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Ukrainian President Wants No Part of Trump Controversy; Prince Harry's Hands-on Conservation Effort; Innovate Africa. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 01:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church. Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Donald Trump on the defense saying he never pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden but a transcript of that conversation seems to say otherwise.

Boris Johnson stands firm while facing furious MPs after his humiliating loss in the Supreme Court. And the moment many royal watchers have been waiting for, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, give us our best look yet at Baby Archie.

There are a number of important new developments in the controversy over U.S. President Donald Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. We are learning the whistleblower complaint that led to this investigation has been declassified and may be released to the public as early as Thursday.

Also in the coming hours, two key players in all this, the U.S. Acting Director of National Intelligence and the Intel Inspector General are set to testify before lawmakers on Capitol Hill. And a rough transcript of the phone call was released Wednesday. It showed the U.S. President asking Mr. Zelensky to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, one of Mr. Trump's political opponents.

Over his part, President Trump remains defiant saying he did nothing wrong and he is doing some major damage control. Jim Acosta reports now from New York.



JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Delivering a long and rambling defense of his phone call with the leader of Ukraine, President Trump mocked the prospect of impeachment.

TRUMP: They're getting hit hard on this witch hunt because when they look at the information, it's a joke. Impeachment for that?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: It's better to be on T.V. then by phone I think.

ACOSTA: Insisting he doesn't want to be drawn into the raging impeachment battle in Washington, while still asking for more military assistance from the U.S., Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters he isn't feeling any pressure from President Trump to investigate Joe Biden.

ZELENSKY: I think you read everything. So I think you read text. I am sorry, but I don't want to be involved to democratic often elections of USA. No, sure that we had I think good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things. So I think you know already that nobody push it -- pushed me. Yes.

TRUMP: There was no pressure.

ACOSTA: But it appears there was pressure. The White House transcript of Mr. Trump's call with Zelensky last July reveals that after the Ukrainian leader offered to buy more military equipment from the U.S., the President says, I would like you to do us a favor though. And then on the next page, Mr. Trump ads, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son. So if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me.

The President also request that Zelensky works with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General's William Barr. Asked why Giuliani a private citizen seem to be conducting government business, the President told reporters, ask Rudy.

TRUMP: Well, you'd have to ask Rudy. I will tell you -- I will tell you this that Rudy is looking to also find out where the phony witch hunt started.

ACOSTA: Giuliani told Fox News, he was representing the administration.

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: And you know who I did it, at the request of the State Department. I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to. Laura, I'm a pretty good lawyer, just a country lawyer, but it's all here, right here.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This is how a mafia boss talks.

ACOSTA: Democrats are pouncing accusing the president Of shaking down the Ukrainians, justifying their cause for formal impeachment inquiry.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The fact is that the President of the United States in breach of his constitutional responsibilities has asked a foreign government to help him in his political campaign at the expense of our national security, as well as undermining the integrity of our elections. That cannot stand. He will be held accountable.

[01:05:04] ACOSTA: The President has suggested the impeachment slugfest threatens to torpedo any hope for progress on proposals awaiting action in Congress, like new gun legislation. TRUMP: He really has lost her way. I tell you what, Nancy Pelosi is not interested in guns and gun protection and gun safety. All she's thinking about is that she's been taken over by the radical left, the whole Democratic Party. And you take a look at what's happening in the media today, the whole party is taken over by the left. And thank you very much, my poll numbers have gone up.

ACOSTA: Most Republicans are rallying around the President with some GOP lawmakers gathering at the White House to hammer out their message backing Mr. Trump. The White House accidentally sent some of their talking points to House Democrats. So far, only a few republicans are breaking for Mr. Trump.

If the President of the United States asks or presses a leader of a foreign country to carry out an investigation of a political nature, that's troubling. And I feel that.

ACOSTA: Even as the administration was declassifying the whistleblower's report, the President was calling into question the allegations coming from the whistleblower. The President said the whistleblower was working off of second-hand information. Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: And of course, the rough transcript of the phone call is just one piece of this troubling puzzle, another the whistleblower complaint itself. Some members of Congress were able to read it on Wednesday in secure rooms in the U.S. Capitol. And this comes after the Acting Director of National Intelligence at first refused to turn over the complaint. Democrat Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is one of those who read it.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I found the allegation is deeply disturbing. I also found them very credible. The complaint was very well written and certainly provides information for the committee to follow up with other witnesses and documents. I think that what this courageous individual has done has exposed serious wrongdoing.


CHURCH: Republican Senator Ben Sasse also read the complaint. He told reporters "There's obviously some very troubling things here." But he also said Democrats jump too soon to use the word impeach, arguing lawmakers need to slow down.

And as for the transcript of the phone call, longtime Trump supporter Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted, if you are underwhelmed by this transcript, you're not alone or crazy. Those willing to impeach the president over this transcript have shown their hatred for Donald Trump overrides reason.

Joining me now is Larry Sabato. He is the Founder and Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So we do want to start with our critical phrase and the released transcript of President Trump's July 25th phone call with Ukraine's president where Mr. Trump says I would like you to do us a favor. And then he goes on to pressure an ally to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son. What was your reaction when you read that, and of course, the rest of the transcript?

SABATO: Well, it's shocking. It's stunning. It is absolutely outrageous. And that's probably the best thing you could say about it. I don't know how much people keep up with history or read history, but this is absolutely unprecedented to the extent that we know in the public and private record of all prior presidents.

No one has ever done anything like this, actually, call a foreign leader and try to enlist them into helping the President's reelection campaign. Even President Nixon never did anything like this. So it's just so fundamentally un-American, that I just find it hard to believe that there's anybody out there who isn't disturbed by it. And yet, of course, there are.

CHURCH: Yes. That takes us to the Republican Party because by Wednesday evening, we started to see some cracks in the Republican ranks. Senator Mitt Romney saying he found the contents of the transcript deeply troubling. The same concerns were also raised by Senators John Thune and Ben Sasse. Others avoided making any comment.

Senator Lindsey Graham came out vehemently defending the president. Why do you think only three Republicans are concerned about this? Is it -- is it -- are we talking about politics or something else?

SABATO: It's pretty clear that Senator Romney has been at least privately a consistent critic of President Trump. You couldn't always tell it from what he said publicly. But I think genuinely he is disturbed by this. He's a traditionalist. The same is true for Senator Sasse from Nebraska.


There are few others, but unfortunately, they're more like Lindsey Graham, who see their political futures tied up with Trump's success. Lindsey Graham is on the ballot with Trump in 2020 in South Carolina, which Trump is guaranteed the carrot.

So there are individual reasons for each senator. But one thing's for sure, anybody who lived through Watergate and the Nixon impeachment or near impeachment will remember that the impeachment process then was extremely bipartisan. There were so many Republicans who took chances, who stood on principle, who came out against Nixon because of what they discovered he had done.

There's almost none of that now. Everything is so polarized, even within Congress. It's not just the people of the United States, it's the Congress of the United States. None of them, none of them really will get out in front of this and say, enough is enough.

I suspect in the end that the people like Senator Romney will not vote to convicted and oust President Trump.

CHURCH: Interesting. And you know, also Wednesday the whistleblower complaint was made available for review to some lawmakers, including Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, who said it revealed serious wrongdoing. We're also learning that the whistleblower has tentatively agreed to testify as long as the appropriate clearances to attend the hearing or obtain.

Now, we don't know the specifics of that complaint just yet, although we will talk a little later about the latest information we have on that. But how significant Do you think this is?

SABATO: All we could go on right now is what legislators who seen the whistleblower's complaint have to say. And they indicate that it goes well beyond the transcript of the call between Trump and the President of Ukraine. What that means precisely, we don't know. But we have been told by several sources that the whistleblower's complaint list several people in the White House who can corroborate what the whistleblower is claiming.

So that would be very significant, assuming they don't change their stories, but I don't think they will. This has -- this has gotten too hot on the griddle and an impeachment is probably coming. The House Democrats are very likely to pass it. One network now has 218, a majority in the House ready to vote for impeachment. I know CNN is more cautious on the count.

Whatever it is now, it's very likely that you will see a majority of the House since Democrats have 235 seats. They'll be able to get 218 plus the independent congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.

CHURCH: Right. Now, you mentioned just there on your answer, you referenced that New York Times report that the whistleblower identified multiple White House officials as witnesses to potential presidential misconduct who could corroborate this complaint. What is your response to that and how far does that take this particular part of the equation?

SABATO: It's important because we can already see the outlines of what President Trump is going to insist that this whistleblower was nothing but a partisan, a Democrat, trying to sabotage his reelection campaign. Other motives beyond partisanship, he undoubtedly would imply and already has suggested.

So if you have Trump staffers, maybe even people who are relatively high up in the Trump White House confirming what the whistleblower said it adds a lot of credibility to that complaint.

CHURCH: Right. And another part to this story because it just keeps growing is Acting Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire will testify before Congress in just a few hours about the whistle blow complaint.

But earlier, he was denying a Washington Post report that said he was threatening to resign if the White House stopped him from testifying freely. What did you make of all of that and where do you see that going?

SABATO: What I make of it is this. There's a lot of turmoil right now in the White House and among the Trump staff. Regardless of the public face they're projecting, and there would have to be, this is actually a more serious challenge to Trump than the Mueller report turned out to be.

With this, you actually have the second example of a foreign country being invited in to participate in an American election campaign to favor one Donald Trump. First Russia, now Ukraine, who knows how many more they'll be potentially by the time the campaign finishes.

This is serious stuff. And it is certainly true that the Trump base will never leave him for any reason. We get it. We've been watching for three years. They'll never leave, but they're not a majority. They are not a majority of the country.


And if the rest of the country realizes there's a serious threat here to American democracy, I think it's a very dim future for President Trump.

CHURCH: We've also seen though, how President Trump is able to deflect. I mean, you have to ask how damaging this might be for him, if he can convince people with his explanation of all this is it's a manufactured crisis, that the media and the democrats are in partnership here, it's a nothing burger. We've seen it before that he's been able to turn things around and deflect and move the story and the cycle on.

SABATO: It's wearing thin, it's getting old. And I'm not saying his base will split with him. And his base could be defined as as much as 40 percent the electorate. And he got 46 percent of the vote, but he got some extra percentage points from people who just didn't want to vote for Hillary Clinton. But, you know, 40 percent is certainly a big group, and you can call on the support of millions and millions of people, but 60 percent of the country is a much larger group. Not to say they would all vote for a Democratic candidate, but what they might do is turn on Donald Trump.

The most remarkable statistic I've seen in any survey recently was in the New York and then the NBC Wall Street Journal poll recently that indicated almost 70 percent of Americans don't like President Trump personally. And that included millions of people who give him favorable marks for his actual presidency. When you're disliked by 70 percent of the country, you're on thin ice.

CHURCH: Yes, it's difficult to trust some of these polls, though, because a lot of the time people who do support Trump don't say they do, and that's what is the source of many surprises, as we've seen in the past. But we should watch this very carefully. Larry Sabato, always a pleasure to get your analysis. Many thanks.

SABATO: Thank you so much, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And we turn to Britain now. And the Brexit battle roared back into parliament after an extraordinary setback from the Supreme Court. Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained defiant. He doubled down, disagreeing with the ruling that the suspension of Parliament was unlawful. And he challenged opponents to call for a no-confidence vote or get on with Brexit.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: Instead of facing the voters, the opposition turns tail and fled and fled from an election. Instead of deciding to let the voters decide, they ran for the courts instead. And it is absolutely no disrespect to the judiciary to say I think the court was wrong.


CHURCH: And even before Mr. Johnson arrived at the House of Commons, a raucous debate was already in full swing.


GEOFFREY COX, BRITISH ATTORNEY GENERAL: This Parliament has declined three times to pass a withdrawal, with which the opposition in relation to the withdrawal had absolutely no objection.

It was -- then we now have a wide number of this House setting its face against leaving at all. And when this government draws the only logical inference from that position, which is that it must leave therefore without any deal at all, it's still sets its face denying the electorate the chance of having its say -- its say in how this matter should be resolved. This Parliament is a dead Parliament. It should be no longer sit. It has no moral rights to sit on these green benches. And whatever --

BARRY SHEERMAN, BRITISH LABOUR M.P.: Every word he has uttered no shame today, no shame at all. The fact that this government cynically manipulated the prorogation to shut down this House so that we couldn't work as a Democratic assembly. He knows that that is the truth. And to come here with these barristers bluster to obfuscate the truth. And for a man like him, a party like this, and a leader like this, this Prime Minister, to talk about moral rules and morality is a disgrace.


CHURCH: Well, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now has 28 days to try to form a coalition government. President Reuven Rivlin chose Mr. Netanyahu for the task after power-sharing talks with the Prime Minister's chief opponent, Benny Gantz failed.


Final election results had Mr. Netanyahu's Likud Party ahead of Gantz' centrist Blue and White Party by one seat. Gantz has vowed not to form a government with Mr. Netanyahu because he faces indictment on corruption charges. The Prime Minister denies the allegations.

All the stakes are high as climate change takes a dramatic toll on oceans and ice. What a new report tells us about what's happening already. We're back with that in just a moment.


CHURCH: A new U.N. report paints a grim picture for the future of our planet. It lays out ways climate change is affecting the oceans, frozen land, and water. It found polar ice sheets are melting dramatically faster than expected, causing sea levels to rise. The oceans have absorbed more than 90 percent of the planet excess heat from global warming, making marine heatwaves twice as likely and more intense. The report also warns that by 2050, flooding and coastal areas will happen every year, instead of once per century.


Emily Pidgeon is the Vice President of Ocean Science and Innovation at Conservation International. And she joins us now from Half Moon Bay in California. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, how significant are these findings in this new U.N. report, and just how concerned should we all be?

PIDGEON: I think that this report brings together the latest science that we have on oceans and climate change. And to me, when we bring it all together in one place, it really says to us that climate change is ocean change. And this -- it's already dramatically and fundamentally changing the very substance of the ocean around us.

CHURCH: Right. And --



CHURCH: OK. And the report found that polar sheets are melting dramatically faster than originally thought, which means causing sea levels to rise faster than expected. So, what will be the impact of that?

PIDGEON: Well, as you already have pointed out, that sea levels have been rising, and we -- the report points out that sea levels are going to be accelerating, and that this has dire impacts for the coastal areas. And we know that in the next 30 years that we will see up to a billion people living in low line coastal areas, and they will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding and erosion, other impacts that we already are seeing increasingly in many low lying areas around the world. And yes, many island areas are already being impacted.

CHURCH: Yes, I mean, it is -- it is a very grim picture that's being painted, isn't it? And we've also learned that oceans are absorbing more than 90 percent of the planet's excess heat, making marine heat waves twice as likely. What's that going to mean for marine life?

PIDGEON: So, the impacts of this ocean change that is climate change on marine life are profound. Different species are going to respond in different ways, some are going to move deeper, some are going to move towards the poles. And then some, like corals are really left, high and dry, or in those heat waves, and are going to be impacted and are already being impacted. And so, climate change is going to rip apart these -- the ecosystems that we and many people around the world depend upon every day.

CHURCH: And the report also warns, as we explained that by 2050, extreme flooding will occur every year instead of every 100 years in those coastal areas. And what will that mean for coastlines?

PIDGEON: So, it means that we're going to see, as you say, flooding, increased erosion of coastlines, it means that people around the world are going to have to prepare and adapt. And that means different places and different things in different places. Obviously, large cities are going to have to find ways to prevent that flooding. But we're also some of the most vulnerable people in the world are the ones that don't have necessarily the resources to build infrastructure to protect themselves. And so, they're going to have to find alternative ways to cope with this increased flooding, increased erosion that we're already seeing in many parts of the world.

CHURCH: Yes. Hopefully, leaders throughout the world will start looking at this and taking measures to maybe delay this because it apparently is all too late or we're getting close to that point out, aren't we? Emily Pidgeon, thank you so much for joining us.

PIDGEON: Thanks very much for having me.

CHURCH: A new member of the Royal Family makes his long-awaited appearance. Coming up, baby Archie smiles for the cameras in South Africa. Back with that in just a moment.



CHURCH: Returning now to the Trump-Ukraine investigation, two of the key players, the U.S. Acting Director of National Intelligence and the intel inspector general are set to testify before lawmakers on Thursday.

At issue is the whistleblower complaint regarding President Trump's July phone call with the president of Ukraine. A rough transcript shows President Trump pushing Ukraine to investigate one of Mr. Trump's political opponents, Joe Biden and his son.

When President Trump and Ukraine's president met formally for the first time at the U.N., it became clear that Volodymyr Zelensky wants nothing to do with the political battle now playing out in the United States.

Our Nic Robertson has our report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: At the center of a political storm he has stumbled into, Ukraine's novice President Volodymyr Zelensky says he's taking it in his stride.

VOLODYMIR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I am very calm. I don't want to offend any American citizens now, but I will tell you honestly, I am a citizen of Ukraine. America is a big country, but for me the largest country is Ukraine. Therefore if I'm very popular here, then for me, it is very nice. That's all.

ROBERTSON: Following his meeting Wednesday with President Trump he told Ukrainian journalists, he was surprised but not upset a transcript of their call had been released.

ZELENSKY: I did not speak to President Trump before that. Yesterday he simply shook my hand and said that he had not seen such a long time before so many people voted for one person.

ROBERTSON: Zelensky, a former comedian is on a charm offensive with Trump in New York.

ZELENSKY: Can you give me your word that you will come?

ROBERTSON: Inviting Trump to Ukraine.

ZELENSKY: I'm sorry but I think you forgot to tell me the date.

ROBERTSON: And reminding him Trump forgot to date his invite to the White House.

Meetings like his phone calls he'd rather keep under wraps.

ZELENSKY: I personally think that sometimes such things, such calls between heads of states, president of independent countries don't have to be published because you know there are some geopolitical issues, some plans, et cetera but you can see for yourselves, I am not afraid of it

[01:34:58] ROBERTSON: Zelensky maybe new to global diplomacy but not what's at stake, about what he says now.

ZELENSKY: I would not want my answer (INAUDIBLE) into the elections of another country. Any result in any victory or loss -- I do not want to do this and therefore I said that no one can press me and no one will press me.

ROBERTSON: So far Zelensky seems to be successfully sidestepping blowback from Trump's impeachment headaches.

ZELENSKY: It's better to be on to the (INAUDIBLE). TRUMP: Yes.

ROBERTSON: It's early days yet.

Nic Robertson, CNN -- New York.


CHURCH: Royal watchers finally got what they've been waiting for. Baby Archie made his first official appearance with his parents Prince Harry and Meghan. They met Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town.

The four-month-old sat on his mother's lap while cameras captured every moment. The meeting lasted about half an hour and the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate said he was thrilled to see them.

Prince Harry is spending the day in Botswana. He is a longtime patron of groups there such African Parks and Elephants without Borders.

As David McKenzie reports the prince has a history of taking a hands on approach to conservation.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was an elephant relocation on an epic scale. Prince Harry not content on the sidelines, toiled with the translocation team for weeks in 2016.

As African Parks moved a staggering 500 elephants to a safe haven in Malawi.

PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: In a weird way they know they're here to help. Otherwise, you know, they'll wake up (INAUDIBLE). They're so calm. They're so relaxed.

MCKENZIE: Over years of visits to the region Harry has quietly built up his reputation as the champion of elephant conservation across southern Africa earning the respect and friendship of renowned researcher Mike Chase in Botswana, home to the largest population of savannah elephants.

For Mike, this must have been perfect elephant country.

MIKE CHASE, ELEPHANT CONSERVATIONIST: It is. And this is what we call the elephant the conservatives just, drop, this message is perfect alive and country.

This is where we call the elephant park, the most remote wilderness area within the elephant range in northern Botswana. So it's ideal elephant habitat.

MCKENZIE: Still, across the continent, elephants are being decimated by poaching and habitat loss. In several states, they could go extinct.

Harry has used his considerable celebrity to raise funds and awareness for charity groups to protect this iconic species. A cause that seems deeply personal to the Prince especially in a country that is quickly becoming his second home.

He returns to Botswana often for private visits to the bush, far from the prying press. It was here that he healed as a boy after Princess Diana died.

In 2017, during another secret trip, Harry and Meghan colored (ph) elephants with Chase's team. He would propose to her shortly after.

David McKenzie, CNN -- Kasane, Botswana.


CHURCH: And we'll be back in just a moment.



PATIENCE TORLOWEI, FASHION DESIGNER: Quality is something that I realized was lacking in production in the garment industry and that was my number one focus. And that is why it's taken 10 years for us to get this far.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why do you manufacture at home in Africa? Why do you not do this perhaps in Paris or outsource as many people do to even China?

TORLOWEI: Africa is also a continent and Africans are heroes and here and why should not Africans understand the knowledge of underwear making. They are training my people in Nigeria.

I had to go beyond just training them to make what I wanted was to do which. It was also, trying to instill in them that they have to learn to be patient, it has to learn to release nurture and know that good things don't come easy. And in the long run, there will be the parlance on way making in Africa.

CURNOW: So how did you move from being a purveyor of lingerie to having a permanent exhibition in one of the most iconic museums in the world.

TORLOWEI: I made a dress for a client' who was attending some seminar in Abuja, the state capital. (INAUDIBLE) Her dress caught the attention of these people from America.

The museum was celebrating the 50th (ph) anniversary so I was one of seven other designers selected randomly from several African countries to participate for this "Earth Matters" fashion show.

And I produced this dress, which I call Ester (ph). Ester is named after my mother who died around the same time. So I was quite full of emotion. The title gave me a chance to talk about the damage and destruction happening in Africa. I opted to donate it because to me it adds more value that way. I saw something about education, of the destruction really happening in Africa.

CURNOW: Do you see your work as inspiring other African women designers?

TORLOWEI: I think that I've been a strong inspiration to a lot of people, both men and women because I returned to Africa in the last phase of my life because I have lived my life in three phases. I am on page three. It is to give back. It is actually transfer the knowledge of everything I have. I just want to leave a legacy that will outlive me.


CHURCH: Totally inspirational.

And thank you so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I am Rosemary Church.

"WORLD SPORT" is next.