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Trump Expected to Leave Iran Deal; New York Attorney General to Resign After Reports of Assault; Volcanic Activity Briefly Subsides in Hawaii; Interview with Hawaii Governor David Ige. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:14] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Decision day for President Trump on the Iran nuclear deal. All signs say he will leave the agreement. How would Iran respond and could the U.S. pay the price?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New York's attorney general, the attorney general forced to resign. Stunning move came three hours after a report laid out assault allegations by several women.

BRIGGS: Activity has slowed from the Kilauea volcano. Hard to figure that out from these pictures. The lava causing mass destruction across the big island. Hawaii's governor joins us in just a few minutes.

It is 10:00 p.m. local time there in Hawaii. And if you have seen the pictures of this volcano, Christine Romans, eating everything in its wake.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START.

ROMANS: And authorities are saying don't come here to sight see. This is a natural disaster unfolding.

BRIGGS: But you can see the temptation.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: To try to capture images.

ROMANS: Amazing.

It is Tuesday, May 8th. It is 10:00 p.m. right now in Hawaii. We'll go there soon. It is 4:00 a.m. here in the East. Nice to see you all this morning.

But breaking overnight, this bombshell. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, once a champion of the Me Too movement, forced to resign after several women came forward with allegations of assault. Schneiderman's resignation came just hours after a report in "New Yorker" which featured stories from four women, two of those women on the record.

BRIGGS: Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam told the magazine they had been romantically involved with Schneiderman, but they said the violence was not consensual. Required medical attention and often happened after Schneiderman had been drinking.

Selvaratnam also claimed Schneiderman had threatened to have her phone tapped.

ROMANS: The attorney general firmly denied the claims, saying in a tweet he had, quote, engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity, but that non-consensual sex, quote, is a line I would not cross.

As the uproar grew last night, top officials including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Governor Andrew Cuomo called on Schneiderman to step down and he obliged. He said in a statement, serious allegations which I strongly contest have been made against me. He said while these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct, the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office's work at this time.

BRIGGS: Schneiderman had been a rising star in Democratic politics and a vocal advocate for the Me Too movement. He brought legal action against film mogul Harvey Weinstein and the Trump administration. One woman who came to Schneiderman's defense, his ex-wife, Jennifer Cunningham. She said the allegations are completely inconsistent with the man I know.

A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney says the office has been opened into Schneiderman.

ROMANS: All right. Also this morning, President Trump widely expected to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal today and announcement an scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. If he decides not to extend waivers on sanctions against Iran, the United States would effectively be scrapping the agreement.

For more on the potential impact of the U.S. pullout, let's go live to London and bring in CNN's Nic Robertson.

And, Nic, despite furious lobbying, from the Europeans and from other American many think the president is leaning toward getting out of this agreement.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: That's the definitely the impression in Europe at the moment. I mean, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Washington there, following on the French president, from the German Chancellor, all trying to tell President Trump, don't scrap the JCPOA. It's too bad he believes doing a good job. This deal should stick and should hold until we find something better.

They agree that President Trump has good points. That part of the deal doesn't work. That Iran is building ballistic missiles, that there should be tougher inspections, that there should be no sunset clauses. These sorts of things are agreement.

For Iran for its part has threatened in part perhaps to go back to enriching uranium if President Trump withdrawing those waivers. We've also heard today from the Iranian president saying that despite sanctions, Iran would continue doing business with the rest of the world. We've heard as well from the head of Iran central bank today, saying that sanctions from the United States re-imposed would not hurt the Iranian economy. They seem to be talking down domestically the impact.

But, of course, Iran central bank would be target number one of the reimposition of sanctions and possibly after that Iranian businesses. This would affect Iran's ability to produce oil. And certainly at this time would bring in some very sharp focus the way that President Trump deals with big negotiated deals, nuclear deals like this as he is about to head into talks with Kim Jong-un and North Korea.

[04:05:05] So, this could set the stage for that.

Now, at the same time, we heard from President Trump as well putting down John Kerry's back door efforts in a way, talking to the Iranian foreign minister and United States about how and why the deal should continue.

ROMANS: Yes, certainly, Nic, oil markets predicting he is going to pull out because of the oil prices are rising. And a couple of analysts in this country say it could be 30 cents higher gas prices for American consumers if the United States pulls out of the deal. We'll talk about this again in the next half hour.

Thanks so much, Nic.

BRIGGS: It's also primary season for the 2018 midterms, getting into full swing today. Voters heading in the polls in four state, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio and West Virginia. These are all states President Trump won in 2016. The anti-establishment wave will certainly be put to the test today.

Much of the focus on this GOP Senate primary in West Virginia, Republicans are openly agonizing about the possibility of this gentleman on your right, Don Blankenship. One of the Senate's leading Republicans, South Dakota's John Thune says about a Blankenship victory, let's hope and pray that doesn't happen.

ROMANS: Blankenship is a former coal industry executive who went to prison after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, remember that, in 2010. Twenty-nine dead in Upper Big Branch Mine. He has attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him, quote, Cocaine Mitch. He's gone after McConnell's wife and referred to her father as a China person.

BRIGGS: Blankenship calls himself Trumpier than Trump, but is being opposed by Trump. The White House is concern he could become Roy Moore on steroids if he wins the primary, losing what they view as an otherwise winnable general election race against incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin.

President Trump tweeted Monday, Blankenship can't win in November, urging West Virginians to vote for one of two mainstream GOP candidates. ROMANS: All right. In Indiana, there is a three-way race in the GOP

Senate primary between candidates Todd Rokita, Luke Messer and Mike Braun. The winner will face incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly in November. This is another seat Republicans believe they can flip.

BRIGGS: In Ohio, Representative Jim Renacci is considered the frontrunner running against investment banker Michael Gibbons. President Trump endorsed Renacci even though Gibbons co-chaired Trump's fundraising efforts in Ohio. The winner faces Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.

ROMANS: There are also primaries in both parties to replace Governor John Kasich who's term limited. The Democratic race fits former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, remember, he used to be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, against former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. On the Republican side, it is Ohio Attorney Mike DeWine against Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor.

North Carolina also votes today, as there are statewide races.

BRIGGS: A senior White House official says the Trump administration is backing Jeff Sessions as House conservative threaten to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents from the Russia investigation. Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short telling CNN: I think we are supportive of our cabinet. Although Short did knowledge frustration with the DOJ over records.

Now, last week, the president was ripping the Justice Department on this very issue, even threatening to get personally involved.

ROMANS: House Speaker Paul Ryan is not commenting on House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' threats to hold Sessions in contempt. CNN reported last week that Nunes threatened to take action against the DOJ for failing to turn over sensitive documents, but failed to read them once he got them.

BRIGGS: Rudy Giuliani media blitz not playing well in the White House. According to a senior official, some staffers and members of the president's legal team are complaining because they never know when Giuliani will pop up next on TV. For now, we are told he is still cleared to do interviews with the president's approval.

But one senior official told CNN either he will change his behavior or he's not going to do it very long.

ROMANS: Also learning from a source, there's no firm deadline for a decision on whether the president will agree to an interview with the special counsel because incoming attorney Emmet Flood is expected to play a role in making that decision and he hasn't started yet. We are told there are discussions about a potential target date of May 17th for an announcement.

BRIGGS: First Lady Melania Trump unveiling her former platform Monday titled "Be Best". It is centered on helping children, will focus on three main points: wellbeing, fighting opioid abuse and positivity on social media. The last issue generating some controversy indeed for Mrs. Trump whose husband is known for the occasional name calling on Twitter.

Here's what the first lady said with the president sitting in the front row.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: As we all know, social media can be both positively and negatively affect our children, but too often, it's used in negative ways.

[04:10:09] When children learn positive online behaviors early on, social media can be used in productive ways and can affect positive change.


BRIGGS: A new CNN poll finds 57 percent of the American people have a favorable impression of the first lady. It's a big jump from 47 percent in January. The numbers show growth across the political spectrum among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Perhaps the result of that photograph with the former presidents in there and their wives.

ROMANS: You are right.

BRIGGS: She hasn't done much else.

ROMANS: Or it's the white hat.

I do think it's also, she has had a separate public persona from her husband, right? They have separate schedules. They sometimes arrive separately to, you know --

BRIGGS: They essentially live separate lives, according to a "Washington Post" profile.

ROMANS: Anyway, 57 points, 57 percent.

All right. Residents riding out the uncertainty in Hawaii as lava from the Kilauea volcano destroys more buildings, changes more lives. Look at the time release. This lava swallowing up that car. Incredible.

Next, we speak live with the Hawaii Governor David Ige.


[04:15:21] ROMANS: All right. The pictures are just stunning in Hawaii. Lava flows have eased around the erupting Kilauea Volcano on the big island. But this is seen by emergency officials as temporary. Be prepared to get out at a moment's notice.

Volcanic activity, according to authorities, has subsided at all 12 fissures. But officials again say it's likely a pause in activity. The hazardous fumes or sulfur dioxide continue at this hour. Dozens of structures are destroyed, the community gathering for a meeting north of hard-hit Leilani Estates.

BRIGGS: Let's bring in the Hawaii Governor David Ige, joining us by the phone.

Good morning, Governor. Thanks for being with us. It is 10:15 p.m. there, local time.

Is there some sense of comfort that these 12 fissures, at least there's a temporary pause in volcanic activity?

GOV. DAVID IGE (D), HAWAII (via telephone): Good morning.

I don't think there is a -- there is definitely a relaxation to some extent, but I think everyone has been through volcanic eruption before and they know it is temporary. And the geologists expect that the eruption will continue. There are signs that it is not over yet.

ROMANS: Yes, the island has been hit by hundreds of earthquakes in recent days. This pause here, at least for now, allows people to figure out what happened to their belongings and homes. You do not want sightseers to come to the locations. Tell us a little bit about your warning for people who want to get close or take pictures of this lava.

IGE: Yes. Certainly, we have restricted the area. I just wanted to start by saying Leilani Estates is a small portion of Hawaii Island. So, the rest of the island and both airports operating at full capacity.

But we are asking any visitors and residents to stay out of Leilani Garden Estates. You know, the volcanic activity is unpredictable. And clearly, it is a tough time for the residents there, some of which people losing their possessions.

BRIGGS: Is there a sense of helplessness when it comes to this volcanic activity, you can't do anything to stop lava, and once it is formed, there is little to do to remove it?

IGE: Yes. I mean, I do think that there is a sense that it's Mother Nature. The lava flow is unpredictable. It's hard to determine which direction it will go on. You know, it starts and stops, you know, on a whim. I think that that's the uncertainty that all of the residents are faced with.

ROMANS: Kilauea has been erupting pretty much on and off for, what, I think 35 years. This is the most active volcano in the world. So, clearly, authorities there have a good sense how to live around it and keep the beautiful islands still open for tourism.

Tell us a little bit about what it is like in paradise when something like this happens. What's your message?

IGE: Well, certainly, on a couple of fronts, I think that, you know, clearly all of the government officials, county, state and federal, FEMA is on the ground here and have been -- we have been in constant discussion with them. I mean, I think people understand how to live with the volcano there and the fact that eruptions are unpredictable.

But, you know, it is still high anxiety for those living directly in the area. You know, we allowed residents to return to collect their possessions. We are monitoring the emissions from the fissures and watching the lava activity to make sure that it's safe and that we definitely don't want to put any residents in harm's way.

BRIGGS: You talked about some of those who lost their homes, 26 homes among the 35 structures destroyed. Are people insured against those losses generally speaking? And if you can address the toxic gasses and how big a concern those are.

IGE: It's a couple of things. On the insurance front, we do know that if they have homeowners insurance with fire coverage, typically, they will get some return. When the lava approaches a home, the home will burst into flames before it is actually consumed by the lava.

[04:20:03] And so, as long as they have the typical homeowners insurance with fire protection, they will get some return. You know, we will continue to monitor that and make sure that the residents who are paying for insurance will get their coverage.

ROMANS: That's a really good point. We are watching this video of a car of the lava moving across the road and car burst into flames before the lava got there. You're right, the heat from this event is so amazing. We are showing that again now.

What is your message to people -- I mean, you made -- at the very top of this interview, you made a good remark for people who are coming to Hawaii and its beautiful islands. Hawaii is open for business.

IGE: Hawaii is open for business. If you had vacation plans to come to Hawaii, we would encourage you to continue to come. Certainly, we don't and will discourage you from trying to get into the Leilani Estates subdivision because it is for residents only. The emergency responders and those government officials who are helping the community cope with this tragedy.

ROMANS: No sightseers, please.

BRIGGS: Yes, we hope that.

Talk about these toxic gasses and how big a concern those are for residents.

IGE: Sure. I think one thing that is very different in this event is that the fissures have opened in the middle of the subdivision. You know, typically, an eruption occurs miles away from any residents and the toxic gasses has a lot of time to escape. These fissures are in the middle of the subdivision. And, you know, the sulfur dioxide and other gasses clearly at the event is very harmful and dangerous.

But it does dissipate quite quickly once it gets into the air. We have been encouraging residents to stay away from the vent and, you know, watch and monitor activity, and really be prepared to evacuate if something should change or the status of the volcano should change. ROMANS: Governor David Ige from Hawaii, thank you so much for joining

us this morning, evening where you are, with that update for us. Best wishes to you. Thank you, sir.

IGE: Thank you so much.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Governor.

All right. We're going to turn to sports. When we come back, LeBron James is headed back to a very familiar place. This will be his eighth straight conference finals. It's hard to fathom that accomplishment. More on the Cavs' dominant sweep of the Raptors when we return.


[04:27:15] BRIGGS: President Trump Iran's deal decision is today. Fears he will withdraw are hitting oil prices. And that means higher costs for many U.S. companies and you.

U.S. oil prices are near a four-year high, rising to 13 percent in the past month as the investors bet the president will abandon the nuclear Iran deal. The deal allows Iran to export more oil, re-imposing sanctions, could disrupt global oil supply, and cause you higher gas prices. Higher oil prices pressure transportation companies, airlines, railroad, trucking and delivery, paying more after years of low fuel costs. Consumer companies also spend on oil to manufacture and ship products, think Hershey, Estee Lauder, Clorox, General Mills, Oreo maker Mondelez. Oil makes up a fifth of their expenses.

Automakers are also at risk. SUVs and trucks drive auto sales. The big vehicles obviously become less appealing as gas prices rise. Higher oil prices translate into higher gas prices. This summer would likely be the most expensive at the pump in years, up 14 percent from last year.

GasBuddy says gas prices could spike another 30 cents a gallon if Trump withdraws from the Iran deal. Withdrawing from the Iran deal could be 30 cents more per gallon of gas for American drivers.

It's not all bad news. Higher crude helps the bottom line of Exxon and Chevron and U.S. oil producers are ramping up production. They are hiring workers and they are buying equipment as they pump a record 10 million barrels a day.

BRIGGS: But if gas prices go up 30 cents a gallon as we head into the midterms, that's certainly something that weighs in the mind of voters.

ROMANS: It's interesting, isn't it? It is interesting.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's talk a little sports.

LeBron James and company putting an exclamation point on their series sweep of the Toronto Raptors, winning game four 128-93 in Cleveland last night. LeBron led the way again with 29 points for the Cavs. Cleveland plays the winner of Boston and Philly in the eastern conference finals. This will be the team's fourth straight trip to the conference finals, but eighth straight overall for LeBron James. It's also the third year in a row the Cavs have eliminated the Raptors from the playoffs.

LeBron James unstoppable.


BRIGGS: Regardless.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump widely expected to abandon the nuclear deal with Iran today. What is the fallout here? How will Iran responds?

BRIGGS: And the attorney general of New York state forced to resign after being a champion for women's issues. Several women now say Schneiderman assaulted them. The latest, next.