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Government Watchdog to Give "Urgent" Briefing on Hill; House Democrats Slam Pompeo Over Depositions; North Korea's Missile Test; College Admissions Scandal Latest. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 2, 2019 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The State Department's watchdog headed to Capitol Hill to give an urgent briefing on Ukraine-related documents. What information must he deliver?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: House Democrats slamming the secretary of state. Mike Pompeo says the Democrats are bullying State Department officials.

ROMANS: North Korea firing a ballistic missile from an underwater launch platform. The test coming just one day after the country agreed to resume nuclear talks.

BRIGGS: The key figure in the college admissions scandal now saying he'll plead guilty and cooperate with federal investigators.

CNN is live this morning in Seoul, Kiev, and Istanbul.

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

ROMANS: Hello. Nice to see you morning. I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, October 2nd, 4:00 a.m. in New York, 11:00 a.m. in Kiev, 5:00 p.m. in Seoul.

We begin in Washington today. The State Department's government watchdog heads to Capitol Hill after making an urgent and highly unusual request to brief several House and Senate committees. Meet with the State Department inspector general. Sources tell CNN the secure meeting between committee staff and the State Department general is connected to documents on Ukraine.

BRIGGS: The I.G.'s request came just an hour after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused House Democrats of, quote, intimidating and bullying State Department officials by calling them in for depositions. Pompeo saying his officials would not have had time to prepare.

All of this related to the whistleblower complaint accusing the president of pressing Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, and his son. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden or Hunter Biden. CNN's Kylie Atwood has more on these stunning developments.



So, an urgent request coming from the State Department inspector general to speak with Congressional aides. They will be meeting with them today. And we don't know many specifics, however, of what they're going to discuss but the inspector general, according to an aide on the Hill, said that they were coming because they had received documents from the legal adviser at the State Department.

Now, we should note that the congressional aide also described this request to me as highly unusual, really not laying out many details of what the inspector general wanted to talk to Congress about.

But it came just an hour after Sec. Pompeo called out House Democrats for what he said was bullying State Department officials. He said that they weren't following procedure that would be traditional for those who are -- they had asked to come forth to Congress and talk to them about Ukraine.

But the key question here is what does the State Department inspector general have that's new and how, if at all, does it impact this impeachment inquiry that is ongoing in Congress?


ROMANS: All right. Kylie, thank you so much for that.

House Democrats responding to Secretary Pompeo's accusation of bullying with a warning of their own. The chairmen of three key committees writing to Pompeo that any effort to intimidate witnesses or to prevent them with talking with Congress is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. In response, Congress may infer that any withheld information that corroborates the whistleblower's complaint.

BRIGGS: Lawmakers accuse Pompeo of trying to protect the president and himself because he was listening in on the phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine. They say Pompeo appears to have an obvious conflict of interest, because he is now a witness.

More now from CNN's Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill.



Despite the back-and-forth between the secretary of state and House Democrats on Tuesday, Congress will likely still hear from some of these key players in the whistleblower's complaint. The president's former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, he is still scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill on Thursday, aides tell CNN, and that's set to happen behind closed doors.

Volker is no longer a State Department employee after he abruptly resigned his position last week after being named in the whistleblower's report. The whistleblower alleging that Volker had an involvement in the conversations with the Ukrainian president about navigating the demands that the president had made of him, and he was one of five people that these committees up here on the hill had wanted to speak to over the course of this two-week recess.

Now, meantime, the testimony of a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine which had been scheduled for today, that likely pushed into next week, likely set to happen next Friday, both potentially significant voices in the Democrats' impeachment probe -- Dave and Christine.



ROMANS: All right. Sunlen, thank you so much for that.

Ukraine's parliament is back in session for the first time since the whistleblower's report was made public. The country's former prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, is facing a criminal investigation for alleged abuse of power. You might recall, Lutsenko met with Rudy Giuliani to discuss investigating Joe Biden and his son.

Matthew Chance is tracking the latest developments live from Kiev -- Matthew.


That's right. I mean, look, the Ukrainian officials have been relatively tight-lipped about this whole situation. They feel they're being sucked into an American political crisis they don't want to be sucked into, try to maintain bipartisan support.

President Trump in that White House transcript of the phone call with President Zelensky, his Ukrainian counterpart in July 25th, was talking about digging up dirt on his prospective Democratic presidential challenger, Joe Biden. That is from a period -- that relates to a period when Joe Biden was vice president back in 2016 and he was in conversations with President Poroshenko, the then president of Ukraine.

Earlier, I got a chance to confront President Poroshenko about what Vice President Biden had to say to him at that time.

Take a listen.


CHANCE: Did you know your prosecutor general was meeting Giuliani?



CHANCE: Did you send him?

POROSHENKO: That was -- no. I would not have any information about that.

REPORTER: Were any conditions --

CHANCE: Have you ever met Rudy Giuliani yourself?


CHANCE: Have you ever met with Giuliani?

POROSHENKO: Yes, I met with him in the year 2001 as the mayor of New York, and in the year 2017, immediately after the election, as a friend of Ukraine. And we talked about political support, we talked about investment and don't talk about any other things with Rodolfo Giuliani. Thank you.


CHANCE: All right, well, former President Poroshenko, as I said, he at no times discussed Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine, and he absolutely did not urge the firing of his former prosecutor general, because he was investigating the gas company that Hunter Biden worked for.

ROMANS: All right. Great get. Nice -- nice reporting there, thank you so much, Matthew Chance in Kiev.

All right. Senator Chuck Grassley is indirectly criticizing President Trump for demanding to make face to face with the Ukraine whistleblower. Grassley is the Senate's most senior Republican. Grassley is a longtime defender of whistleblowers and has really spent his career fine-tuning the whistleblower laws here. The Iowa -- and protections.

The Iowa senator releasing a statement saying: This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistle-blower, the distinctions being drawn between first and secondhand knowledge are not legal ones. It's just not part of whistleblower protection law or any agency policy.

BRIGGS: President Trump has been tweeting up a storm, demanding to know why he is not entitled to interview and learn everything about the whistleblower as well as the person who gave all of the false information to him. For the record, the main points of the whistleblower's complaints have been proven to be true.

ROMANS: Now, President Trump recently suggested shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down once they crossed the Mexican border. "The New York Times" reports the president floated the idea during a meeting in March and also called for the entire border to be closed. "The Times" quotes excerpts from the new book "Border Wars: Inside

Trump's Assault on Immigration." It says this: Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they throw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That's not allowed either, they told him.

BRIGGS: According to the reporting, multiple advisers including ex- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner eventually persuaded the president to extend his deadline for the border shutdown until the following Friday. By the middle of the week, Mr. Trump had appeared to abandon the idea and instead suggested imposing tariffs on Mexico.

ROMANS: Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan conceding that even though he has operational control, he does not have control of the public face of his department. According to the "Washington Post," he considers DHS a neutral law enforcement agency, but admits it has become a powerful tool for a partisan immigration agenda. McAleenan told "The Washington Post": What I don't have control over is the tone, the message, the public face and approach of the department in an increasingly polarized time. That's uncomfortable, as the accountable, senior figure.

"The post" notes, that's a reference to immigration hardliners appointed to DHS with strong White House ties like Ken Cuccinelli.


McAleenan told "The Post" that the department's zero-tolerance policy at the border was well-intended, but child separations went too far.

We're just learning about a new falsehood from President Trump in remarks he made at the United Nations in New York. And it happens to involve this network. Bloomberg published comments that the president made last week to U.S. diplomats and invited guests, you can see it there. He claims the media buried the news of Republican Dan Bishop's special election victory in North Carolina's ninth district last month.

BRIGGS: The president said in part, CNN, who had built the most beautiful $2 million maybe they spent, they had a studio, the studio was going to stay up for weeks, and toward the end of the night, they were taking it down. Their so-called stars were leave and, uh, they didn't want to report it.

Facts here, CNN never built a studio for North Carolina ninth district coverage. None of the networks did. CNN sent journalists to both party's election night events. The coverage aired on this show and several other CNN programs.

President Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $125 million during the July to September fund-raising quarter and the Trump campaign plans to spend large chunks of that cash to mount a defense of the president, running Facebook and television ads focusing on impeachment.

Some of the Democrats hoping to unseat the president next year also raising some big bucks. Senator Bernie Sanders topping the list with just over $25 million raised. Mayor Pete Buttigieg hauling in $19.1 million, Senator Kamala Harris, $11.6, and Senator Cory Booker, $6 million. Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden have not disclosed their totals yet.

ROMANS: All right. In the surest sign yet that the president's trade war has a lasting bite, new evidence, new data shows America's manufacturing powerhouse still struggling. An ISM reading, an Institute for Supply Management reading, shows manufacturing activity fell again in September, dropping to this level, 47.8. A level above 50 represents growth. This is the lowest reading since June 2009, the last month of the recession.

The very sector President Trump sought to favor with his tariffs and tough talk is shrinking because of the higher costs of those tariffs and the slowing global growth because of the trade war.

The president attacked Jerome Powell after the attack tweeting this about the Fed chief: Fed rate too high, they are their own worst enemies, they don't have a clue, pathetic.

This is another warning sign for the broader U.S. economy and for President Trump. A chief economist at Deutsche Bank says there is no end in sight to the slowdown, the recession risk is real. As recession worries resurface, investors wonder whether the Federal Reserve could turn more dovish in its next meeting.

This is typical of the president, when there's a weakness in the economy, to turn around quickly and blame the Fed.

BRIGGS: Yes, his straw man.

ROMANS: He has staked -- yes, he has staked so much of his public face on the stock market and the economy and how he is so grate for it, that wherever it doesn't go his way, he blames someone else.

BRIGGS: I wonder if that manufacturing number resonates in polling.

Ahead, a former Dallas police officer facing life in prison after she was found guilty of murder for shooting her unarmed neighbor in his apartment. More details, ahead.




JUDGE: We, the jury, unanimously find the defendant, Amber Guyger, guilty of murder as charged in the indictment. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: It took a Texas jury less than 24 hours to convict former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger in the fatal shooting of her unarmed neighbor, Botham Jean. It happened inside his apartment, which Guyger mistook for hers.

The victim's family celebrating the guilty verdict. The trial sentencing phase began immediately afterward and will resume this morning. Amber Guyger could face life in prison.

More now from Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, it was a shocking verdict. This Dallas jury convicting Amber Guyger of the most serious crime she faced, murder. She now faces anywhere between five years and life in prison.

The sentencing phase of her trial started shortly after the conviction and the verdict was read here in the Dallas County courthouse. The first person that testified in the sentencing phase was Botham Jean's mother, who talked about how much she misses her son, what a hole in her life this tragedy has left. And they also detailed what a beacon of light the young man was in his community, the charity work that he had done, the different groups and philanthropic efforts he was involved with.

Prosecutors also showed some offensive text messages and social media posts that were rather scathing and Amber Guyger, if she decides to testify on her own behalf in this sentencing phase, will have to answer to and will be seriously questioned about. So anticipate that as here on Wednesday morning as the sentencing phase continues. We expect to hear from defense attorneys who are trying to minimize the amount of time Amber Guyger will spend in prison -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Ed Lavandera for us in Dallas, thank you for that.

A key figure in the college admissions scandal agreeing to plead guilty and cooperate with federal investigators. Igor Dvorsky administered the tests at his West Hollywood private school where dozens of wealthy parents allegedly had their children's SAT and ACT exams fixed.


Court documents revealed Dvorsky took bribes from Rick Singer, the consultant at the center of the emission scandal. Dvorsky allowed a test-fixing fraud to continue at his school for years. Prosecutors said they would recommend a lower sentence if he provides substantial assistance. BRIGGS: North Korea flexing more military muscle, firing a ballistic

missile from an underwater launch platform. The latest aggression coming a day after North Korea agreed to resume nuclear talks with the U.S.

Paula Hancocks live in Seoul, South Korea, with the latest.

Paula, good morning. What are you learning?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, as you say, we did understand from a U.S. official that this was a launch from an underwater platform. So, it was potentially to be used by a submarine when used for real, but that was not involved in this particular test. But it's a significant test in the fact that it is pushing the envelope more than we have seen in recent months.

This is the 11th test that we've seen from Pyongyang since just May this year. So, certainly, you can see that they are trying to test more than just those short-range ballistic missiles and also the guided weapons systems that President Donald Trump has said that he's not too concerned with.

Now, we heard from Japan that it was one missile, they believed, it broke into two pieces. One of those parts actually landed in the economic zone of Japanese water, as well. So they say this is against U.N. resolutions.

We also heard from a State Department spokesperson, just in the past half hour or so, saying that they want North Korea to refrain from any kind of provocations. Also saying that they have to abide by their obligations under those U.N. Security Council resolutions, a little more condemnation than we have seen over recent months.

But, of course, it does come just after the U.S. and North Korea agreed that they would meet, potentially as early as this weekend. So, certainly, it's a question mark as to why North Korea would do this now. Are they saying that short-range missiles, et cetera, are off the negotiating table? And are they showing that they have been emboldened by the fact that U.S. President Donald Trump is not concerned by some of these launches.

BRIGGS: Yes, almost daring the United States yet again.

Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, remembering murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi right outside the place he was murdered. We're in Istanbul, next.



ROMANS: All right. The fiancee of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi expected to be among those marking the first anniversary of his murder. He was murdered -- she'll be outside the compound where he was killed. This happening amid a new push for the International Criminal Court to

investigate Saudi Arabia's crowned prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for the crimes against humanity, including Khashoggi's death.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh live in Istanbul.

And, Jomana, the opinion section of "The Washington Post" where he was a columnist has a special section devoted to him, to the case, to the year since then and where it -- what's happening.

JOMANA KARADSEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so many people on this day marking this grim anniversary, Christine. Outside the consulate, this building where Jamal Khashoggi was murdered a year ago, we expect in about under two hours from now, this memorial service to begin. We're going to see a gathering that will bring together a number of officials from Turkey and elsewhere, dissidents from this region, activists, friends of Jamal Khashoggi and as you mentioned, his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

As you remember, she was out here waiting for him outside the consulate a year ago when he walked in to try to obtain papers that would allow them to get married, but that led to his murder and his dismemberment inside that building. And 6:14 a.m. Eastern, that is the moment when Jamal Khashoggi entered the consulate. This gathering will mark it with a moment of silence.

But they're describing this as a moment of unsilence, because they say silence is what the killers of Jamal Khashoggi wanted.

The one-year anniversary is coming at a time when we're hearing this renewed call for justice and in one push for justice, CNN has obtained a petition that was drafted by two Washington attorneys in July, on behalf of the National Interest Foundation. That's a Washington nonprofit that is critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East. And they are pushing for the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor to investigate the crowned prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, for what they allege is the kidnapping, torture, and killing of Jamal Khashoggi in addition to other crimes against humanity, of course. He has denied his role, but there have been calls to further investigate the crowned prince.

But any move like this, Christine, is going to require real international action. And over the past year, we have seen outcry, outrage from the international community, but little action.

ROMANS: All right. Jomana Karadsheh for us in Istanbul, thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: All right. Straight ahead, a government watchdog demanding an urgent meeting on Capitol Hill. What must he tell Congress about Ukraine and State Department documents? That's next.