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Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty, Implicates Trump; Paul Manafort Found Guilty On Eight Counts; Undocumented Immigrant Charged In Tibbetts Murder. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 23, 2018 - 05:30   ET



[05:30:13] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Cohen pleads guilty and implicates the president. Paul Manafort found guilty of financial crimes. What does this all mean for President Trump, who a prominent law professor says is an alleged co-conspirator in the White House?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: California Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife indicted for using a quarter million dollars in campaign cash to live beyond their means.

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

We've also got to talk about a category five hurricane bearing down on Hawaii. That's ahead.

ROMANS: Yes, Hawaii.

BRIGGS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Stunned, rattled, blindsided -- just some of what 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 and fixer, pleaded guilty, admitting he acted in coordination and at the direction of Mr. Trump to keep two women quiet during the campaign to sway the election.

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

BRIGGS: A Republican Congressional source tells CNN top party leaders are quote "trying to catch their breath."

Even the president's supporters see the significance of the convictions. "Drudge Report" calling it "Trump Hell Hour."

The attorney for Michael Cohen suggests the president's longtime fixer could still have damaging information for the Russia investigation.


LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: Mr. Cohen has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel and is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows, not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about.

But also, knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.


ROMANS: All right.

The plea does not include cooperation with the government. 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.

BRIGGS: 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 is now 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 very sad thing that happened.

This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. This 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 this attack 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 still revived that all-familiar chant from the campaign trail last night at the rally.


WEST VIRGINIA RALLYGOERS: Lock her up! Lock her up!


ROMANS: There's a drain the swamp --


ROMANS: -- also there.

President Trump is planning to spend at least 40 days on the road campaigning for Republicans before the midterms. The midterms are 76 days away.


For the political and legal implications of all this, let's ask former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore. And from the political "CNN POLITICS," digital director Zach Wolf.

Good to have you both.

ROMANS: Good morning, gentlemen.

BRIGGS: We'll get to the political in a second. Let's start with the legal, Michael.

What does this mean as far as Michael Cohen -- what does it mean legally for the President of the United States?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: Well, I mean, Trump's name was basically all over the charging documents in the Cohen plea and it tells us that he's essentially involved. And we know that apparently at his direction, this FEC violation and this crime was conducted.

So I don't think there's any more questions about a witch hunt. I mean, he can -- he can chant that at rallies but there is -- there is no more talking about that.

What it also tells me though is that this whole cooperation angle is still very much in play.

I want you to remember there are two distinct investigations going on. There's the Southern District of New York investigation --

[05:35:00] ROMANS: Yes. MOORE: -- and then there's the Bob Mueller investigation.

Those were intentionally separated by Mueller so that it was within his purview as he looked at Russia. He didn't want to bring Cohen into it and sort of give the president, I guess, and his supporters something to crow about -- say that he had overstepped his bounds.

But there's a -- there's a Rule 35 procedure in federal court in the criminal practice. And what it means is that a defendant can come back within a year after sentencing and cooperate with the government and the government can then go to the court and file a Rule 35 motion and have the -- have the defendant get some credit for that.

And so the fact that there's no spelled out cooperation agreement in this plea agreement, I think is really a stroke of genius on Bob Mueller's part and the Southern District of New York's part.

And it keeps the plea clean and it keeps the separation there, which needs to be there so that there's not the -- what we can expect is going to be the detractors coming forward at the end of the day --


MOORE: -- saying ah, they're -- you know, they're working together and that they're the ones in collusion with each other. I mean, I can -- I can hear that now. That would be a ridiculous argument but this is a better way to do it.

ROMANS: Zach, the politics of this. In coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office, trying to sway the outcome of an election by keeping two scandals out of the public eye.

How cornered is the president here?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS: It's obvious I think now if it wasn't kind of obvious before that he was involved with all of this -- these efforts, according to Michael Cohen, to silence a porn star and a former playmate who were alleging affairs with him. That's pretty incredible stuff.

Now, at the same time, I'm not sure that Trump supporters out there who -- the legions of them in this country -- I'm not sure they're going to be necessarily swayed by this.

But it could have a real impact on these coming November elections. And if Democrats enter next year in a position in the House and potentially in the Senate where they control things that sort of changes the pace of the game quite a bit.

ROMANS: Zach, we hear from -- will there be a GOP response do you think? Do you think we're still going to start to hear -- we'll hear from Paul Ryan and the likes on this or do they just keep quiet?

BRIGGS: Don't hold your breath.

WOLF: I don't think they're going to come out and hold press conferences but you can guess the reporters are going to --

ROMANS: They'll be asked.

WOLF: -- be asking them --

ROMANS: They'll be asked.

WOLF: -- at every opportunity to weigh in on this.

BRIGGS: All right, so let's get back to this notion of a cooperation agreement --

MOORE: Right.

BRIGGS: -- Michael, because Lanny Davis -- again, to reiterate what he said -- we ran it earlier. He hinted that Michael Cohen and Donald Trump knew about the hacking of the e-mails and cheered it on.

So how does a cooperation agreement work going forward if that is the play here by Lanny Davis, who's on "NEW DAY" later this morning?

MOORE: Well, I mean, ultimately what would happen is he would let Bob Mueller's team know that he was going to make his client available to give information in another criminal investigation, and that is what's going on in the Mueller probe.

And he would come to him and make a proffer and give him some indication of what he thought Cohen would say. Then I'm sure they interview Cohen.

I mean, another way to do that is you can ask -- bring Cohen into the grand jury and offer him use immunity since he -- since there's already been -- his plea is resolved in the Southern District of New York.

And Mueller can say look, we're not going to use anything against you at this point, we want to know what happened with Trump. And there's already been some questions about waiver privilege.

You know, I was stunned when I heard you say and I've heard reports that they were shocked and shell-shocked inside the White House.


MOORE: I mean, I think the fortune teller at the local county fair could have read the tea leaves on this, that Paul Manafort was going to be convicted and Michael Cohen was going to flip.

There's no way this guy's going to give up his family and his freedom for somebody who's now sort of stabbed him in the back. And I think you've seen Cohen sort of move in that direction for a number of months.

So this has been a long time coming and --

ROMANS: Yes. MOORE: -- I'm not surprised by it at all.

ROMANS: Lanny Davis saying he was taking stock in his life and decided to reset his life.


ROMANS: This is what "The Washington Post" says in an editorial, guys.

"For a president who had promised to hire only the best, the twin results represented a stunning rebuke. The president has staffed his campaign and administration with shady characters, fringe ideologues, and other opportunistic hangers-on who would never have approached their high positions but for Mr. Trump's lack of judgment."

You know -- and then, Zach, you get the Duncan Hunter indictment last night as well. Chris Collins, insider trading charges.

I mean, when you look at the inner circle of Donald Trump -- the early supporters of Donald Trump -- it does not look like drain the swamp.

WOLF: No, and part of it, you have to remember those are the people who would sign on -- Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins.

Trump had won a large number of primaries and he had very few supporters in Congress because people still didn't believe he was going to be able to win the primary. And those were two of the first people to sign on with him.

And the same with his staffers. He was unable to find sort of the cream of the Washington crop, partially because he was promising to drain the swamp. So that's who ended up in his administration.

[05:40:03] BRIGGS: Michael, it's hard to find good news yesterday for the president, but if there is any it's that this had nothing to do with Russia -- with collusion as far as the Paul Manafort aspect of it.

But what about the notion of this as a witch hunt and that there is, again, no sign of collusion as we move forward? What does this mean for Bob Mueller?

MOORE: You know, I think that Bob Mueller was sort of acting as the composer of a great opera. He basically played the first song for us, and he told us who the characters are, and he talked to us about money.

He already knows how this thing's going to wrap up. He knows how the second trial is going to come out. He knows how the third trial, the fourth trial, and hopefully how the investigation is going to end or his report's going to end.

So I don't -- I don't really think that the fact the president wasn't a central figure in the Manafort case means anything positive for the president. I think that this is ultimately, at the end of the day, going to be a

money case. We've got to follow the money. And this was the start and Mueller's starting to tell us about that money coming into officials who were close to Trump and his administration.

And so, you know, the good news for the president -- I think there's none.

I think the idea that -- I've heard some talk about the idea of these 10 counts that they were a hung jury. Look, he didn't need but a couple of counts and he's looking to spend the rest of his life in prison. So I don't --


MOORE: And the government can still come back on the 10 counts. It just doesn't -- it's no good news for him yesterday.

BRIGGS: It would appear he is playing for a pardon and it certainly sounded like the president was leaving that door open --

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: -- in his remarks there.

ROMANS: He said it was sad.


ROMANS: Sad and wrong. He called him a good man.

MOORE: Well, and the question will be can Trump stand that politically?

And once he does pardon him, think about this. Manafort then has no more jeopardy, so guess what? He's going to be in front of a federal grand jury that Bob Mueller puts together because he's got no more right to claim the Fifth Amendment if, in fact, he gets a pardon there.

ROMANS: Zach Wolf --

BRIGGS: A lot of questions.

ROMANS: -- Michael Moore, nice to see both of you this morning bright and early.

MOORE: Good to see you.

ROMANS: Thanks, guys.

BRIGGS: Thank you, both.

All right. Ahead, an undocumented immigrant facing murder charges in the death of an Iowa college student. The latest, ahead.


[05:46:00] BRIGGS: A devastating end for the search for Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old Iowa college student who 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 Kelli Ward tweeting, "The lack of leadership and courage by open border senators like Jeff Flake and John McCain." Republicans, mind you. Adding, #BuildTheWall.

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

More now from CNN's Ryan Young in Iowa.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN 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 are giving details about this. Mollie Tibbetts was somebody that 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 surveillance camera in a 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 and eventually, he got out of the car.

RICK RAHN, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, IOWA DIVISION 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 grab ahold of her phone and said you need to leave me alone. I'm going to call the police.

And then she took off running. He, in turn, chased her down.

YOUNG: They say he has confessed to this. In fact, he took them to the body just yesterday. So you all can understand why people are so upset about this.

But now they have this man 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 sometime and maybe placed Mollie in the trunk. No sure her body was out in the location where it was found but we do know it was concealed -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Ryan Young. Thank you for that.

Let's get a check on "CNN Money" this morning.

It is official. This has been the longest period of stock market prosperity in American history. The bull market will be 3,453 days old today. That's the longest ever.

The run began back in March 2009 during the dark days of the financial crisis. Since then, the Dow has gained 19,000 points, the S&P 500 has quadrupled in value, and just yesterday the S&P notched an all-time high.

A few things fueling this record run here. A slow but steady economic recovery, soaring corporate profits, an unprecedented aid from the Federal Reserve. The Central Bank kept interest rates low and cheap money helped boost stocks.

A bull market ends with a 20 percent loss and there have been several close calls.

There was a close call in 2011. Remember when America's credit was downgraded? There was this fear the euro could collapse.

But stocks never actually fell 20 percent and analysts think the bulls still have more room to run. The bull markets don't die of old age. There's not an expiration date stamped on there.

And stocks have been resilient here. There are a few threats -- trade war, rising inflation. But overall, the economy here still (audio gap).

That's because U.S. politics are shaking markets here as top aides to President Trump were convicted in federal court -- one guilty plea -- guilty verdicts as well.

China and the U.S. also gearing up for another round of trade talks, but President Trump told Reuters he doesn't expect anything to come of it.

A Chinese delegation heads to Washington today just as the U.S. prepares its next round of tariffs. The U.S. will begin collecting another $16 billion in Chinese goods tomorrow.

BRIGGS: Beijing said it would strike back dollar-for-dollar.

[05:50:02] Uber has agreed to pay 56 employees $1.9 million, settling claims of gender discrimination, harassment, and unequal pay.

Uber has been working to fix pay disparity 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 hired a chief financial officer which has been vacant since 2015. He's a veteran banking and insurance exec.

After 116 years -- hi, there, Romans -- animal crackers --


BRIGGS: -- are no longer behind bars. Barnum's animal crackers changing its classic design. The animals are not in cages. Instead, they are roaming free in a grassland.

The company that makes animal crackers, Mondelez, says its redesign is an evolution of the brand, but PETA taking credit here. 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 our society no longer tolerates caging and chaining exotic animals for circus shows."

But we do enjoy them -- eating them in delicious bite-sized morsels.

ROMANS: Run free. Run free, animals, on a box. It is just art, anyway.

BRIGGS: All right.

It only happened once before. A category five hurricane is now within 350 miles of Hawaii. A hurricane warning has been issued. More, next.


[05:56:08] BRIGGS: Hawaii under a hurricane warning as category five Lane heads for the island. The storm packing maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour.

Schools are closed on the Big Island in Maui. The state's governor has signed an emergency proclamation.

It's only the second time on record a cat five hurricane has come within 350 miles of Hawaii.

Residents rushing to stock up on supplies and essentials at this hardware store ahead of the storm.

Lane projected to weaken over the next 24 hours before it makes landfall early Friday.

ROMANS: The Food and Drug Administration extending the expiration date for some EpiPens by four months to help cover a shortage ahead of the new school year. The FDA said it reviewed data from the manufacturer showing that certain batches could still be used.

The medication is, of course, to stop severe allergic reactions. It's only been available in limited quantities due to regional supply disruptions and manufacturer issues.

BRIGGS: Emotions running high in a Colorado courtroom as Chris Watts is arraigned on murder charges for killing his pregnant wife and two small daughters.

The father of Shanann Watts in the front row, sobbing just feet from the alleged killer of his daughter and granddaughters.

Watts seemed largely emotionless during the proceeding. He agreed to waive a preliminary hearing.

Watts claimed he killed his wife after she strangled their daughters, Bella and Celeste.

ROMANS: A Catholic priest in Pennsylvania charged with indecent assault and corruption of a minor. Prosecutors say Father Kevin Lonergan sent sexual messages to a 17-year-old girl and hugged and grabbed her inappropriately.

Lonergan served at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown. The diocese says it learned about the allegation in June and removed the priest.

Father Lonergan was not named in a recent grand jury report that accused 300 priests of abuse.

BRIGGS: A New Jersey principal coming up with a fresh idea to fight bullying in his school. He installed a free in-school laundromat to help students who were being bullied because they couldn't afford to wash their clothes.

West Side High School principal Akbar Cook says he suspects bullying was a big reason 85 percent of his students were missing a significant amount of school.


AKBAR COOK, PRINCIPAL, WEST SIDE HIGH SCHOOL, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Was being bullied and it wasn't just on -- like in the building, it was on Snapchat. I'm sitting behind you and I take a picture of your collar and then I'm all look at this dirty guy.


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

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

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs. ROMANS: Nice to see you today, everybody.

BRIGGS: A busy "NEW DAY." Lanny Davis weighs in on Michael Cohen. Is a possible agreement ahead with the special counsel?

We'll see you tomorrow.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: It was a wild day, even in Trumpworld. The president's campaign manager, guilty. The president's personal lawyer, guilty.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: There's no question that Donald Trump is at the center of this. His fingerprints are all over the crime scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't been convicted of anything. It's someone who's going to jail accusing him of something.

TRUMP: Paul Manafort's a good man. It's a witch hunt and it's a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tremendous victory for Mueller's team.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: We're in a Watergate moment.


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 a very busy Wednesday, August 22nd, 6:00 here in New York.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A busy Wednesday?

CAMEROTA: Yes, it is. Fair enough to say.

BERMAN: A busy Wednesday is how you're going to characterize it?

CAMEROTA: I'm not sure we have enough in three hours to get through all of this, but here we go.

A guilty plea and a guilty verdict. Two of President Trump's closest advisers, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are now convicted felons.

And, Cohen, Mr. Trump's longtime personal lawyer, directly implicated the President of the United States as an unindicted co-conspirator of a federal crime.