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Exit Polls Show Tight Race Between Netanyahu, Gantz in Israel; Lewandowski Stonewalls Congress in Hearing; Pompeo to Meet with Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired September 18, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- slipping a bit against Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many here believe that exit polls are wrong, as they have been in the past.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Netanyahu is very unhappy at the moment. He needed 61 seats. If these polls hold, he doesn't have them.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): We subpoenaed three witnesses to this hearing. The White House is blocking the first two, tightly limiting the third.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I realize this is not my privilege, but I am respecting the White House's decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lied to their faces. He has no privileges. He has no immunity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Lewandowski intended to obstruct justice once again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a thought as to why we continue to engage in a charade that is misunderstood by my Democratic colleagues?
LEWANDOWSKI: I think they hate this president more than they love their country.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. As usual, very busy morning here. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.
Democrats billed this as the first official impeachment hearing. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski faced off against the House Judiciary Committee for nearly six prickly hours. His testimony then devolved into a name calling, stonewalling spectacle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWANDOWSKI: The White House has directed I not disclose the substance of any discussions.
The White House has directed me not to disclose the substance of any discussions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many times?
LEWANDOWSKI: The White House has directed I not disclose the substance of any discussions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK. Now what? Will the House move to hold Lewandowski in contempt? And what does this mean for the Democrats' investigations? We have in-depth analysis for you ahead. Also, Corey Lewandowski himself in here.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And he did say some things clarifying, I think, some points in the Mueller report that could have significant implications.
Also, we're following two big international stories this morning. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his way to Saudi Arabia after the attacks on the oil fields there. The Saudis, we are told, will soon show the evidence that they say implicates Iran in this attack.
But we do begin with breaking news. This critical election in Israel. The fate of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest serving prime minister, one of the world's closest allies to President Trump, his future hangs very much in the balance.
CNN's Sam Kiley in Jerusalem. This is neck and neck, Sam.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's neck and neck, John and Alisyn. And also, it's not just, of course, Benjamin Netanyahu's political future which is hanging in the balance with exit polls, which can be very inaccurate but seem to be indicating that he is neck and neck with Benny Gantz from the Blue and White Party. Not just his political future, but also his personal future.
He's got these three corruption investigations against him. He's due in court or to be -- start answering in the judicial system probably in early October. And the results, as they slowly emerge during this election process, are in all probability, going to indicate that, even if he's out in the front, he's going to have to go through a very agonizing process to knit together a coalition that he's going to ram into his own personal judicial process. So this has been a very uncomfortable process indeed for Benjamin Netanyahu -- John and Alisyn.
BERMAN: So Sam, I want to talk about Benny Gantz, who may be the next prime minister if Netanyahu does fall. Netanyahu so close to President Trump. How different would the Israeli relationship be with the United States under a Prime Minister Benny Gantz? KILEY: Well, according to the election propaganda put out by the
Likud Party, extremely different.
But if you look at who Benny Gantz is and, indeed, who his party leadership is built around, he is a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force. He has two other former chiefs of staff on his sort of politburo, if you like. Gabi Ashkenazi and Bogie Ya'alon, both of whom were actually his bosses in an earlier life running the defense forces. So they have a very macho credibility, which might well appeal to Mr. Trump.
Mr. Gantz himself not particularly charismatic, but he's not very significantly out of step, really, with the Likud and Mr. Netanyahu on how they think that they should be conducting themselves in terms of international relations with regard to Iran. They are in favor of more negotiations with the Palestinians. But really, not that different from the Netanyahu administration -- John, Alisyn.
BERMAN: All right. Sam Kiley, they are counting votes all morning. And a swing of one seat one direction or another could have major implications, so please keep us posted.
CAMEROTA: OK. Now back here in the U.S. to that contentious impeachment hearing on Capitol Hill. Despite the hours-long partisan slugfest between Democrats and Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager, Lewandowski, did seem to confirm under oath a key act of attempted obstruction by the president. So what happens now?
Joining us --
BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. The 6-10" sophomore.
CAMEROTA: There he is. Take a bow, Jeffrey.
BERMAN: Wow. That was impressive. Also with us, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip.
Abby, you can also take a bow.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't get the big introduction? OK.
BERMAN: You absolutely get it. But you know what? You don't need it. Jeffrey, we need to -- we need to stroke his ego.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Pump it up a little for me. Yes.
BERMAN: Jeffrey, I know this was a mess. I know this was chaotic and out of control, and I know that Corey Lewandowski stuck it to Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee.
However, there was a moment of substance, at least one there, where Lewandowski admitted to something that Robert Mueller and his team laid out as a possible case of obstruction of justice. It is when the president told Corey Lewandowski to get Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself from the Mueller investigation. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): 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)
BERMAN: So before we get to the theater of this, Jeffrey, how important was that moment?
TOOBIN: Well, you know, it really was extraordinary. Hank Johnson, the congressman from Georgia, is the only member of Congress who really was able to engage with Lewandowski. Otherwise, Lewandowski was -- was stonewalling.
But the point of that exchange is that here's Lewandowski coming into the White House, and Donald Trump dictates, word for word, an instruction to Lewandowski to tell Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, about how he could unrecuse himself from the Russia investigation and limit or eliminate the Mueller investigation. That does seem to be very clear evidence of obstruction of justice.
Plus, you know, though this was contentious, it seemed very clear that Lewandowski didn't follow that direction, because Lewandowski knew it was wrong.
TOOBIN: He made up various explanations about, well, I went on vacation, so I couldn't talk to the attorney general, which seemed pretty preposterous. The -- several people in the Mueller report do not follow the president's instructions, because they know it's wrong. And that is -- you know, you don't have to succeed at obstruction of justice to obstruct justice.
CAMEROTA: OK. That's vital. Because otherwise, he could say, well, he never did it. See? We never delivered the message, so it wasn't obstruction of justice. But you're saying that the law doesn't see it that way?
TOOBIN: The law is very clear on that point, yes.
CAMEROTA: Abby, you predicted all of this. I mean, you did. You were on yesterday, and you just said he's not --
BERMAN: There she goes. There's the victory lap right there. That's it.
CAMEROTA: That's it. Take a bow. You just said that he wasn't going to play along.
Here's a moment where he would not read from the script that the Democrats were hoping he read from. So watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: I simply ask you, is it correct that, as reported in the Mueller report on June 19th, 2017, you met alone in the Oval Office with the president?
LEWANDOWSKI: Could you read the exact language of the report, sir? I don't have it available to me.
NADLER: I don't think I need to do that, and I have limited time. Did you meet alone with the president on that date?
LEWANDOWSKI: Congressman, I'd like you refresh my memory by providing a copy of the report so I can follow along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK. There were other moments where they asked him to read the Mueller report, and he also wouldn't play along.
PHILLIP: Right. Yes. I mean, he knew what he was doing in stonewalling, in some cases making fun of some of the members on the dais, as a part of an effort to just make this whole hearing a complete mockery.
But I do think, despite all of that, it is important that what was laid out here, from a political perspective, if there's -- if Democrats believe there was obstruction of justice, we know that the evidence exists. It's all on paper, and it's all just came out of Corey Lewandowski's mouth.
But if they want to use this in a political sense, I think the biggest value is in showing that a lot of the denials that are coming from the president and from his allies are not true. They are clearly not true, and they are a clear effort to deceive the public.
That's one of the other big things that Corey -- Corey Lewandowski acknowledged yesterday, which is that he lied when people asked him if the president asked him to get Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself.
CAMEROTA: When reporters asked him.
PHILLIP: When reporters asked him. He thinks that that's not a problem.
But when the president's whole argument about all of this is that -- that it's all fake news and that none of this is true, there's so much evidence. It's -- it's a mountain at this point that a lot of these denials are simply false, and they're an effort to mislead the public about what the president and his allies know occurred. And a lot of which is laid out in the Mueller report.
TOOBIN: And if I -- if I can just add another point, the legal theory that the White House has that anything a private citizen like Lewandowski discussed with the president or with the president's advisers is covered by executive privilege, that theory is preposterous. No court has ever held that.
Now, the Democrats' problem is, in order to fight that and force him to testify, they'll have to find him in contempt and go to district court and the circuit court.
BERMAN: But Jeffrey, why don't they do that? Why did Jerry Nadler do that, like, two seconds into the hearing, the minute that Corey Lewandowski started playing the charade about reading the report out loud? Why not do that? And what happens when they start pressing the contempt case?
TOOBIN: Well, this -- I mean, that is one option he could have had, but it would have meant shutting down the hearing, going into a process that will likely take months.
I mean, remember. They have done that with certain -- certain evidence. You know, Don McGahn's testimony. That's now -- that's now in court. You know, the attempt to get the president's tax returns. That's now in court.
But this is a multi-month process. And the Democrats felt at least for the short-term it was worth getting what they could from Lewandowski. And they did get some things from Lewandowski rather than, you know, trying to start the contempt process right away.
But this is why the White House is in so much control of the process. Is that they control access to virtually all the evidence, and unless the Democrats start going to court on everything, it's very hard for me to see what actual evidence they're going to produce in these impeachment hearings.
PHILLIP: And they control all the pace of all of this.
PHILLIP: That's the big part. To the extent that there is a legal strategy playing out from the White House's side, they know that a lot of these things are not going to be held up.
But they also believe that they can draw out the process and deny Democrats a narrative that can be useful to them politically. And that is -- that is the entirety of the strategy at this point. It is delay and, in a lot of cases, put road blocks in front of these investigations, whether they have legitimacy or not.
BERMAN: Can I just say, Corey said, yes, he's under no obligation to tell truth to media. But he also said just before that that he'll pretty much only tell the truth when under oath. He basically says he needs to be under oath to tell the truth. Right?
We know the Trump administration is fighting not to put people under oath before Congress, tooth and nail. So you have that contradiction there.
And I just have to say the admission that you're not going to tell the truth, you have no obligation to be candid is a stunning admission from someone so close to the president with implications that go way beyond that room yesterday on Capitol Hill, Jeffrey.
Well, and Corey Lewandowski is now an all-but-declared candidate for Senate in New Hampshire.
CAMEROTA: He just declared.
TOOBIN: Did he officially declare?
CAMEROTA: He was just on a morning show and said that he -- he said he's running, but he'll announce officially in October.
BERMAN: If you can believe him. He's under no obligation to tell the truth. So it could be November or December.
TOOBIN: Right. So he -- he's running for the Senate. You have to wonder what the voters of New Hampshire are going to think when, you know, this guy is running for office saying, well, the only time I'm obligated to tell the truth is when I'm under oath. I mean, you know, the people of New Hampshire are going to have to decide if that's what they want.
But it was quite clear yesterday that he was campaigning, at least for the -- the Trump part of the Republican Party primary vote, all through his testimony yesterday.
BERMAN: New Hampshire, live free or die, only under oath.
TOOBIN: That's right.
BERMAN: Maybe. All right. Abby, Jeffrey, thank you very much.
CAMEROTA: I will be swearing him in in an hour. I will be swearing Corey Lewandowski in on a Bible when he appears on NEW DAY to talk about yesterday's hearing and what's next for him.
All right. President Trump has been calling for another interest rate cut for weeks. Will that stimulate the uncertain economy? A former top economist in the White House joins us next.
[07:18:38] CAMEROTA: In just hours, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell is expected to announce another interest rate cut, the second in just two months. This comes as President Trump criticizes Powell for not doing many for to stimulate the U.S. economy.
Joining us now is Kevin Hassett. He's a former White House economic advisor. He's now a CNN economics commentator.
Kevin, great to have you here.
KEVIN HASSETT, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: Thanks.
CAMEROTA: Do you like this idea of the Fed rate cut today?
HASSETT: Well, I think that everybody expects the Fed is going to cut rates today. And I think that there is this problem. You know, Bill Dudley, who used to be the head of the New York Fed and was vice chair of the Open Market Committee, just sort of called on Democrats everywhere to resist President Trump. And he called on the Fed not to cut rates, because he wants to sort of punish the economy because of the negative effects of Trump's trade policy.
And I think that if they don't hike rates -- I mean cut rates today, then it's going to be really, really a political move. And that's really bad for the Fed. I think we're looking for a rate cut. And if we don't get one, it's going to be huge news.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, the signals suggest that we are going to get one. And my question is do you think that that will satisfy President Trump?
HASSETT: You know, I think President Trump wants the economy to be growing like hot cakes. I think a quarter point cut, you know, more than reverses the improvement move last December. And so I don't know if he's going to stop tweeting about Jay Powell, but yes, I think that a quarter-point cut is what he wants right now.
CAMEROTA: Do you agree that Jay Powell doesn't have a clue?
HASSETT: No. Not at all. You know, Jay's a very solid guy. And he's doing a good job of sort of tuning out the noise and focusing on monetary policy. And I think they made a mistake last December, and the president was pretty vocal about that, but they've kind of wound the mistake back. And I think that's what the Fed should do. It should watch the data. It should learn from what's going on, and it should adjust when necessary. And so, you know, I support Jay 100 percent.
CAMEROTA: Well, the fact that President Trump keeps criticizing him, do you think that that's putting some pressure on him?
HASSETT: No, not at all. You know, I think that, if you go back and look, there was a time when LBJ actually took the Fed chair and, like, shoved him up against the wall. I mean, there's been a lot of times where the White House and the Fed have been at loggerheads.
And you know, it's part of the job description for a Fed chair to just tune that out and focus on getting policy right. And I think that, you know, for sure, they made a mistake last December. They're not going to get everything right. But I think that Jay is doing the right thing. He's just focusing on his job.
CAMEROTA: I'm glad that we haven't gotten to the job of physical assault on the Fed chair.
HASSETT: Yes. It did happen in the past, though. I mean --
CAMEROTA: That's an interesting anecdote.
CAMEROTA: So the fact that this -- the Fed, if it happens today, as it looks likely, and it will have done it for the second time in, basically, two months, do you think that that will contribute to some anxiety?
HASSETT: Right, well, you know, again I think if I were there, I would probably not vote for a rate cut. Because the economy is looking pretty strong. Inflation is picking up a little bit. Wage inflation is actually picking up a lot. And I'm a little bit nervous about it.
But I think that the thing that's putting pressure on the Fed is that, in Europe, they really have their foot on the gas. They've got negative interest rates. They're doing quantitative easing again and so on. And so if the Fed doesn't act now, then there's going to be a real disconnect between U.S. policy and policy everywhere else. And I think they're worried about that, and that's what's moving them.
But yes, I think the U.S. economy is still strong, and this is going to make it a little stronger.
CAMEROTA: But you just said that you wouldn't vote for it, so --
HASSETT: No, I would not.
CAMEROTA: -- is it going to make it stronger? I hear you. So is it going to make it stronger or is it going to make it more anxiety filled?
HASSETT: Well, it's going to make it stronger, and then that's going to create inflationary risks. And you know, if things continue to chug along, then maybe they're going to have to reverse this next year. And so I think that's the kind of thing that they have to look forward to.
And so -- so I wouldn't have -- I might have reversed the cut in December. I think that rates are about where they ought to be. Two percent maybe is a good place to stop. And you know, I think we'll have to wait and see. But the other thing about this is that they're going to have an
announcement where they sort of say, "Here's what we're thinking." And I think the markets are really going to be looking at that closely. They want to see if there are going to be more rate cuts for the rest of the year.
And I think a lot of people expect that you'll get a rate cut but then a pretty strong or harsh announcement and that the markets are going to go down when they see that.
CAMEROTA: Hmm. So if you were still in the White House, you would advise President Trump not to press for this rate cut?
HASSETT: No, President Trump actually really likes having disagreement. And yes, for me I think that the problem is just that, because the economy is a lot stronger than people thought, then there are inflationary risks. And if you go back and look at the history of recessions, they tend to happen because inflation takes off, and the Fed has to really whack that with rate hikes.
And so I would be nervous about that. That's what I would be telling him right now.
CAMEROTA: Are you nervous about what's happening in Saudi Arabia right now and the ripple effect that it will have?
HASSETT: Well, the good news is that the Saudi Arabians have a lot of supply, and they seem to be getting stuff back online faster than we expected.
And so we saw oil prices spike almost to 70 bucks a barrel. And they're, you know, down six or seven bucks from there this morning in futures markets.
And so right now, the thing is contained. I think the problem is just that the Iranians or the Yemenis, whoever it is that attacked, they did something that people didn't expect was possible. And so the question is are they going to do it again? And I think that markets are going to be pretty nervous for a few weeks until they see that, you know, actually, those oil fields are safe.
And I think that you can probably still expect to see about 10 or 15 cents more at the pump because of this oil hike.
CAMEROTA: That's a really interesting prediction.
CAMEROTA: Kevin Hassett, thank you very much --
HASSETT: Thanks. It's great to be back.
CAMEROTA: -- for coming in, giving your perspective -- John.
BERMAN: Kevin is the most smiley economist I've ever seen. He's the happiest economist I've ever seen. It's helpful. CAMEROTA: Despite the warning of possible future peril.
BERMAN: But he was smiling during the peril. That's what's important.
All right. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heading to Saudi Arabia at this moment. The kingdom plans to show evidence that it says proves Iran was behind the attacks on its oil refineries. How will the U.S. respond? And more importantly, can the U.S. sell its policy to the world when the Trump administration has serious credibility problems?
BERMAN: New this morning, a U.S. official tells CNN that a forensic report is being prepared by U.S. investigators to piece together who they say carried out the attack on two Saudi oil fields and, specifically, how it was carried out.
This comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to arrive in Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince about, quote, "a coordinated response."
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, when you hear coordinated response with Saudi Arabia, what do you take away from that?
SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Well, when I hear coordinated response or the president and vice president saying we're locked and loaded, I worry that they're going to take military action. And there is absolutely no reason for the U.S. to go to war or engage in military action to protect Saudi oil. Zero.
Let the Saudis defend themselves. We sell them weapons. We give them advice. That's one thing. But to be engaged in military action, another war in the Middle East, a war to protect Saudi oil, and a war, based on what I believe is on some, you know, fundamental mistruths that the administration is promoting, is a disaster.
BERMAN: What mistruths?
KAINE: They're -- they're going around saying the attack was unprovoked. The U.S. is provoking Iran. We were in a diplomatic deal with them that allowed them to sell their oil. We pulled out of the deal, the U.S. pulled out.