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Whistleblower Accuses White House of Cover Up; Complaint: Trump's Actions 'Pose Risks to National Security; House Committee Chairs Move to Protect Whistleblowers. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 27, 2019 - 05:30   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And it was not the first time, what's next as the impeachment inquiry marches on.

Welcome back to early start on a Friday. I'm Dave Briggs.


BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans. It is 29:30 minutes past the hour exactly, and big questions for this White House this morning, following a gripping day on Capitol Hill.

The whistleblower complaint alleges a how White House cover-up after President Trump pressed the leader of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election.

Overnight, CNN learned the Justice Department knew about the allegations soon after President Trump's July 25th call with Ukrainian president.

Officials briefed on the matter, say the whistleblower and formed an intelligence agency general counsel who alerted the Justice Department as required.

Now the New York Times reports the DOJ then told the White House the timing of all of this raising more questions about the handling of the complaint and the efforts to keep those details from Congress.

BRIGGS: Overnight, the Washington Post reporting the White House has taken extraordinary measures to keep details of President Trump's calls with foreign leaders secret. A Number of steps have been taken after embarrassing disclosures early in the administration, among them reducing the number of aides allowed to listen in on calls and some officials who deliver call memos now have to sign Chain of Custody records in case there is a leak.

Moments after the whistleblower complaint went public acting spy Chief Joseph Maguire testified to the House Intel Committee. He defended both the whistleblower and his own handling of the complaint.


JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I am not familiar with any prior instances where a whistleblower complaint touched on such complicated and sensitive issues, including executive privilege, I believe at this matter is unprecedented.


BRIGGS: The fallout from all of this has come fast and fear. CNN's Jessica Schneider with more from Washington.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christina and Dave, the details of the whistleblowers complaint are now fully revealed. And the stunning allegations are twofold. First, of course, that President Trump sought out Ukraine's assistance and interference for the benefit of his 2020 reelection campaign.

And second, that the White House subsequently tried to cover it up. The whistleblower laying it all out in stark detail, saying that Senior White House officials intervene after the call to quote "lock down all records of that phone call." And that White House officials told the whistleblower that they were directed by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the regular computer system, it would normally be on and transfer it to a separate system only normally used for highly sensitive materials that only certain officials have access to all of this, and what some are saying amounts to a cover up by the White House, the whistleblower also recounting how White House officials said that they were deeply disturbed by what transpired in the July 25 phone call, where President Trump pressed the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden and his son. And the whistleblower also saying that White House officials put it this way, "that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain."

And even more alarming, the whistleblower says, this isn't the first time that a presidential phone call transcript was placed in this separate electronic system leading to a lot of questions.

Now the acting director of National Intelligence was on Capitol Hill for fierce questioning on Thursday. But he defended not only his handling of the complaint, but also the whistleblower, saying that that whistleblower did the right thing and followed the right steps to get that complaint into the right hands. The whistleblower does want to talk to members of Congress and if he is allowed to, that could of course be the next step in what has officially now become an impeachment inquiry. Christina and Dave.

ROMANS: Right, Jessica Schneider, thank you. As for those next steps, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has assigned the House Intel Committee to take the lead on the impeachment inquiry. She's telling members the probe will for now focus narrowly on allegations related to the Ukraine call.


NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: The complaint report a "repeated abuse of an electronic record system designed to store classified sensitive national security information," which the White House used to hide information of a political nature. This is a cover up. This is a cover up.


BRIGGS: Democrats are hoping to vote on formal articles of impeachment before the holidays more than half of House members now support an impeachment inquiry. Remember in peace requires only a simple majority in the House, removal from office requires a vote of two-thirds in the Senate which is of course controlled by the GOP.

ROMANS: More on this, plus the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. and all-time low new rules from the White House, next.


ROMANS: President Trump reacted angrily to the whistleblower complaint that alleges a cover up at the White House after the President put -- put us the leader -- push the leader of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election. Mr. Trump suggested whoever spoke to the whistleblower is a traitor and alluded to execution as a punishment.


TRUMP: I want to know who's the person who gave the whistleblower, who's the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that's close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.


BRIGGS: If you missed it, that's alluding to execution. Normal times that is game over.

ROMANS: He talked about the -- Two days ago, he talked about the election chair.

BRIGGS: The electric chair.

ROMANS: The electric chair for ...

BRIGGS: If it were the other party.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: All right, let's bring in CNN White House Reporter Sarah Westwood live in Washington. Sarah, good to see you on extraordinary news, Friday. This is moving at lightning speed, so it's hard for a lot of people to wrap their mind around all of it. But at its core, it's about abuse of power, it's about election interference and now it's about an extensive cover up. What does this White House consider the most potentially perilous of all those serious allegations? SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Dave, I think what we just saw with that audio for President Trump is that there's still a fundamental misunderstanding with President Trump of just how serious the situation is. You know, it is reported that the White House doesn't have an overarching strategy to deal with impeachment, despite the fact that this has been hanging over their heads for months now.

This has moved so quickly that a lot of White House aides have whiplash they were not prepared to have to defend against this Ukraine situation. It unfolded so quickly, they were accustomed to dealing with, you know, the Russia investigation, which was a slow burn, the developments trickled out over the course of nearly two years. This has unfolded over the course of a week and so the White House now sort of weighing what to do next, but they don't seem to have a good handle on what exactly the next move is, for example, we know that they released the transcript of the President's phone call with the Ukrainian President under pressure, that decision was quickly second guessed by aids within the administration who didn't want that to be released in the first place.

ROMANS: Yeah, try to get it out there is one of those big, you know, crisis P.R. strategies, get it out there. But then once you get it out there, there's more for everyone to see that transparency can really backfire. We've seen that the GOP reaction, right, you've got some folks who are out there trying to discredit the whistleblower, listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) MINORITY LEADER: -- rises to impeachment. This is a president the United States that had a conversation with a leader in another country.

REP. MIKE CONAWAY, (R) TEXAS: You can find anybody out there who third and fourth hand information could build an allegation that they want to, if they're concerned about. My guess is based on the recording that you guys do. There's a lot of folks out there who ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The inspector general (inaudible) urgent and incredible concern.

CONAWAY: Well, under the pure definition, not urgent the way we normally consider urgent.


ROMANS: And then there's a whole host of GOP lawmakers, Sarah, who say they haven't even read the complaint and nine-page complaint that, you know, we could read in the commercial break here. So what is the response from the GOP? And is it enough?

WESTWOOD: Well, terms allies have really focused on the fact that this whistleblower did not have firsthand knowledge of the call. And that's reflected in the complaint, which we saw released yesterday. But that's not a particularly effective attack because the transcript of the Ukraine call was released before the complaint was released. So we got to match up what was said on the call, and what the whistleblower alleged, and the underlying transcript supports the complaint. So even though this whistleblower wasn't listening in on the call, he or she pretty much guessed everything right if this is just a guest, so it's not an effective attack from Trump allies and it exposes how unprepared, they truly are to deal with this whistleblower complaint.

They're also seizing on the fact that there was no in their words quid pro quo directly. But again, CNN reporting shows that the timeline that aid to Ukraine was suspended matches up with this phone call and a lot of Democrats saying the implication of the President's actions was enough to tell the Ukrainians what his intentions were.

BRIGGS: Short and even clear the quid pro quo matters in this case. I mentioned those three things, abuse of power, election, interference, but as to that extensive cover up that the Washington Post has done some incredible reporting on, how high could this go? What would it mean? What would it take to move these conversations to a database that usually contains highly confidential information?

WESTWOOD: That is one of the most interesting parts of the whistleblower complaint. It's something that we didn't know before, whereas we did have a pretty good sense of what the whistleblower was a legend with regards to the President's conversations with Ukrainian leaders. We did not know about that particular aspect of the complaint that this transcript and potentially others had been moved on to a highly classified system in order to conceal those conversations.

Now, we know that this White House did have some trouble at the beginning of Trump's presidency with leaks from sensitive conversations with world leaders. And so they took steps to limit the number of people who could view those conversations. But this whistleblower is a legend, something a little more nefarious that this was done in order to protect problematic conversations that President Trump might have had like this one. So that's something that will certainly fall under the scrutiny of this impeachment inquiry. And it just shows the danger that President Trump is in right now politically, and it's not clear that the White House is ready to handle that.

BRIGGS: Maybe those around him, 12 people, at least a dozen were aware of the contents of the phone call alone.

ROMANS: And then there's the Rudy Giuliani factor acting sort of as a shadow Secretary of State on behalf of this President. And the Atlantic has this quote from Rudy Giuliani, the President's attorney, "It is impossible that the whistleblowers a hero and I'm not. And I will be the hero. These morons-when this is over. I will be the hero." What is the White House view or the administration view at the moment of the Giuliani factor in this story?

WESTWOOD: Well, I think you're starting to see some people around the President question whether Rudy Giuliani is helpful at this point, you could trace a lot of the trouble that President is in currently, back to actions that Rudy Giuliani has taken and his frequent appearances on cable news, since he joins the President's legal team have often caused more problems for the White House than one could argue they've helped solve.

But Rudy Giuliani words there sort of reflect what a lot of Trump allies are saying they are defiant in the face of all of the scrutiny and continuing to argue without evidence that there's something to this Joe Biden story even though it's been looked into and that's not been found to be the case. So Rudy Giuliani, they're clinging to this argument that there's something to Biden allegations, despite the fact that doing so in the first place is what puts the President in so much political peril.

ROMANS: Wow. Sarah Westwood. So nice to see you this morning, thank you so much for that, have a great weekend if you ever get out at the White House long.

BRIGGS: It's going to be a busy weekend.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: This is moving. Thank you, Sarah. All right, the safety of whistleblowers now a major concern, top House Democrats are now warning President Trump to stop what they call reprehensible witness intimidation. Three Committee Chairman write, "Threats of violence from the leader of our country have a chilling effect on the entire whistleblower process, with grave consequences for our democracy and national security."

A GoFundMe to cover legal fees for the whistleblower has now raised more than $125,000. We'll be right back.


ROMANS: A record low number of refugees will be allowed to be admitted to the United States. The Trump administration says only 18,000 refugees will be allowed to resettle here in the next fiscal year. That's compared to 30,000 this year, which was the lowest level since 1980.

More than 100,000 refugees were admitted in the final years of the Obama presidency. Some of the White House wanted none, wanted to let no refugees in at all. The head of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband saying this is a very sad day for America.

BRIGGS: The State Department says serious Assad regime carried out a poison gas attack against its own people in May. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing the government's conclusion that Assad hit the city lived with chlorine gas. Pompeo called it part of the regimes ongoing violent campaign which has killed more than 1000 innocent Syrians. He says the U.S. will not allow these attacks to go on challenged without specifying what the response might be.

Military suicides keep rising. A new Pentagon report shows 541 service members died in 2018, that is up from 511 and 2017. Report shows a particular increase among active service members 325 up from to 85. Pentagon officials say they don't see a direct correlation between suicides and combat deployments.

ROMANS: Let's going to check on CNN business this morning. In the midst of the longest economic expansion in American history, the gap between rich and poor, it's at an all-time high. The Census Bureau has something called the Gini index, which measures income inequality, and it climbed to 0.45 last year, a score of one indicates total inequality, it's the number really closely watched.

Nine states saw spikes in inequality, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas, and Virginia. Now even though the unemployment rate is at a historic low, the minimum wage is to. It's remained at $7 and 25 cents for over a decade. Economists say that's one of the reasons the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing.

While the gap between the rich and poor is in an all time-high, the median household income topped 61,000 for the first time, adjusted for inflation that's roughly the same as it was about 20 years ago.

Taking a look at Wall Street right now, Asian markets fell on poor Chinese economic data and uncertainty about US-China trade talks. On Wall Street, though you've got things leaning a little bit higher here in line with European markets and the stock market finished down yesterday. Investors sort of shrugging off this Impeachment Inquiry into the President, and trading on trade headlines.

The Dow ended down about 80 points, the S&P 500, the NASDAQ also down. Investors really turning to the economy here, the final estimate of second quarter GDP growth unchanged at 2%. That is slower than a 3.1% pace in the first quarter.

All right Peloton is the latest company to go public in this year's unicorn parade. Peloton shares scatting 11% lower in its debut. The business model, it's a fitness media technology music social media hybrid. It is addictive for its users 1.4 million of them, and the CEO told me he thinks he can get 45 million households or more using an owning Peloton. But critics wonder if that many Americans will pay up for a 20 $400 bike or a $4,000 treadmill. The Peloton CEO John Foley says it's not just an expensive product for one percenters, he makes the case as the opposite.


JOHN FOLEY, CEO, PELOTON: Peloton bike is now $58 a month which you divide by two if you are living with a partner who also wants -- and you think about gym memberships for decades, we've been trained to pay a monthly fee, a subscription of sorts for gym memberships. So we are trying to shift the optics on affordability on the Peloton membership and for the value you get for effectively $29 per person for the hardware and then you pay 39 for the subscription. So we think it's crazy affordable.


ROMANS: Crazy affordable. Foley told me he was disappointed by the opening performance of course the stock but he's looking ahead to when his big investments pay off by turning a profit, the company. It's funny because I said you know the company lost like $195 million last year. He took issue with that. He said, we didn't lose money, that's an investment. We made big investments so that we will --

BRIGGS: Amazon, right, lost the money every year.

ROMANS: -- make money eventually.

BRIGGS: Never heard them described is crazy affordable.

ROMANS: Yeah, that's the first time I've heard that.

BRIGGS: All right, two more deaths related to vaping, now bringing the nationwide total to 13. The CDC says, there are now more than 805 confirmed and probable cases of long illness associated with e- cigarette use in 46 states. That is up sharply from 530 cases just last week.

Later today, Washington Governor Jay Inslee is expected to announce a vaping related executive order. Several states have put a hold on the sale of vaping products.

ROMANS: Boeing overestimated how well 737 max pilots could respond to emergency warnings in the cockpit. That's according to the NTSB and its first safety analysis since 2737 max planes crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing 346 people.

Aircraft design flaws took the planes into steep dives that the pilots were unable to correct. Federal safety investigators issued a series of recommendations. They say Boeing should reevaluate how cockpit confusion can slow the pilot's response time. The 737 MAX fleet has been grounded now since March.

BRIGGS: And what can only be called a freak accident to skydiver was killed on the set when she crashed into a big rig trailer on Highway in Central California. Police say the 28 year old woman collided with the back of the truck and then hit the highway shoulder. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Local news reports say she was parachuting with a group of seven people, the rest landed safely.

ROMANS: Doordash confirming a data breach that exposed the accounts of nearly 5 million customers, workers, and merchants. The popular food delivery company says it happened back in May usernames emails, delivery addresses, passwords all kinds compromised. They say the hack affects users who joined honor before April 5, 2018. Doordash says it has now added more layers of security and improved protocols required to gain access to the data.

A tale of two seasons summer like highs in the east and a snow storm brewing in the Rockies. Here's meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey guys, good morning. We'd settle for fall but it looks like either summer temperatures or a blizzard in the Rockies. We'll talk about that in a second. In the middle, we have severe weather potential in Kansas City to Chicago, damaging winds large hail a possibility with two rounds, one in the late morning between 9:00 and noon and then once again as we hit through the afternoon and evening as well for the evening can be, that's going to be a problem as the storms begin to blossom. You see them kind of popping up there from Iowa into Illinois.

The temperatures, yeah, look at this '80s and '90s not just today, but over the next several days we have the potential to break over 150 record highs in the next week. That is going to be quite something. And then there's this heavy snow that we've been talking about in Montana, it's just for this area, but still one to three feet of snowfall. This could be one of the worst snowfalls I've ever seen this early in the season back in 1934. They had a dozy 50 to 60 mile an hour winds with that one to three feet of snow. So there it is, we're skipping fall and going right to winter, at least in this part of the U.S. guys.

ROMANS: All right, Ivan, thank you so much for that. All right, do you want to avoid sitting next to a crying baby on your flight?


ROMANS: Japan Airlines has a new feature on its website that shows where young children are seated and an icon appears where passengers traveling with a child up to two years old. However the airline warns the icon may not appear if a ticket is booked through a third party or if there's a last minute change in aircraft.

BRIGGS: Sign me up.

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira taking their talents to South Beach. The superstars will headline the Super Bowl 54 halftime show in Miami February 2. Both artists have close ties to Miami and to that big success in the pop and Latin charts over the years.

J.LO also getting some Oscar Buzz for her role in the hit movie hustlers, you know, hip still alive comes to mind and that was recorded way back in 2005, when who was the best team in football? The Patriots, so much has changed over the years.


BRIGGS: That's for John Berman.

ROMANS: Hey he turned 50 this year. I say 50 is the new 28 if you're J.LO.

BRIGGS: You got that right.

ROMANS: Nicki is the new 40 for everybody else.

BRIGGS: Amazing.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. New Day starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Who's the person who gave the whistleblower the whistleblower the information? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President is acting like his back is up against the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This matter is unprecedented. I also believe that I handle this matter in full compliance with the law at all times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The committee's committed to make sure that we get to the bottom of what questions need answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a sad, sad day for America. If it can't get any lower, they got it even lower today.

Pelosi: We never thought we would see a president take the actions that he his.