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Exodus Continues: Trump Loses Gary Cohn; Stormy Sues Trump; Northeast Braces for Big Snowstorm; North Korea Willing to Talk to U.S. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 7, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[04:30:27] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like conflict. I like having two people with different points of view. I like watching it. I like seeing it.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The cage fight has now cost the president his top economic adviser. Gary Cohn is out after getting overruled in the battle over new tariffs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Stormy Daniels is ready to talk. She is suing the president over their nondisclosure agreement. She claims it's void since he never signed it.

BRIGGS: And nor'easter part two. Major snowfall coming to the Northeast today. Tens of millions facing dangerous conditions. The full forecast is moments away.

ROMANS: I do not like that map.

BRIGGS: No. It is frightening. And it shifts just a little bit, and you get several more inches of snow.

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

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

Why would anyone think there's chaos in the White House? What chaos?

Just hours after President Trump tweeted out this claim, "there is no chaos, only great energy," there was word of another crucial departure. The top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, will resign in the coming weeks following a fierce disagreement with this president over his decision to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

BRIGGS: So for the top aide who agonized but stayed after the president defended white supremacists in Charlottesville, tariffs were indeed the final straw. A senior administration official says Cohn had no choice but to leave, having lost the internal fight on tariffs. A Republican congressman involved in trade policy said Cohn's absence will, quote, mean more instability in the West Wing.

ROMANS: This announcement that Cohn is leaving came shortly after an afternoon news conference with the Swedish prime minister where Cohn failed to fill a seat with his name on it. The empty Gary Cohn chair, and the president presumably knowing his top economic adviser was resigning, said this --


TRUMP: Many, many people want every single job. You know, I read, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump -- believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office, the West Wing.

I have a choice of anybody. I could take any position in the White House, and I'll have a choice of the ten top people having to do that position. Everybody wants to be there.


ROMANS: For investors, Gary Cohn was a calming, soothing figure. They saw him as somebody to moderate the president's extreme views. Again, knowing Cohn was quitting over tariffs, the president stood firmly by the tariffs.


TRUMP: We'll do it in a very loving way. It will be a loving, loving way. They'll like us better, and they will respect us much more.


ROMANS: Loving tariffs.

BRIGGS: Loving tariffs, Romans.

Republican opposition growing by the day. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally breaking his silence Tuesday saying he has genuine concerns the new tariffs could spark a trade war.

ROMANS: OK. Gary Cohn's sudden departure already rattling Wall Street. Dow futures falling as much as 400 points overnight. S&P 500 futures sliding about 1 percent. That set the tone for the rest of the world. Global stocks down. Asia and Europe slipped lower.

Cohn's presence reassured investors. He's a former Goldman Sachs executive, pro-business, a realist, instrumental in passing the tax cuts that juiced corporate profits. He is pro-free trade, a moderate globalist voice to President Trump's more nationalist instincts.

Nationalist, what do I mean? I mean his plan to slap tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, Cohn opposed that and was working to soften the final product, even orchestrating a meeting with companies hurt by higher aluminum and steel prices. Now that Cohn is gone, Wall Street's big fear is a trade war. President Trump calls America's $810 billion trade deficit overall a

disaster. He seems to think that America loses $810 billion a year -- that misses at important point. That deficit is just for goods. The U.S. is no longer a manufacturing economy. It's now service based. Think finance, media, tech.

In terms of services, the U.S. has a $243 billion trade surplus. And service businesses employ five times as many people as companies that make goods.

BRIGGS: Interesting.

All right. CNN has learned that President Trump seems to be sowing at least some of the discord inside of the White House. According to sources, the president has emboldened his onetime communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, to continue his public attacks on Chief of Staff John Kelly. Scaramucci has been doing just that, blaming Kelly for the terrible morale in the West Wing during his cable news appearances.

[04:35:02] The White House has not responded to our request for comment. Some might ask is it really the president's job to tell Anthony Scaramucci who to do and what not to do now that he's a private citizen? You decide.

Porn star, adult entertainer Stephanie Clifford, call her whatever you will, Stormy Daniels is suing President Trump. She wants a judge to rule the nondisclosure agreement she signed is void because then- candidate Trump did not sign it. The deal, of course, regards an alleged sexual encounter between the two.

ROMANS: The suit filed in a California court says Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, signed the documents on the president's behalf. But a person familiar with the agreement tells "The Washington Post" it required the signature of Cohen or Trump but not both. The lawsuit also claimed that after Cohen tried to stop Daniels from coming forward before the election, Cohen has kept trying to silence Daniels even as recently as last week, filing what the suit calls a bogus arbitration proceeding.

BRIGGS: No comment from Cohen on that claim. Cohen has admitted making a $130,000 payment to Daniels before the 2016 election but he denies the Trump organization or campaign was involved or that the payment violated campaign finance law. He also says the president vehemently denies any encounter with Daniels.

We should note there is a reference to the president as David Denison throughout this lawsuit. Not the president, but I guess then he was just the private citizen. But David Denison is his pseudonym throughout this lawsuit. Add that to the list.

ROMANS: Gets weirder and weirder.

Now to a different and more dangerous kind of stormy. For the second time in a week, powerful nor'easter threatening more than 50 million from Philly to Boston. All of them facing winter storm watches or warnings. Remember, crews are still working to restore power to more than 100,000 customers after last weekend's storm. More than 1,900 flights canceled today. If you are traveling, please check with your airline before leaving home.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

For the latest on the storm, let's bring in meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

Good morning, my friend. So how this one different from the one we just saw a few days ago?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is going to be very different. In fact, we're talking about a lot more snow. The winds aren't going to be as strong, still, 40, 50 mile-per-hour winds. The last had 80 to 90 mile-per-hour winds. That's not going to be the case here.

But yes, stop me if you heard this before. Another nor'easter here impacting with Philly, New York, and into Boston. Unlike the last storm, though, we have winter storm warnings that stretch out for a good while here across the entire Northeast corridor. There are going to be nuances as far as who gets rain along the coast, and we'll talk about that in a second.

There's the area of low pressure, very interesting to see the lightning getting going. This is now just a storm beginning to get its act together. I think it peaks in intensity by the time we get into this afternoon. Unlike the last storm, this will be out of here tomorrow. When we talk about 12 to 20-plus inches of snowfall, it will be coming down hard and heavy at times. There's Philly with the snowfall.

There you see the blue indicating the radar showing up with the rainfall there. That's going to continue to play with the coast a little bit here. That's why some of the totals right along the coast will be kept down. We don't even have winter storm warnings across coastal New Jersey. That's how rainy it will be as opposed to the snow.

Further in, there it is, four to six inches in Philly. Then the burbs north and west. The potential for foot-plus totals. New York, six to ten. With the warmer air coming off the Atlantic, portions of Long Island, more like two to four inches.

Same deal in Boston. You'll get the wind right off the water there. So, Cape and the islands not going to see much in the way of snowfall. South shore looks like one to two inches. And Boston proper -- then again, away from Boston into 8 to 12-inch totals. And perhaps 12 to 18 inches are not out of the question.

So, winds over 50, minor coastal flooding. The storm's not going to hang out for several days like the last one either. But travel disruptions as you mentioned, upwards of 2,000-plus flights canceled. If you're trying to get in or out of the Northeast, probably not going to happen for you today.

BRIGGS: Folks in Boston happy to hear the one to two. They've been hammered.

All right. Thank you, Ivan.

Meanwhile, new signs of conflict within the House Intel Russia investigation this morning. Fair warning, this is complicated, so try and follow along. Sources tell CNN someone leaked information to an attorney for Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The information came from testimony by another witness in the Russia probe named David Kramer. Kramer had met with former British spy, Christopher Steele, author of the Trump dossier.

ROMANS: Kramer's attorney accuses Republicans of leaking information about the testimony to the attorney of another witness who our source says was Michael Cohen. Leaking testimony to another witness violates committee rules. Now, the allegation that Cohen was the recipient raising new questions about whether Hill Republicans improperly gave private information in the Russia probe to a key member of the Trump team.

All right. Jared Kushner is traveling to Mexico today. The president's son-in-law and senior adviser scheduled to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto, at the time when relations between the U.S. and Mexico are badly strained.

[04:40:01] NAFTA negotiations and the president's new tariff proposals just adding to these tensions. Kushner just had his security clearance downgraded. And the President Pena Nieto recently canceled a trip to Washington after a heated telephone conversation with President Trump.

BRIGGS: Ahead, South Korea say sanctions must stay in place against North Korea even as Pyongyang shows some willingness to talk about its nuclear program. We're live with these major developments ahead.



TRUMP: I think that they are sincere, but I think they're sincere also because the sanctions and what we're doing with respect to North Korea including, you know, the great help that we've been given from China. I really believe they are sincere. I hope they're sincere. We're going to soon find out.


[04:45:00] ROMANS: President Trump sounding optimistic after South Korea announced North Korea is willing to talk to the United States about giving up its nuclear arsenal. The stunning development coming after historic negotiations between the two Koreas in Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-un also agreeing to refrain from conducting nuclear and missile tests while the talks are ongoing.

CNN's Andrew Stevens tracking the latest developments live from Seoul. How much skepticism to all this? I mean, the -- it's written in the

constitution, isn't it, that they're going to have nuclear ambitions? Everywhere you go in North Korea, there are pictures of its warheads.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It is fundamental to North Korea's survival, according to the regime. The nuclear program is their raison d'etre. It is the way that they can ensure that the regime continues. At least that has always been the story.

And now, North Korea is saying that we are prepared to denuclearize. They have conditions on that. They have big conditions. Namely they want -- their security guaranteed, as they say, what that actually means, most people in Seoul will say, at least it means getting rid of the 27,000 or so U.S. troops on Korean/South Korean soil as a starter. So, that would be a major, major development to take that step.

So, there is a great deal of skepticism this end, too, including the president, President Moon, who made as part of his election campaign closer ties with North Korea a key point. And he's saying today's way too early to be optimistic. We're just at the beginning.

It's going to be interesting, Christine, because there's been a window, if you like, which was created by the Winter Olympic Games. Now, after the Paralympic Games comes to a close, there will be military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. The U.S. saying they're going to go ahead. Watch how North Korea responds.

In the past they have been absolutely bellicose about that. See what happens this time around.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right. Andrew Stevens for us this morning in Seoul -- thank you.

BRIGG: All right. Britain's top diplomat, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, says the U.K. would respond robustly if it is discovered Russia was behind the suspected poisoning of a former double agent. And Britain's home secretary expected to chair an emergency meeting this morning to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Erin McLaughlin live in Salisbury, England, with the fascinating story.

Good morning to you, Erin.


And this remains a mystery. We still do not know exactly what happened to 66-year-old Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia. They were found on Sunday on a park bench in this nondescript shopping center in the sleepy town of Salisbury.

Just behind me, you see the police tent covering the parking bench. The entire area remains cordoned, the subject of an investigation. At the helm of the investigation, Britain's counterterrorism police. They do not think this is terrorism. But they were brought in as a result of unusual circumstances,

circumstances now being considered by the highest level of British government. And the reason why Russia is a focus in all of this is because of who Skripal is. He's a former Russian intelligence operative. In 2016, he was convicted of spying for the U.K., released as part of a high-profile prison swap in 2010. He settled here in Salisbury.

Now, we understand he is in critical condition alongside his daughter in a British hospital, Dave.

BRIGG: Erin McLaughlin live for us this morning in England -- appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Snowboarder Chloe Kim already won gold. Now she's become a Barbie doll! That's cool. Joining 17 women in a new line. We'll tell you who made the cut on CNNMoney, next.


[04:53:39] BRIGGS: All right. Breaking news at 4:53. A police officer killed and two other officers injure at a shoot-out in Clinton, Missouri, about 75 miles southeast of Kansas City. The officers came under fire while responding to a 911 call. The state patrol says the suspect barricaded himself but was later found dead when the SWAT team entered.

Last night's shoot-out happening exactly seven months after another Clinton officer was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

The Texas primary had barely finished when Ted Cruz took an opening shot at his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, Congressman Beto O'Rourke, and it was straight from the Trump playbook.


TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN AD: Liberal Robert wanted to fit in, so he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin --


BRIGGS: Thank you, Twitter, for reminding that as a riff off of the Alabama classic, "If You're Gonna Play in Texas." Those lyrics, liberal Robert wanted to fit it in with the play on Little Marco, or Lyin' Ted Cruz. Pointed out Beto's real name is Robert. Ted Cruz's real first name for those keeping track is Rafael.

ROMANS: Mine is Christine, and yours is David.


ROMANS: Cruz and O'Rourke both won their primaries and will square off in November. Democrats look to be runoffs for three races for Republican-held seats in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

[04:55:00] Democratic voter turnout was the highest in Texas for a non-presidential primary since 2002. Republican Governor Greg Abbott won his primary on the Democratic side. A runoff will determine who faces Abbott in the fall.

BRIGGS: Perhaps we should work on our names, Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: A little boring, isn't it?

BRIGGS: Make them a little more exciting, yes.


BRIGGS: All right. Schools across West Virginia set to reopen today. Governor Jim Justice signing a bill to give 5 percent pay raise to all state workers including striking teachers and school staff. The deal expected to end the teacher walkout that lasted nine school days. The governor's announcement was met with big cheers from educators in the state capitol in Charleston.

The strike has had repercussions outside the state. Teachers in Oklahoma say they, too, have reached their breaking point. Oklahoma's largest teachers union have said on April -- have set an April 23 deadline that teachers will walk off the job if they do not get a pay raise.

Nashville will hold a special mayoral election in August following the resignation of Megan Barry. The Democrat stepping down Tuesday after pleading guilty to felony theft. She agreed to reimburse the city $11,000 and serve three years probation.

In January, Barry admitted to an affair with her then-head of security, Rob Forrest. On Tuesday, Forrest also pleaded guilty to theft, agreeing to repay $45,000 to the city. It's not clear if the guilty pleas are related to the affair. Vice mayor David Briley will serve as mayor until the election. He's not saying whether he plans to run.

The great escape this was not. A police chase in Fairfax County, Virginia, ending when a drunk driving suspect gets out of his car, tries to make a run for it. The guy forgot the car was still in drive and ended up running over himself. The guy is fine physically but he certainly has other problems. This was his third DUI, and he faces a long list of other charges.

ROMANS: Lucky he didn't hurt somebody else.

All right. A 2-year-old girl who was mesmerized by a new portrait of Michelle Obama got to meet and dance with the real former first lady. You remember the picture -- it was so cute. This photo of little Parker Curry staring at the portrait in the Smithsonian gallery went viral last week. Jessica Curry says her little girl was fascinated by the artwork. Mrs. Obama noticed and invited the Currys to her office.

She later tweeted this video dancing with Parker. I love it. With the message, you dream for yourself, and maybe proudly I'll look up at a portrait of you, gosh. The girl was on last night -- she was just really cute. BRIGGS: Good stuff.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check CNNMoney this morning. Gary Cohn's sudden departure rattling Wall Street. They do not like it on the street. Dow futures falling as much as 400 points overnight. The S&P 500 sliding about 1 percent.

That set the tone for global stocks. Asia and Europe slipped lower.

Cohn's presence reassured investors, he's pro-business. He's pro-free trade. He's a moderate globalist voice to President Trump's more nationalist instincts. The president's protectionism freaks out Wall Street. Not only can it undo his pro-business work by tax cuts and deregulation, but trade war can lead to more inflation sparking faster interest rate hikes.

Target is again raising its minimum wage. Hiking starting pay to $12 an hour this spring. Last fall it raised it to $11. Why hike wages twice in less than a year? The first raise brought them a bigger and better pool of employees. Higher wages are good for workers, it's in in -- necessary in a tight labor market. Investors are wary of the costs. Target's stock fell 4.5 percent yesterday.

Gunmaker American Outdoor responding to Blackrock. The Smith & Wesson maker is facing pressure from the money manager after the parkland shooting. American Outdoor brands made the rifle used by the shooter. Blackrock is re-examining its investment. The gun maker says it respects the current debate but says the focus should be on improving background checks and addressing mental health.

All right. Just in time for International Women's Day, Barbie is launching a new line of inspiring women. The new dolls include historical figures Amelia Earhart, love that one, Frida Kahlo, Katherine Johnson, cool, and modern-day role models of "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins and Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim.

The line inspired by a survey by Barbie maker Mattel, 86 percent of mothers worry about the role models their daughters are exposed to. Mattel wants to inspire more girls.

BRIGGS: That's a great story. International Women's Day tomorrow.

EARLY START continues right now with the chaos or conflict that the president embraces.

ROMANS: What chaos?-

BRIGGS: What chaos? We'll tell you next.



TRUMP: I like conflict. I like having two people with different points of view. I like watching it. I like seeing it.


BRIGGS: I like it. I get it.

Now, the chaos and conflict, the cage fight, though, has now cost the president his top economic adviser. Gary Cohn is out after getting overruled on the battle over new tariffs.