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Whistleblower Complaint Relates To Ukraine; Worldwide Walkouts Planned Over Climate Crisis; Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau Apologizes Again For Wearing Blackface. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 05:30   ET





CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "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: The president and his allies on defense. Did President Trump lean on an ally to help his reelection effort?

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

BRIGGS: And 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: Good morning.

CHATTERLEY: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Parents across this country are awfully concerned about that story. I'm Dave Briggs, 5:33 Eastern time.

We start with some major news. 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 a half weeks before the complaint, Mr. Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This was all around the time the president threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine. That hold was later dropped.

CNN had 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.

Mr. Trump assigned his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to the effort. On CNN last night, Giuliani not exactly settling 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 already is a court finding.

CUOMO: You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden and his role with the 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 --

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

GIULIANI: Of course I did.

CUOMO: You just said you didn't.


BRIGGS: Apologies if your neck hurts from the whiplash there.

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 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, who follows the law and 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.


CHATTERLEY: Now, in a letter to 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."

The acting DNI is set to testify next week to the House and Senate Intel Committees.

BRIGGS: All right. Joining us this morning, Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast" and a CNN political analyst. Good to see you, Jackie.


BRIGGS: There is a lot to figure out here.


BRIGGS: A lot of confusing details, but on the surface, let me just ask you this. From what it appears, did the President of the United States lean on a foreign world leader and have his lawyer lean on that foreign government to help his reelection chances? Is that what it appears?

KUCINICH: Well, according to Rudy Giuliani, I guess his second answer there is that he actually -- he was inquiring about Joe Biden.

And then you have the other piece and these dots, I don't think have been connected yet. But you have the Ukrainian aid that Congress passed and appropriated being held up by the White House as this investigation launches and then, last week, it was finally released.

So the time line here certainly doesn't look good for this White House.

And not to mention they're trying to block Congress from getting this information. And while this is something the White House has done a lot there -- stonewalling Congress on a number of fronts -- this is particularly egregious because it does seem -- it does appear that this is in violation of the whistleblower law. And we could end up seeing this going to court like we've seen a lot of the White House's attempts to stonewall Congress.

CHATTERLEY: I mean, what we saw yesterday, as well, was the Intel inspector general testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee, admittedly behind closed doors.


CHATTERLEY: When he was asked for more information about the whistleblower and what the concerns -- and multiple concerns, it's believed -- he said he wasn't authorized to do so. The suggestion from reporting is that it's the White House putting pressure on him, not allowing him to give that information. That's what we're looking at here, too.

KUCINICH: Yes, and I'm actually interested to see what happens next week when Senate Intel is briefed --


KUCINICH: -- and they receive the same testimony because throughout the Russia investigation the Senate Intel tended to be a lot less partisan, a lot more bipartisan in their interactions, both with each other and with the White House. So we might perhaps know a little bit more after that and maybe they'll be able to work something out.

But yes, you're absolutely right. This is -- it does seem like the White House is the one blocking this from occurring.

But I want to take a step back and this does also underscore how little we know about this president's interactions with foreign leaders. The White House doesn't always send out detailed briefings or sometimes, any briefings that the president has calls with foreign leaders.

There's times where we find out from state media -- from another government or another country's media -- particularly, adversarial. Sometimes you'll see that there's been cases where Russia knows about a meeting before the United States does.

So -- and that's not even considering the president's private conversations with foreign leaders just on his cell phone. So there -- it reminds us just how little we know about those interactions.

BRIGGS: Yes. Well, with many cases, as is with this one, we get a lot from the other side.



BRIGGS: And the Ukraine had already put out there that President Trump had asked Zelensky -- the former comedian, mind you -- that the Ukraine could improve its reputation and its, quote, "interaction with the United States" by investigating corruption. And then you connect these threads --


BRIGGS: -- that perhaps the president dangled cutting off military aid if they did not help.

But now, let's just fast-forward a few hours and say the White House just says look, we deserve confidential interaction with world leaders and we're trying to clean up corruption in Ukraine. Is that a plausible explanation here?

KUCINICH: If it didn't involve a political adversary, perhaps.

BRIGGS: Yes, you got me there.

KUCINICH: And that -- well, and therein lies the problem. I mean, this story has everything. It has the White House, Congress, 2020 all tied up together.

And the fact that Giuliani said explicitly that he did ask about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden -- that's sort of all you need, right?

Now, where this goes in the coming hours and days we'll have to see, but it certainly -- it's complicated. But the White House isn't looking good, at least where we are right now.

CHATTERLEY: So what are we expecting the next week or are we just going to see a legal battle here to get hold of this whistleblower information because we're in a situation where the people who have oversight of this whistleblower are the people cited, potentially, in the complaint?

KUCINICH: Well, right. So we'll have to see what Congressman Schiff decides to do. That certainly is something that he said is on the table.

But again, I would be curious to see what happens with Senate Intel with Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat from Virginia, and Sen. Richard Burr, Republican from North Carolina, and how they proceed and what questions they ask, and what we learn from that meeting as to see how this goes forward and whether some sort of deal can be struck.

BRIGGS: The White House needs --

CHATTERLEY: We'll see.

BRIGGS: -- a distraction. Watch out, Iran -- I'm just saying. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks.

KUCINICH: Ooh, boy.

BRIGGS: Jackie Kucinich, thank you so much. Have a great weekend.

KUCINICH. Thank you -- you, too.

CHATTERLEY: How far this executive privilege extends. That's the question.

BRIGGS: Executive privilege has been obliterated in this last two years.

All right, let's talk some 2020 politics. Front-runners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren taking heat from the rest of their 2020 field.

Bernie Sanders calling out Biden at a rally in North Carolina for attending three big-money fundraisers in Chicago.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The 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: The 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. No indication whether Biden reacted to that particular comment.

CHATTERLEY: In the meantime, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar targeting Sen. Warren on health care and some of her other more progressive plans.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, 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've got 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 shift in campaign strategy for Kamala Harris. She's all in for Iowa, planning to make weekly visits to the state with a goal of finishing in the top three in the caucus.

BRIGGS: 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.

Overnight, barges hit the I-10 bridge over the San Jacinto River, shutting down the freeway. There have 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. And over eight million people under flash flood watches through the morning hours.

Coming up here, thousands of events in more than 100 countries today calling for action on the climate crisis. CNN live in Paris, ahead.



BRIGGS: Today, people all over the world are set to walk out of their schools and workplaces to demand action addressing the global climate crisis.

Monitoring the global protests for us, CNN's Melissa Bell in our Paris bureau. Good morning, Melissa. What are we seeing around the globe today?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, some pretty impressive pictures already, Dave. Normally, it is on New Year's Eve that we watch that progression across the world. Today, it is this climate strike and walkout. People walking out not just a schools but, as you say, of work.


The third such climate marches that we've seen worldwide, but what organizers are hoping is that these will be the biggest. We've seen hundreds of thousands turning up in Australia, in the Philippines, in Korea, in Bangkok, in Delhi.

And in the next couple of hours here in Europe, that's what we're expecting to see as well. Here in Paris, but also in London, in Berlin, in Brussels, in Stockholm. Marches have been planned in so many different cities to try and call for urgent action on climate change.

And as you mentioned a moment ago Dave, we've seen these movements really inspired by Greta Thunberg over the course of the last few months -- these Friday walkouts from school.

This time, what the organizers are hoping is that the grownups are going to leave their workplaces, too. We're expecting action from the employees of Amazon, Google, Facebook -- so many of the world's biggest companies. Companies like Patagonia, the clothing shop, have simply closed down operations to allow their people to take part.

The question is whether organizers will get those numbers out there -- whether they will achieve that ambition of today being -- seeing, rather, the greatest number of people out on the streets for the cause of fighting climate change, Dave.

BRIGGS: There, in Paris -- schools and businesses here in New York, as well. Melissa Bell, good to see you. Thank you.

CHATTERLEY: A call to action.

All right, let's move on.

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.


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 is no way to sugarcoat it. It was something that I did wrong.


CHATTERLEY: Trudeau trying to contain the backlash with his bid for reelection just a month away on October 21st.

BRIGGS: Grab the Kleenex, folks. A Navy dad home on leave from Iraq with a great surprise for his kiddos.




BRIGGS: Ooh, that got it -- all right.

Once was not enough for Sr. 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 in 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. Thank you for your service, sir.

We'll be right back.



BRIGGS: Purdue Pharma will be allowed to pay out nearly $34 million in bonuses to employees when it goes through bankruptcy. Purdue Pharma faces thousands of lawsuits for fueling the nation's opioid crisis through the sale of the painkiller OxyContin.

The judge overseeing the bankruptcy case issued an interim order approving the company's request made at an initial court hearing this week. The filing does not protect members of the Sackler family. The file hearing on the issue will be held October 10th.

CHATTERLEY: A New Jersey man accused of terrorist activities on behalf of Hezbollah. Prosecutors say 42-year-old Alexei Saab conducted surveillance and photographed locations in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

They say sometime around 2003, Saab was instructed by a, quote, "handler in Lebanon" to prepare a detailed report on New York. The criminal complaint says the report included the U.N. headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island, the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square, and the city's three major airports.

BRIGGS: There's now an eighth death from vaping nationwide and 530 cases reported in 39 states and one territory. That's up 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 says they are in desperate need of facts.

CHATTERLEY: Yes. Act first, facts later, I think.

All right, let's move on to what is my favorite story of the day. 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 quite interested in coming to meet aliens.

A college student created the event in June as a joke and nobody knows how many people might actually show up at the military installation. The organizers tried to turn it into a music festival called -- get it -- Alien Stock --

BRIGGS: Got it.

CHATTERLEY: -- yes -- but the creator actually backed out last week. Oh dear, what do we think of this?

BRIGGS: I love -- I love the marketing of this whole thing. Bud Light really jumped on board, selling special Area 51 beer cans. They even sold out a bomber jacket -- a $100 --


BRIGGS: -- Bud Light alien Area 51 jacket -- sold out.

CHATTERLEY: Arby's sent a food truck roadside to meet -- a 2,000-mile road trip here. E.T. sliders on the secret menu as well. How -- look at that.

BRIGGS: Ooh, look at that beverage. I'm surprised Starbucks doesn't have one of those.

CHATTERLEY: Ooh, aliens -- yes.

BRIGGS: All right. So it's not yet, what, 3:00 a.m. I think we can --

CHATTERLEY: We've got time.

BRIGGS: -- we can make it there. We're going.

CHATTERLEY: To get aliens (ph).

BRIGGS: It's only going to be about 5,000 people, but we'll try.

CHATTERLEY: There's plenty on this planet, never mind anywhere else.

All right, that's it for the show. Thank you for joining us. I'm Julia Chatterley.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Here's "NEW DAY." Have a wonderful weekend.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, September 20th. It's 6:00 here in New York.

And we have new developments breaking all over the place. We're going to run through all the new details and there are many.

But this morning, the basic question is this. Did the President of the United States use American power and American money to try to get a foreign country to go after a political opponent?

"The Washington Post," this morning, is reporting that a whistleblower filed a complaint about President Trump's contact with a foreign leader. The substance of that contact, they say, involved Ukraine and a, quote, "alarming promise."

The Intelligence Community inspector general, a Trump appointee, found the complaint credible and a matter of urgent -