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President Trump Says He Discussed Joe Biden With Ukraine President; Iran To Loom Large At U.N. General Assembly; Israeli Kingmaker Declines To Recommend Prime Minister. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 05:30   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- inspector general of the Intelligence told the House Intel Committee the whistleblower was concerned about multiple actions by Mr. Trump, so it's unclear whether this conversation is just the tip of the iceberg.

The issue now has two top Democrats, including the speaker, going further than they have before on impeachment.

Jeremy Diamond with 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 is, 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 is 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 the Ukraine.

DIAMOND: This issue is not going anywhere. We'll see the acting Director of National Intelligence on Capitol Hill later this week. He's 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.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jeremy. Thank you for that. It is anyone's guess whether we'll ever see a transcript of the phone call at the center of this 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'll make a determination about how to release it, releasing it, saying what we said. It was an absolutely perfect conversation.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't release transcripts very often. It's the -- it's the rare case. Those are private conversations between world leaders and it wouldn't be appropriate to do so except in the most extreme circumstances.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY: I think that would be a terrible precedent. If every time someone, for political reasons, raised a question and all of a sudden those conversations were disclosed publicly -- and when you disclose them to Congress, lots of times they leak to the press -- then why would world leaders want to have conversations together?


ROMANS: President Trump is scheduled to meet with Ukraine's president at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

BRIGGS: 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 of us in Ukraine's capital this morning with more. Matthew, good morning.


Well, the Ukrainians have really found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Actually, there's no time that's a good time for Ukraine to get involved in an American political scandal in this way because they need to keep good relations with the administration in Washington, no matter whether it's a Democratic one or a Republican one. And that's why they're finding this such a difficult line to walk.

U.S. -- the U.S., let's be clear, is the single-most-important strategic ally that Ukraine has. It provides diplomatic support for the country, economic aid, and of course, all-important military assistance when it battles pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country. Ukraine does not want to jeopardize that.

At the same time, it needs to maintain a good relationship with the -- with the incumbent U.S. president -- President Trump -- and that's what it's, of course, seeking to do.

The Russian -- the Ukrainian leadership has been absolutely tight- lipped in talking about this with the exception of the foreign minister who has characterized it as a friendly discussion -- this telephone call of the 25th of July when no pressure was applied. But the general kind of thrust of Ukrainian officialdom is that they don't want to speak at this point about this.

They're preparing for that face-to-face meeting with President Trump. They've been touting it for a long time. They've been trying to organize it for a long time. They want it to be about the strategic relationship but unfortunately, it looks like it's going to be overshadowed by this latest political scandal in the U.S.

BRIGGS: It sure will.

Matthew Chance live for us this morning in Kiev. Thanks so much.

And to your point, the optics of the former comedian and former reality show host meeting at the center of all --

ROMANS: Yes --

BRIGGS: -- this -- wow.

ROMANS: -- on Wednesday.

All right. Joining us this morning, Princeton University historian and professor, Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst. Good morning, Julian.

All right --


ROMANS: -- just trying to take a look at this and drill down here. Isn't this what the impeachment process is exactly for, to identify, prevent, and expose behavior just like this?


ZELIZER: Yes, this is the kind of misuse of power, if all the allegations are true, that this mechanism is for. It's certainly what oversight is for. But what the founders certainly didn't envision was the way in which partisanship and the way Washington works could cripple that oversight process, even when we see flagrant misuses or abuses of power.

BRIGGS: So, Nancy Pelosi, all along, has kind of calculated the political risk of impeachment is just too much. Here's what Steve Cohen, from Tennessee -- Rep. Steve Cohen says. "We back off everything. We've been very weak."

AOC says, "The bigger story is not the president's lawbreaking, it's the Democratic Party's refusal to impeach him."

What is the guardrails here and what is the cost of doing nothing?

ZELIZER: Well, there are no guardrails at this point. AOC might be exaggerating.

But at this point, the Democrats in the House do become complicit in allowing this kind of action and activity to take place. If they do nothing this becomes a new norm. That's what we're watching in front of our eyes. And political fears are preventing the Democrats from taking any serious steps other than warnings on Twitter and television.

ROMANS: It's interesting to me that the president also owning that he did talk on -- you know, that he talked to the -- this leader and they talked about Joe Biden and Joe Biden's son. And in a way, it's like the president wins again because he's got it out there -- the words Joe Biden, Joe Biden's son, corruption --

BRIGGS: Ukraine.

ROMANS: -- Ukraine all in one sentence.

ZELIZER: I think that's a key part of all of this. I think he just wants that smear, which has been discredited -- this story --

ROMANS: That's right.

ZELIZER: -- to be out there again and again in the discussions because it gets in the minds of voters. I think that's part of the endgame for him.

BRIGGS: Republicans -- "The Wall Street Journal" editorial, including, say that conversations with world leaders should be confidential. There's the editorial in the "Journal."

TEXT: "...none of the whistleblower's cheerleaders in the press and Congress seem to care about the precedent of making a president's private calls with other world leaders open to public scrutiny.

Imagine if this happened to JFK's calls amid the Cuban Missile Crisis or to Richard Nixon's during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.

We have reached a dangerous pass if intelligence officials feel they have open season to use whistleblower laws whenever they dislike a president or one of his policies."

BRIGGS: True or false?

ZELIZER: No, they don't have to be confidential. They can be released. They are released over time. I've seen conversations, I've heard conversations.

So this is a choice. This is a choice about what the administration wants and what the administration and Congress demands.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the most recent polling we have out of CNN- Des Moines Register polling. It's kind of like the gold standard, really --


ROMANS: -- showing Elizabeth Warren surging. Then the margin of errors, two points ahead of Joe Biden.


ROMANS: What do you make of it?

ZELIZER: She's the strongest candidate in the Democratic pack.

ROMANS: We've said that for a long time.

ZELIZER: She's moving in the right direction. She keeps getting stronger. You can't ignore those polls.

If she can pull this off in Iowa and New Hampshire, I do think this would be a momentum-building moment when she's set of for Super Tuesday.

She has organization, she has ideas, and she has excitement. That's a powerful mix.

BRIGGS: And hasn't directly gone after Biden, and that has been the strategy. Do you think that changes or this slow and steady course continues?

ZELIZER: She'll go after him. I think she'll go after him on ideas. I think that's her message. I am about substance, I'm about policy. If that's what you want, she's the candidate.

And that's how, ultimately, she'll attack him. She won't be vicious but I think she'll say there's a distinct set of offerings in this primary and Democrats need to choose her.

ROMANS: It looks like Biden is basically static there --


ROMANS: -- and she's pulling from Sanders' support.

ZELIZER: Well, his whole foundation is I'm most electable. And so, so far, that's been pretty strong.

The question is if she loses in the first two races -- if he loses, does he still claim that.

ROMANS: All right, Julian Zelizer. Nice to see you this morning -- ZELIZER: Thank you.

ROMANS: -- bright and early on a Monday. Thank you.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

More than 90 heads of state are in New York City for the start of the U.N. General Assembly. President Trump speaks tomorrow. He is chairing a meeting on religious persecution today -- religious persecution from the same person who famously said this.


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


ROMANS: The president will not attend 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 around the world 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 Saudi oil facilities came under attack.

Iran now marking its annual Sacred Defense Week with military parades across the country.

Fred Pleitgen live for us in Tehran. Fred, good morning to you.

I asked the same question at the outstart of this program. Is there a diplomatic path ahead?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, it's looking very difficult for a diplomatic path. What we're seeing from the Iranians right now is they do have a bit of a carrot and sticks approach, it seems, towards the Trump administration at this point.

You were saying that right now is the Sacred Defense Week here in Iran. That's just now been kicked off. It's pretty tough talk coming from the Revolutionary Guard. They are challenging any country, they say -- but, of course, specifically, they're looking to the United States -- that wants to attack Iran to, quote, "go ahead," saying that any country that does so would, as they put it -- or as the head of the IRGC put it themselves -- become the battlefield.

[05:40:00] Now, this comes as the foreign minister of Iran, Javad Zarif, is already in New York for the U.N. General Assembly. And there, in an interview, he said right now, he's not confident that there won't be war between the U.S. and Iran. Let's listen in to what he had to say.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I'm not confident that we can avoid a war. We -- 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: And, Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran -- he took off about an hour ago from Tehran, going to New York, himself. Members of his administration have already said there will not be talks between themselves and members of the Trump administration on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

However, maybe a little chance for diplomacy there. Hassan Rouhani saying if he wants to unveil a new plan for de-escalation here in this region called the Hormuz Peace plan. We'll see whether or not that yields anything.

One of the things the Iranians have announced, though, is they say a British-flagged tanker that they have seized has completed all of its paperwork and can essentially leave anytime it wants, Dave.

BRIGGS: Barely a glimmer of hope on diplomacy.

Fred Pleitgen live for us in Tehran. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

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: A royal tour begins today as Prince Harry, Meghan Markel, and their 5-month-old son, Archie, land in Cape Town, South Africa. It's a journey with a great deal of family significance.

And, CNN's Max Foster is there.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM WITH MAX FOSTER": Christine and Dave, the Sussexes are probably the most high-profile couple on the planet right now and there's particular interest in this visit because they're bringing along their young son, Archie, who, if all goes to plan, will be carrying out his first official engagement here in South Africa in the coming days.

These visits are all about solidifying ties between the U.K. and South Africa, but the couple also want to emphasize the causes and interests that they're committed to. So we're going to see the duchess getting involved in women's empowerment projects.

We're going to see Harry going off to Botswana and visit some conservation projects and also, HIV-AIDS awareness -- an issue very close to his mother's heart. Another issue that Diana cared deeply about was landmines and he's literally going to be retracing here steps in Angola before he goes off to Malawi and gets involved in another conservation project.

The end of their 10-day tour will be back here in South Africa where the family meet up again in Johannesburg.

I'm told by U.K. officials there is particular interest in this story. Harry's always had a relationship with this part of the world so he's fondly thought of here.

The duchess hasn't been here but there is interest in her backstory, I'm told. Race is still a big issue in this part of the world, Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: All right, Max -- thanks.

In Israel, the head of an influential minor party, so-called kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman has chosen not to make any recommendation for prime minister. That leaves the top two candidates, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, short of the 61 seats they need to form a government.

Here to explain, CNN's Oren Liebermann, live for us in Jerusalem outside the president's residence. Good morning, Oren.


It was those crucial seats from foreign defense minister Avigdor Lieberman -- only eight seats, but eight very critical seats that made the difference between who had enough seats to form a government and who didn't. When Lieberman decided not to make a recommendation, it left both Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz short, meaning the political deadlock we've seen over the past few months is likely to remain.

And the onus now shifts from them to Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, in his residence right here to my right -- in his final meetings with the parties he has to try to figure out some way out of Israel's political deadlock, and it is not a simple decision. He is expected to announce his decision sometime in the course of the next week and a half or so to try to get Israel out of this political uncertainty.

Meanwhile, there was another piece of major news coming out of these recommendations. The joint list, made up of a group of Arab parties, decided to recommend Benny Gantz. That's incredibly unusual. In fact, it's only happened once before in the history of Israel, 27 years ago when the Arab parties recommended Yitzhak Rabin who, at that time, campaigned on a platform of peace with the Palestinians.

Since then, they've never recommended anybody. So it is a major milestone that they've come out and recommended not only a pro-Israel Zionist party but one that has three military chiefs of staff running it who have carried out military campaigns against Gaza. For them, they say it is their way of trying to oust Netanyahu even if they don't sit in the government.

Meanwhile, the anti-Arab rhetoric that Netanyahu ran during the campaign is continuing. He attacked them as opposed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and said that they are pro-terrorists.

So, that anti-Arab, perhaps even racist rhetoric we saw earlier is the Likud Party keeping it up at this point.

BRIGGS: Wow, a major development. Oren Liebermann live for us. But still, no clear path forward.

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: A long way to go there.

ROMANS: Forty-nine 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 submerged in the ocean. Weber proposed last Thursday by swimming underwater and holding a note against the bedroom window while presenting a ring. But 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.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: It's the first day of fall but temperatures will be well- above normal along the East Coast. Here in New York, the mercury could hit 90 degrees.

Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


It was just a short while ago where the autumnal equinox officially underway. Of course, the term equinox for equal nights in Latin there. And you take a look, today does mark the day where we have generally about 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of nighttime across the planet.


But there is a front coming in here that will finally make it feel like fall because leading up to it, big-time warmth still in place across portions of the south and certainly portions of the northeast as well.

Look at Washington, 94 degrees. Boston sitting just shy of 90 and that temperature in Boston comparable to New Orleans on the Gulf Coast, so it really speaks to the significance of this warm air mass in place.

But again, this front here that eventually pushes through later on this -- overnight hours into tonight and into tomorrow will bring in some milder air. But even that is short-lived because we expect a warmer trend to come in towards the later portion of the week.

Washington from the middle-90s down to the lower 80s, back up to the lower 90s. And you kind of see New York follow a similar trend, getting up into the 80s again.

So hang in there for one more day if you're a fan of all air because we get some cooler temperatures there going into towards at least the middle of the week before the warming trend returns -- guys.


ROMANS: All right, Pedram Javaheri. Thank you for that.

That's your weather, here's your business. A check on "CNN Business" this Monday morning.

A look at global markets shows that the European stock markets have opened lower. And, Hong Kong and Shanghai also falling here -- closed lower after a Chinese delegation canceled a visit to U.S. farms.

European stocks down, as I said, almost one percent in Paris and more than that in -- look at Dow futures, down one percent here as well. It's been weak all morning.

Investors had expected a potential cooling of U.S-China trade tensions as the two sides gear up for trade talks, but the sudden change in this trip damped hopes for a breakthrough in negotiations.

Some WeWork board members want to remove Adam Neumann as CEO as the company heads towards public offering. "The Wall Street Journal" reported members want -- board members want

Neumann to step down after reports of his eccentric behavior and drug use. "The New York Times" reported SoftBank, WeWork's largest investor, seems to be in favor of replacing him.

The news comes as the start-up delayed it's highly anticipated Wall Street debut last week.

No comment from WeWork or SoftBank.


HUGH BONNEVILLE, ACTOR, DOWNTON ABBEY: No aides, no valet, no nanny, even.



ROMANS: A group of British aristocrats took the number one spot at the box office this weekend, beating an astronaut and an action star. "Downton Abbey" brought in an estimated $31 million, marking the highest-grossing opening for Focus Features.

"Ad Astra," starring Brad Pitt, took second place. And, "Rambo: Last Blood," starring Sylvester Stallone, came in third.

The domestic box office is still down roughly five percent from last year but could gain some ground in the coming weeks. Warner Bros. "Joker," starring Joaquin Phoenix, looks super creepy. It could break records when it opens in two weeks.

BRIGGS: It gives me the chills.

Many fans were meh on the final season, but "GAME OF THRONES" went out on top at the Emmy's.




BRIGGS: HBO's fantasy juggernaut won Best Drama, its fourth outstanding drama series honor.

On the comedy side, a big night for Amazon. British series "FLEABAG" upset the final season of "VEEP" and "THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL" for Best Comedy. Also, "FLEABAG" star and creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge beat perennial winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus and "MAISEL's" Rachel Brosnahan for Best Comedy Actress honors.

Actor Billy Porter made Emmy history by becoming 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 a little fun at Felicity Huffman's expense.


THOMAS LENNON, COMMENTATOR, EMMY AWARDS: The producers have asked me to give a special shout-out to any of our previous lead actress winners who are watching tonight from prison. Hopefully, those two weeks are going to fly right by. Keep your chin up.


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

ROMANS: All right, that's it for us this Monday morning. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.


TRUMP: We had a great conversation. We don't want our people creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump did a terrible thing. Focus on the violation of the Constitution this president has engaged in.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): There's enough smoke here. Somebody other than me needs to look at it.

BRIGGS: In just hours, world leaders will gather at the U.N. amid escalating tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

ZARIF: I'm not confident that we can avoid a war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The military option is always on the table.

POMPEO: I know the Iranian people want a peaceful resolution.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, September 23rd. It's 6:00 here in New York.

And new this morning, the president says he did it. He admits it. Now the question is what are Democrats going to do about it. There are new signs this might be a tipping point on impeachment.

President Trump confirms he did raise unfounded corruption allegations against Joe Biden during a phone call with the president of Ukraine over the summer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee chair, Adam Schiff, are both signaling their opinion on impeachment is shifting. The speaker is now demanding the White House turn over a whistleblower -