Return to Transcripts main page


FBI Raid Sought Information on "Access Hollywood" Tape; Trump National Security Team Meeting at the White House over Syria Crisis; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:14] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Could that "Access Hollywood" tape come back to haunt President Trump? Sources tell CNN it was part of the FBI raid on the president's personal lawyer.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: The president's National Security team meeting in a matter of hours. When and how will the U.S. respond to a suspected chemical attack in Syria?

ROMANS: House Speaker Paul Ryan's sudden decision to leave Congress. How much does it really have to do with President Trump?

All right. Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt. Good to be back with you. It is Thursday, April 12th. 4:00 a.m. here in the East, 11:00 a.m. in Istanbul and Moscow. We're going to have reports from those cities coming up.

But first, there are new revelations this morning about what FBI agents were looking for when they raided President Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. Sources tell CNN that the search warrant sought communications between the president and Cohen about that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape.

That is one top of what we already know that investigators were seeking information on efforts to prevent the eruption of stories on two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

CNN's Gloria Borger has been on the story. She has the latest.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Alex and Christine, sources tell me that the FBI agents who raided Michael Cohen's home, office, and hotel room on Monday were looking for communications between then-candidate Trump and Cohen, and perhaps others about efforts to prevent the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape -- and you all remember this -- that captured Donald Trump making lewd remarks about women before the election.

The warrant's specific reference to Trump is a first-known direct mention of the president in a search warrant and sources say it appeared in connection to the tape. This warrant is also the first indication that investigators suspect

there was an effort to suppress the "Access Hollywood" tape but we don't know what, if any, role Cohen or the president would have played in that.

In addition to what we already know about the warrant, we're also learning that investigators wanted records pertaining to bank fraud and wire fraud investigations. And on top of that, the warrant involved communications about other potential negative information about Trump that the campaign might have wanted to contain ahead of the election.

What we don't know is what additional information that might be -- Alex, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Gloria, thank you so much for that.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is pitching a plan to President Trump designed to crush the special counsel investigation. According to "The Washington Post," Bannon's strategy involves firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and having the president end all cooperation with Robert Mueller's team.

He's also calling on the president to invoke executive privilege retroactively, claiming that would render all interviews already completed with White House officials null and void.

MARQUARDT: Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley is offering an amendment to the proposed bill that would protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but ranking member, Dianne Feinstein is raising concern, warning that the amendment could actually undercut the Mueller probe.

Grassley's amendment would require reports to Congress if there is a change in the investigation or if the special counsel gets fired. Feinstein responded by saying that passing a bipartisan bill to ensure Mueller can't be fired without cause is essential. But she says all political interference must be removed from law enforcement decisions. That means no political pressure from the White House or Congress. Both agreed to delay any action on that bill until next week.

ROMANS: All right. Potentially fierce race to be the next speaker of the House set off by this man, Paul Ryan's announcement he will retire from Congress at the end of the year. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Ryan said he is leaving to go to Wisconsin to spend more time with his family and that Republicans' tough prospects in the 2018 midterms played no part in his thinking.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I was able to make that personal decision because I feel like we have put our majority in a good place because we have gotten a lot done. It's making a big difference in people's lives. So I'm confident we're going to be able to hand -- I'm going to be able to hand this gavel over to another Republican speaker and because of that list of accomplishments, I actually feel content and confident.


ROMANS: Ryan also denied he is leaving because of a reportedly difficult relationship with President Trump.


RYAN: We're very different people. I'm from the Upper Midwest. I'm not from New York. We are from a different generation. So we definitely have different styles. But what we learned after we got to know each other because we didn't know each other at all in the campaign, and, yes, we had a pretty -- we had a lot of friction in our relationship. What we learned is we have a common agenda that we agree on, and we want to get it done and we know it's going to make a difference in people's lives, and that's what we were elected to do.


[04:05:07] MARQUARDT: Paul Ryan rose to prominence as a sharp pencil deficit hawk. Yesterday he touted his role in passing the recent tax cuts that will actually balloon the deficit to $1 trillion starting in 2020. Even so Ryan's departure is a real blow to Republicans who saw him as a stable policy driven leader in the midst of this tumultuous presidency.

The House GOP now faces a possibly months long battle for leadership as it grapples with the upcoming midterms in November. Among the contenders for the gavel are House majority leader Kevin McCarthy and majority whip Steve Scalise. Both of those men appeared alongside Ryan in this photo that was tweeted out by President Trump ahead of a White House dinner with Republican leaders last night.

ROMANS: You can't see too well, though. The thumbs up --

MARQUARDT: In that President Trump's style.

ROMANS: Yes. In that President Trump's style there.

All right. CNN has learned the president's National Security team will meet at the White House today to hammer out a strategy on Syria. It is not clear whether the president will participate in the meeting. UK officials expected to hold a similar meeting in London. On Wednesday, when President Trump tweeted this, "Get ready, Russia, missiles will be coming towards Syria," it was just bluster. At the time the U.S. and its allies had no plan in place for a response.

Here is Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defending the president's threat.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- options and all of those options are still on the table.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When the president says, get ready Russia, they will be coming, the missiles are coming, how is that anything but an announcement of a pending airstrike?

SANDERS: It's certainly one option but that doesn't mean it's the only option or the only thing that the president may or may not do.


ROMANS: CNN's Arwa Damon is tracking the latest developments live from Istanbul.

And Arwa, we understand that President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan, they have spoken by phone about the Syria crisis.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They did, Christine, although we don't know a lot about exactly what took place during that conversation. Both sides very closed mouthed about the details. Just saying that they have pledged to keep in close contact with one another.

Turkey of course is in a very interesting position, given that on the one hand it is just a NATO member, but on the other hand has maintained certain levels of communication with the Iranians and the Russians. In fact both the Iranian and Russian leaders were in Turkey prior to this chemical attack taking place. And there's been all sorts of speculation as to what the U.S. and its allies may do when it comes to the various different strike options inside Syria.

What is concerning at this stage to those civilians living within at the very least the Syrian rebel areas is what then is Syria and quite possibly Russia going to do in potential retaliation to any sort of U.S. or coalition strike. They feel very vulnerable.

What they would like to see is not a one-off but something that's more sustained. In an ideal world, they would love to see some sort of a no-fly zone being put into place because for them it's not just about these attacks by chemical weapons, although they do get the headlines and the international attention. They are being bombarded every single day and they are phenomenally vulnerable with no one to protect them.

ROMANS: All right. Arwa for us this morning in Istanbul with that context. Thank you, dear.

MARQUARDT: Now later this morning, the confirmation hearing for secretary -- the potential, the nominated of secretary of state Mike Pompeo will get under way. Pompeo who is currently the director of the CIA, he faces a tough task winning approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At least one Republican, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, has said he will vote against Pompeo, which means that the nominee must woo skeptical Democrats on the other side of the aisle.

In excerpts of his opening remarks that were released last night, Pompeo addresses the concerns of some of his critics who say that he holds questionable views on torture and a record of prejudice against Muslims. Pompeo is planning to say that he will increase diversity at the State Department in terms of race, religion, background and more. That's a quote from his prepared statements. He also is expected to call Russia a danger to our country.

ROMANS: All right. Mark Zuckerberg survived his first grilling on Capitol Hill. But the second day was a bit rougher. Lawmakers hit the Facebook CEO with top questions on privacy while ramping up calls for regulation. Zuckerberg began the five-hour hearing smoothly, apologizing again for failing to protect user data but faltered when asked if Facebook would reduce data collection.


REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: I don't think that's hard for you to say yes to unless I'm missing something.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: Congressman, this is a complex issue that I think deserves more than a one-word answer.

PALLONE: Well, again, that's disappointing to me.


ROMANS: The hearings come a month after news brook that Trump campaign consultants accessed the data of 87 million Facebook users without their consent. That angered users, advertisers and lawmakers already struggling with Facebook's role in spreading misinformation and allowing election meddling. In fact, Zuckerberg revealed that his own data had been exposed, prompting the Facebook CEO to admit the industry needs regulation, but with this warning.


[04:10:08] ZUCKERBERG: I think a lot of times regulation by definition puts in place rules that a company that is larger, that has resources like ours, can easily comply with but that might be more difficult for a smaller start-up to comply with.


ROMANS: Zuckerberg also avoided saying exactly how tech should be regulated. And after 10 hours of questions from almost 100 lawmakers, there is no consensus about what privacy legislation Congress should pursue, which investors seem to like. Facebook stock rose 5.5 percent over Zuckerberg's two days of testimony.

MARQUARDT: Looks like those congressmen and women who saw the coverage of the Senate grilling of him.


MARQUARDT: And took their cue and went a little bit harder after Zuckerberg.


MARQUARDT: All right. Well, a familiar refrain from a politician in trouble.


GOV. ERIC GREITENS (R), MISSOURI: This is a political witch hunt.


MARQUARDT: More on the sexually explicit allegations in a new report on Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. That's coming up next.

ROMANS: And Los Angeles police with a new investigation involving actor Kevin Spacey. Details ahead.


[04:15:15] ROMANS: A former Texas nurse is behind bars facing a murder charge. 34-year-old William Davis held on $2 million bond for allegedly killing one patient and causing two others to slip into vegetative states. In March, the Texas nursing board suspended Davis' license after concluding he entered the rooms of those patients and performed interventions. There could be additional charges against Davis with police now looking into as many as seven other incidents at the CHRISTUS Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler, Texas.

MARQUARDT: And there is stunning new allegations against embattled Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. A statehouse committee report has detailed lurid allegations of sexual misconduct and violence against the governor. An unidentified woman claiming that Greitens staged and photographed her bound and blindfolded, then threatened to release the photos to disclose their encounter. Governor Greitens already faces criminal invasion of privacy charges in addition to multiple ongoing investigations.

Here he is on Wednesday defending himself before the latest bombshell dropped.


GREITENS: This is exactly like what's happening with the witch hunts in Washington, D.C. Smearing, lying, and attacking people who want to change how things are done is wrong in Washington and it's wrong in Missouri.


MARQUARDT: The new report by state lawmakers could set the stage for impeachment proceedings against Missouri's Republican governor.

ROMANS: The Los Angeles County district attorney says it is reviewing a sexual assault case against actor Kevin Spacey. Authorities confirmed the investigation began last December. The case centers on events that took place in October of 1992 in West Hollywood involving Spacey and a male adult. No other details have been released.

Last year, actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making a sexual advance on him in 1986 when Rapp was 14 years old.

MARQUARDT: And there's been a chilling moment in the Bill Cosby retrial. A witness who claimed she was drugged and assaulted by the entertainer when he she was just 17 years old shouted from the witness stand, quote, "You remember, don't you, Mr. Cosby?" Defense lawyers moving for a mistrial. The judge denying it and calling for a recess. Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and attacking former Temple University employee Andrea Constand. That was in 2004.

ROMANS: Pope Francis admitting he made grave errors in his handling of a church sex abuse scandal in Chile and he is asking for forgiveness. In a letter to Chilean bishops, the Pope caused a lot of controversy during his South America trip in January by defending that Chilean bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. He says he now feels pain and shame for accusing the victims of slander and plans to invite some of them to come to the Vatican in the next few weeks.

MARQUARDT: And look at this. Dramatic video of a hit-and-run in South Los Angeles. We should warn you, it is hard to watch. A car plows right into this man who's apparently trying to diffuse the situation. He goes flying in the air and the driver takes off. People chased him down after the vehicle but the driver does get away. Police are still looking for her. Witnesses say she was caught on video earlier getting into a fist fight with some bikers. The bikers were blocking the intersection as part of a vigil for a fellow cyclist who had been killed by a different hit and run the day before. As for the victim hit on Wednesday afternoon, he is recovering in the hospital.


MARQUARDT: Terrible.

ROMANS: All right. Things get ugly on the ball field in Boston. Yankees and Red Sox with benches cleared and punches thrown. That is just another day in this rivalry. That's next.


[04:23:12] MARQUARDT: Welcome back. California Governor Jerry Brown is agreeing to send 400 more National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. But -- and this is a big but -- he insists they will be focusing on fighting transnational crime and will not be enforcing any Trump administration immigration policies. It could take months for the deployment to happen. The troops will be joining 250 other California guardsmen who were already stationed at the border.

ROMANS: All right. Stunning video out of Honduras. Watch as this giant cruise ship smashes into the dock on this island. But people could be heard shouting for others on land to get out of the way.


ROMANS: The 65,000 ton vessel tore out a section of the docks. Fortunately no one was hurt. After inspection, authorities gave the MSC Armonia the green light to head to its next destination in Belize. MSC Cruises says it is launching an investigation to that accident. MARQUARDT: And more dramatic video now. A night of bad blood and

brawls in BeanTown Baseball. How's that for (INAUDIBLE). First Yankees-Red Sox at Fenway this season. New York's Tyler Austin hit by a 98-mile-an-hour fastball on his elbow. And he's clearly not too happy about it. He charges the mound and both benches emptied for the second time in the game. Austin and Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly exchanging punches before getting booted out of the game. But the Yankees went on to win 10-6.

ROMANS: Round two. Padres and Rockies in Denver. San Diego's (INAUDIBLE) throwing a fastball behind Colorado's Nolan Arenado. Then he throws his glove at the charging third baseman as the benches clear. Five players were ejected. The suspension expected by the weekend. The Rockies energized after the brawl scoring five runs to win 6-4. I love hockey. It's just I love hockey.


MARQUARDT: All right. And turning now to President Trump. He signed an anti-sex trafficking bill in the Oval Office on Wednesday.

[04:25:03] One woman could just not contain her excitement. So she started dubbing and dancing right behind the president. She's only been identified by her initials M.A. We're told that she was the first to sue in 2010, that's a huge scandal, after she was kidnapped and sold via the site. The new law gives victims -- look at her there -- more power to hold sites that promotes sex trafficking accountable.

ROMANS: Right.

MARQUARDT: And she's getting applause.

ROMANS: Yes. All right. Guess who reportedly got a plan for President Trump to beat the Mueller investigation? Steve Bannon.

MARQUARDT: He's back.

ROMANS: More on his strategy just ahead.

MARQUARDT: And the "Access Hollywood" tape is back in the news posing potential trouble for the president. That's next.


MARQUARDT: Could the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape come back to haunt President Trump?