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"Trump's Hell Hour"; GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter Indicted; Undocumented Immigrant Charged in Tibbetts Murder; Category 5 Hurricane Nears Hawaii. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 22, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:45] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Cohen pleads guilty and implicates the president. Paul Manafort found guilty of financial crimes. What does it all mean for the president, who "The Washington Post" calls an alleged co-conspirator in the White House?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Would you buy golf clothes for yourself and quiet off as a get for Wounded Warriors? An indictment says California Congressman Duncan Hunter spent a quarter of a million dollars in campaign cash, a lavish lifestyle.

ROMANS: And murder charges have been filed against a man police say killed an Iowa college student. The suspect an undocumented immigrant who worked in that community.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. It's 4:31 Eastern Time. I'm Dave Briggs. A busy news day.

Stunned, startled, blindsided just a few of -- some the words that our sources described inside the White House after a pair of top Trump aides became convicted felons. Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer pleaded guilty in a New York City courtroom admitted he coordinated with Mr. Trump to keep the scandal quiet during the campaign. At nearly the same moment the jury returned guilty investigators against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts of financial crimes.

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

The attorney for Michael Cohen suggests the president's long-time fixer could still have damaging implications for the Mueller probe.


LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: Michael Cohen has information that would be of interest to Mr. Mueller in his probe of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy. Very similar to the indictment of the 12 Russians, I believe that Mr. Cohen would be able to provide information useful to the special counsel.


BRIGGS: A 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.


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

Now, the big question is how much trouble might the president be in? A 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.

But legal experts like our own 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. (END AUDIO CLIP)

[04:35:09] BRIGGS: The 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 advance knowledge of the 2016 meeting. Cohen previously testified to the intel committee that he was not aware of it before it happened.

ROMANS: And then the other shoe dropped for the White House. Paul Manafort found guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. A mistrial declared on 10 other charges. A source telling CNN the White House was hoping for a favorable verdict so it would have fresh ammo to attack the Russia investigation. That's now off the table.

The president reacting to the verdict by praising Manafort as a, quote, 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 very 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.


BRIGGS: And at a rally in West Virginia last night, the president whipped up the crowd with his attack on the special counsel.


TRUMP: The 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.


BRIGGS: Despite all the devastating news for the president, his reporters still revived some familiar chants.


CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up!


BRIGGS: "Drain the swamp" also echoed through the halls there. President Trump planning to spend at least 40 days on the road campaigning for Republicans before the midterms, which are just 76 days away.

ROMANS: Special counsel Robert Mueller has again delayed scheduling a sentencing hearing for former national security adviser Michael Flynn. This is the fourth time prosecutors have requested a daily. The joint court filing by the Mueller team and Flynn's defense indicates Flynn is still cooperating with the Russia investigation.

Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russians. The special counsel's office says it will provide another update to the court in 30 days.

BRIGGS: Facebook taking down hundreds of pages and accounts after finding disinformation campaigns that originated in Iran and Russia. Some of them posed as a 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 counts, many linked to Iran for coordinated manipulation. It comes after Microsoft took control of websites it said military intelligence could have tried to use to hack American politicians.

Republican California Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife will be arraigned in court after an indictment on misusing $250,000 in campaign funds for personal items, expenses 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.

BRIGGS: A spokesperson says the congressman believes the indictment is 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 trading charges.

ROMANS: The president's coattails could be shrinking. Billionaire businessman Foster Friess defeated last night in Wyoming's Republican gubernatorial primary on the same day he was endorsed by Mr. Trump. Friess losing to State Treasurer Mark Gordon. The last time a candidate lost was last year when Luther Strange lost to Roy Moore in Alabama's Senate race. After his lost, Friess endorsed Gordon who will face Democrat Mary Throne in November.

A devastating end to the search for Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old Iowa college student that disappeared last month while jogging. Police say Cristhian Rivera confessed to killing Tibbetts and led investigators to her body. He now faces first degree murder charges. The suspect, an undocumented immigrant.

At least one border state Republican quick to pounce. Arizona Senate candidate Kelly Ward tweeting the lack of leadership and courage by open border senators like Jeff Flake and John McCain, Republican, minds you, adding #buildthewall.

CNN affiliate WHO reports the suspect worked for years at a farm partly owned by Craig Lang, who's a prominent Iowa Republican and had been vetted through E-verify.

More now from Ryan Young in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, this is not the ending that so many people in this community wanted.

[04:40:00] 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.

But we do know it was concealed -- David and Christine.


ROMANS: Just such a tragedy there and the whole state is really in mourning, and now, the question, you know, you are hearing from leaders, political leaders in the state saying this is about securing borders.

BRIGGS: It's true.

ROMANS: But he was legally work -- illegally in the country, was illegally working for a farm there. How could that happen? That's what Homeland Security is about to get to the bottom of.

BRIGGS: A lot of questions ahead.

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


[04:46:06] ROMANS: Hawaii under a hurricane warning, a category 5 Lane heads for the island. The storm packing maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. Schools are closed now on the big island and Maui. The state's governor signed an emergency proclamation. This is only the second time on record a category 5 hurricane has come within 350 miles of Hawaii. Residents are rushing to stock up on supplies and essentials at this hardware store ahead of the storm.

CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is tracking the latest.


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

Yes, we 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.


BRIGGS: Thanks, Pedram.

The Food and Drug Administration extending the expiration date for some EpiPens by four months to help cover a shortage of the life- saving treatment ahead of the new school year. The FDA says it reviewed data from the manufacturer showing certain batches of the expired pens could still be used. The medication to stop severe allergic reaction has been available in limited supply disruptions and manufacturer issues. The FDA approved a generic competitor to the EpiPen but is yet to announce a release stick.

ROMANS: That's a really important story.


ROMANS: Actress and filmmaker Asia Argento denying key elements of a "New York Times" report alleging she paid off a young actor who accused her of sexual assault. In a statement to "The Huffington Post", the #MeToo leader insists she never had a sexual relationship with Jimmy Bennett. She claims Bennett unexpectedly made an exorbitant request for money and says the actor was trying to capitalize on the perceived wealth of her boyfriend, the late Anthony Bourdain.

BRIGGS: She says they, quote, decided to deal compassionately with Bennett's demand for help and give to him. Anthony personally undertook to help benefit net economically that we would never suffer further intrusions in our life.

CNN continues to reach out to Argento and reps for Jimmy Bennett for comment.

A Texas high school apologizing after creating a dress code video widely perceived as sexist. Watch.


BRIGGS: That video, viral, played to thousands at Marcus High School located just outside of Dallas. It features girls set to the song "Bad Girls" by rapper M.I.A. Parents and female students were outraged. Male students were not included.

The principal now apologizing saying the video did not achieve the intended purpose of reminding students about a poor dress code and for what he called a poor song choice.

A three-year-old boy and his one-year-old baby brother on their own possibly for days following a car crash that killed their mother the older of the two boy the 3-year-old was dpoundz aftfound after police received a call of a today u toddler alone on the highway.

ROMANS: 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.

[04:50:02] Police went with a description of the boy and a family member contacted the sheriff's office.

BRIGGS: 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.

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


BRIGGS: Both of the boys suffered dehydration but have since been released to the family.

ROMANS: A New Jersey principal coming one a fresh idea to fight bullying in his school. He installed a free in-school laundry mat to help students being bullied or shamed on social media, because they couldn't afford to wash their clothes. High school principal Akbar Cook suspects bullying was the big reason 85 percent of the students were missing three-to-five days a month.


AKBAR COOK, PRINCIPAL: They were being bullied. It wasn't just on like in the building. It was on Snapchat, I'm I I'm sitting behind you, I take a picture of your collar and then I go, look at this dirty guy.


ROMANS: The school secured a $20,000 grant and do nation of laundry supplies. The facility will be up and running when the school starts in a couple of weeks.

BRIGGS: Nice story.

ROMANS: Creative.


ROMANS: All right. After 115 years, animal crackers are no longer behind bars. Animals are roaming free, why, on CNNMoney next.


[04:56:04] BRIGGS: It's 4:55 Eastern Time.

"The Washington Post" reporting President Trump's chief economic adviser hosted a white nationalist at his home last week. Peter Brimelow attending Larry Kudlow's birthday party in Connecticut. Brimelow known for his anti-immigrant views. Kudlow said he's known him forever but never would have invited him if he knew about his white nationalist ties. On Tuesday, Brimelow told CNN he and Kudlow are personal friends who agreed to disagree on immigration long ago.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNNMoney this morning.

It is official. This has been the longest stock market prosperity in American history. The bull mark turns 3,453 days old today. That makes it the longest ever of beating out that run from 1990 to the dot-com burst in 2000. This bull, this record bull man in March 2009 during the darkest days

of the financial crisis. Since then, the Dow has gained 19,000 points, the S&P 500 quadrupled in value. Yesterday, the S&P notched an all time high. Never has been this high in history.

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 market ends, of course, with a 20 percent loss.

There have been several close calls. There was a close call in 2011 when America's credit was downgraded. Remember there was fear the euro could collapse. But stocks never shed 20 percent. Analysts think the bulls still had more room to run.

Bull markets don't die of old age. There's not an expiration date that get stamped on them. U.S. stocks have stayed resilient.

There are some threats out there. There's trade war, rising inflation. But overall, a lot of the experts say this has more room to run.

All right. Global stocks mostly lower though this morning, U.S. stocks, politics thinking stocks with top aides to the president were convicted in federal court. That shook investor confidence.

China and the U.S. also gearing up for another round of trade talks. But President Trump does not expect anything to come of it, he told "Reuters". A Chinese delegation heads to Washington today just as the U.S. prepares its next round of tariffs.

That's right. The U.S. will begin collect on another $16 billion in Chinese goods tomorrow. Beijing said it would strike back dollar for dollar.

Uber has agreed to pay 56 employees $1.9 million, settling claims of gender and harassment and unequal pay. Uber has been working to fix pay disparities since last year, bumping salaries to ensure all employees are paid equally regardless of race or gender. That's important as Uber gears up to go public next year, also helping Uber prep for an IPO, it finally fired a chief financial officer. Nelson Chai will fill that role, which has been vacant since 2015. Chai is a veteran banking and insurance executive.

All right. After 116 years, animal crackers are no longer behind bars. Barnum's animal cracker is changing its classic design. The animals are not in cages, instead they are roaming free in grassland. The company that makes animal crackers, Mondelez, says the redesign is an evolution of the brand.

But PETA is taking credit. The animal rights group says it sent a letter to Mondelez in 2016 criticizing the art for glorifying the use of circus animals. PETA says the new box reflects that our society no longer requires caging and chaining exotic animals for circus shows.

Enjoy your freedom, animals.

BRIGGS: PETA tweeting: Big victories can come in small packages.

OK, EARLY START continues right now with the latest indictments from special counsel and what this means for the president.


ROMANS: Michael Cohen pleads guilty and implicates the president. Paul Manafort found guilty of financial crimes. What does all this mean for President Trump who "The Washington Post" calls an alleged co-conspirator in the White House?