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Moment of Truth for Benjamin Netanyahu's Power; No Shortage of Oil; Democrats Played by a Trump Pro Ally; Hurricane Humberto Aiming at Bermuda; Showdown for Politicians. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 18, 2019 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

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ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Political suspense in Israel. Voting has ended in the country's do-over election. But once again, the race is too close to call throwing off Benjamin Netanyahu's reelection plans.

Iran is again denying it was behind the attack on Saudi oil facilities as the country aims to ramp up production. The latest on the investigation and the international response.

Plus, lawmakers on Capitol Hill hold their first official hearing on possible impeachment. But Donald Trump's former campaign manager dock and dodged his way through hours of tough questioning.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.

And we begin in Jerusalem where Benjamin Netanyahu's days as prime minister maybe numbered. Exit polls show the centrist Blue and White Party led by Benny Gantz has a slight lead in the Knesset election, and if that holds, he could get the chance to try to form a coalition government and unseat Mr. Netanyahu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENNY GANTZ, LEADER, BLUE AND WHITE PARTY (through translator): Starting tonight, I hope to create a wide unity government that is willing to return Israel its social values.

We are one people, one society. I'm calling my political opponents, leave everything behind you, let's get together for our better and equal society in our country for the benefit of its citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: But Israel's longest serving prime minister is by no means conceding. Benjamin Netanyahu told supporters the country needs a Zionist government without influence from Arab parties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In the next few days we will get into negotiations in order to establish a Zionist government and prevent an anti-Zionist government, a dangerous government. This is what lies ahead now. This is our first and foremost important mission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Senior -- CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is live this hour in Jerusalem, he joins us now. So, what's the latest on all of this and where is it going?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, as you point out, we are still waiting to hear the official results. Most of those projections are based on often fairly inaccurate exit polls.

There has been though, a coalition they'll excuse upon of information now right across the Israeli media, a lot of organizations projecting that the figures of 32 seats each for Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party and the Blue and White Party of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid in the 120- seat Knesset.

If that holds true, then there is going to be a period of real turmoil as Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli president starts to effectively interview party leaders and potential candidates for the top job before within a week appointing one or other, probably Benny Gantz or Benjamin Netanyahu to attempt to form a government.

And that is when it will get very fraught, particularly fraught for Mr. Netanyahu because looming over him are three court cases where he faces indictment on corruption charges.

The dates for those procedures to go ahead may actually collide or actually come up before the process of coalition building has gone through. So, and that could mean that he is unable to do what he is hoping to do, which is to take over the government or retained control of the government. And then uses coalition to legislate immunity for himself, Rosemary.

But this is a very complex process. Although it only involves 120 seats, it can take weeks for the Israeli government to be formed out of this proportional representation system of election.

And of course, that's what we saw back in April when Benjamin Netanyahu in the end failed to knit together a coalition and key to all of that back in April, and I think once again now will be Avigdor Liebermann who is polling about eight seats and like Benny Gantz has called for a government of national unity.

The issue there is Blue and White won't join up with Likud. The two major parties can't form a coalition unless Blue and White gives up on their demand that Benjamin Netanyahu is not the candidate to go forward or, indeed, the Likud give up on their demand that he heirs, Rosemary.

[03:04:57] CHURCH: All right. We are watching this very closely to see what happens in the coming days and weeks, possibly months ahead. Sam Kiley, many thanks to you for bringing us that live report. I appreciate it.

Well, a U.S. defense official says the U.S. has images backing up the assessment of Saturday's attacks on Saudi oil sites originated and were prepared from inside Iran.

CNN has not seen the classified images but they reportedly include evidence of the weapons used in the attack. Iran denies responsibility. But its Houthi allies in Yemen say they are responsible and hit the sites with drones.

Meanwhile, sources tell CNN the Pentagon has been ordered to plan potential responses to the attacks but they say the White House is waiting for the kingdom to decide on its own response before the U.S. moves ahead.

Well, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made it clear on Tuesday that military action is an option.

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MICHAEL PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We don't want war with anybody. But the United States is prepared. We are locked and loaded. And we are ready to defend our interests and our allies in the region.

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CHURCH: Well, Germany's chancellor is taking a more patient turn. Angela Merkel says Berlin will wait on findings from the investigation before assigning any blame. She is also promoting a diplomatic response instead of military action.

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ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We prefer a diplomatic process which we are trying to push ahead, but in recent days tension in the region rose. And Germany will always be in favor of de-escalation, and long-term solutions are only possible through a political process.

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CHURCH: And while the world closely monitors the aftermath of the attack, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us live from Tehran to gauge Iran's response. What has been said there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, hello. Hi. Sorry, I didn't hear your question precisely.

But Iran at this stage has continued its stance that it is not responsible for any of this despite this slow drip often anonymous often lacking public evidence of information from Saudi Iranian officials suggesting that they are perhaps are.

Overnight, U.S. defense officials suggested they had images that showing the attack being prepared in Iran but are clear their radar did not pick it up being launched from Iran. I should point out Iran and officials will say, well, filming us inside Iran preparing weaponry is something they are legally allowed to do.

So, a lot, and potentially, in the holes in the case being presented so far publicly by U.S. and Saudi officials that Iranian officials will seize upon to point out that it is far from conclusive.

And I should say, again, evidence has not been made public. Perhaps that's something U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will begin to do when he arrives in Saudi Arabia in the hours ahead. But the Iranian government is still staying absolutely clear on its position.

In fact, last night their Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif pointing out again towards the Yemeni rebels, the Houthis in Yemen as behind this attack. In a series of tweets, he says that the U.S. is in denial if it thinks that Yemeni victims of four and a half years of the worst war crimes wouldn't do well to strike back.

He is referring to the Saudi Arabian led and back and assisted aerial campaign Civil War inside Yemen. This cause a humanitarian crisis and responsible for possibly hundreds of civilian deaths.

He goes on to tweet perhaps the U.S> is embarrass that hundreds of billions of arms didn't intercept the Yemeni fire but blaming Iran won't change that.

U.S. isn't upset when its allies, namely, Saudi Arabia here, mercilessly bomb babies in Yemen for over four years with its arms and military assistance but it is terribly upset when the victims react anyway they can against the aggressors or refineries. Ending the war equals the only solution for all, he writes.

Now that is Iran going back to what it originally said which it believes the Yemeni rebels have a capability and launched these attacks.

The Yemeni rebels, the Houthis have said they did it but it is Saudi and U.S. officials that have frankly poured scorn on that capabilities. Some analysts think maybe the Houthis got that capability but as you see now slowly this drip of pieces of weapons found in the desert in Saudi Arabia, possibly it seems, maybe some radar tracks over southern Iraq or Kuwait suggesting the passage some of these missiles may have taken.

That's what the U.S. and Saudi officials are saying. I should say again without making that evidence public.

But we are now four or five days in since Mike Pompeo first said Iran did this. And Iran has seen little evidence, I think publicly, to make that case conclusive. A lot of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and European allies are sounding vociferously their Saudi support but are not necessarily blaming Iran directly in the statements they put out. So, I think perhaps that maybe some officials in Tehran so far are

looking at this and seeing that the proof is inconclusive. And possibly the world isn't siding with the opinion that believes Iran is directly responsible. Evidence could change that. That may change as the international investigation continues.

[03:10:02]

But we also heard yesterday about one possible off-ramp here disappearing. And that was the sort of a fig leaf in the background. Sorry, The olive branch in the background. Forgive me. I'm confusing by tree metaphors.

But Donald Trump continually plays with about the possibility for negotiations.

And the supreme leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei said that there would be no negotiations at any level with the United States immediately. He said that the government was unanimous on that.

And he sort of, mock the fact that sometimes the American have conditions, sometimes have no conditions. But he said they won't going to be talking. He said possibly if someone -- he immediately I think Donald Trump apologize with true statements and got back in the nuclear deal maybe talks could be possible on a multilateral level.

But that one idea of diplomacy solving this in some way. But it does look at this point so the U.S. response is somewhat muddled. They are looking for broad international consensus for once and that may take quite some time. All eyes really on Mike Pompeo in Saudi Arabia.

Back to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Absolutely. Our Nick Paton Walsh with the reaction from Tehran. Many thanks.

Well, the attack cut Saudi Arabia's oil production by half. Five percent of the global oil supply but the energy minister says production will be back to normal by the end of the month.

CNN's John Defterios is following that from Jeddah.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Three big players representing with Saudi Arabia is known for and that is big oil.

The new minister of energy, the new chairman of Saudi Aramco, and the chief executive officer of the company are gathering for a press conference here in Jeddah after seeing their production drop by 5.7 million barrels a day over the weekend after severe attacks.

They say they are on the recovery trail and they could be at 100 percent capacity by the end of September if not slightly earlier.

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AMIN NASSER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SAUDI ARAMCO: We will be back at our production levels before that time. By the end of this month.

DEFTERIOS: If not earlier.

NASSER: If not earlier, but by the end of the month more comfortably, we will be definitely resume as before the attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEFTERIOS: That talk of recovery led oil prices down 4 to $5 dollars a barrel depending on the index after that surge of 14 percent on Monday.

Saudi Aramco seems determined to pursue with the initial public offering but there was no timeline. But there is a lot of concern about the future after the air defenses were broken over the weekend.

And even the CEO was suggesting that perhaps it's international support, even a coalition that needs to protect not only the waterways in the Middle East but also the core production of the largest exporter in the world, being Aramco.

John Defterios, CNN business at the Ritz-Carlton in Jeddah.

CHURCH: A chaotic first day of testimony on Capitol Hill. U.S. House Democrats considering impeachment faced off against a stonewalling Trump loyalist. Corey Lewandowski's testimony, that's ahead.

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CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

With a deep partisan divide in the U.S. Congress was on display Tuesday, as House Democrats held their first impeachment related hearing.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski arrived with a defense of the president and an attack on Democrats.

Manu Raju has our report.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not going to stonewall me and my questioning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear --

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MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski sparred with House Democrats during a contentious impeachment hearing today and confirmed an element of the Mueller report that the president urged him to intervene in an attempt to limit the investigation. After initially asking for time at the hearing to read the Mueller report --

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COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Congressman, I'm just trying to find in the Mueller report where it states that.

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RAJU: Lewandowski said the report accurately portrayed the president's 2017 directive that Lewandowski deliver a message to Session, that he un-recused himself from the Mueller probe, and then limit the investigation to only include future elections.

Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson read from the note that the Mueller report said Trump wanted Lewandowski to deliver to the then- attorney general.

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REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): So, I know that I recuse myself from certain things having to do with specific areas but our POTUS is being treated unfairly. He shouldn't have a special prosecutor council because he hasn't done anything wrong.

Now, that's what he wanted you to deliver to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Correct?

LEWANDOWSKI: I believe that's an accurate representation.

JOHNSON: And he wanted you to deliver it to Jeff so that Jeff could say it to the people. Right?

LEWANDOWSKI: I believe so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And Lewandowski confirmed that he wanted to meet with Sessions in a neutral place and not on the Justice Department's turf.

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LEWANDOWSKI: That is right, I want to have a private conversation in a more relax atmosphere.

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RAJU: The Mueller report also said that Trump warned that Sessions would be fired if he didn't meet with Lewandowski. The message was never delivered to Sessions.

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REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Either you are willing to break the law for politics and Mr. Trump or you're some kind of Forrest Gump relating to corruption.

So, maybe, let me ask you this. Did the pick you as his enforcer, he thought you would play whatever role he wanted because it was illegal. Is that possibly why he chose you to take this message to Sessions?

LEWANDOWSKI: That would be a question for the president, Congressman.

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RAJU: But Lewandowski repeatedly defended the president.

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LEWANDOWSKI: And the president has never done anything illegal.

REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL): When the president asks you to specifically go in there and ask him to deliver a speech which was contrary to that, forget about being a lawyer. Did it strike you as off in any way? Were you concerned in anyway?

LEWANDOWSKI: No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And Lewandowski fired back at Democrats.

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LEWANDOWSKI: I think they hate this president more than they love their country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And said he was following White House orders to not answer questions about confidential conversations with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWANDOWSKI: The White House has directed me that I not disclose the substance of any conversation with the president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are not --

NADLER: When you refuse to answer these questions, you are obstructing the work of our committee. And I will remind you that article three of the impeachment against President Nixon was based on the obstruction of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: The White House also taking the extraordinary step of blocking the testimony of two former White House aides, Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn who refused to show up despite being subpoenaed by the committee. GOP said Democrats were putting on a show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): because they can't sell what's inside. They can't sell the product so they keep packaging it differently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now after the hearing Jerrold Nadler, the House judiciary committee chairman told me that he believes that the hearing added more weight to his push to impeach the president. Saying, article three of the Nixon impeachment referred to efforts to obstruct Congress.

He said what Lewandowski did is essentially back obstructing the investigation of Congress. But the question is will Democrats move down the route of ultimately impeaching the president. Because the party is still divided.

A number of Democrats and Republican leaning districts opposed moving forward an impeachment. And the speaker, Nancy Pelosi she's not there quite yet.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

CHURCH: Hurricane Humberto is gaining strength as it heads towards Bermuda. It is now a category three, that's considered a major hurricane.

So, let's turn again to our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri to get more on its track. And what are you seeing in terms of the path there and how bad this might be.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They're going to be very lucky I think when it comes to the direct impact across that region of Bermuda.

It is a very large system, as you noted, it's the only other major hurricane besides Dorian of course, across the Atlantic as we had so far this season.

But notice, activity already really beginning to bloom across this region as the peak season is upon us. But there we go. Major hurricane, category three. Very impressive depiction on satellite imagery. The island of Bermuda just a few hundred kilometers away from the storm system at this hour. Already seeing the outer bands beginning to impact or at least indirectly impacting the island itself.

[03:20:00]

But we think as the storm becomes closer towards the island within the next, say, 12 to 24 hours the closest approach to land would be somewhere around 160 or so kilometers from the west of the island.

Now, it is a large enough feature to where outer bands. Of course, we get some storm surge potential and some heavy rainfall is still going to be impacting the island. But the threat is far less than it would be if it was a category three landfalling across Bermuda. Now, if you take a look. We do have a tropical depression; it doesn't

look all that impressive but I'm here to tell you this tropical depression has the potential to cause far more damage towards this region of Texas than say even having Humberto skirt by portions of Bermuda. And that's because of the amount of rainfall that is forecast across this region.

As much as 150 to 250. And in some cases, 300 to 400 millimeters of rainfall possible on the highest amounts across this region of Texas the next 24 or so hours.

But here we go. Back out towards the Atlantic. This is the next tropical depression in the works. This storm is poised to become our J letter storm which would be designated as a tropical storm Jerry. The forecast models for this particular storm take it directly towards the Virgin Islands.

Potentially bringing that somewhere near Turks and Caicos or the Bahamas late this weekend. Fortunately, right now it looks like a category one at the very most. But again, a long way out. We're hoping the track begins to shift away from these islands because that's the last thing they want to see another tropical system. Rosie?

CHURCH: Absolutely. Many thanks to you, Pedram, for keeping a very close eye on all of that. I appreciate it.

Well, it is a love-hate relationship. President Trump travels to California to drum up campaign money while taking aim at some of the state's progressive policies. We'll take a look at that when we return.

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CHURCH: Climate activist Greta Thunberg is getting some major supporters as she tours the United States. She recently met with former U.S. President Barack Obama. Number 44 gave the Swedish teen a fist bump and had this message. You and me, we are a team.

Thunberg will be speaking at the U.N. climate action summit in New York next week and to get to the U.S. she sailed across the Atlantic in a zero-emission sailboat.

Obama tweeted this. "Just 16, Greta Thunberg is already one of our planet's greatest advocates. Recognizing that her generation will bear the brunt of climate change. She is unafraid to push for real action."

Well, on the opposite end of the climate change issue, the Trump administration is planning to revoke California's authority to enact its own tougher rules for vehicle emissions.

That will happen while President Trump is in California for campaign fund-raising swing. He has targeted the state's progressive agenda before. But as Kyung Lah reports, California's governor is ready to fight back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): One thing I won't do is roll over. One thing I won't do is capitulate.

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KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: California's Governor Gavin Newsom, an official leader of the Trump resistance.

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NEWSOM: We are nothing less than a progressive answer to a transgressive president.

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LAH: Now entering another battle with President Trump as he fund- raises at Newsom's backyard this week.

A source tells CNN the Trump administration will attempt to pull the state waiver letting California develop its own emission standards.

The Trump administration wants to roll back Obama era rules. But Newsom won't bend.

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NEWSOM: Yes. Well, a checkmate. I mean, we actually did something he didn't see coming. We negotiated with private industry and they agreed to voluntary standards that went beyond what the Trump administration was demanding.

And for Trump, it was a realization, a rationalization that he doesn't get everything he wants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: This fight is familiar territory. Under Newsom's administration California is now involved in nearly 60 lawsuits against the Trump White House. Jamming the proverbial crowbar in Trump's agenda.

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LAH: Governor, you were able to succeed in wielding your power in a way that Democrats in Washington are unable to do.

NEWSOM: In some ways that's true at outperforming the federal government, running record surpluses as the Trump administration is running historic record deficits.

All of that as we are reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and protecting and preserving and promoting our values. That makes us a formidable, a formidable challenge to Trump and Trumpism.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LAH: Their battles, part policy, part theater.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: If you look at some of the barbs you both have shared on Twitter.

NEWSOM: There's a few.

LAH: There's a few. There's a good bit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: And it's off-fine.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: How about this clown in California?

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LAH: Newsom responded by tweet, saying Trump is "literally locking up kids like Pennywise." The scary clown from the movie "It."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Do you relish that?

NEWSOM: No. But if he calls me a clown and I called him Pennywise, forgive me. Yes, that's a little bit of a sideshow. The fact is interestingly we have a relationship. Interestingly, we communicate. Not in public. On the phone. In person. And he is very gracious in those calls. And I hope in turn I am as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: They have shared some gracious public moments. They walk through a fire ravished California town praising each other's leadership but remain unafraid to spar under litany of disagreements.

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NEWSOM: Look, stay out of our way, let California continue not to survive but thrive despite the headwinds. Despite everything you are doing to try and put sand in the gears of our success.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: The two men have a complex public, as well as private relationship. Earlier this year, Governor Newsom was preparing to sign a bill that will require anyone who wants to appear on the state's primary ballot to release his or her taxes if he or she wants to run for president here in the State of California.

Well, the governor, before signing it wanted to deliver the news to Trump personally and he called him to tell him the news.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

CHURCH: And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Talks Asia is up next. But first, I'll be back with the check of the headlines. You are watching CNN.

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