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White House Downplays McGahn Cooperation With Mueller; Iran Foreign Minister: U.S. Is Addicted To Sanctions; IndyCar Driver Injured In Spectacular Crash. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 20, 2018 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:06] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty hours of interviews with the special counsel, but White House lawyer Don McGahn not entirely transparent with the president's defense team.


MOHAMMED JAVAD ZARIF, IRAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: There is a disease in the United States and that is the addiction to sanctions.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A CNN exclusive. Iran's foreign minister says the U.S. relies too much on sanctions without anything to show for it. We're live in Tehran.

BRIGGS: And a scary crash at Pocono Raceway sends an Indy driver to the hospital. Robert Wickens went to the fence and spun several times in this fiery wreck. We'll have the latest for you this morning.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to have you back from vacation.

BRIGGS: Good to be back.

ROMANS: Thirty minutes past the hour this Monday morning.

This morning, the White House is trying to downplay signs of trouble after "The New York Times" reported White House counsel Don McGahn has cooperated extensively with the Russia investigation.

CNN has learned McGahn's attorney did not give President Trump's lawyer a full debrief after McGahn sat down for almost 30 hours of interviews with Robert Mueller's team. CNN's source saying the president's attorneys did not ask.

BRIGGS: The president says this just proves his White House is being transparent. But the "Times" says McGahn cooperated so extensively because he was worried the president planned to set him up as the fall guy for any possibly illegal obstruction.

For the latest, let's welcome in Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, the president and his legal team spent a lot of time over the weekend trying to convince the American people that this report from "The New York Times" is actually not damaging to the president and, in fact, it was his legal team's idea for Don McGahn to sit down with Robert Mueller and the special counsel.

Listen to what Rudy Giuliani, who has become the president's chief spokesperson in terms of his legal defense, had to say about Don McGahn's cooperation with the special counsel.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have a good chance, obviously, of what Mr. McGahn testified to. I can figure it out.

CHUCK TODD, NBC MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": You don't know 100 percent of what he testified to -- to Robert Mueller?

GIULIANI: I think that through John Dowd, we have a pretty good sense of it. And, John Dowd, yesterday, said -- I'll use his words rather than mine -- that McGahn was a strong witness for the president. So I don't need to know much more about that.

NOBLES: But the problem is the mayor ignores a key point of "The New York Times" article where it talks about how the president's lawyers actually really have no idea the depth of the conversations that Don McGahn had and what topics he covered, and that's where the problem is for this White House.

Yes, they did agree to allow McGahn to sit for these conversations. Yes, they waived attorney-client privilege.

But they had no idea exactly what Don McGahn would say when he sat down with the special counsel team. And there are few people who have as much insight into the president's conduct, especially as it relates to the Russia probe over the past year and a half.

So the big problem today is the White House just doesn't know how to handle these interactions and what it could mean for the investigation going forward -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Ryan Nobles for us.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has a new alternative fact-style explanation for keeping the president far away from Robert Mueller. Listen to what he told NBC about not allowing the special counsel to rush Mr. Trump into testifying.


GIULIANI: When you tell that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry -- well, that's so silly because it's somebody version of the truth, not the truth. He didn't have a conversation about --

TODD: Truth is truth. I don't mean to --

GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth. The President of the United States says I didn't --

TODD: Truth is the truth. Mr. Mayor, do you realize what -- I -- this could become a bad meme.

GIULIANI: No, no, no. Don't do -- don't do this to me. Donald Trump --

TODD: Don't do truth isn't truth to me.

GIULIANI: Donald Trump says I didn't talk about Flynn with Comey. Comey says you did talk about it. So tell me what the truth is.


ROMANS: Later in the day on Sunday, the fired FBI director appeared to respond. Comey tweeting, "Truth exists and truth matters. People who lie are held accountable."

BRIGGS: Can we just appreciate the body language there of Chuck Todd -- you know, pounding his head and then Rudy saying don't do this to me? That's all you had to see.

Joining us to discuss all this, senior media reporter Oliver Darcy.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you.

Truth isn't truth. Twitter exploded with that, as you might imagine. It went from Stephen King to Adam Schiff tweeting about this.

But here's John Oliver's take on it late last night.


GIULIANI: Truth isn't truth. The President of the United States says I didn't --

TODD: Truth is the truth. Mr. Mayor, do you realize what -- I -- this could become a bad meme.

GIULIANI: No, no, no. Don't do -- don't do this to me.

JOHN OLIVER, HBO HOST, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER": Don't do this to you? You just said truth isn't truth.

That is not acceptable from a president's lawyer. It's barely acceptable from a sophomore philosophy major who just tried Molly for the first time.

Truth isn't truth man -- and also, toes are just feet-fingers. I feel warm.


[05:35:00] BRIGGS: Toes are just feet-fingers.

But let's be frank. Should we be shocked by this because isn't it really the common thread throughout the administration, the DOJ, FBI -- they're all in the deep state.


BRIGGS: The special counsel is a witch hunt. Stories that are negative are fake news.

Isn't this what we've heard the entire time?

DARCY: Right. It seems like Giuliani is acknowledging that we live in this weird post-truth world where Comey can come out and say one thing and then Trump differs with that. And one set of the population believes what Comey says, the other set believes what Trump says, and no one can kind of agree on what the common facts of the matter are.

BRIGGS: Right.

DARCY: So it is sort of like a post-truth world and I think that's what Giuliani maybe was trying to say and he didn't do so in a very well manner. But that one set of the population is believing a whole different --


DARCY: -- reality than the other and --

BRIGGS: And he's been successful in that, you might argue, with 40 or so percent believing.

DARCY: Exactly. A lot of the population --


DARCY: -- particularly Republicans, seem to believe whatever the president's version of the truth is, and the other set believes what Mueller and we're reporting and others are saying.

And I think it's also alarming, too, that the president's lawyer seems to be playing into this, like we can put our own truth out there. I think they said they were going to put their own report out after the Mueller report --

ROMANS: Right.

DARCY: -- comes out and that seems to be their strategy.

BRIGGS: Public opinion -- that's the war there.

ROMANS: Let's talk about this reporting in "The New York Times" this weekend and Don McGahn, the president's lawyer, sitting down for some 30 hours with the special counsel.

And what we know is that the president's lawyers did not get a full debrief from him about what he told the special counsel.

Donald Trump is saying via Twitter that -- well, that's just transparency. He allowed his -- you know, Don McGahn and others to go talk to the special counsel.

But couldn't this be a problem for Trump?

DARCY: I would imagine that if you're the President of the United States and your White House attorney is going in and cooperating extensively with the special counsel, you're probably a little bit worried, right? Trump, of course, is saying that this is transparent and I encouraged him to go and cooperate with the special counsel.

But, "The New York Times" is reporting that McGahn offered insight into some of the parts of the Russia probe that are at the heart of the matter and that some of the stuff the special counsel might not have learned about had McGahn not gone and cooperated so extensively.

And now, we're learning from "The New York Times" latest report that the White House doesn't even really know, right, what McGahn may have told --

ROMANS: Right.

DARCY: -- the special counsel.

So I think the president is probably very worried about this and you're seeing that in his Twitter feed where he's kind of going on there and railing that McGahn would never rat.

BRIGGS: Well, the president could have claimed executive privilege.


BRIGGS: So to his defense, that is transparency -- the fact that he allowed him to sit down for these interviews. If he did nothing wrong, that would be transparency.

DARCY: Right.

BRIGGS: But a long way to go before we determine that.

Oliver Darcy, don't go anywhere. A lot more to get to.

There's a lot of mean and hateful angry stuff on Twitter -- news flash. The CEO of Twitter trying to fix that. Jack Dorsey admits that Twitter leans a bit left.

Oliver Darcy explains these latest comments ahead.


[05:42:10] ROMANS: All right. Twitter faces criticism for allowing spam, abuse, misinformation to thrive -- a fact Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledges.

In a rare T.V. interview, Dorsey tells our Brian Stelter what is broken about Twitter and how to face it.


JACK DORSEY, CEO, TWITTER: There's a lot of emphasis today on politics Twitter, and politics Twitter tends to be pretty divisive and it tends to be pretty contentious. And you see a lot of outrage and you see a lot of -- a lot of unhealthy debate that you probably want to walk away from.

We do have a lot of focus right now on some of the negative things given the current environment, and I believe it's important to see those. I believe it's important to see the dark areas of society so that we can acknowledge and we can address them. And I think the only way to address them is through conversation.

But it is hard, especially when it feels toxic and you want to walk away from it.


ROMANS: Let's bring back Oliver Darcy.

There is so much. I mean, he talks about politics Twitter and the other Twitter, but it's all one twitter.

DARCY: Right.

ROMANS: I mean, what is he -- what is he doing to fix it?

DARCY: We were talking during the break that politics Twitter because everything these days is about politics. And it doesn't seem like he wants to dive into actual real world solutions like implementing (ph) now --


DARCY: -- to help fix some of the hate and harassment that has really become and defined what Twitter is -- the Twitter experience.

He talks in these hypotheticals and this philosophy about the size of the -- of a follow button or whatever he was saying --

ROMANS: Right.

DARCY: -- but he doesn't want to get into the actual nuts and bolts of how do we fix this hate and harassment policy on Twitter and what can we do right now to do it.

The -- even the current solutions -- I was talking with someone else. The current solutions for reporting hate and harassment don't seem to be working. One of our colleagues reported that people were posting his address

online over the weekend and Twitter came back afterward and said in all five instances that did not violate our policies. Of course, they later deleted it --

ROMANS: Right.

DARCY: -- when we pointed this out --

ROMAN: Right.

DARCY: -- but it's really stunning.

ROMANS: They think they're being transparent. I mean, this interview is part of, I think, an effort for transparency.


ROMANS: But are they really being transparent?

BRIGGS: Well, I mean, look, unless Jack Dorsey is a miracle maker he's not going to cure hate from our political discourse today and divisiveness. That's society in which we now reside.

But he did that interview Friday. The president tweeting on Saturday, "Social media has totally discriminated against Republican conservative voices."

Is it? Here's what Dorsey said about that.


DORSEY: Are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints, and we are not, period. We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior and we use that behavior as a signal to add to relevance.

[05:45:00] We need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is left -- is more left-leaning.


BRIGGS: Does that confirm what the president is saying?

DARCY: I don't think that necessarily confirms anything. I think that they are conceding that they are conceding that the employees who work at Twitter probably carry a left-leaning bias but they work really, really hard to make sure that that bias does not seep into how they enforce their policies.


DARCY: And I think -- I mean, conservatives, a lot of times without proof, will say the otherwise that -- you know, that they are being discriminated or censored on Twitter, but there's really nothing to back that up. And I think Dorsey -- if you watch what he's doing, I think he's actually very committed to making sure that conservative voices have a voice on Twitter, liberal voices have a voice on Twitter. And a lot of times that comes to the detriment of Twitter because we've seen --

ROMANS: Right.

DARCY: -- like Alex Jones. He really just wants to keep him on Twitter and --

BRIGGS: Who has been silenced for a week?

DARCY: Yes, he's been temporarily suspended on most of the key functions on his account until I think Tuesday, so we'll see what happens after that.

But this is a guy who has violated Twitter policies multiple, multiple times and he's still allowed to be on the platform.

ROMANS: One of the things Dorsey was talking about to Brian was that he wants to kind of redesign how you use Twitter. So now, you follow people or you follow handles.

But maybe there could be a way for them to give you more information or to fill out more information around what you've -- what you've -- how you follow topics instead or something.

BRIGGS: A large task ahead for --

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: -- Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey.

ROMANS: Oliver, nice to see you this morning --

DARCY: You, as well.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Oliver.

ROMANS: -- up nice and early for us. Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right.

Sources tell CNN federal prosecutors are preparing criminal charges against President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen and could announce them by the end of the month.

Cohen is being investigated for possible bank and tax fraud, as well as campaign finance violations related in part to a $130,000 hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

According to "The New York Times," investigators are also examining more than $20 million in loans to Cohen and his family's taxi companies.

No comment from Cohen, his team or the U.S. Attorney. ROMANS: All right.

Iran's top diplomat is speaking out for the first time since the United States renewed sanctions against his country last week.

The foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, sitting down for an exclusive interview with our Nick Paton Walsh.

Zarif claims the U.S. has always been too reliant on sanctions to get what it wants.


ZARIF: I believe there is a disease in the United States and that is the addiction to sanctions.

Even during the Obama administration, the United States put more emphasis on keeping the sanctions that it had not lifted rather than implementing its obligations on the sanctions that it lifted.


ROMANS: Let's go live to Tehran and bring in our very own Nick Paton Walsh -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Mr. Zarif very much a moderate here in Tehran who abdicated closer diplomatic links with the West that enabled that nuclear deal to go ahead. Donald Trump tore it up despite the advice of his European allies.

Now in that interview, Mr. Zarif seemed to hold out the hope that maybe those European allies that think the deal still should stand could perhaps persuade Donald Trump to get back on board with it. That is, frankly, a bit of a distant reach, really.

Here's what he had to say about the possibility of striking some kind of deal, like the one Donald Trump said he might like, with the current White House chief.


WALSH: Could you ever get a deal with Donald Trump?

ZARIF: Well, it depends on President Trump whether he wants to make us believe that he is a reliable partner.

Now, if we spend time with him and he signs another agreement, how long will it last? Until the end of his administration? Until he departs from the place where he put his signature on the agreement?


WALSH: Now, is Donald Trump's signature worth anything? That's really what he's saying.

And that puts into a bleak three months ahead because in early November the next wave of renewed U.S. sanctions kick in.

That hits the oil industry. Total, a big French giant minimizing their operations here, we learned today, and it's having an impact on the Iranian economy.

Mr. Zarif said the turmoil we've seen here is because Iran is getting ready for tougher times ahead and we'll be able to weather the storm. He also, as you said -- saw there -- said sanctions simply don't work to change the political calculus here in Iran.

But both sides, Washington and Tehran, toughening in their policy here and many Iranian people suffering because of the global reaction to that --


WALSH: -- U.S. decision to reimpose sanctions.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Nick Paton Walsh for us in Tehran. Thank you, Nick.

BRIGGS: All right.

The White House is rejecting Turkey's offer to release American pastor Andrew Brunson.

According to "The Wall Street Journal," the Turkish government wants to the U.S. to forgive billions of dollars in fines against the Turkish bank in return. But the Trump administration wants the North Carolina pastor freed before discussing other matters.

The impasse could lead to additional U.S. sanctions against Turkey this week.

[05:50:00] Brunson's incarceration has strained relations between the two countries while sparking a sharp drop in the value of Turkey's currency.

ROMANS: All right, it was a crazy rich weekend for "Crazy Rich Asians." The rom-com took the top spot at the box office, a big win for on-screen representation.

"CNN Money," next.


ROMANS: All right.

Breaking overnight in Texas, at least one person is dead after a suspect opens fire at a food distribution plant in Missouri City. Two people were also injured, including the suspect, who was a woman.

Officials say she walked into the warehouse area -- the center -- around 2:00 a.m. and opened fire. At least 20 people were inside at the time. No word yet on motive.

[05:55:05] BRIGGS: A very somber day Sunday for Catholics attending mass, in particular in Pennsylvania. Just days ago, a grand jury report detailed child abuse by hundreds of Pennsylvania priests over decades.

Pope Francis choosing not to address this issue in his weekly prayer.

Some reaction now from Polo Sandoval in Pittsburgh.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, important to point out that a third of the clergy members that are mentioned in that very disturbing report were from this diocese and we found mixed reaction among the congregation.

There were some of those were quite satisfied with the way that the diocese is handling this -- the way they are addressing this in trying to prevent this from happening again.

But at the same time, there were other skeptics there among the congregation, some of those who say that the church will have to work hard to try to regain their trust.

And for his part, Bishop David Zubik, the head of the diocese here says -- admitted in an open letter to the faithful throughout Pennsylvania here and certainly promising changes starting with the victims -- the survivors -- saying that they do have to be heard and they have to heal.

BISHOP DAVID ZUBIK, CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PITTSBURGH: First of all, we've listened to them carefully.

Second of all, we've removed priests from the ministry.

Third of all, we have, in fact, turned it over to the district attorneys of the appropriate counties.

Fourth of all, we have engaged the independent review board to assess and take a look at the allegations and whether or not a person would be suitable for ministry again.

SANDOVAL: Now, there are some Catholics here that told me this apology from the bishop is simply not enough. They believe that there was a cover-up that spanned decades and what they want, Christine and Dave, is a full admission from the Catholic Church.


ROMANS: All right, Polo Sandoval. Thank you so much for that.

In Chicago, another weekend filled with gun violence. Police now say at least 61 people were shot, seven of them fatally, since just Friday afternoon. Officials say violent crime in the city had been falling for more than a year until this summer. Chicago's police chief recently called for more community cooperation to help police stem violent crime.

BRIGGS: Florida's Tourism Board launching two programs to help counties affected by what's called red tide. The toxic algae has been detected in eight Florida counties over the past week and has killed huge numbers of marine creatures. It created a smell that's hurt businesses along parts of Florida's west coast.

The weather service warns the red tide can cause respiratory irritation, along with skin rashes and burning eyes.

IndyCar driver Robert Wickens hospitalized this morning after a frightening crash Sunday at the Pocono Raceway. Watch what happened on the eighth lap of the ABC Supply 500.

Shortly after a restart, Wickens and Ryan Hunter-Reay touched wheels. Wickens' car into the fence, spinning several times in mid-air. It did take the crews 12 minutes to get him out of his wrecked car.

Race officials say Wickens is being treated for injuries to his lower extremities, right arm, and spine, and will likely undergo surgery.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

Global stocks mostly higher today as China and the U.S. gear up for another round of trade talks. A Chinese delegation heads to Washington this week. Previous rounds have failed to find a breakthrough but investors, they like that the two countries keep trying at least.

And, "The Wall Street Journal" reports the two countries are working on a roadmap to end their trade war. The deadline, November. That's the next time President Trump and China's leader Xi Jinping will meet.

It was a crazy rich weekend for "Crazy Rich Asians." The rom-com took the top spot at the box office raking in $34 million. That blew away all expectations.

It was a big win for on-screen representation. It's the first major studio film since the "Joy Luck Club" 25 years ago. Remember, it featured a predominantly Asian cast.

The box office wasn't so kind to Kevin Spacey. His new film "Billionaire Boys Club" only made $126 opening night. The movie was filmed --

BRIGGS: One twenty-six?

ROMANS: One twenty-six.

The movie was filmed before Spacey was accused, of course, of sexual assault.

It opened on eight or 10 screens and clearly, there were not a lot of takers for that one.

BRIGGS: Hey, they made another $162 on Saturday for a total of $287.

ROMANS: Fantastic, fantastic.

BRIGGS: Not all bad news.

All right, thanks for -- thanks for joining us this morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


LISA MONACO, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: He is going to be a very, very valuable witness and you want somebody who's been in the room, and that's Don McGahn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just shows what a C-level legal team the president had at the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you certainly can't make the argument that they are covering up anything.

GIULIANI: I'm not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. Truth isn't truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He calls John Dean a rat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is totally worried that McGahn is going to flip on him.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: He might be trying to give a warning. I'm, frankly, delighted to be on his enemy's list.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, August 20th, 6:00 here in New York.

Did I miss anything while I was gone?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Nothing at all.

CAMEROTA: Anything happen?

BERMAN: Nothing ever happens when you're not here.

CAMEROTA: That's great. OK, I'm happy to hear that. So, I'm refreshed -- let's get started. White House counsel Don McGahn taking -- talking to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators. CNN has learned that McGahn's attorney did not give Mr. Trump's lawyers a full account of what he told --