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White House Offering Few Answers on Cohen, Manafort Convictions; Hurricane Lane off of Hawaii; Trump Continues With His Tweeting; Two Hurricanes Make Landfall In Hawaii; Tibbett's Family Thanks All Supporters. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 23, 2018 - 5:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO)

We will have the protections for hurricane lane tracking toward Hawaii.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the payments?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Later on I knew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's on tape discussing how to make one of the payments with Michael Cohen.

SARA HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president did nothing wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The contradictions are clear. The White House offering few answers on the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort convictions.

(END VIDEO)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: Could your taxpayer dollars be used to arm teachers? The education secretary reportedly eying a way to make that happen.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: And Urban Meyer sidelined by Ohio State. He will have to sit for three games over how he handled abuse allegations against an assistant. Good morning everyone and welcome to "Early Start" this Thursday morning, I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, August 23rd in the east, still p.m. though in Hawaii.

ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: And we will have the projections and forecasts for that of Hurricane Lane looking at just off the coast of Hawaii.

We start with the White House struggling to contain the fallout from Michael Cohen's guilty plea. President Trump turning to a familiar tactic, personal attacks. On Tuesday, Cohen implicated Trump for coordinating hush payments to two women to sway an election. Yesterday in an interview with "Fox News" this morning, the president tried to minimize Cohen's role in his life and business.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

TRUMP: He was a lawyer for me for one of many - they would say the lawyers and then they like to add the fixer. Well I don't know if he was a fixer. I don't know where that term came from but he's been a lawyer for me. He didn't do big deals, did small deals. Not somebody that was with me that much. They make it sound like I didn't live without him. I understood Michael Cohen very well. He - well it turned out he wasn't a very good lawyer, frankly.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: That's what the president says now about the man who once said he would take a bullet for Mr. Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I'll do anything to protect Mr. Trump. I'm obviously very loyal and dedicated to Mr. Trump.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: Now the White House is short on answers as the contradictions mount here. The president himself seems unfazed. Even 1:10 a.m., about 4 hours ago, tweeting no collusion, rigged witch hunt. White House correspondent K we have Kaitlan Collins has more.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the president is now facing enormous political and potentially legal pressure and in the middle of that, he is trying to change his story of what he knew about the payments Michael Cohen made to the two women who allege they had an affair with Trump, what he knew and when. The president saying with "Fox News" that he did not know about the payments until later on, though he did not specify a date.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the payments?

TRUMP: Later on I knew. Later on, but you have to understand, what he did and they were not taken from campaign finance, that's a big thing; that's a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They did not come out of the campaign. They came from me.

(END VIDEO)

COLLINS: That would seem to contradict the tape released by Michael Cohen last month that shows him discussing with the president how to make a payment to one of the women before the payment was made.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

COHEN: When it comes to the financing, which will be...

TRUMP: What financing?

COHEN: You'll have to pay it yourself.

TRUMP: Pay with cash?

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

(END VIDEO)

COLLINS: Now as these questions come, the White House is struggling to mount defense here.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president found out about the payments that Michael Cohen made later on. He is on tape discussing how to make one of the payments with Michael Cohen, so before the payment was made. How do you explain that?

SANDERS: Once again, I commented on this extensively. What I can tell you about this is that the president did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. There is no collusion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you can stand here and say the president has never lied to the American people?

SANDERS: I think that is a ridiculous accusation.

(END VIDEO)

COLLINS: What we will see playing out over the next few days is them trying to discredit Michael Cohen, paint him as a liar, someone who isn't a credible figure in the situation. That is likely to raise more questions about why the president surrounded himself with Cohen in the first place. Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

One of the jurors in the Paul Manafort bank and tax fraud trials says a lone holdout prevented them from convicting the former Trump Campaign Chairman on all 18 counts. Paula Duncan tells "Fox News," jurors agreed to disregard the testimony of Manafort's former right- hand man, Rick Gates, because he took a plea deal. Instead, they relied on documents to reach eight guilty verdicts.

ROMANS: When the president was asked about a pardon for Manafort, he side-stepped the question.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

TRUMP: I have great respect for what he has done in terms of what he's gone through. You know he worked for Ronald Reagan for years. He worked for Bob Dole. He worked for - I guess his firm worked for McCain. He worked for many, many people many, many years and I would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.

(END VIDEO)

ROMANS: The "New York Times" report said the president and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani have discussed the potential political repercussions of pardoning Manafort. Giuliani says the Mr. Trump is not considering it.

[05:05:00]

BRIGGS: Meanwhile National Security Advisor John Bolton meeting with his russian counterpart this morning in Geneva. The meeting a follow- up, to the recent Helsinki summit.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in Moscow with the latest. Fred, good morning. We assume election interference at the top of the agenda, or at least one would hope.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that we're assuming correctly. Not sure if it's on the top of the agenda, Dave, but certainly John Bolton has said that it will be on the agenda, at least as far as the American side is concerned.

We've been asking the Russian side as well. They've been a lot less specific about the actual topics that would be discussed, or about this topic in particular. They are seeing irritants in the relationship between Russia and the U.S. will certainly be on the agenda.

Obviously, one thing the Russians want to also speak about is not just election meddling, in fact, they probably don't want to speak about that at all, but is also possible sanctions relief for Russia. They took a lot of interest in President Trump saying, not too long ago, that he would be willing to discuss sanctions relief for Russia if Russia helped the U.S. out in places like Syria and Ukraine.

Now Syria, Dave, is also going to be one of the major issues on the agenda. It's something that really John Bolton has building up to as he's been on that trip in the Middle East. He has said, recently, that he believes that Russia is somewhat stuck in Syria and is looking for help from the U.S. politically, but then also in reconstruction. Of course, at a really tall task in Syria, a lot of destruction there.

The Russians are saying, no, no, no, wait a minute. They're not stuck at all in Syria. In fact, they say that if the U.S. is going to work together with Russia, it's going to be on Russia's terms. Dave.

BRIGGS: Crucial meeting in Geneva. All right, Fred Pleitgen, live for us in Moscow. Thank you.

ROMAN: All right. "The New York Times" reports, Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, is considering an unprecedented move, allowing states to use Federal funds to buy firearms for teachers. It would reverse a long-standing government policy not to pay to outfit schools with weapons. Devos is said to be eyeing a loophole in a law intended to increase

academic opportunities. That particular law does not bar weapons purchases.

BRIGGS: In March, Congress passed a school safety bill, allocating $50 million a year to local school districts, but expressly prohibited the use of that money for firearms. An Education Department spokesperson says, they are constantly considering and evaluating policy issues.

ROMANS: All right, China and the U.S. are talking trade, but it didn't prevent a new round of tariffs that went into affect at midnight. Officials met in Washington for the first time in months. Expectations, I can tell you, are low. Previous rounds made little progress.

The president told Reuters, he does not expect, quote, "anything to come of it." At midnight the U.S. began collecting 25 percent tariffs on another 16 billion in Chinese goods.

A motorcycle, semiconductors, plastics, chemicals, railway equipment, those particular target China's made in 2025 plan. That's Beijing's plan to dominate high tech industries of the future. Beijing immediately struck back, dollar for dollar, hitting products like coal and steel. China says, it plans to file a complaint with the WTO.

The U.S. already targeted 34 billion in Chinese goods, possibly 200 billion overall by the end of September. In total, that's half of what the U.S. buys from China. Now, most U.S. companies don't like Trump's tariffs, it raises costs for them and for their consumers, but those tariffs also provide a lifeline for some struggling industries like aluminum and the Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, yesterday in Kentucky, commemorated the restart of a smelter at Century Aluminum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILBUR ROSS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: It's days like this that I hope would happen when I took the job, going to Washington, because this is what's it's all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: These are the wins that the Commerce Secretary and the president really like to focus on. Century Aluminum plans to invest $150 million to create 275 new jobs at that aluminum smelter.

BRIGGS: All right, Hurricane Lane barreling towards Hawaii. The category four storm packing sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. The storms center could make landfall as it moves past the island today through Saturday.

It should draw close enough to the islands to bring destructive winds and rain. A hurricane warning issued for the Island of Oahu, Hawaii and Maui already under warnings. The states governor, David Ige, urging residents to stock up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID IGE, GOVERNOR OF HAWAII: Be prepared to shelter and place 14 days of food and supplies and water, medicine, other necessaries that they would have.

ROMANS: So, people are heeding that warning. You can see the bread and water aisles at the supermarket are bare. Hawaii officials urging to people to shelter in place, but right now there are no evacuation orders issued.

Government offices will be closed today and tomorrow. All public and charter schools will be closed. President Trump has approved the Governor's request for a disaster declaration to get Federal assistance in place.

Tracking the storm as it nears the islands is CNN Meteorologist, Pedram Javeheri.

PEDRAM JAVEHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Christine and Dave, good morning to you both. A very impressive setup here in depiction on satellite imagery with Hurricane Lane. A menacing storm, certainly as seen from space.

[05:10:00]

And then you look at the satellite and the (ph) numbers associated with this feature, just as impressive. Still a category four, still very symmetrical, very organized, pushing in just a few hundred miles now south of the big island.

And the track of the system still migrating it to the north and eventually a northwestern turn. But just looking at this and the sheer numbers of this, only two hurricanes have made landfall on Hawaii since 1959. That was Iniki in '92 and Dot in '59 and they were both on the island of Kauai. And this system itself models right now, take it to (ph) the north, by Friday afternoon a westerly shift.

Hopefully that pushes it away from areas around Honolulu. But you notice the cone still brings in Oahu into this and certainly when you breakdown the model by model guidance, we do see a lot of variability in this. So certainly a lot can and will change with this forecast. What we do know that will not change is the amount of rainfall that is slated here.

That will easily exceed 15 to 20 inches in a few spots. And that itself is going to be very dangerous over the next couple of days.

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

BRIGGS: Here's hoping for a hard left turn. OK, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer will keep his job, but he will miss some significant time for how he handled abuse claims against an assistant. What Meyer has to say and what he say, next.

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[05:15:00]

ROMANS: The Iowa dairy farm that employed the suspect in Mollie Tibbetts' killing now says he got the job using a false ID. Officials say in fact 24 year old Christian Rivera came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico. Now, officials at Yarrabee Farms initially said he was cleared to work for them through the government e-verify vetting. But no.

Now a farm owner says they performed their standard hiring procedure which requires a photo ID and a social security card. They say they made a mistake in the process, thinking social security employment verification and the e-verify system were one in the same. Of course, they are not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANE LANG, CO-OWNER & MANAGER, YARRABEE FARMS: All of us are saddened by the tragic death of Mollie and the realization that one of our coworkers was involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Just an hour earlier, Rivera was arraigned for first degree murder in Tibbett's death, his bond set at $5 million. Last night, members of the University of Iowa community gathered for a vigil to remember Tibbetts. Her family releasing a statement to supporters, saying, quote, thank you for the outpouring of love and support that has been shared in Mollie's name. We remain forever grateful.

ROMANS: Verizon admits it slowed wireless data speeds for a Northern California fire department while its firefighters battled the largest wildfire in state history. The move slowed high tech tracking equipment to a crawl. The internet has become an essential tool for the rapid deployment of personnel, fuel, engines and aircraft. With service slowed to dial-up speeds, the chief says his department's ability to function was severely interfered with.

In some cases, they couldn't even send or receive e-mails. Verizon admits speed restrictions should have been lifted when requested and said the company will fix any issues going forward.

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BRIGGS: One of Aerosmith's biggest hits, "Dream On", playing at President Trump's rally in West Virginia this week. Now lead singer Steven Tyler demanding the president stop using the band's songs. Attorneys for Steven Tyler sending a cease and desist letter, noting it is not the first time that the president has used Aerosmith's music without the band's permission. Tyler in a statement says it is not about Democrats versus Republicans.

He says their music is for causes, not political campaigns or rallies. And the latest on Ohio State coach Urban Meyer plus Ryan Zimmerman was certain he just hit the 11th walk-off career homer but the Nationals star had to wait for more than two minutes to find out if that was indeed the case. Lindsay Czarniak has the answer in the Bleacher Report. Good morning.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, SPORTS ANCHOR, CNN: Morning.

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[05:20:00]

BRIGGS: Ohio State suspends football coach, Urban Meyer, from the first three games of the season.

ROMANS: Lindsay Czarniak has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hi Lindsay.

CZARNIAK: Hey guys. We said we thought that this was going to happen and he would come back in some shape or form. The University Board of Trustees, though, met for 11 hours yesterday before coming to a decision. And this decision has go a lot of folks up in arms. Meyer can return to work for the final two weeks of his suspension, but he cannot coach those games.

The investigation surrounding his response, or lack thereof, to spousal abuse allegations against former assistant coach, Zach Smith. The board found Meyer failed to take, quote, "sufficient management action," against Smith despite having knowledge of the accusations.

Meyer did offer an apology to fans. Here's part of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

URBAN MEYER, OHIO STATE FOOTBALL COACH: I'm fully aware that I'm ultimately responsible for this situation that has harmed the University as a whole and our Department of Athletics and our football program. I want to apologize to Buckeye nation. I followed my heart and not my head. I fell short in pursuing full information because, at each juncture, I gave Zach Smith the benefit of the doubt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CZARNIAK: Meyer admitted that he knew about a 2009 abuse allegation made by Smith's ex-wife, but he said he was not aware of a 2015 incident until last month. Zach Smith has denied the abuse allegations. He was fired, however, from the University, from the team, in July. So, interesting. People are upset though. Question all around.

BRIGGS: No apologies for Courtney Smith?

CZARNIAK: No, he didn't even say her name.

BRIGGS: Three apologies to Buckeye's nation.

CZARNIAK: They handled this very poorly. It's a joke. ROMANS: And to fire the assistant coach, use it as a moment to slam his ex-wife, saying that he ruined his career, right?

CZARNIAK: Yes. So, poorly overall. All right, they call National's slugger, Ryan Zimmerman, Mr. Walk-off in Washington, D.C. So, he knows a thing or two about a home-run. The umpires, though, not so much. The thought this booming shot, bouncing off the top of the wall, meaning that the ball was still in play.

So, Zimmerman, he had to be patient. He had to cool his heels at second base for a review to overturn, what he knew right away, yes, that it is, indeed, a homerun. Hitting the railing behind the wall as you see it here closely again. So, that also gives the National's the 8-7 come from behind victory over the Phillies.

And finally, the long-awaited, much anticipated head-to-head match place showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Nicholson is on.

[05:25:00]

Thanksgiving weekend, round in Vegas. It's for high stakes. The grand prize will be for a whopping $9 million bucks. The winner takes all. Yes. Their billing this like a heavyweight title fight in boxing and that's exactly what this is. Two of the biggest names squaring off.

Both golfers and their caddy's are going to be mic'd up. It's going to add a little bit more interactive element for the fans. Bleacher Report will be at the forefront of the event, live pay-per-view coverage on the Bleacher Report live app and ...

ROMANS: But they won't have to wear mouth guards to protect their teeth or anything?

BRIGGS: No. No.

CZARNIAK: Questionable. Questionable.

BRIGGS: Thanksgiving week in Vegas. I'm available to cover that.

ROMANS: Oh, really?

BRIGGS: Just suggesting to the bosses.

CZARNIAK: And your family thinks that's okay? I mean that's a big ...

BRIGGS: Well, I'll bring them. They haven't said pricing by the way. We'll see how much it's going to cost. That will be interesting.

ROMANS: Lindsay, nice to see you. Thank you.

First the president didn't know about the Stormi Daniels payoff. Well, now he says he knew, but it was after the fact. Oh yes, and then there's this recording where he's discussing it with Michael Cohen before the payment's even made. Another revolution into who knew what, when, in the wake of Michael Cohen's guilty plea.

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