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Trump Ordered Hold on Military Aid Days Before Calling Ukraine President; U.K. Supreme Court: Johnson Suspended Parliament Illegally; Trump Singled Out Ukraine During Broader Review of Foreign Aid Programs. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 06:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a perfect phone call with the president of Ukraine. Everybody knows it. It's just a Democrat witch hunt.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He put a hold on this aid to Ukraine a week before calling up Zelensky and then badgering him to investigate Joe Biden. That is highly suspicious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): I think he did nothing wrong, and he has nothing to hide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must move forward with impeachment proceedings. I don't think we'll have much of a choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're beyond the tipping point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People around here are throwing that term around so loosely, it's lost all meaning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nancy Pelosi's in a tough spot. The impeachment math is still not great for them.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, September 24, 6 p.m. here in New York.

Breaking overnight, a major development in the Ukraine controversy and a potentially seismic shift in Democratic leadership's thinking about impeaching President Trump.

CNN has confirmed the president ordered a hold on millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, roughly one week before a phone call in which President Trump admits to talking to the new Ukrainian leader about investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. "The Washington Post" reports that administration officials were told

to tell Congress that delay was a result of, quote, "an interagency process" without giving any more information.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And all that is a backdrop to what could be an even bigger development. There are signs that by tonight, impeachment could be on.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a closed-door meeting with committee chairs, and then the whole caucus. We have new reporting that she's been making calls and and maybe moving off her resistance to impeachment proceedings. How can you tell? Well, overnight seven key freshman Democrats, the kind that Pelosi has been protecting, mostly moderates from largely swing districts, the kind that have opposed impeachment before, these seven wrote an op-ed now saying, quote, "This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand," and they add, "If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense."

Democrats want the transcript of the calls between the president and the Ukrainian leader. They want the whistleblower complaint, and they want it all before Thursday when the acting intelligence chief is supposed to testify about his decision to keep this information all from Congress.

All that, plus a monumental ruling by the British Supreme Court just moments ago that could put the future of Boris Johnson, the prime minister for a month or so, his future in jeopardy. We'll get to that in just a moment.

CAMEROTA: You're promising to get to a lot of things.

BERMAN: We're getting a lot -- well, there's so much going on.

CAMEROTA: I know there are.

BERMAN: There is a lot going on. Boris Johnson could be in trouble. We'll get to that in a moment. I did not lie.

CAMEROTA: It is a pivotal --

BERMAN: Impeachment could be on by tonight.

CAMEROTA: No, you're not lying.

BERMAN: That's all happening.

CAMEROTA: It's a very pivotal morning.

So joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon and CNN political analyst Rachael Bade. She's the congressional reporter for "The Washington Post."

Rachael, share with us your new reporting, if you would, about Democrats, where Nancy Pelosi is on all this. RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So I mean, I can't believe I'm

going to be saying this, but you know, you're right. I mean, Nancy Pelosi, it seems like, is reconsidering her position on impeachment, and I'm being told it's pretty much all a matter of time at this point.

We're hearing last night that she was making calls yesterday to allies, people that she's close with, lawmakers, to try to gauge them, their sentiment on this, is this the turning point.

And remember, Pelosi has been the single greatest reason that we haven't seen Democrats advance impeachment before. She has been super concerned about political blowback, and particularly, a group of freshmen in Trump districts who she thinks, you know, would be in the hot seat if they were to back something like impeachment.

But those freshmen have been talking all weekend. They were talking on Monday. And a lot of these folks have come out and said, if it is true that the president pressured Ukraine and threatened to withhold military funding, then we've got to do something about it. We can't just sit here. And these are people who are coming from Republican districts that Trump won by double-digits.

And so Pelosi's been feeling the pressure, and she's been making these calls. And I'm told from senior Democrats that today the discussion is going to be more of a question of process and timing, as opposed to a question of if they're going to impeach him. It's just really a question of when.

BERMAN: Well, let's throw up on the screen so we can see the Democratic freshmen members, six of whom were against impeachment until last night. Now all seven are suggesting it is time.

They apparently spoke to Nancy Pelosi before they wrote their op-ed. So this did not happen in a vacuum. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, which is why we think, again, by five or six tonight, impeachment could be on.

And let me read a little bit of what these seven members wrote. They said, "We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country, and throughout our careers, we have sworn oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States many times over. Now, we join as a unified group to uphold that oath as we enter uncharted waters and face unprecedented allegations against President Trump." Again, "If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense."

CAMEROTA: We'll be speaking to two of them later in the program.

BERMAN: Which is a big deal also.

John, this is an important moment, and it looks like it's all happening today.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's all going down, because the Trump administration has the ability to have an exit ramp, and they so far haven't -- so far haven't used it. Release the whistleblower report, as they're required to do by law and have not done so far. Release the transcript, get the facts out there.

In the absence of that, instead, we've seen a pattern of lying and stonewalling by the administration on this issue. And this matters, because it doubles down on that core concern that Trump has been getting foreign powers to try to interfere in our elections.

Yesterday, he's back and forth on key things. At one point, he was denying he knew anything about the money transfer, contradicted by new reporting last night that he himself was behind it and told the administration to lie.

So this is serious. There's a way to deescalate the situation. Release the report. If not members of Congress, those seven moderates, we're up to 145 from just over 80 before the Mueller hearings.

CAMEROTA: That's such a great point, John. Because there is a prescription. There's a legal -- there's a legal road map for this. The whistleblower report is supposed to be released to Congress by law.

AVLON: That's right.

CAMEROTA: So the fact that they're impeding this makes it seem as though there's something there.

AVLON: To hide, yes.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, we -- maybe the president's right. Maybe the president's right. Maybe nothing suspicious happened on the call.

AVLON: Maybe.


CAMEROTA: There is an answer out there that we could know this, if that were released. The truth is out there.

AVLON: The truth is out there somewhere, and if they weren't actually blocking it, we could actually get some resolution to that question.

BERMAN: There is a problem, though, with that theory. Which is that the intelligence community inspector general, a Trump appointee, has looked at the whistleblower complaint and deemed it to be of urgent concern.


BERMAN: So there is someone -- again, not some rogue actor who has looked at this and says this is a problem, which is why Congress wants to see more.

Rachael, let me read a little bit of what John was talking about there, a little bit more of the "Washington Post" reporting, a different article than you have. Two real major bombshells in the paper this morning. This has to do with that money for Ukraine. "Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost 4 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before a phone call in which Trump is said to have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an 'interagency process' but to give them no additional information."

This gets to the idea of was there a quid pro quo? Did the Trump administration say, unless you investigate Joe Biden, whether directly, overtly or the subtext there, you won't get this money?

Now for some people, this is essential. They need this quid pro quo for this to be something that is actionable. There are others who say even if he just pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate Joe Biden, that's enough, Rachael.

BADE: Yes, I mean, Democrats are certainly -- this is the link that they are looking at right now, and we don't know specifically what Trump said to the president of Ukraine on that call, but Democrats specifically say that, if he was playing games with government assistance to a top U.S. ally who's going up against Russia, basically putting our national security in this position where it would be contingent on whether this ally would help him politically, that that would be a huge problem and that that would be beyond the pale, and they would have to do something.

So that military link, that's why you're seeing a lot of these freshman from moderate districts come forward. A lot of them are former veterans, as you mentioned, people who served in the CIA. And these folks, as you mentioned, told Pelosi yesterday that they were going to be coming out for impeachment; if this was the case, that they've got to do something.

CAMEROTA: So as Democrats, John, seemed to be coalescing around this idea. Republicans' messaging is just interesting to listen to, because --

AVLON: Go on.

CAMEROTA: -- it has not quite coalesced around a message.

AVLON: I'm not sure messaging is, yes, the right term, yes. Yes.

CAMEROTA: Here's some of it. This is -- we have a full screen. Here's John Cornyn, Senator John Cornyn. "Is it a whistleblower or is it a leaker? I don't know which."

Well, actually, we do know which, since there is a law that, again, explains what you need to do if you're a whistleblower and this whistleblower followed it. Next.

AVLON: Correct.

CAMEROTA: This is Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota: "I think, as is often the case, there's a lot of hysteria over very little."

How do we know that?

Next, "I don't even" -- this is Richard Burr. "I don't even know if the complaint even deals with the intelligence community."

I mean, there's -- you can see that they're sort of struggling to figure out what to be angry about.

AVLON: Yes, there's -- there's this sense that, well, you know, maybe nothing is knowable in the Trump era, and maybe accountability is impossible.

Here's a real simple standard, folks. If Barack Obama did it, how would you act? If you can't apply the same standard, no matter what party is in power, you're a hack, and you're part of the problem. And for the -- you know, look, Burr should have this report. We know it's a whistleblower. We know they went through all the correct steps.

CAMEROTA: He's somebody who really fought for whistleblower rights in the past.

AVLON: That's right. So this whistleblower came forward. They did it the right away. The Trump appointee inspector general said it was urgent and a credible concern, and the Trump administration is taking the unprecedented step of blocking it.

They have it within their power to release the report, to deescalate the situation. If they don't, the fact that so many centrist Democrats are coming off the sidelines and saying this is a tipping point, tells you how serious it is.

BERMAN: So far only Mitt Romney among Republicans --

AVLON: Correct.

BERMAN: -- has really come forward and said much, and the president went after him last night.

I just want to say one thing. When Kevin Cramer says a lot of hysteria over a little, other people blaming the media. The media is not the group that said this is of urgent concern. The Trump- appointed intelligence community inspector general said this is a matter of urgent concern.

All right, Rachael. Thank you for your reporting. Let you go back to work. Please alert us if you learn anything else over the next hour or so.

John, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: As I mentioned, coming up on NEW DAY, we will talk to two of those freshman Democrats who have joined the calls for impeachment. They are the ones behind this op-ed. That's Congressman Jason Crow and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. BERMAN: All right. I told you there was more news from the United

Kingdom. This breaking news: an historic ruling in the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court there has just ruled the prime minister, Boris Johnson, suspended Parliament illegally in the run-up to the deadline for Brexit.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live outside the Supreme Court with the breaking details. There's so much going on here, including the issue of did the prime minister lie to the queen?


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This has been one of the central questions that was being examined by these 11 judges here at the Supreme Court, who were going to rule not only on the legality of whether he should have suspended Parliament for that crucial five- week period leading up to the 31st of October deadline when, without a deal, the United Kingdom is doomed to crashing out of the E.U., if Boris Johnson gets his way.

So much was hanging on the ruling. In the end, the Supreme Court judges could not have gone any further, John, in their verdict against the prime minister, against the government, essentially ruling not only that the suspension of Parliament had been unlawful, but essentially quashing it, which opens all kinds of questions about how Westminster now gets back to work, and is, of course, just across the road from the Supreme Court.

A bunch of the MPs that brought the initial case said, look, we're here. We're ready to get back to work to scrutinize that crucial legislation and ensure that a deal is found on Brexit.

I'd just like to read you a few words from that verdict. So damning was it of the prime minister's position. "The prime minister's advice to Her Majesty," said Lady Hale, who's the president of the Supreme Court, "was unlawful and of no -- void and of no effect. Prorogation, therefore, was void, of no effect." Prorogation has not taken place, which means, essentially, Westminster is back, Parliament is back.

How they get back to work is now the crucial question. How the prime minister is going to deal with what is, by all measures, a spectacular defeat -- John and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes. That is the big question today. What will Boris Johnson do?

BERMAN: Is there any sign, Melissa? Is he shaking at all? Might he have to resign?

BELL: Well, there were an awful lot of shouts out here when that verdict came out of Johnson out, even now the Labour Party are meeting at their conference. There are two shouts as the verdict came of Johnson out.

He's in New York, of course, for that climate change conference. It will be really interesting to see what his first words are in reacting to this news today, which of course, throws all kinds of questions up about how Brexit can now unfold. Power is now back with the Parliamentarians. It is no longer with Boris Johnson on this crucial question of the next few weeks, with the clock ticking up to that 31st of October deadline.

And on that news, just one other point, John and Alisyn. The pound rose as it came out.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. Melissa, thank you for explaining all of the complexities of this to us. Obviously, we'll be watching what happens today.

OK. Meanwhile, is President Trump worried about this growing talk of impeachment? Our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, joins us next with brand-new reporting.



BERMAN: Just a few hours from now, President Trump will deliver his annual very important address at the United Nations, but all the talk this morning is about major developments in Congress, where it looks like by tonight, impeachment could be on. It comes as CNN is learning new details about how President Trump singled out Ukraine for withholding money.

Joining us now, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins has got some brand-new reporting on how this all went down prior, correct, to the phone call with the Ukrainian leader?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think there's a lot of confusion of how we got here. And what we're learning from sources is that over the summer, the White House was in this big review of all of these foreign assistance programs, all of this military aid that they give to other countries.

When the president singled out Ukraine specifically, that interested staffers, because before in the past, the president had not been particularly interested in engaging with Ukraine. He thought that the president now was just like his predecessor, and he just brushed him off as this corrupt company that he did not think wanted to commit to reform.

So it interested staffers when the president was talking about Ukraine specifically, as they were reviewing these programs. That's when he directed his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to call the Pentagon, freeze this aid package, which we should note, was going to Ukraine to help protect them from Russia.

CAMEROTA: Four hundred million dollars' worth.

COLLINS: A lot of money but not in the grand scheme of things in their budget as far as they were looking at which assistance programs they should curb. So that is what led to that call, just days later, where the president

spoke with him, brought up Joe Biden to the Ukrainian president, and his son, pushed for him to look into the family, which of course, also came at a time when there were all these national polls throughout the country that showed Joe Biden leading -- beating President Trump if they were in a head-to-head match-up.

So the president is denying that these things are not intertwined, that he didn't bring up the aid program, he aid assistance, during that call with the president of Ukraine. But so far, neither he nor anyone else who works in the administration has provided a reason why Ukraine was singled out specifically, why they were stalled for so many weeks as they were reviewing all of this aid.

BERMAN: There's no evidence it was part of an interagency process, which is what the administration apparently instructed Congress to say. This is what "The Wall Street Journal" --

COLLINS: Because a lot of people didn't -- they couldn't explain why it was that Ukraine's aid was stalled. That was questions that we've been asking for weeks. Why is this, in particular, stalled so much?

But of course, it came as Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, is going on TV making these muddled accusations, not giving any basis for the accusations he's making. That came at the same time that the president's interest in Ukraine was ramping up.

CAMEROTA: Well, here again, this is why the transcript of the phone call or seeing the whistleblower complaint would be so important, because maybe -- maybe he didn't bring it up on the call. Maybe we should give the president the benefit of the doubt.


But when you start to put these pieces of the puzzle together, which is what reporters have been doing. Because the reporting is, is that it -- The whistleblower complaint isn't about one thing. It was about several things.

And so when, as your reporting shows, you start to see the puzzle, I mean, you know, we don't have all of the pieces, but the idea that he had started talking about it, it had started to be a bee in his bonnet, he had told Congress the wrong something other than what his real motivation was, and then you get to the call, it all starts to make a little bit more sense.

COLLINS: And look at when that call came, it was the day after Robert Mueller testified on Capitol Hill, something the president watched very closely, was tweeting about, essentially, by the minute. Making calls to lawmakers during -- and allies during the breaks of Robert Mueller's testimony. Then the next day he was on the phone with the Ukrainian president.

And even if he didn't bring up the aid, that's why critics say this is such a problem, that one day after Robert Mueller testified, he's pushing this other president, this world leader to investigate his political opponent.

BERMAN: Kaitlan, is the White House, is the president nervous about what looks like could now be inevitable, which is impeachment? An impeachment proceeding? And I ask this, because he said some clearly just outlandish things at the U.N. yesterday.

Let me just play the thing that he said about the electric chair.


TRUMP: 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.


COLLINS: Based on what we've heard, the president feels emboldened after the Russia investigation. He feels that this truly is unfairly targeting him, and that's what he thinks the whole scrutiny over his Ukraine call is.

Even though when you talk to his aides privately, when you talk to Republican lawmakers privately, they don't agree. You heard some of them even say it on camera, people like Marco Rubio saying they don't think the president should have done that. But when he makes that argument, he truly feels that people like Joe Biden have somehow gotten a pass.

Meanwhile, he thinks every single action he's ever taken has been widely criticized or at least highly scrutinized. So that's why he's making comments like that.

But he does -- you notice, he feels emboldened after this. He doesn't think that this is going to touch him. He says he's not worried about impeachment, and he's dismissing those claims. And he seemed to enjoy the fact that he had this leverage over Ukraine, over this aid package. Even if he didn't explicitly bring it up during the call, he was talking about it pretty widely to people inside the White House.

CAMEROTA: Let's also talk about what happened at the U.N. yesterday. There was a whole session on the climate crisis.

And as we know, the face of this has become this teenager, Greta Thunberg, who has, you know, really spoken about the passion and the desperation and tried to get adults to listen to what she thinks is the existential crisis of our time.

And so President Trump didn't attend this session in its entirety, but he did walk in at some point. And I think we have that moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the U.N., sir. Are you willing to --

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the U.N., sir. Are you really --


CAMEROTA: You can see, you know -- people have read a lot into her expression there, where she purses her lips and is sort of staring the president down, because she thinks that this requires more of his attention. And she had said yesterday about basically, she had asked how dare you? And I think that we have that sound, as well. So listen to Greta.


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


CAMEROTA: She got rousing applause. She captured how many people feel about this, and her passion speaks volumes; and then President Trump tweeted this. "She seems like a very happy young girl, looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see" her, exclamation point.

COLLINS: Basically dripping with sarcasm.


COLLINS: And it's interesting to see. We've known it's kind of this days-old story that the president is on a different page than world leaders when he's at a summit like this, especially when climate is such a big focus. And initially, he was not scheduled to even attend that summit, instead doing a speech on religious persecution at the time.

He dropped in for, I think it clocked in at about 14 minutes. He applauded at the end, but of course, was a silent figure. He didn't make any remarks, in there, as you saw these other world leaders spoke. And then his reaction coming out of it was to criticize the teenager who did speak. Who was a teenager.

CAMEROTA: Well, damned her with faint praise or whatever that was. I mean, it's not criticizing. It's just not listening with his ears, basically.

BERMAN: Listening with his mouth.

CAMEROTA: Listening with his thumbs.

BERMAN: As a great person once said.

CAMEROTA: Yes, exactly.

BERMAN: Kaitlan, great to have you here. Thank you very much. [06:25:02]

All right. An active-duty soldier is under arrest after allegedly discussing plans to bomb a television network. Guess which one? And a presidential candidate. We have the new details next.


CAMEROTA: An active duty U.S. Army soldier is under arrest. Federal prosecutors say he allegedly discussed bombing CNN and targeting presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is live in Washington with more -- Jessica.


The FBI says 24-year-old Jarrett Williams Smith repeatedly shared bomb-making techniques on Facebook and other online platforms. They also say he plotted to target CNN, and he talked about targeting presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke.

And at least one of these plots.