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Saudi Attack Carried Out by Low-Altitude Cruise Missiles; Nearly 50,000 UAW Workers on Strike at General Motors; Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu Fights to Hang on to Power; Tropical Disturbance to Bring Heavy Rain, Flooding to Texas. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, September 17, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we do begin with breaking news for you, because CNN has just learned that the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities were carried out by low-altitude cruise missiles, launched from an Iranian base near the Iraqi border.

U.S. investigators are already on the ground, working with the Saudis to identify the missiles and determine who possesses them. President Trump appears to be toning down the rhetoric on a possible military response. Or he did, at least, until -- I mean, before this new information. And he also has sparked criticism for his deference to the Saudi royal family.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And in just a few hours, what is being billed as the first actual impeachment hearing on Capitol Hill. That, in and of itself, could be high drama.

What makes this even more compelling, the person testifying is the president's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. He was a central player in at least two of the instances of possible obstruction of justice described in the Mueller report.

Overnight, we learned the White House is trying to limit what questions Lewandowski can answer, an unprecedented claim of privilege for someone who never worked in the White House. There's also reporting that Lewandowski is itching for a confrontation, so this should be interesting, to say the least.

CAMEROTA: OK. So let's get to our breaking news right now on Saudi Arabia. Joining us is CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh, live in Iran's capital of Tehran, and CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who broke this story on the cruise missiles moments ago.

So Nic, tell us what you have learned.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, what we are learning from a source familiar with the investigation does enhance what we've already heard from the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that Iran was directly involved in this attack.

Saudi officials have already told us that it was Iranian weapons systems that were used. Now, we begin to understand why these conclusions are being drawn.

Some of the missiles fell short. They fell in the north, the northern desert in Saudi Arabia, which indicates that the missiles came from the north. The fact that they fell in the desert and some of them didn't explode properly has given investigators, both U.S. and Saudi weapons expert investigators, the opportunity to examine some of the devices in detail and draw these forensic conclusions that the origins of these were in Iran. They also bear a resemblance to weapons systems that have been put on public display by Iranian authorities in the past.

But perhaps the most significant detail that's emerged here is that the investigators so far believe both Saudi and U.S. investigators believe there is a very high probability that these low-altitude, drone-enhanced cruise missiles took off from Iranian bases inside Iran close to the border with Iraq, that they flew into Iraqi air space, down through Kuwaiti air space, and into Saudi Arabia.

Now what the Saudis have said so far is that they cannot yet determine that this is their official position; that they continue the investigation. But they will take an appropriate response, that they have the capacity and the will to respond to -- to respond forcefully to this type of aggression, if that's what they so determine to do.

BERMAN: A very high probability that they were launched from Iran close to the Iraqi border, though not definitive yet, which is interesting. They're not making a definitive statement.

Nick Paton Walsh to you in Tehran, what has the Iranian government being saying about this, about whether or not they're responsible in any way for the launch, and what's their new position on negotiations?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From the start, Iran has said, we have nothing to do with this. From the beginning, when Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state accused them directly in two tweets to, even as late as last night when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that they -- intimated this was still Yemeni Houthi rebels who are behind that attack, calling it reciprocal for the damage done to Yemen by a Saudi-backed air campaign in the brutal barbaric civil war.

And I have to point out also, too, you know, much of the world has been waiting for the evidence here, the actual pieces of missile, the radar possibly. That's been declassified, how these conclusions have been made, too. Those will be questions being asked by Iranian officials here, too, who categorically have denied involvement since the beginning.

We move on, though, to where we go next with this. Donald Trump has vacillated about military intervention and even about negotiations, too. We have a definitive line from the most supreme voice available in Iran, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who has said today very simply that there will be no negotiation with the United States at any level.

He goes on to say everyone should know and notice that this is a trick, essentially the Trump ploy to get them to the table, they say, and the maximum pressure campaign around it, ratcheting up sanctions and increasing military pressure in the region.

He goes on to say, in reference to Donald Trump not being clear about whether he has preconditions for talks, the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, says, "Sometimes they" -- that's Trump officials -- "say negotiation without preconditions, sometimes they say negotiation with 12 conditions. Such remarks are either due to their turbulent politics or a trick to confuse others."

He also goes on to suggest that possibly, in the future, in a sort of humiliating parallel universe, that Donald Trump apologizes or retracts his comments, gets back into the nuclear deal that was signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. He may then be allowed to join the multilateral talks around that nuclear deal.

Essentially, the most authoritative voice in Iran saying there will be no talks for now. He even says unanimously this has been agreed with the president and the foreign minister being sure that no one in Iran's government could be in any doubt there will be no negotiations, which leads to the next question: what next? Iran says it was not them. U.S. and Saudi Arabia are building a case, at times aggressively, at times haphazardly suggested it was them.


Do we see a military response? Donald Trump is clear that he doesn't want that to be, obviously, his next move. He says he doesn't want to start wars.

But we are in uncharted territory here. No attack of this magnitude has been launched in the building tension of the past months, and the question now, really, is given there's not really an obvious diplomatic offramp available, where do we go from here?

Back to you.

CAMEROTA: Nic Robertson, what's the answer to that? What does this -- If the Saudis believe that they have definitively figured out who launched this, because of geography and because of the missile systems, what do they want to do next?

ROBERTSON: I think when you read between the lines, that they have reached a conclusion. They're not saying it officially. But what they are trying to do is to internationalize the situation here. They have said that they will bring in U.N. investigators, international expert investigators, to join in the investigation to determine the responsibility for the attack.

This is a clear effort, along with saying that it was the global economy that was under threat, because the damage to oil production here was so significant and so severe that this is a global issue that they're willing to let global analysts and investigators in here.

But the bottom line is they want support for their position that Iran has become a growing threat in the region. The more international support they can have, the better that that can be achieved through diplomacy. But Saudi Arabia is going to definitively look for a way to ensure that this type of attack never happens on their soil again.

BERMAN: All right. Nic Robertson for us in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia. Nick Paton Walsh in Tehran and Iran. Again, CNN all over this story and the breaking developments. We'll bring you more as they come in.

Meanwhile, the world markets are waiting in anticipation. Oil prices spiked 10 percent, a huge one-day increase, and the question this morning is how serious will the supply disruption be, and could this alter the entire perception of the oil market, long-term?

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans here with that -- Roman.


When you're talking about a 10 or 15 percent jump in the price of oil, that is dramatic, and it could mean higher prices for American drivers, flyers and consumers. So much oil production taken offline so quickly in coming days and weeks consumers will see it. The only questions are when and how much.

Look, gas prices are estimated to climb anywhere from $0.10 to $0.25 a gallon over the next few weeks. Now thankfully, the current average for a gallon of gas nationwide is just $2.56, down from $2.85 a year ago and below the recent peak of near 3 bucks a gallon from May 2018.

Now, gas stations would spread out any price hikes over a period of time. A couple of pennies a day for about two weeks.

Higher oil prices also mean higher costs for airlines. Shares of American Airlines, Delta and United all tumbled Monday. Airline will most likely have to pass the cost onto you, their customers. Analysts say that could take two to six months to show up in your air fares.

Shipping companies, manufacturers, ride share drivers, anyone who uses oil will have to eat the higher cost or pass them along. How high prices go and how long they'll stay there depends on how quickly Saudi Arabia is able to get production back on line.

Would this tip the U.S. economy into recession? Most people are telling me no, it won't. Because the United States actually produces energy, as well, on its own. It's not a big net importer like China or Germany or Japan. Those economies will have a bigger hit from higher oil prices in the U.S. overall, guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Christine, thank you very much for all of that context. So it is day two of the strike by nearly 50,000 auto workers against

General Motors. Negotiations between the union and GM continued through the night. While both sides are talking, they're also bracing for what could be a long and costly fight.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is live in Detroit with the latest. So what's happening this morning, Vanessa?


Well, we know those negotiations went late into last night, but no deal reached yet. We were also hearing throughout the day from a source close to those negotiations that the talks were very tense, both sides trying to dig their heels in, but also noticing that they're pretty far apart in making a deal at this point, as you mentioned.

Now, we're also learning the scope of this strike. We are hearing that this is now affecting 55 GM facilities across 19 states in this country. That means that 50,000 workers are now on strike across those areas.

We have also been hearing from political figures. We've been hearing from the president yesterday, calling on both sides to make a deal. We've been hearing from the 2020 candidates weighing in on this.

And we've also heard from local officials. The lieutenant governor of the state stopped by this picket line behind me yesterday. And he talked about the decline in the auto industry but said it shouldn't fall on the backs of these workers.



LT. GOV. GARLIN GILCHRIST (D-MI): I think the U.S. auto industry has seen a lot of challenges, just like the U.S. manufacturing broadly. And so we need to prepare for the future. But it is none of these workers' fault, the fact that the industry is in decline. These people are ready and hungry. They're working hard every single day. They're working hard while they're out here, standing up for their rights. So I think the industry, yes, has had some challenges, but the industry has the opportunity to evolve and reinvent itself. And this work force is prepared to do that.


YURKEVICH: Now, these workers here and across the country will be out on the picket lines every six hours. They're on six-hour shifts. That's in order to get paid by the union, $250 a week, John, while they're on strike. But that is nowhere near what they get paid from GM. So clearly, these workers holding out hope but also wanting to get back on the job pretty soon -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Vanessa Yurkevich for us on the picket lines there. Please keep us posted. So he was fired as the president's campaign manager. He was accused

of grabbing a reporter. He was a central player in the Mueller report's explanation of possible obstruction of justice, and now he's the first witness in what is being billed as the first impeachment hearing. Corey Lewandowski set to testify shortly. And this morning, were learning the White House wants to limit what he can answer. Why? That's next.



BERMAN: So in just a few hours, House Democrats will hold what is being billed as their first hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

The president's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, will testify today about the allegations of obstruction outlined in the Mueller report, but this morning, we're learning the White House is trying to limit his testimony, an unprecedented claim of privilege for someone who never worked at the White House at all.

Joining us now, Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, and Abby Phillip, CNN political correspondent.

Elie, just to remind people, Corey Lewandowski, in the Mueller report, gave testimony to the fact that the president dictated to him a message to go tell Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself and then announce he was limiting the entire Mueller investigation, and then followed up. There are two instances of possible obstruction outlined in the Mueller report. That's the background here.

Now, let's go back to the end here. The White House is saying that Corey Lewandowski can't answer very many questions beyond that. What privilege on earth exists that covers someone who doesn't work in the White House?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: At this point, they're really just making it up, John. The White House has already been hyper-aggressive in asserting executive privilege. They've already taken the position, essentially, that any conversation between the president and his advisers is covered by executive privilege.

I think that already goes too far. Executive privilege is fairly narrow as the Supreme Court has defined it, and now they're going beyond that to Corey Lewandowski, who's a civilian. He's never worked in government. He never worked for the Trump administration. He was a campaign staffer.

So if this stands up in court, and I do not think it will, then basically, any conversation the president ever has is off-limits to Congress. And that cannot be the case.

CAMEROTA: So what if Corey Lewandowski goes in this morning and refuses to answer questions? HONIG: So then the ball is back in Jerry Nadler's court. First of

all, I think what you do strategically is you ask Corey Lewandowski to answer whatever questions he's willing to. And they've said he's willing to answer the stuff that's in the Mueller report, which is really important. That's the obstruction stuff.

And then whatever he declines, ask him. Make him say, I'm not answering in front of the cameras. Make him decline over and over so people can see how obstructionist this is. Then Nadler has to decide do I go to court and try to force him to come back and answer those? I think he needs to. I think Congress needs to take a stand here.

BERMAN: Abby, Corey Lewandowski is considering a run for Senate in New Hampshire. Corey Lewandowski thrives on conflict and confrontation. What do you think he wants out of this hearing today?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: As if this wouldn't have already been a real kind of side show, I think the sort of political element of this really increases the likelihood that he's just going to try to make this as difficult as possible for Democrats.

I really don't think this is going to be a productive hearing. I don't think Democrats are going to get much out of him, because he's going to be performing to the highest degree, not only to impress his former boss but also to -- for the Trump base, who he's trying to appeal to when -- if he does run in New Hampshire, to try to prove that he's going to just push back on Democrats.

And I think for that reason we should kind of all just lower our expectations about what's going to happen today. Because if there is one person in Trump world who is -- I would describe as combative, as really not interested in anything even remotely close to what Congress is used to, it's going to be Corey Lewandowski. He is not going to be in that hearing playing nice with Democrats today.

CAMEROTA: You know, I think that for viewers of these hearings, sometimes there feels like there's a lack of teeth from the state House judiciary to make -- for any punishment to hold people accountable.

So if he stonewalls, then Jerry Nadler goes to court --

HONIG: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- how long will that take? And is there a jail sentence on the end of that, for contempt of court?

HONIG: It's going to take way too long and almost certainly no jail sentence. And I think what the House Judiciary Committee needs to do, and I agree with Abby. I think Corey Lewandowski is going to go in there and do the macho tough guy routine. Right? He's trying to put on a show.

So what do you do? You get what you can out of him as a questioner, as a prosecutor or prosecutor-like questioner, and in that situation you don't blast back over the top. You don't try to out-macho Corey Lewandowski or out-angry Corey Lewandowski. You stick to the facts that he cannot deny as laid out in the Mueller report.


Did you meet with Donald Trump in the Oval Office? Did he talk to you about Jeff Sessions? Didn't he tell you to limit Jeff Sessions?

Show him his own notes. He took notes. It's in the Mueller report. Read those to the American people. What did Donald Trump tell you that day in the Oval Office? Then all the anger in the world can't get him out of having to explain what happened.

BERMAN: It's also interesting, Abby, that Jerry Nadler and the Judiciary Committee billing this as the first hearing of an impeachment inquiry.

PHILLIP: You know, if Democrats really want to have a productive impeachment inquiry, I don't think you would start with Corey Lewandowski. He is not going to --

BERMAN: They didn't want to. They wanted Don McGahn. There's any number of people.

PHILLIP: And they wanted a number of other Trump officials who are not going to testify, because the White House has asserted a very broad degree of privilege in this situation.

But Corey Lewandowski is an ally of the president. He's not a Don McGahn, someone who in the Mueller report described situations that would be -- that would be damaging to President Trump, so he's going to sing from the hymnal today when he gets on that -- that stand.

BERMAN: The gospel of Trump.

PHILLIP: The gospel of Trump, and it's not going to be, I think, what Democrats expect. I mean, in some ways, this is the danger of going down this pathway, and I think this is what Republicans have been saying, which is that what more are Democrats trying to find out that is in the Mueller report? I think that's a real question to be answered today.

There are a lot of lines of inquiry for Democrats to press the Trump administration on a lot of things that are going on. I'm not sure that pressing Corey Lewandowski about what's already written in the text is going to be that helpful.

CAMEROTA: We'll see how noisy of a song bird or quiet of a song bird he is today.

Abby, thank you.

BERMAN: Song birds typically aren't quiet. That's why they're called song birds. But that's OK.

CAMEROTA: He may be a reserved song bird.

BERMAN: That's true. CAMEROTA: All right. Meanwhile, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu

is fighting to hang onto power. A live report from Jerusalem on today's high-stakes election, next.

BERMAN: Also, what very well might be the video of the morning, if not the month, if not.


BERMAN: Sean Spicer's colorful debut on "Dancing with the Stars." We will give you our scores. You might be surprised.



CAMEROTA: Israelis are heading to the polls today for the second time in five months. The fate of Israel's longest-serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hangs in the balance.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live at a polling station in Jerusalem with more.

What's happening there, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, it remains a race that is too close to call, and balance is very much the word here as a few thousand votes in either direction or voter turnout may well tip the scales for either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his rival, former chief of staff Benny Gantz.

And to give you an idea of how frenetic the get out the vote pace is in these last hours of campaigning and voting, Netanyahu is actually not that far from us right now.

His Likud Party just sent out a message that he's at the central bus station, which is about a five-minute walk, trying to make sure that his Likud voters are out there and are voting.

Meanwhile, Gantz is making his rounds, trying to get his voters out there, as well, in a race that all along has been neck and neck between these two political leaders.

Here at a polling station in Jerusalem, it's interesting, because this is the same polling station we stood at in April. And looking at the the political signs here, you certainly see signs for Netanyahu's Likud Party, but you also see far more signs for Gantz's Blue and White Party.

Whether or not, they think they can make inroads in Jerusalem is something we'll have to see in the actual results. But big picture at this point, the central elections committee of Israel says voter turnout is up some two percentage points, and that was one of the big questions in this election.

Tight races tend to bring out more voters, but there was very much a sense that there may be some voter fatigue here, Israelis being dragged back into another political race and another election.

And there was a question of which of these opposing forces would win out. As of this morning, we're about halfway through the election. Six and a half hours of voting behind us, eight and a half hours of voting ahead of us. It looks like voter turnout is up.

The key question is where is that voter turnout up? And the answer to that question may go a long way to deciding who wins this race. John, it has been and may very well continue to be a very close race, and we'll see how this day develops, especially here at this polling station in Jerusalem and keeping an eye on that voter turnout number.

BERMAN: Oren Liebermann on the scene on election day. And just to remined people, even when the results are in, it doesn't mean that either side will be able to form a government. So this may not be over for some time.

Thank you, Oren.

A tropical disturbance off the coast of Texas could bring as much as ten inches of rain to Houston this week. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with the forecast. That's a lot of rain, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is, and it's a horse with no name. We have Humberto out here in the Atlantic. That is going to get to be a Category 3 hurricane, moving away from the U.S.

Also another area of disturbed weather here in the Atlantic. And there you go, that 30 percent in the Gulf of Mexico.

This weather is brought to you by Xyzal, all night, all day allergy relief.

There's Humberto. It's getting bigger. It's in very, very warm water. It's not going to die anytime soon and make a run at Bermuda. But what we're watching, really, for the mainland USA is this thing here in the Gulf of Mexico. Very tropical, no big center, no wind around it. So it doesn't have a name yet, but there is a high flash flood watch in effect all across the southeast part of Texas because of that ten-inch rainfall.

This is what the radar is going to look like all day long today, wave after wave of big storms putting down two to three inches at a time. And that purple area there, guys, that is all ten inches of rain or greater. This is not Harvey, but this is still a flash flood event for sure --