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New Details on Whistleblower Complaint Involving President's Communication; Iran's Javad Zarif Vowed "All-Out War" Amid Saudi Oil Facilities Attack; Benny Gantz Only One Seat Ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 04:30   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?


CUOMO: So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

GIULIANI: Of course I did.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Those were not separate days. The same interview. The president and his allies on defense. Did the president lean on an ally to help his reelection effort?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Parts of Texas under water. At least two dead from devastating weather.

BRIGGS: Another episode of blackface and another apology from Justin Trudeau. Can the Canadian prime minister overcome the scandal before October's election?

CHATTERLEY: And the number of vaping cases skyrockets to over 500 nationwide. Now, the feds are investigating.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Julia Chatterley.

BRIGGS: So concerning.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, it is.

BRIGGS: The CDC needs to shed some more light on this.

I'm Dave Briggs. 4:31 Eastern Time. Happy Friday, everybody.

Compelling new details this morning about the whistleblower complaint that a source says concerns President Trump's communication with a foreign leader, talks that could be geared toward helping his reelection bid. The "Washington Post" first to report the complaint relates to Ukraine. That is according to two people familiar with the matter. The "Post" reports the complaint involved some kind of promise the president made. A promise so alarming a U.S. intel official blew the whistle.

CHATTERLEY: The timing may help put some of the pieces together here. Two and 1/2 weeks before the complaint, Mr. Trump spoke to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. And this was all around the time the president threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine. That hold was later pulled back. CNN has previously reported Mr. Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's supposed role in the dismissal of a prosecutor who investigated Biden's son.

Now Biden's campaign denies any wrongdoing here. Mr. Trump assigned his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to the effort. On CNN last night, Giuliani did not exactly settle the issue.


CUOMO: Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?

GIULIANI: No. Actually, I didn't. I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton for which there were already is a --

CUOMO: You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden and his role with a prosecutor?

GIULIANI: The only thing I asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lutsenko who was appointed.

CUOMO: Right.

GIULIANI: Dismissed the case against anti --

CUOMO: So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

GIULIANI: Of course I did.

CUOMO: You just said you didn't.


BRIGGS: Just wow. The phone call between Trump and Zelensky, a former comedian, mind you, already under investigation by House Democrats. The complaint remains shrouded in secrecy. Sources now say the White House, not the Justice Department, told the acting director of National Intelligence that the complaint is not covered by any whistleblower laws. Thursday the Intelligence inspector-general briefed the House Intel Committee and told lawmakers the complaint covers multiple events.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If the Department of Justice decides that an employee of the intelligence community who comes forward, follows the law, follows the process, is nonetheless outside the process, they're not protected, which not only means that this whistleblower is not protected, it means no whistleblower is protected. That is the danger of the DOJ's misinterpretation of the law.


BRIGGS: In a letter to the House Intel Committee, the Intelligence inspector general writes, quote, "The complaint's disclosure do not only falls within the DNI's jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI's responsibilities to the American people."

CHATTERLEY: Now the acting DNI is set to testify next week to the House and Senate Intel Committees. An official briefed on the matter tells CNN the whistleblower did not have direct knowledge of the communications that prompted the complaint. The official says that is one reason why the administration says the complaint does not have to be reported to Congress.


But a source close to the whistleblower pushes back, saying, quote, "It seems like the beginning of a smear to discredit the whistleblower."

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, deadly flooding in the Houston area from the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda. More than 40 inches of rain have fallen in some locations. The city of Houston warning residents to stay off the roads. Police say a man died in Harris County when he tried to drive through a flooded intersection and drowned in eight feet of water.

And in Jefferson County, a 19-year-old was electrocuted trying to move his horse in a lightning storm. There've already been hundreds of water rescues in Harris County and in Beaumont, Texas. Houston Police report recovering more than 200 abandoned vehicles on local streets and highways. Over eight million people under flash flood watches through the morning hours.

CHATTERLEY: And it's not over yet. For the latest on the forecast, let's get to our meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right, Dave and Julia. Can you believe it? It's Friday morning and we're still talking about the remnants of what was Tropical Storm Imelda. Wow, it has brought devastating rain to southeast Texas. Look at some of these rainfall totals in and around the Houston metro region. We saw at least 10 inches of rainfall. But just to the north and east, there were rainfall reports of 30 to even 40-plus inches, incredible amount of gulf moisture just streaming into the area.

It's no wonder that we still have eight million Americans under some sort of flood threat today, including the greatest Houston region and that it extends all the way towards southwestern Louisiana. Now in terms of the heaviest rainfall going forward, we're going to

focus our attention a little further to the north and east of Houston. That's where our computer models are showing the greatest possibility of heavy rain. Texas into the Arkansas and Louisiana border.

Here's a look at temperatures for the day today, 87 for New Orleans, 82 degrees in Chicago. A comfortable 79 for the Big Apple. Here's a look at the weekend and into early next week. Comfortable across the Great Lakes, as well.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: OK. Derek, thanks.

To politics now, frontrunners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are taking fire from the rest of the 2020 Democratic field. Bernie Sanders calling out Biden at a rally in North Carolina for attending three big-money fundraisers in Chicago.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The overwhelming -- overwhelming majority of our contributions comes from the working people of this country, and I'm very proud of that. I would contrast that with how my good friend, Vice President Biden, is raising money today.


BRIGGS: A billionaire real estate and casino developer who hosted one of the Biden fundraisers told the crowd Sanders and Warren don't represent the Democratic Party he supports. There is no indication whether Biden reacted to that comment.

CHATTERLEY: In the meantime, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are targeting Senator Warren on the health care and some of her more aggressive plans.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Warren is known for being straightforward and was extremely evasive when asked that question. And we've seen that repeatedly. I think that if you are proud of your plan and it's the right plan, you should defend it in straightforward terms.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a lot of great people running. But some of these ideas are better left in the college faculty lounge than right here at this port.


CHATTERLEY: And a shifting campaign strategy for Kamala Harris. She is all-in for Iowa and plans to make weekly visits to the state, with a goal of finishing in the top three in the caucus. BRIGGS: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau apologizing again for

wearing blackface. There are now three known incidents, including this video of Trudeau in racist makeup. He says he doesn't know how many times he did it. At a town hall Thursday, Trudeau said, quote, he lacked respect for marginalized people, that privilege gave him a massive blind spot.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: What I did was inexcusable and wrong, and hurt a lot of people who considered me to be an ally. And that is wrong. And I am deeply, deeply sorry. There's no way to sugarcoat it. It was something that I did wrong.


BRIGGS: Trudeau is trying to contain the furor over the images with his bid for reelection just a month away on October 21st.

CHATTERLEY: Iran's foreign minister warning there will be an all-out war if the U.S. or Saudi military launch a strike against his country. The Saudis have blamed Iran for the attack.

CNN's Nic Robertson in Saudi Arabia and joins us now by phone.

Nic, great to have you with us. What do we make of those comments from Iran at this stage? Inflammatory. It's tough to see what a path back to diplomacy here looks like.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (via phone): Look, I think Iran right now feels in some ways that it has the upper hand. President Trump was quite bullish in the beginning, is clearly backing away from taking action. Saudi Arabia is caught in a tough situation, it feels because it has so much to lose by escalating the conflict. That that's not the path they are going down but clearly that's a choice.


Clearly the attack on the site here, (INAUDIBLE) where we are right now, but four cruise missiles slammed into and you saw those pictures, the satellite images of the plumes of smoke rising up in the air. Having just landed here, those big clouds of smoke have obviously cleared. We're about to load off the buses to get a closer look at the site. But Saudi Arabia is now faced with this situation where it is turning towards the international community for support. But if it doesn't find it, it's still now faced with a dilemma that its sites are vulnerable to Iraq's pressures. And it must find a way to neutralize those pressures.

And so from a Saudi perspective at the moment, this is time of decision and it's a very tough time of decision and they would probably likely look to whatever international support they can get. You know, President Trump is going to take the issue to the UNGA this coming week in New York. But the Saudis really are casting around to friends and allies that they're going to get enough stepping forward to there be contain Iran's aggression as they see it.

CHATTERLEY: This situation has proved here, Nic, as well as that when a facility like this in Saudi is attacked, it has global implications. Higher oil prices, higher gas prices in the United States. To Saudis' point here, there needs to be an international solution here. To your point, can we achieve that? And does President Trump become part of the solution here or is he remaining part of the problem?

ROBERTSON: Yes. President Trump, at least his Middle East partners, are sort of standing at the position President Obama was when he drew a red line in the sand over Syria. That if President Trump doesn't step up now, the United States doesn't step up, then the United States standing as an ally, as the protector of Gulf partners, is going to diminish. And that that is -- this is going to be a very testing time for that. Not only watched by Gulf allies of the United States, but Iran for the United States response.

Iran feels under pressure by the maximum pressure sanctions. And if it has a tool at its disposal to turn on and off oil supplies in the world, this is, as the Saudi (INAUDIBLE) a problem for the Iranians right now. That is a very, very powerful tool. You cannot underestimate the point that we are at in geopolitics not only for the weapons systems to defeat expensive deterrents that Saudi Arabia has but -- not only the technology but there is the intent and the will and the capacity to use it.

It's not only a problem for Saudi Arabia. It's a global problem. Not only a problem for oil businesses, it's also a problem for infrastructures in any country around the globe. This is an infliction point. I don't think we can underestimate that enough at this time.

CHATTERLEY: Now we're seeing graphic images on screen right now to display that.

Nic, fantastic to have you with us. Nic Robertson there.

BRIGGS: Boy, a pivotal couple of weeks ahead for this president. Not just on our economy but with world leaders and Iran. Crucial couple of weeks.

CHATTERLEY: It's been a busy few years, quite frankly to say.

BRIGGS: Well, yes, but right now it feels particularly hot.

CHATTERLEY: Feels -- yes, I agree. Time to phone a friend.


CHATTERLEY: Not the president. Maybe Apple.

BRIGGS: Yes. Ahead, the new iPhone, it comes out today. Some very cool new features. But one of them could be a security risk that's still not fixed. The latest ahead.


CHATTERLEY: Apple's iPhone 11 will officially be released today. Early demand for the new model has been strong so far. That's good news for the company, amid the ongoing trade war. Even as Apple tries to grow its services business, iPhone is still its biggest source of revenue. The company also released its new IOS software yesterday, too. Now that includes new features, such as dark mode, which is meant to reduce eyestrain, and a new subscription gaming service.

It also includes a new privacy feature to limit the amount of information required to log into apps. But the new software has previous issues of its own. The system allows potential hackers who have physical access to the phone to get users' contract details without a passcode. Now Apple knew about the problem back in July but the problem has not yet been fixed. The company said that the issue will be resolved in the next version of the operating system that is set to be released next week.

BRIGGS: There is now an eighth death from vaping nationwide. Now 530 cases reported in 39 states and one territory. That is up from 150 cases from the week before. The latest death is in Missouri, the first case in that state. Health officials say the patient had normal lung function before he started vaping in May. The Food and Drug Administration is launching a criminal investigation into the spike in vaping-related illnesses. The director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products say they are in desperate need of facts. CHATTERLEY: Breaking overnight, a police manhunt in Washington, D.C.

for two men suspected in a deadly drive-by shooting. Police say six people were shot, one fatally with an AK-style rifle.


It happened around 10:00 last night in the courtyard of an apartment complex. Five people suffered gunshot wounds and were taken to local hospitals. The suspects were said to be driving a light-colored sedan.

BRIGGS: Nike is cutting ties with Antonio Brown. The announcement coming more than a week after the Patriots wide receiver was accused of rape and sexual assault in a federal lawsuit by his former trainer, Britney Taylor. On Thursday, Brown spoke to the media for the first time since the allegations.


ANTONIO BROWN, NFL PLAYER: I'm going to focus on the ball and look forward to getting out there in the home stadium, you know, and being with the team.


BRIGGS: Meantime, a source with knowledge of Britney Taylor's 10-hour interview with the NFL says it was, quote, "professional and obviously emotional." CHATTERLEY: All right. We're going to take a quick break here. But

coming up, newly public tech companies haven't done so well in the markets this year. But I'll tell you, that's not stopping more from announcing plans to IPO. CNN Business after this with all of the details.



BRIGGS: Both candidates in Israel's election looking for an advantage in a contest that remains deadlocked. Benny Gantz even claiming victory moments after Benjamin Netanyahu's call for a power sharing coalition. In reality, the vote is too close to call. But Netanyahu's offer to share power is a sign he has no clear path to leadership.

Sam Kiley live in Jerusalem with the latest.

What about Netanyahu avoiding prosecution? Is there a path to that given the dynamic of this race?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, there's no chance whatsoever now for Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid the beginning of the court case against him, the indictment process, which is scheduled for October 2nd. Whatever happens during coalition negotiations over the next few weeks, they almost certainly will not be over, certainly not in a position in which Mr. Netanyahu could establish himself as a prime minister with 61 seats in a 120-seat Knesset, and introduce the sort of legislation that he wants to bring forward, which would give him immunity from prosecution.

And so simultaneously with that, of course, Benny Gantz has also said that he wants to have a government of national unity. His party, the Blue and White, is about one ahead of Likud, from Netanyahu, in the number of seats won in the election. So it is conceivable that he may get the first opportunity under the rules set by President Reuven Rivlin to invite somebody to form a government.

All of this happening, Dave, whilst Jason Greenblatt, the principal or one of the principal authors of Trump's so-called deal of the century in terms of the trying to find a resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is in town and he's been meeting or is meeting both with Mr. Netanyahu and with Mr. Gantz. Nobody knows exactly what's going on in those conversations. But the assumption is, he's trying get an idea of when if ever to drop that deal on to the international community -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Long and winding road ahead. Sam Kiley live for us in Jerusalem. Thank you.

CHATTERLEY: I'm so excited about this story. Around two million people have registered online to attend today's "Storm Area 51" event in rural Nevada. Another 1.3 million said they are, quote, "interested" in coming to meet aliens. A college student created the event in June as a joke. Nobody knows how many people might actually show up at the military installation. The organizers tried to turn it into a music festival called Alien Stock but the creator backed out last week.

BRIGGS: All right.


BRIGGS: We've got to go. Can we -- can we make it there in time?


CHATTERLEY: We both love this story.

BRIGGS: Now to --


CHATTERLEY: It's OK. It's a good one. Don't worry. Yes.

BRIGGS: It is a good one. All right. We'll talk more about this later on. But first, a Navy dad, home on leave from Iraq, with a great surprise for his kids.

Once was not enough for Senior Chief Michael Forjan who had been in Iraq since April. He had tear-jerking surprise reunions with all four of his children in one day at three different schools in Florida. Forjan is due to return to duty in Iraq but not before enjoying some much-needed time with his wife and kids.

CHATTERLEY: Gorgeous. All right. Let's get a check now on CNN Business this morning. Let me give you a look at what we're seeing for the global markets.

Higher as you can see over in Tokyo there. A bit of pressure in Europe, as well, though slight. Asia stocks as you can see there higher, obviously waiting for developments, the key thing here, on the U.S.-China trade war. Trade talks, lower level though, kicking off once again this week. Markets, as you can see in terms of futures for the United States, a touch higher today. Obviously, the big story this week was the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates on Wednesday.

Now a bit of volatility. The Dow had been up for most of the day yesterday before falling around 52 points. In fact, we've gone nowhere fast this week as far as U.S. markets are concerned.

Now, there's a new tech company that wants to go public. I mentioned it earlier. Airbnb said it plans to have an initial public offering next year. The home rental service was most recently valued at $31 billion in the private market. Since its founding, it's evolved into more of a full-service travel company. It announced Airbnb Adventures in June offering trip packages around the world.

Now the company is not on the easiest of paths. Others that have gone public this year, such as Uber, Lyft and Slack, have all seen their stocks fall.