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Trump Backs Off Threats Against Iran; White House Tells Lewandowski Not to Answer Any Questions, Asserts Immunity for Dearborn & Porter; Election Day in Israel; "SNL" Fires Comedian Over Racist & Homophobic Comments. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 04:30   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.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president is staring down competing interests on Iran. Big threats or make a big deal? Overnight the supreme leader says talks are off the table.

DAVE BRIGGS, 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.

ROMANS: It is election day in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu looks to survive again, but can either side form a working government?

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

We'll have live reports from Riyadh, Tehran, Jerusalem and Hong Kong. How about that?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour here in New York.

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 it looks like Iran is behind the attack, one day after saying the U.S. was, quote, 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.


BRIGGS: Two U.S. officials tell CNN 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 claimed 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.

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

Let's go back to Tehran. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is there live for us -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, you don't get much higher voice than the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has made a rare statement in which he directly addresses what some think is possibly the kind of kernel of whatever strategy the U.S. might have and that is to force Iran back to the negotiating table without any sanctions being alleviated. Ayatollah Khamenei is quite clear that there would be no negotiation with the United States at any level. Everyone should know and notice that this is a trick.

By that, he is essentially that the maximum pressure campaign is designed to force Iran back to talks even sanctions pressure being lifted off them. He goes, possibly to make sure nobody in his government feels otherwise, goes on to say, and I quote, that is why all the Iranian government officials, president, foreign minister and others, have unanimously agreed that we will not negotiate with the U.S. neither bilateral nor multi-lateral.

Now, just remember too he throws out the possibility of talks maybe at some point down the line, maybe offering sort of humiliating moment that if Donald Trump apologized, retracted his statements, rejoined the nuclear deal, he might then be allowed to join the talks or the signatories to that deal at a multi-lateral level, kind of thing that Donald Trump never actually going to do.

But this is essentially at a time when many thought there might be a diplomatic off ramp, maybe somehow amidst all of this. This is the ultimate authority here in Iran saying no to that. Certainly in the weeks ahead, things can change.

He specifically doesn't address the idea of what would happen if sanctions were actually lifted against Iran, but this message is absolutely clear.

There's some thinking that Secretary of State of the U.S. Mike Pompeo's direct statement that Iran was to blame without evidence. [04:35:03]

And this drip, drip of not particularly conclusive anything that's been brought by U.S. officials why Iran was ultimately to blame. And remember, the phrase originated inside Iran rather than was fired from Iranian territory. Iran denies any involvement. There was pressure to get them to the negotiating table. Iran is saying no.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh for us in Tehran, thank you for that, Nick.

BRIGGS: The attacks on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities have sent global prices soaring. We're seeing the biggest spike in U.S. oil prices in a decade.

Let's bring in Andrew Stevens live in Hong Kong.

Andrew, good morning to you. Are we going to see more of that today?


Well, at this stage in trading in the Asian trading day, prices have come off, just a fraction, less than 1 percent. But at least they are heading down somewhat. You remember that when the markets opened, the initial reaction saw a 20 percent spike in the price of oil. It then finished the day around 40 percent higher and come off a little bit from there.

But make no mistake, Dave, this is still a massive jump in the oil price. And the question which is now being asked is what is the impact on what is an already weak global economy, with a weakening outlook for it as well. And the answer seems to be it depends on how long it will take Saudi Arabia to get back to production.

Remember, the 5 percent of the world's oil supply was snuffed out by that attack. That's a massive amount of oil to lose in one single incident. The Saudis haven't yet said how clearly or how much damage has been caused by the attack. Analysts say it's got a couple of months perhaps to get things back online, to get capacity flowing again. Remember, this can be covered in the short term by its strategic petroleum reserves and which are held by key global economies, including China, including the U.S. obviously.

But if it goes longer than that that $10 oil price spike could stay there. That starts to impact on the global economy. Like I said, countries like China, like Germany, like Japan, big economies in their own right, big oil importers in their own right, will get hurt the most and when those economies start to slow, so too does the global economy.

BRIGGS: All right. Andrew Stevens, keeping an eye on oil prices around the world, live in Hong Kong, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The White House is silencing two former aides and an 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.

BRIGGS: The Manhattan district attorney opening a new front in the battle to the president's tax returns. D.A. Cyrus Vance has subpoenaed Trump's longtime accounting firm Mazars for eight years of returns. As source tells CNN prosecutors are looking into possible business fraud in connection with hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Mr. Trump reimbursed former personal lawyer Michael Cohen $130,000 he paid to Daniels to keep her from revealing an alleged affair with Trump. The president has denied the affair. Mazars released a statement saying it will, quote, fully comply with its legal obligations.

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: Republicans and the Trump administration are trying to get a court to void Obamacare and they have no plan to replace those pre- existing conditions 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.


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: Also, Kamala Harris appeared on the "Tonight Show" last night. Here's the California senator slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.


ROMANS: Has a female politician does this before?

BRIGGS: Not to my knowledge.

ROMANS: She's the first, right?

BRIGGS: Every candidate should slow jam the news a test ahead.

All right. Another person has died from vaping-related. As that epidemic grows, seems to be slowing. We'll tell you which.



BRIGGS: Election day in Israel today, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fate is on the line as he tries to hold off a strong challenge from his former chief of staff, Benny Gantz. Gantz is trying to convince Israeli voters that Netanyahu is a threat to democracy.

Oren Liebermann has more from Jerusalem.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political future. In an election that's too close to call, Netanyahu is re-upping his hard line promise to annex parts of the West Bank and bringing back his time-tested strategy to boost voter turnout, warning his party Likud's supporters they're about to lose.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In the polls, I received just four hours ago, we're losing and we're losing not because I don't have a majority in the country. The majority of the country wants me to be prime minister, we're losing because Likud voters are complacent.

LIEERMANN: Over the weekend, Netanyahu got another helping hand from President Donald Trump, who offered to discuss a mutual defense pact after the elections. Netanyahu celebrated the idea, never mind that Israeli security experts have reviewed and rejected a defense pact in the past.

DAN SHAPIRO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: They wouldn't want to necessarily implicate the United States in actions that Israel might feel it needs to take in its own defense. And the United States prepares to have a certain degree of distance and even deniability from actions that Israel may feel it needs to take without being bound to them by a formal defense pact.

LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu's former chief of staff, Benny Gantz, now his rival, doing his own rounds in the media. He lacks the charisma of Israel's longest serving leader, but the two have polled neck and neck repeatedly. His main message: Netanyahu is a danger to democracy.

BENNY GANTZ, BLUE AND WHITE LEADER (through translator): Everyone who does not want to see here next week a government that tramples the principles of democracy must go out and vote Blue and White so we don't wake up the day after the election with a prime minister with no restraints.

LIEBERMANN: These two men were separated by less than 15,000 votes in April's election. Gantz thought he won in a bad exit poll. Netanyahu thought he won with a coalition. Both claimed victory that night and both were, in the end, mistaken.

(on camera): One of the main questions we'll be looking forward when we first see the exit poll projections and then look at the actual results will be, can either Gantz or Netanyahu form a governing coalition of 61 seats? Do they have a clear path to a government? That's one of the key questions here.

It's possible the answer will be no. And in that case, the only certain thing you can say is that Israel looks like it's heading for more political uncertainty.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that.

Now some familiar faces are heading to Netflix in two years. CNN Business has details next.



ROMANS: More than 3 million women in United States say their first experience with sexual intercourse was forced or coerced. That's one in 16 women. According to a study based on the data from Centers for Disease Control, 56 percent of those women say they were verbally pressured, 46 percent say they were held down, 25 percent reported being physically harmed. And according to researchers, those women faced more long-term health consequences compared to peers who had a consensual first experience.

BRIGGS: A police officer in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, fatally shot in exchange of gunfire with a suspect who is now in custody. The 40- year-old Dornell Cousette was a 13-year veteran of the Tuscaloosa police force. Authorities say he was working on a tip that a wanted felon was at his home. When he arrived there on Monday night, the suspect ran inside and opened fire. Cousette died later at the hospital.


He was a father of two daughters and he was engaged to be married.

ROMANS: Seven deaths nationwide are being blamed on vaping. Health officials in Tulare County, California, confirming a fatality linked to the use of e-cigarettes. There have now been two vaping-related deaths in California. Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Oregon have each reported one fatality.

The Centers for Disease Control activating its emergency operation center to bolster its response to lung injuries caused by vaping.

BRIGGS: There were no new measles cases reported in the U.S. last week. It's the first time that's happened since early January. There are now 1,241 cases in 31 states. The highest number since officials declared measles eliminated in 2000.

Most cases were among people who were not vaccinated. More than 75 percent linked to New York. Health officials monitor ongoing outbreaks in two New York counties.

ROMANS: Massive flour recall because of possible E. coli contamination. General Mills is recalling 120,000 of its five-pound bags of Gold Medal Unbleached all-purpose flour. The bags have a better if used by date of September 6, 2020. The company says it issued the voluntary recall out of abundance of caution. There have been no confirmed illnesses related to the product.

He has the moves like Spicer.


ROMANS: Look at the shirt.

The former White House press secretary making his debut on "Dancing with the Stars" and it wasn't pretty. OK. The outfit screamed big bird and his salsa dancing screamed -- I'm not sure what it screamed. His partner described him dancing at a pre-school level.

BRIGGS: Gutsy wearing that shirt, though, man.

All right. "Saturday Night Live" has 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.

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.


BRIGGS: Yang says he'll be sitting down with the comedian in the coming days.

ROAMNS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning, taking a look at a global markets after that rocky day yesterday.

Mixed performance really around the world here. The Hong Kong stocks down 1 percent. Shanghai down as well.

On Wall Street, looking at futures, they are leaning a little bit lower here. And, you know, the energy sector is something important to watch. Stabilizing, I would say, after that really wild rally yesterday. The biggest rally for crude prices that we've seen in a decade.

Stocks finished lower on Monday amid concerns about the implications from the steep spike in oil. Oil futures settled almost 15 percent higher. That's just remarkable, a 15 percent move. They are now above $62 a barrel.

That meant the Dow closed lower, 144 points lower, snapping an eight day winning streak. S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell as well.

Something to keep an eye out. Gas prices. Experts say drivers may notice higher gas price at the pump soon but the increases may be minimal. We're hearing everything from 10 cents a gallon to 25 cents a gallon.

Some gas stations may spread it out a penny or two, you know, make it slow. The current average price nationwide, $2.56 a gallon according to AAA.

Demand for new iPhone appears to off to a good start. Apple announced three versions of the iPhone last week. Analysts say since Apple began accepting pre-orders Friday, early demand for the phone has been stronger than last year. Good news for Apple. Declining iPhone sales has been a drag on its business as people hold on the their phones longer.

Netflix may be losing Michael Scott and Chandler Bing, but it's gaining some other familiar faces.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was there! I saw a drain!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It wasn't a drain, a toilet.



ROMANS: "Seinfeld", one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history, is heading to Netflix in 2021. The financial terms of the five-year deal with Sony Pictures Television were not disclosed. Nabbing the rights to "Seinfeld" is a big boost for Netflix as other media companies like Disney and NBC pull some of their shows from Netflix to be the cornerstone of their own streaming services.

BRIGGS: Yes. It will be interesting to see if the young kids' take to "Seinfeld", the way they did with "The Office" and "Friends".

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: I'm not sure it will. Don't get me wrong I never missed a "Seinfeld" episode.

ROMANS: Oh, just gold. "Seinfeld" is gold.

BRIGGS: It is gold. I would agree with you there, Jerry.

Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

For U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.