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U.S. Soldier Arrested over Plots; House Dems Closer to Impeachment; Puerto Rico Feels Quake while Preparing for Storm; Unity Government in Israel; Prince Harry's South Africa Trip. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 06:30   ET



JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: 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, an FBI bomb tech, who was later consulted, said if the bomb had been properly constructed, it could have detonated.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): The 24-year-old U.S. Army soldier is accused of sharing bomb making instructions over FaceBook and talking about blowing up an unidentified major news network. According to two sources, the network he named was CNN.

He also talked about killing members of the far left group Antifa and destroying cell towers or a local news station, according to the affidavit.

Prosecutors say Jarrett William Smith, while stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas, and Fort Riley in Kansas, was discussing building bombs and conducting attacks. The FBI began tracking Smith on FaceBook in March, but soon discovered Smith's conversations on social media discussing desires to fight and engage in violence dated all the way back to 2016 before Smith enlisted in the military.

The feds say Smith sought out another man who had traveled to Ukraine to fight with the right sector, a violent right wing paramilitary group. That man allegedly mentored Smith and prepared him to fight. The criminal complaint shows Smith stressed his desire to fight in Ukraine one year before he enlisted with the U.S. Army. Smith said, no former military experience, but if I cannot find a slot in Ukraine by October, I'll be going into the Army. To fight is what I want to do.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This case shows a level of motivation that we don't always see in investigations, and that is someone who is so intent on causing harm and loss of life, he doesn't care where it's going to take place, either here domestically or internationally. This person was looking for a target to kill.

SCHNEIDER: Smith joined the U.S. Army one year later in June 2017, but his plans to fight or blow up something only seemed to intensify. In a FaceBook group chat in December 2018, Smith allegedly said, I got knowledge of IEDs for days. We can make cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans.

The FBI used a confidential source and an undercover employee to talk online with Smith in August and September of this year. Smith allegedly discussed targeting the headquarters of that major American news network with a large vehicle bomb. An FBI tech who analyzed his plan says the bomb would not have worked.

Smith also elaborated on his plans to build weapons from everyday materials, saying, making AK-47s out of expensive parts is cool, but imagine if you were going to Walmart instead of a gun store to buy weapons. He allegedly gave very specific instructions for constructing an explosive device which the FBI says would have been viable if correctly built. And he referenced presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke when asked by the undercover agent if he could think of any politician who would be a good target in Texas, according to prosecutors. Smith allegedly asked, outside of Beto?

CAMPBELL: The FBI brought in bomb technicians who were apparently so concerned with his level of sophistication, they wanted to run to ground exactly what he was capable of doing, again, in order to stop a potential threat to the public.


SCHNEIDER: And Beto O'Rourke says his campaign has been working with the FBI in this case. The U.S. Army also says it has cooperated with the FBI, leading up to Smith's arrest in Kansas this weekend.

Now, that 24-year-old U.S. Army soldier, he does face up to 20 years for that charge that he distributed bomb making information online. And, John, he's due back in court on Thursday for a detention hearing.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously good work by the FBI. Obviously not the kind of thing you like to hear.

Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

BERMAN: The breaking news, hints that by tonight impeachment could be on. How will Democrats play this out, and are there signs that Republicans might be breaking their silence?



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with her Democratic caucus this afternoon as it looks as though more people are feeling comfortable with an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. This meeting comes as seven freshmen in the House have penned this op-ed in "The Washington Post" overnight, and they say that if these allegations are true, they back impeachment.

BERMAN: Well, but they want to find out if they're true. I think the news genuinely is that impeachment is more or less on. Nancy Pelosi, there are signs seem to have broken her resistance to it. These people in the middle have come forward and say they now support the investigation. I think that by tonight there very well could be an official impeachment inquiry with the blessing of Nancy Pelosi.

CAMEROTA: What does Michael Smerconish think, you wonder? Let's ask him. He is the host of CNN's "SMERCONISH."

Michael, it seems as though something significant has shifted last night and this morning?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree with what John just had to say. I think it's more a question of timing now. To quote Omar from the great TV show "The Wire," you going to come at the king, you best not miss. And I think that's what Nancy Pelosi is thinking. She wants to make sure that all the ducks are in a row as best as can be lest they fall short of this process once begun and embolden the president headed into the 2020 election.

BERMAN: OK, counselor, what would make this case, if you feel that this be true, a better case for impeachment than anything having to do with the Mueller investigation?

SMERCONISH: The Mueller -- I'm so glad you asked because the Mueller investigation was ambiguous. When all was said and done, on obstruction, you had those ten different issues that he reached, but he didn't make a decision on.

Take a look at that Lewandowski hearing recently. I thought it was a blank show. I didn't think that other -- either side benefitted. It was total partisanship. Everybody suiting up in their usual armor. They need something that transcends partisan bickering, something that can be in the Watergate terms. Ah, there was a break-in and the president sought to cover it up.


Can you explain this in a soundbite? Or is it like Whitewater, is it some ambiguous land deal that we really never knew what it was all about? Watergate or Whitewater? I think you can sum this one up into a soundbite, and that's a problem for the president.

And one more thing, if I may say this, this story is not going away before we read that complaint, before we read the transcript and probably before we meet the whistleblower. If I'm the president of the United States, my calculus is, I best get out ahead of this, participate in the release of this information, and try to spin it because it's not going away before we all get a chance to read it.

CAMEROTA: You make such a good point because this time, as opposed to more nebulous moments, there is the truth out there and it is concrete. It's tangible. We can all read it with our own eyes, or we can hear it from the whistleblower. And so that's what everybody is waiting for.

And I think that these seven Democrats who are from Trump districts, who have a lot to lose, have been circumspect in saying, if the allegations are true, that they're waiting. They're waiting to find the truth.

The truth exists. They need to read the whistleblower complaint, and they're waiting before they really jump on board with impeachment.

But that clock is ticking, and that clock might have an end date of Thursday because isn't that when the acting DNI goes to Congress? So if they stonewall further, well then what choice do Democrats have?

SMERCONISH: Right. But, Alisyn, take a look at the last four or five days. It hasn't been a trickle of information. It's been a fire hose. And the fire hose has been carried by the media, by CNN, by "The Post," by "The New York Times," by "The Wall Street Journal." So I don't know that the Congress risks losing an edge relative to the gathering information. Who knows what the next 24 hours are going to bring.

I can't believe that by tomorrow at this time you and John won't be sitting there and saying, oh, my God, now can you believe this, whatever this might be.

BERMAN: Michael, surely a sea of Republicans is getting ready to come forward and saying we need to see the facts here, we need to see the transcript, we need to hear from the whistleblower, maybe even the inspector general from the intelligence community.

Where are all those people?

SMERCONISH: Yes, I don't expect it to happen because I think they still fear the president in the primary process. I mean let's not forget that the White House is working overtime to spin this in a way that it's all a partisan witch hunt and it's -- it's all about Joe Biden and what about those underlying facts concerning Hunter, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So I don't expect that the Republicans will break ranks. And Mitt Romney, I know what he said, but, I mean, it wasn't as emphatic as it might be if you saw the transcript of the call or if you saw the complaint. Shy of either of those, I don't think there's going to be a Republican shift.

CAMEROTA: OK, Michael, thank you very much for your perspective. Be sure to catch "SMERCONISH" every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

OK, meanwhile, this five-year-old girl was rescued from underneath a New York City subway train. The remarkable story of the good Samaritans who pulled her to safety and the remarkable video.

BERMAN: Oh, my.




BERMAN: All right, breaking this morning, Karen has regained tropical storm status and could bring heavy rain and flooding to Puerto Rico. And also breaking overnight, the island was rattled by a powerful earthquake. Quite a combination.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with all of that.


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A 6.0 earthquake, John. Pretty significant there. The entire island felt shaking. Now, the good news is, it was offshore enough and there was no tsunami threat with this.

But we've had over now a dozen aftershocks. Many of those have been felt by people on the island. And I'm watching this all over Twitter.

The other thing we're obviously watching, Karen. It died last night. It went to a tropical depression. But now it's back.

This weather is brought to you by Xyzal, all night, all day allergy relief.

So let's get to Karen.

Only a 40 miles per hour storm. I know I say only, because that's still enough for people that are still living with blue tarps all over their houses. And the storm is still getting a little bit stronger as we speak. It could be a 45 miles per hour storm.

The real threat with the wind will be the rainfall. Could be eight inches of rain. It moves right over the island the next couple of hours. But by tomorrow night, that's when it starts to try to turn to the left. About four to six inches of rain will be the general rule across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But still like we had yesterday, the forecast is for the storm to turn left and possibly head toward the west, toward the U.S. mainland. We'll see.


CAMEROTA: I'll take it. Thanks so much, Chad.

MYERS: Oh, thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Now to this story that we have -- that we just showed you a little bit of video of. It's a miracle that this five-year-old girl is alive today. Police say her father jumped to his death in front of a New York City subway train while holding her, but somehow she was not struck by the train. Several good Samaritans then jumped onto the tracks to rescue her.


ANTONIO LOVE, RESCUER: I crawled under there, me and another guy, and we -- we pulled the baby to safety.

Papa, papa, papa. That's it. She didn't -- she didn't say anything else.


A:C Oh, my gosh. God bless those good Samaritans. That is terrifying. Police say the girl barely had a scratch on her.

Oh, my God.

BERMAN: You know, people doing the right thing, it's really impressive to see people band together and help.

CAMEROTA: I mean particularly when it involves risking your own life to jump onto a subway track.


That is terrifying. We are thinking of her and her family.

OK, coming up, CNN caught up with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their first official overseas trip with baby Archie.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: What's the message you're trying to get across today here at the beach?


CAMEROTA: OK, that's a tease. We have their answer, next.

BERMAN: Oh, excellent.


BERMAN: All right, happening now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival will begin talks today on forming a unity government as they remain deadlocked after last week's elections.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem with the very latest.

They're talking. Does that guarantee success?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an excellent question at this point, and one that remains unclear, not only to the candidates, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, but to the entire country as well.

The effort to try to get a unity government here is essentially the initiative of Israel's president, who says the public has clearly voted for a unity government, and now it's time to make that happen, warning that a third round of elections is not good for anybody here, not the politicians, and not the public. [06:55:11]

So Israel's president hosted Netanyahu and Gantz last night to try to kick off this initiative and now negotiating teams have already begun meeting from the two parties. But if neither side here is willing to give, it's unclear what, if anything, can actually be accomplished. And as of right now, neither Gantz nor Netanyahu have signaled that they're willing to give up on their core issues. Gantz refuses to sit with Netanyahu while he's under criminal investigation and Netanyahu says he's standing by his ultra-orthodox and right wing partners, which means his ability to negotiate is quite limited.

That being said, Israel's president sees this as his job, and he's going to try to keep this going as long as he can while he has the momentum. Options are already on the table to bring these two together once again with Israel's president to try to keep this momentum going as long as he has it. But, you're absolutely right to point out, John, it's unclear if this is going anywhere or if this is, well, just two politicians essentially sticking to their red lines and meeting because they have to instead of because they want to reach a deal and get a unity government. Essentially, political uncertainty remains the name of the game here in Israel.

CAMEROTA: OK, Oren, thank you for that status report. And we'll see if anything changes today.

Meanwhile, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and their son Archie are on a royal tour of Africa. The royal couple just spoke to our Max Foster. And he joins us live from Cape Town.

Tell us what they're saying, Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, they come to this beautiful area, or they're coming to this area, this lovely area, Cape Town a little later on. They're going to walk through the streets. They're going to visit a mosque. They're going to have tea just around the corner. We'll wat it see the reaction.

But they're in a really buoyant mood because yesterday's engagements went really well. The duchess went into a township. She talked about being a woman of color. It went down extremely well here. Lots of people felt that they could connect with her. So it's been a triumph so far.

And this morning I met up with them at the beach, where they were promoting this project which takes kids from the townships and teaches them to serve. It's a mental health project actually. It's had huge success. And that's where I caught up with them this morning.


FOSTER: Congratulations on the tour so far, your royal highnesses.

What's the message you're trying to get 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 there's so much positivity and all this diversity and inclusivity. I think the focus is on that, which is why it's so great that you're here today. It just highlights -- yes, there's a lot of attention on things that could be a bit troubling in the world, but this is actually what's making a difference and what matters.

PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: No, exactly. I couldn't -- exactly -- exactly what Meghan said. I think what these -- what these kids are doing, actually the coaches are the main thing, because they've had this quite unique experience. I say unique. It's not as unique as you would think because so many of these communities have been through very similar, traumatic experience. But they've now come into a place like this, into this (INAUDIBLE), to be able to not only share their experiences, but to be able to help the younger generation.

So you're talking about a whole group of -- a whole generation of kids that have been basically have no role models at all.


PRINCE HARRY: And that generation are now coming in and going, you know what, you didn't have those opportunities. We're now going to give you that opportunity.


FOSTER: No red carpets. All very informal going down pretty well here.

It's quite a formal event this evening, though, at the British high commissioners residence. And we think, Alisyn -- when we try to go through the itinerary -- we think that's the most likely place where we're going to see baby Archie, which a lot of people are holding out for, of course.

CAMEROTA: As I am, Max, as you know. So thanks you very much for keeping -- keeping on the baby Archie beat and keeping us updated on all of that. And it is just -- it's interesting to hear from Meghan Markle, from the duchess, and from Prince Harry, because we don't hear from them often.


CAMEROTA: So, thank you for bringing us that interview, Max.

OK, a major shift this morning from Democrats who, until yesterday, were on the fence about impeachment. Today, something's changed. We have brand new reporting.

NEW DAY continues right now.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we sit back and we don't do anything, then there is basically a stain on us as well.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their push towards impeachment is essentially shifting into overdrive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no indication that he abused his power here. There's no indication that there was any quid pro quo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This offense is so egregious, the president tried to get the Ukrainian president to do an investigation for purposes of benefitting his re-election. It just reeks of corruption.


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

BERMAN: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

Brand new reporting this morning about the Ukraine whistleblower scandal consuming Washington.


CNN has learned that President Trump directed his chief of staff to freeze millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine just days before a call with the Ukrainian president in which he.