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Trump Changes Story on Daniels Payment; Scott Pruitt at EPA; White House Spin on Daniels Revelation. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:12] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, just remember how we got here. For months President Trump, the White House, Michael Cohen, Sarah Sanders, surrogates, they've all said the president had no real knowledge and no involvement in the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, right? We now know that that has to be a lie. Why? Rudy Giuliani revealed last night that the president reimbursed Mr. Cohen for that payment. So all of those notions of him knowing nothing just can't be true. How will the White House respond to this today?

Joining us now CNN political analyst Josh Green and Jonathan Martin.

And they made this smart move, J-Mart (ph), go to a safe space. And she goes on Fox. They say to her, what do you think of this Stormy Daniels' stuff? I'm not going to talk about that. OK, moving on.

Look, the job is to test power. She's got a duty. She works for Trump, but she really works for you. You know, she works for the American people. She didn't want to answer it. She has to do a briefing later today. This doesn't go away. What are we expecting?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you're going to see intense questioning today and frankly tomorrow and probably into next week about, you know, what exactly happened here and how much did the president know about why he was paying tens of thousands of dollars and ultimately hundreds of thousands of dollars to Michael Cohen while he was president of the United States, even taking the most charitable view that let's say the president didn't know precisely why he was paying Michael Cohen these large sums of money. Just stand back for a second. The president of the United States was paying tens of thousands of dollars every month to a private lawyer to effectively run some kind of a fund for he didn't know exactly what, but it was for sort of taking care of business. I mean that alone would be an extraordinary story in any presidency.

CAMEROTA: Josh, what do you think of the Rudy revelation?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's mind-boggling. I mean in the course of an interview last night he contradicted the president, he contradicted Michael Cohen. And as far as I can tell, he contradicted himself. Last night he told "The New York Times" that these reimbursement payments came in 2017, maybe 2018, and so they were after the election. And that's important for legal reasons. And then this morning he suggested to Fox News that the reason Cohen was paid was so that these revelations didn't come out in October of 2016, which, of course, suggests that everybody in the Trump orbit was aware of this during the campaign and, if so, that gives rise to possible campaign violations and all kinds of other legal entanglements that I'm sure are going to be the subject of today's White House briefing and probably tomorrows and on into the future.

CUOMO: And just to be clear, because I anticipate the spin that they'll say they did address it, here's what happened when Sarah Sanders was just asked.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mayor Giuliani is part of the president's legal team. He's got visibility and insight into this issue. He's spoken about this at length, both last night and this morning. I would refer you back to his comments, particularly given the fact that this is ongoing litigation. It's something that we, at the White House can't comment on. And I would refer you both to his comments, as well as the president's tweets from earlier this morning.


CUOMO: Well, they can comment on it.

CAMEROTA: They have commented on it.

CUOMO: They have commented on it. They don't want to now because they're lawyered up. And what's the proof? The words that came out of Sarah Sanders. Listen to this.


SANDERS: I've had conversations with the president about this. And as I outlined earlier, that this case had already been won in arbitration and that there was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he's denied all of these allegations.


CUOMO: All right, so what are we dealing with here, J-Mart?

MARTIN: Well, I -- look, the date on that was March 7th.

CAMEROTA: March 7th, yes.

MARTIN: So today is March 3rd. So she --

[08:35:02] CAMEROTA: May, but OK.


MARTIN: Can today because it's ongoing litigation.

CAMEROTA: We're going back in time. MARTIN: But on March 7th, it's OK to answer the questions about the


It's -- she doesn't want to answer it so she's throwing out the issue of ongoing litigation.

Now, put aside the fact that she already engaged on the issue two months ago, as you guys just showed. Give me a break. This White House is going to turn to the ongoing litigation issue. President Trump comments on everything, like the idea that they're now going to be restrained about something because it's ongoing litigation so it's a sensitive matter is blighted by the fact that President Trump has already commented on it this morning himself. So I just don't see how much longer that line can hold given the questions that are going to come.

When you have that job that she has, you have to have some level of credibility. You can't just say things that are demonstrably untrue. And so the onus is now on her to explain why what she said in March was not straight up untrue.

CAMEROTA: And, Josh --

CUOMO: And to do our job you've got a duty too, right? I mean we work for the governed. And it's a little weird to have the president saluting the book and telling everybody to read it, written by one of the people sitting on that couch whose supposed to be testing power. They picked that outlet for a reason.

CAMEROTA: Well -- well, yes. I mean, as you know, the president has endorsed "Fox and Friends" in a million different ways.

But what do you think, Josh? If you were a betting man, that by the time the press -- the White House Press Briefing rolls around this afternoon, that three Americans will have been released from North Korea? That is a wonderful victory for the Trump campaign any way you slice it, getting Americans home, out of detention from North Korea, everybody will be delighted about that. But there has, sometimes in the past, been a connection between bad news and then breaking news of some kind that comes out of the White House to try to eclipse the bad news.

GREEN: Well, sure. I mean, look, it's terrific that these Americans are released, but it really has nothing at all to do with the facts of what Giuliani said. I mean step back for a moment and think about how remarkable it is that the president of the United States had to go on Twitter this morning to clean up the mess left last night by his lead attorney? I mean it -- you don't even know what to say.

And so I think the White House, between now and the press briefing, you know, regardless of whether the announcement is made on Americans released in North Korea, is going to have to come up with some way to explain to the press how they reconcile the fact that the president himself said 18 days ago he had no knowledge of Stormy Daniels and the payments and what his lawyer Giuliani said last night and this morning which is that he did. CAMEROTA: OK. Well, as the president says, stay tuned.

Josh Green, Jonathan Martin, thank you very much.

Now this. Embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt facing several ethics scandals, as you've heard. Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman is going to tell us whether she thinks he's fit for the job. That's next.


[08:41:56] CUOMO: Well, you could know 50,000 things with all the news we've had, but here are the five main things to know for your new day.

Number one, President Trump is changing his story after Rudy Giuliani revealed that the president reimbursed his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 in hush money paid to Stormy Daniels. President Trump tweeting that the payments are part of a monthly retainer for Cohen and the reimbursement has nothing to do with the campaign.

Rudy Giuliani also revealing a short time ago that three Americans, held captive in North Korea, will be released today. The news comes at a pivotal time as President Trump is expected to meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un and soon.

White House Lawyer Ty Cobb stepping down, announcing he's going to retire at the end of the month. Emmet Flood, a familiar name, former President Bill Clinton's impeachment attorney, he's now joining President Trump's legal team.

Nine of our bravest were killed in a military cargo plane crash in Savannah, Georgia. The plane went down while en route to Tuscan, Arizona, where it was set to be decommissioned. No word yet on the cause of the crash.

A Southwest Airlines flight made an unexplained landing Wednesday due to a cracked window -- an unplanned landing. The aircraft landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio. Nobody was hurt, but why did that window crack? It comes two weeks after another Southwest plane experienced an engine failure leading to the death of a passenger.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," you can go to and you will get the latest.

All right, Alisyn, over to you.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you very much, Chris.

So, new allegations against embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. A source tells CNN that a lobbyist and an influential conservative activist were involved in planning two of Pruitt's foreign trips. That's just the latest in a list of nearly a dozen investigations currently underway into Pruitt's travel expenses, his security detail and other possible ethics violations.

So joining us now to discuss is the EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, Christine Todd Whitman.

Governor, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: You did this job. You know what this position entails. Do you think Scott Pruitt is fit for this job?

WHITMAN: No, I really don't. I think these ethical lapses have been amazing. And what they've done is they've undermined the morale. That combined with his approach to the EPA, which is, I hate it, I don't think it should be, I mean this is obviously reflective of the president's agenda and the president was elected to do this and a lot of his supporters love the fact that regulations are being supposedly rolled back.

The problem is that they're being done, they're being attacked in a way that is really mindless. You can't just get up one day and decide that something which was deemed by scientist to be a problem for human, health and the environment all of a sudden isn't any more. You've got to come up with an alternate study. You've got to prove this. You've got to go through a rule making process.

So the good news is, a lot of these things won't actually be rolled back. They make good soundbytes for Scott Pruitt perhaps but --

[08:45:04] CAMEROTA: But how will they be stopped from being rolled back?

WHITMAN: Because you have to go through a process. It's a legal -- once a regulation is gone final based on an endangerment final, it's going through the courts. I mean we get sued every single time. EPA gets sued every time. So it's been established.

This is a problem for human health (ph). This chemical is bad. And we ought to be limiting its exposure, human exposure, to this chemical. So you just don't get up one day and say, no, I don't think so anymore. You've got to go through another scientific effort to show why it is not -- and it may be. It may no longer be as bad as we thought it was. There may be new technologies or new ways of dealing with it. It's fine to rethink regulations and to look at them from time to time, but this seems to be just a -- if Obama had anything to do with it, we're going to get rid of it.

CAMEROTA: And so it sounds like your qualms with him are two-fold. So all of the ethical violations that we have outlined for weeks now and then his philosophy and his policy.

WHITMAN: Right. Right.

CAMEROTA: And so in terms of -- I mean that's what, obviously, Americans are really interested in is what this means for me, will I have clean water, will my kids breathe clean air? So here are the rollbacks that you're talking about that we know of, some of them. Here are some of his policies. Repealing the Clean Power Plan, centralizing control of Clean Water Act decisions, revising fuel efficiency standards, meaning --


CAMEROTA: You know, cars had become fuel efficient emission standards --

WHITMAN: They were -- just -- but the thing is, this does nothing for industry and jobs. I mean that's what they're supposedly about. And the car industry was already moving toward more highly efficient cars. The utilities, in fact, were pushing for more electric vehicles because that's where they see their future demand coming. So this is kind of mindless and it's just exposing us to more pollutants.

CAMEROTA: He's also doing away with something that he calls secret science. What he says is that it is an effort at the -- more transparency. About the underlying data on which policies are built because there was a feeling in previous administrations, certainly by some of his ilk and conservatives, that, you know, all this data was being cooked. The books were being cooked.


CAMEROTA: The numbers were being cooked. So now he's going to be transparent about the underlying data. Why do you think it's actually the opposite of what he's saying, in layman's terms? I mean explain to us why this is a bad idea.

WHITMAN: I mean this is -- it sounds good, but a lot of the evidence that scientists use is based on things that come from hospitals and studies of humans. And that is patient privilege. You cannot reveal that. So they won't be able to see these long-term studies and trends that come from doctors and hospitals and research clinics that actually work with people.

The other side of it -- and it's a two-edged sword because as far as industry is concerned, on the one side they now can say, I'm not going to give you any data because it can be revealed and it's proprietary. But for those that really would like to see move -- things move ahead and they want to be heard, and they should be heard, and their take on whether or not a certain chemical is as bad as the EPA scientists say it is should be heard, they're going to say, I'm not turning this over because it's going to be -- it's proprietary to what we're making and how we use it and therefore either side -- they don't get heard. For the ones who are bad actors, they're happy with that.

CAMEROTA: That's really helpful context.

In the short time that we have left, as a Republican, I just want to ask you, you were a Republican governor, you were a Republican in a Republican administration, you were in the cabinet, what it is like to watch from the sidelines what's happening with this White House? I mean, obviously, this morning there's all this Rudy Giuliani/Stormy Daniels news. What do you make of it?

WHITMAN: It's really discouraging to me. And we are seeing the norms that underpin our democracy being eroded at all levels. Things that we used to take for granted that we didn't have people who lied to us. That we would get full information and disclosure. That we did have a standard that separated, for instance, cabinet officials from lobbyists who do business with their agency. If you see it over and over again and I just worry about the message that its sending to young people.

For EPA, for instance. I worry about this denigration of science. Young people are looking at what their future holds. They're going to say, I'm not going to go into government. They don't seem to care about science if that's what I'm interested in. Maybe I shouldn't be. Maybe I should find another avenue. And that's bad.

But it's more the dissembling of fact and this attack on the freedom of the press. Be skeptical of the press, absolutely. With all due respect, you should be skeptical of stories. Read both sides. See both sides. But to start to say that the press is the enemy of the people, freedom of the press is a basic underpinning of our democracy, freedom from political influence of the judiciary and law enforcement. Again, if people don't trust the courts, if they don't trust law enforcement are going to be unbiased, politically unbiased, we have lost some of the very fundamentals of our democracy. The things that keep us strong.

[08:50:03] CAMEROTA: Christine Todd Whitman, great to get your perspective on everything.

WHITMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much for being here on NEW DAY.


CUOMO: All right, so here's what we know. The White House, the president of the United States and his attorney have all told different stories to you about the president's involvement in the Stormy Daniels hush money payment. They cannot all be true. That means somebody is intentionally deceiving you. That's what we call a lie. How is this going to shake out? That's "The Bottom Line," next.


CUOMO: The story's changing when it comes to President Trump and what happened with these payments to Stormy Daniels. The White House now has a message in crisis on their hands. How are they going to explain repeated denials from the president and the White House from the podium of the White House as well? The president's involvement in the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels just keeps on changing. Will the story ever get straight? That's a subject of "The Bottom Line" from CNN's David Chalian.

[08:55:04] What's your general take?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: My general take is, first and foremost, that when you send someone in to do cleanup and he creates more of a mess, that that's not the best cleanup man on the block. And I think that's what Rudy Giuliani was trying to do. It seems to me, Chris, that the Trump team is keenly aware that there is evidence known to investigators, whether in the southern district of New York or Mueller's team before he referred it, of the payments and, therefore, they wanted to get a fact pattern out there that had not yet been out there because the president denied any knowledge. But by getting it out there, you -- as you just rightly stated, you create a messaging crisis. And I think that's where we are.

CAMEROTA: So, what does the day ahead look like from where you sit in terms of what the White House will do now? There's a daily press briefing. I mean anything could happen. How are they -- what's the next chapter in all of these discrepancies?

CHALIAN: So, yes, a great question, Alisyn. I am looking to see if the Trump team decides to employ the linguistic gymnastics that we remember back form the Clinton era about is is. I am curious to see how they handle the president's comments on Air Force One and how they try to paint that as not a direct contradiction of what Rudy Giuliani said last night when he admitted that the president paid back Michael Cohen. Perhaps they'll say, he said he didn't know anything about the payment, he meant at the time. He didn't know how Michael Cohen got the money at the time Michael Cohen paid it. He knew about the reimbursement. So I'm curious to see how much they try to do a little bit of linguistic gymnastic with us.

CUOMO: Remember that shift was about the burden of proof of a legal case. And that's one thing. But there's also a burden of proof to the American people. Sarah Sanders, when asked about this this morning, said this.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mayor Giuliani is part of the president's legal team. He's got visibility and insight into this issue. He's spoken about this at length both last night and this morning. I would refer you back to his comments, particularly given the fact that this is ongoing litigation. It's something that we at the White House can't comment on. And I would refer you both to his comments, as well as the president's tweets from earlier this morning.


CUOMO: No testing. That's why she was on there. But less than a month ago, this is what she said.


SANDERS: Yes, I've had conversations with the president about this and, as I outlined earlier, that this case had already been won in arbitration and that there was no knowledge of any payments from the president and he's denied all of these allegations.


CUOMO: And the president tweeted about it one, two, three times so far today. What do you make of that? CHALIAN: Well, I think you can tell in that Fox News answer, the first

one that Sarah Sanders played, we got a little preview to what we're going to hear at the press briefing this afternoon. She's going to hang everything on to the fact that now there's this ongoing investigation in the southern district of New York that was not necessarily known publicly back on March 7th. And I don't think that's a very sturdy excuse. She clearly talked to the president about it. She spoke from the podium about it. She should own those words and classify them today based on the new facts. Instead it sounds like from the Fox News appearance that she's just going to punt and say, talk to Rudy, I can't do this with an ongoing investigation.

CAMEROTA: All right, David Chalian, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."

Thanks to all of you for watching. CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman and Poppy Harlow after this quick break.


[09:00:07] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


The breaking news this morning, the president's story has changed and it's changed in a big, big way.