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Trump Expected to Pull Out of Iran Nuclear Deal; New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to Resign After Reports of Assault; Volcanic Activity Briefly Subsides in Hawaii. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 04:30   ET


[04:33:06] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. It's 4:33 Eastern Time, 10:33 in Hawaii. And we'll check in there regarding the Kilauea Volcano shortly.

Breaking overnight: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a rising star in Democratic politics and once a champion of the Me Too movement forced to resign after several women come forward with allegations of assaults. Schneiderman's resignation came just hours after a report in "The New Yorker" which featured stories in four women, two of them on the record.

ROMANS: Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam told the magazine they have been romantically involved with Schneiderman. They said the violence, they suffered, was not consensual and required medical attention and often happened after Schneiderman had been drinking. Each woman said Schneiderman hit her, slapped her hard, choked her and threatened to kill her if she broke up with him. Selvaratnam also claimed Schneiderman threatened to have her phone tap.

BRIGGS: The attorney general firmly denied the claim, saying in a tweet he had engaged in role playing and other consensual sexual activity. But that non-consensual sex 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 against me. He said while these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from the leading the office's work at this critical times.

ROMANS: Schneiderman had been a rising star in Democratic politics, 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 in the statement, the allegations are completely inconsistent with the man I know.

[04:35:01] A spokesman for the Manhattan district says the office has opened an investigation into Schneiderman.

BRIGGS: All right. President Trump widely expected to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal today. An announcement is 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 impact, let's go live to London and bring in CNN's Nic Robertson.

Nic, when you look at our allies, London -- Britain, Germany, France, European Union. What are the implications there of the U.S. pulling out of this deal?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The perspective from here right now is that they said what they could say to President Trump and they feel that he's listened in part. They're all saying that the JCPOA, this deal is the best thing that everyone has, and there isn't a good plan B. But it's better to stick to this.

Yes, they agree with the president that there are some things that Iran should change. Its destabilization in the region, its ballistic missiles program, but there should be tougher inspections regime, that there should be no sunset clauses on some parts of this deal. But at the same time, they're saying that President Trump don't abrogate on the waivers, don't back out of this deal because the implications are for greater instability, clear implications would be in part that the Iran's oil sales would crimp, this would force up the price of gas at petrol pumps.

Iran for its part today, the president of Iran saying that they will continue doing business with the rest of the world, irrespective of whatever sanctions the United States places. The head of central bank of Iran which would be the first to be affected if these waivers are not renewed has said that this would not affect the economy of Iran, but at the same time, other Iranian officials have said they could go back to enriching much more uranium. That would be a major international concern right there.

How President Trump handles all of this could impact how his ability at the negotiating table with Kim Jong-un over North Korea's nuclear weapons, how that all shapes up, and, of course, this time as well, we heard that President Trump as well has been putting down John Kerry. The last secretary of state under President Trump who cut the JCPOA with Iran, putting him down with his interventions meeting with the Iranian foreign minister to talk about the deal, and how it can be saved.

Expectations at the moment from European partners not hopeful that President Trump will stay the course as they want.

BRIGGS: Major global implications, 2:00 today.

Nic Robertson live for us in London, thanks.

ROMANS: All right. To politics here. Primary season for the 2018 midterms gets into full swing today. Voters head to the polls in four states, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia. Those are all states President Trump won in 2016. That anti-establishment wave will be put to the test today.

Much of the focus is on the GOP Senate primary in West Virginia. Republicans are openly agonizing about the possibility Don Blankenship will win.

BRIGGS: 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.

Blankenship is a former coal executive who spent time in prison after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that led to 29 deaths in 2010. He has attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him Cocaine Mitch, and gone after McConnell's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, referring to her father as a China person.

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

President Trump tweeted Monday that Blankenship can't win in November, urging West Virginians to vote for one of two mainstream GOP candidates.

BRIGGS: 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. All three competing to see who is Trumpier than the rest.

ROMANS: In Ohio, Representative Jim Renacci is considered the frontrunner for the GOP Senate nomination, 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.

BRIGGS: Also, primaries in both parties to replace Governor John Kasich who is term limited. The Democratic race pits former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray against former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. On the Republican side, there's Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine against Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor.

North Carolina also votes today, but no statewide races.

ROMANS: All right. The Trump administration dramatically tightening a zero tolerance policy on illegal border crossings in the Southwest. The result could mean criminal convictions even for those found to have valid asylum claims and possibly separating far more parents from their children at the border.

[04:40:08] Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying anyone crossing unlawfully will be prosecuted. It's that simple. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We don't want to separate families, but we don't want families to come to the border illegally, an attempt to enter the country improperly. We urge them not to do so. Not to come themselves illegally and worse to bring their children with them or some other children.


BRIGGS: Critics say the new policy could overwhelm immigration courts and detention space. Homeland security figures show illegal crossings have plunged over the last few decades and are currently in line with seasonal trends.

ROMANS: The White House appears to suffering from confirmation fatigue and embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may be the big beneficiary, at least for now. Multiple White House officials tell CNN Pruitt still has his job because the administration cannot get anyone else confirmed. Officials pointing to the struggle to get Secretary of State Mike Pompeo through the process, as well as the failure of V.A. nominee Ronny Jackson and the uncertainly now facing the CIA nominee Gina Haspel.

BRIGGS: CNN has also learned documents provided to Congress failed to show Pruitt obtained the federally required waivers he needed to fly first class. Instead, the EPA provided investigators with two memos, according to the House Oversight Committee. CNN obtained the memos which say people recognize Pruitt and the claim, the occasional lashing out from passengers could endanger his life if he flies in coach. The EPA spokesman says the agency is providing the necessary documents.

All right. Residents are riding out the uncertainty in Hawaii. Just look at this. Lava just swallowing a car. Stunning images. The governor just told us toxic gasses is a concern. What makes the eruption of the Kilauea so different?

We'll hear from the USGS, next.



[04:47:15] GOV. DAVID IGE (D), HAWAII (via telephone): Typically, an eruption occurs miles away from residents and the toxic gasses have 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 vent is very harmful and dangerous. But it does dissipate quickly. Once it gets into the air.

And so, we have been encouraging residents to stay away from the vents, you know, to watch and monitor activity and really be prepared to evacuate if something should change or the status of the volcano should change.


BRIGGS: Hawaii's Governor David Ige joined us earlier talking about the sense of urgency, as visitors should stay away from the erupting Kilauea volcano on the big island. Lava flows have eased for now, but lava flow is very unpredictable and toxic gasses, the governor talked about, leaking in more populated areas. Dozens of structures are destroyed. The danger of earthquakes and eruptions could last for months.

ROMANS: Let's bring in Victoria Avery, associate program coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program. She joins us by phone from Sterling, Virginia.

Thank you so much for joining us. Now, we know that there seems to be a pause in the eruption at this point, but temporary. The authorities there are saying please make sure, this could resume anytime, you've got have to be on guard. What can you tell us?

VICTORIA AVERY, ASSOCIATE PROGRAM COORDINATOR, USGS (via telephone): That's very true. I think -- good morning. I think the emergency managers described the situation quite accurately.

Kilauea has a history of erupting in spurts and it's a very complex plumbing system under the volcanoes, where you can have lava travelling all up and down that zones that Leilani Estates is on. So, we have been very busy monitoring the volcano and providing warnings to the emergency managers so that they can handle evacuations and protect people from (INAUDIBLE).

BRIGGS: We are seeing dramatic images, Victoria, particularly lava eating a car, as it destroys everything in its wake. Is there anything you can do to stop lava flow or remove it once it's hardened?

AVERY: I think people have used bulldozers to remove it on occasion. They've used bulldozers to try to create berms to divert the lava flow around. Some people I understand have a philosophy that this is Pele, the volcano goddess, and where she goes, you just let her go.

ROMANS: This Kilauea volcano has been erupting continually since 1983.

[04:50:00] Pele, the volcano goddess, has been at work.

What makes this week so different?

AVERY: This one is because, as the governor said, there are people situated right on top of the risk zone. So, I think, you know that the big broad shield volcanoes are composed at central summit crater and Kilauea is about 2.2 miles. And you have the risk zones of radiating of it.

Magma can come up and migrate down the risk zones. You get earthquakes happening with the volcanic activity. Volcanic activity can cause the earthquakes. It can by pushing out, the magma coming up and pushing on the sides of the volcanoes. It can make the lava change paths. That's what makes it rather unpredictable, that plus the complex plumbing system in the risk zone is what makes where the lava will come out unpredictable.

Fortunately, you can predict in short-term because the magma activity creates the earthquakes that we can pick up with our seismometers and it causes the ground to swell or deflate. We can pick with our definition instruments. So, we gave the residents of Leilani Estates four days of warnings that something was coming.

BRIGGS: Obviously, these images that get our attention. But can you talk about the toxic gasses and how big a concern they are and how long the folks could potentially be dealing with this?

AVERY: Oh, yes. As the governor said this could go on for months in one location, and basically, volcanoes like Kilauea with CO2, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide and sulfur dioxide in particular can react with particles in the air and water and oxygen to become sulfuric acid and that's really a health hazard, especially when people breath that in, especially if they have respiratory tract that are already compromised, if they have asthma or something.

It's a big problem at summit of Kilauea. You don't want to be close to it. That is why people are wearing gas masks when they go in to check on their belongings.

ROMANS: Victoria, fascinating that you said you gave the residents of that neighborhood four days of warnings because you could see from your monitoring and testing sort of what was going to happen next. Tell us a bit about the process and whether you'll be able to warn people again if these fissures start to activate again.

AVERY: Right. So, we have 12 fissures in various stages of eruption with lava or gas coming out of them. And we have five seismometers in that general area. We have about 72, 75 seismometers all over the big island. This big island is very well instrumented and it is through our instruments that we are constantly 24/7 monitoring seismicity, the gasses at the summit of Kilauea, but the seismicity and the ground deformation at Leilani Estates and the whole Kilauea volcano really.

And we also do over-flights that we should check on the visual. So, this is 24/7 right now. We have people manning 24/7. When there is not an event like this, we have an automated alarm wake somebody up to let them know when it actually has risen so they can check it out themselves.

ROMANS: Victoria Avery from the U.S. Geological Survey, thank you so much, of Volcano Hazards Program.

Really fascinating to get a look at what she calls a complex plumbing system underneath there that is causing all this trouble.

Thank you so much for getting up early for us. I know you guys are working a lot.

AVERY: Happy to be here.

ROMANS: Thank you.

AVERY: Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program suddenly at risk once again. More on the proposed spending cuts, next.


[04:58:25] ROMANS: Just about the top of the hour. Let's get a check on CNNMoney this Tuesday morning.

The White House wants to slash spending and it's targeting the Children's Health Insurance Program. Officials say the administration will ask Congress for $15 billion in spending cuts, $7 billion will come from the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer slamming President Trump and Republican for, quote, going after health care dollars that millions of children rely on. But officials promised these cuts won't hurt the program, $5 billion come from accounts that expired last year. In fact, most of the $15 billion are unspent funds and years old programs.

The proposed cuts will not touch the recent $1.3 trillion spending bill that Trump was so angry about. Remember the price tag. He was furious with Congress for passing that thing. He said he would never pass something like that again.

After the fact, he is targeting spending. He wants to roll back some of the big spending. Congress does not want to reopen negotiations on the bipartisan deal. Congress has 45 days to consider the package the White House is proposing. The administration hopes for a vote before July.

Global stocks mixed today as investors wait on Trump's Iran decision. They are betting the president will abandon that deal, keeping oil prices near a four-year high. Energy stocks rose yesterday, helping Wall Street close higher.

So did Apple, hitting an all-time high. Apple shares at a record, and closer to this amazing milestone, the first company to hit $1 trillion in market value. Apple is now worth more than $940 billion with this last rally.

Comcast could crash Disney's plans for Fox. But it's waiting on another big media deal to decide. In December, Fox agreed to sell Disney its entertainment company for $52 billion.

Now, "Reuters" reports Comcast may try to break the deal, preparing a $60 billion all cash offer. But Comcast hasn't decided yet.