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EARLY START

"Access Hollywood" Tape Tied to FBI Raid on Michael Cohen; World Awaits Trump's Syria Response; Russia Responds to Trump's Missile Threat. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 12, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:08] ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Could the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape come back to haunt President Trump? Sources now telling CNN it was part of the FBI raid on the president's personal lawyer.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, 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?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Yes, we had a pretty -- we had a lot of friction in our relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

ROMANS: Nice to see you this morning.

MARQUARDT: Good to see you.

ROMANS: Thursday morning. I'm Christine Romans. Thirty minutes past the hour.

Let's begin with these 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 the search warrant sought communications between the president and Cohen about the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. And 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 reporting on this story. She has the latest for us.

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.

MARQUARDT: All right. Thank you, Gloria.

Well, look who's back. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is pitching a plan to President Trump which is 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 the executive privilege but retroactively, claiming that it would render all interviews already completed with White House officials null and void.

ROMANS: Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley is offering an amendment to the proposed bill protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but ranking member, Dianne Feinstein is raising concern, warning 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 this bill until next week.

MARQUARDT: And an earthquake on Capitol Hill. A potentially fierce race to be the next speaker of the House has been set off by Paul Ryan's announcement that he will be retiring from Congress at the end of the year. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper yesterday, Ryan said he is leaving to go home to Wisconsin to spend more time with his family and that Republicans' tough prospects in the 2018 midterms played no part in his thinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Ryan is also denying that he is leaving because of a reportedly difficult relationship with President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: You know, Ryan rose to prominence as a sharp pencil deficit hawk. Yesterday he touted his role in passing the tax cuts, tax cuts by the way that will balloon the deficit to $1 trillion starting in 2020.

[04:35:08] Even so Ryan's departure is a real blow to Republicans who saw him as a stable policy driven leader in the midst of a tumultuous presidency. The House GOP now faces a possibly months long battle for leadership as it grapples with the midterms. Among the leading contenders for the gavel are House majority leader Kevin McCarthy and majority whip Steve Scalise. In fact both men appeared alongside Ryan in this photo tweeted out by President Trump ahead of a White House dinner with Republican leaders last night.

Thumbs up, big smiles. Nice, dark suit.

MARQUARDT: Hat off, thumbs up.

All right. CNN has learned that the president's National Security team will be meeting at the White House today to hammer out a strategy on Syria. It is not clear yet whether the president will participate in the meeting. UK officials are expected to hold a similar meeting in the English capital. On Wednesday, when President Trump tweeted, "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's Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defending the president's threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're maintaining that we have a number of 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Arwa, what indications are there that the Syrians are bracing for a U.S.-led strike?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been all sorts of reporting, Alex, that they are trying to move some of their assets such as aircraft and various other essentials that they may have at some of the potential strike sites such as the air base. We're also hearing from the French that they may be looking at going after some of these suspected chemical weapons manufacturing.

But it's suffice to say that they have had plenty of time to prepare themselves for these potential strikes. There's been a lot of speculation as to what targets the U.S. and this coalition that they're trying to build up may be going after, how sustained this campaign is going to be or was just going to be a one-off like we saw the strikes that took place last year after that chemical attack that happened in the province of Idlib, or if there is some sort of broader, more comprehensive plan in place this time around.

And that is what Syrians who live inside these rebel-controlled areas would have been subjected to all sorts of bombardment would like to see because for them, it's not just about retaliation for a chemical attack. Yes, of course these chemical attacks are horrendous and terrifying, and make headlines and cause the kind of discussion and action and reaction that we're seeing right now. But they get bombarded every single day whether it's barrel bombs or air strikes or artillery or mortars.

So when you talk to them, what they really want to see is, in an ideal world, a no-fly zone. The likelihood of that happening not very high. But they also are very concerned about the fact that how are the Syrians then going to react. How is the Assad regime going to react, how are they going to retaliate? Because there is no one to protect the Syrians living inside rebel-controlled areas. At this stage they're completely vulnerable, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes. It's really the chemical weapons attacks that really get the biggest headlines but we forget that the vast majority of the deaths have come from conventional weaponry.

Arwa Damon in Istanbul, thanks very much.

ROMANS: Russia wasted no time responding to President Trump's tweet about smart missiles coming to Syria.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Moscow. Good morning, Nic. What's the reaction there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Christine, good morning. Yes, a two-tone response, if you will. President Putin playing it calm, saying that he hopes that common sense will win in this chaotic time and saying this is the time for diplomats and diplomacy. However, his diplomats are not playing it that way.

The spokeswoman at the Foreign Ministry here said that the missiles should be fired at the terrorists and U.S. missiles were essentially just trying to cover up a fake chemical weapons attack that the United States actually put together with rebel groups on the ground. So that's the narrative coming from the Foreign Ministry and then we've also heard from somebody at the Defense Ministry, a general saying that rather than firing missiles at Syria, what the United States should be doing is contributing to the rebuilding of the country.

But of course, that is precisely what the international community, the United States, the British, the French and all the others have been saying to the Russians, that there is plenty of money to help rebuild Syria after the war if Russia will do what it committed to at the United Nations which is convince President Bashar al-Assad to get into a real peace deal and transition from power.

So really the response coming from the Kremlin and from others here has been relatively cynical. It is, in essence, you're threatening us, bring it on.

[04:40:07] ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson there for us in Moscow. Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right. Later this morning, the confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo will get under way. He's currently the director of the CIA and will face a tough task winning approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That's the first step. At least one Republican, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, has said that 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 will say that he plans to increase diversity at the State Department, quote, "in terms of race, religion, background and more." He's also expected to call Russia a danger to our country.

ROMANS: All right. First Wall Street worried about a trade war. Now it's worried about a real war. The Dow fell more than 200 points yesterday after President Trump threatened Russia about an airstrike in Syria. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also closed lower. Right now global stocks, they are down. The concern for investors

here possible escalation and conflict in the Middle East is already hitting oil prices. Jumping 2 percent to the highest level in four years. The fear is a destruction in oil output and that in turn could mean higher gas prices. But it wasn't just geopolitical concerns. Inflation worries also hit stock here.

The Federal Reserve thinks that inflation will continue to rise hitting its target rate in the near future. So it plans to hike interest rates even faster and trade fears remain a concern as well. Rising tensions between the U.S. and China causing these recent wild swings on Wall Street. A trade war would hurt U.S. consumers and companies.

But legendary investor Jim Chanos told CNN's Maggie Lake he doesn't see any opportunity for American companies in China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM CHANOS, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, KYNIKOS ASSOCIATES: No one seems to ever make a lot of money there because unless you're Chinese, and this is part of what the Trump administration is pointing at, you need to be a joint venture with the Chinese. So it seems that everybody loves the Chinese market, but nobody ever makes any money there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And that's been the story for so long, right? Let's look at this. Is that true? Well, big companies like Apple, Boeing, Starbucks, they earn billions in China each year making them vulnerable to a possible trade war.

MARQUARDT: Xi Jinping kind of makes steps to tampen down the possibilities of a trade war this week.

ROMANS: Yes. Yes.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:46:51] MARQUARDT: A former Texas nurse is behind bars now facing a murder charge. 34-year-old William Davis is being held on a $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.

ROMANS: Stunning new allegations against embattled Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. A statehouse committee report detailing lurid allegations against the governor. Sexual misconduct and violence. An unidentified woman claiming Greitens staged and photographed her bound and blindfolded, then threatened to release the photo if she disclosed their encounter. Governor Greitens already faces criminal invasion of privacy charges in addition to multiple ongoing investigations.

Well, here he is on Wednesday defending himself. This is before the latest bombshell dropped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, the Los Angeles district attorney is reviewing a sexual assault case against actor Kevin Spacey. Authorities confirmed that the investigation began in December. The case centers on events that took place in October of 1992 in West Hollywood involving Spacey and a male adult. We don't have any other details. Last year, actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making a sexual advance on him in 1986 when Rapp was just 14 years old.

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

MARQUARDT: And here we have dramatic video of a hit-and-run in South Los Angeles. We have to warn you that this could be hard to watch. Now look, 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. Dozens of people chased him after the vehicle but the driver gets away. Police are still looking for her.

Witnesses say that she was caught on video earlier getting into a fist fight with some bikers. The bikers were blocking an intersection as part of a vigil for a fellow cyclist who had been killed by a different hit and run driver just the day before. As for the victim hit on Wednesday afternoon, he is recovering in the hospital.

ROMANS: Wow. Unbelievable.

All right. Extreme fire danger today in parts of the southwest and southern plains. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us with the latest.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. Yes. This is a story we were going to be following the next couple of days. The elements coming together here to produce gusty winds, very dry conditions to go around as well. And with that, temps running 25 to almost 30 degrees above average, with areas of eastern New Mexico, western Texas, southeastern Colorado really at the extreme level of concern for a fire weather behavior and one that could really get out hand very quickly as well.

[04:50:10] Upwards of 35 million people underneath a threat here for the dry winds that could spark a significant fire threat. And how about these temperatures running again almost 30 above average in a few areas. It will get much cooler come tomorrow but at the extent of powerful winds.

To the northeast we go. Across parts of the Great Lakes as well, some showers possible early this afternoon. Not a significant rainmaker whosoever. Just a passing shower in the forecast. And that is about it but tell you what, it will be well worth it once it passes because look what happens in New York. Middle 70s for a couple of days. Boston approaches the 70-degree mark. And in places like Cleveland almost 80 degrees. It will get much cooler for places across the Midwest at least. Snow showers possible come Sunday afternoon -- guys.

ROMANS: I pick Chicago -- no, I pick New York.

MARQUARDT: These (INAUDIBLE).

ROMANS: Yes. All right. Uber is expanding its business. It didn't just want to shuttle you around in strangers' cars, now it wants to help you rent them.

More on "CNN Money" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:55:25] MARQUARDT: California's Governor Jerry Brown has agreed to send 400 more National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. But he's insisting that they will be focusing on fighting transnational crime, 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 are already stationed at the border.

ROMANS: Stunning video out of Honduras. Watch as this giant cruise ship smashes into a dock on the island of Roatan.

MARQUARDT: Unbelievable. ROMANS: People could be heard shouting for others on land to get out

of the way. The 65,000 ton vessel tore out a section of the docks. You know, no one was hurt fortunately here. 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: In fairness it is probably pretty hard to drive that thing.

Now a night of bad blood and brawls in BeanTown Baseball. The first Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park. New York's Tyler Austin here hit by a 98-mile-an-hour fastball on his elbow. And he's not happy about it. He charges the mound as both benches emptied for the second time in the game. Also the Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly exchanged punches before getting booted. But the Yankees went on to win 10-6.

Now round two of the brawls. Padres and Rockies in Denver. San Diego's Luis Perdomo throwing a fastball behind Colorado's Nolan Arenado. He then throws his glove at the charging third baseman as the benches again clear. Five players were ejected. The suspensions, they are expected by the weekend. Sorry, excuse me. The Rockies energized after the brawl scoring five runs to win 6-4.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning. First Wall Street worried about a trade war, now it's worried about a real war. Global stocks dropping overnight after the Dow fell more than 200 points yesterday. President Trump threatened Russia about an air strike in Syria. The concern for investors here possible escalation and conflict in the Middle East is already raising oil prices. Jumping 2 percent to the highest level in four years.

Wasn't just geopolitical concerns. Inflation worries also hit stocks. The Federal Reserve thinks inflation will rise hitting its target rate in the near future so the Fed plans to raise interest rates even faster.

The U.S. job market is strong as we've been telling you. But there's one glaring problem. A historically high number of workers with part- time jobs but want full-time ones. The economists said this trend was temporary, but now San Francisco Federal Reserve warns it may be a permanent problem. That is until public policies addressed the issue are introduced. It's been nearly nine years since the recession ended. Nine years. But the Labor Department says there are more involuntary part-time workers now than before the crisis began.

Uber doesn't just want to shuttle you around in strangers' cars. Now it wants to help you rent cars. Uber will begin offering peer-to-peer car rentals later this month. It will start in San Francisco. It plans to expand. Uber will be able to -- users, rather, will be able to rent cars via a start-up called Get Around while car owners can decide how long they want to rent their car and it can as short as an hour. The move is part of Uber's plan to expand transportation options. It acquired a bike share company earlier this week.

Would I rent my car to you? MARQUARDT: I mean --

ROMANS: Are you a good driver?

MARQUARDT: I'm a very good driver. But, you know, it's such a crowded market.

ROMANS: Yes.

MARQUARDT: With Lyft and here in New York we have Juno that, you know, they're all trying to get an edge.

ROMANS: Yes.

MARQUARDT: And obviously Uber had their fair share of problems, too. So --

ROMANS: Yes. We'll see how it works.

MARQUARDT: One more way of trying to make a little bit of money.

All right. Well, EARLY START continues right now.

Could that "Access Hollywood" tape come back to haunt President Trump? Sources are telling CNN it was part of the FBI raid on the president's personal lawyer.

ROMANS: 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?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Yes. We had a pretty -- we had a lot of friction in our relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alex Marquardt.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, April 12th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. Noon in Istanbul and Moscow. We will reports from those cities in a moment.

But first this Thursday morning, let's begin here and new revelations about what FBI agents were looking for when they raided President Trump's personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Sources tell CNN the search warrant sought communications between the president and Cohen about the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. That's on top of what we already know that investors 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 reporting on this story. She's --

(END)