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New York Attorney General Resigns; Announcement on Iran Deal; Trump Pushes Away from Blankenship; Cavaliers and Capitals Advance. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Must re-enforce.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, I don't think you get called Pollyanna very often. But, I mean, look, man, I -- why would you look for the high road in this particular political environment. Democrats are -- have been -- tried to be very consistent when members of their own have been called out to draw a contrast. But there is not a lot of indication that this administration, unfortunately, likes to take the high road, particularly when it comes to political --

CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE) is all I'm saying. This was a layup.

AVLON: And to be fair, this -- Schneiderman has been a very tough, constant critic of this administration. So maybe they're glorying in the (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: But you could take him down by lifting women up in the defense of their right to (INAUDIBLE).

AVLON: One (INAUDIBLE) thing, and yet I don't think to lift up is a move they've got a lot of muscle memory on right now.

There's another issue, too, though, in addition to obviously clearly this is a conversation we need to continue as a country, there's a tendency about politicians right now to try to draw a big wall between the personal and private lives. I think that's naive at certain point. Teddy Roosevelt, former governor of New York and president, used to say, you cannot take on powerful enemies if you are vulnerable in your private life. I think that -- we would do well to remember that.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John Avlon, Margaret Talev, thank you very much for the conversation. We'll continue it throughout the program.

And coming up in our next hour, we will talk with the reporter who broke this huge Schneiderman story. Ronan Farrow will be here with us.

CUOMO: All right, another big story that we're still following. We're now at about three dozen homes destroyed in Hawaii. Volcanic activity subsiding, but just for the moment. They believe that the threat still exists. We'll explain why. And we have to talk about the fate of the people affected. A lot of them don't have the insurance they need. If they're destroyed, they may be all alone. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:35:41] CUOMO: What are we seeing in President Trump's approval rating? Well, it's holding steady, at least in a new CNN poll. Forty- one percent approve of the job he's doing. Fifty-three percent disapprove. Now, those numbers are not great, but they are about the same as they were at the end of March. And, if anything, the president has shown remarkable resilience, OK? On issues the numbers are like this, 52 percent approve on the economy, up four points. This is the first time he's actually topped 50 percent in over a year. Forty-two percent like his handling of foreign affairs. He hasn't been above 40 since April, 2017. Foreign trade, he's up five points, 43 percent approval rating. The immigration numbers jumped four points as well since February. Forty percent now approve.

CAMEROTA: All right, CNN learning that documents given to Congress by the EPA fail to demonstrate administrator Scott Pruitt received federally required waivers that would have been needed to fly first class on the taxpayer dime. They also showed limited justification for his upgrades. Instead of the waivers, the EPA provided lawmakers with memos which were also obtained by CNN and one memo says that Pruitt was upgraded to, quote, avoid lashing out from passengers that could endanger his life in coach.

CUOMO: Lava and toxic gas continue to threaten residents on Hawaii's big island. All right, you're looking at time lapsed video, obviously. But that lava just consumed a car. Remember, you know, that is melting rock that's going on there, all right. I mean this is a very unique danger. That is lava spewing right next to a house. Anything that it touches is going to burn up instantaneously.

Three dozen structures have been destroyed. Officials say volcanic activity has subsided at all 12 fissures for now. But just because the fire and the molten lava is gone, there's still all this hazardous fumes that they have to deal with. People have been sent to the hospital for it. Also people were arrested for ignoring commands to stop at a lava barricade.

CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, President Trump will announce a very big decision on Iran today. Is there any chance that he will not pull out of the nuclear deal? What should we expect? That's next.


[06:42:02] CUOMO: All right, this is going to be a big deal if this happens today. The president is expected to announce what could be the most important national security decision of his presidency. I mean that's what Iran means to the United States. And he is expected to end a waiver of sanctions against Iran. Now, U.S. allies are asking him not to do this because if he does, it will basically break the historic nuclear deal.

Let's discuss. And CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger and CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. Do I have it right, David, this is a two-step process. First the

president would say, all right, we're back in on sanctions, we're going to choke off their money, that would then set up a move on the joint resolution itself. Is that right? Is that what we're looking at in terms of process?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's right. The -- the suspension of sanctions is the U.S. commitment in return for the series of commitments that Iran made in July of 2015 when this deal was struck by John Kerry and President Obama. And the deal essentially says that while Iran agrees to ship 97 percent of its fuel out of the country, which it did, and not produce new nuclear fuel, the U.S. and the other members of the agreement, which included France, Germany, Britain, the EU, Russia, China would not impose sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activity.

And that's essentially been the way things have stood. The president has renewed that suspension of sanctions reluctantly four or five times and the last time he said I'm not doing this again unless we strike a new deal.

CAMEROTA: So, John Kirby, if at 2:00 p.m. that's what happens and the deal for all intents and purposes is dead, I guess, without that, that major underpinning, what are the consequences?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, the worst consequences are that Iran will say America is now not keeping their commitments into the deal, so therefore the deal is null and void and we're going to pull out as well and begin to now enrich uranium at higher levels, bring centrifuges back online and start building a bomb. And that's the worst case.

I don't know that we're going to get there today, though, Alisyn. I suspect that he probably will say he's not going to waive those sanctions anymore, but it may take some time for those sanctions to come into effect. And I think you may still see some flurry of activity by our European partners, some of those partners that David mentioned, trying to come up with some sort of desperate side agreements to keep Trump from completely implementing those sanctions. It will take some time before that happens.

CUOMO: Well, look, we get the brinkmanship play by Donald Trump. We heard from Boris Johnson, who lines up as an ally for him in the U.K., saying don't throw the baby out with the bath water. But then you have the argument, David, about, well, why is this the right move for the president in the first place? And his argument is, because, in seven years, they're going to be able to build a bomb anyway.

Now, there's pushback on that. "The Washington Post" gives it four Pinocchios. The International Atomic Energy Agency has its own review methods in there that are in place even without this deal. Is that legitimate argument, in seven years this deal is done and they're a moment away from a bomb?

SANGER: It's not accurate to say that that would be the case in seven years. In seven years they can begin some more research and production of centrifuges, but they can't put them into use.

It is a legitimate argument, and the biggest (INAUDIBLE) agreement, which the president has sort of come around to embrace, is that at year 15, basically around 2030, year 15 of the agreement, the Iranians are then free to go enrich uranium, reprocess plutonium. They're restricted to doing it to peaceful purposes that, of course, people would not trust them not to go off into the bomb-making program.

So the question is this, are you better to break it now and try to create some kind of new deal because you think Iran is weak and will be forced to sign a new deal, or are you better, as Boris Johnson and as Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, and as Chancellor Merkel in Germany said, to say, hey, there's no emergency right now. They're complying with everything. Let this play out for the next ten to 12 years and negotiate a new deal once you've got a new Iranian regime in place, which might be an easier one to work with. But don't create an emergency where there isn't one. And that's essentially the philosophical shift.

Now, to President Trump and to his advisers, particularly John Bolton, to some degree Secretary Pompeo, this has never really been about the nuclear program. It is also about stopping Iran from all of its other malign activities around the Middle East. That isn't covered in the deal. They think it should be.

CAMEROTA: And also, Boris Johnson points out that what's the other alternative? I mean I'll just let you listen to him himself. He did say don't throw the baby out with the bath water, but then what comes next? So listen to him.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: The president has a legitimate point. He set a challenge for the world. We think that what you can do is be tougher on Iran, address the concerns of the president and not throw the baby out with the bath water, not junk a deal because, as I say, Plan B does not seem to me to be particularly well developed at this stage.


CAMEROTA: What's Plan B, John Kirby?

KIRBY: I think what he's referring to again, these side agreements that the Europeans have been trying to negotiate with Americans to try to address these concerns that Trump has with the Iran deal. David already mentioned them. One is their malign activities in supporting terrorism, the sunset clauses, and the fact that he doesn't think the inspection regime is significantly strong as it should be. I think that's what Boris Johnson is talking about.

But right now, you know, there is no Plan B because they haven't been able to agree on any of these side agreements. Plus, the Iranians have made very clear that it doesn't matter what else the Euros might negotiate. They're not interested in renegotiating the deal itself. The deal for them, it stands as put and they want to keep it going. CAMEROTA: David Sanger, John Kirby, thank you.

KIRBY: All right, voters are heading to the polls today in Trump country. West Virginia has a Senate candidate named Don Blankenship who brags he's Trumpier than Trump. There are primaries that are about who can grab the Trump coalition. Why is the president telling voters to reject Blankenship? A primary preview, next.


[06:52:41] CAMEROTA: It is primary day in four states today, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia. In an extraordinary move, President Trump is pushing voters to stay away from one Republican candidate in West Virginia's Senate primary because he says he doesn't think he'll be able to beat the Democratic incumbent in November.

CNN's Joe Johns is live in Charleston, West Virginia, where the polls are now open. So this is a crazy race. What are you seeing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think you can call it a crazy race, Alisyn. This is Mount Calgary Baptist Church in Charleston, West Virginia. It's supposed to be Trump country. President Trump won the state of West Virginia by 40 percentage points.

But the test now is what does Trump country mean? Many Republican establishment people in Washington, D.C. have suggested the candidate that many people think could win this race ought not to win this race. His name is Don Blankenship. He is a former coal executive here in the state. Also an individual with a very colorful past.

But what's most important in this race is the fact that many people say he's used language that could even be described as racist. For example, describing Asians as China persons. A lot of concern in Washington, D.C. that won't fly very well. Many comparisons, of course, to the race in Alabama not too long ago.

So the question, of course, what's going to happen with Republican voters here? Will they choose Don Blankenship? The president of the United States has told them they ought not do that. Not because of the merits, but because he can't win, the president says.

Back to you.

CUOMO: That's an important distinction, Joe. Thank you. People can go online. They can watch Blankenship's ads if they want. And, that's right, the president said, don't vote for him because he can't win, not because of what he says is objectionable.

The Cleveland Cavaliers following the lead of the king. LeBron James has taken his team to another conference final. The "Bleacher Report" is next.


[06:58:49] CUOMO: For the third straight year, LeBron James and the Cavs eliminate the Raptors from the playoffs, but they were big underdogs this year. Lindsay Czarniak has more in the "Bleacher Report."

This was not supposed to happen, but the king.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: : And it's not done yet, yes. But the truth is LeBron's domination has been so clear. You guys saw it over the weekend. "SNL" devoted an entire skit to the other Cavaliers. It was hilarious. But it's also a narrative LeBron wants no part of. Last night he showed that. He got his teammates involved in a big way, putting an end to the Cavalier's series against the Raptors. And he shredded Toronto's defense. True. He scored 29 points. But he wasn't the only one with big impact. All the Cavs starters put up double digits. But the 128-93 blowout win advances them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth straight season where they will face the winner of the Sixers/Celtics series.

And speaking of closing out a series, the Washington Capitals ended a 20-year drought last night beating the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins to advance to the eastern conference final after being knocked out of the playoffs the past two seasons by the Penguins. The Caps getting their revenge thanks to a game-winning goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov in overtime. The Caps win 2-1. And Alex Ovechkin, arguably the best player in all of hockey, advances to the conference final for the first time ever in his career. They will now face top seeded Tampa Bay.

A huge night for Washington.

CAMEROTA: Sounds like it.

CZARNIAK: You can tell that's where I'm from.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I noticed the enthusiasm.


CUOMO: Been waiting a long time.