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CNN Source: Low-Altitude Cruise Missiles Carried Out Saudi Attack; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is Interviewed about Brett Kavanaugh Allegations; House Judiciary to Hold First Impeachment Hearing; Strike Continues by 50,000 UAW Workers. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: NEW DAY continues right now.

[07:00:05]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. We do begin with breaking news.

New details about the attack that crippled a Saudi oil field. A source tells CNN it was carried out by low-altitude cruise missiles, and that there's a very high probability that they were launched from an Iranian base near the Iraqi border.

U.S. weapons experts are on the ground assisting the Saudis in tracing the weapons. This comes as President Trump all of a sudden is toning down the rhetoric on a possible military response and sparking criticism for deference to the Saudi royal family.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee begin their first impeachment hearing today. It will feature the president's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

The White House is asserting immunity or attempting to. They're trying to limit his testimony and that of two other former aides.

On the Senate side, serious questions are being raised about the FBI investigation into Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. So in just moments, we will speak with the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee who says he tried to alert the FBI about these misconduct allegations, the newest one against Brett Kavanaugh. But he says the FBI failed to follow up.

But let's begin with CNN's Nic Robertson in the Saudi capital of Riyadh with the breaking news. Tell us the breaking news, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we are learning from a source familiar with the investigation is evidence, if you will, that seems to correlate with the official lines that we've heard from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran was responsible. From the Saudis, so far officially saying the weapons systems that they've discovered so far were Iranian manufactured.

The additional details that we have here really give insight to how those analyses were made. That what we're being told is that not all the missiles fired at these sites hit their targets. That some of the missiles fell short of the targets in the desert to the north of these sites, again, scotching the idea that the missiles were fired from Yemen to the south of Saudi Arabia, and that because they fell in the desert, not all of these weapons systems exploded, which allowed investigators both U.S. and Saudi weapons expert investigators to make a more detailed forensic analysis of the undamaged parts of these systems concluding that they are Iranian manufacturer, that they do appear to be cruise missiles, low-flying cruise missiles that are enhanced by drone capabilities, a most significantly saying that they took off from bases inside Iran close to the border with Iraq but were flown over Iraq, then Kuwait, then into Saudi Arabia in an effort, it appears, to disguise where they originally took off from. A very sophisticated attack.

The bottom line or, if you will, the line that we have, the official line from Saudis so far, is that they are still investigating precisely where the weapons were fired from, that they say they have the resolve and the capability to respond forcefully to this type of aggression.

CAMEROTA: Nic, thank you very much for breaking all of that news with us.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees.

Senator, it's great to have you here. So now that you've just heard that breaking news that Nic Robertson just reported in terms of the intel suggesting that Iran was behind this, Iran, the Iranian manufactured missiles, the geographic area from which they were launched, again, Iran.

You said yesterday on FOX that you felt that if the intelligence suggested that Iran was behind it, that you thought that military action could be warranted. Do you still feel that way now?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, notice the two conditions in that statement. You know, first we in Congress need to be briefed on the intelligence. While it is important what's reported on the news, we need a detailed briefing on the intelligence. And I've asked for that, and I'm hoping to get that.

What you've just reported was certainly strengthened the evidence if confirmed by intelligence to members of Congress, that this was a direct attack by Iran on Saudi Arabia.

Second, we need to have a conversation as a country and as a Congress about whether or not this is an attack so directly relevant to America's interests as to justify military action.

Diplomatic action is what's called for first, and our president should come to Congress and make that case, if he has determined that this is what calls for military action.

My concern here, Alisyn, is that Iran is an aggressive power, is a regionally destabilizing power that is clearly willing to use additional resources, if that's what this intelligence bears out, to carry out more direct attacks that are more destabilizing against its regional opponent, Saudi Arabia.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

[07:05:06]

COONS: Iran has projected force into Syria, into Lebanon, into Iraq, into Yemen, and this latest incident could well be the next step in the escalation of challenges.

I appreciate that President Trump's most recent statement on this was that he is not seeking war with Iran, and it's my hope that, after an intelligence briefing, those of us here in the Senate who serve on Foreign Relations, Intelligence, and Armed Services will have the opportunity for a meaningful debate about what is the best course of action going forward.

CAMEROTA: Well, I think that the reason your comment got so much attention yesterday was because you didn't say that you were calling for diplomatic action first. I mean, just to read it to you, you said this may well be the thing --

COONS: I understand, Alisyn. I know what I said, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- that calls for military action against Iran, if that's what the intelligence supports. So do you want to amend that statement from yesterday?

COONS: I think I just did, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So you're saying now that what you should have said or what you meant was that, first, you support diplomatic action and then you'll see?

COONS: Look, we are always going to be better if we consult with our regional allies first, and if we consider whether there is an alternative to military force, particularly against Iran.

But frankly, I also think that they are testing our resolve. And part of why I made that abbreviated statement yesterday, without having been briefed on the intelligence yet, as I said, was that, if this signals a willingness on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran to be more aggressive regionally, this may project a willingness to more directly attack American troops or American interests in the region.

That's not proven out by this attack on an oil facility, but it is concerning to me that Iran, which in the region has mostly used proxies, may now be willing to step up and use its more advanced military directly against American interests in the region.

CAMEROTA: And just to be clear, you're saying that, if they are getting more aggressive, that you think that may warrant U.S. military action?

COONS: That's what we need to debate here in Congress. Iran is testing our resolve, and my concern, frankly, is that in Saudi Arabia, we also -- we have a challenge and that we have an uneven partner, as you well know, the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington-based reporter who was dismembered in a Turkish consulate at the direction of the leadership of the Saudi kingdom really has strained our relations, as well as a number of other recent actions.

We have a decade's-long partnership with the Saudi kingdom, but this is not a treaty ally like a NATO country, where we are obligated to respond with force if they are attacked. This is a long-time close partner, but one where that relationship has recently been tested, particularly by Saudi conduct in the war in Yemen.

So there have been a number of attacks on the Saudi kingdom by the Houthis. That's who initially claimed this attack, and frankly, we've stood by the Saudis for a long time, even when their own conduct, in terms of supporting very questionable actions, has strained the limits of our relationship.

So we should be treading carefully here, but I am concerned that Iran is testing the limits of our resolve.

CAMEROTA: Senator, I want to move on to these new revelations about the investigation into Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

There's a third allegation that has come to light in this book. There's a new book about Brett Kavanaugh's background, and a third allegation, so not the one about Christine Blasey Ford, not the one about Debbie Ramirez that we had all heard about during his confirmation hearings, but a third one.

That it sounds as if you knew about, there was a man well-respected, a Washington figure named Max Steyer, and he tried to bring to, it sounds like, Congress and the FBI's attention that he witnessed something that happened in college.

You wrote a letter to that effect, I think -- is it true -- I should say, did you write a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley, trying to get him to investigate or look into this?

COONS: I've been told by Chairman Grassley, Senator Grassley was the chairman at the time of the Judiciary Committee to direct credible allegations to the FBI, because that's who was investigating.

Mr. Steyer had tried repeatedly to contact different folks who he knew. He reached out to me late that week a second time and asked for my help. He was very concerned about not having this public, because he runs a nonpartisan organization that does great work here in Washington.

So I -- I sent a letter directly to the director of the FBI, but I copied that letter to both the majority and minority, the Republican and Democrat leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As you well remember, Alisyn, that week of that additional background

information that Senator Flake's dramatic action made possible was a somewhat chaotic week --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

COONS: -- where it was difficult for many folks who were trying to get information into the FBI to contact them.

Ms. Ramirez's attorneys gave over a dozen names at least to the FBI, who were not contacted or followed up on. That's my understanding or my recollection, and Mr. Steyer was one of them.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

COONS: And then several days later he reached out to me to say, I am trying to be helpful here. I'm trying to offer some testimony.

And so I simply passed on his contact information to the director of the FBI.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

COONS: I got a confirmation from the FBI they had received it, but to the best of my knowledge, they never questioned or even contacted him.

CAMEROTA: Do you know if Senator Chuck Grassley received that letter? Because he says he didn't.

COONS: I know that the Judiciary Committee, his counsel, according to my counsel -- that's a fancy word for attorney -- got it, but I expect we'll probably be debating that in the press today.

CAMEROTA: Basically, here's the bottom line, Senator. They didn't interview the people who came forward. As you know, the FBI didn't do a fulsome interview.

COONS: That's right.

CAMEROTA: They didn't interview people that you're talking about. They didn't interview people who were calling their hotline saying they had information. Do you believe the FBI investigation was a sham?

COONS: The FBI investigation was deeply disappointing and troubling. They did not conduct what I would consider a by-the-book background investigation. They did not handle the tip line, to the best of my knowledge, in the way that tip lines typically are.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and I sent a letter to the director of the FBI August 1, saying, please clarify why you didn't follow what we understand to be standard investigatory procedure and at whose direction.

The question we don't have answered, Alisyn, is given that that investigation was a sham, at whose direction did that happen? The FBI doesn't just make these things up. They were acting in response to a client. Whether they considered that White House counsel or the Senate Judiciary Committee majority, this is, I think, a break from past practice, where the Republicans and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee came to agreement about how investigations ought to happen. In this confirmation overall, that broke down, and I suspect this is the result of that breakdown.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But who -- just quickly, I mean, because you raised it, who did direct it? Was it the White House?

COONS: I don't know.

CAMEROTA: You don't know who directed them?

COONS: That's a question that I have asked the director. Yes, I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Given this new information that has come to light, do you think that Judge Kavanaugh should be on the Supreme Court?

COONS: Look, I want this question answered at whose direction was this narrowed? Why didn't a more fulsome investigation happen?

I think that, frankly, Judge Kavanaugh and the American people and certainly Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez deserved the sort of fuller investigation that was entirely possible within a week, and I'm hoping that's what will happen next.

CAMEROTA: OK. Senator Chris Coons, thank you very much for all the information this morning.

COONS: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: John.

BERMAN: All right. New this morning, in just a few hours, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski will testify in what is being billed as the first official impeachment hearing into President Trump. Lewandowski was a central player in two instances of possible obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller report.

But overnight, we learned the White House wants to limit his testimony, exerting privilege, even though Lewandowski never worked for the administration at all.

Joining me now, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, I've got three big questions here. Let's start, though, with Lewandowski, what information he could provide. He in the Mueller report is reported to have been told by the president to go talk to Jeff Sessions to get Sessions to unrecuse himself, and then announce he was limiting the Mueller investigation.

So what will the Democrats get out of Lewandowski?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that is potentially an act of obstruction of justice by the president, by telling Lewandowski to take steps to limit the Mueller investigation just to benefit Donald Trump. That is potentially an obstruction of justice.

However, as you just pointed out, the letter that the White House counsel wrote to the Judiciary Committee yesterday suggests that Lewandowski's not going to testify about any of that, which is just an astonishing legal claim to me, the idea that a conversation between a private citizen and the president of the United States and even a conversation between the president -- a private citizen and other White House advisers could be covered by executive privilege seems well beyond any assertion of executive privilege the courts have ever approved, as far as I can understand.

BERMAN: The White House is claiming privilege for everything beyond the information provided in portions of the report that have already been disclosed to the committee. So presumably, Lewandowski will be able to answer questions for things that are in writing in the Mueller report, just nothing beyond that.

But to your larger point, Jeffrey, is there any precedent for any kind of executive privilege over anyone who doesn't work for the government?

[07:15:02]

TOOBIN: Not -- not that I'm aware of. I think it's -- it's, frankly, outlandish and inappropriate and legally unjustifiable.

I do think that the Democrats, even if they get a description of what's in the Mueller report, that would be a lot more progress. You know, they spent weeks now in this ridiculous semantic debate about whether they're in an impeachment inquiry or investigation. And I think that's been sort of embarrassing and a waste of time. Now at least, they are turning to the substance of the allegations against the president.

BERMAN: A wise ma -- I believe his name was Jeffrey Toobin -- once told me that the best way to investigate is to actually investigate, and the Democrats need to start hold hearings where people answer questions.

TOOBIN: Well, and here finally, they have someone who is an actual witness to conduct that at least Mueller thought was obstruction of justice.

BERMAN: Now Corey Lewandowski wants to run for Senate in the state of New Hampshire. Corey Lewandowski, there's all kinds of reporting wants to make a scene today before the Congress. It doesn't hurt him to be seen as confrontational with the Democrats. It may even help him. So --

TOOBIN: In a Republican primary.

BERMAN: Yes.

TOOBIN: I'm not sure it will help him get elected senator from New Hampshire, but certainly, it will help him in a Republican primary.

BERMAN: How do you see that playing out? And how do you think Democrats handle that in the hearing room today?

TOOBIN: Well, that's why I think it's going to be an extremely entertaining hearing, because Lewandowski is going to be very combative. And we'll see how many questions he actually answers on the substance, whether he really does repeat what he said to Mueller's investigators.

But certainly, his surrounding comments will be denunciations of this witch hunt, denunciations of Mueller, denunciations of everything the Democrats have done to try to, you know, thwart President Trump.

BERMAN: And very quickly, when he doesn't answer certain questions today, it then goes to court? How long does it take? What happens?

TOOBIN: Well, see, this is the great advantage that President Trump has in this entire impeachment investigation. If people refuse, as to many people have refused, to even show up. I mean, at least Lewandowski is showing up. The Democrats will have to vote on contempt in the committee, vote on contempt in the full House of Representatives, and then begin the legal process in the district court, in the circuit court.

And you know, we are talking about these legal processes taking months, not weeks, and that's what's going on now.

BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin. Good to have you on with us this morning.

TOOBIN: Good to see you both.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you.

All right. Day two of a massive General Motors strike with no end in sight. So we'll talk with two GM workers on the picket line right now about their demands and how the strike is impacting their lives and their families.

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[07:22:07]

CAMEROTA: Negotiations continued late into the night between General Motors and the United Auto -- Auto Workers union in hopes of ending the country's largest strike in more than a decade. So far, the talks have been described as, quote, "very tense" as both sides work to resolve wage and benefit issues.

So joining us now from the picket line are two GM workers. We have Shawnte McMichael and Ray Carter-Wilson.

Thanks, you for being here, for taking a break from the picket line.

Shawnte, I want to start with you, because you say the fact that this strike is even happening, quote, "blew your minds." What is so mind- blowing about this?

SHAWNTE MCMICHAEL, GM PLANT WORKER ON STRIKE: Well, it's very mind- blowing. I never thought we would have striked. They threatened to strike back in 2007, when we walked off two days in a row, but nothing this big. I'm kind of fearful. I want it to end very soon. And --

CAMEROTA: What are you afraid of, Shawnte?

MCMICHAEL: Just being out here too long. I just want them to really agree on something, fair contract, just fair. Something fair. We stood up for GM for the bailout, and I feel like we're strong now. We're going to stand and we're going to be --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, you're a single mom as I understand it, so how is this affecting your life?

MCMICHAEL: Well, if I'm out here took it's going to affect it tremendously. Just like we're getting 250 a week when we're normally making 250 to 270 a day --

CAMEROTA: I see.

MCMICHAEL: So that right there is very mind-blowing.

CAMEROTA: Yes. That has a big effect on your life, for sure. So Ray, what is it that you all want?

Hey, how are you doing?

Great to see you. What is it you want? Can you encapsulate it in a couple of sentences on why you're striking?

RAY CARTER-WILSON, GM AUTO WORKER ON STRIKE: Yes, just improvements on wages, healthcare benefits and profit sharing across the board. A lot of things that we sacrificed back during the recession in 2007, 2008. We want to be compensated for it now as the company is making record-breaking profits.

CAMEROTA: And so Ray, you also, as I understand it, are a single dad, and so what time did you show up?

CARTER-WILSON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: What time did you have to show up today to strike?

CARTER-WILSON: Six a.m.

CAMEROTA: OK. And so tell me the effect that this is having on your home and your life.

Well, being a father, the health care benefits are tremendously important, and trying to survive off of a reduced income is very difficult. So going back to work and with a fair wage is very important for all of us, you know, company-wide.

CAMEROTA: As we understand it -- this is just this morning -- there are still dozens of sticking points. How does that make you both feel?

[07:25:09]

CARTER-WILSON: Yes. For me personally, I understand the difficulty of the negotiations and the importance of them. So this being a lengthy strike, I'm fine with that being the case, as long as everything is ironed out and is fair for everyone. Because I understand the position of the company as well, trying to go forward and being profitable and being on the cutting edge of new technology and being the leader across the board with the auto industry.

But also on the back side of that, the workers who sacrificed for the company to get ahead today and be profitable as it is today, we want to be compensated, as well. Because we took a major sacrifice over the years.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Shawnte, how long can this go on?

MCMICHAEL: I think it can go on for 70 days or longer, so I'm hoping they get back to the bargaining table so it's not worse for the company and us -- us, the workers. Hopefully they come up with something very soon.

CAMEROTA: Ray, how long can you do this personally?

CARTER-WILSON: Well, given the time that I've been with the company and the sacrifices I've made along the way, with this being such a pivotal point in the contract, I can do it as long as necessary because it's sacrificing the time I've put in thus far. So this is a long-term thing for me.

CAMEROTA: Shawnte, have you been showing up at midnight, or do you plan to show up at midnight?

MCMICHAEL: Yes, I've been showing up at midnight, midnight to 6 a.m.

CAMEROTA: And what does that do to your life and for your child's life and your schedule?

MCMICHAEL: It really messes it up, because I'm on days, and that works for me and my child. Now I have to get him a sitter so I can come out here and strike. Yes, it's really -- it's really inconvenient for some stuff. I know we're standing, and we're standing strong as our solidarity, and we're going to fight. Hopefully we come out on top.

CAMEROTA: Well, Shawnte McMichael and Ray Carter-Wilson, thank you very much for explaining what you want and your personal sacrifices to us. Obviously, we're watching very closely and hope that this comes to a good resolution for everyone involved. Thanks for being here.

CARTER-WILSON: Thanks for having us.

MCMICHAEL: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: John. BERMAN: All right. Some new details just in to CNN. The woman accusing star receiver Antonio Brown of rape, we're learning she met with NFL investigators for ten hours yesterday. Ten hours. What does that tell us about the investigation or whether or when the NFL will take action? That's next.

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