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Whistleblower Complaint Relates to Ukraine; Torrential Rain Turns Deadly in Texas; Third Blackface Incident For Trudeau; Yankees Clinches First AL East Title Since 2012. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 05:00   ET



JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR: The company is not on the easiest of paths. Others that have gone public this year, such as Uber, Lyft and Slack, have seen their stocks fall.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.



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.


BRIGGS: Whiplash, anyone?

The president and his allies on defense. Did the president lean on an ally to help his re-election effort?

CHATTERLEY: 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?

CNN live this morning in Tehran, Paris and Jerusalem on extraordinary visit Friday.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Julia Chatterley. BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Friday, September 20th. That means Area 51

day. More on that in a moment. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We start with compelling, new details this morning about the whistleblower complaint that a source says concerns President Trump's communications 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: Now, 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 dropped.

Now, 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. Biden's campaign denies any wrongdoing. Mr. Trump assigned his attorney, Rudy Giuliani to the effort.

Now, on CNN last night, Giuliani not exactly settling the matter.


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 in the --

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 AntAC.

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

GIULIANI: Of course I did.

CUOMO: You just said you didn't.


BRIGGS: We need a Chris Cuomo face there. I mean, that warranted a Cuomo face. The phone call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky already under

investigation by House Democrats. The complaint remains shrouded in secrecy. Sources now say the White House, not only the Justice Department, told the acting director of national intelligence that the complaint is not covered by whistleblower laws. Thursday, the intelligence inspector-general 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 the letter, the House Intel Committee, the intelligence inspector-general writes: The complainant's disclosure 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: 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 communication that prompted complaint. The official says this 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 it, quote, seems like the beginning of a smear to discredit the whistleblower.

BRIGGS: To the weather now, and 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 is 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's been hundreds of water rescues in Harris County and Beaumont, Texas.


Houston police report recovering more than 200 abandoned vehicles on local streets and highways. Over 8 million people under flash flood watches through the morning hours.

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


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-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.


CHATTERLEY: A billionaire real estate and casino developer who hosted one of the Biden fund-raisers told the crowd Sanders and Warren, quote, don't represent the party he supports. There's no indication whether Biden reacted to that comment at the event.

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


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), 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.


BRIGGS: And a shift in campaign strategy for Kamala Harris. She's 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.

CHATTERLEY: All right. On to another top story here, Iran's foreign minister warns there will be an all-out war, quote, if the U.S. or Saudi military launch a strike against his country. Javad Zarif spoke exclusively to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh who joins us live from Tehran.

Nick, an incredible interview here, an interaction with the foreign minister. A lot of rhetoric here. The threat of fresh sanctions from the United States on Iran.

What's the path back to ratchet down the tensions and a future of diplomacy here more than anything else?


Donald Trump did say that he would be announcing new sanctions against Iran within 48 hours. We haven't heard that yet. Instead, we now have the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, saying that if U.S. does launch military strikes, or Saudi does, Saudi Arabia does, there will be, quote, all-out war.

I have to say, the tone there was not really one of belligerence. He simply said, don't think if you attack us, it will be all overnight in a tit-for-tat exchange. Broadly, I think suggesting Iran does not want conflict. Although at the same time, doesn't really feel it has to diplomacy as an option, too.

Javad Zarif is on his way to New York, had gotten a U.S. visa finally to attend the United Nations General Assembly. President Hassan Rouhani will follow him on Monday.

I asked him after all of the bluster from Donald Trump, and the possibility of military action, how did he see the president's position? Here's what he said.


PATON WALSH: Do you believe Donald Trump is gun shy?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: ZARIF: No. I believe that he has been the subject of an attempt many times to drag the United States into a war. And he has refused. And in spite of the fact that I disagree with many of his policies, I think this is a prudent decision. But it doesn't mean that somebody is gun shy in order to avoid starting a war based on a lie.


PATON WALSH: Now, tweets this morning from Mr. Zarif pointed again to conflict in Yemen and the loss, he said, a hundred thousand lives there, 30 million people are suffering malnutrition as really the focus of what has been Iran's case there. They say the Yemeni Houthi rebels are behind that attack on Saudi Arabia oil fields, despite U.S. and Saudi officials offering some evidence that it was possibly Iran- backed, although they've been unclear whether they think it was launched from Iranian territory in terms of actual evidence and direct accusations.

But it seems that this begins to perhaps ebbed as a standoff unless there's something happening under Donald Trump's sleeves that we haven't seen that diplomacy shifts to New York, as the Iranian delegation is there for U.N. General Assembly.

Back to you.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, it's going to be an interesting meeting.

Nick Paton Walsh there, thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: Boy, sure will.

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 he, quote, lacked respect for marginalized people and 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.


I think it was something that I did wrong.


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

CHATTERLEY: Yes, it's been fascinating to watch.

Well, the news flow this week has meant been a pretty wild week for markets worldwide. All prices spiking and falling, stressing the lending markets and some curious comments, I have to say, from Mike Pence. All of the details, next.



CHATTERLEY: Welcome back to the show.

Now, for the fourth day in a row, the New York Fed will inject $75 billion into the financial system. The move is to ease stress in the overnight lending market.

CNN Business writer Matt Egan is here to demystify what sounds incredibly complicated here.

What we saw this week was borrowing costs between banks spiking. And this, for the first time, since what? 2008, the financial crisis.

It suggests concern. How concerned should we be?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: This has really been a remarkable story and the market kind of take for granted, but it's actually really central to the financial system.

The best way to think about it is, the overnight lending market, it's like the plumbing of the capital markets. We saw lending rates really spike. That shows that there's a cash crunch. Essentially, the plumbing is broken.

And so, what we've had is now the Federal Reserve is coming in and acting like the plumber. They're going to try to fix this by pumping in a whole bunch of cash to try to keep things operating smoothly. Jay Powell, the Fed chief, was asked about this and he said, you know, there really is no impact on the real economy. But we do need to keep an eye on this, right? Because if this were to

continue, investors would start to get a little bit worried and maybe the Fed doesn't have control over borrowing costs. And that, of course, would have to boil over to the real economy.

CHATTERLEY: They're using lots of tools here.


CHATTERLEY: The problem is, sometimes things go wrong and it's like whack-a-mole --

BRIGGS: And the president would like them to use more, even though he says it's the best economy we've ever had, he wants the Fed to continue in cutting.

And that's nothing new him warring against Jerome Powell. What is new or felt new to me is Mike Pence, the vice president, telling Joe Kernen this about policy here as related to Europe. Listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president's message to the Federal Reserve is we ought to have a monetary policy in the United States that supports growth and also levels the playing field with our competitive partners. I mean, you essentially have zero interest rates in Europe.


BRIGGS: OK, number one, has that worked in Europe? And do we want what Europe has?

EGAN: I hope not, right, because Europe has negative interest rates. And so far, there's no evidence that that's worked. Europe still has a slow-growing economy. They still have a soft inflation and, worse, they have a banking system that's really gotten crushed most likely by these negative interest rates.

So, there is a little bit of an irony here, right? Because we shouldn't really be jealous of extremely low interest rates, because raising rates is actually a sign of health, right? The Fed wouldn't have raised rates if it weren't confident.

But here's the other reason why and it's a little bit ironic, is the Fed was responding last year to really unorthodox policies. The Trump administration, they went ahead and they stimulated on already healthy economy, right, by boosting spending and, of course, cutting taxes. So, the worry was that this was going to somehow overheat the economy.

So, maybe the Fed raise rates a little bit too quickly, but it was also just reacting to this. And now, it's also trying to make sense of another unorthodox policy, the trade war and there really has no playbook for having the two biggest economies in the world at war.

CHATTERLEY: I tell you what? Most European countries would love to have the kind of growth that the United States has right now.

And what about savers? If you've got negative rates, savers don't make any money. It's desperate.

I want to move on to something that happened this week and it's I think vitally important. At the time when we're hoping that the U.S. consumer can remain strong, the situation as we've been talking about, throughout the show with Saudi and the spike in oil prices that we saw. What does that mean ultimately for the U.S. economy and for the U.S. consumer?

EGAN: Well, listen, we talk a lot about the Fed. Saudi Arabia is kind of like the central bank of the oil market, right?


EGAN: And Saudi Arabia was hit with this unprecedented attack on its oil facility. So, it was very concerning and we learned about this over the weekend. We saw oil prices spike up on Monday. But it feels like the real economy may has dodged a little bullet here. Oil prices have come down somewhat.

Yes, gas prices have gone up about 10 cents a gallon over the last week. But it doesn't feel like the oil markets are going crazy. I think calmer heads have prevailed, and that's because Saudi Arabia has really expressing some confidence that they'd be able to get things back online. They talked about how the oil shipments won't miss a beat here because they have extra stockpiles that they're going to be using while they try to get everything back up and running.

So, we do need to watch this carefully. It is a risk because higher prices would certainly hurt consumers and businesses. And maybe we dodged a bullet here.

BRIGGS: And we heard of a quarter a gallon raise. Javad Zarif here in New York, you never know what could happen with that story.

Matt Egan, CNN Business, great to have you, my friend. Have a great weekend.

EGAN: Thank you, guys.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead here, for the first time in seven years, the Yankees get to wear the AL East crown. Coy Wire has the celebration in "The Bleacher Report."



BRIGGS: Nike is cutting ties with Antonio Brown. The announcement comes as the Patriots wide receiver faced the media for the first time since he was accused of rape and sexual assault in a civil lawsuit by his former trainer, Britney Taylor.

[20:25:00] Coy Wire has that story in "The Bleacher Report" live from Gainesville, Florida.

We'll get to Antonio. What are you doing in Gainesville?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Big match-up this weekend, Dave. The Florida Gators hosting their bitter rival Tennessee. Tennessee struggling, but it's going to be a good match-up, indeed.

BRIGGS: All right.

WIRE: Now, when it comes to Brown, he faced reporters for the first time since signing with the Patriots last Monday. Remember, he left the locker room without having spoken to the media when they played Sunday's game down in Miami. That broke the league's media policy.

But Brown did talk to the media after practice yesterday. He took four questions in a little over a minute, and made it clear that his focus was strictly on football.


ANTONIO BROWN, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS WIDE RECEIVER: I'm just here to focus on ball and look forward to getting out there in the home stadium, and be home with the team.


WIRE: Brown and his lawyers have denied the allegations against him. He is scheduled to make his home debut Sunday against the Jets.

Let's turn to the action on the field. Thursday night football, taking place just about an hour from here in Jacksonville. It seems like Jacksonville has Minshew mania going on. Look at that mustache under that face mask.

Gardner Minshew, the rookie sixth round pick, has taken over for the injured Nick Foles and stepped up in a big way. Two touchdown passes over the Titans. He now has five TD tosses in his first three games, just one interception. Jags win 20-7. Both teams now 1-2 on the year.

Now, we are here in Gainesville for our ultimate tailgate. Number nine Florida hosting the Vols on Saturday. And I hope it's this awesome as the ending we had last night in New Orleans. Tulane, appearing to be content to go to overtime against Houston, but look at the fake kneel.

This is an 18-yard run by Amare Jones. And on the next play, they're alive. Over the middle to Jalen McCleskey who makes the catch and 53 yards to the house. And scoring with three seconds left. Tulane coming back from 21 down to beat Houston, 38-31.

Finally, the Yankees can break out the champagne bottles in the Bronx. They clinch their first AL East title since 2020. They did it with a win over the Angels, their 100th win of the season, incredible, Dave, considering they have put 30 players on the injured list this year.

Yankees are a half-game back of the Astros for the best record in baseball. Some of the pitching issues, we know what kind of pitching the Astros have to present a big challenge for the pinstripes moving into the postseason.

BRIGGS: Yes, Coy, it's really good news/bad news for the Yankees because Domingo Herman who might be their best pitcher on administrative leave related to a domestic incident. I'll show you "The Post" front page. He could be unavailable for the postseason, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. And that would be a huge loss for the Yanks.

Enjoy the weekend there in Gainesville, my friend. Thank you.

Julia, what's coming up?

CHATTERLEY: Wow, coming up after this, we're asking the question, did the president lean on a foreign ally to help his re-election effort? Some tantalizing new details about a whistleblower's claim after this.

Stay with EARLY START.