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Key Dems Inching Toward Impeachment; U.N. General Assembly Begins; CNN Poll, Warren Surges In Iowa; Ukraine Whistleblower Fallout; Iran To Loom Large At U.N.; State Of The U.S./China Trade War; Famed Tour Operators Shutters; Fatal Proposal; First Trip For Tour Bus Driver In Deadly Utah Crash; Game Of Thrones Still Emmy Royalty; Daniel Jones Debut Dazzles Giants Fans. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 04:00   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: A grave new chapter. The house speaker's blunt warning about what comes next if the White House keeps a whistleblower complaint under wraps.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The U.N. General Assembly kicks off today with Iran at the top of the agenda, is there a diplomatic path forward.

ROMANS: Is there a new Democratic front-runner. A new CNN poll shows Elizabeth Warren surging in Iowa.

BRIGGS: And Game of Thrones goes out on top. But the prime time Emmy award, but which comedy dethroned the favorites? CNN has reports this morning from Kiev, Tehran, London, Jerusalem and South Africa.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, this is Early Start, I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, it is Monday, September 23rd. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York. We begin with President Trump acknowledging -- acknowledging Sunday that he did discuss Democratic rival Joe Biden in a July call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. That call now the center of a controversy over a whistleblower complaint. CNN has reported the president pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden as U.S. military aide to Ukraine was hanging in the balance.

BRIGGS: Remember now, last week the intelligence inspector general told the House Intel Committee, the whistleblower was concerned about multiple actions by Mr. Trump. So it's unclear whether this conversation is merely the tip of the iceberg. The issue now has two top Democrats going further than before on impeachment. CNN's Jeremy Diamond with the latest. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Dave and Christine, the president on Sunday acknowledging for the first time that he did, indeed, bring up the former Vice President Joe Biden during that call with the Ukrainian president, which was of course now at the center of this whistleblower complaint alleging, among other things that the president pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. Here's the president on Sunday.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in Ukraine.

DIAMOND: This issue is not going anywhere. We will see the acting Director of National Intelligence on Capitol Hill later this week. He is expected to brief Senate Intelligence Committee lawmakers on this whistleblower complaint. How much we will learn about this complaint remains to be seen however.

What we do know is that Democrats are certainly ramping up their rhetoric as it relates to this, including the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said in a letter just yesterday on Sunday, if the administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress, a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation. Dave and Christine, back to you.


ROMANS: All right, Jeremy, thank you for that. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intel Chairman Adam Schiff, spent the weekend closely coordinating the Democratic response to the Ukraine whistleblower developments. Schiff is making it clear he's moving closer to calling for impeachment.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If the president is essentially withholding military aide at the same time that he is trying to broad be the foreign leader into doing something illicit that is providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign. Then that may be the only remedy that is co-equal to the evil that conduct represents.


BRIGGS: Joe Biden also speaking out about the whistleblower report. The former Vice President says inquiries into his son's role out of Ukrainian gas company is a smear campaign by the president.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 2020 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power. To get on the phone with a foreign leader who is looking for help from the United States and ask about me and imply things, if that is what happened.


BRIGGS: President Trump is scheduled to meet with Ukraine's president at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. The fight between the president and Congress coming at a precarious time for Ukraine. It risks fracturing the bipartisan consensus in the U.S. in 2014 in favor of backing Ukraine against Russia. Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance live in Ukraine's capital with more. Matthew, good morning. What are we learning?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to as well, Dave. Well, at the moment, so shortly from now, President Zelensky of Ukraine will be flying to the United States where he will be preparing for that meeting. He's going to be having face-to-face, because this is plan with President Trump on Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N, at general assembly.


This is a meeting that has been in the offing for some time. It's something that Zelensky, has been pressing for since his inauguration as Ukrainian president in May. And the reason it's so important is that the United States is such a key strategic ally for Ukraine. It's a big provider of diplomatic support in its battle against Russia, its economic aide, and of course, military assistance in that fight against pro-Russian (inaudible), rebels, in the east of the country.

That is what makes this situation so difficult for the Ukrainian president, because on the one hand, he's being pushed by President Trump, it seems to open an investigation, since the Joe Biden. On the other hand, he is acutely aware that even though there maybe short- term gains, in helping the incumbent U.S. president that Ukraine has to keep its eye on the loner ball and he's very aware that in 2020, of course, is going to be the election, there may be a new U.S. President, or maybe it may be Joe Biden. We don't know yet. And so, it's put the Ukrainian leadership between a rock and a hard place. They really don't know where to turn at this point. And they are in pretty tight lipped, I can tell you, Dave.

BRIGGS: Indeed, I would imagine precarious time, just past 11:00 a.m. there in Ukraine. Matthew Chance live, thank you.

ROMANS: More than 90 heads of state are in New York City for the start of the U.N. General Assembly. President Trump speaks tomorrow. The same President Trump who famously said this.


TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: So, instead the president is chairing a meeting on religious

persecution and he is doing that instead of attending today's climate action summit, where the U.N. Secretary-general is calling on all world leaders to deliver a plan to combat the climate crisis. Now, the focus will be on rising sea levels and record hot temperatures over the last four years. On Friday, millions of people worldwide joined marches and strikes to call for climate justice.

BRIGGS: Also high on the agenda, at the U.N. Iran. Tensions rising between Iran, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia after the Saudi oil facility came under attack. Iran now marking its annual sacred defense week, with military parades across the country. Fred Pleitgen live in Tehran with that happening. Fred, good morning.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave. And the Iranians certainly giving the Trump administration a little bit of their own carrots and sticks treatment. The sticks coming from the head of the elite revolutionary guard corps. He came out and he said that if there was a retaliatory strike on Iran, that then the battlefield would then move to the country that has struck Iran.

Obviously, a not so thinly vailed threat directed at Saudi Arabia, but of course, also at the United States. The Iranians are saying that anybody who would want to lash out at Iran could quote, go ahead. So, the Iranians seemingly saying that they believe they are prepared. Of course, this comes after Javad Zarif, the foreign minister had already said, that if there was a retaliatory strike by the U.S. that this would lead to all-out war.

Very interesting, because Zarif is already now in New York. They're ready for the U.N. General assembly. And in an interview, he said, right now, he is not confident that there won't be a war between the U.S. and Iran. Let's listen to what he had to say.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, FOREIGN MINISTER OF IRAN: I'm not confident that we can avoid the war. I'm confident that we will not start one. But I'm confident that whoever starts one, will not be the one who finishes it.


PLEITGEN: This comes guys, as the Iranians are saying that they will absolutely not talk to President Trump or the Trump administration, on the sidelines of the UNGA, but also offering some carrots, as well. Apparent, the president of Iran, Hassam Rouhani, he came out and he said that he wants to propose an initiative that the U.N. general Assembly on how to stabilize the region. And also the Iranians are saying, they might want to very soon release that tanker that they took from Britain a couple of weeks ago, guys.

BRIGGS: That does not appear a diplomatic come forward. Fred Pleitgen, live for us this morning in Tehran, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, to politics here, Elizabeth Warren is surging in Iowa, a new CNN Des Moines register poll with likely caucus goers has the Massachusetts senator leading Joe Biden for the first time by two points. It is essentially a dead heat within the margin of error, despite catching up with the former Vice President. Warren says she is taking nothing for granted.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), 2020 U.S. DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: I know two polls. We are still months away from the Iowa caucuses and the primary elections.


BRIGGS: To take a little deeper, the polls shows Warren is polling votes from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters from 2016. With Biden struggling to find any support on the far-left, a key issue for Iowans is health care, 41 percent say they want Medicare for all. And those voters clearly lean Warren, 24 percent say they don't want Medicare for all. They lean Biden, 28 percent like the idea, but fear it would hurt the Democrats' chances in 2020.

ROMANS: All right, there been some positive trade news between U.S. and China over the last few weeks and talks between the countries aren't getting worst, but they aren't getting better either.


Golden Sachs analyst say Sunday, there appears to be little fundamental shift in the U.S. or Chinese positions on key trade issues. Analyst say the trade war has three modes, escalation, where new tariffs are announce, a pause or truce, where tariffs stay the same. And a deal that lowers tariffs. Both sides had made concession recently. On Friday, the U.S. exempted hundred more Chinese goods from tariffs. Good like, dog leashes, pull vacuum cleaners, electric skateboards, Christmas lights and straws will no longer be hit with tariffs.

But the trade war spark over the Chinese trade delegations cancelled their trip to Montana and Nebraska to meet with farmers Friday. That trip was to prepare for further talks between senior officials next month. And that is getting a lot of attention in global markets. Actually Chinese stock markets declining overnight on news that the Chinese delegation had cancelled their trip to see American farmers.

BRIGGS: No good news on that. Breaking overnight, a tour operator that lasted 178 years shuts down stranding thousands Brexit may be to blame.



BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, hundreds of thousands of travelers around the globe stranded after British tour operator Thomas Cook abruptly shuts downs the demise of the iconic company is forcing the largest peacetime effort in the history of the U.K. to bring stranded Brits home. Lest' go live to London and bring in John Defterios. John, this is a company that has been around since -- had been around for 178 years. They have withstood about anything and everything.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: And think about it, Dave, they predate air travel. So, they had been in the business taking people across the Atlantic to the United States well. This is 150,000 passengers that are stranded all about the world. The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was suggesting that they will work really aggressively to bring those passengers back, either by using the existing routes and other carriers, or by sending government planes as you were suggesting.

This had not been an entirely a surprised though, because back in May, it recorded loss of some $2 billion and that was a record. They were looking for a bailout of at least $300 million, but the government says that was more likely to be a billion dollars going forward.

If you think about it, it's almost like a perfect storm, because of intense competition, they are trying to change their business (inaudible), in that process and then have the uncertainty around Brexit hitting them at the same time. So, the currency here drops around 15 percent. So, the costs on the inside, with revenues were going down will costs outside where the travelers were based were rising. And only the CEO was suggesting, Dave, we can only apologized. Deeply sad day, for the company overall, apologizing to customers, suppliers, employees, as I was suggesting and those who tried to make the recovery work.

It's incredible. Now, they're in a situation, where the civil aviation authority has to come in. try to organize this repatriation of the passengers right now. And the government was taking heat for trying not to bail them out during the Brexit uncertainty. But they said, look, with a billion dollars going in to travel company, should be government try to be in the tourism business? Absolutely not. Now we have to do our best to bring them home.

BRIGGS: Not just to U.K. Countries around the world scrambling to get their citizens home. John Defterios live for us this morning in London, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, 17 minutes past the hour. A mysterious and tragic ending to a deeply romantic gesture. A Louisiana man has drowned after proposing to his girlfriend underwater. Steven Weber and Kenesha Antoine, were vacationing in Tanzania in a cabin that featured a bedroom submerge in the ocean. Robert proposed last Thursday by swimming underwater holding a note against the bedroom window while presenting a ring.

According to a Facebook post by Kenesha, he didn't make it back to the surface alive. She says she will try to take solace in the fact that she and Weber enjoyed the most amazing experiences in their final moments together. Local authorities are investigating.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, some sports talk. A new era for the New York Giants. Opens with dramatic flair, more on Daniel Jones, big comeback, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ROMANS: The mayor of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, playing a key role in stopping a potential mass shooting. Police say, Mayor Jeff Cusat received a credible tip from a concern citizen about a threat to two local schools that involve a pipe bomb, mass shootings and a possible diversion plan. The mayor immediately passed the information to police and 28 year-old Christian Diehl was arrested on Saturday. He's facing a third-degree felony charge of threatening to use weapons of mass destruction.

BRIGGS: It was the first trip on the job for a tour bus driver who a crash on the Utah highway last week, leaving four passengers dead. According to NTSB, the driver is from California, most recently hired and is now back in California and being investigated. Test results from a blood sample had not been made public. Police say they are looking in the driver's license qualifications and medical history, as well as the bus company's hiring procedures.

ROMANS: Many fans were, (inaudible), on the final season, but Game of Thrones went out on top at the Emmys.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Emmy goes to, Game of Thrones.


ROMANS: HBO's fantasy juggernaut won best drama. Its fourth outstanding drama series. Now on the comedy side, a big night for Amazon, the British series, Flea Bag upset the final season of Veep and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for best comedy.

BRIGGS: Also Flea Bag star and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge beat perennial winner Julia Lois-Dreyfus. Maisel's Rachel (inaudible), for best comedy actress honors. And actor Billy Porter made in the history bid, coming the first openly gay black man to win best actor in a drama honors for the FX Series, Pose. There was no host this year, but commentator Thomas Lennon tried to have some fun and Felicity Huffman's expense.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The producers have asked me to get a special shout out to any of our previous led actress who are watching tonight from prison. Keep your chin up.


BRIGGS: Keep you chin up. Huffman reports to prison next month, in connection with the college admissions scandal.

To sports now, Elli who is the question. New York Giants fans are asking as they move on from the Eli era, after the impressive debut of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From fourth and five. Jones steps up, takes off, pitch in, and touched down.


BRIGGS: The first-round pick out of Duke was booed by New York fans when he was drafted, but now, he is the toast of the town? After engineering an 18 points comeback in his debut as starter in Tampa, he threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more in a 32-31 victory. Now the Bucks had a chance to win it here, but wide right, on a 34 yard field goal attempt and the celebration was on. Unfortunate their best player (inaudible) hurt in that victory.

ROMANS: All right. The house speaker promising a new stage of investigation if the White House keeps the whistleblower complaint secret. The president now admitting, oh, yes he did speak to Ukraine's president about Joe Biden.


BRIGGS: A quote, grave new chapter. The house speaker's blunt warning about what comes next if the White House keeps a whistleblower complaint under wraps.

ROMANS: The U.N. --