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House Panel to Take Formal Steps on Impeachment Probe; Trump Under Fire for Inviting Taliban to U.S. Near 9/11 Anniversary; Hundreds of Bahamians Told to Get Off U.S.-Bound Ferry. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 9, 2019 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump tweeting that he planned to be meeting with leaders of the Taliban at Camp David.

[05:59:04]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's committed to making sure that we reduce the risk that terrorists should ever strike the United States from Afghanistan again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we head into the anniversary of 9/11, I do not ever want to see these terrorists step foot on United States soil, period.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had a nephew. And three of his kids die in storm. I can imagine the terror that they were faced with before they passed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurricane Dorian ravaging everything and everyone in its path.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything looked totally different. You can't describe it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, September 9, 6 a.m. here in New York. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I did. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: You survived?

CAMEROTA: Yes, it was great.

BERMAN: Mostly.

CAMEROTA: And you had a great football game. Is that what you follow, the sport?

BERMAN: Yes. The New England Patriots are a football team.

CAMEROTA: With that guy that you like.

BERMAN: That guy I like is on it. And they won in a big way. He looked fabulous.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure he did.

BERMAN: All right. New this morning, impeachment, it's not just for kids anymore. Congress returns to work this morning after a six-week summer break, and they're bringing more than just brand-new Trapper Keepers.

We have details of emerging plans from the Democrats to investigate new aspects of the president's behavior in new ways.

The House Judiciary Committee could vote this week on a legislation that lays out the procedures for an official impeachment investigation.

Also this morning, we're learning new details about the sudden breakdown of peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban. President Trump announced it on Twitter, that he had invited Taliban leaders to Camp David for a secret meeting but then pulled the plug after an American soldier was killed in Afghanistan.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are blasting the president's decision to invite a terror organization to the U.S. on the week of the 9/11 anniversary.

So let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live for us at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

There is a lot on the table for Congress as they return to session, especially over on the House side. There's the issue of health care, possible gun legislation, also that trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

But for many Democrats, the big focus right now is an impeachment inquiry into the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. KATIE PORTER (D), CALIFORNIA: For me this is about making sure that we're signaling that nobody is above the law, and that includes Donald Trump.

JOHNS (voice-over): As Congress returns from recess, divided House Democrats are considering moving forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The House Judiciary Committee could hold a vote as soon as Wednesday on a resolution outlining procedures for its investigation. Sources say Democrats will focus on possible violations of the

Emoluments Clause, reports of Trump dangling pardons to officials at risk of breaking immigration laws and his involvement in hush-money payments.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): And they just keep digging their hole. They just keep going after things, because they hate the president so much that they don't want to have anything happen.

JOHNS: It comes as President Trump is under fire after abruptly canceling a secret meeting with Taliban leaders and the Afghan president at Camp David, an apparent effort to help fulfill his campaign promise to end the nearly 18-year war.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We could win it very quickly. If I'm -- I've said this many times. If I'm willing to kill 10 million people in the course of a week or two, we could win that thing very quickly. I'm not looking to kill people.

JOHNS: The cancellation came after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack at a Kabul checkpoint that killed 12 people, including 34-year-old U.S. Sergeant First Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defending the president.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Trump made the right decision. Said that's not going to work.

JOHNS: But Trump getting criticism from members of his own party.

REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R), FLORIDA: As we head into the anniversary of 9/11, I did not ever want to see these terrorists step foot on United States soil, period.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: The president did the right thing by walking away. I'm very concerned, though, that we were really close to having Taliban leaders there.

JOHNS: Some Democrats agreeing.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This isn't a game show. These are terrorists.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-MD): I'm concerned that our president isn't listening to his generals, to his diplomats, to the intelligence community.

JOHNS: Pompeo emphasizing President Trump is aware of the history.

POMPEO: If you're going to negotiate peace, you often have to deal with some pretty bad actors.

While there have often been discussions about war at Camp David, there have been discussions about peace there, as well.

JOHNS: There have been nine rounds of talks so far. Many saw this deal as the best chance for ending America's longest-running war. Not clear how much this cancellation has been affected -- has affected the possibility, at least, for peace.

Back to you.

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BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us at the White House. Joe, we're going to much more on Afghanistan and these talks that fell apart, if they were ever going to happen in just a moment.

Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates.

And I want to begin with these new impeachment procedures or rules that the House Democrats are trying to institute. This is P-102. They want to pass a resolution in the House Judiciary Committee that will let them conduct hearings in ways different from most congressional hearings; authorize committee staff counsels to question witnesses; spell out how secret grand jury information can be reviewed; and Trump's counsel can respond in writing.

What are they really trying to do? What do they get out of this, Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think they're trying to avoid the exhaustion that the American people have already, thinking this is maybe a little bit too little too late. What happened, the momentum of the Mueller report, what happened before that.

They also have learned their lesson. They're aware the American people don't want to see Congressmen, essentially, grandstand on the actual stand in the hearings. They want to be able to have a more structured way of asking questions. They've learned that lesson by having the counsel do so.

They also want to know, OK, grand jury testimony, it's out there. You're able to avoid giving it over. How do you learn from that? Well, it's not in the rules. We'll make it part of the rules now.

And so you have, essentially, Congress learning its own lessons from its own mistakes.

The problem, however, is going to be trying to convince the American public that impeachment is now more than about political election interference. Now it's about the notion of having the presidency transformed into a cash cow for Donald Trump. Now, that's a very different story line that happened in the past year and a half. Whether they'll be nimble enough to pull it off is really the question.

[06:05:19] CAMEROTA: When the history books are written, does this week signal the official start of an impeachment inquiry?

COATES: Well, according to John, you may have Trapper Keepers coming up. That might be part of it. I don't know.

BERMAN: Well, no. The issue here -- the issue here is if you ask Jerry Nadler and other Democrats, they claim they've already been an official investigation.

CAMEROTA: I know, but it's sort of a slow creep. And so nobody knows that an impeachment inquiry has been beginning. But now if they are doing an actual vote on a resolution on Wednesday, is this the official start?

COATES: It really would be. And here's the reason. Remember, up until now, it's really nebulous. The idea of, like, are you doing impeachment? The "what are we" conversation keeps happening. What are we doing here?

Now they're saying before it was kind of this semantics thing. Whether we had it or not, whether we get to launch an inquiry. Now it's a matter of saying, "Look. Here is the clear line in the sand. We are moving ahead. We know that we have a deadline looming of called -- I don't know, a 2020 election. But we've got to keep moving forward at this point."

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but there's a significant thing that's happened over the course of the summer. Momentum has shifted while everyone was on summer vacation.

In June, only 82 Democrats supported impeachment. Now it's 134. So for everyone who said that the Mueller report was a big nothing burger and that really, you know, this was all DOA, there's actually been a decided shift. Folks went home to their constituents, and they heard that they should stand on what they believe to be principle, as opposed to politics.

CAMEROTA: Is that what's shifted it, or was, you know, Jerry Nadler working things behind the scenes?

AVLON: I don't think magical Mr. Nadler singlehandedly deserves credit for this political shift.

BERMAN: That's a great movie, by the way.

AVLON: You know, the sequel, actually, is underrated. all of it. But this is significant, because a lot of folks said that this was all -- this was all over, and Mueller was a great disappointment, but momentum is shifting beneath the scenes. And, as Laura pointed out, adding emoluments, profiting off the presidency, other significant questions and inquiries that are going to open.

BERMAN: Stormy Daniels. They want the Stormy Daniels thing to be part of this.

AVLON: Yes, and don't forget, folks will point to the politics and say, look, the poll numbers really aren't there. Well, at 42 percent, where it was earlier this summer, that's around the line where it was for Nixon in '74 at the start of the process. So everyone's -- and well ahead of the 29 percentage support during Bill Clinton's impeachment at the height of that.

BERMAN: I want to quote Jeffrey Toobin here, Laura, who -- I'm going to paraphrase him. Or misquote him, probably. He basically says the best way for Congress to hold hearings is for Congress to hold hearings. I mean, they've done a lot of talking about how they're going to do this without doing it. They've got to step up and open the door here.

COATES: I agree with Toobin. I don't know who he is, Toobin, but I've heard about him. Yes, he sounds like a fine gentleman. That's fine. He's right in this instance of saying, listen, the best way to start a goal is to actually start the actual goal. You have to do something about it.

The problem is, remember, when you said Stormy Daniels, the American people may not be interested in that particular line of inquiry. You know --

CAMEROTA: I know the American people.

COATES: You know, all of them. They've called you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I know the American people.

AVLON: And the White House will now just sort of glide over the fact the president continues to deny that was ever a thing.

Look, the hush money payments are comparatively small, but again, let's not forget we impeached Bill Clinton over an affair in the White House. And this actually could involve influencing an election by hiding it.

COATES: But that's why they're going to be tired of it, because they don't want the Clinton-esque thing. You know what? Clinton had this salacious affair. The more immediate matter, I think, is the idea of the emoluments issue. I mean, as sexy as emoluments are.

AVLON: And they can be.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, it's funny you say that. Because there's new material.

BERMAN: You have naked emoluments.

AVLON: Naked emoluments.

CAMEROTA: I mean, yes. You want sexy? OK.

AVLON: Bring it on.

CAMEROTA: The Air Force has been apparently diverting, on its various missions to Kuwait and elsewhere, they have been diverting to President Trump's resort in Scotland. For no --

AVLON: Much like Vice President Pence?

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, Vice President Pence stayed something like more than a hundred miles away from where his talks were at President Trump's resort; that we have now learned that the Air Force has been diverting to stay there. Why? Why are they doing this? AVLON: Why is the attorney general hosting a $30,000 Christmas party

at the Trump Hotel? It's a part of a pattern. And it's part of the president elevating the profile of his properties. Spending over 200 days at them, by the way. And all of a sudden, tone comes from the top, and you've got people from the vice president to apparently folks in the Air Force taking advantage of something that is utterly improper on the face of it. And if a Democrat was doing it, folks would be screaming bloody murder.

BERMAN: OK. So the Air Force says this is a -- this is a base in Scotland. This isn't the same base that Mike Pence stayed at, or this isn't --

CAMEROTA: You have a different -- your choice of resorts.

BERMAN: You know, it's in the isles there. OK? And what the Air Force says -- what the Air Force says is it's near the base. The Trump property is near the base where they needed to refuel, and they got competitive rates from it. I'm just giving you their story of this.

And they now say -- and this is a quote -- "We understand that U.S. service members lodging at higher-end accommodations, even within government rates, might be allowable but not advisable. Might be created through the appearance of air crew staying at such locations. Even when U.S. Air Force and aircrews follow all directives and guidance, we must still be considerate of perceptions of not being good stewards of taxpayer funds that might be of perceptions of not being good stewards of taxpayer funds that might be created through the appearance of aircrew staying at such locations."

[06:10:12]

So that's not admitting to illegal activity, Counselor, but it's acknowledging this looks awful.

COATES: And optics are very important. We talk about the hint of impropriety. This is a, like, gut punch of impropriety. You want to have the commander in chief lead the forces, not for them to pander to him in his resorts.

And when you have the appearance of saying, "Listen, of all the places, of all the bars you could go to in the world, of all the gin joints you could go to, somehow you happen to be at this one.

And you have the appearance of saying, listen, what are emoluments about? And saying look, the president of the United States is not supposed to be able to use and profit off of his brand. The brand is the United States of America. And the hotels you use are the ones that taxpayers would allow you to stay at.

AVLON: And don't forget, look, this is in the Constitution. The founders weren't particularly ambiguous about this. You can't -- This is hard-baked by the guys back in 1789. So I think the other thing to remember is that statement from the Air Force, the Air Force is saying that service members should be held to a higher standard than the vice president of the United States. That's how endemic kind of things have gotten right now that we're not even noticing the fact that it's utterly absurd.

BERMAN: And to tie this up, what Laura was saying is that most political analysts on both sides, a strategist will tell you when you get to corruption and you get to money, that's something that stinks on both ends.

AVLON: Follow the money.

BERMAN: And people don't mind hearings on those things. So that'll be interesting.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you very much. Stick around. We have many more questions.

Peace talks with the Taliban abruptly broke down over the weekend. So why did President Trump first invite Taliban leaders to the U.S. during the 9/11 anniversary week? We discuss all of that next.

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[06:16:36]

CAMEROTA: Stunning new details this morning about the collapse of peace negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban. "The New York Times" reports that it was President Trump who proposed inviting the Taliban to Camp David and that a key sticking point was that the president wanted a deal announced after the summit so that he could look like a deal maker.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are blasting the president for inviting the Taliban to the U.S. on the week of the 9/11 anniversary.

Now, earlier this year, CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward spent 36 hours reporting from inside Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, and she joins us now.

Clarissa, it's great to have your expertise and your reporting for us. Just the idea that the president would invite the Taliban, which of course, is the organization that gave safe haven to al Qaeda during the 9/11 terror attacks, just help us make sense of why that was a good idea.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's really hard to understand the logic behind the decision to invite the Taliban to Camp David. Not least because, while the sort of -- you know, the details of the plan had been put into place, it was really just awaiting his approval. There was very broad concern and criticism that this peace plan was not really a peace plan. It was more of a negotiated withdrawal. It did not protect the Afghan government.

The Afghan government did not have a seat at the negotiating table. It did not guarantee women's rights. It did not guarantee some kind of a nationwide cease-fire. And a lot of people on many sides thought that it was just being sort of bulldozed through too quickly without the proper attention being paid to the details that was necessary to call this an actual peace agreement. The kind of a peace agreement that would, perhaps, justify a meeting or summit at Camp David.

Although even then one would have to seriously question the optics of doing that on the very week of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. But yes, there's a lot of argument that it's been 18 years, trillions of dollars, time to try to get a peace deal going.

BERMAN: You know, Liz Cheney, who's the No. 3 House Republican and the daughter of the former vice president, Dick Cheney, who was so involved, obviously, post-9/11, she wrote, "Camp David is where America's leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11. No member of the Taliban should set foot here ever. The Taliban still harbors al Qaeda. The president is right to end the talks."

And getting back to what they hope to get from this, Clarissa, it's really interesting. Because "The New York Times" has reporting here, there's been these negotiations going on that you've been doing great reporting on, among others, between Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban that's been happening in Doha largely.

But that wasn't enough for the president. The president apparently wanted to be seen as the one to make it all official. "The Times" writes this morning, "Mr. Trump did not want the Camp David meeting to be a celebration of the deal; after staying out of the details of what has been a delicate effort in a complicated region, Mr. Trump suddenly wanted to be the deal maker who would put the final parts together himself, or at least be perceived to be."

He wanted it to be his deal. He wanted to be the guy to end, broadly speaking, the war in Afghanistan. It's not that simple.

WARD: It's not simple at all. And listen, President Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that President Trump perhaps also saw a Nobel Peace Prize in his future if he was, indeed, able to broker this.

But the reality is, John, that when you spend time on the ground in Afghanistan and you spend time with the Taliban, as we have, you realize the complexities of trying to pull something like this off. The Taliban has not fundamentally changed ideologically from the fundamentalists, isolationist jihadist organization that it once was.

And while they are open to the prospect of peace right now, while they are tired of fighting, they are tired of losing men on the battlefield, they're tired of -- worried about the next generation splintering off and joining more jihadist organizations, more extremist organizations, you have to ask yourself whether this is just a sort of political opportunism in the moment, and they want to seize upon the U.S. desire to withdraw and then quickly try to use their power from the Afghan government or whether this is, in fact, an earnest, real, sincere attempt at forming some kind of a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government.

And if you have any doubts about that, that's why you need to have the devil in the detail when it comes to the agreement. You need to have those preconditions. You need to be talking about a nationwide cease- fire.

And it's not just for the sake of Afghans and for the Afghan government, but it will also ultimately be for the sake of the U.S. going forward. Because once the U.S. withdraws, it is certainly not be beyond the realm of possibility that Afghanistan very quickly devolves into what it was once before, a safe haven for terrorists from around the world -- John.

CAMEROTA: But Clarissa, so when you did your excellent reporting from there and sort of -- I mean, embedded is probably the wrong word, but got to be with the Taliban talk to them and spend time with them, what was your impression of what their end game is? What are they? Do they want peace talks? What are they ultimately looking for?

WARD: They're definitely tired of fighting. They're tired of war. They've paid a huge price in this war, as well.

But if you look at the fundamentals of what they are actually about, I'll give you an example. They say, "Oh, we've changed on women's rights and women's issues. We're now saying that women can be educated."

And you say, "Oh, that's good, because in the '90s when Taliban was under control, was in control, women couldn't be educated."

But then you probe them a little further, and you say, how will that work? And they say, "Well, actually, you know, after women hit puberty, they won't be able to go to school anymore with boys, because there has to be complete segregation of the genders." And of course, the schools don't exist that would have complete separation of genders, ergo girls stop going to school.

This exact same argument that the Taliban used to justify girls not being able to go to school in the '90s. So what you're seeing here are instances of them being more pragmatic, more conciliatory, more willing to negotiate or cooperate with the Afghan government.

But when you look at the actual fundamentals of their ideology, it hasn't changed. Except on one issue, that when we quiz them about, they were adamant. They say there is no way that they would allow safe haven to any terrorists, to al Qaeda, because they have paid such a dear price for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

At the same time, the concern becomes that the younger, more fundamentalist, more jihadist factions of the Taliban will simply splinter off from the group once a deal is made and join groups like ISIS.

There is an atmosphere in Afghanistan now in which terrorist groups can continue to proliferate. And that will only get worse if the right conditions are not set on the ground for any U.S. withdrawal.

BERMAN: Clarissa Ward, thank you, as always, for being with us and helping us understand this. We're going to have much more on this throughout the show.

Grand Bahamas is dead. That is the message one local resident had for a CNN team that traveled to a town on the island that was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian. We have a live report next.

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[06:28:18]

BERMAN: This morning desperation is growing in the Bahamas. Hurricane Dorian destroyed so much of the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama. Over the weekend, evacuees at a ferry headed from Freeport on Grand Bahama to Florida were told to get off if they did not have a visa.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, all passengers that don't have U.S. visa, please proceed to disembark. If you come into the USA, you will have a problem.

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BERMAN: This video posted on social media by a reporter for CNN affiliate WSVN in Miami.

One woman told the reporter as many as 130 people left the ferry, including families with children. Now, on its website, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says visas are not required for Bahamian residents flying to the United States if they also meet other criteria like a passport and no criminal record.

Florida lawmakers have been pressing President Trump to waive visa requirements for the evacuees.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has all around Grand Bahama, traveled by boat to the Eastern-most point, an area just destroyed and cut off by the storm. And Patrick joins us this morning.

Patrick, what did you see?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again, John.

And here in Freeport, yes, there's still no power or water. But things are slowly getting better. We are seeing food distributed, water distributed. If you're very patient, you can get gas.

But the real sad irony is when you go to some of the hardest-hit areas by Dorian, it feels if -- as if the storm just happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OPPMANN (voice-over): To get to the places still cut off by Hurricane Dorian, we have to go by boat.

(on camera): We've been traveling now for about two hours by boat. It's the only way to get here. This is our destination. The eastern- most end of Grand Bahama Island.

END