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Trump-Zelensky Phone Call Whistleblower's Lawyers Say His Safety is at "Grave Risk"; Republicans Defend Trump in Ukraine Scandal; American Farmers Express Concern Over Biofuel Waivers. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 30, 2019 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: The whistleblower portrayed his conversation pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, quote, "in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way." Then, the president slammed the Intel chairman for misrepresenting his words, writing, "I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for fraud and treason."

DAVE BRIGGS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Then the president went after whoever gave information to the whistleblower about his call to the Ukrainian president, tweeting, "was this person spying on the president of the United States? Big consequences."

Chairman Schiff confirming there's now a tentative agreement for the whistleblower to testify to his committee. He says the president's threats have heightened security concerns for the whistleblower.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): All that needs to be done at this point is to make sure that the attorneys that represent the whistleblower get the clearances that they need to be able to accompany the whistleblower to testimony. And that we figure out the logistics to make sure that we protect the identity of the whistleblower. That's our paramount concern here.


BRIGGS: Schiff says he expects the whistleblower to testify soon.

ROMANS: All right, meantime, the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani refusing to commit to a response to a house subpoena. Intel Chairman Adam Schiff telling "CBS", he plans to subpoena documents and perhaps testimony about the Ukraine affair from Giuliani.


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: Will you call Rudy Giuliani?

SCHIFF: We're going to need evidence from Rudy Giuliani. And it's our intention as soon as first thing next week to subpoena him for documents. And there may very well come a time where we want to hear from him directly.


ROMANS: Giuliani was noncommittal to CNN -- I'm not saying I will or will not. On "ABC", he contradicted himself.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: I wouldn't cooperate with Adam Schiff. I think Adam Schiff should be removed. If they remove Adam Schiff, if they put a neutral person in who hasn't prejudged the case, if they put someone in, a Democrat who hasn't expressed an opinion.


GIULIANI: I didn't say that, I said I would consider it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you wouldn't do it.

GIULIANI: I said --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you would not cooperate with Adam Schiff --

GIULIANI: I said I will consider it. I have to be guided by my client, frankly, I'm a lawyer. It's his privilege, not mine. If he decides he wants me to testify, of course, I'll testify. Even though I think Adam Schiff is an illegitimate chairman.


BRIGGS: And while House and Senate Republicans rushing to President Trump's defense on the Ukraine issue, employing a variety of tactics, Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham honing in on the whistleblower's report as quote, "hearsay", despite the fact that the report was largely confirmed by the White House transcript of Mr. Trump's call with the Ukrainian president.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This seems to me like a political set up, it's all hearsay. You can't get a parking ticket conviction based on hearsay. The whistleblower didn't hear the phone call.


BRIGGS: Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan focused on alleged corruption by Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, a claim for which there is no evidence.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): And then when the company that's paying him that money is under investigation, guess what? Daddy comes running to the rescue. The Vice President of the United States --

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, THE LEAD: That's not what happened, sir --

JORDAN: Comes running and say, fire that --

TAPPER: Sir --

JORDAN: Prosecutor.

TAPPER: Sir, that's not what happened. The European Union, the Obama administration --

JORDAN: Well, you don't think Joe --

TAPPER: The International Monetary Fund, pro-clean government activists in Ukraine thought that the prosecutor --

JORDAN: You're saying --

TAPPER: Was not prosecuting corruption.

JORDAN: So, you're saying Joe Biden didn't tell Ukraine to fire that prosecutor? I think he did.

TAPPER: He did --

JORDAN: But also he bragged about it --

TAPPER: The guy was not prosecuting anything.


BRIGGS: House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy tangled with "60 Minutes" Scott Pelley over the president's use of the word though in his call with the Ukrainian president. McCarthy insisting Trump did not use the word, Pelley saying he has the direct transcript which you see right in front of him.


PELLEY: President Trump replies, I would like you to do us a favor, though.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You just added another word.

PELLEY: No. It's in the transcript --

MCCARTHY: You said I'd like you to do a favor, though.

PELLEY: Yes, it's in the White House transcript --

MCCARTHY: When I read the --


ROMANS: All right, President Trump's first Homeland Security adviser says he is deeply disturbed by the president's actions in the Ukraine controversy. Tom Bossert telling "ABC", he repeatedly warned the president that a Ukraine conspiracy theory Mr. Trump was pushing had been debunked.


TOM BOSSERT, FORMER TRUMP HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Yet, at this point, I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again, and for clarity here, George, let me just again repeat that it has no validity.


ROMANS: In addition to requesting a probe of the Bidens, Trump also asked the president of Ukraine to look into whether a computer based in Ukraine had been used to hack Democratic servers. In other words, the possibility Ukraine had meddled in the U.S. elections, not Russia. Bossert says he told Trump again and again that it simply was not true, to no effect.


BRIGGS: All right, CNN tracked down two Ukrainian men mentioned in the whistleblower report. More on what they told us in a live report from Kiev, next.


BRIGGS: As preparations for the impeachment inquiry wrap up, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells fellow Democrats, it is not about politics nor partisanship. It's about patriotism. Pelosi telling "60 Minutes" President Trump painted himself into an impeachment corner.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We could not ignore what the president did. He gave us no choice. So, it wasn't any change of mind. I always said, we will follow the facts where they take us, and when we see them, we will be ready. And we are ready.


BRIGGS: Pelosi says her message to the White House concerning the impeachment inquiry is quote, "speak the truth. Honor your oath of office to the constitution of the United States."


ROMANS: New polling out this weekend shows Americans' opinions shifting on impeachment. A "CBS News" YouGov poll finds 55 percent now believe an impeachment inquiry by Congress is necessary. As usual, there's a sharp partisan split, most Republicans disapprove of an inquiry, most Democrats support one, independents closely divided.

And "ABC News" IPSOS poll took a different approach to the question. They asked this question, how serious is it that Trump encouraged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son? Nearly two-thirds say it's serious, about a third say it is not. BRIGGS: Officials in the Ukraine tight-lipped about fallout from President Trump's phone call, pressuring President Zelensky to dig up dirt on possible 2020 opponent Joe Biden and his son. Officials in Kiev believe getting dragged into America's widening political scandal can only hurt Ukraine.

CNN tracked down two of the Ukrainian men mentioned in the whistleblower complaint, one of them met with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward standing by live in Kiev with the latest. Clarissa, good morning, what are you learning?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Dave. So, we sat down with Serhiy Leshchenko; he is a former diplomat who had become known in D.C. for peddling the conspiracy theory or I should say the unsubstantiated claim that Democrats colluded with Ukrainian officials against President Trump in the 2016 election.

He told us that the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani reached out to him back in May, that the two men met, sat down for about six hours, he said they discussed a range of issues, including Giuliani probing him on the issue of his impressions of then Vice President Biden and Hunter Biden's involvement on the Ukrainian energy holding company Burisma.

He also said that he spoke to him about a number of issues, including this collusion, that he alleges took place. We should add that there has never been any substantiation of that claim. And he says that he and Giuliani continue to keep in touch afterwards, that he actually met with him a number of times after that first initial meeting, including after the transcript or the close to transcript of the President Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian President Zelensky's conversation was publicly released.

His account very different from another person we spoke to, who actually was an aide to Zelensky's campaign. He has a very different approach to what he says Giuliani was doing.

But what's interesting, Dave, is that both of these men, even though they're coming from wildly different political perspectives, they agree on one thing, which is that the president's attorney Rudy Giuliani was very open, very active, very involved and very engaged on this issue of trying to re-animate investigations into this allegation of Democratic collusion with Ukrainian officials and into the two Bidens and their involvement here in Ukraine. Dave?

BRIGGS: Some suggest Rudy trying to run his own shadow State Department. Clarissa Ward live for us in Ukraine. Thank you. We'll shift a little to sports ahead, America's team falling from the ranks of the unbeaten.

ROMANS: Carolyn Manno has detailed this "BLEACHER REPORT", that's next.



ROMANS: U.S.-China trade war has been really hard on American farmers. You know, and the president is making it sound like his administration is a champion for corn growers for example. But there's this other issue that's causing frustration among the corn lobby, and that is biofuel.

The leaders of 23 Corn Growers Association sent a letter to the president, arguing his administration's biofuel waivers have cut demand for their crops. They say frustration in the country-side is growing. So, what's happening here? You know, refiners have to burn a certain amount of corn products to meet government standards.

But the EPA has been granting waivers. Last month, the EPA granted 31 waivers to small refiners, temporarily exempting them from biofuel laws. Corn growers are angry, and they -- Trump later tweeted that a giant ethanol package was in the works. But a month later, you know, corn growers appeared tired waiting for the details to be finalized.

In this letter, growers say a number of ethanol plants have closed or reduced production, and that's cut 2,700 jobs at a time frankly, when you know, middle America, you know, the farm basket, the bread basket is really suffering here.

If refiners use fewer soybeans and corn, it drags down the price farmers can get for their crops. And look, the corn growers say this is like a Trump administration gift to the oil industry at the -- to the detriment of farmers.

BRIGGS: Farmers have been hurt enough --

ROMANS: That's absolutely --

BRIGGS: There down to this trade war. All right, we'll talk a little sports now. A battle of undefeated teams goes down to the wire in Kansas City. Carolyn Manno here with the BLEACHER REPORT this morning --

ROMANS: Hi, Carolyn --


BRIGGS: It was a stunning Sunday in the NFL.

MANNO: It was great, defense was the name of the game.

BRIGGS: Perfect --

MANNO: And the fear of missing out is a real thing because if you blinked in this particular game, you probably missed something --

BRIGGS: In any game --

MANNO: Five turnovers --

BRIGGS: Yes -- MANNO: Five lead changes, four team points in the last three minutes.

Detroit had the upset in this game against the Lions in their eyes when Matthew Stafford threw a dart to Kenny Golladay in the end zone. Take another look at this tightrope catch to give the Lions the lead with 2:26 remaining in the game.


But unfortunately, that's too much time for the reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes, playing in his first indoor NFL game, didn't throw for any touchdowns, defense doing their job but he still got the job done. He rallied his team in a game-winning drive that ended with the Daryl Williams one-yard dive for the score, just 20 ticks on the clock here. Nice execution as the Chiefs escape in a nail-biter.

No, Drew Brees, no problem for the New Orleans Saints. They knocked off the previously unbeaten Cowboys without even scoring a touchdown on Sunday night. They did it with the defense. Dallas had a shot to win this one. Hail Mary on the final play and picked off, New Orleans hangs on to win this field-goal fest 12-10, the final score.

New England Patriots staying perfect over the weekend despite a very messy win against the Bills' defense. It was a story for both teams, blocked punt leading to their first career touchdown for long-time Patriots captain and special team Matthew Slater.

He's a fan favorite, that was the difference. Tom Brady and the offense stalled for most of the afternoon. And after the game, Brady told reporters, he thinks the team can do a little bit better than that. Pats face Washington next, so we shall see -- Washington has its own issues.

The best call of the day though right here was made during half-time. Die-hard Bills fans, Mackenzie Park and Jordan Binggeli tying the knot at the 50-yard line. Hall of fame quarterback Jim Kelly giving the bride away, long-time Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams officiating this ceremony.

You know, an NFL game is not the easiest wedding venue to book by the way. The Bills drew up a contest, it was called the half-time wedding experience of a lifetime and close to 1,500 couples entered. Mackenzie and Jordan, lucky winners, Bills fans for as long as they both shall live.

BRIGGS: Seventy thousand wedding guests and they didn't have to pay the liquor tab. So, bravo, I mean bravo --

MANNO: I thought that did they get the gifts? Did they get the gifts?

BRIGGS: I hope everybody brought gifts, that's a good time --

ROMANS: You would get married at a ball field?

BRIGGS: Absolutely, not a full stadium though, it'd have to be empty, just my friends and family --

ROMANS: And Brandy says --

BRIGGS: Not at a game --

ROMANS: And Brandy says no.

BRIGGS: I don't know, I think -- I think I could convince her.

ROMANS: Could reduce some vows, maybe.

BRIGGS: Yes --

MANNO: Yes --

BRIGGS: Thank you, Carolyn --

ROMANS: Wow, state of art. There's breaking news in manhunt for some escaped inmates in Ohio, that's next.



BRIGGS: The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia says he takes full responsibility for the death of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi, but denies ordering the killing. The CIA believes Prince Mohammad Bin Salman ordered the murder inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey last year. In his "60 Minutes" interview Sunday, the Crown Prince was asked directly about the murder.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

MOHAMMAD BIN SALMAN, CROWN PRINCE OF SAUDI ARABIA (through translator): Absolutely not. This was a heinous crime. But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does that mean that you take responsibility?

BIN SALMAN: When a crime is committed against a Saudi citizen by officials working for the Saudi government, as the leader, I must take responsibility. This was a mistake, and I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future.


BRIGGS: To this day, Khashoggi's remains have not been found. Five high-ranking Saudi officials were dismissed, another 18 detained in connection with Khashoggi's death. The Crown Prince says an investigation is being carried out. And once charges are proven against someone, it will be prosecuted regardless of rank.

ROMANS: All right, some breaking news this morning. Three of the four inmates who escaped from a southern Ohio jail have been recaptured. The fourth managed to escape this police manhunt. Authorities say the inmates used a homemade weapon to overpower two female guards.

They were able to force open a secure door and escaped early Sunday morning. According to Gallia County sheriff, the Gallia County sheriff, the inmates were helped in their escape by at least one person on the outside.

BRIGGS: A giant fireball on the North Carolina coastline, the massive waterfront fire destroying at least six homes in Surf City, North Carolina. Officials say the fire broke out Sunday afternoon and roared through a housing development.

They say multiple buildings were fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on the scene. Still o word on what may have caused the fire or if anyone was injured. EARLY START continues right now.

ROMANS: Lawyers for the anonymous whistleblower say they are worried for their client's safety as President Trump escalates his attacks.


PELOSI: Don't make this any worse than it already is.


BRIGGS: Nancy Pelosi with a new message for the White House about the house impeachment inquiry.

ROMANS: Plus, new polling shows Americans' opinion on impeachment is now shifting. Welcome back to EARLY START everybody, it is Monday morning, I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, 5:28 Eastern Time. By the way, folks in Montana digging out from 4 feet of snow --

ROMANS: Four feet, October snow --

BRIGGS: Four feet of snow --

ROMANS: Not even October yet --

BRIGGS: Not even October, it will be 90 degrees later in the week out east. All right, we start with the latest on impeachment in the nation's capital. Lawyers for the whistleblower in the Ukraine scandal warning that President Trump's threats are posing a grave risk to their client's safety.

"Sixty Minutes" report on their letter to House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff came as President Trump escalated his war on the whistleblower and on Schiff. He tweeted, "I deserve to meet my accuser" and the whistleblower portrayed his conversation pressing Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, quote, "in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way." Then the president slammed the Intel Chairman for misrepresenting his words. "I watch Schiff questioned at the highest level for fraud and treason."

ROMANS: And there's more, then the president went after whoever gave information to the whistleblower about his call to the Ukrainian president. He tweeted, "was this person spying on the U.S. President? Big consequences."

Chairman Schiff confirming there's now a tentative agreement for the whistleblower to testify before his committee. He says the president's threats have heightened security concerns for the whistleblower.