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All the President's Men; GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter Indicted; Undocumented Immigrant Charged in Tibbetts Murder. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 22, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:13] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Cohen, guilty, implicating the president. Paul Manafort, guilty of financial crimes. What does all this mean for President Trump who a prominent law professor calls a co-conspirator in the White House?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Would you buy golf clothes for yourself and write it off as a gift for Wounded Warriors? An indictment says California Congressman Duncan Hunter spent a quarter million dollars in campaign cash on his lifestyle.

BRIGGS: And murder charges have been filed against the man police say killed an Iowa college student. The suspect, an undocumented immigrant.

ROMANS: That is not the outcome anybody wanted.

BRIGGS: No, it is not.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to an EARLY START on an extraordinarily busy day. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: It is a busy morning, folks. I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, August 22nd. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

So, let's get startled. A stunned, rattled, blindsided, our sources say about the reaction inside the White House after a pair of top Trump aides become convicted felons, Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer, pleaded guilty in New York. He admitted he coordinated with Mr. Trump to keep a scandal quiet during the campaign.

At nearly the same moment a jury returned guilty investigators against former Trump campaign chairman, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Eight counts of financial crimes.

BRIGGS: A source close to the White House says Cohen's plea deal sounds terrible for the president. A Republican congressional source telling CNN top party leaders are, quote, trying to catch their breath. Even the president's supporters see the significance of the convictions. "The Drudge Report" calling it Trump hell hour.

The attorney for Michael Cohen says the president's long-time fixer is no longer in his court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: Patriotism and love of country caused him to recognize the danger of this particular president, his lack of suitability to be president of the United States. And his decision as he said to me late one night to hit the reset button on his life and his previous loyalty to such a man that he considered especially after Helsinki to be a danger to our country.


ROMANS: The plea deal means Cohen likely faces three-to-five years in prison, at his sentencing December 12th. The president's legal team going after what they call Cohen's lies and dishonesty.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has more on Cohen's plea deal.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Dave and Christine, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal attorney and a member of his inner circle pleaded guilty Tuesday, admitted that in coordination and at the direction of the president, he acted to keep information that would have been harmful to the campaign from becoming public during the 2016 election. Now, of course, that information has to do with payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who have accused the president of having an affair with him. He has denied having affairs with them.

Now, the investigation was referred to federal prosecutors in New York where Michael Cohen pleaded guilty by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. This deal does not include any cooperation by Michael Cohen with federal investigators or prosecutors.

Now, the president's lawyers had this to say, that there is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen -- Dave, Christine.


BRIGGS: All right. Shimon, thank you.

Now, the big question, of course, how much trouble might the president be in? One source close to the Trump Organization tells CNN Cohen's plea deal, which does not include cooperation with the government is further proof he does not have anything damaging on the president. They say essentially it is Cohen's word against the president's.

But legal experts like our Jeffrey Toobin say the president is not out of jeopardy.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think that even happened during Watergate, that someone pled guilty and said the sitting president was a co-conspirator. Now, it is true that there are justice department guidelines that say a president cannot be indicted. But this crime could be prosecuted after Donald Trump leaves office. This crime could be referred to Congress as a high crime and misdemeanor.

But the fact that we have an admitted felon saying that the sitting president of the United States was his co-conspirator in this felony is a pretty extraordinary piece of news.


ROMANS: Pleading guilty is not Cohen's only worry. The Senate Intelligence Committee says it wants to speak to him again after CNN reported Cohen had advanced knowledge of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

[04:05:06] Cohen had previously testified to the Intel Committee that he was not aware of the meeting before it happened.

BRIGGS: And then the other shoe drops for the White House, Paul Manafort found guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. A mistrial declared on ten other charges. A source telling CNN the White House was hoping for a favorable verdict so would have fresh ammo to attack the Russia investigation, that is off the table.

The president reacting to the verdict by praising Manafort as a good man, while making sure to distance himself from his former campaign chairman.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't involve me, but I still feel, you know, it's a sad thing that happened. It has nothing to do with Russian collusion. It started as Russian collusion. This has absolutely nothing to do. It's a witch hunt and it's a disgrace.


ROMANS: At a rally in West Virginia last night, the president whipped up the crowd with special relentless attacks on the special counsel.


TRUMP: Russian witch hunt, we've got a whole big combination. Where is the collusion? You know, they're still looking for collusion. Where is the collusion? Find some collusion.


ROMANS: Despite all the devastating news for the president, his supporters are still revived the familiar chant of "lock her up" at that rally last night. Listen.


CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up!


ROMANS: All right. Facebook taking down hundreds of pages and accounts after finding disinformation campaigns that originated in Iran and Russia, some of them posed as the group called Liberty Front Press. Facebook says the coordinated campaigns had more than a million followers across Facebook and Instagram. Twitter also announcing it has identified and removed 284 accounts. Many linked to Iran again for coordinated manipulation. It comes after Microsoft took control of websites it said Russian military intelligence could have tried to use to hack American politicians.

BRIGGS: Republican California Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife will be arraigned in federal court tomorrow, following their indictment on misusing some $250,000 in campaign funds for personal items, range from luxury vacations, to kids school lunches. The stinging indictment alleges the Hunters knowingly conspired with each other, in one instance, buying clothing at a golf course and reporting the purchase as balls for Wounded Warriors.

ROMANS: A spokesperson says that congressman believes the indictment is, quote, purely politically motivated. House Speaker Paul Ryan has removed him from committee assignments during the case. Hunter was the second member of Congress to support President Trump. The first, Chris Collins, was recently indicted on insider trader charges.

BRIGGS: A devastating end of the search for Mollie Tibbetts, a 20- year-old Iowa college student who disappeared last month while jogging. Police say Cristhian Rivera confessed to killing Tibbetts and let investigators to her body. He now faces first degree murder charges.

The suspect, an undocumented immigrant, and Republicans were quick to pounce. Among them, Arizona Senate candidate Kelly Ward, who bemoaned the, quote, lack of leadership and courage by open border senators like Jeff Flake and John McCain. Republicans, mind you. Adding hashtag, #buildthewall.

CNN affiliate WHO reports he worked for four years at a farm partly owned by Craig Lang, a prominent Iowa Republican.

More now from CNN's Ryan Young in Iowa.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this is not the ending that so many people in this community wanted. In fact, it's not many times you go to a news conference and have so many people standing behind you who start sobbing when police start giving details about this. Mollie Tibbetts was somebody people wanted to find.

And I can tell you, after we got the details that we got, people just started weeping very loudly, very upset about the details of this. From what they know, there was a under surveillance camera in the neighborhood. They started going through hundreds of hours of that video.

They saw a black car and what they were able to glean from that is that there was a man following Mollie along, eventually he got out of the car.

RICK RAHN, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, IA DIV. OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION: He actually tells us that he ran alongside of her, or behind her, and then at one point, he tells us that Mollie grabbed a hold of her phone and said you need to leave you alone, I'm going to call the police, and then she took off running. He in turned chased her down.

YOUNG: They say he has confessed to this. In fact, he took them to the body just yesterday. So, you can understand why people are so upset about this, but they have him in custody. Cristhian Rivera has been charged with first degree murder. In fact, we're told he's lived in this community for some four to seven years. In fact, Homeland Security apparently is going to give us some more information in the coming days about him, but we're told he's an illegal immigrant in this country.

Again, a lot of people confused about exactly what happened. He's telling investigators that he blacked out some time and placed Mollie in the truck. Not sure how long her body was out in the location where it was found.

[04:10:02] But we do know it was concealed -- David and Christine.


ROMANS: Just a devastating case and our thoughts are with her family and her friends because that's tough. Not how anyone wanted that to end up.

All right. Ten minutes past the hour.

It's only happened once before, a category 5 hurricane is now within 350 miles of Hawaii. A hurricane warning has been issued. The full track of that storm is next.


BRIGGS: Hawaii under a hurricane warning as category five Lane bears down. The storm packing maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour. Schools are closed down on the big island and Maui. The state's governor signed an emergency proclamation.

This is just the second time on record a cat 5 hurricane has come been 350 miles of Hawaii. Residents stocking up on supplies, any essentials at this hardware store ahead of the storm.

CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri tracking the latest.


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

[04:15:00] Yes, they are watching Hurricane Lane very carefully. As impressive it gets on satellite imagery, very organized, very symmetrical, and, of course, healthy category 5 at that as well. And we do have hurricane warnings issued for the big island.

Hurricane watches in place there for Molokai, Maui and unto Oahu as well. So, certainly, the National Hurricane Center is taking this seriously. But the one element of good news is that we expect weakening as it shifts and tracks towards the north.

We see gradual weakening in the next 24 hours, and then Thursday into Friday, which by the way Friday would be the best possibility for landfall there. That's when we see the most drastic weakening down, potentially to a category 1 as it mirrors the island there to the north.

But here's what we're watching here and a lot of discrepancy in the models. The American model wants to shift well to the east, potentially bring it into near Molokai, the European models not even a chance and pushes it well to the west. And that's how we get this cone.

So, certainly a forecast worth following in the next couple of days. Quick glance what's happening across the main land. Scattered storms along the Eastern Seaboard.

Enjoy the milder temperatures him New York, a high around 83 degrees -- guys.


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

Ohio State University taking steps to respond to sexual violence and harassment after accusations of abuse by a team doctor years ago. The school announcing the creation of a new central office to handle all sexual misconduct claims. It's used as a part of the overhaul of the Title 9 complaints.

BRIGGS: Later today, the university's board of trustees to discuss the Urban Meyer investigation that had football coaches on administrative leave after telling reporters he was unaware of a 2015 allegation of domestic abuse against an assistant coach. Meyer later said he did follow protocol by reporting it.

ROMANS: All right. The Food and Drug Administration is extending the expiration date for some EpiPens by four months. This is to help cover a shortage of the life saving treatment ahead of the new school year. The FDA says it reviewed data showing that certain batches of expired pens could still be used.

The medications used to stop severe allergic reactions have only be available in limited qualities, due to regional supply disruption and manufacturer issues. The FDA approved a generic competitor to the EpiPen but has yet to announce a release date.

BRIGGS: Emotions running high at a Colorado courtroom, as Chris Watts is arraigned on nine charges including the killing of his pregnant wife and two small daughters. The father of Shanann Watts in the front row sobbing, just a few feet from the alleged killer of his daughter and granddaughters. Watts seemed largely emotionless during the proceedings in shackles and an orange jump suit. He was told of his rights and agreed to waive a preliminary hearing.

Watts claims he killed his wife after she killed their daughters Bella and Celeste. Autopsy results have not been released.

ROMANS: A Catholic priest in Pennsylvania charged with indecent assault and corruption of a minor. Prosecutors say Father Kevin Lonergan sent sexual message to a 17-year-old girl on Snapchat and hugged her inappropriately. Lonergan served at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown. The diocese of Allentown says it learned of the allegation in June and immediately removed that priest from his assignment. Father Lonergan was not named in a recent grand jury report that revealed 300 priests in Pennsylvania abused at least 1,000 children, maybe more, over decades.

BRIGGS: In Arkansas, a remarkable tale of survival. A 3-year-old boy and his 1-year-old brother on their own possibly for days following a car crash that killed their mother. The older of the two boys was found Monday after a 911 call alerted police of a toddler by himself on a state highway. Police went with a description of the boy and a family member contacted the sheriff's office.

ROMANS: They said the mother Lisa Hollerman (ph) had not been seen since last week. Deputies finally located her car overturned deep in a ravine. The 1-year-old was found inside the car alert and still strapped in his car seat.


NATHAN GREELEY, DETECTIVE: It's nothing short of a miracle. God's blessing that these children were able to survive this accident.


ROMANS: Both of the little boys suffered dehydration but since have been released to their family.

Oh. Wow, I wish them the best.

BRIGGS: Unbelievable.

ROMANS: All right. Nineteen minutes past the hour.

Wall Street about to enter the longest period of stock market prosperity in American history. The bull mark will turn 3,453 days old today, the longest ever. More next.


ROMANS: It's official. This has been the longest period of stock market prosperity in American history. The bull market today turns 3,453 days old, the longest ever.

The run began in March 2009, toward the end of the financial crisis, in the darkest days of the financial crisis. Since then, the Dow has gained 19,000 points. The S&P 500 has quadrupled in value. And yesterday notched an all time high.

A few things fueling the record-breaking run a slow but steady economic recovery. Soaring corporate profits and unprecedented aid from the Federal Reserve. The Central Bank kept interest rates very low and cheap money policies boosted stocks.

A bull mark ends with a 20 percent loss, that's when it will be over, and there have been several close calls like in 2011 when America's credit was downgraded and there was fear the euro could collapse. But stocks never shed 20 percent, and analysts think the bulls still have more room to run.

Bull market marks don't die of old age and U.S. stocks have stayed resilient.

[04:25:01] They do face a few threats, like the trade war and rising inflation. But right now, the economy is very strong, people are making money. People are spending money. And the stock market looks like it has more to go.

BRIGGS: So, beyond the trade war, nothing really looks like it will cool us off?

ROMANS: We are watching the emerging marks, you know, worried about the lira in Italy, in Turkey, and emerging markets. But right now, things look still solid.

BRIGGS: Beautiful.

All right. A human watchdog says it has concerns about North Korea not halting its nuclear program. A new report by the International Atomic Agency Provides a detailed list of nuclear-related activities believed to be under way in North Korea in recent months, including centrifuge enrichment and the operation of an experimental nuclear power plant that is discharging steam and cooling water.

Last night in Virginia, President Trump said he wants to remove sanctions against North Korea quickly, but only if they'd get rid of their nukes. Still, no sign they are prepared to do so.

In coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office, Michael Cohen implicates the president of the United States as he pleads guilty to campaign finance violations. Between that and the Paul Manafort guilty verdicts, is the president in legal jeopardy?