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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; Fatal Proposal; Game Of Thrones Still Emmy Royalty; Health Benefits Important For Union Members; Israel's Kingmaker Declines To Recommend Prime Minister; Royal Couple To Visit A Broken Place; Trade Tensions Spill Into Markets; WeWork Board Members Look To Remove CEO; Downton Abbey Takes Box Office Crown. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 04:30   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

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

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

ROMANS: And Game of Thrones goes out on top of 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 back to Early Start. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: A lot going on, good morning, 4:30 Eastern Time on a Monday. We start with the president 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.

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


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.


BRIGGS: Jeremy Diamond, thank you. It's anyone's guess whether we will ever see a transcript of the phone call at the center of the whistleblower complaint, even President Trump and his top aides seem to disagree.


TRUMP: A very straight, very honest conversation. I hope they can put it out. We will make a determination about how to release it, releasing its saying what we said, it was an absolutely perfect conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not release transcripts often, it the rare case, those are private conversations between world leaders and it wouldn't be appropriate to do accepting in the most extreme circumstances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that would be a terrible precedent. If every time, someone for political reason raised a questions and all of the sudden those conversation were disclosed publicly, and when you disclosed into Congress, lots of times they leak in the press, then why would world leaders want to have conversations together?


BRIGGS: President Trump is scheduled to meet with Ukraine's president at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. ROMANS: The fight between the president and Congress coming at a

precarious time for Ukraine. It risks fracturing the bipartisan consensus in the U.S. since 2014 in favor of backing Ukraine against Russia. Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance live in Ukraine's capital with more. Good morning, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Christine, that's right. The Ukrainians are stuck between a rock and a hard place on the one hand they are concerned, that they are being dragged into these American political drama. I have to point out, that for Ukraine, United States is the singular most important strategic allied for the country that provides diplomatic support, economic assistance and of course, crucial military aide in Ukraine's battle against pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country.

It doesn't want to jeopardize any of that. But it certainly it doesn't want to be drawn into parties and dispute in United States as well. Because even though sort of insisting or getting on the side of the incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump, maybe advantageous in the sort- term.

The Ukrainians have got their eye, of course, on the longer game. And it's not that long. They have to cast their eyes in the future is it, because they are very aware, there's an election in the U.S. in 2020?


It could be a Democrat that succeeds President Trump. It could even be Joe Biden, who knows? And so, they're treading a very thin diplomatic line. Indeed, all this as President Zelensky, the relative novice. A complete novice in fact that means politics. He is only inaugurated in May, he was a comedian on television before he came elected president of the Ukraine.

He's heading now to United States, He's going to have his first meeting, which he has been lobbying for face-to-face with President Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. He wants it to be about strategic issues between the two countries, but I'm afraid it is going to be overshadowed by this ongoing scandal. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Mathew Chance is in (inaudible), thank you for that, Matthew.

BRIGGS: 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.


BRIGGS: That same man chairing a meeting on religious persecution today 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. 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.

ROMANS: Also in 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. CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in Tehran for us. Hi, Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, good morning Christine. The Iranians marking that holy defense, they are also taunting the United States as well. The head of Iran's elite revolutionary guard corps, he came out and he said quote, that any country that wants to take a swipe or attack Iran could quote, go ahead.

He said, that any country that tries to do so, would then itself become a battlefield. Obviously the Iranians not just threatening the U.S, but of course, Saudi Arabia, as well. And this of course comes after Iran's Foreign Minister told CNN that if there was a retaliatory strike by the U.S., that this would lead to all-out war here in this region. Of course, between the U.S. and Iran, as well. Now, that foreign minister Javad Zarif, he is already in New York at the U.N. General assembly. And there in an interview he said, right now he is not confident that there won't be war between Iran and the U.S. Here's 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: So some pretty clear words coming there from Iran's foreign minister. The Iranians by the way also ruling out speaking to President Trump or members the Trump administration on the sidelines of the U.N. general assembly. However more diplomatic note, the president of Iran, he said he had come out and he wants to start an initiative and announced that the U.N. general assembly will try to deescalate tensions here in this region. The other things that the Iranians has also said, is they want to very soon release a tanker that they had taken here in the Strait of Hormuz. A British flag tanker. So, maybe a little sign of de-escalation but certainly, still far too early to tell, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. You'll be watching it for us. Fred, in Tehran. Thank you for that.

To U.S politics now, 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 to 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 in the polls shows Warren is polling votes from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters from 2016. With Biden struggling to find any support on that 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 and they lean Biden, 28 percent like the idea, but fear it would hurt the Democrats' chances in 2020.

ROMANS: healthcare accused you from many Union workers and it's causing a potential problem for Senator Bernie Sanders. Health care benefits are really important to many union workers. Important enough to give up pay raises or even to walk off the job to keep the coverage they have negotiated. The future of those benefits is the center of a split among 2020 Democratic candidates over how to remake the healthcare system.

Joe Biden says the union members shouldn't have to give up their employer plans if they like them. Sanders argues that members would still come out ahead under Medicare for all. The fight put Sanders at odds with some on the labor movement, 14.7 million people were union members last year. According the bureau of labor and statistics, 95 percent of union workers had access to employer medical benefits this year compared to 68 percent on non-union workers. Last month, Sanders issued his workplace democracy plan which would require companies to pass along savings from Medicare for all to workers in the form of raises or other benefits. Sanders is scheduled to join UAW members protesting in Detroit on Wednesday.


BRIGGS: All right, coming up, an influential Israeli leader refusing to back either candidate for Prime Minister. So who will get to form the coalition? CNN live in Jerusalem, next.


ROMANS: In Israel, the head of an influential minor party, so-called kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman (ph) has chosen not to make any recommendation for Prime Minister. That leaves the top two candidates, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz short of 61 seats they need to form a government. Here to explain, CNN's Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem outside the president's residence. Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORESPONDENT: Christine, former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman has only an eight-seat party. Relatively small party within Israel's Knesset, but those eight seats are crucial, both to Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, as they try to form a governing as they try to get to the magic number of 61 seats.


Without Lieberman, neither of them can do it and because he chose to remain quiet, be he chose not to make a recommendation, the stalemate that Israel has face for months, this political deadlock seems almost certain to remain.

Israel's president is wrapping up some meetings with the last of the smaller parties at the residence right here to my right. But that is not expected to change the deadlock in any way. The other major piece of news coming from his meetings is that the joint list, a group of Arab parties, decided to recommend Benny Gantz. It's only the second time in Israel's history that the Arab parties decide to recommend anybody, the last was in 1992, going back 27 years when time they recommended (inaudible), who ran on the platform of peace with the Palestinians.

Now they recommended Gantz, a major step, because it means first, they want to be a part of the civil discourse, they want to be a part of political life here, even they are not in the government. It's also a big piece of news, because they recommended a pro-Israel Zionist Party. Especially what led by one, with three military Chief of Staff who have wage military campaigns against Gaza? So, the question is, does it change anything as of right now? Si the president wraps ups his final meetings, it looks like it does not. And the president will have a major decision ahead in the coming days, to try to figure out on how to break this gridlock. Christine, it is not an easy decision.

ROMANS: It is not. All right, Oren Liebermann for us. Thank you so much for that from Jerusalem.

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 and 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. Steven Weber's sister will be on New Day later this morning.

A group of British aristocrats beat an astronaut at the box office this weekend. CNN business has the details next.


BRIGGS: A royal tour begins today, as Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and their 5-month-old son, Archie, land in South Africa. One of their first stop from the (inaudible) of Cape Town. And the charity hoping kids heal, the violence is so bad in these areas, the military was recently deployed. CNN's David McKenzie joined an overnight ambulance crew working in red zones, where security escorts are a matter of life and death.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just mere miles separate this beach from her home, but listening to Chloe's speak after an hour in the water and it might as well be a world away.

What kind of things happen in your neighborhood, Chloe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They shoot, they rape people. They abuse people. It helps me because we have manners here. No fighting, no swearing. They care about us here.

MCKENZIE: The waves for change charity gives Chloe and others a chance to feel like children. And this week, they will get a chance to meet a prince and princess from England. And then, they will return home. Many to neighborhoods so bad, that the military has been deployed in attempt to stop the killings. So far, it hasn't helped.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we call it Iraq.

MCKENZIE: (Inaudible), has named his patch after a war zone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing that goes through my head, is are we going to see tomorrow morning? Are we getting home? So, we are getting out to (inaudible), which is, they don't know if he is bleeding or if there's a pulse. Unfortunately, (inaudible).

MCKENZIE: These neighborhoods, it feels almost broken to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does. It does feel, especially at this moment, knowing that we, right around the corner, we can't do anything.

MCKENZIE: Can't do anything, because Martin and his crew must wait for a police escort. He says 80 of the ambulance crews were targeted last year. Impatiently waiting patient, so they too don't join the growing list of victims. The mothers of this broken place live everyday with the memories of their last sons. Gathering together to gain strength. What is the violence doing to families here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's breaking families up. He was a child who used to do everything for me. Until today, I couldn't go a day without him. In the morning, I must say. We just go through this day. (Inaudible).


MCKENZIE: The security escort takes nearly an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Escort we see yanking, echo. MCKENZIE: Martin doesn't blame the police. He knows that the police's

resources are stretched as thin as theirs.



MCKENZIE: But as a paramedic, he also knows, that the window for saving this life, was just minutes, not hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have grown to everything from tolerance for what is spiraling. Which is scary. Because the moment we start tolerating, the way things are happening, we're actually saying that it now becomes a norm, which it shouldn't be.

MCKENZIE: David McKenzie, CNN, Cape Town, South Africa.


ROMANS: Wow. Important reporting there, thank you for that David. Let's go check at CNN Business, this Monday morning. Take a look at markets around the world, to start the new week. You can see Hong Kong and shanghai both closing lower. Tokyo up and European market have open lower here this morning.

Look, a Chinese delegation canceled a visit to U.S. farms and that has shaken confidence in markets around the world. In the United States, DOW futures are down by triple digits. More than 300 points here. Investors had expected a potential cooling of U.S./China trade tensions, as the two sides gear up for talks, but the sudden change in the trip dampened hopes for a breakthrough in negotiations.

Some we work board members want remove Adam Neumann as CEO, as the company heads towards its public offering. Wall Street Journal reported members want Neumann to step down. After reports emerge that his eccentric behavior and drug use. The New York Times reported SoftBank relooks largest investors seems to be in favor of replacing him. The news comes as the start-up delayed its highly anticipated Wall Street debut last week. We Work decline to comment, SoftBank did not return request for comment.

A group of British Aristocrats took the number one spot at the Box Office over the weekend, beating an Ad Astra and an action star, Downton Abbey brought in an estimated $31 million marking the highest grossing opening for the NBC universal own focus features. Ad Astra starring Brad Pitt took second place, Rambo last blood starring Sylvester Stallone that came in third. The domestic box office is still down roughly 5 percent from last year, but could gain some ground in the coming weeks. Warner brothers Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix could break records when it opens in two weeks.

BRIGGS: That looks creepy.

ROMANS: Yes, it does.

BRIGGS: Really creepy. Many fans were, meh on the final season, but Game of Thrones went out

on top at the Emmys.


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


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

Also Flea Bag star and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge beat perennial winner Julia Lois-Dreyfus and Maisel's Rachel (inaudible), for best comedy actress honors. Actor Billy Porter made in the history. Bobby, 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 little fun at Felicity Huffman's expense.


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


BRIGGS: Ouch. Huffman reports to prison next month, in connection with the college admissions scandal.

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.

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

BRIGGS: 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.

CNN has reports this morning from Kiev, Tehran, London, Jerusalem, and South Africa. Good morning and welcome to Early Start. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: The resources of CNN on display this morning. I'm Dave Briggs. Monday, September 23rd. It is 5:00 a.m. in the east. We start with President Trump 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 whistleblower complaint. There's questions grow about whether the president lead on an ally to --