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Polls Open in Critical North Carolina Special Election; An Extracted CIA Spy Had Access to Putin; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) is Interviewed About Extracted Spy; 'The Atlantic' Profiles the Fight for the Trump Dynasty. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 10, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: To the American public came after that tape.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, he regretted the apology after that.

[07:00:04]

GOLODRYGA: Question the validity, right.

BERMAN: That's a whole other thing. Laura, great to have you with us. Thank you very much.

It is election day in North Carolina, a day with national implications. NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North Carolina's do-over election that could test the strength of Trump's presidency is now underway.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Dan has a very good chance of winning the election.

DAN BISHOP (R), NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I certainly will go to Washington and work very aggressively to help President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Republicans lose this district, it's going to be a very bad omen for 2020.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. successfully extracted one of its highest level covert sources inside the Russian government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of daylight between the intelligence community and the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the president handles the intelligence as his own personal coinage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are going to get allies of ours concerned it's going to pop up on Twitter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. Alisyn is on assignment. Bianna Golodryga joins me this morning.

GOLODRYGA: Happy to be here. Two hours in now.

BERMAN: One hour.

GOLODRYGA: One hour in now. One hour in.

BERMAN: It only feels -- it only feels like much longer.

Polls are open in North Carolina on an election that will tell us an awful lot about the state of the Trump presidency. No, the president's name isn't on the ballot, but it might as well be.

The outcome of today's race between Republican Dan Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready is being seen as something of a bellwether. The polls show the race in a dead heat down there.

But this is a race that Donald Trump won easily -- easily in 2016 by 12 points, and the fact that it's even close is sending something of a chilling message to Republicans.

And this comes as a new national poll finds the president's approval rating has dropped to 38 percent, down six points in this poll since July.

GOLODRYGA: That is a significant drop for the president.

We also have new information this morning about the informant who was extracted from Russia in 2017 in a secret mission first reported by CNN. We can now report that the spy had direct access to Vladimir Putin and could even provide images of government documents on the Russian leader's desk.

The decision to remove the informant was driven, in part, by concerns that President Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence that could expose the informant and risk his life. And this morning, the Kremlin is responding for the first time.

BERMAN: Jim Sciutto broke this story. It was a CNN exclusive, and he will join us again very shortly with some brand-new reporting on this subject. We're going to begin, though, with this special election in North Carolina.

And joining me now is CNN political director David Chalian. And just to show how important this race is, David, both the president and the vice president have campaigned in this district in the last 24 hours, so what does that tell you? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, that doesn't happen by

accident, John. One of the most valuable resources will be the president's time and the vice president's time for a Republican candidate anywhere in this country and sending them both in.

To me it just shows that the Trump administration, the Republican apparatus, in terms of the party, is all in on this race, a race that we have no business talking about whatsoever.

As you mentioned, Donald Trump won this district in 2016 by 12 points, John. This should not be a competitive race. And what we are looking to see this evening as the returns come in is where is the political narrative in the country right now? Is this a continuation of what we saw in 2018? Or is there a new sort of political temperature in the country as we turn the corner to 2020? I think that is what we're going to be able to assess tonight from this race.

BERMAN: Ron Brownstein suggests that North Carolina Nine, this district, is in the outer bands of the type of congressional district that Republicans should be vulnerable in. They've held this seat since the 1960s. So if they are in trouble here, David, what does that say nationally?

CHALIAN: Yes, and we saw in 2018 when Democrats won 40 seats, we saw some of those outer band seats come into play in a way that Republicans were hoping they wouldn't.

But to your point, if indeed, the Democrats somehow win this race that they have no business in, I think it is a warning sign of a couple of things.

One, this whole notion of what is happening in the suburbs across America, we saw it in the 2018 midterms. If this -- if this race goes to the Democrats, and we see that backlash against President Trump in the suburbs and among independent voters, John, that is going to be a very troubling sign for the Trump re-election effort next year.

BERMAN: I will say, on the other side, I think we saw something last night with the president on the stump about the message that he will send in 2020. And we've also heard it from the Republican, Dan Bishop, in that race, trying to tie the Democrat, not just to Nancy Pelosi but also to the squad, broadly speaking, to suggest that these candidates are way too left for most of the electorate.

So what will we learn about that message tonight, David?

[07:05:06]

CHALIAN: Yes, I think President Trump called it the America-hating left. It just shows you where the strategy is for President Trump. We saw him early in the summer lean into the attacks against the squad, talk about socialism as the Democratic Party continues to battle out its own ideological differences in the presidential race.

Donald Trump is trying to make use of that. He wants to paint it as a party so far outside the mainstream that he doesn't believe the independent voters, that he did -- his party did in 2018, and that his team is concerned about in 2020.

John, I will just -- I will just note, though, that line of attack is not new for Donald Trump. This has been tried before, and it didn't work. The -- the immigration line of attack, the socialism line of attack was not enough to prevent the Democrats from winning the House majority. That's what I mean. We'll see if there's a shift in the reception to that messaging this -- this time around.

BERMAN: Last question, "The Washington Post," ABC News put out their presidential approval rating this morning, part of their new poll, and if we have that, I'd love to throw it up on the screen, because he's at 38 percent now, down from 44 percent in July.

This mirrors what we've seen in other polling. The president's approval rating is at the lower end of that band that he's been in in this presidency.

CHALIAN: Yes, you talk -- you and I talk all the time about what a narrow band that is that he operates in. No doubt this is the lower end, and we have seen it all summer long. This confirms what we've seen in our own polling and other polls throughout the summer.

The president is on a decline. Now, we don't know if this is his rock bottom or not. But it does -- I would just say two things. Yes, this is a low point for him, and yes, he is in a really precarious position.

Two things President Trump has, he's got more than a year before re- election, and he's got a lot of money while the Democrats are going to fight amongst themselves for a while. So he has time and he has money, two very precious resources in American politics.

BERMAN: They're two of the main things you want to have in politics, and he's got them both. Still, this could be an interesting night for him. I know you and I will both be up late.

David Chalian, thanks so much for being with us.

GOLODRYGA: Also interesting and should be of concern to the president out of these polls is six in ten Americans now believe that we may see a recession next year. That is something this president clearly would like to avoid happening.

BERMAN: I think it's directly tied to the low approval rating.

GOLODRYGA: And we'll be following that election closely in North Carolina.

But also new this morning, the Kremlin is responding to a big exclusive interview from CNN's Jim Sciutto. He broke the story yesterday about a secret U.S. mission in 2017 to extract a top informant from Russia.

Well, that spy, CNN has learned, had access to Vladimir Putin and could even photograph Russian document -- government documents on the Russian leader's desk. And Jim Sciutto joins us now for the latest. And we know that the

Kremlin is now responding to this breaking news, as well.

SCIUTTO: That's right. The Russian president spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, this morning calling discussions about a high-level source pulp fiction, in his words.

There has been some speculation in the Russian media about a particular person who they've been speculating about. We're not going anywhere close to identifying a person or a name or a location where they live and saying that that person did serve in the presidential administration but did not have access to the Russian president.

Anyway, the Kremlin in a position where they have to respond, because the story says that the U.S. have a high-level informant in the Russian government, which I've been told, by the way, by multiple Trump administration officials.

As you mentioned, we can report new details this morning about just how high level this person was. It's my understanding that this person had been a CIA informant for more than a decade, had access to the Russian president, including the ability to photograph presidential documents.

BERMAN: Which is incredible, by the way.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, it's almost stolen out of a John Le Carre novel here. But what's key about that is, is this person, because of that access, was able to give U.S. intelligence an understanding of the Russian president's thinking, plans, direction. And that was a key factor in the intelligence community's assessment about Russian interference in the 2016 election, specifically, that Putin directed that interference.

And why did he do so? Not just to upset things here in the U.S. But to advantage Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, which was a key part of that assessment you'll remember.

GOLODRYGA: And spies and informants are compromised all the time in this industry. Why was the administration and why was the government particularly concerned about any relationship his extraction may have had to Donald Trump himself?

SCIUTTO: Here's the thing. My understanding -- and again, I spoke to multiple officials, including Trump administration officials, about this. That these concerns about the safety of this source and the exposure of this source developed over many months.

They started, actually, in the Obama administration before Trump took office. They were concerned about the length of time, the length of service, a natural concern. You know, you figure over time someone might get exposed.

But the inclusion of intel from this source in the intelligence community's assessment in 2017, early 2017 about Russian interference added to those concerns because, listen, if you're describing how Putin is thinking about something, you might expect that Russia starts to think, hey, wait a second. How do they know this?

[07:10:15]

They offered extraction to the source at the time. He refused. But in the early months of the Trump administration, those concerns grew because of, I'm told, the president's mishandling of classified information.

And the decision to pull this asset out finally took place immediately after that famous May 2017 Oval Office meeting in which the president discussed, improperly, classified intelligence with Russian officials.

BERMAN: You've been pressing the administration for a long time on this story, Jim. What is the current administration response?

SCIUTTO: So the administration is saying this from a CIA spokesperson -- and I'm quoting directly here -- that CNN's narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life or death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false. Just, by the way, that's not our story, regardless. It continues.

Misguided speculation that the president's handling of our nation's most sensitive intelligence, which he has access to every day, drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate.

We also asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's office for comment. They declined, too.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, quote, "CNN's reporting is not only incorrect. It has the potential to put lives in danger."

A couple points about that. One, we held back on a number of details about this person, which other outlets have reported, to help prevent identification. But this is key.

CIA, White House saying this had nothing to do with Trump. I spoke to five officials who served in the Trump administration, who served in intelligence agencies and served on the hill handling classified intelligence. They say that -- they tell me that the concerns in the intelligence community about Trump's handling of intelligence are widespread. They were not confined to this period of time.

And there were other instances, as well. One final one before I go I'll mention. Two months after that Oval Office meeting in May 2017, the president famously met with Vladimir Putin. G-20, Hamburg, Germany confiscates the interpreter's notes after that private meeting. I'm told that the intelligence community, following that meeting, became concerned that the president again improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russians.

GOLODRYGA: Fascinating, Jim. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

I know there are restrictions on what you can say, but broadly speaking, can you confirm the existence of this high-level source and the story behind the extraction?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): John, of course, I can't comment on the specifics of this case that CNN has broken. Our sources and our methods are the most closely-guarded secrets we have.

I can offer a couple of points of perspective, including starting with, again, the notion that five government officials are actually talking to Jim Sciutto.

And look, I respect the press a lot, but what the heck? I mean, I remember a moment in time when we were, you know, all atwitter, because Hillary Clinton might have had classified e-mails on her laptop.

And here five government officials, apparently, are talking about something far -- one of the most guarded things, if it's true, that we have.

The other point I would make, John, unable as I am to talk about the specifics of this case, is a point of context, which is that this president has always been loose with the use of classified information.

Just, I think, two weeks ago, of course, he tweeted out a satellite photograph of the destroyed -- the destroyed Iranian missile on its launch pad. If you looked at that picture, you saw that it had a classification marker that had been blacked out.

The problem with that -- and of course, there's other examples -- there's the confiscation of the notes. There's the refusal to allow people into meetings with Vladimir Putin. There's the discussion of the -- the accident that occurred in Russia.

The reason that that's important, of course, is that when you put up a satellite photograph on Twitter, people who are expert at these things in places like Russia and China and elsewhere can see our capabilities, and they can counter those capabilities.

So being loose with this kind of information, which this president regularly does, is actually a direct assault on our -- on our security.

What concerns have you heard from within the intelligence community about the president's handling of classified information?

HIMES: Well, John, just about every day, I spend time with some member of the intelligence community, one of the agencies. These are consummate professionals. And they're very careful about staying out of politics. So you -- even when you ask them the question directly, it's pretty

hard to get an answer that would -- that would touch on the political. But I will tell you from conversations that I have had in less formal environments that yes, there's worry.

How could there not be? I mean, if you think about it two things, and let me put a little bit of a finer point on that.

[07:15:04]

No. 1, we need to recruit sources. We need to go into very dangerous places and say, "Hey, if you help us, we will protect you. If you give us secrets, we will protect you. If we don't do that, if we can't keep those secrets, it makes it very hard to recruit those sources that keep us -- that keep us safe.

Secondarily -- you know, and this was from the first moment of President Trump's presidency, when he went to the CIA and went off about his crowd size in front of the wall, in which the names of the CIA officers who have lost their lives.

We need to recruit good people into these agencies and to the CIA, and NSA and FBI. And when the president is constantly attacking or weakening the work that they do, when he's devaluing the work that they do, it makes it very, very hard to look a young person in the eye and say, "Hey, you ought to consider a career, not making a lot of money, taking on a lot of risk, serving your country, it makes it hard to recruit those people.

BERMAN: There's a story in the "New York Times" this morning, shifting gears, that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire any NOAA officials, who basically didn't back up the president's false version of events during Hurricane Dorian.

What do you think the ramifications should be for Wilbur Ross?

HIMES: Well, if this story is true, Wilbur Ross needs to resign. There's no -- there's no gray area here. If he is threatening professionals, if they contradict the lie of the president of the United States, he needs to resign, flat-out.

Look, the -- NOAA is made up of scientists who deal in fact. The Commerce Department, by the way, is the department charged with keeping and maintaining and promulgating all of the economic data, job growth and all the stuff that businesses rely on. There is no room in any agency, but certainly not in that agency for falsehood.

And you know, there's a connection, John, to what were just talking about here. We are seeing everywhere, at a dramatically accelerated race [SIC] -- pace, the president and the White House using people to advance the president's political goals.

The Department of Justice going after the automakers who made a deal for better mileage with the state of California, the possible Air Force scandal in Scotland, where the Air Force may have been -- and now they are investigating themselves -- using a Trump property. Over and over and over again, we see this president using the federal

government as his personal play thing to advance his interests and to enrich himself and his businesses. So if Wilbur Ross, to answer your question, threatened people for doing their job, he needs to resign, and he needs to do it yesterday.

BERMAN: We're just about out of time here, Congressman. But should all of this be part of the impeachment investigation, which you now support?

HIMES: Well, I think, you know, there's at least three grounds for impeachment, by the way, all of which have sort of moved to a volume in excess of the charges against Richard Nixon back in the early '70s. One is obstruction of justice. One is a refusal to answer congressional subpoenas.

And the third -- and this is to your point -- the third is using the federal government as your personal play thing. And whether that's the Department of Commerce or NOAA or the Air Force or any other agency, I believe and know that to be an impeachable offense.

BERMAN: Congressman Jim Himes from Connecticut. Thanks for being with us.

HIMES: Thank you, John.

GOLODRYGA: I just need to hear the congressman say that Wilbur Ross should resign. Thank back to what Maggie Haberman told us in the last hour, that if we hear from more members of Congress, particularly Republicans. John Thune said that he is deeply concerned about what has been reported. We'll see whether Wilbur Ross has a future in this government.

BERMAN: Jim Himes, a Democrat, not enough. But the voice would have to come from the other side of the aisle.

GOLODRYGA: That's right. That's right.

What next? What's next for the Trump family, whenever they leave Washington? Will they leave Washington? Inside the sibling rivalry to inherit the family dynasty is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:23:15]

GOLODRYGA: A new cover story in "The Atlantic" gives a look at the fight among the Trump children to succeed their father. The report reveals Ivanka Trump has always been the president's favorite child, but Donald Trump Jr. has emerged as the family dynasty's heir.

Joining me now, McKay Coppins, the author of the piece in "The Atlantic." Great to have you here with us.

It is a fantastic read. Like I said, what you were able to do is weave together different narratives. So we've heard about the family dynamics over the years and to this one piece and give her -- give us a bigger picture of what's going on inside the family right now. And they don't seem to be as cohesive as they would like to appear.

MCKAY COPPINS, AUTHOR, "THE ATLANTIC": That's right. The Trumps do try to project an image of unity, but what I found in reporting this piece is that behind the scenes, there is a lot of sibling rivalry, which is maybe common in a lot of families. But it plays out on a much bigger stage with much higher stakes.

GOLODRYGA: And you write, "While the president writes his chapter in history, the next generation waits in the wings, jockeying for position, feuding over status, knowing only one of them can be the heir."

So who stands to be that heir right now?

COPPINS: Well, Ivanka was always the favorite. And when they were in business, Trump always saw Ivanka as the person who would be the face of the Trump Organization, would be the face of the business.

In November of 2016, the family business changed. It's now about politics, and as it turned out in politics, Don Jr. was the more natural successor.

Ivanka, you know, went into the White Houses and quickly found that she was somewhat out of her depth in policy making, and the political process, whereas Don Jr. kind of went out and built his own grass roots fan base.

And you see him out on the campaign trail now. The crowds love him. He's like a mini Trump out there, kind of beating the MAGA drum, and -- and it looks now like he's going to be the one to inherit that mantle whether the president likes it or not.

[07:25:06]

GOLODRYGA: And you talk about the fact that the president rates how they are performing, given how they perform in interviews on television. And for the most part, he's always thought that Ivanka Trump had outperformed her brothers, in particular Don Jr.

But now things are changing a bit in the president's mind. Why?

COPPINS: Yes. Ivanka's source of -- source of status in the family was largely pegged to her ability to be a good surrogate for her father. She generated a lot of positive coverage for Trump and the Trump Organization.

But as her media coverage has curdled while she's been in the White Houses, Trump has started to reassess things. And now even he, I'm told, can kind of see that Don Jr. is more talented on the campaign trail, has more of a natural connection to his base and kind of begrudgingly has started to come around to the idea that Don Jr. is -- is closer to where the Trump empire is now than Ivanka.

GOLODRYGA: And we all think bank to Ivanka Trump's appearance in Osaka, Japan, for the G-20 summit where the French released a video where it appeared that she was standing among other leaders and heads of state and trying to get in on the conversation, a bit of an embarrassment for Ivanka Trump and for the president.

He also felt that that was a slight against Ivanka and may question whether or not she has the gravitas in leadership.

COPPINS: Well, again, you know, I'm told that Donald Trump will sometimes watch cable news from the White House and offer a running commentary to whoever's around on how his children are performing in the news cycle that day.

And, you know, as you know in Osaka after that -- that summit, there was a round of international media coverage that was really embarrassing for Ivanka. And -- and for Trump when that kind of thing happens, it really does tarnish the -- the way he thinks about his children.

GOLODRYGA: So is there an internal battle that the president is facing when it comes to who he personally favors and who he personally saw succeeding him, as opposed to who he sees really getting more accustomed and familiar with his base and becoming more and more popular, and that's between Don Jr., obviously, and Ivanka.

I ask that, because you say if there's any doubt about which child Trump favors, his Twitter feed told the story. In the first two years of his presidency, he tweeted about Ivanka 16 times while Don received just four mentions, all of them about the Trump Tower scandal.

COPPINS: Right.

GOLODRYGA: What are you trying to convey there?

Right, well, President Trump, you know, has done his best, frankly, to boost Ivanka. He's floated her name for various high-profile important jobs, head of the World Bank, U.N. ambassador, and tweets about her all the time in often kind of doting, fawning way.

But as I said, Don Jr. is the one who kind of went out and bootstrapped it and ended up building his own base, and unlike in business, where a patriarch can kind of install their chosen heir as CEO of the company after they step down, in politics, the patriarch doesn't have as much -- as much authority over who succeeds him.

A lot of that is left up to the voters and the electorate, and in Trump's base, Don Jr. is seen as kind of a folk hero, whereas Ivanka is seen as more distant and maybe a little elitist for their taste.

GOLODRYGA: So in your opinion and in your research, obviously, what the president has been able to capture is something we haven't seen in decades, if not ever in this country. Can that be replicated, and if it can, which of the children is best suited to do that?

COPPINS: Well, that's the key question. I think if it can be replicated, Don Jr. is going to be the one who can do it. But one thing I will say is that this Republican Party is very different than it was a few years ago. I quote a lot of high-profile Republicans who say that Don Jr. has a bright future in GOP politics.

GOLODRYGA: Well, he's very popular with the president on the campaign trail. That is for sure. McKay, thank you so much. Great to see you.

COPPINS: Thanks for having me.

GOLODRYGA: Wonderful read.

Well, up ahead, the Supreme Court's turn to the right. Associate justice Neil Gorsuch talks about balancing his legal philosophy in this bitterly-divided political climate in a rare interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It is not a judge's job to do whatever he or she thinks would be good. Do you really want me to rule the country?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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