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Cohen's Attorney Provides Secret Recording to CNN; GOP Lashes Out at Aid to Farmers; Mega Millions in San Jose; Singer Demi Lovato Hospitalized; Wildfires in Greece Kill At Least 79. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 25, 2018 - 04:30   ET




[04:30:23] MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of --


COHEN: No, no, no, no.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A CNN exclusive, audio of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. Despite past denials, it seems the president knew about a possible hush payment to a playboy playmate.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Twelve billion dollars in emergency aid for farmers caught in the trade war. Republican lawmakers are lashing out at what one calls a Soviet type of economy.

ROMANS: And someone in San Jose is $522 million richer this morning, before taxes. One jackpot winner of last night's mega million drawing.

You know my advice as always, don't plan on how you're going to spend the money, plan on how you're going to grow the money. Because 500 million bucks, that's a lot of money.

BRIGGS: Don't buy my boat? My giant yacht?

ROMANS: You can buy a little boat.

BRIGGS: OK. Little boat, San Jose resident.

ROMANS: Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans. Buy a company, don't buy a boat.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, 4:31 Eastern Time.

The top trending story on Twitter right now, #cohentapes. Why? Michael Cohen's flip on Donald Trump is all but complete.

A CNN exclusive breaking overnight: the attorney for Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer has provided eye-opening audio to CNN. During a discussion about the campaign, candidate Trump and Cohen discussed buying the rights to a playboy model's story of her alleged affair with Mr. Trump years earlier.

ROMANS: Just before the election, the Trump campaign denied any knowledge of a planned payoff to Karen McDougal, but the September 2016 reporting seems to confirm Mr. Trump knew at the time about the proposal.

Listen as Cohen tells Trump about his plans to set up a company to purchase the story rights from American media run by Trump ally David Pecker.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that -- I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up --

TRUMP: Give it to me.

COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

TRUMP: So what are we going to do?

COHEN: Yes. And it's all the stuff, all the stuff, because, you know, you never know where that company -- you never know where he's going to be.

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing, which will be --

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) What financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay --

TRUMP: We won't pay with cash?

COHEN: No, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.

TRUMP: Check --


BRIGGS: The audio at the end is muddled and unclear whether Mr. Trump suggests paying with cash or not paying. The president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has said no payment ever came from his client. Giuliani tells the "Washington Post" it sounds like Cohen is explaining something to Trump that he doesn't understand, and now, Giuliani disputes that the recording shows Mr. Trump knew about the McDougal deal at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY (via telephone): I don't think anyone can suggest that this represents anything where the president did anything wrong. I question the strategy of doing this, of trying to make a tape say what it doesn't say, or of putting out a tape in which you're kind of proud of the fact that you're a lawyer taping your client, and then thinking you could cooperate with the government? You know to cooperate with the government, you've got to have credibility.


ROMANS: Cohen's decision to have his lawyer, Lanny Davis, provide the tape to CNN highlights the breakdown in a relationship that once saw Cohen say he would take a bullet for the president.


LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: This is about honesty versus false disparagement of Michael Cohen. Why is Giuliani out falsely disparaging Michael Cohen? Because they fear him.

What do they fear, Chris? Why am I representing him? They fear that he has the truth about Donald Trump. He will some day speak the truth about Donald Trump.


ROMANS: CNN legal experts say the tape's release suggests Cohen's side believes it's time to stop playing nice.


LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a credibility campaign going on right now, and in a game of he said-he said, he wants to prevail. Particularly, although it seems to people that although the idea of whether he said cash or did he say check may seem like a very nominal matter, what he's trying to establish is there was some awareness on behalf of Donald Trump at the time.


BRIGGS: The timing of the recorded conversation provides more evidence Cohen was busy quashing embarrassing stories about his client before the election. That effort now a central focus of the investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

ROMANS: All right, President Trump offering $12 billion in aid to farmers hurt by his trade battles. It's like a band-aid on a broken leg. That's how one farmer and Trump supporter from Minnesota described it.

[04:35:01] And in Washington, major pushback from GOP lawmakers. Farm exports have been the prime target of retaliation from U.S. trading partners. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the government will help the hardest hit products -- soybeans, corn, dairy, pork -- partly using funds from a Depression-era program to boost farm prices. Perdue calls this a short-term solution, but Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says what farmers need in the long term are markets and opportunity, not government handouts.

Senator Ben Sasse is more critical, calling the aid gold crutches. He says tariffs and bailouts won't make America great. It's going to make it 1929 again. GOP lawmakers, with few exceptions, expressed concern about the plan. Senators John Thune, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, they say farmers need trade deals, not welfare.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: This $12 billion announced today suggests that this is going to be a longer-term problem than the president said, you know. Trade wars are easy to win, no, not so much.


ROMANS: The aid starts in September, just in time for elections. But the "Wall Street Journal" editorial board says that the president fixing a problem of his own making won't fool voters. Trump may think his farm tariff bailout will get Republicans past the November election, but sooner or later, bad economic policy becomes bad politics, a band-aid on a broken leg.


ROMANS: OK, President Trump drawing comparisons to George Orwell after turning his appearance at a VFW convention in Kansas City into a campaign rally. The president used the event to defend his tariffs on U.S. trading partners, telling his supporters, we don't apologize for America anymore. Then he took a page straight from Orwell's classic "1984."


TRUMP: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

Just stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.



BRIGGS: Afterward, the VFW released a statement saying it was, quote, disappointed in its members who booed the media, and that it is happy to have all of the networks attend as invited guests.

ROMANS: CNN has learned the White House is no longer releasing summaries of the president's phone calls with world leaders. That ends a longstanding practice by both Republican and Democratic administrations. The move is raising concerns that the only narrative on the president's calls will come from foreign governments. President Trump has had at least two calls with world leaders in the

last couple of weeks, with the White House confirming the calls took place after they were reported by foreign media. The administration will not say whether the suspension of presidential phone call summaries is temporary or permanent.

BRIGGS: This afternoon, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will publicly grill Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about President Trump's closed-door meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin. Details about that face-to-face encounter are still unknown nine days later. President Trump now insisting he is very concerned the Russians will be fighting hard to interfere in the upcoming election.

Here's the twist -- the president claims Russia will be pushing for the Democrats this time because they definitely don't want Trump. That, indeed, would be a dramatic reversal from 2016.


REPORTER: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did. Yes, I did.


ROMANS: The Russians have now accepted the president's invitation for that meeting in Washington at the end of this year.

In a just-released Quinnipiac poll, voters called the Helsinki summit a failure by nearly a 2-1 margin over those who felt it was a success. And when asked if the president was acting in the best interests of the United States, voters said no by a 54 percent-41 percent margin.

Ivanka Trump is shutting down her namesake fashion brand with plans to focus on public policy instead. Ivanka retains limited ownership of her clothing and accessory business. That reduced potential ethics violations while she serves as a senior adviser, but sources say that given those restrictions, Ivanka decided it didn't make sense to keep the company running. She tells CNN in a statement that she doesn't know when or if I will ever return to the business, but will focus on her work in Washington, quote, for the foreseeable future.

BRIGGS: Interesting.

Ivanka's brand has been a target for critics of her father's policy since the election. And while profits saw a bump in early 2017, they have since declined. Multiple retailers have dropped her brand in the past 18 months, citing poor sales, including Nordstrom's, Hudson Bay, and T.J.Maxx. Can't help but wonder about a future political run there, though.

A federal judge says he expects the government will meet tomorrow's deadline to reunify eligible immigrant families. Judge Dana Sabraw on Tuesday commended the government for its remarkable progress reuniting families but says he also finds the original policy that led to separations at the border deeply troubling.

[04:40:11] A Justice Department lawyer said just over 1,000 parents have been reunited with their children out of more than 1,600 eligible. Judge Sabraw said 914 parents found ineligible or whose status is undetermined likely cannot be reunited on time.

ROMANS: Meantime, a New York pizza delivery man who was turned over to immigration officials after he showed up to drop off food at a military base, he has been released from detention. A legal aid society lawyer who helped win Pablo Villavicencio's release say they are ecstatic to see him reunited with his girls.

BRIGGS: OK. Singer Demi Lovato awake and breathing this morning after an apparent drug overdose sent her to the hospital. The latest ahead on EARLY START.


[04:45:04] BRIGGS: Four-forty-four Eastern Time.

And the Georgia state lawmaker who was punk'd by Sacha Baron Cohen is resigning. Georgia's House speaker says Republican Rep Jason Spencer will leave office at the end of the month. Spencer came under fire after his appearance on Cohen's Showtime series, "Who is America?" where he repeatedly yelled the "N" word and dropped his pants.

Cohen in character as an Israeli antiterrorism expert, told Spencer those were effective ways to deter a terror attack. Spencer claims the show took advantage of him for profit and notoriety.

ROMANS: Officials say singer Demi Lovato is in stable condition in a Los Angeles hospital this morning after an apparent drug overdose. A representative for Lovato says in a statement she is awake and that her family thanks everyone for their love, prayers, and support. The 25-year-old singer has struggled with substance abuse.

Just weeks ago, she revealed in a new song that she had suffered a relapse. Lovato has spoken candidly about her use of cocaine and her addiction to alcohol as well as mental health issues and an eating disorder. Wish her well.

BRIGGS: A Trader Joe's assistant manager who died during a shoot-out on Saturday was killed by a police officer's bullet. Suspect Gene Evin Atkins crashed his car outside of the Los Angeles store and fired at officers while running inside. Police returned fire, accidentally hitting employee Melyda Corado as she was leaving the grocery store.


CHIEF MICHEL MOORE, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: I know that it is every officer's worst nightmare to harm an innocent bystander during a violent engagement. I spoke with both these officers this morning. They're devastated.


BRIGGS: The district attorney's office is charging Atkins with the murder of Melyda Corado.

ROMANS: Flooding worries today from the mid-Atlantic up into the Northeast. Numerous flash flooding watches and warnings. The National Weather Service calling it a dangerous, even life-threatening situation.

The latest now from meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


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

Yes, we're watching this area, really concerned because of the amount of rainfall that's already come down and notice the picture shows additional strong thunderstorms possible in very similar spots, across eastern portions of Pennsylvania, certainly into parts of the Delmarva as well as the flooding threat remaining very high. Upwards of 30 million impacted with this.

Again, in the last 48 hours, the rainfall totals in places such as Baltimore, work your way towards say Lancaster, around York, on into areas into eastern PA there have been as high as 8 or so inches in spots. So, certainly, the flooding concern with the saturated soil remains extremely high, and that's where the flood warnings are in place across eastern Pennsylvania, parts of southern New York as well as you go up into the higher elevations.

But here's what we're looking at as far as what is left over the next couple days. Notice New York City maybe gets about half an inch to an inch out of this the next couple days, but working out towards Boston, greater amounts possible. And once again, eastern Pennsylvania, an area of concern there with heavy rainfall, but with all that said, notice some of the coolest temperatures on the eastern half of the country are situated there because of all the rainfall into the upper 70s around the northeast -- guys.


BRIGGS: Pedram, thank you.

He may be leaving the Senate, but Utah's Orrin Hatch wants the world to know he's not dead, despite what the Internet says. Hatch on Monday posted a screen shot of his own Google search result that said he died on September 11th, 2017. The 84-year-old had some fun with the fatal error, telling Google, we might need to talk.

The longtime Republican also posted proof of life, Hatch in his office reading Salt Lake's "Deseret News." Google got the message, apologizing and fixing the result, telling the senator "you are very much alive and sporting a great sense of humor."

ROMANS: All right, we're still here. We have a great sense of humor about you know what, the mega millions jackpot. One person hit the jackpot. One winning ticket was sold in San Jose, California. California lottery officials say the golden ticket was purchased at Ernie's Liquors on South White Road in San Jose. The jackpot $522 mill.

Those winning numbers, if you're still checking or you're just crying about it, 1, 2, 4, 19, 29, and the mega ball, 20.

BRIGGS: If the winner took the lump sum, $308 million, do you recommend the lump sum?

ROMANS: I do, actually.

BRIGGS: You do?


BRIGGS: You don't recommend playing, but --

ROMANS: I know. I don't recommend playing, but if you do play, and I do recommend, think of how you're going to grow that money, not how you're going to spend the money. That's what I would say.

All right. "Hamilton" may head to the big screen, and studios could pay big for the hit Broadway show, next.


[04:54:15] ROMANS: North Korea appears ready to hand over what it says are the remains of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War, but a source tells CNN it's still not clear exactly when that will happen. The source also says North Koreans who collected the remains are said to be unhappy because there is no reward for their hard work.

U.S. officials are expecting the first group of service member remains to be returned from the Korean War on Armistice Day, July 27th.

BRIGGS: At least 79 people have died and more than 150 others have been injured in the worst wildfires to engulf Greece in more than a decade.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live for us in Greece reporting from the hard- hit seaside resort area of Mati.

Good morning, Melissa. What's the latest?


Well, we await the investigation that's begun to try and work out how these fires that spread so quickly and so intensely over such a wide area, causing so many deaths, could have started. After all, they began in three different fronts around Athens, so an investigation is under way to work out whether arson may have been involved.

But whether or not it was, the big story here, really, Dave, is climate change. We are talking about the record temperatures that left the earth here as parched as it was and that allowed those fires to spread as wildly as they did. We've had it throughout Europe throughout the summer, these extraordinarily high temperatures, wildfires as far north as Scandinavia.

And here in Greece, a country, after all, used to wildfires -- they've had them back in 2007, back in 2009 -- but this devastating, this deadly, is something quite new.

So, an investigation on one hand to work out why it began, and a lot of soul-searching to work out how precisely we could have gotten to this point. Seventy-nine people are now known to have lost their lives, but that, I'm afraid, is a death toll that is only likely to rise with so many people missing and the search-and-rescue operations still very much under way here in Mati, Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Melissa Bell live for us in Greece this morning. Thanks very much.

British investigators looking into the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter. They're checking a theory that multiple containers of the Soviet-era poison may have been left around the city of Salisbury. Sources tell CNN authorities are now looking into the possibility a drop team planted the Novichok and a second team carried out the attack on the ex-spy.

A third victim says he found a box wrapped in cellophane, which he opened, exposing him and his daughter to the Novichok. She died several days later. U.K. public health officials have urged the public to be wary of picking up any foreign objects you have not dropped yourself.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNNMoney this morning.

Global stocks mixed today, but Wall Street closed higher thanks to big corporate profits. Shares of Google parent Alphabet hit a record high. It reported big ad sales, offsetting that $5 billion fine from the E.U. Europe claims Google unfairly pushed its app on smartphone users, locking out competition.

It's day three for a busy week in corporate earnings. More than a third of S&P 500 companies are set to report. Today, we'll hear from some big car companies as well as Boeing, Coca-Cola, and Facebook.

President Trump's trade actions are hurting Harley-Davidson's bottom line. Tariffs will cost Harley $55 million this year alone. That's due to both U.S. tariffs on imported steel and those steep retaliatory tariffs from the E.U. on motorcycles.

Europe is a huge market for Harleys, so those E.U. markets caused it to shift production overseas. President Trump blasted its plan to move, tweeting the president was surprised Harley, quote, would be the first to wave the white flag.

"Hamilton" could head to the big screen and studios could pay more than $50 million for the rights.


ROMANS: "The Wall Street Journal" reports there's a bidding war for the hit Broadway show, but the movie, it won't be a film adaptation. Instead, it will be a 2016 recording with the amazing original cast, and that's unusual for a Broadway show, but studios think "Hamilton" is a special case.

The show is a huge hit. It has earned nearly $400 million in New York since 2015.

BRIGGS: And we have paid dearly for it as well.

It will be fantastic. But look, I thought it'd be an adaptation.

ROMANS: I think an adaptation would be amazing, but I think the show stands so solidly on its own --

BRIGGS: You get no arguments here.

ROMANS: Why mess with perfection?

BRIGGS: It's an incredible show.

All right. EARLY START continues now with the latest on a recording of Donald Trump talking about a possible payoff to a playmate.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of --

TRUMP: We won't pay with cash?

COHEN: No, no, no, no.


ROMANS: A CNN exclusive -- audio of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. Despite past denials, it appears the president knew about a possible hush payment to a Playboy playmate.

BRIGGS: $12 billion in emergency aid for farmers caught in the trade war. Republican lawmakers are lashing out at what one calls a Soviet type of economy.

ROMANS: Someone in San Jose is $522 million richer this morning before taxes. One jackpot winner in last night's mega millions drawing.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Wednesday, July 25th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

The Trump friendly "New York Post" calls it "Paymate". Michael Cohen's flip on adopt is all but complete. A CNN exclusive breaking overnight: the attorney for Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, has provided some eye-opening audio to CNN.

During a discussion about the campaign, candidate Trump and Cohen discussed buying the rights to a Playboy model's story of her alleged affair with Mr. Trump years earlier.