Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Spars with Macron as He Arrives in France for Armistice 100th Anniversary; Trump Appoints Matt Whitaker as Attorney General; California Wildfires; Victims of Deadly California Shooting Remembered; One Family's Sacrifice during the Great War; Trump May Have Violated Federal Campaign Finance Laws; Former First Lady Slams Trump's Birther Movement. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired November 10, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The French president prepares to host a U.S. president along with dozens of other world leaders to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Donald Trump says he does not know his new acting attorney general but that's not what he said just one month ago.

VANIER (voice-over): And California's wildfires turn deadly. Thousands evacuate and hundreds of buildings and homes are gone.

ALLEN (voice-over): We will talk with a woman who barely got out alive with her family. It is riveting to hear her story.

Welcome to our viewers from the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER (voice-over): And I'm Cyril Vanier. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VANIER: As U.S. President Trump began his Paris trip, he lashed out at his host, the French president, Emmanuel Macron.

Sending a tweet just as he was arriving in the French capital for the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.

ALLEN: He tweeted that Mr. Macron made a, quote, "very insulting suggestion," that Europe's military should be built up to counter the actions of the U.S., China and Russia. President Trump was referencing remarks that President Macron made earlier this week.

A senior French official said Mr. Macron will likely respond to Mr. Trump's tweet when they meet face-to-face and we'll cover that live when it happens.

Let's start with Melissa Bell at the Elysee Palace and Jim Bittermann at CNN's Paris bureau.

VANIER: Melissa, what happened exactly?

What did Emmanuel Macron say that set off Donald Trump?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Cyril, this is something Emmanuel Macron has talked about for quite a while, the need to better coordinate European armies. It's a question that's been on the table with the E.U. for many years now, the idea that better coordination might be a good idea.

It is because Emmanuel Macron couched this on Tuesday in terms of -- and he's done this before -- the need for greater self-reliance on the part of Europe in the face of not quite crumbling alliances yet but the course of historic alliances to maintain an architecture of security around the world.

Feeling that threatened, Emmanuel Macron has been pushing forward that argument for greater coordination all the more. President Donald Trump, it took about two minutes, Cyril, from when his plane landed in Paris yesterday and that tweet went out, calling it insulting.

Clearly reading into what Emmanuel Macron has said, an attack on NATO itself, which it was not. Now we expect an official reaction from Emmanuel Macron. We expect the French president when he greets Donald Trump in just over an hour before the journalists before their bilateral meeting begins to say a few words and specifically to speak to that tweet.

VANIER: Melissa, until now Emmanuel Macron had been able to maintain a close personal relationship, a friendship perhaps with the U.S. president.

Is that over now?

BELL: You know when it appeared to crumble or fall apart was precisely in June of 2018, when the United States refused to extend the exception given to Europe over the trade bans.

This trade war that's escalating with Europe appeared to be the last straw for Emmanuel Macron. You may remember he pled for an extension. There was a testy relationship after that between the two men and apparently for the French president, that was simply the last straw.

You can be sure when that bilateral begins here, that question of trade ties, freedom of trade between Europe and America will be pretty high on the agenda for the French presidency.

VANIER: That's Melissa, live from the French palace, Elysee Palace, in Central Paris.

Let's go over to Jim Bittermann.

ALLEN: Jim Bittermann joins us now.

There's a huge commemoration at this time, aside from this dustup between the two presidents, celebrating the armistice that ended World War I.

What can we expect?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: I think there's going be a lot of solemn ceremonies and some discussion of political issues, like Melissa was saying, and some nightmares for the security services.

Basically Mr. Macron has invited more than 70 heads of state and government to join him to commemorate the armistice that was signed in France 100 years ago. There's going to be the bilateral meeting that Melissa was talking about.

From there, the two leaders and their wives will have lunch. They've done that before. They apparently get along just fine. And then they're --

[04:05:00]

BITTERMANN: -- going to fly off in different directions.

Donald Trump is going to go to the big American cemetery in Belleau Wood where a big battle that involved U.S. troops back in 1918, when nearly 2,000 Marines were killed in that fight.

On his the side of the ledger, Emmanuel Macron is going to go off to Compiegne, France, where there's a replica of the railroad car where the armistice was signed exactly 100 years ago and there he'll meet with Angela Merkel, who will deliver a short speech about peace in Europe.

ALLEN: I want to ask you. Melissa was just talking about this dustup between Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron.

Do you think that will in any way dampen these festivities?

BITTERMANN: Well, it won't dampen them but there have been a number of issues that have cropped up between France and the United States and Europe and the United States; like she mentioned, Melissa mentioned, in terms of trade, but other things as well.

This idea of ending the intermediate nuclear range missile agreement with Russia. The Europeans view that as something that's guaranteed the peace here for 30 years or so. And they feel, in fact, ending that treaty would put them most at risk because these are intermediate range missiles that could be basically used against European countries.

And there are other issues as well. The trade sanctions against Iran are costing the French billions, in French industry, billions of euros because of the way the secondary sanction effect takes place.

So there's a lot of issues on the table. There's a lot of things that could disrupt the cordiality of it all.

But I think the French will make every effort to have it all related back to the events 100 years ago and focus minds a bit on peace and how to maintain it going forward from here -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Jim Bittermann for us. We know we'll talk with you again once it all gets under way. Jim, thank you.

VANIER: I want to bring into our next guest, Inderjeet Parmar, to weigh in on Mr. Trump's visit to Paris. He's a professor of international politics at City University of London.

Inderjeet, I want to take you back to Mr. Macron's comments earlier this week, when he said Europe needs to protect itself, including from the United States. He had a list of three countries Europe needed to protect itself from.

INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Right.

VANIER: China, Russia and the United States. He put that on that list.

Wasn't that a provocation by the French president just days before welcoming Mr. Trump?

PARMAR: Yes, it was a provocation and we know President Trump doesn't take any kind of provocation sitting down. But I think President Macron is engaging with the United States on a number of different levels. A lot of it is as an attempt to project strength against someone who perceives himself as a very strong leader.

President Macron tries to model himself at some level or another with Charles de Gaulle, a strong, independent streak, who has always eyed the U.S. with some suspicion of trying to take over Europe and so on.

So I think this was a small volley toward the president in that regard. But there are some serious issues between Europe and the United States as well, which are coming to the fore increasingly.

VANIER: There seems to be a real chasm between the war of words on the one hand, the official diplomatic spat, and the actual substance of this. If you look at the substance, the French president is saying he wants Europe to be more self sufficient when it comes to its defense, its military.

Isn't that also what Donald Trump has been asking for?

PARMAR: Correct. I think there's a broader agreement. I think there's a shifting or jockeying for exact position. And I think the United States has long demanded its allies spend a lot more and they're coming to it.

At the same time there's a shift in the whole international architecture as well. That architecture is now 70 years old and it doesn't necessarily fit the power balances that currently exist in the world and Russia and China as major threats.

But each leader is also looking at their own domestic bases. Each leader has suffered many bloody noses in the last several months. Macron is not very popular inside France. He's got a 20 percent approval rating.

President Trump has suffered a bit of a bloody nose in the congressional elections as well. So I think they're trying to divert attention from some of that domestic turmoil to try to appear to be strong. And I think part of this is kind of a theater as well. As you say, broadly speaking, there's an agreement --

[04:10:00]

PARMAR: -- but I think there are areas where they do challenge the Trump America firstism. You talk about the trade tariffs, also the issue of the Iran nuclear agreement and the issue that President Trump wants to get out of the INF treaty in 1987, which had stopped the cruise and Pershing missiles from being stationed in Western Europe. And I think the Europeans are very upset about that.

VANIER: Yes, which, by the way, the fact that the U.S. wants to pull out of that treaty?

That is the reason Emmanuel Macron cited as why Europe may be need to be able to protect itself, including from the United States.

I want to take you now to Mr. Trump's domestic U.S. controversies. They obviously haven't gone away; not the least of those controversies is his choice of acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, earlier this week. Mr. Trump claims he hardly knows him but he hasn't always said that. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I never talk about that but I can tell you, Matt Whitaker is a great guy. I know Matt Whitaker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't know Matt Whitaker. I didn't speak to Matt Whitaker about it. In all fairness to Matt Whitaker, who, again, I didn't know --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: I want to read you one of Mr. Trump's latest tweets.

"Matthew G. Whitaker is a highly respected former U.S. attorney from Iowa. He was chosen by Jeff Sessions to be his chief of staff. I did not know Mr. Whitaker. Likewise, as chief, I did not know Mr. Whitaker except primarily as he traveled with AG Sessions. No social contact."

How big, in your opinion, is Trump's Matthew Whitaker problem?

PARMAR: I don't think he sees it as a problem. I think he wants everybody to talk about it as if it's a problem. I think Matthew Whitaker's appointment suggests, one, that he's already diminished the right of asylum seekers into the United States. That was one of his first actions.

He's therefore going to carry on the policy Jeff Sessions has been very enthusiastically carrying out.

Secondly, we know that Matthew Whitaker was involved in a very conservative organization, which wanted the government to investigate Hillary Clinton's email situation, email problem. So I think this is opening up a new front in that war on the Democratic Party, which President Trump has been threatening for quite some time.

So not only is there a possibility of the Mueller investigation being derailed or starved of funding, I think President Trump has just declared another front in the war and he said he's going to take on the Democrats where they are possibly weakest and I think that's probably the biggest issue about this particular appointment.

VANIER: Inderjeet Parmar, live from London, great to talk to you. Thank you very much.

PARMAR: Thank you.

ALLEN: Next here we turn to a huge story in California. Paradise lost. Nearly the entire town of Paradise, California, wiped out by a massive out-of-control fire. We'll hear from a woman who drove through it to evacuate with her family.

VANIER: Plus, weather conditions for fighting these fires not looking great unfortunately. We'll have our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, break it down for us when we come back.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(HEADLINES)

[04:15:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRYNN PARROTT CHATFIELD, WILDFIRE SURVIVOR: Heavenly Father, please help us. Please help us to be safe.

I'm thankful for Jeremy and his willingness to be brave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: And they got through it. That was Brynn Parrott Chatfield. She'll be sharing her story with us a little later. She took that video as her husband drove through California's largest burning wildfire. That's the Camp Fire. A harrowing drive for sure. Many had to do the same to get out.

In just a day and a half, it became the most destructive in the state's history, destroying 6,700 structures so far.

VANIER: It's also one of the deadliest. Officials say at least nine people have died. That's just one wildfire wreaking havoc on California. There are three total. Further south there's the Woolsey and Hill Fires. They also exploded on Friday, forcing residents of at least 75,000 homes to evacuate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Joining me now on the phone is Brynn Chatfield. She just evacuated with her family from Paradise, California, and that was her talking in the car as their family escaped.

Brynn, thank you so much for talking with us. We know you have been through a harrowing journey to try to escape and you did escape.

Can you describe more what it was like driving through the fire and escaping with your family?

And who was in the car with you?

CHATFIELD: Oh, it was devastating. Thankfully, it was my husband, myself and a hitchhiker we had picked up. My kids had already been evacuated with our grandmother. I'm so thankful my kids didn't have to experience that because I know a lot of children had to experience that kind of evacuation. It was very scary.

ALLEN: Was there a time you thought you might not make it?

Every time you come through a clearing, you go through more fire.

CHATFIELD: I wasn't sure we were going to make it the whole time. Obviously my prayers were very heartfelt.

And I kept thinking, am I really ready to die?

But I know there's power in prayer and that was what really comforted us and I was thankful for my husband, him being so brave and just still going and just plowing through it.

ALLEN: Yes, he was. You can tell from the video. That's just amazing. And I am told, Brynn, you're safe, your family is safe. You have three children, aged 12, 8 and 3. I believe one had a birthday on Friday.

CHATFIELD: Today.

ALLEN: That's really wonderful. And you stayed so positive. I'm also told that you lost your home. In fact, other members of your family lost their homes.

CHATFIELD: Yes.

[04:20:00]

CHATFIELD: My parents and my three brothers and myself, we all lost our homes and they lost their businesses. We're so grateful that my in-laws, their home is still standing and that is a huge blessing.

That's a rare thing. There are very few people that their homes are standing. Most everybody has lost their home.

ALLEN: Yes. This is, I think, the most deadly -- not deadly but the biggest fire ever in California history. And it's ironic that you lived in a place called Paradise.

CHATFIELD: And it really was Paradise.

ALLEN: Tell me about that.

CHATFIELD: It's just a beautiful community. It's a beautiful mountain town. It has incredible people. I was born and raised there and I moved away for a long time and I chose to come back and raise my family there because it's a really incredible place with lovely people.

ALLEN: But is it a place you can go back to, do you think?

CHATFIELD: We haven't made our decision. It's a hard place to leave because it's so special to us.

ALLEN: And you said you lost your businesses, too.

Do you know what you're going to do in the short term?

CHATFIELD: Thankfully, we have insurance and that's a huge blessing in our life.

ALLEN: And how are your children doing?

CHATFIELD: My children are doing great. We're with family right now and we're enjoying each other and we definitely have moments of shock. But it really centers you and makes you know what's really important.

ALLEN: Do you know -- I can imagine that.

Do you know if all of your neighbors and friends got out OK?

CHATFIELD: As far as I know, my neighbors and friends have gotten out OK. But I do know a lot of people are missing loved ones. I know that yesterday several loved ones were missing for a long time and they finally showed up. But I know there are a lot of missing people and a lot of people are very heartbroken.

ALLEN: I can imagine. We're seeing video of yet more homes burning right now.

Well, Brynn, we're so glad you're OK. We so appreciate you talking with us and sharing your story. We wish you all the best, Brynn Chatfield for us. Thank you.

CHATFIELD: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: Yes. Some people still unaccounted for there, worth highlighting. The rescue efforts are going to be looking for either survivors or, unfortunately, in these cases, it's also possible the death toll can still increase as you fight through the fires.

President Trump has now weighed in on these fires and he tweeted this.

"There's no reason for these massive deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year with so many lives lost all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now or no more Fed payments."

ALLEN: We will explore what the president is referring to more this weekend as these fires play out.

(WEATHER REPORT)

[04:25:00]

VANIER: Which is why we've been hearing from celebrities living near the fires who've been impacted.

Kim Kardashian West tweeted that flames hit her property in Hidden Hills, California.

ALLEN: Cher tweeted, "I'm worried about my house but there is nothing I can do. Friends' houses have burned. I can't bear the thought of there being no Malibu. I've had a house in Malibu since 1972."

VANIER: Lady Gaga also tweeted, "I'm thinking so deeply for everyone who is suffering today from these abominable fires and grieving the loss of their homes or loved ones. I'm sitting here with many of you, wondering if my home will burst into flames. All we can do is pray together and for each other. God bless you."

ALLEN: We'll continue to follow it this weekend.

President Trump and President Macron start their relationship off on a high note but their friendship has cooled somewhat and recent events has some pundits suggesting it has gained some frost. We're live in Paris where both men will soon meet. That's coming up next.

VANIER: Sunday will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War. One family still grieves after four brothers made the ultimate sacrifice. That's coming up.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:30:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VANIER: We're live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. Welcome back. I'm Cyril Vanier.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen.

(HEADLINES)

ALLEN: Back now to U.S. president Trump and Mr. Macron. The relationship between the two presidents will be on display when they meet in just 30 minutes.

van The leaders appear to be off to a warm start after Trump's inauguration in 2017. Remember this, this long handshake from the Bastille Day celebrations. That gained widespread attention at the time. But their relationship has cooled since then and recent events have some people suggesting the warmth may be totally gone.

ALLEN: And the handshakes.

VANIER: And the handshakes, yes. Melissa Bell joins us live from Paris. She's at the Elysee Palace. Mr. Trump is expected there in about 30 minutes or so.

Melissa, do you think the friendship is over?

BELL: We'll be keeping a close eye on the handshake, Cyril, as you might expect. We're expecting a few words at least from the French president specifically on the question of that tweeted response to a tweet that was sent literally two minutes after Air Force One landed here in Paris last night.

Then a bilateral meeting.

And you're right, Cyril, this is a relationship that's been devolved remarkably since it was first begun with a very different approach to other European leaders. Emmanuel Macron had chosen to extend a hand to the U.S. president, believing at the time in what was a well explained strategy, that it was better to keep dialogue open, despite apparent policy differences.

I think the straw that appears to have broken the camel's back in that relationship was the trade tariffs. They've had a fairly testy conversation in the wake of those and really the relationship has remained, as we understand it, much less friendly as a result than it had ever had before.

VANIER: I wonder if there's anything these two leaders still agree on. You go down the list, whether it's the environment, the Iran nuclear deal, trade, on down the list. I can't think of anything they're not diametrically opposed on.

BELL: Equally, Cyril, anything the French president has got out of his strategy or at least of what began as a strategy, it's difficult to name a single concession he's won from the American president.

That, again, will be tested today and we will find out during that bilateral, what agreement, what room for maneuver was found. What we've seen ever since the announcement of the midterm results, Cyril, is an even testier tone from the American president toward the press, toward the courts and what's happening in Florida and apparently toward is host as we saw after he landed last night.

It's very difficult to see what compromises they might find given the belligerent tone of the American president over the last few days. Remember President Macron himself, even in that time when he was still hoping that the relationship could be used to good effect, has never hesitated to oppose his world view to the Americans very starkly.

And I'm sure when we hear from him over the course of this weekend more specifically in a speech he's going to make, that's something he's likely to do again.

[04:35:00]

VANIER: I'm glad you point that out because it's something they both have in common. They're perfectly capable of delivering a withering critique of one another in one second and then in the next turning around and being all smiles, highlighting, showcasing on where they agree.

Do we know what they're going to talk about when they meet face-to- face?

BELL: We believe trade is going to be fairly high on the agenda. It's not something that has gone down well with Europe and remains a huge concern to the French president. They'll also talk about Iran. That's another area of huge disagreement.

Europe absolutely opposed to the threat of sanctions and really had been looking to the Iran deal. That was another thing Macron had tried to find room for maneuver on from the American president, another area where he failed, Cyril.

We're also likely to hear about Syria. Of course, this weekend, it's about memory. It's about that thing that Macron has done every chance he's had with President Trump, which is essentially to deliver a history lesson, saying, look, this is why alliances matter, 100 years ago an armistice was signed, a global architecture was created in terms of security.

That cannot be brought into jeopardy. These are the reasons written in the blood of a continent. That's something we're likely to hear a great deal about this weekend with this emphasis that Macron has chosen to place on peace, creating this peace conference on Sunday, that Donald Trump has already said he will not be attending.

VANIER: Melissa Bell speaking from Paris.

We saw the honor guard getting ready behind you. It's a ritual, Melissa, that you know very well for having been at the French presidency many times. They're setting up about 20-30 minutes now before they expect the U.S. president to be driving in through these gates in Central Paris.

I cannot wait to find out what kind of note these two men will strike when they meet. Melissa, we'll speak again, thanks.

ALLEN: Dozens of world leaders have gathered together to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

VANIER: They're honoring the sacrifices of millions of families who lost loved ones in the Great War. CNN's Nick Glass has the story of one such family still grieving the loss of four sons who were drafted into the fight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The words were intended to give solace.

"He died for freedom and honor."

Every British and Empire family who lost someone was sent a bronze memorial plaque. The name on this on, Charles Leopold Shallis. Along with some old newspaper cuttings, now yellow with age, and a few old black-and-white photos, these are treasured mementos from the Great War.

Back then, the bronze disks were known as dead man's penny. And every family dreaded receiving one. The Shallis family of North London received four. The medallions all look the same but look closely. The Christian names are different.

The family's grievance loss made it into a national newspaper, the "Daily Sketch" in 1916 with the patriotic headline, "Sons Who Upheld the Traditions of a Fighting Family," from left to right, Burt, Leo, Harry and George, the Shallis boys.

KATE SHALLIS, NIECE OF THE SHALLIS BOYS: Two of them died with the same week, which, you know, for my grandmother, you just think, how did she cope?

GLASS (voice-over): The oldest boy, George Shallis, who was in the Royal Navy, went down with his ship after he hit a sea mine off Ireland in 1915. He was 26 and left a widow.

Burt Shallis, an army private, was killed in action at Gallipoli in what is now Turkey, again in 1915. He was 21.

Harry Shallis, also an infantryman, died on the Western Front in France, again in 1915. He was the youngest of the four, just 20.

Leo Shallis, like George, also in the navy, died in the battle of Jutland in 1916, when his ship was shelled and sunk. He was 24.

Their parents, Cpl. George Shallis and his wife, Kate, were pictured alongside the boys in the newspaper. To this day, their grief remains unfathomable, especially the mother's. Four sons lost in less than a year and a half.

But just after that, men arrived at their house in North London with callout papers for their fifth son, Jack.

SHALLIS: My grandmother came out with a broom or a mop and basically told them to get off of her path. They had four of her sons. Didn't they think that that was enough?

GLASS (voice-over): Kate Shallis fiercely stood her ground. Here she is in mourning black with 19-year-old Jack beside her. A military tribunal made a rare exception; in 1917, it was decided that Jack didn't have to fight.

Ten years later in 1927, Kate Shallis was invited to the annual Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph in London and she was photographed proudly --

[04:40:00]

GLASS (voice-over): -- wearing her sons' campaign medals. She reflected on the day in a national newspaper.

SHALLIS: "I felt that the king and queen and army and the masses of people were just one big family, thinking together the same dear thoughts of our million sons who died for us.

"I could see the queen's face quite clearly. I felt she was proud of my four boys, who gave their lives for king and country. I felt proud of my four sons and their courage. I felt proud that I was their mother."

GLASS (voice-over): Kate Shallis' uncles died long before she was ever born and she has inherited their memorial plaques, gleamingly polished for the centenary of the armistice. These dead man's pennies remain eternally symbolic of the slaughter and the sacrifice.

The staggering fact is that so many of them were ever issued, an estimated 1.3 million -- Nick Glass, CNN, in North London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VANIER: Welcome back. We're keeping a close eye on what you're seeing right now. This is the Elysee Palace, the French presidency right in Central Paris. And Donald Trump, U.S. president, expected here in about 15 minutes.

That's the front door. You'll see French president Emmanuel Macron step out as soon as his U.S. counterpart arrives. The honor guard is set up, waiting for him.

ALLEN: This is all the beginning of the celebration of the end of World War I, the 100-year celebration of that. So we'll, of course, continue to follow that for you.

VANIER: Let's pivot now to U.S. politics with this new report from "The Wall Street Journal" that might spell out new legal trouble for the U.S. president.

ALLEN: The newspaper says --

[04:45:00]

ALLEN: -- federal prosecutors have gathered evidence that may show Mr. Trump violated campaign finance laws during his presidential campaign. That is a federal crime. Sara Sidner has more for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "The Wall Street Journal" reports that Donald Trump not only knew about hush money payments made to two women to keep their alleged affairs with him out of the press before the 2016 presidential election, but he was directly involved in the payments and process to get those stories killed.

The report says Trump in 2015 met with David Pecker, the head of AMI, which owns "The National Enquirer" and other publications and asked him, "What can you do to help my campaign?"

The women involved include "Playboy" model Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels, both of whom say they had affairs with him. Trump denies the allegations.

The report says: "'The Wall Street Journal' found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen and others."

Daniels was convinced Trump knew about her hush agreement and sued him to get out of the agreement.

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM ACTRESS: My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth.

SIDNER (voice-over): McDougal told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an interview she was unsure.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think Donald Trump would have been aware of this deal?

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER "PLAYBOY" PLAYMATE: One of the big complaints with why I think my contract is illegal is because his attorney was talking to my attorney, so...

COOPER: Michael Cohen -- you're saying Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen...

MCDOUGAL: Correct.

COOPER: -- was talking to Keith Davidson, your attorney?

MCDOUGAL: Speaking with Keith, without me even knowing, without my knowledge. I would assume that maybe he knew. I know his attorney did. I can't say that he knew.

SIDNER: "The Journal" also reports the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan has evidence of Trump's participation.

And people familiar with the investigation have told CNN prosecutors had prepared a draft indictment of his then attorney Michael Cohen that was more detailed and included additional charges, but dropped it when Cohen suddenly decided to plea.

CNN has previously reported that a source says Trump and his son Eric were directly involved in efforts to stop Stormy Daniels from speaking out. Trump has previously denied any knowledge of the payments to Daniels.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No, no.

QUESTION: Then why did Michael -- why did Michael Cohen make this, if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you will have to ask Michael Cohen.

SIDNER: In August, Michael Cohen revealed in a plea deal with federal prosecutors that he knowingly made a contribution to Trump's campaign in excess of the limits of the Election Act, at the request and suggestion of one or more members of the campaign.

Court documents suggest Trump knew about the deal with the women. CNN obtained audiotapes from Cohen's attorney of a conversation Cohen taped between himself and Trump allegedly discussing details made with tabloid owner Pecker.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David.

SIDNER: AMI has not responded with comment. However, investigators granted immunity to David Pecker because he was willing and did give details about the payments they were investigating -- Sara Sidner, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: And former first lady Michelle Obama doesn't pull any punches in her new book.

ALLEN: Her comments about the birther movement have the U.S. president firing back. We'll have more on this brewing battle just ahead here.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:50:00]

(SPORTS)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

ALLEN: The former first lady has something to say about the current president and it is harsh. Michelle Obama revealed in her new book that she will never forgive President Trump for his role in the birther movement.

VANIER: And now the president is firing back. CNN's Kate Bennett has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In her new book, "Becoming," out next week, former first lady Michelle Obama laid bare some of her most personal previously held secrets.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: It is candid, it is honest, it is totally and utterly me.

BENNETT (voice-over): Her eight years as first lady Obama seemed unfailing acceptable, from her appearances on talk shows --

OBAMA: Turn up for what?

BENNETT (voice-over): -- to her use of social media and the casual openness with which she hosted White House events.

But she was also fiercely private, revealing little about her daughters and certain parts of her relationship with Barack Obama.

In this new book, Michelle is telling all, from her struggles to get pregnant, a miscarriage and ultimately turning to IVF...

OBAMA: I felt like I failed because I didn't know how common miscarriages were because we don't talk about them. We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we're broken.

BENNETT (voice-over): -- to her marriage, which she says is, quote, "phenomenal," but has required bouts of counseling.

OBAMA: We work on our marriage and we get help with our marriage when we need it. Marriage counseling for us was one of those ways where we learned how to talk out our differences.

BENNETT (voice-over): And while gracious with the Trumps on inauguration morning, Michelle Obama is now done with niceties, revealing her husband's successor has made her, quote, "body buzz with fury."

In excerpts published by "The Washington Post," Obama says she will never forgive Trump for questioning whether her husband, the nation's first black president, was born in America. TRUMP: I want him to show his birth certificate.

There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like.

[04:00:00]

BENNETT (voice-over): "Its underlined bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed...

"But it was also dangerous," she writes.

"What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington?

"What if that person went looking for our girls?

"Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family's safety at risk."

The president responding from the South Lawn.

TRUMP: She got paid a lot of money to write a book. And they always insist that you come up with controversial -- well, I'll give you a little controversy back. I'll never forgive him for what he did to our United States military. By not funding it properly.

OBAMA: When they go low, we go high.

BENNETT (voice-over): The former first lady has pushed back on Trump before. But with her time in the White House behind her, it's clear Obama is now not holding back.

BENNETT: Even though she's no longer first lady, Hollywood still likes Michelle Obama. Sarah Jessica Parker, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, just some of the names joining the former first lady her on her book tour, which coincides with the release of "Becoming" -- Kate Bennett, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: In the meantime we're waiting to see President Trump. He'll be arriving here at the Palace Elysee in Paris in just a few minutes and we'll have live coverage.

VANIER: It is minutes before 11:00 am local time in Central Paris and for starters, all eyes will be on that handshake. Trump, Macron, they're known for having some pretty long ones, some pretty intense ones. We'll see what this one's like minutes after -- hours, I should say, after the U.S. president's tweet that he found the French president insulting and that kicks off their visit and their meeting. We'll be back after this.