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Israeli Elections Too Close To Call; U.S. Rules Out Knee Jerk Response To Saudi Attack; House Panel Demanding Whistleblower Complaint. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 18, 2019 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, no clear winner in Israel's critical election. New numbers show a deadlock.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Patience prevents stupid moves. The White House taking a hands-off approach as it plans a response to the attack on Saudi oil.

ROMANS: And the acting spy chief misses a subpoena deadline. How will House Democrats get their hands on an urgent whistleblower complaint?

CNN, this morning, live in Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Jeddah.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs, 5:30 Eastern time.

We start with breaking news overnight. Too close to call -- new numbers just in from Israeli T.V. in the unprecedented repeat general election. Israel's longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Likud Party deadlocked against Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party.

ROMANS: The exit polls have a reputation for unreliability. Remember, both Netanyahu and Gantz claimed victory five months ago. Overnight, no one declared victory but no one was ready to concede.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER, LIKUD PARTY (through translator): Israel needs a strong and stable and Zionist government -- a government that is committed to Israel as a national state for the Jewish people. BENNY GANTZ, BLUE AND WHITE PARTY (through translator): I hope to create a wide unity government -- a government that is willing to return to Israel its special values where one people, one society -- the polarization is behind us.


ROMANS: So which leader will get to form a governing coalition as Israel faces critical decisions at home and abroad?

Let's turn it over now to CNN's Sam Kiley. He is live in Jerusalem -- Sam.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Christine, we've got a rather interesting situation and the exit polls and projections based on exit polls coming from predominantly, T.V. stations here in Israel -- and these are not CNN projections, but theirs -- would indicate that the Likud of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Blue and White Party of Benny Gantz are pretty much neck and neck with a projected 32 seats each.

In the background, the third party or group of parties known as the Joint List, predominantly supported by Arab voters who make up a fifth of the population here in Israel, likely to achieve some 12 to 15 seats.

Now, what does that mean for formation of the government and the future of Benjamin Netanyahu? Well, it may -- first of all, the historic moment is that his future is uncertain, not least because Benny Gantz, his main rival, says he wants to have a government of national unity alongside and embedded with the Likud. But, Mr. Netanyahu has to go. In other words, he can't be part of that deal.

For now, of course, they could have ruled that out, which means, ultimately, that President Reuven Rivlin will struggle over the next week to figure out -- and this will be his role -- who he is going to ask to have a go at trying to form a coalition government, and that person will then have six weeks to do.

And it was that process that ran into the sand last time around back in April for Benjamin Netanyahu that led to these elections that the Israelis are now facing, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Sam Kiley for us in Jerusalem. Thank you for that.

BRIGGS: The Trump administration appears to be showing restraint after a missile attack crippled a huge oil facility in Saudi Arabia. Defense officials were ordered to plan potential responses but the White House is waiting for the Saudi Kingdom's rulers to decide on the next step.

A source telling CNN that the administration wants, quote, "No knee- jerk reactions to this." The source says, "It's very systematic. What happens with patience is it prevents stupid moves."

Nic Robertson joining us live from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with the latest. Nic, good morning.


Saudi diplomats seem in lockstep with the White House on this. Both countries have a long-held and very firm belief that Iran is a destabilizing influence in the region.

We now have the evidence of some of the -- this recent attack in the hands of Saudi and U.S. investigators. They've been looking at circuit boards. They've been looking as we've seen them do in the past -- analyze exactly where components were made to try to figure out who is behind the attack.

The Iranian ambassador to the U.K. today said very specifically and precisely that it was almost certainly the attack was backed by Iran. What we don't have publicly yet is where the exact -- where the attack exactly took off from -- where it precisely came from.

However, what we've been told by the Ministry of Defense here today is they will give -- and I'm going to quote here -- "the final results of their investigation." Present, as they call it, material evidence of Iranian weapons, proving Iran's -- the Iranian regime's involvement in the attack.


The view from here is that there's no way any other group, any other actor in the region could have the technical know-how, the capability to plan, prepare, design, and execute an attack like this unless they had the support of Iran. That's the view from -- that is the clear view from the -- from the Saudi leadership here.

The Crown Prince calling this a test of international resolve. The Saudis are trying to internationalize the situation at the moment -- at the moment and from what we know, trying to scrub through intelligence gathered through electronic eavesdropping to figure out and when this attack was planned, what precipitated it. What has been picked up that will given intelligence directing U.S. and Saudi investigators towards a more specific knowledge of who precisely and where precisely this came from.

BRIGGS: So patience wins the day for now. Nic Robertson live for us in Saudi Arabia this morning -- thanks.

ROMANS: The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on his way there to Saudi Arabia this morning to consult with the Kingdom's rulers.

Global oil prices fell back Tuesday following that surge Monday, which sent financial shockwaves around the world. Why did prices fall? Largely because the Saudis announced they have plans to sharply ramp up oil and gas production.

CNN's John Defterios was at the Saudi news conference in Jeddah. He has spoken to the Saudi Aramco CEO. So what's the time frame for the Saudis getting back online with oil production? JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR AND ANCHOR: Well, it's much better, Christine. It's still a matter of weeks but not four to six, but two to three and this provides a lot of needed clarity here. Just think about it, though, Christine. Just five days after losing 5.7 million barrels a day, Saudi Aramco says they're back in the oil business in a big way.

This was taking place at a press conference, as you suggested, with the minister of energy, who is the elder half-brother of the Crown Prince, flanked on one side by the CEO of Aramco and the chairman of Aramco on the other.

During that press conference, I asked Prince Abdulaziz if Saudi Arabia is feeling very vulnerable now. We have to have some context here. It's been five months of attacks on oil installation and look at this way -- reaching a crescendo over the weekend.

And his answer, quite to the contrary. Let's take a listen.


PRINCE ABDULAZIZ BIN SALMAN, MINISTER OF ENERGY, SAUDI ARABIA: Where could you find a country in the whole world that went through this devastating attack and came out like a phoenix from the ashes? None but Saudi Arabia.


DEFTERIOS: So downplaying the real risk for Saudi Aramco and its plans to go into the IPO, but a fair comment -- an incredible comeback.

The other headline here coming out of that press conference in an interview with Aramco, they don't think they need to tap the strategic petroleum reserve of the United States. That should be a relief to consumers because they don't think oil and gas prices should move higher.

But there is a gigantic elephant in the room. How long does Saudi Arabia stay in Yemen if they're going to suffer these sort of attacks on their installations, Christine?

ROMANS: Yes. All right, John Defterios in Jeddah. Thank you so much, John.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, the acting director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, refusing to comply with the deadline to hand over a whistleblower complaint to the House Intel Committee.

The Intelligence Committee inspector general deemed the complaint credible and urgent, but the DNI's office says the complaint does not meet the definition of urgent concern because it does not relate to intelligence activity.

ROMANS: The letter does acknowledge the whistleblower complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the Executive Branch.

The acting DNI's office says he will not be available to appear at a hearing before the Intel Committee tomorrow to explain his decision on such short notice. Chairman Adam Schiff says he expects Maguire to appear under subpoena if necessary.

BRIGGS: Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski stonewalling and tweaking the Democrats during the first official House impeachment hearing. In that hearing, marked by partisan sniping, Lewandowski did disclose some new details confirming the president did tell him to order then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the Mueller investigation.


REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): That's what he wanted you to deliver to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, correct?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: 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.


ROMANS: That's a significant admission. He seems to be confirming under oath the president told him to obstruct the investigation.

The Mueller reporting concluded Lewandowski did not carry out that order from the president, but prosecutors found there was substantial evidence of obstruction in at least 10 instances.

BRIGGS: All right, let's bring in "CNN POLITICS" senior writer Zach Wolf, live in Washington this morning. Good to see you, sir.


ROMANS: Good morning.


BRIGGS: All right, so let's play a little more of the back-and-forth -- the circus that was yesterday between Corey Lewandowski and Democrats -- listen.


BARRY BERKE, HOUSE JUDICIARY COUNSEL: My question, sir, is when you said the president never asked you to get involved with Mr. Sessions --

LEWANDOWSKI: I have no obligation to have a candid conversation with the media whatsoever, just like they have no obligation to cover me honestly.

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

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Let me ask you -- I'm really -- I'm --

LEWANDOWSKI: It's not my privilege to waive.

RASKIN: Well, I don't think it's anyone's privilege to waive because I don't think it exists, Mr. Lewandowski. I think the whole thing is imaginary. It's like the tooth fairy. You didn't work for the president in this White House.

LEWANDOWSKI: My children are watching, thank you, Congressman.


BRIGGS: At least there was no fried chicken there with the Democrats.

Look, circus is the G-rated version of the show that went on yesterday. What does that indicate about the Democrats' efforts towards impeachment?

WOLF: It's not going to be easy. I mean, we saw a stonewalling witness, we saw Republicans coming to his defense at every moment. And these are kind of the ingredients I think that you see for something that's probably going to be so difficult as to Democrats need to decide whether or not this is going to be worth it.

If you -- if you can't get witnesses to answer questions, if you can't get any support from the other side, it makes one start to wonder how, ultimately, this happens. How do they kind of move through with this. I mean, that doesn't mean they shouldn't do it, it just means that at every turn whenever they try to do this they're going to be met with roadblocks --


WOLF: -- and obstruction and obfuscation. It's certainly not going to be a fun or pleasant thing to watch.

ROMANS: Yes, messy and unsatisfying, essentially. And, you know, if that's going to be the road to any kind of impeachment inquiry, what does it -- you know, what does that do --


ROMANS: -- or satisfy for the American public?

BRIGGS: Executive privilege may have died as well over the past couple of --

ROMANS: Yes. Let's talk about this most recent polling from NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" and you look at these numbers and you see, really, two very clear tiers here -- Biden and Warren pulling away from the rest. And you see, especially for Buttigieg holding flat at seven, but Harris losing ground since July.

What do you make of these numbers?

WOLF: And, Beto O'Rourke is not even on the list anymore.

I think you're right. We have these two tiers and it's even solidifying further maybe with Elizabeth Warren pulling away from Bernie Sanders on the -- on the progressive flank there.

If this turns into a two-person race I think that becomes a lot easier to digest for a lot of Democrats out there. They might start making a decision because the other interesting thing from that poll is that a lot of people haven't decided who they're going to support. They might -- you know, it's soft support for all these people --


WOLF: -- so things could change a lot, I think, in the coming months.

ROMANS: You've don't a great piece -- a great piece -- I would encourage everybody to look at it -- about inequality as an undeniable factor --

BRIGGS: It's really good.

ROMANS: -- in America.

And this morning on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal" a big story about how Joe Biden has found himself gesturing to the left but holding the center. And you hear him and his economic plan. He also talks about income inequality while still promising to wealthy donors on Wall Street that they're not going to lose any standard of living.

What do you make about that issue and how important that's going to be for Biden and whether he can walk that tightrope?

WOLF: Well, it seems like that's kind of turning into the defining issue of this primary for Democrats. It's not about Donald Trump -- all Democrats despise Donald Trump's presidency. It's more about what they think the future of the party is and whether they're going to be making nods to the grassroots to people who think that this is a systemic issue in the country or whether they're going to work sort of more from the middle of the -- of the -- of the political sphere.

And that's the real question. And between Warren and Biden, and if Sanders is still in the mix, who knows. But that's kind of the choice that they have to make.

BRIGGS: It will be interesting to see if Warren can take on Biden head-to-head. She has punted on efforts to go directly after him, including last night on Stephen Colbert.

But good stuff. We will tweet out this inequality piece --

WOLF: Thanks.

BRIGGS: -- @EarlyStart.

Zach --

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach.

BRIGGS: -- good to have you.

WOLF: Yes.

BRIGGS: All right. Losing Amazon may not have been the best decision for FedEx's bottom line. "CNN Business" has those details, next.



BRIGGS: President Trump is in California where his campaign says he'll add $15 million to his 2020 reelection effort.

Trump's trip to one of the wealthiest areas of the country marked by clashes with local and national governments. Trump criticized Los Angeles and San Francisco over homelessness, saying people who sleep in entryways of prestigious buildings are destroying cities and suggesting he may step in.

The White House also signaled an environmental clash on emission standards.

Caitlin Collins traveling with the president.


KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dave and Christine, the president is waking up here in Los Angeles today continuing this West Coast tour. It's the final day where he'll be over here before he heads back to Washington.

But something else notable is happening today and that's that back in Washington the president's administration and the EPA is expected to revoke one of California's signature environmental policies.

Their ability to institute those tougher pollution -- tailpipe pollution laws stricter than the federal guidelines -- something the president is going to roll back, and not only in a blow to California but also a blow to his predecessor, President Barack Obama and his environmental legacy -- something that we've seen the administration keeping their eye on, wanting to do for a while now. And now, sources say they are expected to follow through with that today -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right, Caitlin Collins for us in Los Angeles. Thank you.

This morning we're remembering a giant of broadcast news. Cokie Roberts, the legendary journalist, died Tuesday from complications of breast cancer at the age of 75.


Roberts worked in television, public radio, and publishing for more than four decades, winning three Emmys.

Back in 1978, Cokie Roberts joined the upstart National Public Radio and left her imprint on the network. The president and CEO calls Cokie one of NPR's founding mothers.

BRIGGS: Former President George W. Bush remembering Cokie Roberts as a, quote, "...talented, tough, and fair reporter. We respected her drive and appreciated her humor."

President Obama says Cokie was a trailblazing figure -- a role model to young women at a time when the profession was still dominated by men.

As for the current president, he had this to say. "I never met her. She never treated me nicely.

But I would like to wish her family well. She was a professional and I respect professionals." Very revealing.

ROMANS: Yes, revealing, indeed.

Fifty minutes past the hour. Let's get a check on "CNN Business" this morning.

First, let's look at markets around the world -- mixed performance. Small gains at the moment in European markets.

On Wall Street, futures are pointing slightly lower. I'd call this directionless here. You know, stocks really waiting for a decision on interest rates from the Federal Reserve. That will happen later this afternoon.

The Dow closed up just 34 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq finished slightly higher as well.

Also up slightly -- and this caught a lot of people by surprise -- a rebound in manufacturing. The Federal Reserve said Tuesday the production rebounded in August after a drop in July. Production boosted by a surge in machinery and primary metals production. The outlook for factories still weak amid trade tensions and slowing global growth.

Losing Amazon as a customer is weighing on FedEx's bottom line. It posted a slight decline in revenue Tuesday and a 12 percent drop in operating income. FedEx said global trade disputes increased costs related to the expansion of its delivery services, and the loss of business from a large customer contributed to the decline.

In June, FedEx decided it would not renew its contract with Amazon for air cargo services. Then in August, it stopped providing ground delivery services to Amazon. FedEx said it will make some reductions in its air express network to cut costs.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: A trio of tropical threats emerging in the Atlantic.

Tropical Storm Imelda expected to swamp the Texas Gulf Coast. Flash flood watches and warnings are in effect. Houston is bracing for a foot of rain, the most the city has seen since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The severe weather threat prompting school closures and cancellations in the Houston-Galveston area.

BRIGGS: The sitting sheriff in North Carolina has been indicted after officials say he encouraged a plot to have one of his deputies killed. Granville County Sheriff Brindell Wilkins faces obstruction charges.

Prosecutors say he was not only aware of a threat to kill his former deputy, Joshua Freeman, he also coached the would-be assassin and told him to, quote, "take care of it."

Why did he do this? According to the indictment, the sheriff had been told Freeman planned to release an audio recording of the sheriff using racially offensive language.

ROMANS: A medical setback for Alex Trebek and his battle with pancreatic cancer. The "JEOPARDY!" host says he has restarted chemotherapy.

He recently returned to work after his medical reports approached normal levels following a first round of chemo. But, Trebek says he suddenly began losing weight and his warning numbers went even higher than when he was first diagnosed.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY!": I realize that there is an end in sight for me, just as there is for everyone else. One line that I have used with our staff in recent weeks and months is that when I do pass on, one thing they will not say at my funeral is oh, he was taken from us too soon.

Hey, guys, I'm 79 years old. I've had one hell of a good life.


ROMANS: Trebek says he does not fear death. He says, quote, "The thought of passing on doesn't frighten me. It comes with the territory."

BRIGGS: A college football fan asked for beer money and a hospital ended up with a $60,000 gift. Iowa State alum Carson King held up a sign on ESPN's College GameDay, reading "Busch Light supply needs replenished." The sign included his Venmo account information.

Money started pouring in, believe it or not. Carson did buy a case of Busch Light, about 12 bucks, but then decided to donate the rest to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. And when Busch Beer and Venmo heard about the story they stepped up and matched the donation.

Cheers to all involved. A terrific way to end our hump day.

ROMANS: And then his parents grounded him --


ROMANS: -- and said use that money for books, instead.


ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All three exit polls from the main T.V. stations in Israel projected this race is too close to call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the most important relationship President Trump has overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This election is about Israeli democracy and whether we're going to stay a strong democracy.

LEWANDOWSKI: The White House has directed I not disclose the substance of any discussions with the president or his advisers.

COHEN: You didn't think that was illegal to obstruct justice?

LEWANDOWSKI: And the president didn't ask me to do anything illegal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was a very bad day for the House Democrats. It just looked desperate. It looked pathetic, frankly. I thought it was a very good day for Corey Lewandowski.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, September 18th. It's 6:00 here in New York.

And we have breaking news from all over the world this morning. Overnight, the political future of one of the world's most influential leaders in jeopardy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of President Trump's closest allies, could be on the verge of losing power.