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EARLY START

Comey Breaks Silence In First TV Interview; New Russia Sanctions Expected; Cohen Goes To Court Today; Wall Street Gears Up For Earnings. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 16, 2018 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think it's possible. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: Fired FBI Director James Comey not holding back. Telling all about the President, Russia, and the Mueller investigation.

DAVE BRIGGS, EARLY START SHOW CO-HOST: The Trump administration expected to slap Russia with a new round of sanctions as early as today.

ROMANS: The president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, heads to court just hours from now. Guess who will be there too? Yes, Stormy Daniels. Welcome back to "Early Start." I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: More of the dynamic that will be, I'm Dave Briggs. Great to be back in the chair. 31 minutes past the hour.

ROMANS: Nice to have you back.

BRIGGS: Good to be here, my friend. We start with former FBI Director, James Comey, speaking out against the man who fired him. Calling Donald Trump morally unfit to be President. Saying it is possible the Kremlin has compromising information of President Trump. Comey's wide ranging five hour interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC news kicking off a promotional tour for Comey's new book "A higher loyalty."

ROMANS: In the portion that aired last night, Comey argues that anyone who quote treats women like they are pieces of meat and lies constantly about matters big and small is not fit to be President on moral grounds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is Donald Trump unfit to be President?

COMEY: Yes, but not in the way, I often hear about people talk about it. I don't buy the stuff of him being mentally incompetent. The early stage of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence and who is tracking conversations and knows what is going on. I don't think he is medically unfit to be President. I think he is morally unfit to be president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Comey was asked about, about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and what it might find about the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?

COMEY: I think it is possible. I don't know. I mean these are more words that I never thought I would utter about the President of the United States, but it is possible.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is stunning. You can't say for certain that the President of the United States is not compromised by the Russians?

COMEY: It is stunning. I wish I wasn't saying it, but it is the truth. It always struck me and still strikes me as unlikely. And I would been able to say with high confidence with any other President I dealt with, but I can't. It's possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Comey offering a surprising answer when asked whether if he thinks the President should be impeached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Should Donald Trump be impeached?

COMEY: Impeachment is a question of law and fact and politics.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're a citizen. You have a judgment.

COMEY: Yes, I will tell you -- I will give you a strange answer. I hope not, because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they are duty bound to do directly. People in these country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values. And so, impeachment in a way would short circuit that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. A lot there. Five hours of interview condensed into that hour. We just showed you a few of the pieces. Joining us this morning, to talk about it from Washington, CNN politics reporter, Tal Kopan, here in New York, CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano. He is a retired FBI supervisory special agent and also with us CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer, he is a historian and professor at Princeton University.

Good morning everyone. Julian let me start with you, I mean this, look, the news here is remarkable. This is a fired former FBI Director, former FBI Director, saying the President is morally unfit to be the President. Probably shouldn't be impeached. And he doesn't know if the Russians have compromising information on him. Oh, that is amazing.

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN NAD PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It is all amazing. And it is not what you expect from a former FBI Director. You heard FBI Directors be critical, you heard a tensions with Presidents, but this is strong language. None of it was surprising. All of it reiterates points you heard before and for me the only shock is that everyone keeps saying they are shocked.

This is an ongoing argument, an ongoing conversation. And the one thing I think, Comey is correct in saying, is it ultimately this will come down to an election and it will come down to a decision by American voters, about where they stand about this ongoing critique of the President. I don't think this is going to change the minds of Republicans. I don't think it is going to -- all of a sudden make Democrats think differently. It is not a lot of people in the middle.

[04:35:01] BRIGGS: They are not. It may not change a single mind. James, per the notion that it is possible Russia has compromising information on this President. He also added it is possible that there was obstruction of justice. But he was the Director of the FBI. If you don't know these things or if you don't have evidence of these things, why say it?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, you don't typically take that leap. And obviously he is a private citizen now, but he is talking about an ongoing investigation. Several of them. Look, watching that -- I almost -- I go back to Charles Dickens with "A tale of two cities." I believe James Comey is a man of probity, more rectitude and I believe in the contrast with a President that even his most ardent supporters believe his view of moral turpitude. You can see that distinction there. James Comey is not a bad man, but I think, he made a lot of mistakes. And I think, you pointed out some of it tonight, indefinite investigations and in a fact that he did not stand up to the President when he should. And that what is --

BRIGGS: With the loyalty pledge?

GAGLIANO: With the loyalty pledge, I thought he hedged on that as well. I turned to the President over dinner and said I'll give you honest loyalty. Well, sir, you should have said, sir, I cannot pledge loyalty to you. My loyalty is to a constitution and the mission. It is not to a President.

ROMANS: I am glad you made that. Let us listen to that moment in the interview last night, when he was asked about that loyalty pledge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you cross a line when you promised him honest loyalty? Would it be fair for him to think, wait, I have a deal here?

COMEY: I don't think so. Look, it was a compromise on my part to try to avoid a really awkward conversation. Get out of awkward conversation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Was it a mistake?

COMEY: Yes, I don't know. Maybe. Maybe it would have been better to give a more explicit statement. I can't promise you loyalty. But in the moment, it frankly did not occur to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Tal, it really struck me and I wonder if you guys all agree, but Tal, the number of times he said I don't know. Maybe. It's possibly. It seemed to be that he were really very honestly going through this and admitting that maybe that he made some mistakes.

TAL KOPAN, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, certainly Christine, it seems like he is doing a lot of reflecting and at the same time it is sort of an easy way out to a certain extent. I mean, it is an opportunity to sort of dodge a really tough question about whether his decisions, you know, had certain consequences that he and the American public now have to deal with and you know, it is also a way of buying yourself time in the interview to think through some questions.

I don't think, James Comey hasn't considered any of these things. I think he is a very thoughtful man. I think, he is a very disciplined lawyer. I think he thinks through almost every decision he makes thoroughly. That doesn't mean they are not above reproach or he doesn't make mistakes. But I think they are very thought out. So, you know, to a certain extent saying I don't know, probably at the end of the day, the reflect is unwillingness to answer or that fact that it is simply impossible in hindsight to really know what the proper response might had been in any given situation. And you sort of just have to make a call based on what you know at the time.

BRIGGS: So, Julian, the right is attacking James Comey. Attacking this book. LyingComey.com the web site from the RNC. Shockingly the left has long attacked James Comey for the Hillary Clinton press conference weeks before the election. And a motivation behind it. Listen to what that the motivation may had been for James Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Was it the decision to reveal influence by your assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win and you are concerned that she wins, this comes out several weeks later, and then that is taken by her opponent that is a sign that she is illegitimate President?

COMEY: It must have been. I don't remember consciously thinking about that, but must had been. Because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. And so, I'm sure that it was a factor. Like I said, I don't remember spelling it out. But it had there been that -- that she is going to be elected President and if I hide this from the American people, she would be illegitimate the moment she is elected, the moment this comes out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: What you dammed if you do dammed and you don't there Julian? .

ZELIZER: No, I think there is fair criticism that he still should not have done that. I don't think that statement will not going to make many Democrats feel better. And look, he is living through the consequences of his own decisions. And all of the complaints he is making about the President and all of the criticism he is making about the current Oval Office. He played a role in that story. A big role. And so, I don't think these statements will sit well with a lot of Democrats. And this is part of his credibility problem. It is not simply the lying Comey web site. It is many Democrats who are uneasy having him as the front person for the attacks on President Trump.

ROMANS: James, let's ask about the President's response, like eight, I think eight tweets yesterday.

BRIGGS: All before 11:00 a.m.

ROMANS: All before 11:00 a.m.

BRIGGS: Fast and furious.

ROMANS: You know, we call them slippery, you know, liar, a leaker and all that stuff. What do you think about this concerted effort with the RNC too, to try to tear down Comey's credibility? Is it working?

[04:40:04] GAGLIANO: I mean, that is the political piece. And I'll stay in my lane, Christine, but and I won't hedge --

ROMANS: Good for you.

GAGLIANO: But I will say this to me, the tweets are beneath the dignity of the office and they are discoveries. So, -- in any case against the President or administration, or whatever, he is providing discovery. I say one thing though and I think my historian friend will appreciate this. He's -- James Comey's effort and I think, it was ham handed not purposeful to potentially politicized things.

ROMANS: Yes.

GAGLIANO: This isn't the first time. It happened before, but it was more purposeful. In 1948, in the election between Dewey -- Thomas Dewey and Harry Truman. Jagger Hoover was accused of influencing things by trying to help Dewey out in that. That was conscious effort. In this instance, I do not believe in my heart to hearts that James Comey did things purposely. I think he made colossal errors, but I think they were errors of judgement and that errors of deceit or as a member of quote and quote, Deep State. BRIGGS: All right. James Gagliano, and Julian Zelizer and Tal Kopan,

thank you all this morning for being with us early.

ROMANS: Nice to see you this morning, thank you so much. Busy morning, today. Also new this morning, the President's legal team has filed papers that side with Mr. Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arguing that attorney/client privilege must be preserved.

The president's lawyers called the FBI raid on Cohen's home, office and hotel room, disquieting. The new legal brief filed last night, it creates the spectacle of the President argues against his own Justice Department in favor of a business associate. Cohen and his lawyers are set to appear in court this morning. CNN's Sara Murray has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, Christine and Dave, President Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, who we now know is under criminal investigation. It is stated to appear in court in New York today. And it could be a little bit more awkward than previously anticipated. That is because the adult film star that Cohen paid to silence her story is also now slated to appear. Stormy Daniels' attorney says that her appearance has nothing to do with trying to provoke Michael Cohen.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: This is intended to send a message that this is a very, very serious matter for her. And she wants to make sure that the American people know that she is behind efforts to bring to light as much information and documents as possible. She also wants to ensure that she is heard and that she represented at the hearing. It has nothing to do with getting in his head at all.

MURRAY: Now, Cohen's attorneys were in court on Friday trying to argue that investigators should not be able to review the evidence they collected from raids on Michael Cohen's home, office, as well as his hotel room. Insisting they could violate attorney/client privilege. Prosecutors say there is little evidence that Michael Cohen was doing much lawyering. And they said they are not looking for evidence about his time working as a lawyer, but rather about his own personal business dealings. The judge is not particularly entertained by the actions from Michael Cohen attorney's and said they need to provide evidence of who Cohen list his clients by Monday morning. Back to you there.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: Sara Murray, thank you.

BRIGGS: Ahead, the Trump administration about to hit Russia with more sanctions. Who is being targeted this morning and why? Just ahead.

ROMANS: And questions about the Trump administration's mission in Syria after Saturday's strike. We go to Northern Syria next.

[04:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: French President Emmanuel Macron said he quote, convinced President Trump to keep U.S. troops in Syria before the U.S., France and Britain launched that missile strike on three chemical weapons targets. The White House pushing back saying the U.S. mission has not changed and the President wants the U.S. forces to come home as quickly as possible. U.S. officials are more confident than ever that chemical weapons were used on Syrian civilians as International investigators begin the process of trying to independently confirm it. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh for us this morning, reporting live from Northern Syria. Nick?

(BEGIN VIDEO)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. It is key that those RPCW inspectors, we may hear all relations from any hours ahead, given the termination exactly what the substance was used in Douma last weekend. Whether it was Chlorine, a harsh substance, all the nerve agents. That defines really the red line going forward the Western intervention, but there are two things you can take way really for the past week or so.

Russia and Iran, the key backers of Bashar al Assad, the Syrian president, cannot be that pleased frankly, with the renewed international focus upon a war in which they were getting their barbaric way frankly against Syrian rebels using conventional weapons quite easily over the past month, Ghouta being under siege brutally, but few notice had been taken outside.

But these chemical weapons suddenly has people asking, what is Donald Trump's policy. Is he going to stay long enough? What does the west really want to do and the remarkable moments in which three western powers actually act militarily in console inside Syria, they simply not seen that before.

Russia and Iran surely -- perhaps wishing maybe those chemical weapons simply had not been used even though Bashar al Assad is trying to take the whole thing it his stride. More importantly though, the U.S. had displayed their military might in the Middle East once again. That is necessarily something to celebrate. The Russians were full warned that automatically they weren't in the target and possibly at the time were told to get out of the way on the use of de-confliction line between their forces. They (inaudible) it could had been a lot happy, frankly at not being able to respond or prevent any of that and we may see them or Iran potentially respond in some unexpected way and unexpected place in the months ahead. Back to you.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: All right. Nick in Northern Syria for us this morning. Thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: All right. The Treasury Department, expected to announce new sanctions against Russia as early as today. That is according to Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Haley describing relations with Russia is very strained and pushing back against critics who claims Saturday's bombings of Syria's chemical weapons facilities did not go far enough. And she insist new sanctions will cause Russia more pain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: They will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use. And so, I think everyone is going to feel it at this point.

[04:50:01] I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message and our hope is that they listen to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Sources tell CNN more than a dozen Russian entities, including banks and equipment supplies are being considered as targets for these new sanctions. Also under consideration, companies that sell helicopters to Russia.

ROMANS: All right. The Starbucks's CEO this morning apologizing to the arrests of two black men in the Philadelphia Starbucks. An event that sparks accusations of discrimination and calls for a boycott. Details on "CNN Money" next.

[04:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Let's get a check on "CNN Money," this morning. Global stocks mixed overnight. U.S. futures right now are higher. Investors shrugging off that allied missile attack on Syria. Last week, Wall Street was lower, because of worries about Syria and also because of the drop of bank stocks. Citi Groups, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan, they all had big profit, right? Big results, but the shares fell, because investors anticipated strong earnings and they are already priced in by the rumors fell over news, the old Wall Street saying, "Expectation for these earnings season are high. S&P500 profit grows expected to rise more than 17 percent." Those are just terrific numbers, the best since 2011.

And more than 200 million eggs are being recalled over salmonella fears. The largest U.S. recall for eggs in eight years, according to the FDA. The farm in Indiana is voluntarily recalling the eggs after 22 people got sick. These affected brands were sold in nine states. Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia. Check your fridge. The FDA says, consumers of these eggs should throw them away immediately.

The Starbucks CEO is apologizing for the arrest of two black men at the Philly Starbucks. Calling the event reprehensible. It is a response to public outcry after these video went viral. It shows these two men handcuffed and arrested. The staff accused them of trespassing after they did not order anything. The men said, they went to the Starbucks to meet a friend. They were just waiting for the friend to arrive before they ordered. The video sparked accusations of discrimination and calls for a boycott. In a lengthy statement CEO, Kevin Johnson, wrote the video is shot by customers, it is very hard to watch. The actions di or not representative of our Starbucks mission and values. Jonathan added that the company's policy has led to a bad outcome promise of thorough investigation.

BRIGGS: All right. Kentucky Governor, Matt Bevin, apologizing for suggesting a state wide teacher strike on Friday, left thousands of children vulnerable to drugs and sexual abuse. Here is what the governor's said Friday. As teachers were staging a protest at the State Capitol.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MATT BEVIN, (R), KENTUCKY: You know how many hundreds of thousands of children today were left home alone? I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home, because nobody was there to watch them. Some were introduced to drugs for the first time, because they were vulnerable and left alone. It is offensive, frankly. It really is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: On Sunday, Bevin released a video of apology of sorts on Twitter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEVIN: Many people had been confused or hurt or just misunderstand what it was that I was trying to communicate. That's my responsibility, truly is. That I apologize for those who have been hurt by the things that were said was not my intent, whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Is that an apology?

BRIGGS: That is an apology of sorts. The teacher protest proved successful. Kentucky's Republican dominated legislation voted to override the governor's veto of the state budget plan that includes new funding for education.

ROMANS: The academy of country music awards in Las Vegas began with a somber tribute Jason Aldean and other country star's to the victims of the mass shootings, six month ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES ALDEAN, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: We wanted to open the show with something that sums up what it is like for country music family to be back in Las Vegas for the first time since October 1st. We thought about starting with the songs that is a lot bigger than a single song, it is everything that are here tonight. The songs that brings us to our feet and making you pull someone close or just live in the moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Aldean was on stage when the shooting began at the Music Festival last October. He won the biggest award of the night for entertainer of the year. The other big highlight, Carrie Underwood's first TV appearance since injuring her face in a fall at her home last year. And that actually left her 40 to 50 stitches.

BRIGGS: But you cannot see.

ROMANS: She sounds so good. She is such a great performer. Really glad we have her back.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks for joining us this Monday morning, bright and early. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "New Day" has four hours for you. Back at our regular time tomorrow.

ROMANS: Four hours of Alisyn and Chris.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: I think he is morally unfit to be President.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You think the Russians have something on Donald Trump?

COMEY: I think it is possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former Director Comey has a god complex.

COMEY: I always found him to be very credible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Cohen heads to court just hours from now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: he has a longer relationship with Michael Cohen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wants to make sure that she is behind efforts to bring to light as much information and documents as much as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is impossible to say at this point the mission has been accomplished.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the strikes were proportional and justifiable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to send a strong message that they need to stop the chemical weapons program.