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Damaging Details Ahead of DNI Testimony; Trump Defiant After Transcript Release; Netanyahu Given First Chance to Form Government; Brewers Pull Off Improbable Playoff Spot. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 26, 2019 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, damaging details about a whistleblower complaint by the president. Capitol Hill is gearing up for the acting spy chief of testify.




DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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. It says officials moved records of some of the president's conversations with foreign officials, including the Zelensky call unto 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 happened, 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 enlists the attorney general in that effort.

In just hours, the acting 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 tried to restrict his testimony. Maguire denies that.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more from Capitol Hill.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

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 Senate and House 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 the 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: All right. Sunlen on the Hill, thank you for that.

As for the White House transcript, it does not contain a specific quid pro quo related to U.S. military aid, in exchange for investigation of the Bidens. But Mr. Trump does suggestively point out the help 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 and a lot of people want to find out about that. So, whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great.

Now, there is no 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. That is raising serious questions about what Barr knew and when. Now, 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's all 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 at the U.N. painted himself as a victim of the vicious Democrats.


TRUMP: No push, no pressure, no nothing. It's a hoax. All a hoax, folks.

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 policy and permanently damage world leaders' confidence in our 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 conversation with Ukraine could be an uphill battle if the polls are correct. A new Quinnipiac poll reveals only 37 percent of the voters believe the president should be impeached and removed from office, 57 percent say he should not. There's a clear partisan divide, with 4 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats supporting impeachment.

Important to note, the poll was conducted last week and just as this whistleblower was gaining traction.

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

[05:05:07] So, how is all this playing in Ukraine?

CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Kiev.

When you read this transcript of the call, Matthew, I mean, there's a lot of flattery from Ukrainian president to the U.S. president. He seems to really understand who is on the other end of that phone line.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, absolutely. I mean, make no mistake. I mean, for whichever Ukrainian president sits in the presidential, sort of, office here, he or she knows very well that is -- the United States is the most important strategic ally for this country. They are heavily dependent on United States for economic assistance, for diplomatic support in their campaign to regain control of the Crimea, which is annexed by Russia in 2014, and, of course, important military aid, as well, to fight that battle, which is ongoing with pro-Russian rebels.

So, maintaining a really good relationship, not just with the incumbent American president but with presidents in the future, as well, maintaining cross party support in the United States for the backing of Ukraine is the most important national security priority for this country. So, when President Zelensky, after pushing for a face-to-face meeting with President Trump, finally got it, hoped he could be talking about the issues. It was overshadowed by the telephone call, the White House transcript that was released and the allegations that he was pressurized by President Trump, to investigate Joe Biden.

Take a listen to what President Zelensky had to say.


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

TRUMP: In other words, no pressure.


CHANCE: Well, separately, President Zelensky saying, though he's kind of happy the transcript was released, he said he wants these conversations in the future to be private and confidential.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance in Kiev for us, thank you so much.

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 tried to recall the e-mail. It urged Republican allies to argue there was no quid pro quo.

And what the president talked about with Ukraine's leader was quote entirely proper. ROMANS: Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke about all of this with

Jimmy Kimmel.


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


KIMMEL: Uh-huh.

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'm confident in the ability of the House and Senate to deal with this. My job is just to go out and beat him.


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 are the reason why I'm running.


BRIGGS: Interesting revelation.

All right. Ahead, a shocker in the Israeli elections. Benjamin Netanyahu will get another chance to form a government.

CNN live in Jerusalem, next.



BRIGGS: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been given the first chance to try to form a new government after attempts to negotiate with his main rival Benny Gantz failed. But the road to building unity coalition, avoiding another election will be difficult if not impossible to navigate.

Oren Liebermann joins us live from Jerusalem.

If you're a betting man, Oren, you say this is likely?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, if I were a betting man, I certainly wouldn't beat at all on Israel elections and Israel political future because that's how uncertain things are at the moment. What is clear right now is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at least gets the first crack at creating a new government, even though he doesn't have the biggest party after the elections and doesn't really have a clear to a path to a coalition.

So, what was Israel's president's rationale in giving Netanyahu the first chance? Well, he at least has the best chance at succeeding or at least the worst chance of failing here, if you want to look at it like that.

Now, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in getting him the chance, Netanyahu at least has the most support, 55 seats, whereas his rival Benny Gantz has only 54 seats, though Israel's president said neither of them has a clear path to forming a government. And the reality of a third possible election is growing day-by-day.

Netanyahu says he wants to pursue a unity government, a wide government. Well, that's the same thing that his rival says. So, what's the way out of this? That is what remains unclear here.

There is at least a clear path forward in terms of a timeline. Netanyahu will have up to six weeks to form a government. If he fails, as he did after April's election, Gantz will get a chance, his rival, he'll have four weeks.

If both of them fail, which is likely to happen if nothing major shifts here, there's three weeks until the Knesset or for the Knesset to choose upon a third candidate. And if all of that fails, new elections are automatically triggered.


Dave and Christine, the president warned, hat would be a heavy price once again for Israel's public to pay.

BRIGGS: So, three, four months, we might have some clarity.

Oren Liebermann, best of luck to you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. What costs more than a midsize car? A year of health insurance. For the first time ever, the Kaiser Family Foundation shows annual employer-provided health care costs are above $20,000. That is a grim milestone.

And employer health benefits have become too expensive for many lower- income workers. Only one in three employees at low wage firms are covered, compared to 63 percent of workers at other companies. The companies bear, on average, 71 percent of the cost of employer- provided health care. Employees pay the rest.

And those costs, those consumer costs are rising faster than wages. Consumers paying higher costs for their share of the insurance, their deductibles are rising, and prescription drug costs are soaring.

Over the past decade, family premiums are up 54 percent. Workers contributions are up 71 percent, but wages are only up 26 percent.

This, Dave, is why this is one of the top issues on the campaign trial. No question. People are paying more of their own money for their employer sponsored healthcare. It's why more progressives in the Democratic Party are saying the government should take this over.

BRIGGS: Hopefully, the focus remains on those issues. ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: But it's doubtful that happens, right?

The Milwaukee Brewers punching their ticket to the postseason without their most valuable player.

Carolyn Manno here in studio with "The Bleacher Report", next.



BRIGGS: Let's talk a little sports.

Major League Baseball's postseason picture is getting clearer as we near October.

ROMANS: Carolyn Manno has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report".


BRIGGS: Hi there.


BRIGGS: Good morning.

MANNO: I know you guys love a good story. And the Milwaukee Brewers certainly one of the --

BRIGGS: Yes. They've had a lot of adversity, for sure.

MANNO: They've had a lot of adversity, only a couple of postseason spots left heading into last night's baseball. A lot of people counting out the Brewers after they lost their MVP, Christian Yelich, to injury earlier on this month. But the team has responded nicely with a red-hot push to the postseason for a second straight season.

It's been nearly 40 years since the Brewers made consecutive postseason appearances. And Ryan Braun helped make that a reality. Grand slam in the first inning to give the Brewers an early lead.

They've been through so much, true team effort for Milwaukee, getting the most out of their roster, winning 9-2, in Cincinnati last night. They now have won 17 of their last 19 games. Celebration here is cause for more than beer. Milwaukee looking to try and win their first-ever World Series title.

Meantime, an impressive regular season run from the Twins is also extending into the postseason. Two-run shot to right last night from Eddie Rosario helping to lift Minnesota to a 5-1 win over the Detroit tigers. The team would have to wait to celebrate. They didn't officially clinch the AL Central title until the White Sox beat the Indians in Chicago.

But they did. It is the first division title for Minnesota since 2010. Celebration fully on in the clubhouse.

And also out on the field, this is Twins pitcher Sergio Romo, celebrating in his own way. No shirt, no shoes, no problem. You can do whatever you want when you're playing October baseball.

Phil Mickelson used to being a fan favorite. His playing partner, though, the bigger draw at the Safeway Open Pro-Am. Fan favorite, avid golfer, Steph Curry, joining Lefty in Napa, California, yesterday.

Looking ready for training camp here. That begins next week. Just off of the 17th hole.

The two-time MVP had a strong day on the links. He impressed. Little eagle putt there on 10. Not a bad day to be Steph Curry. Never a bad day to be Steph Curry.

And in the latest devastation edition of two adults with big dreams bringing gloves to baseball games. A pair of fans failing to seize the moment during yesterday's game between Arizona and St. Louis, just missing the home run ball, and their chance at glory.

You see that guy's reaction there.

BRIGGS: Did you see the facial expression there?

MANNO: He's like, we're ready for it. We're ready for it. We're ready for it. Or not ready for it.

BRIGGS: That's what utter devastation looks like. The man on the right, just horrified that he didn't come up with it.

MANNO: Yes, little discussion there. You know, Dave and Christine, communication is key here for big plays.

BRIGGS: You got to call it.

MANNO: You got to call it.

BRIGGS: I got it, I got it, I got it.

MANNO: I got it, I got it, I got it. I don't have it.

BRIGGS: I've got one thing for you. You missed one thing in the Brewer celebration. Mr. Baseball, 85-year-old --

ROMANS: Here he is.

BRIGGS: Eighty-five-year-old Bob Uecker. What's more satisfying than that. A beer celebration for the Ueck.

MANNO: Mr. Baseball.

BRIGGS: He's done beer commercials for as long as I can remember. I would assume that is good, ice cold Miller Lite.

ROMANS: Nice little cigar.

MANNO: Nice little cigar to boot.

ROMANS: Just like us after a show.

BRIGGS: Yes, on Friday shows.

Carolyn Manno, good to see you.

ROMANS: Carolyn, good to see you.

All right. Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

The acting spy chief just hours from critical testimony, and overnight, new details about the whistleblower complaint against the president. That complaint could go public today.



BRIGGS: 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.


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

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. It is 5:29 Eastern Time on a Thursday.

We start in the nation's capital and a dizzying series.