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Saudi Oil Attacked: Source Says Missiles Likely Launched From Iranian Base; Trump Trapped on Iran; White House Silences Three Ahead of Hearing; Election Day in Israel; "SNL" Fires Comedian Over Racist & Homophobic Comments; Odell Beckham Jr. Leads Browns to Monday Night Win. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 05:00   ET


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



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.



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.


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

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

A big news day. We have live reports this morning from Riyadh, Tehran, and Jerusalem.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, September 17. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We begin with President Trump caught between competing interests over Iran following that attack on a critical Saudi oil facility. The president is 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 he said this, the U.S. is, 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.

And we actually have some breaking details on the attack. International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson standing by live for us in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Nic, good morning. What are we learning?


These are fresh details, new details from a source familiar with the investigation. What we're discovering here is that a number of missiles didn't make it to their targets and fell in the desert. Significantly, they fell in the desert north of the attack sites, meaning it didn't come from Yemen.

The fact that some of the missile systems has left some of them lying there in the desert, relatively intact. We've seen images of those missiles. And the assessment is, of both U.S. investigators who are on the ground here, we understand now, working with the Saudi investigators. Their assessment is that missiles are low-altitude cruise missiles, assisted by drones. They were flown from -- they took off from bases inside Iran. Inside

Iran, close to the border with Iraq. These drone-assisted cruise missiles, flew a trajectory into Iran, down through Kuwait, and then across the Saudi desert, from the north to their targets, these oil facilities. Some of those missile systems falling short.

And other indications, the analysis, again, that we're getting from this source, matches what we've heard from government officials here, is that these missiles were Iranian made. The significant point here, of course, is that what we are learning is that the missile systems did take off, were fired from Iran.

And this is the work, a product of a high probability assessment, of U.S. and Saudi investigators working on the ground here in Saudi Arabia, together to determine where -- to determine responsibility for the attack.

BRIGGS: So, imagine just how bad this attack could have been. Five percent of global oil disrupted. Things about to ramp up.

Great reporting from Nic Robertson in Riyadh, thank you.

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

Let's bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He is live for us in Tehran.

Nick, what's the view from where you are?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we heard from the highest voice in the land really here, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a stark rejection of any idea of negotiation in immediate future, possibly beyond.


He says there is no negotiation with the United States at any level. There will be no negotiation.

He goes to say, everyone should know and notice this is a trick, by which he means Donald Trump's suggestion that he would be willing perhaps to talk to them, under the umbrella of the U.S. maximum pressure campaign, designed to get Iran through the table on the negative conditions for them.

He goes to say: Sometimes they, that's Trump officials, say negotiations without precondition, sometimes they say negotiation with 12 conditions, such remarks are due to turbulent politics or tricks, confused others. Of course, the Islamic state is not confused because our path is clear. And we know what we're doing.

And to avoid any confusion, the bureaucracy here, goes on to say: 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. Very clear there. He holds out the slim possibility, that if

humiliating circumstances frankly for Donald Trump, if the U.S. apologizes, withdraws its remarks, and rejoins the nuclear deal, it might then be allowed to, in fact, join the multilateral talks around that deal. That's unlikely to happen.

But on a day when Donald Trump has vacillated over military intervention, seemed very unkeen to do it, the avenue for diplomacy -- what some analysts have thought that the accusations of Iran behind those attacks were designed to get them to the table, the supreme leader said no.

And I should reiterate off Nic's reporting that Iranian officials have from the very beginning dismissed as baseless and responsible the suggestion that Iran was behind those attacks.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Nick for us in Tehran, thank you so much for that.

OK. All of this is why oil prices had the biggest spike in a decade, after that attack disrupted global supply. A huge rally in the price of oil. No one knows how long this will last.

Higher oil prices, how long they last or where the economy's breaking point is, higher oil prices would benefit producers, but would raise costs for businesses and could spark a run-up in prices for consumers. It could also handcuff Central Banks, which are cutting interest rates around the world to boost growth.

The Federal Reserve announces its latest rate decision on Wednesday. It is still expected to reduce its key interest rate. But if oil prices stay, the Fed could find itself in a tough spot.

A lot depends on how quickly Saudi Arabia can revive production. Two Saudi sources told CNN fully restoring production will take weeks, not days.

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 Jerry Nadler calls the decision to keep the former aides from testifying a shocking and dangerous use of executive privilege.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, violent assaults, some in broad daylight, highlight a shortage of police in one major city. Robberies up more than 50 percent there. And, yes, we'll tell you where.



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


BRIGGS: 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.

ROMANS: 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. It comes just a day after three students in California were arrested for making threats against their high school. And three students in California were arrested for making threats against their school.


BRIGGS: Ahead, Odell Beckham Jr. returning home here to New York, had put on quite the show. Andy Scholes has that story in "The Bleacher Report", next.



BRIGGS: One day after his debut with the New England Patriots, Antonio Brown, accused by a second woman of sexual misconduct.

Andy Scholes has more in "The Bleacher Report" this morning.

Good morning, Andy.


An article published by "Sports Illustrated" yesterday details a 2017 incident where a woman accuses Brown of sexual harassment. The unidentified woman says Brown hired to paint a mural of him inside his Pittsburgh home. She says on her second day, she turned around and Brown was naked and holding a hand towel over his genitals.

Now, the artist told "Sports Illustrated" that she never filed a police report. But a friend tells CNN, quote, this happened.

Brown denies the accusation. His lawyer releasing a statement: Antonio Brown has reviewed the sexual misconduct allegations made by an unnamed artist, included in a recent published "Sports Illustrated" article and denies that he ever engaged in such activities.

Now, this comes after police question Brown's former trainer, Britney Taylor. She filed a civil suit last week, accusing Brown of sexual assault in 2017 and rape in 2018. Brown denies those allegations, as well.

All right. Odell Beckham Jr. making his return to New York on Monday Night Football. The Browns took on the Jets. And, you now, OBJ is known for the one-handed catches and he was at it again in the first quarter of this one. What a great grab there. That led to a field goal. And then the third quarter, OBJ getting loose here. He would go 89 yards for a touchdown.

Browns win an ugly game, 23-3. It's the first one on Monday Night Football since 2008. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ODELL BECKHAM JR., CLEVELAND BROWNS WIDE RECEIVER: I feel like I lost enough games, period. And I lost enough here. To leave this one here is a good feeling.


SCHOLES: All right. It's a rough morning if you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. The team announcing that Ben Roethlisberger is going to miss the rest of the season with a right elbow injury. In a statement, Roethlisberger says he looks forward to coming back stronger next season.

And the Saints are going also going to be without their quarterback, Drew Brees, for a while. According to multiple reports, he's going to be out six weeks to have surgery on his thumb. Teddy Bridgewater is expected to start for the Saints this season.

All right. Finally, Virginia head basketball coach Tony Bennett rejecting a pay raise in a new extension so that the money can go to his staff and improvements in the program. In a statement, Bennett said: I have more than enough. If there are ways to help out the athletic department and other program and coaches by not tying up so much, that's my desire.

Now, Bennett is coming off winning the national title, could have received a substantial raise. According to "USA Today," Bennett, fourth highest paid coach in the college ranks, making $4.5 million last season.

But that's pretty cool. I'm guessing that you're smiling right now if you're one of Bennett's assistants.

BRIGGS: Yes. I think that's fantastic. Even before this, he was a great model for our kids, losing the first round to a 16 seed. Next year, wins a national title. Tony Bennett is class.

Good stuff. Andy Scholes, thank you.

Romans, what's coming up?

ROMANS: Well, Dave, "Saturday Night Live" has 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 he 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 they made a decision they made (ph).


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

All right. Breaking moments ago, that attack on Saudi oil facilities carried out from Iran. The trajectory was designed to throw off investigators. CNN is live in Saudi Arabia and Iran next.


BRIGGS: Breaking moments ago, cruise missiles likely from Iran. The trajectory was designed to throw off investigators.

ROMANS: 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 over bigoted comments. Hear what Shane Gillis has to say this morning.

We have live reports this morning from Riyadh, Tehran and Jerusalem. Busy day. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Boy, sure is.

Good morning. I'm Dave Briggs. Good morning to all of you, 5:29 Eastern Time.

We start with those big breaking details.

ROMANS: All right. Big breaking details moments on the attack against a Saudi oil facility. A source familiar with the investigation tells CNN that they were carried out by low-altitude cruise missiles from north of the complex. Some missiles missed their targets.