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Trump Trapped on Iran; White House Silences Three Ahead of Hearing; Election Day in Israel; "SNL" Fires Comedian Over Racist & Homophobic Comments. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 04:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do I want war? I don't want war with anybody. I'm not looking to get into new conflict but sometimes you have to.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's competing interest on Iran. Big threats or make a big deal? Overnight, the supreme leader says talks are off the table.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The first impeachment hearing is today, but don't expect to hear much from three witnesses, two won't even show up on orders from the White House.

BRIGGS: It's election day in Israel. Can Benjamin Netanyahu survive again let alone form a working government?

ROMANS: And a new "SNL" cast member fired for bigoted comments. Hear what Shane Gillis has to say this morning.

We have live reports this morning from Riyadh, Tehran, Jerusalem, and Hong Kong.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning to you. A busy day. I'm Dave Briggs.

Tuesday, September 17. It is 4:00 a.m. here in New York, again live in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, and Tehran. An extraordinary day.

We begin with President Trump caught between competing interests over Iran following that attack on a critical Saudi oil facility. The president trying to please his hawkish allies, while he's also claiming he's eager to deal with Iran, desperately trying to keep the U.S. out of another Middle East conflict.

Mr. Trump now says, quote, looks like Iran is behind the attack, one day after saying the U.S. was locked and loaded. Mr. Trump spoke alongside the crown prince of Bahrain. And his Middle East strategy, if there is one, remained unclear.


TRUMP: Do I want war? I don't want war with anybody. I'm not looking to get into new conflict but sometimes you have to.


ROMANS: Two U.S. officials tells the United States has determined the attack on the Saudis originated inside Iran. Special representative for Iran telling Capitol Hill staffers it was definitely not carried out by Houthi rebels who have climbed responsibility. He also noted the Saudis view the incident as their 9/11.

That fact has not changed the president's willingness to engage with the Iranians.

BRIGGS: Iran has strongly denied any role in the attack on the Saudi oil facility. Now, Iran's supreme leader ruling out any talks whatsoever with President Trump, at least for now.

Let's bring in Nick Paton Walsh live in Tehran with the latest.

Nick, good morning. Where are we headed?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) on the possibility of military action and, frankly, the world is still waiting for evidence for the U.S. claims that Iran is behind those attacks. Still, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, has given a lengthy speech today in which he flatly at this stage rules out any kind of negotiations.

He says that the U.S. government wants to make their maximum pressure policy on Iran as their main and permanent strategy. The definitive policy, I quote here, the U.S. government seeks to make this definitive policy for their domestic rivals and the Europeans, that the only way of dealing with Iran is to use maximum pressure. That is why all government officials, the president, foreign minister and others have unanimously agreed that we will not negotiate with the U.S. either bilateral or multi-lateral.

He leaves a small window out there, almost possibly giving a chance for Donald Trump to humiliate himself on the world stage by saying that if the U.S. apologizes, retracts its statements, rejoins the nuclear deal, it can then take part in the multi-national talks around that deal. So, essentially, the highest voice here in Iran saying there won't be talks right now.

What does that mean? Well, it kind of puts, frankly, on a deep back burner the notion of a negotiated way out of this and the idea that maybe the U.S.'s heavy posturing to get Iran to the table but very dangerous times ahead when Donald Trump hears this very stark red line.

BRIGGS: Indeed a very flammable situation.

Nick Paton Walsh live there, 12:30 in Tehran. Thank you.

ROMANS: So, we're hearing from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia finally weighing in after days of keeping quiet about the weekend missile attack on that huge Saudi oil facility.

International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is standing by live for more us in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the very latest.

Nic, what are they saying?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They are saying that their investigation continues, that they are inviting U.N. and international experts to come and join that investigation. They are saying that there should be international condemnation for those behind the attack. They are saying that this was an attack on global economy.

Saudi Arabia is internationalizing this. It is trying to build a body of support behind their position so they are not seen to be acting alone in this. Not just having the United States at their side but essentially trying to build bigger, more global support for that.


Specifically what they have said? They said a country to what the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed, the attack did not come from Yemen. They're saying that the weapon systems were definitely made by Iran. They are being very clear on that.

They are not saying they were fired from Iran, they are saying that this is the center point for their investigation to discover where the weapon systems were fired from. They say that they will take appropriate action depending on the outcome of the investigation. They do say that their capacity and resolve to respond to this aggression should not be doubted. That this is something that they are prepared to stand up to and deal with, but they are trying to get this international support to the diplomatic road for the moment for the Saudis.

ROMANS: All right. Great to have you there in Riyadh this morning, Nic. Thanks so much for that.

Now, the attacks on the key Saudi Arabian oil facilities have sent global oil prices soaring. We saw the biggest spike in U.S. oil prices in a decade. Huge move.

Let's bring in CNN's Andrew Stevens. He is live in Hong Kong.

And that big spike in oil prices cooled a little bit in recent hours, but certainly what a big move.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Enormous move, Christine. Up 14 percent in response to what happened in Saudi Arabia. In the last few hours or so, the price has come down a fraction. But still, that is a massive spike in anyone's language.

And the issue, of course, here is that if this sort of increased oil price says, what sort of impact is it going to have on the global economy? At the moment, we don't know exactly how long the Saudi facility is going to be out of action, when can it get back to the pumping capacity it needs to pump to ease fears about the oil supply shortage and to bring the price down.

If that doesn't get sorted out in the next few weeks, according to analysts, we could be seeing prices at $10 higher a barrel than they should be. And all of this, of course, comes, Christine, as you well know, the global economy is weakening and higher oil prices or higher costs of energy is only going to make matters worse.

We know that China is struggling. In the last 24 hours, we've seen some terrible numbers coming out of China. Industrial production, retail sales, fixed asset investment all going the wrong way, and China relies on a lot of imported oil.

The U.S. is holding up OK. Can it can't to in the face of this trade war? Will consumer sentiment stay strong when oil prices are start hitting them? When petro prices at the pump go up by perhaps 25 percent in the next few weeks? This is what some analysts are saying. So, we're at a critical point as far as the global economy is concerned.

Could it tip the global economy broadly in recession? Most analysts at this stage say no, but certainly it's going to continue to depress, push down global economic activity.

ROMANS: Certainly, it's a factor, at least for American consumers, they were counting on. It looks like, you know, energy prices for American consumers were trending now. Now, it looks like they will be creeping up higher at the gas pump.

Andrew Stevens, thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: The White House silencing two former aides and ex-Trump campaign manager, all three. Corey Lewandowski, Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter were subpoenaed to appear today before the House Judiciary Committee. The White House is asserting Dearborn and Porter have immunity. They are not expected to appear.

Lewandowski is expected to show up. But the White House is directing him to answer questions about events that took place after President Trump was elected.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler calls the decision to keep the former aides from testifying a shocking and dangerous use of executive privilege.

ROMANS: The United Auto Workers strike against General Motors has entered day two. Nearly 50,000 hourly workers are picketing at GM facilities across the country. The biggest walk-out in a decade. A source tells CNN talks between the union and GM have been very tense

and negotiations continued through Monday night. CNN also obtained a letter from Terry Dittes, the vice president of the UAW, letting union members know their health insurance will continue through the end of the month, paid for by GM. Workers say they want fair wages, affordable health care, profit sharing, job security and more rights for temporary employees.


JEFF HUNTER, EMPLOYEE, GENERAL MOTORS: This is a battle for the middle-class. This is -- it had to start, it's starting right now, and it's got to be -- we've got to do this now.

STANLEY DULANEY, JR., EMPLOYEE, GENERAL MOTORS: We're fighting for everybody. We're fighting for the lower-class, we're fighting for the middle-class, you know, to make sure that we're equal altogether.


ROMANS: Auto industry analysts estimate the walkout could dent GM's profits by $50 million and $100 million a day. Though GM could make up some loss production once workers return.

BRIGGS: The 2020 candidates are taking very different approaches to getting their message out -- big rallies, small gatherings and late nights. President Trump holding a rally last night in New Mexico, a state Hillary Clinton won by eight points in 2016. He targeted all of his Democratic rivals for their positions on health care.



TRUMP: Every major Democrat running for president supports a massive government takeover of health care. And we will always protect patients with preexisting conditions. The Republicans will always do that.


BRIGGS: For the record the Republicans and the Trump administration are trying to get a court to void Obamacare and they have no plan as of now to replace those pre-existing protections if they succeed.

ROMANS: Elizabeth Warren holding a rally of her own last night in New York City. She embraced her top tier status after receiving a key endorsement from the Working Families Party. And she made the case that her liberal ideas can win the day.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot at stake in this election. And I know people are scared but we can't choose a candidate we don't believe in just because we're too scared to do anything else. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Several of the Democratic contenders kicked off the week campaigning in South Carolina, including Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The super wealthy, in fact, if I'm elected president you're not going to get the tax cuts you got. I think we should be rewarding work as well as wealth.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I'm the nominee, this president can talk tough, throw himself military parades, hug the flag every now and then, but I faced worse kinds of incoming than a tweetful of typos.


BRIGGS: The crowd liked that.

And Kamala Harris appeared on the "Tonight Show" last night. Take a look at California senator slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon.


JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: By now we've seen the demonstrate get down and dirty on the debate stage. What about debating President Trump? Do you think you can deliver the goods against the president in cheese puffs?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Jimmy, if I do debate President Trump, I'm sure it will be a competitive face off where either one of us could end up on top.

FALLON: Really?

HARRIS: No, I would wipe the floor with him.


BRIGGS: It's a tough spot there for Kamala Harris. She did a nice job. We couldn't find another female politician that did the news.

ROMANS: Yes, I think she's the first.

BRIGGS: So, that may have been groundbreaking there.

ROMANS: I think she's the first.

Ahead violent assaults some in broad daylight highlight a serious shortage of police in one major city. Robbery is up more than 50 percent in one year. We'll tell you where.


[04:17:06] ROMANS: Welcome back.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fate is on the line as Israelis return to the polls for the second time this year. They are hoping to end a political stalemate and elect a majority they can form a new government.

Joining us now with the very latest, senior international correspondent Sam Kiley. He is live this morning for us in Jerusalem.

Hi, Sam.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, putting a finger on it, it's all about Benjamin Netanyahu and his future with the two main parties, his Likud Party and the Blue and White Party led by Benny Gantz, former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, really neck and neck. It's going to be not an instant result. Nothing so gratifying as that for Israelis but really a period, all the independent opinion polls would indicate protracted negotiations.

But throughout this election, it has been Benjamin Netanyahu has set out the narrative. More recently, he has tried to up the ante significantly with some scare stories if you like about the numbers of Arab-Israelis who are likely to vote with opinion polls showing they could win -- the Arab Joint List could win 12 seats in the 120 seat Knesset, also saying to the far-right potential constituency he would annex the Jordan Valley, of course, generating a lot of international condemnation for that and only muted support from the United States.

On the left and center, though, the whole campaign has been somewhat lackluster, lacking the ability to really define what it is that they really stand for apart from anything other than Benjamin Netanyahu, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Sam Kiley for us this morning in Jerusalem, thank you so much.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead here, almost 9,000 students told to stay home because of an online threat against their school.



ROMANS: A series of brutal attacks like this one in Minneapolis highlighting a skyrocketing robbery rate and critical shortage of police officers. Robberies are up almost 54 percent in downtown Minneapolis compared to last year. From last July 1st of last year to June 30th of this year, police received more than 6,000 priority one 911 calls, including sexual assaults, shootings and robberies where they didn't have an officer immediately able to respond.


CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: Because our staffing needs have not been properly addressed over many years it has resulted in our current MPD resources being strained to capacity and, quite frankly, we're hemorrhaging.


ROMANS: CNN affiliate WCCO reports the police chief pushed to add 400 officers by 2025, but the mayor said it's not doable because of the budget.


CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: Because our staffing needs have not been properly addressed over many years it has resulted in our current MPD resources being strained to capacity and, quite frankly, we're hemorrhaging.


ROMANS: CNN affiliate WCCO reports the police chief pushed to add 400 officers by 2025, but the mayor said it's not doable because of the budget.

BRIGGS: An online threat forcing public schools in Yukon, Oklahoma to cancel classes today. Local police officials say they're working with state and federal investigators to determine the source of threats on social media. More than 8,800 students attend Yukon's public schools.


This comes just a day after three students in California were arrested for making threats against their high school.

And a former Oklahoma student was arrested for threatening her high school.

"Saturday Night Live" fired Shane Gillis just days after the comedian was introduced as a new cast member. Clips from a podcast surfaced in which Gillis is heard making racist and homophobic remarks, as recently as last year. An "SNL" spokesperson says they were not aware of his prior remarks, calling them offensive, hurtful and unacceptable. They said the vetting process was not up to their standards.

ROMANS: Gillis in a tweet said this about his ouster. I'm a comedian who was funny enough to get "SNL". That can't be taken away. I respect the decision they made. I'm honestly grateful for the opportunity. I was always mad TV guy anyway.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, one of many people Gillis targeted in his act, had said Gillis' comments were cheap shots but urged "SNL" to give him a second chance.


ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can forgive people, particularly in an instance where in my mind it was a comedic context or gray area. That I thought it would be positive. But, you know, obviously, it's NBC's hands and I'm not in any position to make. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Yang says he will be sitting down with the comedian in the coming days.

All right. The president says he always wants to make a deal, but big threats seemed to come first. Can this work with Iran? Remarks overnight from the supreme leader suggest the answer is no.