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Giuliani: Cohen May Have Paid Off More Women; Rudy Stirs More Political Controversy; Haspel Offers To Withdraw CIA Nomination; Schiff Questions Judge's Criticism Of Mueller; Hawaii Volcano Eruption Destroys 26 Homes. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 7, 2018 - 05:00   ET



DAVID BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Among them the new member of the Trump legal team not ruling out the president taking the Fifth invoking his right against self-incrimination in the special counsel's Russia investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you confident the president will not take the Fifth in this case?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: How can I ever be confident of that? When I'm facing a situation with the president and every lawyer in America thinks he would be a fool to testify. I have a client who wants to testify. He said it yesterday. You know, Jay and I said, my goodness. I hope we get a chance to tell him the risk he is taking.


BRIGGS: Worth noting, the president said during the 2016 campaign that, quote, "only the mob takes the Fifth. You don't do that if you're innocent."

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president and Giuliani met face-to- face on Sunday. Afterwards, Giuliani told CNN the president, quote, "feels like things are moving in the right direction." He said Trump has bigger things to focus on than the Russia investigation like Iran and North Korea.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us is CNN political commentator, Errol Lewis, political anchor for Spectrum News. Good to see you, sir.


BRIGGS: I hope you enjoyed Rudy Giuliani with George Stephanopoulos. Hard to know where to start, but not ruling out the president taking the Fifth. It is clear they are going to the mattresses. They don't plan to sit down for an interview. What is the consequences of all of that?

LOUIS: Well, the idea that he could not respond to the subpoena is really kind of a non-starter. You have to respond. If you are going to come in and say invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege, I'm not going to incriminate myself, you could do that legally speaking.

Politically, it would be devastating. This is a White House that has tried to sort of push the boundaries of what has been acceptable. We keep talking about this is not normal or never been done before. This is unprecedented.

Well, you know, Rudy Giuliani is trying to warm us up for one more big step into unprecedented land. The notion of the president invoking the Fifth and saying it would incriminate me, I have nothing further to say, legally, he could do it. Politically, where would that leave us? Completely unknown.

BRIGGS: Why would it be devastating? His 40 percent is not going anywhere. What would it change?

LOUIS: Look, first of all, we don't really know what the base will or will not swallow. At some point the president likes to say I could shoot people on Fifth Avenue and my base won't dessert me.

BRIGGS: And that still appears true.

LOUIS: They might stay with him, but they also might stay home on election day for the midterms. You know, this is where the problem starts to develop. Also, this is very different. This is tawdry. This is something everybody can wrap their heads around and understand what this is about. People tend to have opinions about whether or not it is proper to lie in a situation like this or to invoke one's Fifth Amendment privilege.

ROMANS: Since you brought up tawdry, I want to listen to what Rudy Giuliani said about it. He said the potential that there other payments like this one. Listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said this was a regular arrangement with Michael Cohen. Did Michael Cohen make payments to other women for the president?

GIULIANI: I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes.


ROMANS: What's going on here?

LOUIS: Well, listen, the details about what happened in the course of the Michael Cohen raid plus other data points out there lead to the suggestion this may not be a one-off situation. We have the example of the playboy playmate who has been involved in this kind of thing.

We know that there have been other transactions that are similar to the alleged payment to Stormy Daniels. You also have and if you think back, remember Michael Wolf's book where you have Steve Bannon being quoted as saying they are running around towards the end of the campaign, paying off all these different women.

Well, perhaps Michael Cohen was the pay master. After the raids, they said they seized 16 phones from him. He has an arrangement as far as we can tell where he borrowed a lot of money and had access to a lot of money. It is unclear where it came from.

It wasn't reimbursements or wasn't a retainer. It was a pool of money to suggest it was used to pay off women if and when the need arises. If that is the case, there could be a lot more women.

BRIGGS: Cohen had access to more money than we thought. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting about $775,000. He doubled his credit line in the run-up to the election. Big picture here. Rudy Giuliani, you have known him a long time.

ROMANS: This is like New York politics on a national stage.

BRIGGS: What's he doing here and does the president like this?

LOUIS: Well, the president undoubtedly likes it. Rudy Giuliani is a political warrior. It doesn't mean he is a great politician. He is a political warrior. When the "Access Hollywood" tape came out and it was very hard to find Mike Pence or any of the other people in the Trump Team, who are willing to go on national television.

One of the few who is ready that weekend was Rudy Giuliani. He did over and over and over again. He is a scorched earth political warrior. The fight of the moment is the one that counts.

[05:05:11] All other alliances or all other positions that he has taken are really put to the side. He is really intent on fighting the battle that's right in front of him. That, I believe, is why Trump needs him or wants him right now and front and center to go out and defend to the last ditch.

You know, consequences be damned. Logic be damned. Facts and strategy may be made up on the fly, but the main thing he is going to do is try to protect.

BRIGGS: He said he is not focused on the facts. He is focused on the law. I thought they were intertwined.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the Gina Haspel nomination. The White House is still standing behind her. She said if it is easier for the White House, she would withdraw her nomination. Raj Shaw says her nomination will not be derailed by partisan critics who side with the ACLU over the CIA on how to keep the American safe. That's the deputy White House press secretary. Does it -- what's your bet --

LOUIS: Well, it is not partisan critics one way or another who are going to determine this. It is the members of the U.S. Senate minus John McCain who is ailing. So, if it were strictly on partisan lines, the Republicans would have a huge problem.

The White House would have a huge problem in getting her approved. Unfortunately, it is not quite that cut and dry. There are people including Senator Feinstein from California, who has been all over the place on this particular issue.

Mark Warner from the Intelligence Committee has not signaled which way he's going to go. You have ten Democrats defending seats who were in Trump states so to speak. You have people like Jon Tester and Joe Manchin in West Virginia.

It is unclear where they will go. I took the fact that she was quickly summoned to the White House as a sign that the political operation in the White House is not clear where this is going to go or whether or not they have the votes.

This is not going to a standard partisan fight. People are all over the place. If they have the votes, they will call the vote. If they are not quite ready and there are some suggestion that they may not be quite ready. It will be right down to the wire on Wednesday.

BRIGGS: Hard to imagine Rand Paul coming forward on torture, but to your point, red state Democrats, look for them to put him over the top. They don't want to take on Trump once again --

ROMANS: Come back in 30 minutes.

LOUIS: Absolutely.

BRIGGS: All right. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says a critical comment from federal judge said do not signal the special counsel's case against Paul Manafort is in jeopardy. Judge T.S. Ellis scolded prosecutors in the Manafort's bank fraud case Friday claiming their motivation was to oust President Trump.

Judge Ellis remarking, quote, "The time-honored practice of prosecutors which I'm fully familiar with, you can tighten the screws and provide information in what you are really interested in. That appears to be what is happening here." Here is the reaction from Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff.


REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's appropriate to ask about the scope of what Bob Mueller is doing, but he is well within the scope of his jurisdiction and charging Manafort and Flynn and the others.

And while, you know, certainly within the judge's prerogative to ask these questions, I don't think it really bears on the legal issues and so I think that Bob Mueller will prevail in the sense of going forward with the litigation.

I don't think there is any legal question about that, but yes, it is concerning that the judge would express this opinion.


ROMANS: Manafort asked the judge to review Mueller's authority to bring charges based on events that took place years before the campaign. Judge Ellis said he will make a decision at a later date about whether Manafort's case can go forward.

First Lady Melania Trump is ready to layout her official platform 16 months into tenure. She has a Rose Garden event set for this afternoon. Mrs. Trump has said for months she plans to focus on the well-being of children. It is been less clear exactly what that means.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump tells CNN the platform will include a variety of issues that affect children. Public events have touched on opioid abuse on newborns to being nice on social media. So, look for some clarity this afternoon on what that platform will look like.

BRIGGS: All right. Meanwhile, the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano showing no signs of slowing. Now a new concern, though, levels of toxic gas rising. A report from Hawaii next.



BRIGGS: North Korea accusing the United States of being deliberately provocative ahead of an expected summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson insisting the White House is misleading public opinion by claiming the Kim regime only agreed to negotiate because of U.S. sanctions and pressure.

The North Koreans giving the credit instead to the recent summit with South Korea. They warned the White House rhetoric can be viewed as, quote, "dangerous attempt to ruin the hard-won atmosphere of dialogue and bring the situation back to square one." President Trump says everything is now set for this U.S.-North Korea summit, the date and location could be announced soon.

ROMANS: For the first time, Senator John McCain admits he regrets not picking Senator Joe Lieberman to be his running mate in 2008 instead of then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The "New York Times" reports this revelation from McCain's upcoming memoire, "The Restless Wave." McCain is battling brain cancer and the depilating side effects of an aggressive treatment in his home in Arizona.

BRIGGS: Former Vice President Joe Biden recently paid McCain a visit. Biden telling the "New York Times," quote, "John knows he is in a very, very precarious situation and yet he is still concerned about the state of the country.

We talked about how our international reputation is being damaged and we talked about the need for people to stand up and speak out." McCain also encouraged Biden not to walk away from politics. Sources close to former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama say they have been asked to deliver eulogies at McCain's funeral. A source close to McCain says President Donald Trump is not expected to be invited.

[05:15:07] ROMANS: The White House wants to slash spending by $11 billion and will formally ask Congress today to cut the federal budget. That's according to two sources briefed the matter. The budget cuts will not touch the recent $1.3 trillion spending bill.

Trump was angry about that price tag and demanded cuts after the fact, but Congress doesn't want to reopen negotiations on the bipartisan deal. So, instead, cuts will focus on unspent funds in years' old programs like money for clean energy stimulus and health care and AEG programs likely a non-starter for many Democrats.

An architect of the package is Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. He originally wanted larger cuts upwards of $60 billion. Sources say it was pared back to ensure it would pass the House. Congress has 45 days to consider this package after it hits Capitol Hill. The administration hopes for a vote before July.

BRIGGS: The erupting Kilauea Volcano remains a major threat on the big island of Hawaii. At least 26 homes have been destroyed. The U.S. Geological Survey says Friday's 6.9 magnitude quake was the island's most powerful since 1975.

All residents of Leilani Estates, a community of about 1,700 people and nearby Lena Puna Gardens remain under evacuation order. Public schools on the big island will remain open today. But a new concern aside from the lava flow is the rising levels of toxic gas. More now from CNN's Stephanie Elam.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, residents of Leilani Estates were able to get in and get last minute things they were not able to evacuate with the first time around, but they are not allowed to stay there. They want those residents to get what they need and get out as these fissures continue to open in these neighborhoods.

They are also very much concerned about the toxic gasses coming out from the earth as well as this lava is spewing forth out of these vents. That gas is really quite dangerous and so that is why they've widened the perimeter as these fissures continue to open.

If you take a look at where I'm standing now, this is a lava flow from 2014, but this gives you an idea of the concern. You see how this lava cascaded down and around and built up this wall on the side. There is no way to actually stop lava from flowing when it is coming down at that speed and heat.

It is hard, and it is really difficult to move. This has been sitting here for four years. That is why for those people who live in these communities is terrifying and homes have been destroyed. For some people, they will never go back to the neighborhood the way it was -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Stephanie Elam in Hawaii. Thank you, Stephanie.

BRIGGS: Ahead, the Houston rockets one win away from the Western Conference finals thanks to a big boost from birthday boy, Chris Paul. Lindsay Czarniak here in the studio with us. Good morning, my friend.



BRIGGS: Well, if you're an NBA player and it is your birthday, you want to put on a good show. Exactly what Chris Paul did for the Rockets.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak is here with more. Good morning.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sometimes the best gifts are the ones you give yourself. On his 31st birthday, Chris Paul gave himself and his team a step closer to the Western Conference finals. One more win is all they need now because of what Paul did last night.

He went off 27 points and 12 rebounds and 6 assists. Rockets were in cruise control for most of the game with James Harden with 24 points of his own. The Rockets rolled the Jazz. They take a 3-1 series lead. Back in 2015, Chris Paul with the Clippers, they were up 3-1 on the Rockets and blew that lead. Paul knows you cannot be sure of anything yet.


CHRIS PAUL, ROCKETS POINT GUARD: I have been here before 3-1. It went bad real quick. We are enjoying the process. I want to get home and see my family. Good birthday gift. I'll take it.


CZARNIAK: A great birthday for him. Rockets pull off the series win, they will likely face the Warriors who rolled out the starting lineup last night, it was so good, it was scary. There was also perhaps some added motivation for star, Kevin Durant.

After the Golden State game three loss, Durant's teammate, Dreymon Green, sent him a text message telling him to let loose. He dropped 38 points. He wasn't the only one to get the message. Warriors looked like the team that won two of last three NBA titles. Steph Curry adding 23 points of his own and Golden State in a 118-92 rout over New Orleans to take a 3-1 series lead.

And now we turn to NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights continue to be one of the best feel-good stories in sports right now with last night's 3-0 win over San Jose in game six. They became only the third expansion team to win multiple series in their first year to advance to the Western Conference final.

Remember, this is the team that played their opening game only nine days after that mass shooting in Las Vegas. This team and this city rallied together. The Knights are doing things no one thought they would do. They were 200 to 1 odds to win the Stanley Cup before this season. So, it's just such an incredible story to watch.

BRIGGS: Best story in sports do you think? I mean, the Celtics without their two best players close, but this is remarkable.

CZARNIAK: No one saw this coming and because each player on the team has a chip on his shoulder. BRIGGS: They are on a mission.

[05:25:06] CZARNIAK: You're on a mission because you don't know why you end up there anyway and together to see what they are doing is really --

BRIGGS: (Inaudible) Flurry who's climbed the mountain before may be doing it again.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

CZARNIAK: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: Another eyebrow raising interview for Rudy Giuliani.


GIULIANI: Those are not facts that worry me as a lawyer. Those don't amount to anything. That's political. What matters to me as a lawyer is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you lie to the press?

GIULIANI: Gee, I don't know.


ROMANS: Can you lie to the press? Assuming he wasn't lying, Giuliani says the president does not have to comply with the subpoena and the president could take the Fifth Amendment in the Russia probe.