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President Trump Ordered Hold On Ukraine Military Aid; Trump Speaks at U.N. This Morning; Did FAA Mislead Congress on 737 MAX?; Bears Dominate Redskins on Monday Night Football. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

And, 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 almost $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.


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, quote, 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 are set to meet at the U.N. General Assembly tomorrow.

ROMANS: President Trump's Ukraine whistleblower scandal is overshadowing the U.N. General Assembly. Mr. Trump 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.

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

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

Fred Pleitgen, live, in New York with the latest here.

Fred, where do we go from here?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be very difficult to see, Dave. There's so much tension right now between the U.S. and Iran. In fact, right here, I'm standing in front of an Iran missile system that shot down a drone about three months ago.

And, of course, that was one of the several occasions where the U.S. and Iran have been on the brink of war, just in the past sort of year or half-year alone. That's certainly going to be there at the United States, to see if there's any movement that could go forward. U.S. getting pretty important diplomatic backing ahead of President Trump's speech.

Germany, France and also the United Kingdom say they believe that Iran was responsible for those attacks on Saudi oil facilities. And they also call on Iran to go back to the terms of the nuclear agreement. Those European countries in turn were then blasted by Iran's foreign minister who essentially said they were doing the U.S.'s bidding and say themselves were not adhering to the terms of the nuclear agreement.

Now, as far as diplomacy is concern, it's quite interesting, Iran's foreign minister told our own Christiane Amanpour that there might be a chance to have talks between the U.S. and Iran.


The Iranians are saying they want permanent sanctions relief, in return for permanently allowing inspections of their 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: So, as we've noted, both President Trump and also the Iranians have said that right now, there are no planned meetings between either side on the sidelines of the UNGA, whether or not that could change under circumstances, a very, very interesting two days coming up there in New York, guys.

BRIGGS: Boy, it sure will. Great development there. Nice reporting. Fred, thank you.

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.


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?


BRIGGS: 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 very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see.

ROMANS: Kids get such a bad rap for the Instagram selfies and being so selfish.

BRIGGS: Not this one.

ROMANS: She has inspired a lot of young people, to learn more about climate change and what they can do.

BRIGGS: And I can tell you, she was trending all day on old lady Twitter.

ROMANS: All right. On Friday, a Chinese delegation canceled a trip to visit farmers. A bit of mystery, of the sudden, abrupt cancellation, and that dampened hopes for breakthrough in negotiations for a trade deal.

And on Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed it was the U.S. that had asked the Chinese to delay the trip. That seemed to come as a surprise to President Trump.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: They have started buying agriculture. They're going to reschedule that at a different time. The timing didn't work. But that was -- that was purely in our request.

TRUMP: Why was that our request, just out of curiosity?

MNUCHIN: We didn't want confusion around the trade issues.

TRUMP: Yes, but I want them to buy farm products.

MNUCHIN: There was no confusion. We want them to buy agriculture. They've committed to buy agriculture.


ROMANS: According to the Agriculture Department, Chinese importers have been buying at least 720,000 tons of soybeans over the past two weeks.

The president has been demanding this as a goodwill gesture, right? Because farmers have been hurt by his trade war.

Aid to famers now $28 billion over the past two years, $28 billion in bailouts to farmers to compensate for the president's trade war. Interesting, that's a little more than double what the Obama administration paid to bail out automakers crippled by the 2009 financial crisis.

A Treasury spokesperson did not immediately comment on that exchange between the president and the treasury secretary.

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. 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. Smith's attorney did not return our request for comment.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and their son, Archie, on their first trip to South Africa. CNN's Max Foster just spoke with the royals. We'll have that for you, next.



ROMANS: Prince Harry, his wife, Meghan, and their 5-month-old son, Archie, are in their first official overseas trip in South Africa. The couple just spoke with CNN's Max Foster. He is in Cape Town for us -- Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pretty windy here, Christine, it's all I can say. So, to rejig a lot of the engagement here.


But they were in really buoyant form. You know, they had this amazing engagement yesterday, where they went into this really tough township, highest murder rate in South Africa. And the duchess spoke to these young, black girls about being a woman of color and a sister. And that was a really profound thing for those young women to hear and has had a huge amount of pickup here in Africa.

So, they were in buoyant form as they came in to their second day. And what they were interested in finding out more about here was this project on this beach, which takes children from a township, and teaches them to surf. And many of them had never been in the sea before, we understand from Prince Harry. It's about mental health and keeping the kids' spirits up, having a chance to speak to the duke and duchess just in the last hour, actually.


FOSTER: Congratulations on the tour so far, Royal Highnesses.

What was the message you're getting across today here at the beach?

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: You know, I think what's so amazing about being here today is you can see there's so much good happening in the world and so there's much positivity and all this diversity and exclusivity. I think the focus is on that, it's like so great that you're here today, just highlight that yes, there was a lot of attention on things that can be troubling in the world. But this is actually what's making a difference of what matters.

PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: Exactly what Meghan said. I think what these -- what these kids are doing, and actually the coaches are the main thing because they had this unique experience. I say unique, it's not as unique as you think because so many communities have been through very similar, traumatic experience, but they've now come into a place like this, into this charity, to be able to not only share their experiences but to be able to help a younger generation.

So, talking about a whole group of -- whole generation of kids that have been basically that have no role models at all. And that generation now coming and go, you know what, you didn't have that opportunities, we're not going to give you that opportunity.


FOSTER: We do find with this couple, that they really do connect with the people they're with. They're very casual. There's no formality, there's no red carpet. So, it's going well from their point of view, as I think it came across probably with their interaction there.

ROMANS: Archie, what, he's 5 months old? Is that right? Has there been a glimpse of little Archie or are they sticking to his nap schedule?

FOSTER: Well, what we're trying to do -- exactly, as young parents, with a young baby, they're a bit concerned about saying when and where we're going to see him. But we've gotten to see the itinerary and we figured out the only opportunity, really, could be tonight. There's going to be an official engagement, at an official residence.

And we think they could bring Archie out then. So, that's going to be his first official engagement, would you believe, here in South Africa, or ever, in fact. But obviously, a lot of people are looking forward to seeing him.

ROMANS: Sure, of course. Well, thanks for bringing that interview to us.


ROMANS: Nice to see you, Max. Thank you.

BRIGGS: You know, plenty of people think that the royal's thing is antiquated. But every time he seeks publicity is to put the spotlight on those in need around the globe.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, yes.

BRIGGS: So kudos.

All right. Ahead, we'll talk some sports. It's a lost season for the Red Sox. But this throw from Mookie Betts, well, that's a highlight reel.

Andy Scholes with that story in "The Bleacher Report".


[05:23:07] BRIGGS: Well, it took three weeks but Bears quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, finally throwing his first touchdowns of the season. The Bears dominating the Redskins on Monday night football.

Andy Scholes has that story in "The Beacher Report".

Good morning, Andy.


You know, this is the game that Bears fans were hoping for. A dominant defense, and Mitch Trubisky out there making plays. Now, the Bears defense, it only forced one turnover coming into this game. They got five turnovers against Case Keenum, picking him off three times and forcing two mumbles.

And Trubisky able to take advantage of those turnovers. He found Taylor Gabriel for three touchdowns in the second quarter alone. Bears were up 28-0 at one point in this game. They went on to win 31- 15. They are 2-1, on the season.

The Redskins, meanwhile, the only team in the NFC that are 0-3.

All right. Red Sox and Rays last night. Avisail Garcia is going to hit this down the right field line. He thought he could hit it into a triple. Well, Mookie Betts, not on my watch. Betts, the incredible throw, all the way from that right field corner, to nail Garcia at third.

All time great throw there. Crowd owed a nod over it. Betts, he had a nice smile as well.

The Red Sox end up losing this game to the Rays, 7-4. Boston eliminated for playoff contention. Tampa Bay hanging on to the last wild card spot meanwhile in the American League.

All right. U.S. women's national team star, Megan Rapinoe, adding another award to her ever growing trophy case. Rapinoe named the FIFA Women's Player of the Year last night in Milan, Italy.

While accepting the award, Rapinoe encouraged her peers to make the world a better place.


MEGAN RAPINOE, FIFA WOMEN'S PLAYER OF THE YEAR: We have incredible platforms. I ask everyone here, because everyone in this room probably, you know, has that crown that they're bearing.


Lend your platform to other people. Lift other people up. Share your success.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: All right. Finally, there are many ways to score a goal in soccer of a defender's rear end? That's not one you see every day. That's defender Michal Sacek's face after that goal goes in, it's priceless.

Pretty disappointed there, Dave. And, you know, I'm guessing Sacek is now known as the Mark Sanchez of Prague after that happened.

BRIGGS: I was just -- I was just going to say, Mark Sanchez can sympathize. And that will be viral, forever. That's your moment.

Andy Scholes, good stuff, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

BRIGGS: Romans, what's coming up?

ROMANS: Backside on goal.

BRIGGS: That's right.

ROMANS: Never seen that before. All right. Thanks so much.

House Democrats meet behind closed doors. Calls for impeachment is growing in swing districts. Overnight, we learned the president himself ordered a hold on Ukraine's military aid.