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EARLY START

CNN Obtains Bombshell Cohen-Trump Audio; GOP Lashes Out at Aid to Farmers; Mega Millions in San Jose; Phillies Beat Dodgers in 16- Inning Marathon. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 25, 2018 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of --

DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won't pay with cash?

COHEN: No, no, no, no.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: $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.

[05:00:03] 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 recording 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 friend David Pecker.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

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, no. I got -- no, no, no.

TRUMP: Check --

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BRIGGS: The audio at the end is muddled and it is 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Legal experts tell CNN the tape's release indicates Cohen's side believes it is time to stop playing nice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR EMERITUS: -- situation where, you know, he's going to flip. There's no question. He's now made it clear.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Flip on what? He hasn't even been charged.

DERSHOWITZ: And so -- I know, but he's going to flip. He said he's going to tell the truth, he's going to cooperate. He's turned. He's pressed the reset button.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Dershowitz added, there's no federal crime, no impeachment offense. The timing of the recorded conversation provides more evidence, though, Cohen was busy squashing embarrassing stories about his client before the election. That effort now is 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.

And in Washington, major pushback from GOP lawmakers. Farm exports have been the prime target of retaliatory tariffs from U.S. trading partners. And 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:05:00] 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.

BRIGGS: President Trump drawing comparisons to George Orwell this morning 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."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

BRIGGS: 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, citing poor sales, including Nordstrom's, Hudson Bay, and T.J.Maxx.

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, that will come from foreign governments.

President Trump has had at least two calls with world leaders in the last two weeks, but the White House confirming the calls took place after they were reported, again, by foreign media. The administration will not say whether the suspension of presidential phone call summaries is temporary or permanent.

BRIGGS: Transparency further declining there.

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's very concerned the Russians will be fighting hard to interfere in the upcoming election.

Here's the twist, though, the President claims Russia will be pushing for the Democrats, because they definitely don't want Trump. By Vladimir Putin's own admission, that would be a big reversal from 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

In a just-released Quinnipiac poll, voters called that 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 west interests of the United States, voters said no by a 54 percent-41 percent margin.

BRIGGS: CNN projects Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has won the Republican nomination for governor. This marks another victory for President Trump. He backed Kemp over Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle in the final week of a heated primary runoff. Kemp now faces Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in the general

election this fall. Abrams bidding to become the nation's first black female governor. Both parties are looking at this race to determine whether Georgia could be in play in 2020.

ROMANS: All right, singer Demi Lovato awake and breathing this morning after an apparent drug overdose sent her to the hospital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:13:14] BRIGGS: Officials say singer Demi Lovato is in stable condition in a hospital after an apparent drug overdose. A rep for Lovato says she is awake and her family thanks everyone for their love, prayers and support. The 25-year-old singer has struggled with substance abuse, and just weeks ago, she revealed in a new song that she has suffered a relapse.

(MUSIC)

BRIGGS: Lovato has spoken candidly about her use of cocaine and addiction to alcohol as well as mental health issues and an eating disorder.

ROMANS: 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 the fire, accidentally hitting employee Melyda Corado as she was leaving the grocery store.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

BRIGGS: 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. Well, 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."

[05:15:01] 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 are here this morning, so you know what that means, we did not win the mega millions jackpot. One person did. One winning ticket sold in San Jose, California. Lottery officials say the golden ticket was purchased at Ernie's liquors on south white road in San Jose. The jackpot $522 mill, $522 mill.

The winning numbers if you're checking or just crying were 1, 2, 4, 19, 29, mega ball 20.

BRIGGS: OK, six hours after they started, the Phillies and Dodgers wrap up with a catcher on the mound and a journeyman the hero. Andy Scholes tells the story next in "Bleacher Report."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:20:41] ROMANS: All right, prepare for flooding today from the mid-Atlantic, all the way up into the Northeast. There are numerous flash flood watches and warnings. The National Weather Service calling it a dangerous, even life-threatening situation.

The latest now from meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Yes, the soggy situation really going to remain firmly in place across the Northeast here as we've had the constant bout of moisture streaming in from the South. And, of course, you look at how things have played out in the past 48 hours, we're talking about portions of western areas just west of Philly into eastern PA, talking about places such as Harrisburg, York, out towards Lancaster, upwards of 6 to 8 inches of rainfall have come down.

Baltimore, certainly in and around Washington as well, tremendous rainfall has been coming down in the last couple of days. In fact, the National Weather Service still watching some 30 million people across this region underneath the flood concern, and notice the areas indicated in that maroon color. That is right across that region of eastern Pennsylvania where we have the flood warnings in place, meaning flooding is either imminent or occurring.

And unfortunately, the rainfall still looks pretty high over those regions over the next several days. In fact, look at rainfall totals. Really, the good news for New York City is they stay out of the vast majority of the heavy rainfall, but again, just west of town into eastern PA, some heavy rains in store. Boston could see heavy rainfall as well.

And temperatures as a result of all this little bit cooler again -- 76 in New York, only 82 in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Cooler but wet. All right, thanks, P.J.

BRIGGS: Indeed, too wet.

All right, the Phillies/Dodgers game lasted so long, the Dodgers ran out of pitchers.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hi, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, guys.

You know, this game ended just about four hours ago. It lasted nearly six hours with the teams using a combined 17 pitchers. And I say 17 because in the 16th inning, the Dodgers didn't use a pitcher. They trotted out outfielder Kike Hernandez and, well, Kike did not do very well in his pitching debut. The Phillies hit a three-run home run off of him to finally end the game.

Kike, though, a good sport about taking the mound in the emergency situation, tweeting after the game: well, I thought it'd help me in arbitration, but it backfired. OK, bye, see you tomorrow! #l."

The two teams might as well have slept at the ballpark. They take the field again today at 12:35 Eastern.

All right, for the second straight game, a St. Louis Cardinals rookie had a no-hit bid in the seventh inning, but this time, a fire alarm assisted the Reds in putting an end to it. As the teams were preparing for the bottom of the seventh, the fire alarm started going off in Cincinnati. Austin Gomber had to just mill around and wait for them to shut it off. They finally did, but two batters later, Joey Votto broke up that no-hitter.

Monday night, Cardinals rookie Daniel Poncedeleon became just the fifth pitcher since 1961 to throw no hit innings in his debut, but Tuesday, he was sent back to the minor leagues. Cardinals needed a roster spot to call Gomber to pitch so they sent Poncedeleon back down.

He had to have brain surgery after being hit by a line drive in May of 2017. They spent last season recovering. The demotion for Poncedeleon likely going to be temporary. He should be back up with the Cardinals before the end of the season.

All right. Finally, a terrifying crash yesterday at the Tour de France. Philippe Gilbert was leading and went flying over this wall on his descent down the mountain, he landed in ditch. Incredibly, he was able to get back on his bike and ride 36 miles to the finish.

After being examined, turns out, Gilbert suffered a broken kneecap. His tour is over, but man, that could have been much worse, guys.

Dave, I was wondering, how much would we have to pay you to go full speed down the side of a mountain on a bike?

BRIGGS: Did you hear the mega millions story earlier in the show? $522 million, I will take it. Short of that, I'm going to break my neck going down that.

SCHOLES: I would be Gilbert. I would be flying over the side.

BRIGGS: Yesterday, reports that pepper spray was getting in the eyes of riders from a French farmer protest, so --

SCHOLES: Well, yes, but that was the police who accidentally caused that, trying to spray the protesters, and they sprayed into the wind, and it blew it back on the riders.

[05:25:02] ROMANS: Oh, geez. Oh, geez.

SCHOLES: So, yes. Lesson number one, do not blow pepper spray into the wind.

BRIGGS: Or other things, yes. Andy Scholes, thank you, sir.

SCHOLES: All right.

BRIGGS: A CNN exclusive ahead. Despite past denials, new audio shows Donald Trump appeared to know about efforts to pay an alleged mistress for her silence at a critical point in the campaign.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

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

TRUMP: We won't pay with cash?

COHEN: No, no, no, no.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BRIGGS: 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.

ROMANS: Twelve billion dollars in emergency aid for farmers caught in the president's trade war. Republican lawmakers lashing out at what one calls a soviet type of economy.

BRIGGS: And somebody in San Jose is $522 million richer this morning, before taxes.