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Stocks Rebound as Trade Fears East; Daniels Threatened Over Trump; 50 Miles More Movement; Daniels Interview Draws High Ratings; Historic Merger Battle Trial Resumes. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 26, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Points down from its record high and officially in correction territory. And then, over the weekend, you get the story in "The Wall Street Journal" that says the United States and China are already negotiating quietly for how to avoid a trade war and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, on Fox News last night saying they're going to try to avoid a trade war. Listen.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: So, as President Trump said, we're not afraid of a trade war, but that's not our objective. I think we're working on a pathway to see if we can reach an agreement as to what fair trade is for them to open up their markets, reduce their tariffs, stop forced technology transfer. These are all the things we want to do.


ROMANS: And so there's a tone here today of a little more optimism. Greg Valier (ph) from Horizon Investments saying this is more a trade dispute than a trade war at this point and last week's selling, John, was just way overdone.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Right now, Friday's loss is all but erased by Monday morning's early gains. We will keep our eye on this throughout the day.

Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Maybe the market reacting to "60 Minutes" as well overnight.

The lawyer for Stormy Daniels vowing to get to the bottom of this alleged threat against his client that took place back in 2011.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: We're going to get to the bottom of it because we're going to find out who that was and who hired him. Although I'm fairly clear as to who hired him.


AVENATTI: Well, again, I think it's fairly obvious. It's got to come from someone associated with the Trump Organization.


BERMAN: All right, my panel is back with me now.

And, guys, just to recap, an adult film actress alleged she spanked the person who would become president. Compared this actress to his daughter. She also says she was physically threatened and ultimately paid to stay silent.

And there are people asking this morning whether there was really anything there in that interview. But this is a moment -- I mean it's awfully interesting to sit here today and analyze this.

Amie, you say the biggest new area is this notion of fear.

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Yes, because this is coming from the president of the United States. I mean he wasn't the president at the time, but this is -- this is concerning, I think, to a lot of people.

And, you know, notice that President Trump has stayed very quiet about this. We haven't heard about -- we never heard from him last night. We haven't heard from him about the Stormy Daniels affair in the days before that. And so I think there's something there. Where there's smoke, there's fire, as they say. And I think there's more coming. And I think that's what people are looking for.

BERMAN: Michael Avenatti, her lawyer, certainly threatened there is more coming, held that notion out there.

Laura Coates, during the "60 Minutes" piece they talked a great deal about the possible campaign finance violation and that is where, really, the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, could be in some legal jeopardy here. Trevor Potter, who used to run the Federal Election Committee, he was all over this piece last night. He thinks this is a stronger case potentially than the one against John Edwards. Do you agree?.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I do agree. And the reason for that is, remember, you're talking about 11 days before the general election is when this contract went down, when the payment was made. Talking about John Edwards, who it was before he even sealed the DNC nomination, which he never did obviously, and it was about a year or more beforehand. So that -- that distance from it makes it a little bit of a harder, uphill battle.

Yet and still the issue there was that they didn't find it to be a campaign contribution because there was a lot of people different people were trying to protect Rielle Hunter and her pregnancy, et cetera. And the person who actually sat on the FCC at that point in time that it wasn't really a campaign contribution, it was Don McGahn. And we know where he now is in terms of the White House. And so we look at this issue as about timing. It's the -- it's the --

the immediacy of the turnaround of the general election. But there were several things that didn't add up to me, John, and one of them was a statement about it being fairly obvious. Well, the statement that she made in terms of intimidation and the fear is certainly a very big concern, happened back in 2011 in a parking lot by someone she assumed may be connected to the Trump administration -- or Trump Organization in some way. But the proof is in the pudding.


COATES: And the question still looms at this point in time whether Stormy can talk about any of this.

BERMAN: Yes, look, she offered no proof that this threat actually happened. She says it happened. We don't know if the lawyer has any proof. He now says they're looking into it. They're investigating it.

But, Alex, you can see this raising a new round of uncomfortable questions, both legally and politically and personally for this White House, that you imagine will come up, you know, when the press secretary briefs, when the president, you know, faces questions.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You know, we're talking, I think understandably and appropriately, about the most serious legal allegations that Stormy Daniels made in that interview. But she's said a number of things about the president's personal behavior with her, claims about the nature of the president's marriage, that were really lurid and probably really uncomfortable for the president and the first lady. And so we can see this story unfolding on a number of different fronts, in a number of different directions. The more she talks, the more her lawyer talks, the more other women like Karen McDougal talk, it puts the president's personal life under a microscope in a way that, frankly, he has not had to endure since taking office.

[09:35:03] I do think, on the subject of the threats, it's worth noting that there is a very well established track record of --


BURNS: Folks very close to the president, before he was president and since he's become president, speaking in very, very menacing ways to people who they see as obstacles or unfriendly to them, not necessarily in the kind of, you know, almost explicitly physical threatening language that Daniels claimed, but pretty darn close. So this is not -- you know, we all -- we'll see if she can establish further evidence of this episode, but it's not a far-fetched suggestion that somebody close to the -- to Trump might say something like that.

BERMAN: And you can ask the press secretary, did the president have any knowledge of anyone threatening Stormy Daniels?

BURNS: Right.

BERMAN: Did the Trump Organization? And listen to how Sarah Sanders answers the question.

BURNS: Has the president ever authorized someone to speak in that language to anybody at all?

BERMAN: All right, you said there was some uncomfortable moments for the president and potentially the first lady. I would submit there was some uncomfortable moments for humans who walk the earth, right? When the president -- when Stephanie Clifford, Stormy Daniels, was talking about the language that the president used, brought up his daughter Ivanka, which is something that he also did with playmate Karen McDougal. Let's play that sound.


STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: He's, like, wow, you -- you are special. You remind me of my daughter.

KAREN MCDOUGAL, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: You know, he -- he's very proud of Ivanka, as he should be. I mean she's a brilliant woman. She's beautiful. She's, you know -- that's his daughter and he should be proud of her. He said I was beautiful like her and, you know, you're a smart girl and there wasn't a lot of comparing, but there was some, yes. I heard a lot about her.


BERMAN: Look, Amie, I mean this is something that people are talking about today. This is watercooler talk. This is something that doesn't take a flow chart to connect with.

PARNES: Right, and that's the thing, I mean she was believable. For the second time in a week, we're watching another woman talk about a relationship with Donald Trump. And, you know, it's been a little weird. There were talks about her spanking him and other moments and so I think that's, you know -- these are things -- this is -- this puts the president of the United States under an uncomfortable spotlight and I think one that will continue to follow him and one, as Alex said, I think this will -- this is another person and we'll hear from more.

BERMAN: Even more uncomfortable than being spanked with a magazine that has you on the cover.

PARNES: Right.

BERMAN: Laura Coates, one of the things also that came out of the "60 Minutes" piece was the possible connection to the Mueller investigation. You know, we know Sam Nunberg, who was an adviser for a time to the Trump campaign, has said in the various interviews he's done that when he was answering questions from investigators, they asked about possible relationships that the president had. They asked about Michael Cohen. There have been some questions that relate to this, we believe, asked by the special counsel. Do you see a real possible connection here?

COATES: The connection here is the overall theme of transparency for democracy. Remember, Mueller's charge is to figure out if the American people had the wool pulled over their eyes abut who was influencing and who was not. The campaign finance laws are structured in a way so that America is very clear as to who was influencing or paying for a particular activity. It's also about, you know, general behavior that may be nefarious or menacing, as you described. But the overall theme here is that there is a pattern or behavior from the Trump administration or members of the campaign and arguably, you know, Cohen was a part in some way of that, to try to orchestrate a way that there is not transparency for the American people.

But another notion to keep in mind, and why it's so important that Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels said the same thing about Ivanka perhaps or the bungalow in the Beverly Hills hotel, is because neither woman actually saw the other one's interview. The Anderson Cooper interview, particularly, was recorded before Karen McDougal. Neither of them saw it. And so to have that betressing (ph) credibility is very important.

BERMAN: Right.

How far does the pattern go here --


BERMAN: Particularly if there are also threats involved.

COATES: Exactly.

BERMAN: All right, Laura, Alex, Amie, thank you all very much. I appreciate it.

And pay attention to the president's silence here because that may be the most notable thing going on.

For some students the march is not over. The destination now, the hometown of House Speaker Paul Ryan.


CROWD: Hear us roar, 50 miles more. Hear us roar!



[09:43:07] BERMAN: All right, new this morning, the march for our lives continues for a group of Wisconsin student advocates, building on the momentum from the anti-gun violence rallies over the weekend. This group calls themselves 50 Miles More. It is marching 50 mills from Wisconsin capital's in Madison to Janesville, Wisconsin. Janesville, of course, is the hometown of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The co-organizer, Katie Eder, joins me now by phone in the midst of this march. Katie, thank you so much for being with us.

Tell me about 50 Miles More, how it started and what your mission is? KATIE EDER, CO-ORGANIZER, "50 MILES MORE" (via telephone): Yes, so

right after the Parkland shooting happened (INAUDIBLE) and we're heading out to speak (INAUDIBLE) about the (INAUDIBLE) really inspired (INAUDIBLE) Wisconsin to keep the momentum forward in terms of, you know, after (INAUDIBLE), what can we do. And, obviously, you know, Paul Ryan is here and he has a lot of power in (INAUDIBLE). And so we got together with a group of kids all over Wisconsin and said, let's march just 50 miles. And so on Saturday, after the March for Our Lives event ended, we brought a group of kids to Madison and then yesterday morning we embarked on the trek, the 50 mile trek, from Madison to Janesville and tonight we stopped in Oregon, we (INAUDIBLE) and then we arrive in Janesville on Wednesday.

BERMAN: Have you heard from the speaker's office yet and beyond that what message specifically do you want to deliver to him?

EDER: Yes. Well, you know, we really would love to have a conversation. You know, that, I think is one of our big goals because, obviously, you know, we want -- we want to be (INAUDIBLE). You know, we want to be listened to. We want to be heard. And so, you know, we -- we're asking Paul Ryan, you know, we asked (INAUDIBLE) with us.

The first thing we want is a complete ban on all military style weapons and weapons of war (INAUDIBLE) civilian society. The second is a ban on all accessories that turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons, such as bump stocks. And the third is the (ph) increase regulation on gun purchasing, so increased background checks, higher purchasing age, longer waiting period. But, yes, we really -- we want to have a conversation because this is -- you know, we want to sit at the table and we want to start a dialogue.

BERMAN: I've seen a statement from the speaker's office over the last day saying that he welcomes and applauds the activism taking place around the country. I don't think he necessarily agrees with a lot of the points you're raising, but he does want to hear from students.

We've heard from former Senator Rick Santorum, of course, works here for us at CNN, and, you know, was a former Republican senator critical in some cases of the message being delivered by the students over this weekend. I'm going to play some sound. I'm not sure you can quite here, but I'll describe it after we play it for you, Katie. Listen.


RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: How about the kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that -- where there is a violent shooter, that you can actually respond to that.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: But how are they looking at other people -- I would ask you, they took action.

SANTORUM: Yes, they took action to ask someone to pass a law. They didn't take action to say, how will I, as an individual, deal with this problem. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So the criticism, Katie, from the senator there is, he says the students, like you who are marching, are asking other people to solve the problem, pass a law instead of doing something yourselves. He suggested learn CPR. I wonder what your reaction to that is?

EDER: Yes. Well, you know, obviously, you know, what we wanted (INAUDIBLE) is a team effort, right? We're not expecting the youth to carry this and we're not expecting the adults to carry this. We want to work together.

What the youth could do right now, you know, we don't have the power to pass a law. You know, we can't do that. If we could, we certainly would. But what we do have the power to do is raise our voices, and so that's what we're doing. And so I think, you know, obviously, you know, we have different (INAUDIBLE) than what (INAUDIBLE) can do. But as the young people, what we feel our greatest power right now is our voice. And it is our tool to stand up and speak out and say that we've had enough.

BERMAN: Katie Eder on the 50 Mile More march headed to Janesville. Stay warm. I understand it's a cold day out in Wisconsin. We do appreciate you being with us.

All right, sources say the president is frustrated by all the Stormy Daniels coverage. Well, he might not like the news we just got about the primetime ratings for this interview. We'll tell you what they were, next.


[09:51:25] BERMAN: The big "60 Minutes" interview between Anderson Cooper and Stormy Daniels. The question this morning, did people watch? We have the answer.

CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter is here.

How many?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: So the final number won't be in until this afternoon, John, but normally "60 Minutes" will gets 10, 12 million viewers. This was well over 20 million viewers. According to the overnight numbers that have come in, that CBS was looking at, this was the highest rated episode of "60 Minutes" in a decade. So that really puts into perspective what a significant moment this was for Stormy Daniels, for Anderson Cooper and for "60 Minutes" and maybe for President Trump.

You know, the "60 Minutes" ratings work this way. The show benefits from the NCAA basketball lead-in. So it was always going to be a big program, a big episode of "60 Minutes." The game went into overtime, so the ratings were even higher.

But you have to go back all the way to 2008 to find an episode as highly rated as last night. That was when Barack and Michelle Obama gave their first post-election interview. So you think about that, you know, a presidential interview with the Obamas, and now Stormy Daniels ranks right up there.

BERMAN: So you could see how this cuts through more than some of the other stories. That this is the highest rated "60 Minutes" --

STELTER: That's right.

BERMAN: You know, since 2008. That's fascinating. I will say, there are people at the time last night saying the basketball game is running late. It's going to step all over the "60 Minutes." I'm like, you don't understand how this works.

STELTER: That's right.

BERMAN: That's exactly what they want. This is their dream.

STELTER: Yes, the basketball game actually gave it an even bigger boost.

Look, Stormy Daniels wasn't paid for this interview, but she is benefiting in other ways. She's -- she's having public appearances. She's making money in other ways. So this interview, the high ratings of this interview, will put even more pressure on the White House, on President Trump and maybe even, more importantly, on his lawyers as this case moves forward.

We heard from Daniels' lawyer this morning saying he has more evidence. He's going to share it in the future. Daniels and her lawyer clearly want to keep this in the news and the "60 Minutes" interview helped with that. As Anderson Cooper said this morning, people can judge now for themselves. They can watch for themselves and see if she is credible and the interview is going to re-air tonight on "AC 360."

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

There is, of course, this very big trial between the federal government and AT&T, which wants to purchase or buy Time Warner. New developments there.

Jessica Schneider in Washington with the latest.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, you know, this is the first full day of witness testimony in this trial. We saw the opening arguments on Thursday. And expected to take the stand this morning beginning at 10:30 for the government will be Warren Schuchting. He's an executive for Sling TV. Sling TV is a streaming, skinny bundle service that serves as an alternative to cable. And Schuchting is expected to testify on behalf of the government's case, talking about just how valuable this Time Warner content is.

Of course, that is the crux of the government's case here. They believe that if AT&T ends up acquiring Time Warner, which includes HBO, Warner Bros., and the Turner Networks, which does include CNN, the government is arguing that AT&T could potentially restrict that programming, could charge more for that programming.

Of course, this is a big case for the government. This is the first time in more than 40 years that the government has challenged a vertical merger. This is a vertical merger because AT&T and Time Warner, they don't directly compete. AT&T distributes the programming. Time Warner, of course, creates it.

Now, AT&T will fight back. They have been fighting back in this. They say that it's necessary to acquire this Time Warner content because of this changing media landscape. They say that they need to start competing with all of these other newer, emerging entities. They call them FAANG, FaceBook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google. So AT&T says it needs this content.

[09:55:02] So, of course, first up today, we will see that executive from Sling TV. We will also hear from John Martin. He's the CEO of Turner Networks. We're expected that that will be a hostile witness, of course, because he is the top guy for Turner and Turner, of course, is a party in this case because it's part of Time Warner.

So, John, the first full day of witness testimony here, we saw the opening arguments last week. And, of course, this is just a big case for the future of the media industry, as well as the future for mergers and exactly how the Trump administration will evaluate these business deals.


BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider for us in Washington.

Jessica, thank you very much.

Breaking news this morning, the president cracking down on Russia, expelling 60 Russian diplomats from the United States. New details ahead.