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New Details Emerging Speed Up Impeachment Developments; Ukraine's Zelensky Forced to Answer Question About Call During Meeting at the U.N.; Prince Harry Visits Botswana. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 04:30   ET






DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president defiant, despite asking Ukraine for a favor, investigate Joe Biden. And he offered to get the attorney general involved.

Welcome back to EARLY START on a Thursday. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour here in New York. We begin in Washington, though.

A dizzying series of events leading up to one of the most highly anticipated days in memory on Capitol Hill. The whistleblower's report on President Trump's call to the Ukrainian president has now been declassified. It will be released as early as this morning. One lawmaker who saw the complaint calls it alarming and says the pressure put on President Volodymyr Zelensky will likely lead to calls for Trump aides to testify.

Overnight the "Washington Post" reported new details of the complaint. It says officials moved records of some of the president's talks with foreign officials including the Zelensky call on to a separate computer network. CNN has learned the anonymous whistleblower has tentatively agreed to testify as long as his lawyers get clearance to attend.

BRIGGS: Before any of that happen, the White House released the transcript of Mr. Trump's call with Zelensky. Trump repeatedly urged the Ukrainian president to investigate his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden. And Mr. Trump said he'd enlist the attorney general in that effort.

In just hours, the acting director of National Intelligence thrust into the spotlight by this controversy goes before lawmakers. The "Washington Post" reports Joseph Maguire threatened to resign if the White House tries to restrict his testimony. Maguire denies that. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill with more.


This is potentially a monumental moment up here on Capitol Hill. Acting DNI Joseph Maguire set to testify in just a few hours before the House Intelligence Committee. And this follows the release, the White House rough transcript of the phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president. They released that on Wednesday afternoon up here on Capitol Hill, as well as the classified whistleblower complaint.

That was released last night to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. And lawmakers after reading that classified document in a secured setting, they couldn't discuss much of the substance of what was in the report. But more broadly speaking, Democrats emerged saying that they are more concerned than they were before they read that complaint.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I found the allegations deeply disturbing. I also found them very credible.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): I'll just say the complaint itself is a five-alarm concern.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): There are other witnesses here who need to be talked to and who need to, quite frankly, be interviewed or brought before our committee to understand the full extent of the misconduct here.


SERFATY: And one notable comment from a Republican who read that classified report, Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican. He repeatedly called the complaint troubling after reading it.

Now, meantime, later today, Maguire and the intelligence community I.G., Michael Atkinson, they are both scheduled to go behind closed doors this time in front of the Senate Intel Committee -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: As for the White House transcript, it does not contain a specific quid pro quo related to U.S. military aid but Mr. Trump does suggestively point out the help that the U.S. provides Ukraine before asking for, quote, "a favor." The president tells his Ukrainian counterpart, "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution of a lot of people and a lot of people want to find out about that. So, whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great."

Of course there is zero evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son.

BRIGGS: President Trump mentions Biden in the call three times and Attorney General Bill Barr five times. And that is raising serious questions about what Barr knew and when. Remember, the Justice Department advised against sending the whistleblower complaint to Congress and it refused to open a formal investigation, even though the inspector general for the intelligence community asked DOJ to look into the matter. And that is reigniting concerns that Barr's Justice Department is serving as a shield for the president. One official briefed on the matter claims Barr had minimal involvement and career prosecutors from DOJ made the final decision.

ROMANS: A defiant President Trump with diplomacy as the backdrop at the U.N. painted himself as a victim of vicious Democrats.


TRUMP: No push, no pressure, no nothing. It's all a hoax, folks. It's all a big hoax. When they look at the information, it's a joke. Impeachment for that?


ROMANS: And he has some support. A "Wall Street Journal" op-ed by 19 Republican House members, including the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, they say, in part, "This partisan attack on the president could have far-reaching implications for foreign policy and permanently damage world leaders' confidence in their ability to speak freely and candidly with any U.S. president.

BRIGGS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats in a private meeting she wants to focus their impeachment inquiry on President Trump's conversations with Ukraine.


It could be an uphill battle. A new Quinnipiac poll reveals only 37 percent of voters believe the president should be impeached and removed from office, 57 percent say he should not. There's a clear partisan divide, 4 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats supporting impeachment. Important to note, the poll was conducted last weekend just as the whistleblower story was gaining traction. Clear at this point most Americans still learning of this story.

A few cracks emerging among Senate Republicans over the president pushing Ukraine's leader to investigate Biden. For days Utah senator Mitt Romney had been a lone Republican voice of concern. He offered more last night.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): This remains deeply troubling. And we'll see where it leads. But the first reaction is troubling.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why do you think so many of your fellow Republicans have been either quiet on this subject or actively defending the president?

ROMNEY: I think it's human nature to see things in a way that is consistent with your own world view and your sense of what's necessary, for the preservation of your position of power.


BRIGGS: Now some other Republican senators are chiming in with their reservations. Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey called the conversation between Trump and Zelensky, quote, "inappropriate." And Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman said the transcript did not surprise him but that the president should not have done what he did.

ROMANS: Amid the impeachment frenzy, President Trump and Ukraine's President Zelensky met face-to-face for the first time on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us in Kiev this morning. Good morning, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Christine. That's right. President Zelensky went to New York hoping to have those face-to-face discussions with President Trump about the country's national security, about the ongoing support that the United States provide to Ukraine's economy and of course to its military. But that visit was of course overshadowed by this controversy. And President Zelensky when he sat next to President Trump was forced to answer questions about whether there was quid pro quo in that phone call, or whether there was any pressure applied by President Trump to him during that call. Take a listen to what he had to say.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: We had, I think, good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things. And I -- so I think when you read it that nobody pushed it. Pushed me. Yes.

TRUMP: There was no pressure.


CHANCE: It was a good phone call. No one pushed him, he said. But, you know, make no mistake, the Ukrainians are absolutely mortified that they have been sucked into this American political crisis this way. The overriding national security concern for this country is that they maintain bipartisan support in the United States for their military campaign against pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country over their diplomatic campaign to secure back territory in Crimea that was annexed by Russia in 2014. The big problem for the Ukrainians is how are they going to walk that line and maintain that cross-party support when the political debate in the United States is now so completely divided.

ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance for us in Kiev this morning. Thanks so much for that.

BRIGGS: And there's this, a copy of the White House talking points on the Ukraine scandal was accidentally e-mailed to Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats. The White House then tried to recall the e- mail. The memo urged Republican allies to argue there was no quit prod pro and what the president talked about with Ukraine's leader was entirely proper.

ROMANS: Former vice president Joe Biden spoke about all of this overnight with Jimmy Kimmel.


JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE-NIGHT HOST: How does this rank as far as on the outlandish scale for you the last 48 hours, watching this transpire?


KIMMEL: Mm-hmm.


BIDEN: It's awful hard to avoid the conclusion that it is an impeachable offense and a violation of constitutional responsibility. But look, that's -- I am confident in the ability of the House and Senate to deal with this. My job is just to go out and flag beat him.


BIDEN: And so, what I can't let happen, I can't let this distract me in a way that takes me away from the issues that really are the reason why I'm running.


ROMANS: It's going to be fascinating for these candidates on the campaign trail. You know, are they going to talk about health care? Are they going to be talking about, you know, gas prices and the economy?

BRIGGS: They're going to try.

ROMANS: When there's just this constant drumbeat of impeachment progress.

BRIGGS: They'll talk about it.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: But will that resonate, you know?

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Ahead, finally some progress on the biggest U.S. labor strike in 12 years. When could 50,000 GM workers get back on the job?



ROMANS: The U.S. and Japan signed a limited trade deal Wednesday, opening up Japanese markets to American farm goods, as the U.S. struggles to make a deal with China.


TRUMP: Japanese tariffs will now be significantly lower or eliminated entirely for U.S. beef, pork, wheat, cheese, corn, wine, and so much more. This is a huge victory for America's farmers, ranchers and growers and that's very important to me.



ROMANS: President Trump said Japan will open its markets to $7 billion in American egg products. The two sides also set provisions related to $40 billion in digital trade. The U.S. will also reduce or eliminate tariffs on some Japanese industrial goods, including bicycles and musical instruments. Farmers have been hurt hard by the U.S. and China trade war. The American Farm Bureau applauded the tentative trade deal saying it's a positive step for America's farmers and ranchers. President Trump said more comprehensive deals would be negotiated with Japan in the future.

BRIGGS: Next stop on the royal tour of Africa, Botswana. Prince Harry is there to focus on conservation efforts, an issue that has long been close to the prince's heart.

Let's bring in CNN's David McKenzie. He is live in Botswana with the latest.

David, good morning.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Dave. Yes, well, we're hear on the banks of the Toby River in Botswana. Prince Harry came here spent a touching few moments, raising up what was quite an extraordinarily large tree. He said it's probably the biggest tree that the members of the royal family have put up.

This is a passionate issue for him, conservation, and he spoke very passionately about climate change and young people striking around the world. He said, we shouldn't deny science. And I asked well, why does it get so stuck in in the middle of conservation issues? Take a listen.


MCKENZIE: You have been so hands-on for years with conservation. Why do you want to be in the middle of it?

PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: I think we're all in the middle of it. It's an emergency that we are -- it's a race against time and one in which we are losing. And everyone knows it. There's no excuse for not knowing that. And I think the most troubling part of it is that I don't believe that there's anybody in this world that can deny science. Undeniable science and facts. Science and facts that have been around for the last 30, maybe 40 years. And it's only getting stronger and stronger.


MCKENZIE: Well, Prince Harry also spoke about his connection to Botswana. He said, you know, he came here, Dave and Christine, when Princess Diana died, to escape as he put it to me. But then he's developed friendships, connections, and very close connection specially to issues of conservative and climate change. And it was clear that this is something very close to the prince's heart -- Dave, Christine.

BRIGGS: Very revealing tour for the royals. Dave McKenzie live for us in Botswana. Thank you.

Authorities in Italy evacuating mountain homes in northeastern Italy after experts warned more than 300,000 cubic yards of ice could break away from alpine glacier. The geologist monitoring the glacier on Mont Blanc tells the "New York Times" rising temperatures have sharply increased its melting rate. Geologists say a chilly fall could freeze up the crack and prevent a massive avalanche. The U.N. this week published a report blaming the climate crisis for rapidly melting glaciers and ice sheets which cover nearly 10 percent of earth's land area.

ROMANS: All right. Soon you'll be able to use Alexa in every corner of your home. CNN Business has the details on Amazon's new line of Echo products. That's next.



ROMANS: The first reported vaping deaths in Florida and Georgia are bringing the nationwide total now to 11. The CDC as of last week reported at least 530 illnesses related to the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products. Health officials will update those numbers today.

Rhode Island now the latest state to ban the sale of flavored vaping products. It comes a day after Massachusetts temporarily banned all vape sales. CNN has also learned the U.S. Military plans to remove e- cigarette and vaping products from base exchange stores by the end of the month.

As the vaping crisis grows, embattled e-cigarette maker Juul has suspended all U.S. advertising. It has removed its CEO. He is being replaced by the chief growth officer at the tobacco company Altria. Altria a major investor in Juul. The move rejected by several health organizations who say hiring a tobacco executive shows Juul prioritizes profits over health. But important to note, the tobacco industry going all in on the Juul craze.

BRIGGS: Negotiators for GM and the UAW are making progress in talks to end an 11-day-old strike. CNN has learned some issues involving individual GM plants are resolved or close to a resolution but the so- called national issues involving pay and benefits for nearly 50,000 hourly employees are not. 31 GM factories and 21 other facilities in nine states have been idled since September 16th. More than 3200 workers are now furloughed including 500 here in the U.S. The strike is costing the automaker about $2 million a day.

ROMANS: A heartbreaking post-script to Hurricane Dorian in North Carolina. 28 of the outer banks' famed Wild Horses more than half of one herd were killed in that storm. The horses' bodies have been washing up on the beaches on Cedar Island. They were swept to their deaths by Dorian's storm surge off North Carolina's outer banks. Some of the surviving horses has managed to swim to safety on nearby islands. The other missing horses are now presumed dead.

BRIGGS: Summer temps set to hang around in the East Coast. Up to 15 degrees above normal from New England down to the Gulf Coast.

More now from CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Dave and Christine. It is pretty incredible considering how warm it is still into the latter portion of September. Temperatures in Boston today 81 degrees. The average high, closer to the upper 60s for this time of year. And this unseasonably warm pattern continues for at least a few more days, especially along the south but there is a frontal boundary in place here that will eventually bring in some showers later this evening and with its slightly cooler temperatures going in towards Friday.


But that is about it. We rebound quite rapidly. And in fact, looking ahead into next week, as we bring in the month of October, the first week of the month of October, well above-average temps expected on the eastern half of the U.S. while well-below average temps across the western and north western corner of the U.S. as well.

Look at what's happening across the Atlantic. Here's what is left of Tropical Storm Karen, very unorganized, very weak system here. And really quite a bit going against it. Models suggest it will kind of loop around over the next couple of days potentially weaken further. On approach, towards the Bahamas, but when you take a look at what is happening upstairs, when it comes to the wind shear, upper levels of the atmosphere, and also the dry air ahead of the storm, we expect this to weaken rather quickly and potentially rain itself out before it arrives across the Bahamas -- guys.

BRIGGS: Pedram, thanks.

While you were sleeping, late-night took on President Trump's reaction to this impeachment inquiry.


SETH MEYERS, LATE-NIGHT HOST: Trump tweeted this morning that there is, quote, "no president in the history of our country who has been treated so badly as I have." Even more amazing he tweeted it from the Abraham Lincoln Room in the John F. Kennedy Library.

TREVOR NOAH, LATE-NIGHT SHOW: Trump is the only person who'll do something so bad right out in the open that it makes you question whether it's actually bad. All right? It's just like a powerful thing. It's the same that Kanye can walk around basically in rags but because he does it so confidently, we're just like I guess that's a style now?

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE-NIGHT SHOW: I would like you to do us a favor, though. Ladies and gentlemen, our contestant has said today the secret words, the phrase that pays. The Ukrainian in exchange for political favors. Tell the president what he's won. It's protracted impeachment inquiries.


ROMANS: All right. Stephen Colbert this morning.

Let's get a check on CNN Business right now. Take a look at markets around the world, mostly mixed. You can see European markets have opened higher here. Asian markets closed mostly higher, after President Trump signed a trade deal with Japan and said this about a deal with China.


TRUMP: They want to make a deal very badly. Could happen. Could happen. It could happen. It could happen sooner than you think.


ROMANS: So that sooner than you think got a lot of attention. And many people on Wall Street arguing about whether it was just a turn of phrase for the president or he really meant sooner than you think.

Dow Futures right now just slightly higher. Stocks finished higher Wednesday for their best day in a couple of weeks. The Dow closed up 163 points. The S&P ended up oh, just shy of 1 percent. The Nasdaq closed 1.1. percent higher.

Something to watch for for today is the third revision of second quarter GDP. Investors will be watching just how much the economy grew in the second quarter.

Good news in the housing market. New home sales rose a stunning 7.1 percent in August well above what economists expected. Translation, 713,000 new homes are sold last month. One economist said the trade war tensions and the tariffs aren't holding back home buyers. As you know, mortgage rates have been quite low. So that may be something that's drawing people in these very low rates to finance homes.

Soon, Amazon's Alexa will be in every corner of your house. On Wednesday, Amazon unveiled its new Echo lineup that includes a smart clock, oven, speakers, even glasses. A new Echo smart clock displays the outside temperature. Echo frames feature very discreet directional microphones that let only users hear Alexa. And a smart oven allows users to scan items from the Alexa app to automatically program the oven to cook them properly. And for those who are tired of Alexa's voice, Amazon plans to introduce its first celebrity voice. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: I'm always ready.


JACKSON: Today in Los Angeles, it's 85 degrees. Say my name. Whoo- hoo. Oh, aren't we organized?


ROMANS: Samuel L. Action, later this year, for 99 cents.

BRIGGS: And the key is, there's a clean version and explicit version. You can opt for either one. So seeing in action in all his glory and the other one.

EARLY START continues right now.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, damaging details from a whistleblower complaint about the president. Capitol Hill gearing up for the acting spy chief to testify.


TRUMP: No push. No pressure. No nothing.


BRIGGS: President Trump defiant despite asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. And the president offered to get the attorney general involved.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, September 26th, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

A dizzying series of events leading up to one of the most highly anticipated days in memory on Capitol Hill. The whistleblower's report on President Trump's call to the Ukrainian president has been declassified. It will be released as early as this morning. One lawmaker who saw the complaint calls it alarming and says the pressure put on President Volodymyr Zelensky will likely lead to calls for Trump aides to testify.

Overnight the "Washington Post" reported new details of the complaint.