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Pelosi & Schiff Open Door to Trump Impeachment; Thousands Stranded After Collapse of U.K. Tour Company. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 23, 2019 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a great conversation. We don't want our people creating (ph) to the corruption already in the Ukraine.

[05:59:04]

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.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not confident that we can avoid a war.

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

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I know the Iranian people want a peaceful resolution.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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 23. It's 6 a.m. 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 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 has shifted. The speaker is now demanding the White House turn over a whistleblower's complaint about the president's conduct by Thursday or face, quote, "a whole new stage" of investigation. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The White House, meanwhile, is trying to

shift the discussion to Biden, though there's no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president or his son.

Biden accuses President Trump of conducting a smear campaign against him. One prominent Republican is calling on the administration to disclose the details of Mr. Trump's Ukraine phone call. President Trump claims that he also hopes the transcript will be released, though he's the one who has the authority to order it.

This all comes as the president and world leaders convene here in New York at the United Nations.

So let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live at the White House with our top story. A lot happened this weekend, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. It is a stunning admission by the president and even says something how worried he is about his re-election campaign. It's also expected to put more pressure on House Democrats in their impeachment investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Johns (VOICE-OVER): President Trump admits he did discuss former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in a phone call with Ukraine's new president over the summer.

TRUMP: The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corrupt in all of the corruption taking place. It 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.

JOHNS: The Democratic frontrunner responding on the campaign trail.

BIDEN: The House should investigate this. 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's what happened.

JOHNS: The president's closest adviser is demanding investigations into Biden, despite no evidence of wrongdoing by the Biden family.

POMPEO: I do think if Vice President Biden behaved inappropriately, if he was protecting his son and intervened with the Ukrainian leadership in a way that was corrupt, I do think we need to get to the bottom of that.

JOHNS: President Trump telling reporters Sunday he hopes officials will release details of the call, but some advisers urging the opposite.

STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think that would be a terrible precedent. Conversations between world leaders are meant to be confidential. JOHNS: A source telling CNN the call with the Ukrainian president was

part of the initial whistleblower complaint, which raised concerns about multiple actions. The White House still refusing to turn that complaint over to Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sending a letter to all members of Congress, calling the stonewalling "a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president." Adding that, if it continues, "they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness, which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation."

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I don't know whether the whistleblower complaint is on this allegation. But if it is, and even if it isn't, why doesn't the president just say release the whistleblower complaint? Clearly, he's afraid for the public to see either one of those things.

JOHNS: CNN has learned that Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff were in close coordination all weekend, formulating a strategy on how to proceed as some Democrats blamed Congress for not starting the impeachment process sooner.

SCHIFF: You know I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment. But if the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit, that is providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: In that same letter, the House speaker called on the acting director of national intelligence to turn the whistleblower complaint over to Congress by Thursday and clear a path for the whistleblower to speak directly to Congress.

The president is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, where he is expected to meet with the president of Ukraine.

Back to you, John.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us at the White House. Joe, keep us posted, because we keep on hearing from the president about this. It's possible he's said something else in the next few hours.

Want to bring in CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN political analyst Margaret Talev. She's the politics and White House editor for Axios.

And Dana, I want to start with you, because it's your reporting that Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi were in contact before they both came out with what were very new positions on investigating the president. Adam Schiff saying we've crossed the Rubicon and maybe now impeachment is something we need to look at. And Nancy Pelosi saying a whole new stage of the investigation. What's going on here? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What's going on is that

the pressure that we have been talking about and we have been seeing now for months reached a completely new level last week with Corey Lewandowski -- we can't forget that -- and the frustration, anger really, among a lot of Democrats that -- that he wasn't held in contempt right then and there when he was, you know, not answering questions, never mind not treating the members of Congress with the respect that they felt that they deserved.

[06:05:12]

But then, of course, this. The whole question of Ukraine and the idea that the acting DNI is not turning over the whistleblower complaint.

The fact that Adam Schiff, who has not been in the impeach crowd, not even close to that. He's been extremely cautious. He's been much more in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership who have been saying, hold on. Let's just wait. We're not there yet. The fact that he used the "I" word and then, as you said, I was told that he coordinated closely with the House speaker this weekend.

She released the letter, notably did not use the "I" word. Did not use impeachment. But still, nonetheless, her letter was extremely tough.

A lot of focus on the fact that she said that this would -- if there's no reaction from the administration, it would put the investigation into a whole new level. But she actually wants immediate action.

What she was trying to do, I'm told, in this letter is appeal to not just Democrats but Republicans. There are a lot of them who have said that they're retiring, so they don't have any, you know, kind of political strings on them, to push the DNI to really come on Thursday and deliver the report to Congress that has the information about the whistleblower's report.

CAMEROTA: Margaret, Nancy Pelosi didn't use the "I" word. She used the "E" word. She said this is an emergency that needs to be addressed immediately. And we just don't know this week what that will look like.

TALEV: But we know that it will look like the president is at the U.N. G.A. with the entire world watching, and she's running the tables back in Washington.

There are some things that are changing inside her caucus now, as Dana was mentioning. There are a number of kind of either centrist Democrats or Democrats in vulnerable districts who now are more interested, more open to the idea of impeachment.

There are Republicans in the Senate, as well as the House, who are uncomfortable with the notion of what the president may have done and want to see this transcript themselves, although they don't want the impeachment fight.

She understands that the internal pressure on her is increasing to do something. That if she does not shift accordingly, it could be a problem for her. She understands that this is a moment to put the president on the hot seat to try to get that transcript, and to put the Republicans on the hot seat, if they continue to defend him.

BERMAN: You know, as James Carville was quoted today -- I think it was "The New York Times" -- who basically said, you know what? The politics of this have changed. You might be able to take an impeachment vote in the House now and force Republicans in the Senate --

TALEV: Right.

BERMAN: -- to explain their vote against it. Not saying that they wouldn't vote against it, but if they have to explain it, it puts them in a difficult position, Dana.

Which brings me to the Republican senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, who put out this statement last night. Let me read that: "If the president asked or pressured Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out."

I'm not sure Mitt Romney watched the news this weekend, where he saw the president admit to having had that discussion, or Rudy Giuliani flat-out say to Chris Cuomo last week. However, if Mitt Romney is now saying the facts need to come out, is that what you're getting at, Dana and Margaret, when saying --

BASH: Yes.

BERMAN: -- that there are now Republicans saying, release this transcript. Put the pressure on them.

BASH: Absolutely. Look, one of the big questions when Mitt Romney became a senator, and knowing his history with not having a very high opinion of the president, how much he was going to push back. And he has been very careful to pick his moments. This is a moment. And this is notable. The fact that he decided to tweet it.

Yes, it is true that the president admitted it. Rudy Giuliani paved the way last week, as he is wont to do. But what Romney is saying is we need more than that. We need the details. We need what Nancy Pelosi called for, which is the actual whistleblower complaint to come to Congress so that there could be a full report to get to more than, OK, yes, I did it. Well, what exactly did the president say and, you know, the context around that?

And so that is significant when it comes to the Senate, but in the House, you still don't have -- never mind a critical mass of Democrats. I mean, you have a lot of Democrats. But you don't have the 218, as far as the math that I'm looking at, to get to impeachment. We're not quite there yet.

But more importantly, historically. I mean, the last time this happened, it was bipartisan. It was largely Republicans who voted to impeach President Clinton, but there were Democrats on board. That's not happening now. And that is why the part of Nancy Pelosi's letter where she's calling on Republicans to help pressure the White House on this issue is really important.

CAMEROTA: As Dana points out, times have changed --

BASH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- since there was a bipartisan vote on impeachment.

And so I mean, I guess my question is why would impeachment have to be this belabored experience that all the Democrats seem to fear, if they are doing the count of their vote right now? If something has changed this weekend, can they just quickly take a vote and just all be on the record?

[06:10:10]

They know it's not going to happen in the Senate. They know the president's not going to be officially impeached or -- by the Senate. But shouldn't -- if they believe people should be on the record, can they do that quickly?

TALEV: I think yes is the short answer. But there is a longer answer, which is that Nancy Pelosi has -- part of her concern has always been, OK, so let's say that the House votes, the House Democrats vote. What does it get you if most of the -- if the American public itself is divided --

CAMEROTA: Just posterity. That's it.

TALEV: That's what -- that's why this could be, potentially, a pivotal change. Because it's one thing to go after, essentially, the Mueller report, after the Mueller report is out. This is something different. This is something new. This actually goes to -- I mean, you're going to hear the word collusion if this continues to move forward.

But it's not going to be, ironically, with the Russians. It's going to be a question about whether President Trump, whether there was a quid pro quo, whether he tried to hold up military aid to a U.S. ally at a time when they needed it to defend themselves against Russia. So we are still talking about Russia.

I just think that, while the calculus has changed for the Democrats, they are still trying to understand would the American public be behind them? Is it worse for them if they do or if they don't proceed on this front? And can they use the pressure of it to get anything that they want out of the White House?

BASH: And -- and the one other dynamic that I think it's important to point out is that the Democrats who have been calling for impeachment since day one, the AOCs of the world, they have reached a different point in their rhetoric, as well.

And that is they're blaming not just, you know, Republicans and the White House for stonewalling. They're now blaming their own leadership for letting the -- the White House get away with it. And that's -- that's pretty intense stuff. And the fact that they're willing to go there and willing to go there loudly also gives you a sense of where the dynamic is inside the House caucus.

BERMAN: There's also a House transcript. I mean, there's one tangible thing to fight about over the next few days.

CAMEROTA: And the complaint. I mean, the whistleblower complaint. There's two tangible things.

BERMAN: Sure. Two tangible things, and there's a tangible person. There's the inspector general of the Intelligence Committee, who thinks this is of urgent concern.

So there are many more tangible things here, perhaps, than we had during the whole Mueller investigation. So maybe that will give Democrats the hook they -- if they want to go that way, to dig in here.

Dana, thank you for your reporting.

Margaret, you, too. Great to have you here on set.

It is day one of the U.N. General Assembly, but President Trump will not be at one of the biggest summits of the day. We'll let you know what he is skipping and where he will be instead, next.

CAMEROTA: And later this hour, we have a CNN exclusive with George Clooney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: What we realized was we need to start -- we may not be able to shame war criminals, but we can sure shame people that live 15 miles from here in a beautiful home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right. More of that interview ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:17:37]

CAMEROTA: President Trump is waking up in New York City this morning as world leaders convene this week for the U.N. General Assembly. This happens amid escalating tensions with Iran and, of course, all those questions about that Ukraine phone call.

So joining us now is CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.

Nic, it will be an interesting week as President Trump sits down with world leaders. What do we expect to come out of this? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We can certainly

expect the president to be watched on so many issues. Not only on the Ukraine issue, but I think the one and the perspective that he'll be watched on most closely at the moment, particularly from the Middle East, is going to be the Iran issue.

And the Saudis are certainly looking for him to remain tough on Iran, if for example, and he's put this off the table. It appears he was to meet with President Rouhani, the Iranian president. This would be interpreted by the Saudis at this time as a lack of support. And from their perspective right now, they -- they would believe that that could lead to further aggression from Iran.

So there's a lot -- there's a lot at stake there, as well. Obviously, today is the climate change day at the U.N. G.A. The president's talking about -- talking about other issues. He's talking about religious persecution. So I think there would be something made of that, as well.

BERMAN: It's interesting. Let's me just remind people what happened one year ago when the president spoke at the United Nations. And the point that I'm going to make is -- people see this. He may be speaking to a different audience today than he was one year ago. Remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. America's -- so true. Didn't expect that reaction, but that's OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He was laughed at at the U.N. last year, which is really something that's never happened before by a community very skeptical of the U.N. pulling out, the United States pulling out of the Iran deal.

But now, with the world community believing that Iran was behind this attack on the Saudi oil fields, I wonder if the audience is different and if the reception of the president trying to be tough on Iran, in some way, will be different.

ROBERTSON: That was a weird moment last year. I mean, it really was. But I think the world now recognizes that where President Trump has taken his engagement, whether it's in North Korea or whether it's in Iran, which has led to an escalation of -- of tensions in the region. Or on many other issues, how he positions himself, let's say, on the Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India.

[06:20:10]

I think there's a recognition in that room now that the president actually plays a huge role in stability. The Indians have moved to create greater control in Kashmir. That's provoked a backlash in Pakistan. He's meeting with Pakistani prime minister today, for example, in Rankan (ph).

So I'm not sure that people will laugh, because I think there's a sense that how the president acts and what he says on these key issues are now a moment of such big moment and importance, from a Saudi perspective. If the United States and President Trump doesn't stand very clearly, very solidly behind Saudi Arabia, they absolutely believe that Iran will feel emboldened to strike again.

Secretary of State Pompeo called it an act of war. The Saudis are saying that if it's proven that Iran was behind this, actually, take -- missiles taking off from their soil, that would be an act of war. This is a huge escalation in an already tense region. So I think the moment of -- of the president's words are now less of a laughing matter.

CAMEROTA: There's all sorts of concern here in the U.S. and debate about what the U.S.'s response should be to an Iranian attack on the Saudi oil fields, if it should be a military response. What do the Saudis want?

ROBERTSON: Any escalation of tensions there is -- is terrible for the whole region. It is terrible for them, terrible -- would be terrible for the Iranians, terrible for the United Arab Emirates and many others in the region.

They don't -- they say they don't want the military escalation. What they want is -- what they want is Iran to understand that it cannot do this again. And they would far rather see that achieved through diplomacy. As we saw last weekend, they have a lot at stake.

These attacks on the oil field, although they took down their oil supplies by a half, what actually are points in the chain, early points in the chain that can be rebuilt relatively quickly. If they are targeted oil wells, for example, that would be much harder and much more difficult to put back in the box, so to speak. So they're vulnerable, and the rest of the region is, too, to being --

BERMAN: Nic, we know you were standing inside or right next to those Saudi oil fields like a day ago. Not quite sure how you're sitting here on the set with us right now.

CAMEROTA: Time travel.

BERMAN: Thank you so much for being here.

One other note: President Trump will meet with the president of Ukraine on Wednesday. Obviously, that meeting loaded now with all kinds of meaning. We're going to watch that very carefully.

All right. This morning thousands of travelers stranded around the world after the sudden collapse of one of the world's most iconic tour operators. That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:27:01] CAMEROTA: Tens of thousands of travelers are stranded around the world this morning after the iconic British travel company Thomas Cook suddenly folded, leaving airports jammed with vacationers trying to get home.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live at London's Gatwick Airport with the breaking details. How did this happen, Melissa?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, this is an extraordinary story. The world's oldest travel company, serving some 19 million customers every year in 16 countries worldwide, suddenly announcing last night something that no one had expected insofar as a financial deal to bail them out had been being negotiated, had been on the cards. This was the moment overnight when the CEO of Thomas Cook announced that that, those talks had failed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER FRANKHAUSER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, THOMAS COOK: Despite huge efforts over a number of months and further intense negotiations in recent days, we have not been able to secure a deal to save our business.

It has been my privilege to be lead Thomas Cook. It is deeply distressing to me that it has not been possible to save one of the most loved brands in travel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BELL: Of course, an immediate apology. He said to the 21,000 employees of the company, who suddenly found themselves without a job, Alisyn, overnight. It was just after midnight, British time, that the first planes began being impounded in airports like this one. And of course, there is the question of the 600,000 customers that are currently stranded around the world.

Now, the United Kingdom has begun acting with what it describes as what will be the biggest repatriation efforts in its peacetime history, trying to get people back with some 40 flights that have been chartered by the country's civil aviation authority.

And we've been hanging out here all morning and meeting people who came, who hadn't heard the news overnight when they woke up. Came expecting to get on their flights. And we're told, Alisyn, that they simply have to book and hope to get their money back. They feel they've been extremely badly treated.

And we are not talking about the wealthiest. This is a company that specialized in those cheap package tours that so many people turning up here this morning had been so looking forward to -- John and Alisyn.

BERMAN: I'll take it. People being airlifted home by the British government, in a manner of speaking, now. Absolutely crazy. Melissa, thank you very much. This morning while world leaders converge here in New York for the

U.N. General Assembly, Iran is flexing its military muscle during its annual Sacred Defense Week. In fact, they're showing off wreckage of that U.S. drone it shot down in June that triggered threats of retaliatory U.S. strikes. Nick Paton Walsh has this remarkable inside story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a fun day out for all the family, so long as the kids never get their hands on this: the new missile system Iran says downed a top American drone this June. That risked war, as President Trump almost launched air strikes in retaliation but called them off at the last minute.

But after a week of U.S. bluster over military action, they're not worried here. And instead, putting that drone or, really, what they say is left of it, on display.

The RQ48 global hawk can fly up -

END