Return to Transcripts main page


Pelosi Launches Impeachment Proceedings; Parliament Reopens in United Kingdom; Trump Slams Iran in U.N. Speech. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 25, 2019 - 04:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Speaker Pelosi takes an historic first step toward impeachment. A polarized country will be put to the test with the 2020 on the line.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START on a historic hump day. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRSITINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, September 25. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York.

Only three presidents in history, only three in American history have faced impeachment proceedings. Donald Trump will be the fourth. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially launching an impeachment inquiry against the president. Mr. Trump has admitted pressing the president of Ukraine to investigate former vice president and possible 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, at the very same time military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.

This sets up a battle between the House majority and a president who has fought over site at every turn. Pelosi resisted impeachment calls for months, but she now seems to believe that necessity outweighs political fallout in the 2020 election.

BRIGGS: The White House is planning to release two key documents in an effort to slow the building Democratic momentum as early as today. It will release the whistleblower complaint that set off the Ukraine scandal. The White House will also put out the transcript of Mr. Trump's call, with the Ukrainian president.

Unclear how much we will see before acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, appears before the House Intel Committee tomorrow. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff also says that the whistleblower wants

to speak to his panel.

More now from CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.



Now, after months of internal debate, infighting, and questions about the way forward, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally got behind the idea of moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, after Democrat after Democrat in her caucus called for the impeachment inquiries to begin, at least to move forward.

PELOSI: The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I'm announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.

RAJU: Now, she made very clear what was the straw that broke the camel's back was the complaint that was issued by this whistleblower and the president's handling of it, as well as the substance of the allegations. The president himself talking on the phone with the Ukrainian president about the Bidens. That, of course, becoming an issue that she seized upon, saying that's one reason why we need -- the major reason why we need to move forward.

At the same time, what does that actually mean? She's saying that the six committees that have already been investigating the committee on Capitol Hill, including the House Intelligence Committee and House Judiciary Committee will continue their investigations. And ultimately, they will decide whether or not to move forward on articles of impeachment.

And if they do, the House Judiciary Committee will vote to move forward and impeach the president. Then the full house will vote to impeach the president, but only to remove him to office. You'll need two-thirds majority in the United States Senate, which is led by Republicans to do that, which is unlikely to succeed.

So, this process could take a few months. Speaker Pelosi says she wants this to be done expeditiously. So, while it may not lead to removal of the president, it's a symbolic, but historic move because the president himself will be only the third president in American history to be impeached by the House.

Back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju for us, thank you, Manu. The groundswell for impeachment is growing in the House, 196 Democrats

now back an impeachment inquiry. That's 83 percent of the members, an increase of 50 members in the single day.

A good number of the holdouts were Democrats in swing districts and close allies of Speaker Pelosi, but for many like civil rights icon John Lewis, the Ukraine whistleblower fallout was simply the final straw.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): I have been patient while we tried every other path and used every other tool. We will never find the truth unless we use the power given to the House of Representatives and the House alone to begin an official investigation.


BRIGGS: Pelosi is telling colleagues the investigation will be done expeditiously. Democrats have said they hope to have it concluded by the end of the year.


This is the last week in session for the House before a two-week recess.

ROMANS: Obsessed with impeachment, that's how the president is trying to paint Democrats after Speaker Pelosi's announcement.

The president's campaign team releasing this dramatic video less than 30 minutes after Pelosi's announcement. CNN has learned it was prepared weeks ago. The campaign's communications director says, quote, we were ready in case the Democrats were that dumb and they were.

BRIGGS: The president has changed his story for withholding military aid from Ukraine. On Monday, he said it was all about corruption. On Tuesday, he blamed Europe.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My complaint has always been, and I will withhold again, and I'll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine, because they're not doing it. The United States, we're putting up the bulk of the money. And I'm asking, why is that?


BRIGGS: The president claims there was, quote, never any quid pro quo behind his decision to eventually release the funding to Ukraine.

ROMANS: Former Vice President Joe Biden following Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lead, going further than he has so far in impeachment. Biden calling on lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings if the president does not comply with Congress' request for information.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we allow a president to get away with shredding the United States Constitution, that will last forever. If he continues to obstruct Congress and flout the law, Donald Trump will leave Congress, in my view, no choice but to initiate impeachment. That would be a tragedy. But a tragedy of his own making.


ROMANS: Several of Biden's 2020 Democratic rivals have already said that they believe that Congress should take up full impeachment proceedings.

BRIGGS: Overnight, more extensive reporting from "The Washington Post," detailing how the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, pursued a shadow Ukraine agenda, while key foreign policy officials were neutralized. The timeline involves the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, senior officials being circumvented and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

ROMANS: Several officials describe tense meetings on Ukraine among national security personnel, with some saying that the president was prepared to leverage the new Ukrainian president for personal political gain.

It should be an interesting visual when President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky meet. They will meet at the U.N. today.

All right. Matthew Chance is in Kiev for us this morning, following all of this.

The last 24 hours has been just rapidly, rapidly developing, no question, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it has. And the Ukrainians are watching this scandal unfold and keeping their lips as tightly sealed as they possibly can, because they don't want to make it any worse for them.

I mean, as bad as it's becoming for President Trump, for the Ukrainians, they see it through the prism of their confrontation with Russia, they're fighting a war with Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country. They have a diplomatic campaign underway to take back control of Crimea, that was annexed by Russia back in 2014. Both of those matters have had the strong backing of the United States, cross- party support, in fact, in America.

Yesterday, I spoke to the former foreign minister of this country, basically the only official that's speaking to the news, a former official at that, and he says this is weakening Ukraine's position and handing a victory to the Kremlin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAVLO KLIMKIN, UKRAINIAN DIPLOMAT: Yes, definitely, (INAUDIBLE). Yes, definitely. It's -- for them, it's the best way to drive a wrench in our unique, and I really mean unique, bipartisan support for Ukraine. So now, you know, the Russians should be crazy happy about that.

CHANCE: And do you hold the president of the United States, President Trump, responsible for driving in that wedge?

KLIMKIN: No, but --

CHANCE: He's the one who made the request to investigate Joe Biden?

KLIMKIN: But justly, we still have to find out the fact. But we also remember his position during the G7 summit and the idea to get the Russians back into G7. And for me, you could not make America great again by letting Putin feeling better.


CHANCE: Well, the transcript of the telephone conversation in question is, we expect, going to be released later on today. Again, the Ukrainians are keeping stum about that, even as they prepare for a face-to-face meeting with President Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

But President Zelensky of Ukraine saying that conversation as far as he was concerned was private and confidential.


ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance for us this morning in Kiev -- thank you, Matthew.

BRIGGS: Taking a step back, it's remarkable that a former comedian with no political experience is at the center of the political universe right now, among other things.

ROMANS: And reality show host also at the center of the political universe.

BRIGGS: Yes, quite a dynamic between the two.

Up next, the Brexit latest, parliament back in session after the Supreme Court ruled that the prime minister' suspension of parliament was unlawful. Does it change the timeline for Brexit? CNN live in London, next.



ROMANS: All right. Lawmakers return to work in the United Kingdom today after Britain's Supreme Court declared in an historic ruling, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of parliament was unlawful. Johnson is flying back to the U.K. early from the U.N. General Assembly.

Let's go live to London and bring in Melissa Bell -- Melissa.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, we expect the prime minister to return to London this morning to land in the next few hours. Then, of course, just behind me, the MPs weren't expected to be back until October 14th. Instead, as a result of that ruling, they're back in about two hours' time, they'll be back in the House of Commons with the opposition and rebel conservative MPs itching to get their hands back on that Brexit process.

It's very difficult to see how much further they can go. However weak Boris Johnson appears as a result of that spectacular blow we saw dealt to him by the Supreme Court yesterday, his hands are very -- the hands of the opposition, rather, are very much tied. They simply cannot hold a vote of no confidence for the time being, because the risk would be that the constitutional process would be so long that the United Kingdom would come crashing out on the 31st of October without anything having opinion done, without a deal having been struck. And these MPs want to avoid that at all costs.

So, in a sense, they're likely to see the prime minister come back, as weakened as he is, and all they'll be able to do is try and hold that Brexit process as tight as they can. Hold him to account as closely as they can.

Have a listen to what Boris Johnson said alongside Donald Trump just before he left new York last night.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We respect the judiciary in our country. We respect the court. I disagree profoundly, with what they had to say.


BELL: Now, we don't know whether he'll be speaking in the Commons today. We expect that he probably will feel obliged to come and explain himself, although that hasn't been officially penciled in.

What he will have to say to them will be extremely interesting this morning, Dave.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right. Thanks so much for that, Melissa Bell, in London this morning.

BRIGGS: In just a few hours, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will address the U.N. General Assembly. This comes after President Trump tore into Iran during his speech Tuesday, threatening more sanctions and calling the country one of the greatest threats to the planet.


TRUMP: No responsible government should subsidize Iran's bloodlust. As long as Iran's menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened.


BRIGGS: So, how are the Trump comments playing in Iran?

Let's go live to Tehran and bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

Fred, good morning.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Dave. Needless to say, those comments aren't playing very well. its' one of the interesting things about President Trump's speech, on the one hand, during that entire time he was speaking about Iran, he was ripping into the Islamic Republic and its leadership the entire time, as you said, saying that sanctions will be tightened and certainly not loose at this point of time.

But at the end, he said, that the U.S. doesn't want to have permanent enemies and is ready to embrace other countries, as well. Now, does that mean that there might be a chance for some sort of new diplomacy between these two countries? Does that mean there might even be a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N.? Well, certainly, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, in an interview seemed to say that was not going to be the case.

He was saying in an interview there that right now, the U.S., as he put it, had left the diplomatic circles and the Iranians certainly wouldn't come back.

And I want you to take a look at what happened with the Iranian foreign minister when our cameras caught up with him. He also seemed to say "no," as well. Let's listen in.


REPORTER: Mr. Zarif, has there been any progress in the talks with the United States, sir?

JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We don't talk to the United States.


PLEITGEN: We don't talk to the United States -- there, the Iranian foreign minister saying.

But that doesn't mean that other countries aren't trying, especially the French president, Emmanuel Macron, he had meetings yesterday with Hassan Rouhani and, of course, he had been meeting with President Trump as well. And he's saying that he believes the time is right, right now, for these two leaders to meet. And if they don't meet at the U.N., it would be a wasted opportunity.

Of course, as we know, Hassan Rouhani set to speak at the U.N. General Assembly later today, Dave. BRIGGS: Yes, hard to imagine if there's not some progress in talks

here, no diplomatic end awaits. Fred Pleitgen, live for us in Tehran this morning, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Signs the trade war is weighing on consumer confidence, and that could be bad news for the economy. The conference board's consumer sentiment index for September fell to 125.1, weaker than expected. One economist at the conference board said, quote: The escalation in trade and tariff tensions in late August appears to have rattled consumers, adding that confidence is plateauing amid a continued pattern of uncertainty and volatility.

In a note to clients, ING's chief economist said the data suggests that the recent bout of equity market weakness may have generated a sense of nervousness about the economy.


The recent increase in gas prices might have been a factor here. The national average is now $2.66, up 10 cents in one week. Confident consumers and their healthy spending are an essential part of the economy, but if confidence wanes, the engine of America's growth could be at risk.

We're watching these things very, very closely.

BRIGGS: Indeed, we are.

Ahead, a new vaping ban as states try to curb the deadly epidemic. We'll tell you where.



ROMANS: The Trump administration is threatening to withhold federal highway funds from California, claiming the state has failed to take steps to improve its air quality. The move by the EPA escalates a nasty running battle between the president and the bright blue state. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler vowing in a letter to withhold billions of dollars from the state, suggesting California officials have failed to carry out their most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act.

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom says he and other state officials won't be intimidated by a, quote, brazen political stunt.

BRIGGS: Massachusetts governor declaring a public health emergency and ordering a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products and devices. It comes in response to a nationwide outbreak of lung illnesses and deaths linked to vaping. The CDC reports at least 530 cases of vaping-related lung illness across 39 states. Nine people have died.

Massachusetts would be the first state to issue a total ban. Two states, Michigan and New York, have banned sale of most flavored e- cigarettes.

ROMANS: All right. Robert Mueller could not prove collusion or obstruction. The day after he testified, the president tried to collude with Ukraine and then obstructed a whistleblower. That was the straw that broke Nancy Pelosi's back. Impeachment proceedings now begin.