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Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) Discusses Whistleblower Scandal; Global Climate Protests Kick Off In Australia Ahead Of U.N. Summit; Beyond The Call Of Duty: Georgia Officers Go All-Out For Special Needs Boy. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 07:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So what did the inspector general tell lawmakers behind closed doors yesterday? Whatever it was, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee is now threatening to sue the Trump administration if the whistleblower complaint is not shared with Congress.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She serves on the Intelligence Committee. She was in that closed-door briefing yesterday with the I.G. Congresswoman, thanks so much for being here.

Can you give us a little bit more color of what your impressions were of that -- what happened behind those closed doors yesterday?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Well, Inspector General Atkinson, I think, showed great courage and sense of responsibility. He's appointed by President Trump. He's been in that position for 15 months.

He has never elevated a whistleblower complaint to the committee with the designation urgent. And urgent, under this set of circumstances, means that it's highly controversial in terms of its risk to national security. So this is of the utmost concern and interest to the committee and to the American people and yet, we are not being allowed to see it.

So the checks and balances in our country right now are crumbling before our very eyes and it is incumbent on those of us who have the power to act to do things to prevent this president from acting with impunity and without any recognition of the law. It says shall return this information to the committees.

CAMEROTA: Did the I.G., yesterday, tell you why he felt it was an urgent matter?

SPEIER: He told us it met the standard. And, you know, he was encumbered because he was unable to tell us the topic, he was unable to tell us anything about the complainant, and he really has his hands tied. And yet, he knows because he's been in the Department of Justice for

15 years beforehand -- been given all kinds of citations for doing such extraordinary work. He knows that what's being asked of him is wrong and it's illegal under the law.

CAMEROTA: Was he able to confirm that it was involving Ukraine?

SPEIER: No. What we know is zero.

So if, in fact, what is being reported is true, that means that the President of the United States is using taxpayer money to try and have opposition research for his political campaign determined by how much money he gives to a foreign country. I mean, it is reprehensible.

CAMEROTA: Well, the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says it's justified, it's fine, it's -- I think he's trying to suggest that it's sort of par for the course.

Here he is last night on CNN.


RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All I can tell you is if what is reported is true, it doesn't make a damn. It doesn't make any difference.

If the President of the United States said to the president of Ukraine, investigate the corruption in your country that has a bearing on our 2016 election, isn't that what's he supposed to do?


CAMEROTA: Is Giuliani right?

SPEIER: What's so ironic about that is the president has made no effort -- in fact, has disputed the fact that Russia worked in efforts to undermine our election in 2016 and refuses to admit that that took place.

There is a serious problem here and Rudy Giuliani is not the spokesman of truth, for sure.

CAMEROTA: How did the Republican -- your Republican colleagues on the committee respond inside the room? Do they want to see this complaint or do they want it to be shielded?

SPEIER: I think they are interested in seeing this complaint. This has been a bipartisan effort in the House Intelligence Committee to call for both the inspector general and the director of National Intelligence to come before the committee. I think the subpoena of the director of National Intelligence was also bipartisan and unanimous, so there is that interest.

But there will be an effort to protect the president, as has been the case throughout the last 2 1/2 years, if it is found that the president acted illegally in this matter. CAMEROTA: Well, here is what Congressman Kevin McCarthy, a Republican on the committee, said after that closed-door meeting. Listen to this.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I know the media always wants to rush when they think something's sensationalist and nine times out of 10 we find out a lot of that's not true. This is not something I'd ever see the president doing and I would, instead of jumping to conclusions, actually get the facts first.


CAMEROTA: Does he not believe the inspector general?

SPEIER: No. But I think what's interesting about it is he actually is making the case that if, in fact, it is true, it's a serious problem.


We don't know if it's true. We don't even know if that is, in fact, what the whistleblower has complained about.

But the other thing that's really important to point out here Alisyn is if this whistleblower loses the protections under the Whistleblower Act, he could be reprised again. He can be in a situation where he could lose his or her job.

And the whistleblower law is there to protect persons who come forward to want to report abuse, fraud, and who oftentimes, are there to save taxpayers a lot of money. It's been over $59 billion since the Whistleblower Act was created in terms of money that has been returned to the Treasury because whistleblowers have spoken up.

CAMEROTA: I didn't know that -- $59 billion. That is really important context.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you very much for explaining what you heard and experienced yesterday behind closed doors. Obviously, we're continuing to follow it.

SPEIER: Thank you, Alisyn.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, breaking news on the 2020 front. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced he is ending his presidential run.

De Blasio did not make the last presidential debate stage and he had been struggling in the polls. In fact, in his home state in New York we just noted, moments ago, he was at zero in the presidential preference poll, most recently. CAMEROTA: Well, you can't go on forever -- all 20. And, obviously, money dries up, and if you're not on the debate stage it gets harder. So we have predicted that some people would be dropping out after the -- that last debate.

But I think that de Blasio brought some interesting topics to talk about. I mean, he talked about what he's done for New York in terms of universal pre-K -- I won't go through all of them -- and those were interesting topics to have added to the conversation.

BERMAN: He was also a voice from the left and the side of the stage who was willing to go after the more moderate candidates. With him gone it puts more onus on the people, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, to directly perhaps address some of the issues they have with Joe Biden.

All right, big protests being staged around the world and in hundreds of U.S. cities calling attention to the climate crisis. We're going to hear from the young woman leading a grassroots charge. That's next.



BERMAN: All right. We're getting a new look this morning at these big protests going on all around the world demanding action on the climate crisis.

Look at this. This was Sydney, Australia -- look at all those people. Demonstrations and student walkouts planned in more than 1,000 cities across the United States, as well.

The movement sparked in large part by a Swedish teenager who has become the face of the climate fight for the next generation. CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir had a chance to meet her.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: It is so interesting to share a room with his person because she is so small. She's so uncomfortable with small talk and crowds.

She says that most of her 16 years she was the invisible girl. Well now, this invisible girl has gone global and today, the crowds around the world supposed to leave their classrooms and take to the streets to demand action on climate, expected in the millions.


WEIR (voice-over): If today marks an explosion of young climate activism, she was a most unlikely lighter.


WEIR (voice-over): A tiny, soft-spoken Swede --

THUNBERG: I am here to say our house is on fire. WEIR (voice-over): -- named Greta Thunberg.

THUNBERG: We have come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not.

WEIR (voice-over): She is an old soul at 16, long fixated on the warnings from science that without dramatic action she will inherit a dying planet.

THUNBERG: When I was 11, I became very depressed. I stopped eating, and I stopped talking, and I stopped going to school. It had a lot to do with the climate and the environment.

WEIR (voice-over): But after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, when she saw American kids walking out of school to demand gun reform, she plopped down in front of Parliament and vowed to stay until Sweden meets the carbon-cutting targets of the Paris Accords.

THUNBERG: The symbolism of the school strike is that since you adults don't give a damn about my future, I won't either.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She retweeted. She's going to be one for the history books.

WEIR (voice-over): Thanks to the power of social media, within months, 1.4 million kids across dozens of countries joined her in the streets.

THUNBERG: This is only the beginning of the beginning -- trust me. Thank you.

WEIR (voice-over): By scolding the rich and powerful she made such waves on the world stage that when she caught a zero-carbon sailboat ride to America --

THUNBERG: It's very rough. There are very high waves.

WEIR (voice-over): -- a prominent conservative in Britain tweeted, "Freak yachting accidents to happen in August."

WEIR (on camera): What's your reaction to something like that?

THUNBERG: For me, that is just, in a way, funny. It's like they don't have any arguments left so they -- so they have to just mock me or mock me about my diagnosis or my appearance, in a way. It is a positive sign that something is happening they feel threatened by this movement. That means we are making a difference.

WEIR (voice-over): After meeting with President Obama, testifying on Capitol Hill, and showing solidarity with the young plaintiffs suing the nation into action, she will join 15 other kids from around the world in filing a formal complaint against countries violating a U.N. treaty to protect children.

WEIR (on camera): You have been open, your mom has been open about the way your brain is wired. That your Asperger's may have a lot to do with your focus on this issue. Do you think that is your sort of superpower when it comes to this?


THUNBERG: I mean, to be different is a strength. My diagnosis has definitely helped me keep the focus on this because when you are interested about something you just continue to read about it and you get super-focused.

WEIR (voice-over): She has actually read the dense, depressing warnings of the IPCC reports.

THUNBERG: I don't want you to listen to me, I want you to listen to the scientists.

WEIR (voice-over): What she believes -- when more people join her they, too, will turn depression into action.

THUNBERG: This is not a drill. My name is Greta Thunberg.


WEIR: That is part of a powerful new campaign with Conservation International that launched overnight. So she seems like she is going to use every tool in the box, whether it's legal, treaties, the streets, pressure on advertisers.

BERMAN: So impressive.

CAMEROTA: What a remarkable young person.

BERMAN: Hey, Bill, there is a study out yesterday I want to get your take on --

WEIR: Yes.

BERMAN: -- because this is actually of deep importance to me.

The bird population in North America dropped by three billion since 1970, down 29 percent. What are we supposed to make of this?

WEIR: It's a huge warning for Mother Nature that things are out of whack. That the circles of life that keep this planet in such a beautiful state are falling apart. That's -- like you say, one out of four birds in one generation gone.

And what happens is our children don't know what they're missing, right? It's sort of the shrinking baseline syndrome where you can say hey, when dad was a kid there was a lot more birdsong in this forest, and the kid doesn't know. And so it goes down and down and down, generation to generation.

But what's more worrisome, birds are easy to count because bird watchers are obsessive with data. There's so much data we know exactly what's happening.

BERMAN: But, I mean -- I mean, I do. WEIR: You do.

CAMEROTA: I promise you (ph) he's a birder.

BERMAN: I mean, we -- I do a bird count at our --

WEIR: You are a birder.

BERMAN: -- feeders and I'm out there counting the hawks and eagles migrating now all fall.

WEIR: But much harder to count are insects. And they believe the same decline is happening with pollinating insects, which is -- the entire food supply depends on that.

So it's death by a thousand cuts. It's every parking lot and farm, what used to be a meadow. Cutting down all the trees, plastic pollution, house cats. It's us, human beings. We're running out of planet.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Bill. I'm going to go weep now.

WEIR: No, no -- turn that depression into action.

CAMEROTA: All right. I mean, I'm trying. In my own little way I am trying, but I'm really -- I'm inspired and impressed by her.

WEIR: She's something.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Bill.

WEIR: You bet.

CAMEROTA: OK. A heartwarming birthday party surprise for a special young boy. A Georgia police department going all out -- lights, sirens, and more.

CNN's Robyn Curnow shows us how they went beyond the call of duty.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR AND HOST, "INTERNATIONAL DESK WITH ROBYN CURNOW," CNN INTERNATIONAL (voice-over): A surprise birthday party for Tye Clinner, one that he and his mother Crystal will never forget.

CRYSTAL CLINNER, MOTHER OF TYE CLINNER: Wow -- that's the first word that comes to mind. When all of this started we were just planning on having him a little tiny birthday party and when we got in touch with Lt. Forman, she just took it.

CURNOW (voice-over): Brandy Forman, a 15-year veteran of the Smyrna Police Department, helped to plan the party and bake the cake, which has three tiers covered in fondant with a Disney pirate theme.

LT. BRANDY FORMAN, SMYRNA POLICE DEPARTMENT, SMYRNA, GEORGIA: I'm a baker as a hobby. I volunteer my time as a baker for cakes for medical kids or kids with special needs.

(Singing Happy Birthday)

CURNOW (voice-over): Lieutenant Forman was asked to bake a cake for Tye, but she wanted to give him much more.

FORMAN: It was an opportunity to do something good -- to make something small into something grand and big for him that he wouldn't always have the opportunity for.

CURNOW (voice-over): Tye suffers from cerebral palsy and celebrating each birthday is a real gift to his family. Tye uses a wheelchair and requires round-the-clock care.

C. CLINNER: It's so hard to put into words like how much this means.

CURNOW (on camera): Has today been wonderful?


CURNOW (on camera): That's great. All these policemen came out for you. Isn't that fabulous?

CURNOW (voice-over): Lieutenant Forman called in the SWAT team, literally. They gave Tye a chance to play with their normally off- limits gadgets and they promoted him to sergeant.

UNIDENTIFIED SMYRNA POLICE OFFICER: We've even had a Smyrna Police Department shirt made up for him with sergeant stripes. So he doesn't start out at the bottom, he starts out as a sergeant.

CURNOW (on camera): Why do you think it's important to do what you did today?

SGT. LOUIS DEFENSE, PIO, SMYRNA POLICE DEPARTMENT, SMYRNA, GEORGIA: It's about community relations. This was more than a birthday party for Tye. It was a community event.

We have to find alternative ways with connecting with the people that you serve. If not, we're failing our community.

There you go. You ready?


CURNOW (voice-over): Sirens blaring.

This party was also a loud and happy send-off for Tye and his family who have also been gifted a trip to Disneyworld by the charity, Give Kids the World. Tye is there right now after a week that started with a giant cake and a heartfelt happy birthday from this group of caring cops.

UNIDENTIFIED SMYRNA POLICE OFFICER: And we've got some other cool stuff they're going to let you check out here in a minute.

CURNOW (voice-over): Robyn Curnow, CNN, Smyrna, Georgia.


BERMAN: We can make such a difference. Kindness can make such a difference.

CAMEROTA: And those police are so wonderful.


CAMEROTA: I mean, they made a -- obviously, a lifetime memory there.

OK. So perhaps the most surprising part of the whistleblower complaint against the president is that so many people are not surprised at all. The president has a long history of sharing things he should not with foreign leaders. A must-see reality check, next.



BERMAN: This morning, a conversation the president had with a foreign leader is at the center of a huge controversy, and that might be the least surprising thing ever.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon has our reality check. Hi, John.


Welcome to the latest episode of Trump's war on intelligence. The whistleblower being silenced by the administration over serious allegations of the president saying things he really shouldn't to foreign leaders.

The president's defense -- quote, "Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader?"

Yes, Mr. President. Unfortunately, the answer is yes and here's why. You've got a record of dissing and dismissing and compromising our Intelligence Community.

And the trouble began the day after Trump's inauguration when he stood in front of the CIA's Wall of Heroes and talked about himself.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trust me, I'm like a smart person.

God looked down and he said we're not going to let it rain on your speech.

And I have been on their cover like 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of "Time" magazine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) AVLON: Yes. So that speech was supposed to smooth over candidate Trump's comparing the Intelligence Community to Nazis and accusing them of leaking information.

Of course, the major sticking point between Trump and the I.C. has always been Russia's attack on our election.


TRUMP: He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.


AVLON: I can't imagine why they would be.

Anyway, since then there have been more than a half-dozen meetings with Putin that we know of. In one, Trump reportedly confiscated his interpreter's notes to keep info about the meeting secret, and suggesting during another meeting that Putin come to America.

Now, watch former director of National Intelligence Dan Coats learn about that one in real time.




AVLON: Ah-ha.

And what about Trump's suggestion that even now, he would accept foreign dirt on his opponents -- something the FBI director says needs to be reported to law enforcement.


TRUMP: The FBI director is wrong.



How about this -- the president welcoming the Russian ambassador and foreign minister into the Oval Office where he reportedly spilled intelligence about ISIS so sensitive that most of our allies aren't even allowed to know about it. And this also played a role in the extraction of an extremely high-value intelligence asset from Russia for that person's own safety.

But wait, there's more. Trump told Philippine strongman Duterte that there were two nuclear missile subs parked off the coast of North Korea. That's information usually that's silent.

He taunted Iran about their recent failed missile launch, possibly revealing what kind of spy satellite technology we have and how we use it.

Or how about if when he effectively apologized to North Korea's Kim Jong Un after reports that we used his half-brother to spy on him?

And who could forget our intelligence chiefs standing before Congress contradicting Trump about Iran, North Korea, and ISIS? Trump scolded them as naive and told them to, quote, "Go back to school."

Look, our system depends on a president who trusts our Intelligence Community over our adversaries. But instead, it seems like our Intelligence Community may not trust our president.

So, Mr. President, it's not that we're too dumb to believe you said something inappropriate to a foreign leader, it's that we're too smart to forget that you've done it before.

And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: You don't lie.

CAMEROTA: That's good, John. You did not overpromise on that one. It was must-see.

AVLON: It's -- Trump's foreign intelligence goes on and on.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much -- all right.

And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM WITH MAX FOSTER" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY has new details on the whistleblower investigation that involves President Trump. NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday, September 20th. It is 8:00 in the East and we do have breaking new developments in the whistleblower scandal.

President Trump will hold a news conference in just a couple of hours -- 11:45 Eastern -- and the basic question boils down to this. Did the president use American power and American money to try to get a foreign country to go after a political opponent?

You can bet he'll be asked that this morning. Why? "The Washington Post" is reporting that a whistleblower filed a complaint about President Trump's contact with a foreign leader. The substance of that contact, they say -- the "Post" says -- involved Ukraine and a, quote, "alarming promise."

The Intelligence Community's inspector general, a Trump appointee, found that complaint credible and a matter of urgent concern. And now, House Democrats want to know whether the president and his private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pressured the Ukrainians to basically go after Democratic front-runner Joe Biden. Giuliani admitted to that last night, seconds after denying it to Chris Cuomo.


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

RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No -- actually, I didn't. I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations.

CUOMO: And his role with the prosecutor?

GIULIANI: The only thing I asked about Joe -