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Trump Expected to Pull Out from Iran Nuclear Deal; New York Attorney General Resigns Over Assault Allegations. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] CUOMO: Now we get it. No. All right. Time for "CNN NEWSROOM" with John Berman and Poppy Harlow.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. 9:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman.

We could be just hours away from a new global nuclear order. Shortly the president will announce his decision on the Iran nuclear deal and all signs are that he will pull out. This is a deal he's called the worst in history.

Also this morning, President Trump's on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This just hours after President Xi met with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. We'll tell you what we're learning ahead of President Trump's own prospective meeting with Kim.

HARLOW: Also, doesn't take long. The president reportedly growing increasingly unhappy with the man that he hand-selected to handle his counterpunch to the Russian investigation, his longtime friend and now attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Let's go to the White House. Our Abby Phillip is outside.

And Abby, let's begin to that in a moment but first let's being with the Iran deal and the most consequential announcement from this president on foreign policy coming today.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. And one that probably would not come as a huge surprise to a lot of people. The president teased yesterday that he would be announcing this at 2:00 this afternoon and he's widely expected to pull out of the deal. That's despite weeks of frantic calls and meetings with the president from his European allies trying to urge him to stay in it, but President Trump has for quite a long time dating back all the way through the campaign denounced this deal as being insufficient, as being badly negotiated by his predecessors.

And just take a listen to some of the ways that over the years the president has talked about this Iran deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iran deal, which may be the single worst deal I've ever seen drawn by anybody. One of the worst and most one-sided transactions. It's a bad deal. It's a bad structure. It's falling down. Should have never, ever been made. What kind of a deal is it where you're allowed to test missiles all over the place?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: So you hear there the president talking a little bit about some of the concerns he has, ballistic missiles being one of them, but also this idea that the deal doesn't prevent Iran from continuing to fund terrorism in the region. He has support on that point from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who's also been pressuring him, along with a lot of Republicans to pull out of the deal.

But we'll see what the actual details are when he announces it later this afternoon. It's really important to find out exactly what that's going to mean for the specifics of the Iran deal right now -- John and Poppy.

BERMAN: Yes, Abby. That's sort of behind nuclear door number one, behind nuclear door number two, all these prospective talks about North Korea and the president has a key phone call with President Xi of China this morning. What do we know about that?

PHILLIP: That's right. You know, this phone call is coming just after the Chinese president and Kim Jong-un met and they announced this morning that they met face-to-face, the president speaking with the Chinese president by phone. He wrote on Twitter that the talks would focus on trade where he says good things are happening and North Korea, where relationships and trust are building.

Now the president is pushing toward expectant meeting with North Korea in the next several weeks or so. But here's the key thing and maybe the tie here between Iran and North Korea, what is going to be the U.S. credibility around negotiating a deal with North Korea if he is, in fact, deciding to pull out of the Iran deal. Only time will tell but the president seems pretty optimistic that he can do both of these things and be successful in them.

HARLOW: Abby, before you go, multiple reports that the president is very quickly unhappy with his longtime friend, his hand-selected attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Do we know why?

PHILLIP: Well, the media blitz around Rudy Giuliani, you know, according to sources, has really raised the Stormy Daniels issue back on to the front pages where President Trump, frankly, doesn't want it. And our sources tell us that there are some concerns that Giuliani is just simply flying too close to the sun here, that he's pulling, according to a source, a kind of Anthony Scaramucci and that he might need to pull back because his -- you know, his media blitz hasn't exactly worked out in the president's favor.

Now we have also heard that President Trump isn't -- you know, he isn't ready to get rid of Giuliani yet. He's already told him that he's giving him the kind of leeway to be out there on television, but Giuliani hasn't coordinated with the White House press shop on all of these appearances and has gone back and forth about what he's been saying about the Stormy Daniels' case. A lot of concern within this White House that he's simply going way too far on this issue. That he's not even supposed to be doing this, he's the president's attorney when it comes to the Mueller's investigation but he's been talking quite a bit about this other issue with Stormy Daniels.

HARLOW: He has, indeed. Abby Phillip at the White House, thank you for that reporting.

So bombshell, the New York attorney general resigns late last night after a stunning and incredibly disturbing report.

[09:05:04] Eric Schneiderman is a man who brought legal action against Harvey Weinstein for sexual misconduct. He openly has criticized President Trump over and over again and investigated him. He's now accused of physically assaulting at least four women.

BERMAN: Yes. The allegations include slapping, choking, threatening on so many different levels. The allegations are plentiful and horrific.

Our Brynn Gingras here with the details -- Brynn.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Horrific because it's just -- you know, he was a champion for women and during the Me Too movement, Poppy, you mentioned about everything with the Harvey Weinstein. This is a tremendous fall from grace for a rising politician, again, someone who was really active in the Me Too movement.

This is a man who filed an enormous lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Company, and he reached a $25 million settlement for the students for the now defunct Trump University.

OK. Here's the story. Two of the women spoke on the record to the "New Yorker," two other women wanted to remain anonymous. Now according to the "New Yorker," three of the women had romantic relations with the attorney general but none say they consented to physical abuse in those relationships.

Manning Barish, one of the women, described the abuse like this, quote, "All of a sudden he just slapped me, open handed and with great force across the face landing the blow directly on to my ear. He then used his body weight to hold me down and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked in every fiber. I felt I was being beaten by a man," end quote. Now Barish recalls going to the hospital after one of the incidents.

Another one, Tanya Selvaratnam, dated Schneiderman from the summer of 2016 to last fall and she said this to the "New Yorker," quote, "Sometimes he'd tell me to call him master and he'd slap me until I did. He started calling me his 'brown slave' and demanded that I repeat that I was 'his property'."

The woman also claimed many times this abuse happened after Schneiderman had been heavily drinking, sometimes on drugs, and they say he would threaten to kill them if the women left the relationship. At the time the women did not go to authorities.

Now Schneiderman strongly contests all these allegations but he is resigning today. He described the allegations as role playing, quote, "In the privacy of intimate relationships, I've engaged in role playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross."

Now after the time the article published, it just took three hours for Schneiderman to resign. Ronan Farrow, one of the writers on this, had this to say about his comments on "NEW DAY" this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONAN FARROW, WRITER FOR THE NEW YORKER: I just want to relate the message of one of these women and it was a shared sentiment amongst this group that this was not role playing, that this was not "50 Shades of Gray." It wasn't in a gray area at all. This was activity that happened in many cases fully clothed outside of a sexual context during arguments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRAS: Now Ronan continues to talk, guys, about how difficult it was for these women to even come forward. We're talking about the highest office legal wise in the state of New York. We also know that Manhattan's district attorney is looking into all this conduct.

HARLOW: Brynn, thank you for the reporting. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in our CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, also Alex Burns is here, our political analyst and national political correspondent for the "New York Times."

As John pointed out so aptly this morning, yes for journalism, right. Horrific that this happened, but good that people are being held accountable. Three hours after these allegations came out, Alex, he resigns.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's really staggering that this is -- it's not just the breadth and severity and really disturbing nature of the allegations, it's the reality that Eric Schneiderman was so prominent for so long and so powerful in exactly the area that is supposed to police these kinds of allegations that he really put himself forward as a champion for women, as an opponent of a whole range of Trump administration policies including policies that he described as hostile to women.

And look, from a political standpoint, this does leave Democrats in New York at a really sort of decision point in trying to figure out how are they going to find somebody who can step into that job and continue the work that Schneiderman was doing while also sending the message somehow to the people of the state that even though they've now seen over and over very prominent office holders here disgraced in just the most lurid ways possible that they're going to find somebody who won't embarrass the state like that. BERMAN: Disgraced again and again, by the way. This is thing in New

York.

Ron Brownstein, Eric Schneiderman has a national role because of the way he has chosen to go after President Trump on some things and there have been a lot of people on the left and progressives who look at him as some sort of possible savior of the Mueller investigation.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right. Right.

BERMAN: Gets, you know, cancelled, in shambles here.

BROWNSTEIN: No, no.

BERMAN: Schneiderman would take it up in New York and federal pardons don't work in states court. So is this a setback for people who are looking for a backup plan, a plan B?

BROWNSTEIN: Now, look, I mean, we saw this begin under President Obama with Republican attorney generals repeatedly suing the administration over almost all of their policy decisions from immigration to health care.

[09:10:11] The idea of essentially a second front in the states, you battle the other party in Congress horizontally, now you also have to kind of fight vertically and we've seen Democratic attorney generals pick that up completely under Trump. It is now a feature of our politics. So on the one hand, this is a setback, on the other hand it is entirely likely that whoever succeeds him will take on this role as well.

I mean, In California, for example, Attorney General Becerra has 30 lawsuits against the Trump administration at this point.

HARLOW: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: And I think we're going to continue to see that in New York. This is a very high profile choice in New York, and obviously there are whoever has this job will have kind of a national profile because of this new responsibility that we're seeing transfer to the states' attorney generals.

HARLOW: Of course he's the one who brought charges against Harvey Weinstein's company and he said, Brynn, in doing so, quote, "We have never seen anything as despicable as we see right here." This is someone who in his office put forward a "know your rights" pamphlet for victims of domestic violence. The hypocrisy is rank.

GINGRAS: Right. And now the Manhattan district attorney is going to be looking in to him as he was looking into the Manhattan district attorney. I mean, there's a lot going on here. And --

BROWNSTEIN: Sounds like the departed a little bit actually.

GINGRAS: Yes. It's just a level of hypocrisy. I mean, we failed to even mention that in 2010 he passed anti-choking legislation yet several of the women accused him of choking them.

HARLOW: Of choking them.

GINGRAS: So I mean, it's just on so many levels that we just discussed.

BERMAN: I never -- you know, I will never not be shocked by the hubris that some politicians display.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: And how they can speak out of both sides of the mouth at the same time.

All right, guys, stick around.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: We have a lot more to discuss.

Rudy Giuliani brought on to get rid of the president's headaches, not create more. We have new information on reports that the president is growing increasingly frustrated with his new attorney?

HARLOW: Plus Republicans on edge as primary voters hit the polls in four states today. West Virginia, front and center. Does the party have a real problem if ex-convict Don Blankenship wins today? We'll take you there live.

Also today the most consequential foreign policy decision of the Trump presidency just a few hours away. We're getting reaction from an expert who worked in crafting the Iran nuclear deal as all signs point to the president basically killing it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right. It is on. Primary day in four states. Voters heading to the polls. Big fat spotlight on the West Virginia Senate race.

Top Republican officials, including the president, actively rooting against one of the Republican contenders, ex-convict Don Blankenship.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Right. Not because of his policy positions, his politics, but because of the stunning things that the outspoken coal executive has said and done, not to mention that he spent a year in prison for his involvement in a 2010 coal mine explosion where 29 people were killed.

Let's go to Charleston, West Virginia. Joe Johns is there with the latest. He has spent more money than the other two gentlemen running against him combined and he's been surging in internal polling in the last few days.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That appears to be the case. At least internal polling apparently says so. But, look, you have what's going on inside the beltway, Poppy, and you have what's going on on the ground here in the State of West Virginia. I'm outside a polling place in Charleston. This is Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.

Talked to the secretary of state's office just a little while ago. They're describing turnout as steady. They had enormous turnout, in fact, during early voting. In fact, almost 50 percent higher than four years ago during the last midterm election.

But what is going on inside the beltway is a lot of hand wringing among establishment Republicans who are concerned that out of six Republicans, in fact, on the ballot here in West Virginia, the one who may be chosen to run against the incumbent Democrat now holding the seat, Sen. Joe Manchin, could be Don Blankenship, that former coal executive, also an ex-convict who served a year in prison for conspiring to violate the coal mining laws.

And they're concerned not just about the fact that he has that on his record, also concerned about the type of race he's run, the language he has used which could be construed as racist. A campaign that could also be described by some as grievance politics.

So, the president has been persuaded by establishment Republicans to go out on Twitter opposing the candidacy of Mr. Blankenship. Mr. Blankenship in turn has responded that the president is misinformed about his campaign and says he will win and beat Joe Manchin in November without the help of the establishment. Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us in Charleston, West Virginia. Joe, thanks very much. Let's bring back Alex Burns and Ron Brownstein.

Alex, the argument you're getting from the president is West Virginia, you shouldn't vote for Don Blankenship because he can't win the general election.

Jeff Flake, senator from Arizona, has a different argument. He says the problem isn't that Don Blankenship can't win a general election. It's that he shouldn't win a general election in West Virginia.

Those are two different arguments there. So, why are we primarily hearing the argument he can't win from the president and really from Republican leaders in the Senate?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean it's very similar to what we saw in the Roy Moore case, right? That Republican leaders, including the president, are largely not comfortable telling their base this candidate is unacceptable for reasons of values and ethics and character and policy, right?

Imagine what a powerful moment this could have been for the president in that race. The president has talked a lot about being a friend to miners, that he's in touch with that part of the country and the coal mining community. [09:20:08] If he had gone out and said, look, this guy - the argument that his Republican opponents have made, this guy has blood on his hands. I can't, as a friend of the miners, allow this to happen. He's not doing that. He's making probably the least effective political argument imaginable. It's purely tactical.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The problem the president has is if Blankenship is a reflection of the centrifugal force that the president himself has set loose in the Republican Party, in the post-Trump world - and, look, why is he surging? He's surging after he has made an overtly racist argument against Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, in a state that remains virtually all white, that has very, very few immigrants and is reflective of this kind of national dynamic where the opposition to immigration has been most intense in the states that are least touched by it.

So, I think it's very hard for the president now to kind of to draw a line and say, rapists and murderers are OK, but China person is not.

And, look, Joe Manchin is not a sitting duck. In 2010, Barack Obama's approval rating was under 47 percent in 17 state with Senate elections. Fifteen of those Democrats lost. Harry Reid and Joe Manchin are the only ones who won. He knows how to win in a difficult environment.

But I look at this as more reflective of the forces that Donald Trump has set loose in the Republican Party and the difficulty that anybody is going to have containing these kinds of arguments in the months and years ahead.

HARLOW: Let's turn to Rudy Giuliani and multiple reports that the president is frustrated - increasingly frustrated, Alex, at his sweep through the Sunday talk shows, all of the news bombshells that he's been dropping.

He's frustrated, yes, but he's been frustrated with John Kelly time and time and time again. John Kelly is still there. He's been more than frustrated with Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions is still the attorney general. So, where does this leave Rudy?

BURNS: I think that's precisely the right context with which to interpret these kinds of reports. Look, working for this president, it's a Ferris wheel of approval and frustration, right? That one day you're up and the next day you're very, very down.

We'll see if the Rudy Giuliani thing is different than John Kelly, whether the frustration reaches sort of a fever pitch with the president. But, look, we knew before he brought Rudy Giuliani on board, he was having difficulty finding people who were willing to work for him as lawyers and he has an existing personal relationship with Giuliani that just - it predates any direct involvement by Trump in just electoral politics himself.

So, personally, I would be skeptical that Giuliani is truly on the rocks just based on the foundation that he has there. HARLOW: Good point.

BERMAN: Put a graph together, like Scaramucci, Price over here, Kelly, Sessions over here. Where does he fall on that? Who knows?

Ron, I think it's unquestionable that Rudy Giuliani has not helped his legal case - not helped the legal case for the president. But, politically speaking, he has thrown bombs. He has criticized the Mueller investigation.

It's quite possible this is really only ever going to be a political argument. If you play this out to its ultimate conclusion, ultimately, the president could just plead the Fifth here and then it's a political argument whether Congress or the American people care and maybe Rudy's helping.

BROWNSTEIN: This is a really complex and good point. I mean, in the end, the most likely sanction on the president, if there is ever going to be one for his behavior on any of these fronts, is much more likely to be political than legal.

I mean, we do have the office of legal counsel judgments under both Nixon and Clinton admittedly in the Justice Department that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

It is possible that Robert Mueller or someone else, the Southern District of New York, might decide they want to challenge that. More likely, if there is any sanction against the president or any determination that he did something that requires it, it will come through the political process.

And the issue remains, are Republicans in Congress willing to support in any way the idea of a constraint or oversight?

HARLOW: Especially, Alex, very quickly, when CNN's new polling just out shows that the president's approval rating is stable despite all the Stormy Daniels stuff, 41 percent there, hasn't changed, and six in ten Americans think that things are going well in this country.

BURNS: No, it's the president's great strength and weakness, right? It is hard. It is really, really hard as a president of the United States to have an approval rating any lower than that. You have to really put your back into it.

So, he's at a point where if he's comfortable being stable and low, he can just continue that way pretty much indefinitely.

BROWNSTEIN: Real quick. There's a reason he's only at 41 percent when unemployment is under 4 percent. There are doubts about him personally that are effecting him and the Republican Party.

HARLOW: But it should be like higher.

BROWNSTEIN: But there aren't that many more people, though, to squeeze out of that pool of people who reject him simply because they think of him as personally unfit. The challenge for Democrats now is to make a policy argument because, on that front, his ratings are starting to drift up. They don't move. They're improving even as the personal ratings stay low.

HARLOW: It's just another Tuesday.

BROWNSTEIN: It's just another Tuesday.

BERMAN: Read Rod Brownstein's new piece on CNN.com about those policy indications.

HARLOW: All right. President Trump's pick for CIA chief is on Capitol Hill this morning, making her case to lawmakers as the White House is scrambling for support of Gina Haspel to avoid another cabinet pick fiasco.

[09:25:01] BERMAN: And just moments away from the opening bell, markets look like they may open a little bit down as investors wait for the president's decision on the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Already having a major impact on oil. Crude prices up more than 10 percent over the last month.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: President Trump's pick to head the CIA, Gina Haspel is back on Capitol Hill today. She's scrambling for support from lawmakers one day before what is expected to be a very contentious confirmation hearing.

BERMAN: This morning, the president again trying to rally support for Haspel. He's doing it on Twitter. This is what he wrote.