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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman To Resign Over Assault Allegations; Trump Teases Iran Nuclear Deal; Key Primary Races To Watch Today; Hawaii Governor: Stay Away From Danger Zone. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:27] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: It's decision day for President Trump on the Iran nuclear deal. All signs say he'll leave the agreement. How would Iran respond and could the U.S. pay the price?

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

BRIGGS: And, Hawaii's governor says visitors should stay away from the erupting Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. We'll tell you activity has slowed, at least for now, but officials are taking no chances. Just stunning images as this lava eats everything in its wake.

BRIGGS: Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Breaking overnight, the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was a champion of the #MeToo movement, forced to resign after several women came forward with allegations of assault. Schneiderman's resignation came just hours after a report in "The New Yorker" which featured stories from four women, two of them on the record.

BRIGGS: Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam told the magazine they had been romantically involved Schneiderman, but they said the violence was non-consensual, 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 tapped.

ROMANS: The attorney general firmly denied the claims saying in a tweet he had 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 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- they 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 or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office's work at this critical time."

BRIGGS: Schneiderman had been a rising star in Democratic politics and a vocal advocate for the #MeToo movement. He brought legal action against film mogul Harvey Weinstein and the Trump administration.

One woman who came to Schneiderman's defense was his ex-wife Jennifer Cunningham, saying in a statement the allegations are completely inconsistent with the man I know.

A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney says the office has opened an investigation into Schneiderman. Ongoing conversations about who will replace him.

ROMANS: All right, that bombshell overnight.

Today, looking forward, 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.

Let's get more on the potential impact of a U.S. pullout and the view from Europe.

I want to go live to London right now and bring in CNN's Nic Robertson who, of course, knows this deal inside and out.

And the Europeans, they're expecting the United States is going to abandon this thing.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, that's the mood at the moment. They know that President Trump is listening to them when they say we agree with you.

We agree that Iran is a destabilizing influence in the region, that its ballistic missiles are a problem, that it's -- that there should be tougher -- there should be tougher inspections on this current deal. That there should be -- you know, there should be more constraints put on Iran. There's agreement on that.

But what the Europeans are saying is don't scrap the current deal of the JCPOA. Continue with that until we have something better on the table. We've even heard that from the U.N. secretary-general.

The concern in Europe, and no doubt in the United States as well is that if these sanctions are not waived -- if the president does pull out of the deal this will impact Iran's ability to sell oil. That could drive up the price of oil on global markets and therefore, we could all be facing increased prices at the gas pump. That's a concern. The Iranians -- today, the presidency of Iran seems to be downplaying it, saying whatever the sanctions, we can continue to do business. Iran's Central Bank chief, who would be impacted -- his bank would be impacted if the waiver is not renewed, has said that this won't affect the economy of Iran.

But on the other hand, we've also heard from Iranian leaders saying that they could increase their uranium enrichment which could really shorten the pathway to a nuclear weapon. A major concern right there.

A concern of European allies, as well, that this could exacerbate tensions in the Middle East.

Also, how will this play for President Trump negotiating a nuclear deal with Kim Jong Un? That's all just weeks away, we understand.

And at the same time, John Kerry, who was an architect of the deal, talking with his former partner on that deal -- the Iranian foreign minister -- trying to find out how and what can be done to save the deal. President Trump has criticized Kerry's moves in that area.

[05:35:12] ROMANS: Nic, there's argument from some people inside Iran that if the U.S. puts sanctions back on them it wouldn't affect their economy. It's sort of impossible, right? I mean, if the U.S. is sanctioning Iran it's oil industry basically could really be limited, right, because other players around the world -- the global oil market would not be able to do business with Iran.

ROBERTSON: Sure. I mean, there were two sets of sanctions. The ones -- the ones that would be waived for the 12th -- that begin -- or the rollover for the waiver day is the 12th of May.


ROBERTSON: That's when the Central Bank -- if you impact the Central Bank, that affects Iran's ability to sell oil. That means anyone in the European Union nations who buy that oil, as well as China -- anyone who buys that oil could then be in violation of business agreements -- trade agreements with the United States.

You also have other businesses who European -- who European countries are doing business with in Iran. That rollover for that waiver would be the 11th of July. That would, again, potentially cross lines for the United States if European companies continue to do business with those new deals --


ROBERTSON: -- that they've got with Iranian companies. All of them on the table.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: All right.

Meanwhile, primary season for the 2018 midterms into full swing today. Voters head to the polls in four states -- Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. Those are all states President Trump won in 2016 and that anti-establishment wave will really be put to the test today.

Much of the focus, though, on West Virginia. Republicans are openly agonizing about the possibility of this man, Don Blankenship, winning the primary.

ROMANS: 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 went to 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." He has gone after McConnell's wife, the Transportation secretary Elaine Chao, referring to her father as a "China person."

BRIGGS: All that.

Joining us now from Washington, "CNN POLITICS" multi-platform editor Brenna Williams.

ROMANS: Good morning, Brenna.

BRIGGS: Good morning, Brenna.


BRIGGS: Several racist statements, less than a year removed from prison for a mining accident that killed 29 people. He's called the Senate majority leader "Cocaine Mitch."

If he wins today, which polls show he is right there, what would it mean for the president, who tweeted against him? What would it mean for the Republican brand of politics?

WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, this is a really important state. Every seat in the -- in the Senate in the 2018 election is a make or break -- could be a make or break for the Republican Party and the balance of power.

They really -- this should be an easy win for Republicans. Trump won the state by something like 40 points in 2016. But if you're putting Blankenship up as your nominee you're not really putting up your best people, right?

So it could be good news for Joe Manchin but it's not really going to be good news for the Republican Party, I don't think.

BRIGGS: You say this should be an easy win. West Virginia is a bit complicated though.

I mean, a Republican hasn't won a Senate seat there since 1959. They did -- Trump did win by 40 points in the presidential election but this is a complicated state in terms of their politics, isn't it?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely, and they've been -- well, Joe Manchin has been trying to -- and always has been a very centrist nominee and a centrist voter in the Senate. But, the Republicans really could stand to win here.

I mean, as you said, all four of the states that are voting today were won by Trump in 2016. This should be easy. This should be a really good chance for Republicans to win here but there are other candidates, right, that could be a lot stronger against Manchin in 2018.

It is a complicated state. All politics is local. But when you've got a 40-point win --


WILLIAMS: -- coming out of the last presidential election, you should have some momentum and this could be a place where Republicans could stop the Democratic momentum that we've seen in these special elections.

But I don't think Blankenship's their guy.

BRIGGS: Manchin voting for Pompeo. It looks like he'll vote for Gina Haspel for CIA director. So getting more in line with some Trump candidates --


BRIGGS: -- as time gets closer to the midterms.

ROMANS: And we've seen sort of the anti-establishment GOP making some breakthroughs, both in West Virginia and Indiana.

Let's move on to Rudy Giuliani, who has continued to be sort of the president's voice out there and maybe not with a handshake to the White House operation here.

And a senior White House official telling CNN I think this will burn out, this person told us, calling Giuliani's public representation of the president "a little charade. Either he'll change his behavior or he's not going to do it very long."

[05:40:05] What do you make of the role Giuliani is playing here and whether it's a distraction or it's the president's voice breaking through?

WILLIAMS: Well, I've been really fascinated and I think a lot of us have been by Giuliani's kind of media blitz he's done almost immediately upon joining Trump's legal team. I think it's actually kind of been an interesting window into the kind of inner workings and the conversations going on in the White House and kind of what their strategy is.

You have to remember, Trump doesn't have a communications director right now so this might be us seeing Trump's idea of what he wants his communications to be -- unfiltered, untethered, and with Rudy's personal brand on it.

It's been really interesting in the things that we've heard, the back and forth, he's got to rein it in. He's got Michael Cohen getting involved. It's been really fascinating. It will be really interesting to see if they continue to let him go on this kind of media tour.

BRIGGS: All right.

Yesterday at the White House, interesting. Melania Trump unveiling her "Be Best" platform and taking some heat --

ROMANS: I keep wanting to say be the best.


ROMANS: The best.

BRIGGS: 'The' wouldn't have hurt.

WILLIAMS: I thought it was bold to unveil it on a Monday because how many of us are at our best on a Monday?

ROMANS: That's true.

BRIGGS: Certainly not either of us. I don't know about you, Brenna.

But let's hear from the first lady on what she wants to accomplish in the White House.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: As we all know, social media can be both positively and negatively effect on our children. But, too often, it's used in negative ways.

When children positive online behaviors early on, social media can be used in productive ways and can effect positive change.


BRIGGS: So she wants to impact general well-being, fight opioids, and the big one there is cyberbullying. You know, does she open herself up to criticism because she's married to arguably --


BRIGGS: -- the cyberbully in chief?

WILLIAMS: I mean, she certainly has opened herself up to criticism. A lot of people are stepping back and saying wait a minute, your husband, the president, is not exactly kind to people -- a lot of people on Twitter. But, I mean, the issue, I think, is bigger than that, right? It's bigger than what the president's saying. It's bigger than what any of us say on Twitter or receive on Twitter.

You know, it's about the kids. You know, hokey, but --

ROMANS: Right.


WILLIAMS: I mean, these kids -- kids are cruel, kids are mean. Kids were mean when I was a kid.

And, you know, it's -- the issue is bigger than all of us, right?


WILLIAMS: It's promoting despite what might be going on around you or in front of all of us -- promoting being kind to other people. And I -- you know, I respect that.

BRIGGS: Her favorability, though, skyrocketing -- 57 percent according to a new CNN poll and across all Republicans, Democrats, and Independents as well.

ROMANS: Some people thinking maybe she is talking directly to her husband.

BRIGGS: Perhaps. She's entitled to her issue.

ROMANS: It could be that she is speaking to him.

WILLIAMS: Set a good example, you know?

ROMANS: All right. Brenna, nice to see you this morning. Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. Have a good day.

ROMANS: It's Tuesday so you can be the best today. You can be the Brenna best today.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely -- yes, it's Tuesday.

ROMANS: Be Brenna best -- it's Tuesday.

BRIGGS: Best-ish.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

BRIGGS: Right?

ROMANS: Forty-two minutes after the hour.

Residents riding out the uncertainty in Hawaii as lava from the Kilauea volcano destroys more buildings and changes more lives. We'll tell you what the governor there told us about the toxic gases in those neighborhoods.


[05:47:27] ROMANS: All right, it's that time of the morning. Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this 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 today. Now, $7 billion would come from the Children's Health Insurance Program -- or CHIP.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, as you might expect, slamming President Trump and Republicans for quote "going after health care dollars that millions of children rely on." But officials dispute that. They promise these cuts will not hurt that program.

Five billion comes from accounts they say expired last year. In fact, most of the $15 billion is unspent funds in year's old programs.

Now, the proposed cuts will not touch that big, huge recent $1.3 trillion spending bill. Remember that? Trump signed it but after the fact, he was angry about that price tag. He demanded cuts to the spending after the fact.

Congress doesn't want to reopen negotiations on that bipartisan deal. It has 45 days now to consider this different package from the president. The administration hopes for a vote before July.

Global stocks mixed right now. Investors are waiting on that Trump Iran decision. They're betting the president's going to abandon that deal and that's keeping oil prices near a 4-year high.

Energy stocks rose yesterday, helping Wall Street close higher.

Apple hit an all-time high yesterday. It's now closer to a milestone -- the first company to hit a trillion dollars in market value. Apple is worth more than $940 billion at this stock price.

Comcast could crash Disney's plans for Fox but it's waiting on another big media deal before it decides. In December, Fox agreed to sell its entertainment companies to Disney for $52 billion. Now, Reuters says Comcast may try to break the deal with a $60 billion offer.

Comcast hasn't decided yet. It is waiting on the lawsuit -- the U.S. lawsuit blocking AT&T's bid for Time Warner, the parent of CNN. Sources say Comcast will go after Fox if that AT&T deal survives.

The largest U.S. retailer is taking on the opioid epidemic -- big story here. Walmart tightening its policies on opioids, allowing pharmacies to fill first-time prescriptions for only seven days. The CDC says that people who take opioids for seven days or less have less of a chance of becoming addicted.

Walmart will also limit how big the dosages are.

This is Walmart's latest effort to fight the opioid epidemic. In January, it introduced a way to safely destroy leftover opioids at home. There are more than 5,300 Walmarts in the U.S.

You know what doctors say. Doctors say how many you prescribe, only a few pills. For how long --

[05:50:01] BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- only a few days. And that the pharmacies can really be aware of -- you know, the big dosages -- the big bottles of pills. Don't do that.

BRIGGS: Great news. All right.

Ahead, love him or hate him, LeBron James headed back to a familiar place, his eighth straight conference finals. More on the Cavs dominant sweep of the Raptors, next.


BRIGGS: All right.

Officials in Hawaii warning the public to stay away from the hazardous volcanic activity. That seems obvious, right? Dozens of structures destroyed around the erupting Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.

Hawaii's Gov. David Ige joined EARLY START in our last hour. He told us that lava is dangerously unpredictable and told us why toxic gases being emitted are more dangerous than usual.

[05:55:12] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DAVID IGE (D), HAWAII: Typically, an eruption occurs miles and miles away from any resident and the toxic gases have lots of time to escape. These fissures are in the middle of the subdivision and the sulfur dioxide and other gases clearly, at the event, is very harmful and dangerous but it does dissipate quite quickly once it gets into the air.

And so, we've been encouraging residents to stay away from the event -- 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: The governor also said homeowners with fire insurance should be covered if their homes are destroyed by lava because they first caught fire.

Leilani Estates residents will be allowed to check on their homes from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. local time.

The good news, officials say volcanic activity has eased for a bit right now.

ROMANS: But could resume at any point --

BRIGGS: Any time, yes.

ROMANS: -- at any point so be careful.

A senior White House official says the Trump administration is backing Jeff Sessions as House conservatives 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 acknowledge frustration with the DOJ over records.

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

BRIGGS: House Speaker Paul Ryan not commenting on House Intel Committee chairman Devin Nunes' threat 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.

ROMANS: Disturbing new allegations against the U.S. Olympic Committee. A federal lawsuit accuses the committee and USA Taekwondo of knowingly participating in sex trafficking by allowing abuse by an athlete and his brother, who is his coach.

Four women who trained with gold medalist Steven Lopez and his brother Jean accuse them of assault and rape.

The Lopez brothers did not respond to CNN's request for comment. They denied the allegations last year.

In response to the lawsuit, the U.S. Olympic Committee says it is aggressively exploring and implementing new ways to enhance athletes' safety and prevent and respond to abuse.

BRIGGS: LeBron James and company putting an exclamation point on their series sweep of the Toronto Raptors, winning game four 128 to 93 in Cleveland last night. LeBron led the way, once again -- 29 points -- not pictured here. There he is.

Cleveland will now play the winner of the Boston Celtics-Philadelphia Sixers series in the Eastern Conference finals -- the team's fourth straight trip to the conference finals.

LeBron's eighth straight conference finals overall. The man is unstoppable.

ROMANS: All right.

Now let's take a look at your weather this morning. Make sure your A.C. is in good working order. A very warm spring week ahead for much of the U.S.

Here's Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

Yes, spring's certainly upon us here. Really, it begins to feel like summer across portions of the country but really, the broad theme of all of this is the warm weather to very hot temperatures across portions of the central states.

In fact -- the clicker's on a different router because we're recording and this is on -- Andrew, correct?


ROMANS: Oh, I hate it when that happens. The clicker's like --

BRIGGS: Oh, boy. It's a case of the Mondays on a Tuesday, my friend.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. The clicker works on NEW DAY. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: It will. I'm Dave Briggs. We'll see you tomorrow.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What do you think is going to happen to that agreement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be a fundamental mistake because the Iran nuclear agreement has achieved what it was meant to achieve.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rudy Giuliani and the president are kind of freelancing here.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He certainly feels that he's an added member to his outside special counsel.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will never back down from supporting a woman's right to control her own body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottom line, four women accusing this man of physical abuse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he did the right thing by resigning. (END VIDEO CLIP)