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Trump Ordered Hold On Ukraine Military Aid; Trump Speaks at U.N. This Morning; Did FAA Mislead Congress on 737 MAX?; U.K. Supreme Court to Rule on Suspending Parliament. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 04:30   ET




DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, the president himself ordered a hold on military aid to Ukraine days before speaking with the Ukrainian president. House Democrats will meet behind closed doors as calls for impeachment grow.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: With Iran topping the agenda, the president speaks to the U.N. this morning. Is there a path to diplomacy?

BRIGGS: And did the FAA mislead Congress on training for the Boeing 737 MAX. Investigators say inspectors were underqualified.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

Breaking overnight, the strongest suggestion yet. President Trump may have had political motives when he spoke with Ukraine's president and pressured him to investigate Joe Biden's son. Now, we could be on the verge of a very big move on impeachment by House Democrats.

CNN has learned President Trump ordered a hold on $400 million in military aid to Ukraine just days before a late July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "The Washington Post" first to report this.

BRIGGS: A senior administration official says the president was mainly concerned about corruption and pushing Europe to shoulder more of the financial burden for Ukraine's defense. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy who met Zelensky in Ukraine this month says Zelensky was concerned the aid was being cut as a consequence for not launching a probe of the Bidens.

Monday, the president kept up the drumbeat, accusing Biden and his son Hunter of wrongdoing without offering any proof.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Joe Biden and his son are corrupt. If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they'd be getting the electric chair by right now.


BRIGGS: Trump did not specify what Biden said or did.

Senate Republicans, meantime, offering a variety of responses to these developments.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It is regrettable that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff and Senator Schumer have chosen to politicize the issue.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): I would like to have the whistleblower come and talk to me so we know what his story is. I don't want to hear it second hand.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I believe that President Trump is going to blow you away with his willingness to disclose and transparent about this phone call, because I think he did nothing wrong, and he has nothing to hide.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): The bottom line is I don't think he should have done it but that's a far cry from what some people around here are claiming to know as fact that frankly we don't know as fact.


ROMANS: House Democrats will discuss the investigations in a members- only meeting this afternoon. Some of them telling us the caucus is reaching a tipping point as the administration blocks the release of a whistleblower's complaint over that Ukraine call. At least 138 Democrats have now declared they are in favor of an impeachment probe. That number quickly rising as moderate Democrats show new openness to moving on impeachment.

During a flight from New York to Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read a "Washington Post" op-ed signed by seven freshman Democrats from swing districts who make the case for impeachment.

BRIGGS: The speaker sharpened her rhetoric over the weekend. In a "Washington Post" report, she is quietly checking with House Democrats about whether to impeach the president. In a brief, in flight interview with CNN, Pelosi left little doubt the whistleblower complaint has dramatically escalated the standoff and a move toward impeachment proceedings is all but certain. She said, we'll have no choice.

At the White House, sources tell CNN officials are considering whether to release a transcript of Mr. Trump's call with the Ukrainian president. Some senior officials oppose the idea because of the precedent it could set, for example, giving Congress ammunition to demand transcripts of president's calls, for example, with Vladimir Putin.

President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky set to meet at the U.N. General Assembly tomorrow.

President Trump's Ukraine whistleblower scandal is overshadowing the U.N. General Assembly. The president will be the second to speak today and was asked to preview his speech. He said he would talk about Iran and the economy, but declined to say whether he would ramp up pressure on Iran during his speech.

Trump has stuck to the teleprompter in previous addresses and drew laughter from delegates last year while praising his own administration. Also last year, he shocked the visiting Chinese foreign minister by accusing Beijing in interfering in U.S. elections while both men sat at the Security Council table.

ROMASN: Iran's foreign minister says Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would not meet with President Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen live for us in Tehran this morning.

Hi, Fred.


And there's so much tension right now between the U.S. and Iran. In fact, what you see behind me right here is an Iranian surface-to-air missile system that actually shot down a U.S. drone about three months ago, which, of course, was one of the several occasions where the U.S. and Iran have been very close to war.


So certainly the session of the United Nations general assembly will be very important. The U.S. getting important diplomatic batting for key allies just ahead of President Trump's speech there. The Germans, the French and the British as well saying they believe Iran was responsible for an attack on a Saudi oil field that, of course, happened just a few weeks ago and they urged Iran to return to the terms of the nuclear agreement.

Now, the Iranian foreign minister fired back at these European countries for that, essentially saying they were prodding America's lying and saying they were the ones who are not abiding by the nuclear agreement. Now, interestingly, the Iranian foreign minister in an interview with Christiane Amanpour said there could be circumstances under which Iran might be willing to talk. They are saying they want permanent sanctions relief in turn for permanently allowing inspectors into the nuclear facilities.

Here's what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We are prepared if President Trump is serious about permanent for permanent -- permanent, peaceful nuclear program in Iran and permanent monitoring of the Iranian nuclear facilities in return for what he has said he's prepared to do and that is to go to Congress and have this ratified, which would mean Congress lifting the sanction.


PLEITGEN: A sliver of hope there, if you will, for some diplomacy. However, also, I do have some news from Iran as well. There were several Iranian military members and also a senior cleric who came out earlier today and said he believe that under the current circumstances, any sort of negotiations between the U.S. and Iran would be humiliating for Iran -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us this morning in Tehran -- thanks for that, Fred.

Those attacks at Saudi oil facilities wiped more than half of the kingdom's oil production and sent oil prices skyrocketing. Neil Chatterjee, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said the attacks should serve as a wakeup call for America.


NEIL CHATTERJEE, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION: I think it's a real reminder about the importance of protecting our critical infrastructure. An outage could really have significant cascading impacts and our adversaries know this.


ROMANS: America's electric grid is reliant on access to natural gas. Concerns have been raised about the resources being devoted to protecting America's nearly 3 million miles of pipeline. Chatterjee says the biggest threat facing America's energy infrastructure is the increased vulnerability to physical and cyber attacks.


CHATTERJEE: In the 21st century, warfare, modern warfare has evolved to the point where private companies now find themselves on the front lines.


ROMANS: Chatterjee urged regulators, power companies and pipeline operators to work together to stay ahead of these threats.

BRIGGS: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg chastising world leaders, saying she will, quote, never forgive them for their failure on climate change. The 16-year-old fought back tears while delivering her passionate message at the U.N. Climate Action Summit. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. People are suffering. People are dying.

And our ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you.


ROMANS: President Trump briefly attended that summit. He had plans to skip for that a session on religious persecution, but he did show up.

And he appeared to troll Greta after her speech. Quote: She seems like a happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, independent investigators say the FAA misled Congress on inspector training for the now grounded Boeing 737 MAX and inspectors themselves were underqualified. The findings first reported by "The Washington Post" compound questions about safety oversight at the FAA which has come under scrutiny after two 737 MAX jets crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing 346 people. These findings are from the office of special counsel, a government watchdog that investigates whistleblower complaints led by a Trump appointee. The FAA says it is reviewing the special counsel's findings, but remains confident in what it told Congress.

ROMANS: A soldier now in custody accused of suggesting the use of a vehicle bomb against a major news network, which sources say was CNN. Twenty-four years old Army Specialist Jarrett William Smith was stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas before his arrest Saturday. Court documents say he told an FBI informant about a month ago he was looking for more right wing radicals like himself.

Prosecutors say he offered to teach others how to build bombs that he wanted to kill members of the left wing Antifa movement, and he named Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke as another possible target.


His attorney did not return our request for comment.

BRIGGS: Coming up, pivotal ruling due next hour from the U.K. Supreme Court. Did Boris Johnson mislead the queen to suspend parliament and what happens if indeed he did?


BRIGGS: Police in South Korea have launched an investigation after a doctor performed an abortion on the wrong woman.

[04:45:04] They say a pregnant patient with a 6-week-old fetus went to a clinic in Seoul, a mix up in medical chart, and the failure to check the identity led to the mistaken abortion. According to the South Korean media, the patient was supposed to receive a nutritional shot.

The nurse allegedly injected her with an anesthesia instead. Police say the doctor and nurse in charge have acknowledged fault and the case will be sent to the prosecutor's office.

ROMANS: Britain's Supreme Court rules in an hour whether it was legal for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend parliament in the run up to Brexit.

CNN's Melissa Bell is outside the Supreme Court for us this morning awaiting this high stakes ruling -- Melissa.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Extremely high stakes, Christine. I mean, essentially what is happening here in this country that doesn't have a written constitution, but has always functioned through tradition and convention, it is finding that system, that very codified system it had has been so tested by the divisive issue of Brexit, that here we are a Supreme Court just behind me, about to deliver this ruling in about 45 minutes, Christine, that will have massive implications both for the future of the prime minister, although he has said that even if it goes against him, he will not resign. But also for what now happens with Brexit.

Essentially, the judges are going to rule on whether the power remains with the government over the course of the next few hours and days, or whether parliament should reconvene immediately, that in fact the government suspension of it a few weeks ago was unlawful.

So, all eyes very much on what's going to happen here, and perhaps a measure of just how closely this is being watched apt. All this is at take is despite the pouring rain, there is, of course, the media here, but also pro and anti-Brexit campaigners have come out if force to keep an eye on what's happening here. So important will it be to determining what happen s over the course of next few weeks, whether Britain comes out without a deal, whether Brexit happens at all.

All this hangs in the balance in this decision in about 45 minutes' time -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: Fascinating. All right. We know you'll be watching for us and bring it to us as soon as you get it. Thank you for that, Melissa Bell in London.

All right. First, the streaming wars. Now the gaming wars. Google taking on Apple with its own subscription service. CNN Business has the details, next.



ROMANS: Breaking overnight, a strong magnitude 6.0 earthquake strikes off the coast of Puerto Rico. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake hit some 50 miles north, northwest of Isabela, Puerto Rico, late last night. At least three aftershocks have followed, including a magnitude 4.7. Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez says in a tweet, there have been no reports of damage to the island.

BRIGGS: Making matters worse, Tropical Depression Karen threatening to soak much of Puerto Rico. Schools are closed there today.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri with more.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Christine and Dave, good morning, guys.

Yes, this tropical depression here, really the best-case scenario as you're going to get with a named storm across the Caribbean for this time of year. It will be north at 8 miles per hour. We think land potentially strengthening as it approaches the island as a tropical storm for landfall some time early this afternoon. Really the big story with this is not going to be the winds, but mainly the rainfall on the mountainous island potentially as much as one to three inches widespread across the southern and central regions.

But beyond this, we watch this particular model here because it will want to take it to the north very gradually, potentially by late next week, a western shift. So, we'll watch this carefully to see how things play out.

But, of course, you got to keep in mind, this cone essentially means it could go all the way to the north and east or all the way to the best, any of this region is fair game based on kind of the recent model runs across that region. But here we go across the national perspective, how about another round of unseasonably warm weather?

Some severe weather to be had as well across portions of the Upper Midwest. Des Moines in particular an enhanced risk for damaging winds and large hail as well, and the risk for that forecast. Temperatures today ranging from 67 up in Buffalo, all the way down to about 93 degrees across the New Orleans area -- guys.


BRIGGS: Pedram, thanks.

The nation's tech giants are revamping an organization to fight online extremism so it can work more extensively with outside parties. The Global Internet Forum to counter terrorism was established in 2017 by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube to share information on violent terrorist content. The aim is to create a civil defense style mechanism to counter the increasingly sophisticated efforts by extremists who abuse digital platforms, and as it comes six months after the suspect in the New Zealand shooting streamed the massacre live on Facebook. At least three atrocities in 2019 have involved suspects posting hate-filled messages in online forums in advance of an attack.

ROMANS: A Dallas prosecutor says former police officer Amber Guyger missed multiple signs she was not in her own apartment before she opened fire killing her upstairs neighbor Botham Jean mistaking him for a burglar. Guyger's murder trial opened Monday with the D.A. telling jurors she failed to notice differences in the hallway including a skylight and Jean's red door mat. Once inside, she didn't notice a missing table, clutter on the counter and the smell of marijuana.

Guyger's lawyer said she was fatigued and on auto pilot that night in September of last year. He called it an epic tragedy.

BRIGGS: A dramatic rescue after a train tragedy in New York City. Video shows Good Samaritans coming to the rescue of a 5-year-old girl after her father jumped to his death in front of an oncoming subway train while holding her.


Incredibly, the little girl was not hit by the train and managed to crawl out from under the subway car. The rush hour crowd and EMTs comforted the little girl before she was taken to the hospital. Police say she barely had a scratch on her.

ROMANS: All those people taking such good care of her.


ROMANS: All right. In Orlando, elementary school resource officer has been fired after arresting two 6-year-olds in separate incidents.

Orlando's police chief says he tried to give the officer the reviewing paperwork, but it became clear there was no choice but to terminate him.


ORLANDO ROLON, ORLANDO POLICE CHIEF: We were all appalled. We could not fathom the idea of a 6-year-old being put in the back of a police car and to be honest with you, it's still shocking to us.


ROMANS: One of them sent to a juvenile detention facility, 6 years old.

The police chief says the officer's actions put the trust between police and the community in jeopardy. He says an investigation is still ongoing.

BRIGGS: So some cows walk into a bar. But there's no punch line, because it's not a joke.

The Wisconsin brewery that makes Spotted Cow beer had a late night visit from, you guessed it, 16 spotted cows. The dairy cows walked into the parking lot of the New Glarus Brewing Company early Monday morning. And security guard and police corralled the cows with their cars until the owner came to pick up his herd.

In case you're wondering, Spotted Cow is a farmhouse ale that's sold only in Wisconsin.

ROMANS: Awesome advertising, accidental advertising.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning, taking a look around the world, at global markets. Everything is looking higher here. Not much, but a little bit positive here.

And a couple of reasons why. The Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said that the Chinese delegation, the farm visit that was cancelled on Friday and caused some concerns, it will be rescheduled and that's being seen as a positive sign in Asian markets.

On Wall Street, futures are a leaning a little bit higher here. Stocks finished mixed on Monday. The Dow snapping a two-day losing streak closing up just 15 minutes. That's a nothing. The S&P also barely moving. The Nasdaq fell slightly.

After a long back and forth with the White House, Apple now says it will keep production of the newest Mac Pro in the United States. It will manufacture the latest generation of the computer in Texas. This is after securing a tariff exemption for key parts that it imports for this device.

Over the summer there were reports that Apple may move production of this computer to China because of the trade war. Apple needs parts from China to make the Mac Pro but they have become more expensive because of the president's tariffs. Apple has been making the Mac Pro in Texas since 2013.

Google is introducing its own subscription game service going head to head with Apple. Google Play Pass will give android users access to 450 apps and games. It will cost $4.99 a month, the same price as Apple Arcade. The price may be identical, but the content is going to be different. Apple Arcade offers a catalogue of 100 exclusive games while Google Play Pass will have apps and games that are already available on the play service.

BRIGGS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounding out Democrats on impeachment if they can convince her, maybe late night comedy will.


SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today called for the director of national intelligence to release the whistleblower report made against President Trump. And if they don't, she's going to -- well, she's going to politely ask again.

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: It would appear that the president of the United States used his office to ask a foreign country to dig up dirt on an opponent, and Democrats in Congress are now thinking very seriously about threatening to maybe consider almost doing something about it.

JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Trump's call with Ukraine could really put his presidency in danger, though. Today, Nancy Pelosi said another 500 or 600 major valuations that we might think about impeachment. Oh.

MEYERS: Nancy Pelosi accused President Trump of endangering national security. Yes, Nancy, where you been? You're like, my mom's friend who is watching season four of "Breaking Bad" and says I think this guy might be dealing meth.


BRIGGS: Well said, Seth Meyers.

All right. 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.


BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, the president himself ordered a hold on military aid to Ukraine, days before pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden. House Democrats will meet behind closed doors as calls for impeachment now grow.

ROMANS: With Iran topping the agenda, the president speaks at the U.N. this morning. Is there a path to diplomacy?

BRIGGS: And did the FAA mislead Congress on training for Boeing 737 MAX? Investigators say inspectors were, quote, underqualified.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, September 24th, it is 5:00 a.m. exactly in the East.

Now, breaking overnight, the strongest suggestion yet, President Trump may have had political motives when he spoke with.