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Trump Lawyer Confirms President Paid Michael Cohen Back for Hush Money; President Trump Hints on Twitter About Imminent Release of Americans Held by North Korea; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:14] RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. Funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A stunning admission from Rudy Giuliani. The president's lawyer admits Mr. Trump repaid his personal attorney the $130,000 Michael Cohen used to quiet Stormy Daniels.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And this, the release of three Americans being held by North Korea is imminent. When could it happen and how does it tie into the nuclear talks? We are live in Seoul.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs on yet another extraordinary news day. It is Thursday, May 3rd, 4:00 a.m. in the East. We will go live to Seoul shortly.

But we start with this bombshell. Damage control likely does not begin to describe what is going on at the White House this morning. Aides are already trying to clean up after a new addition to President Trump's legal team. Rudy Giuliani said last night the president did pay back his personal attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 in hush money Cohen delivered to porn star Stormy Daniels just 11 days before the election.

ROMANS: That directly contradicts something the president himself recently claimed. On FOX News, Giuliani defended the Cohen payment as legal and even went further.

Political correspondent Sara Murray has more from Washington.


Rudy Giuliani may be a new addition to President Trump's outside legal team but he is certainly entering with a splash. He was on FOX News last night and on there, he divulged the news that apparently President Donald Trump reimbursed his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen for that $130,000 payment in hush money to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: That money was not campaign money. Sorry. I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. So --

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: They funneled it through a law firm?

GIULIANI: Funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it.

HANNITY: I didn't know that he did.


HANNITY: There's no campaign finance law?

GIULIANI: Zero. I knew how much money Donald Trump put into that campaign. I said, $130,000? He can do a couple of checks for $130,000. When I heard Cohen's retainer of $35,000 when he was doing no work for the president, I said that's how he's repaying -- that's how he's repaying it, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes to Michael.

HANNITY: It does. But do you know the president didn't know about this?

GIULIANI: He didn't know about the specifics of it.

HANNITY: I believe that's what Michael said.

GIULIANI: As far as I know, but he did know about the general arrangement that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don't burden them with every single thing that comes along.


MURRAY: Now of course that revelation is counter to what both Michael Cohen and the president have said publicly. Cohen said he was never reimbursed for this and that he did this as a private transaction on the president's behalf, but not necessarily with the president's knowledge. As for President Trump, he has denied that he was involved in the payment or that he knew where the money came from.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Then why did Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make this if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now we have the president's attorney on television saying something entirely different.

Back to you guys.

BRIGGS: All right. Sara Murray, thank you.

The "Washington Post" reports Giuliani spoke with the president after this FOX News interview and the president was, quote, "very pleased." Giuliani told the "Post" he and the president discussed his revelation about the reimbursements as well in advance.

That is not easing concerns in the White House, though. One presidential adviser told the "Post," quote, "Trump world will see this as a total unforced error and further affirmation that hiring Rudy wasn't the best idea."

ROMANS: Giuliani says his remarks were approved by the president and that he does not expect to be fired. Stormy Daniels' lawyer had a response that was nothing less than ferocious.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: I don't care if you're on the left. I don't care if you're on the far right. I don't care where you line up. You should be disgusted by what has happened in connection with the lies that you have been told over the last three months about this payment. There is no way to dress this up. You can try to put lipstick on the pig morning, noon and night, and it's still going to be a pig, Don. This is -- this is disgusting what we're hearing.


ROMANS: White House spokesman Hogan Gidley resolutely stonewalled last night saying three times in an ongoing case, it is an ongoing case and referring all questions to outside counsel.

BRIGGS: That outside counsel is undergoing another big shakeup.

[04:05:03] White House lawyer Ty Cobb announcing he's stepping down, a sign the president's lawyers plan to take a more adversarial approach with the special counsel's investigation. Two sources telling CNN Cobb was uncomfortable with the president's tweets trying to discredit Robert Mueller. Less than two months ago President Trump tweeted he was very happy with his lawyers. Since then as you know two of his three attorneys have left.

ROMANS: Replacing Cobb Emmet Flood. He represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment process. He was part of that legal team. Flood is one of several high profile lawyers to previously turn down an invitation to join the White House legal staff. A source tells CNN Flood took the job because he is expected to replace current White House counsel Don McGahn in the coming months. President Trump exhilarating his Twitter attacks on his own Justice

Department. He even threatened to use the powers of the presidency to, quote, "get involved" in the congressional investigation of Justice and the FBI.

BRIGGS: Yes, exactly which powers is not exactly clear at this point. Stay tuned as we say time and time again with this administration.

President Trump has said it again and again. No collusion. But to hear a former Trump campaign aide tell it, that's exactly what Robert Mueller's team is focused on. Michael Caputo, he was interviewed by special counsel investigators on Wednesday, afterward he told CNN, quote, "It's clear they are still really focused on Russia collusion. They know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there."

ROMANS: Later on "AC 360" Caputo laid the difference between inquiries by Congress and the special counsel.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I was in the Senate Intelligence Committee with their investigators on Tuesday and they were still fishing around. It reminded me, you know, of net fishing. They're just out there throwing things out, they're hoping they can get something in. But if we're working with a fishing metaphor, I'd say the Mueller team is spear fishing. I think they believe they know where they're going. They're not asking a wide range of questions that seemed, you know, unrelated. They know exactly what they're looking for.


ROMANS: Caputo lived and worked in Russia in the 1980s and later did business with the Russian companies including Gazprom, the Kremlin- controlled energy giant.

BRIGGS: Breaking news this morning. Word that the release of three American hostages held by North Korea could be imminent. Last night the president posted this cryptic tweet, quote," As everybody is aware, the past administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from North Korean labor camp but to no avail. Stay tuned." With the exclamation point. Now an official is confirming movement on that front.

CNN's Alexandra Field joins us live from Seoul, South Korea with the latest. 5:00 p.m. there.

Alex, do we expect the release of these three Americans?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's certainly been widely speculated that these three Americans could be released before the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, that this would certainly be a good faith gesture to demonstrate from North Korea and certainly something that the administration in the United States is fighting for, that they are pushing for. You saw that tweet from President Trump saying stay tuned. Certainly

the family members of these three men have been well tuned in, hoping for any update on their release. Two of these men were taken into detainment in 2017, one of them back in 2015. Their families are hoping this is indeed the right time for a release but the son of one of those detainees says that he has been given no indication yet.

That said, there is one source that is telling CNN who has knowledge of these negotiations under way that conversations were had two months ago when the North Korean Foreign minister traveled to Sweden. That's when a release was discussed. It was also made clear at that time the U.S. officials would not tie or link in any way the release of these men to the broader goal of the main issue here which remains denuclearization.

You have the secretary of State however travel to Pyongyang. He has said that the release of these men was a direct topic of conversation with Kim Jong-un, along with denuclearization and of course, you know, the National Security adviser was speaking out over the weekend. He was asked whether these three hostages would be released before the summit. And he has again said that this is something that North Korea needs to strongly look at and take very seriously.

So certainly the administration has been pushing for this. Word coming that it could be imminent. But really those family members will need to see their loved ones stepping off a plane.


FIELD: Before they can believe any of it -- Dave, Christine.

BRIGGS: All eyes on the region. Alex, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Team Trump landing in Beijing today for trade talks just as tensions between China and the U.S. may ramp up. President Trump sent his top economic advisers to China led by the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seen here arriving at his hotel. The team includes the Commerce secretary, the economic adviser Larry Kudlow, and trade officials. The goal here is to ease this escalating trade battle between China and the U.S. Currently, each has threatened the other with billions of dollars in tariffs.

The high stakes meeting starts today. President Trump tweeting just hours ago that his financial team is trying to, quote, "level the playing field on trade." Once again touting his great relationship with the Chinese President Xi.

[04:10:05] Just as he is considering restricting Chinese telecom companies in the U.S., like Huawei and ZTE, the "Wall Street Journal" says the U.S. may limit their ability to sell in America due to national security concerns. A move that will likely draw retaliation from China. Now that tanked U.S. stocks. Trade concerns have been weighing on the market for weeks here. The Dow is now down four days in a row and about 3 percent for the year.

BRIGGS: OK. The Republican-led legislature in Iowa wants to prevent abortion after as few as six weeks. Some women don't even know they're pregnant at that point. More on this controversial bill next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Police releasing nearly three hours of body camera footage from the Las Vegas shooting massacre. Watch as two officers enter the killer's hotel suite immediately following the mass shooting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breach, breach, breach.

[04:15:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With you. With you. OK. We got one suspect down. 419 inside. Just make it clear.


ROMANS: Over the radio you can hear the voice say breach three times, a loud blast has been heard in the hallway. The footage shows police and security guards rushing through the lobby and casino floor discussing tactics to find the gunman Stephen Paddock and stop him.

BRIGGS: The Nevada Supreme Court ruled last night police had to release the body cam footage and 911 audio from the October shooting. Paddock killed 47 people and injured hundreds more when he opened fire on 22,000 concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. His motive seven months later remains unknown.

No word yet on what caused the deadly crash of an aging National Guard cargo plane on a Georgia highway. All nine crew members aboard the aircraft were killed. Video from a nearby business shows the horrifying final seconds of the flight. The Puerto Rico Air National Guard WC-130 normally used for weather reconnaissance was being flown from Savannah, Georgia, to Tucson, Arizona, to be decommissioned. Puerto Rico's governor and President Trump sending condolences to the families of the victims.

ROMANS: The most restrictive abortion bill in the nation is one signature away from becoming law in Iowa. The bill would make it illegal for doctors to perform abortions after a fetal heart beat is detected. That can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds not saying whether she will sign this measure but her spokeswoman says she is pro-life and will never stop fighting for the unborn. Iowa already has a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks making it one of the most restrictive states in the nation. The new bill will be challenged in court. In 2013, North Dakota passed a similar law that was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court.

BRIGGS: You are from Iowa, is this tearing the state apart?

ROMANS: Yes, there's a lot of --

BRIGGS: Or is this a foregone conclusion that just happened?

ROMANS: There's a lot of discussion in Iowa about this bill. And the six weeks, you know, at that first fetal heartbeat, some women who don't know they're pregnant yet at six weeks. It's very early in the pregnancy. That's the point of the sponsors of the bill. They say every heartbeat is worth it.

BRIGGS: No question.

OK. Ahead, the two black men whose arrest at a Starbucks drew national outrage have reached a settlement with Philadelphia. Why both men are taking only $1 each.


[04:21:55] BRIGGS: Breaking news from Connecticut. Six police officers injured in a house explosion in North Haven, Connecticut, Wednesday night. The officers were responding to a report of a violent domestic dispute. A man holding his wife hostage. Officials say while police and the SWAT team were negotiating with him, a barn behind the house exploded. Police say the suspect had barricaded his wife in the house for three days. She managed to get away. It's not known where the suspect is. Those six injured officers suffered only cuts and abrasions.

ROMANS: Two African-American men who were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks last month have reached a financial settlement with the coffee chain and the city. Details of the settlement between Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson and Starbucks are confidential. Their settlement with the city is not. It's $1 each. Both men will also work with Philadelphia officials and a non-profit group to help develop criteria and review applications for a $200,000 grant to encourage young entrepreneurs.

Video of Robinson and Nelson getting arrested went viral after they occupied a table without making a purchase. They were waiting for a friend to show up. A manager called police. Robertson and Nelson said they were waiting for their friend.

BRIGGS: Another midair scare for passengers on Southwest Airlines. A cracked window forcing Southwest Flight 957 en route from Chicago to Newark to make an unplanned landing in Cleveland Wednesday. Airline officials say there was a crack on the outer pane of the multi-pane window. What caused it still unknown. It comes just a couple of weeks after a passenger died on a Southwest flight when an engine exploded. She was partially sucked out of the plane through a broken window. The plan made emergency landing in Philadelphia.

ROMANS: Some students who support gun rights walked out of school across the country Wednesday in a coordinated event to "Stand for the Second." Second Amendment, that is. The event was a rebuttal to the huge walkouts in favor of tighter gun measures. Thousands of students left class nationwide in March, calling for tighter measures to curb gun violence. Yesterday's event was organized by a high school senior from New Mexico with help from outside groups. They say hundreds of schools across the country participated.

BRIGGS: But at least one gun rights supporter who survived the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre did not take part. Kyle Kashuv tweeted, "I don't believe it's the correct thing to do. There is a time and place for civil disobedience. I just don't believe that time is now. Instead let's all walk up." That's a campaign to walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know them.

ROMANS: The first death has been reported now from an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona. The fatality was in California. The victim has not been identified. The CDC says there have been 23 additional cases of illness bringing the total to 121 since that outbreak began back in March. Health officials have said this is a particularly virulent strain of E. Coli and the hospitalization rate is far higher than usual. Kentucky, Massachusetts and Utah are the latest states to report illnesses bringing the number of states affected by this romaine problem to 25.

[04:25:00] BRIGGS: A rebranding campaign for the Boy Scouts of America. Starting in February of the next year, the organization's program for youth age 11 to 17 will be known as Scouts BSA. The decision coming less than a year after the Scouts decided to invite girls to join. The overall organization will remain Boy Scouts of America. There is a new slogan coming as well, "Scout Me In." The group says more than 3,000 girls have joined the early adapter program and all participating in Cub Scouts ahead of a full launch later this year.

The hero who disarmed the Waffle House shooter in Tennessee last month just got the thrill of a lifetime. Watch what happened when James Shaw Jr. was invited to appear on "The Ellen Show."


ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN SHOW": Do you have a favorite player?


DEGENERES: Dwyane Wade. Why is that?

SHAW: I like the way he carries himself off the court.


SHAW: Yes.

DEGENERES: Let's see how he carries himself out here. Dwyane, come on out.


BRIGGS: Shaw insisting he's no hero but that didn't stop NBA star Dwyane Wade from using the term anyway.


DWYANE WADE, NBA PLAYER: I know you don't want to be called a hero, but I look at you as an American hero.

SHAW: Thanks.

WADE: I will sit across from you as I am now and I will say obviously how brave you are but for me, when I sit down with my kids, and I sit down and talk to them about role models, who I want them to look up to, I'll tell them to go look up James Shaw Jr.

SHAW: Wow. Thanks for saying that, man.


BRIGGS: Wade had another surprise for Shaw. $20,000 check. Ellen then presented him with one more check from a GoFundMe account and shutter fly for $225,000.


BRIGGS: D Wade, your kids only need to look up to you, my friend.


BRIGGS: That is a terrific story. He's a good man. Both of them.

ROMANS: You just wonder in a crisis, are you going to be that brave? Are you going to think that quickly?

BRIGGS: We would like to think we'd all do that but.

ROMANS: All right. A deliberate legal maneuver or a costly error? A lot of reaction this morning after Rudy Giuliani contradicted the president and said he did repay Michael Cohen the money he used to silence Stormy Daniels.