the attention of the United States and its allies on Syria.

But, Alex, it's important to keep in mind that over the last almost -- more than seven years of war in Syria, more than half a million people have been killed, and by and large, the international community has simply stood and watched -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes, with no end in sight there. Ben Wedeman in Beirut, thanks very much.

ROMANS: All right. Russian officials denying there is proof of a chemical attack, even saying it was staged.

Let's get to international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson live in Moscow.

I guess no surprise. We've heard that sort of defense or deflection before, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And that's Russia's problem right now, that they're going to find very few people that they can actually convince with this argument. So, they are also trying other arguments. Their ambassador to the United Nations said that the United States was driving the world to a very dangerous place, that Russia was being threatened in an unpardonable way.

But what they're saying is that, on the ground, their own WMD and military experts and military medics have been to this area in Damascus where this alleged chemical weapons incident took place, and they say that they haven't found anyone who's suffering from the effects of chemical weapons, that they haven't found any traces of chemical weapons, that they've been to hospitals and talk to doctors, that they haven't seen any patients, haven't found the bodies of anyone who has allegedly died from this chemical weapons exposure.

[04:40:17] So, Russia is pushing back strongly. It's threatening to take action if the United States and allies try to strike targets in Syria. That they said they will try to take down those missiles, target the carriers that are firing those missiles. The message coming from Moscow and from their representative at the U.N., that the situation is very serious, and that there are potentially grave consequences for possible military action inside Syria.

ROMANS: All right. Certainly, a very delicate moment here. No question.

Thank you so much, Nic Robertson.

More problems for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Internal agency e- mails contradicting his claim that he knew nothing about big pay raises awarded to two of his top 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 that 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: And turning overseas, Chinese President Xi Jinping

announcing his government will significantly lower tariffs on vehicle imports this year. In a speech on Tuesday, President Xi has said he's willing to cut auto tariffs and further open China's economy up to global trade. The pledge comes among the exchange of economic threats between the U.S. and China.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Beijing with us this morning.

Matt, how does this play into this potential trade war between the U.S. and China?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really all depends on how the Trump administration is going to respond here moving forward, and it really depends on what part of the speech they're going to really hone in on. So, the part that you just mentioned there, that's really the headline. The Chinese going to lower automobile tariffs. And that's a nod to Washington by President Xi Jinping.

Consider what President Trump tweeted on Monday. He specifically tweeted about his displeasure with Chinese tariffs on automobile imports from around the world, being way higher than the equivalent tariff in the United States. Now, the president of China also went on to talk about other things that the Trump administration doesn't like and wants to see change.

So, Xi talked about increasing intellectual property rights for foreign companies, increase market access here in China. That's all things that Washington wants. The important context here thought is that promises what we've heard from the Chinese government before and that people that we talked to here in China say haven't been really realized.

So, is this speech in its totality enough to convince the Trump administration that China is going to change or policymakers in Washington are looking at this as just more of the same? That is the concern. That is the calculation that the Trump administration needs to make after the speech by Xi Jinping just a couple of hours ago -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Of course, all this uncertainty doing no favors to the market.

All right. Matt Rivers in Beijing, thanks very much.

ROMANS: All right. Forty-three minutes past the hour.

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. He 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. The hearings will likely address broader concerns about Facebook, including its role in spreading misinformation and election meddling. Zuckerberg's testimony continues and apology tour of sorts for Facebook. It allowed a firm with ties to the Trump campaign to access the information of 87 million users without their consent.

President Trump's tax law cuts trillions of dollars in taxes, but it will balloon the U.S. deficit for years to come. That's according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. These numbers are simply terrifying. It says deficits will hit $1 trillion by 2020, two years faster than it projected just months ago.

What changed? Tax cuts and $1.3 trillion budget deal, the biggest budget passed ever. The CBO says both have significantly reduced federal revenue. It's getting awful lot of attention just how big those deficit numbers are. With a Republican president, two houses controlled by Republicans, the deficit hawk Republican Party with these exploding deficits.

MARQUARDT: A trillion dollars.

ROMANS: Yes.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, we have breaking news this morning from the U.K. Yulia Skripal, the daughter of the Russian spy apparently poisoned last month is out of the hospital.

[04:45:01] The hospital's medical doctor saying this is not the end of her treatment, but marks a significant milestone. Skripal was released this morning after a month -- sorry, a month after she and her father were exposed to a powerful nerve agent in Salisbury, England.

The U.S. and U.K. have accused Russia of orchestrating the attack against the pair and have since expelled Russian diplomats in retaliation. Sergei Skripal is a former Russian double agent and he is responding to treatment. We are told he is no longer in critical condition.

ROMANS: All right. Also breaking overnight, the deadly crash of the small plane on the Arizona golf course. The latest on that straight ahead.

MARQUARDT: And details of a secret settlement revealed for the first time in the Bill Cosby trial. That's next.

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MARQUARDT: Welcome back.

We now have an update on the breaking story out of Arizona. At least six people have died after a small plane crashed on the golf course.

[04:50:02] This happened in Scottsdale. The plane erupted in flames. More than a half dozen emergency vehicles responded. Look at those pictures.

According to the FAA, the plane went down after taking off from nearby Scottsdale airport. At this point, it's unclear what caused the crash.

ROMANS: All right. 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 gets to respond.

We get more this morning from CNN's Jean Casarez. She is in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

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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.

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ROMANS: All right. And Jean will be there for us. Thank you, Jean.

Cindy Hyde-Smith making history, becoming the first woman to ever represent the state of Mississippi in Congress. She was sworn in Monday on the Senate floor by Vice President Mike Pence. Hyde-Smith replaces Republican Senator Tad Cochran who resigned citing health problems. The former Mississippi agriculture commissioner becomes the 23rd woman currently serving in the U.S. Senate. MARQUARDT: And here's another little piece of history -- something earning bipartisan support in Congress. Congratulations to Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth on the birth of her baby girl. Her daughter and I hope I'm pronouncing this correctly, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey arrived on Monday morning. Duckworth is the first U.S. senator to have a baby while in office. This is her second child. Her daughter Abigail was in 2014 while Duckworth was a member of the House. Duckworth is an Iraq War vet. She lost both of her legs in 2006 when her army helicopter was shot down.

ROMANS: Working moms can do anything and working moms in the Senate --

MARQUARDT: They can, indeed.

ROMANS: -- can do anything. We can't wait to see how -- well, you know, I want to see that baby on the Senate floor. I would like to see a baby on the Senate floor.

MARQUARDT: And there's been discussion over whether she'll nurse the baby on the Senate floor, which we've seen in other countries.

ROMANS: She should. It's be a wonderful role model.

All right. Fifty-three minutes past the hour.

Chinese President Xi Jinping promises to significantly lower tariffs on car imports. It's giving stocks a boost. Details on CNNMoney, next.

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[04:53:17] ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNNMoney this morning.

Global stocks and U.S. futures jumping overnight. Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to open up Chinese markets and cut tariffs on car imports. And that ease investor worries about a trade war between the U.S. and China. Escalating tensions between the two have caused wild swings on Wall Street.

U.S. stocks closed up just a little bit yesterday. But look at that, that was well off earlier highs. The Dow had 400-point rally that was wiped out almost in the final hour of trading when "The New York Times" reported that FBI raided President Trump's lawyer's office, sending stocks then off the highs.

The U.S. will allow Bayer to buy Monsanto. In a $60 billion deal, the Justice Department previously held up that merger because of antitrust concerns. Together, the chemical company Bayer and agricultural giant Monsanto will control more than a quarter of the world's seed and pesticides market. Now, that caused concern about how prices when one company controls just so much. But the "Wall Street Journal" reports Bayer won approval after agreeing to sell some of those assets.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces questions of user data on Capitol Hill today. But CNN recently discovered that the biggest Black Lives Matter Facebook page is fake. Titled "Black Lives Matter", the page has almost 700,000 followers. It's the biggest of the genre.

But guess what? CNN found the page is a scam. It brought in at least $100,000 that supposedly went to Black Lives Matter causes in the U.S., but most of that money was transferred to Australian bank accounts. Facebook suspended the account.

Facebook has also announced plans to make the people running large pages verify their identity and location, part of the larger push to fix the integrity of the platform on Facebook. It looks like that Black Lives Matter page run by, you know, a white guy in Australia.

MARQUARDT: The hits just keep on coming. And yet, one more thing for Zuckerberg to get asked about today on the Hill.

ROMANS: Guess what, what you see on Facebook is not always real, everybody.

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