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Trump Lawyer: President Paid Cohen Back for Hush Money; Release of Americans By North Korea Is Imminent. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: When could it happen? How does it tie into the nuclear talks? We are live in Seoul right ahead.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, May 3rd. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And it's bombshell admission from the Trump legal team. Rudy Giuliani who recently joined the president's legal staff telling Fox News last night Trump did pay back his personal attorney Michael Cohen that $130,000 in hush money that Cohen paid the adult film actress known as Stormy Daniels 11 days before the election.

BRIGGS: That directly contradicts something the president himself claimed. Giuliani defending the Cohen payment as legal and 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 flash. He was on Fox News last night and on there, he divulged that apparently President Donald Trump reimbursed his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen for that $130,000 payment and hush money to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels.

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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.

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

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

HANNITY: Oh, I didn't know -- he did?


HANNITY: There's no campaign finance law?


I knew how much money Donald put in to that campaign. I said, $130,000. You could 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 is repaying it, that's how he's repaying, with a little profit and a little margin for paying taxes to Michael.

HANNITY: But do you know the president didn't know about this? I believe that Michael said --

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

MURRAY: Now, of course, that revelation is countered to what both Michael Cohen and the president said publicly. Cohen said he was never reimbursed for it and did it as a private transaction, but not with 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.

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


REPORTER: Then 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.

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

Back to you, guys.


ROMANS: All right. Sara, thank you for that.

"The Washington Post" reports that Giuliani spoke to the president and the president was, quote, very pleased. Giuliani told "The Post" he and the president discussed this revelation about the reimbursement well in advance. That is not easing concerns in the White House. 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.

BRIGGS: But Giuliani says his remarks were approved by the president and he does not expect to be fired.

Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti responding this way. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' LAWYER: IJ don't care if you are on the left. I don't care if you are 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 it up. You can put lipstick on a pig morning, noon and night and it is still a pig, Don. This is -- this is disgusting what we're hearing.


BRIGGS: The White House spokesman Hogan Gidley referring all questions to outside counsel.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us this morning, CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan, live in Washington.

Good morning.


ROMANS: Lots to talk about. The entirety of that Hannity interview with Rudy Giuliani.

What do you make of this this morning? Was this Rudy Giuliani after stock of the fact at hand deciding he wanted to get all of this news out there, you know, as a defense attorney would get all the bad news out there as if it's not a big deal?

KOPAN: I could not tell you, Christine, what was in Giuliani's head. He is a former prosecutor. He is a lawyer. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt there was some legal reasoning that went into this and certainly right now, the president is facing two kinds of issues, right? There's potential criminal investigations and then there's potential civil litigation.

And so, you know, if Rudy Giuliani may have thought this is necessary to deal with any sort of suggestion of criminal or, you know, FEC campaign law violation.

[05:05:00] I'm not sure this helps in the civil litigation with Stormy Daniels. But, you know, perhaps it was a calculation the legal team had to make.

BRIGGS: Count me skeptical for that notion. Let's remember, Sean Hannity is described as the shadow chief of staff by advisers, that he essentially has a desk in the place, that he and the president strategize back and forth, and he was caught flat-footed, acknowledged that he did not know that. That's just one of the arguments that says this was not intentional.

But what about the fact that the president himself said on Air Force One, he did not know about the payment and here is the statement from Michael Cohen in February where he said in a private transaction in 2016, I used my personal funds to facilitate the payment of $130,000. But the key here being, was not reimbursed for the payment.

Whose credibility matters here, Tal, or does it at all?


KOPAN: #nothingmatters.

Look, first of all, just on the surface, this doesn't look good, right? To Michael Avenatti's conflicting statements going back and forth, trying to explain this and having it unfold over months as we get more and more information, it doesn't look good.

Now, you know, when you are talking about potential for court action and how the statements could be used against the president or Michael Cohen in the future, that gets a little bit more complicated. It felt like in the interview, you know, despite what Rudy Giuliani was saying, he was saying, and he was sort of walking it back and saying, well, you know, I looked at the retainer situation and it really seemed like the retainer was basically the way to pay this back. But, you know, upon prompting from Hannity to your point, he was like, oh, yes, I'm not sure the president knew the details.

So, you know, even within the remarkable interview, we already had a little bit of walk-back and wiggle room. We're in some respects just going to have to see how this plays back.

BRIGGS: I just want to be clear, a billionaire had to set up a payment fund to pay $130,000? And the money totaled $460,000, including various expenses.

ROMANS: Yes, a series of payments --

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: -- structured to pay out over.

Let's listen to a little bit of the sound here. I want you to play a sound bite here, guys. I want to just listen to a little bit more of Giuliani trying to explain this $130,000 payment.


GIULIANI: Ivanka Trump. I would -- I think I would get on my charger and go right into the partner's office if they go after Ivanka. If they do do Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the country will turn on them. They are going after his daughter?


ROMANS: OK, that sound five, not sound bite two, but let's talk about this. Giuliani talking about Ivanka as a target, she is a fine woman, a fine woman like Ivanka. He says, you know, Jared is one thing. Men are disposable, but a fine woman like Ivanka. How dare they look at.

She has a real job close, in the White House.

BRIGGS: Wait. Are you not offended by men on disposable? There they are.

ROMANS: What do you make of that comment?

KOPAN: You know, when anyone goes on Fox News, you talk about an audience of one. That is the president of the United States who likely very well was watching and intends to watch those types of appearances. You know the president is very protective of his daughter, very much loves his children, and, you know, praising them is a good way to get in his good favor.

You know, again, it is all little bit of PR strategy, this notion of setting boundaries and red lines and saying if the special counsel goes here, you know, you are crossing them.

But you're right, the phrasing about, you know, Jared being disposal is a little odd in the process of getting there.

BRIGGS: All right. There's another major shakeup in the Trump legal team. Ty Cobb is out and Emmet Flood, a powerhouse attorney, is in. He was part of the Bill Clinton impeachment team. To your point, he was a Bush lawyer as well.

But this really represents a change in strategy say some. And, of course, there is a tweet for that, because the Trump tweet back on March 11th said the failing "New York Times" purposely wrote a false story saying I'm unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case, and I'm going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I'm happy with my lawyers John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They're doing a great job.

Well, at least Jay Sekulow still there. What about the shakeup? What do you think it represents as we move forward?

KOPAN: There is an element of this, Dave, that feels like a new phase certainly. And, you know, there's a seriousness when you bring in Emmet Flood. You know, Ty Cobb sort of said his position within the legal team ran its course. And now, as the investigation potentially moves into another phase, you bring in somebody else.

I mean, bringing in Rudy certainly feels like a bit of having someone who can go out on camera, who can be an attack dog, who does have has a little bit of position to go after Mueller on television or question his motivations.

[05:10:08] I'm not sure if his legal expertise is actually productive behind the scenes. It may very well be. But, you know, he came in with this claim that he knows Mueller well and make the investigation go away, which is, you know, a bit questionable on its face.

You know, it does feel like part of this on the one hand is bringing in serious folks and then bringing some folks who can be sort of on there for messaging for, I don't know if I should say message discipline, given last night, but for doing the PR that's necessary to go forward.

BRIGGS: Many feel now the gloves are off.

Tal Kopan, thanks. We'll check back with you in about 20 minutes or so.

All right. Breaking news this morning, word that the release of three American hostages held by North Korea is 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!

A quick fact check here, two of those three were arrested during the Trump administration. Now, an official confirming movement on that front.

CNN's Alexandra Field is joining us from Seoul, South Korea.

Good morning, Alex.


Look, the message from the president is stay tuned. Certainly, the families are hoping for good news. The timing would seem opportune here if you consider the fact that we are potentially just weeks away from the sit down between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump. But one source does go even farther than say a cryptic tweet, speaking to CNN. This is a source with familiarity with the negotiations.

He says that a release is, in fact, imminent at this point and that it was discussed as far back as two months ago when the North Korean foreign minister traveled to Sweden. It was apparently proposed by the foreign minister at that time and he was told that U.S. officials would insist that a release of hostages would not be tied in any way to the main issue of denuclearization.

While we cannot say for sure when these three men will be released, we do know that the son of one of detainees, the son of Tony Kim, has said that he has not been given any indication of a release yet. So, they are just hoping for good news. They are being encouraged by the president who said repeatedly this is the goal of the administration to get these three hostages released. We know the secretary of state also traveled to Pyongyang to take up conversations with Kim Jong-un, not just about denuclearization, but also about the issue of getting these three men back home, certainly though, something that the families won't believe until they see it -- Dave.

BRIGGS: And, boy, what an image that would be. Alexandra Field live for us in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Twelve minutes past the hour.

Banning abortions after six weeks. Some women don't know they're pregnant at that point. But the Republican led legislature in Iowa wants to ban abortions as soon as there's a fetal heart beat. More on this controversial bill, next.


[05:17:02] ROMANS: Team Trump landing in Beijing today for trade talks just as tensions between China and the U.S. ramp up. President Trump said his top economic advisers to China led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seen here arriving at his hotel. The team includes the commerce secretary, economic adviser Larry Kudlow, numerous trade officials. The goal is to ease the escalating trade battle between Chin and the U.S. Currently, each is threatening the other with billions of dollars in tariffs.

The high stakes meetings start today actually. 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 Chinese President Xi just as he is considering restricting Chinese telecom companies in the U.S. like Huawei and ZTE.

"The Wall Street Journal" says U.S. may limit ability to sell in America due to national security concerns, a move that will likely draw retaliation from China. That tanked U.S. stocks. Trade concerns have been weighing on the market for weeks. The Dow is now four days in a row and are down about 3 percent for the year.

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


POLICE OFFICER: Breach, breach, breach.

POLICE OFFICER: With you. With you.

OK. We have one suspect down, 419 inside. This is clear.


BRIGGS: 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. Paddock killed 58 people, injured hundreds more when he opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. His motive seven months later remains unknown.

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 a pregnancy. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds not saying whether she will sign this measure, but her spokesperson says she is, quote, pro-life and will, quote, never stop fighting for the unborn. Iowa already has a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks, making it one of the nation's most restrictive states. 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: All right. Ahead, the Mets busting his chain leaving it on

the diamond, including his diamonds. Andy Scholes with details in the "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:26] BRIGGS: Utah Jazz with the shocking win last night, dominating the NBA's number one team Houston Rockets who I think Andy Scholes used to ball boy for, right?


ROMANS: I think so. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's bleacher report.

Hey, Andy.

SCHOLES: Good morning, guys.

Rough night for the ball boys in Houston and rough night for all the fans in Houston. Rockets lost and Astros got shutout by the Yankees down the street. So, I imagine there's just lots of sad fans walking around.

But for the Jazz, this was a huge win. Rookie Donovan Mitchell leading the way. He looked like he was in the slam dunk contest last night.

Check it out. Fourth quarter, he's going to miss the shot, but then flies back up slamming it home. Mitchell who won the slam dunk contest said he happened to be up there. So, why not slam it home?

Joe Ingels has a career night, seven threes in this one. Jazz finished with a 16-2 run to win it 116-108. The series now shifts to Utah for game three tomorrow night.

All right. While rookie Donovan Mitchell leads the Jazz in the playoffs, Colorado Rockies rookie Noel Cuevas is being sent on Starbucks runs. Check this out. Before the Rockies game with the Cubs. The team sending Cuevas out to pick up $1,100.55 cents worth of coffee. Cuevas using a three decker cart, as you can see, to push through Wrigleyville back to the visiting clubhouse. The Rockies ordering everything from normal brew to caramel frapps, 26 ordres in all. I wonder how the baristas felt about that wonder when Cuevas handed it to them. Probably not too good.

[05:25:00] All right. Finally, the Mets Yoenis Cespedes with a very expensive double last night. Cespedes hustling into second base with this ball dropping into right field. When he slid in, his diamond necklace burst and the diamonds went all over the infield.

As you see, Cespedes not very happy about it. Some of his teammates and umpire were seen picking up the loose diamonds between innings.

And, guys, my question is, you know, Cespedes left them out there. So, are they free game? Do you give them back? You just them in your pocket? You give them back?

BRIGGS: Absolutely. Fair game, man. You don't wear diamond chain to a baseball game, dude. I once lost my wedding ring at Fenway Park. The grounds crew, Dave Miller, the man, recovered that ring.

ROMANS: That's cool.


BRIGGS: Yes. Saved me.

Andy Scholes, thank you, friend.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. A deliberate legal monitor or 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.