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State Department Watchdog Asks To Brief Congress; North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile; Netanyahu Pre-Indictment Hearings Begin. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 2, 2019 - 05:30   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- million dollars for their part in the state's opioid crisis.

EARLY START continues right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The State Department's government watchdog headed to Capitol Hill later today, calling for an urgent meeting. The topic, Ukraine.

BRIGGS: Secretary of State Pompeo accusing House Democrats of bullying State Department officials. House Democrats saying Pompeo could be trying to hide information.

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

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is exactly 30 minutes past the hour.

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. Sources tell CNN the secure meeting between senior committee staff and the State Department inspector general is connected to documents on Ukraine.

The I.G.'s request came after -- 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 time to prepare.

BRIGGS: 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's no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe 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 Sec. 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 prevent them from talking with Congress is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. In response, Congress may infer that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint."

BRIGGS: The 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.

All this as Sec. Pompeo visits the Vatican and Rome where he may respond to questions later in the day on the Ukraine affair, but not betting on it.

CNN's Melissa Bell live in Rome for us. Melissa, good morning.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave and Christine. We're definitely not betting on that but looking forward, very much, to having the opportunity of putting some of these questions to him.

For the time being, the Secretary of State's been visiting the Vatican where he made a speech. This was a visit that was all about faith- based organizations and interfaith dialogue. Of course, largely overshadowed by those very specific questions that you mentioned a moment ago.

He's been visiting the Sistine Chapel as well. In a little while, we expect him to come here to the Villa Madama on the outskirts of Rome where he'll hold a joint press conference. The Italian foreign minister almost guaranteed at this stage to be dominated by questions from journalists, if we get a chance to put them, about specifically that. How he responds to that joint statement from those chairmen in which they point to that conflict of interest.

Also, we'll be looking to get confirmation from him -- which we haven't had yet, I think it's important to note -- that he was on that 25th of July phone call. That, say the chairmen, is what constitutes the clear conflict of interest. Will the Secretary of State be cooperating with them in this impeachment inquiry going forward?

Those are some of the questions we'll be looking to put to the Secretary of State when he arrives here in a short time -- Christine and Dave.

BRIGGS: Melissa Bell live for us in Rome this morning. Thank you.


ROMANS: All right.

Senator Chuck Grassley is indirectly criticizing President Trump for demanding to meet face-to-face with the Ukraine whistleblower. Grassley, of course, is the Senate's most senior Republican and a longtime defender of whistleblowers.

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 whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first and secondhand knowledge aren't 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 the false information to him."

For the record, the main points of the whistleblower's complaint have been proven to be true and they have law -- protections in the law.

ROMANS: All right, then there's this.

President Trump recently suggested shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down once they cross the Mexican border. "The New York Times" reports the president floated this idea during a meeting in March and also called for the entire border to be closed.

Now, 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 threw 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 now allowed either, they told him."

BRIGGS: Nothing unusual about any of that.

According to the reporting, multiple advisers, including ex-Homeland Security Sec. 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 appeared to abandon the idea and instead, suggested imposing tariffs on Mexico.

That is quite the evolution from gators to tariffs.

ROMANS: It really is. And the president, in that reporting, lashing out, frustrated. One of the words they used is raging at his aides that these things were illegal and he was mad at them that it couldn't be done.

BRIGGS: It's just Wednesday.

Lashing out again over House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, the State Department inspector general rushes to Congress for an urgent briefing he requested.

A big day in politics. Ahead, we'll break it down with Zach Wolf.



BRIGGS: Five forty-one Eastern time.

And the State Department inspector general on Capitol Hill today for what he's calling an urgent briefing. A source says it concerns documents on Ukraine.

All this amid an escalating conflict between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Democratic House chairs.

What can we expect from all this? Let's bring in "CNN POLITICS" senior writer Zach Wolf, live in Washington. Good morning, sir. ROMANS: Good morning,


BRIGGS: So we don't know much about this meeting. We don't know if this is more stonewalling or transparency on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

How unusual is this type of meeting and what do you expect?

WOLF: It seems very unusual. It seems like if you were -- you know, if it was something that would clear anybody that they would just go through channels and release it. So it's -- we're going to have to wait and see, I think, not to presume too much what's going on there, but it's certainly another wrinkle in a mystery to sort of keep us going.

And I just want to say it's really hard to keep track of this stuff --


WOLF: -- because it keeps happening so very fast. This is snowballing so quickly and it's just kind of a remarkable thing to watch unfold in real time.

ROMANS: Let's unfold it, right? Let's look at the last 24 hours because you're absolutely right. These developments just keep coming fast and furious.

The State Department inspector general has something he wants to tell these committees. An urgent meeting, highly unusual and cryptically- worded, we're told.

Former diplomats agree to depositions on Ukraine. That begins tomorrow.

House Dems accuse the Secretary of State of a conflict of interest and a potential -- possible cover-up. They say he's a witness.

President Trump wants to interview his whistleblower. He wants to interview the whistleblower. The whistleblower protection law is notwithstanding.

And then just when you thought it couldn't get any more interesting, the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, on Fox News last night, suggested this.


RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We should bring a lawsuit on behalf of the president and several of the people in the administration -- maybe even myself, as a lawyer -- against the members of Congress, individually, for violating constitutional rights, violating civil rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Giuliani wants to sue all of Congress.

What could happen next, Zach?

WOLF: Well, good luck with that, Mr. Giuliani. I don't think that's going to be a very effective lawsuit, although I continue to be surprised by things. But that would just be a long court battle, it seems like.

Congress is completely entitled to call witnesses. They have that power. And --

ROMANS: It just shows you how bonkers this whole thing is, right?

WOLF: Bonkers -- that is exactly the right word. It is bonkers and especially when you're suggesting suing individual members of Congress. It's just not something that we're going to see happen.

BRIGGS: This is woman jumping into lion enclosure bonkers, every day.

So, the president tweeted 800 times in September or retweeted. That is more than 26 times --


BRIGGS: -- per day. And he started October with a bang, saying, basically, Zach, this is a coup. So he seems to be taking all of this pretty well.

What happened to the president who seemed to want this impeachment battle?


WOLF: I don't think he ever really wanted it.


WOLF: He might have been saying that -- that was projection. But with this coup tweet I think he's going more full deep state it seems. We saw Stephen Miller, over the weekend, say that the whistleblower is a deep state operative.

If you think about the idea behind a coup -- that somebody's trying to overthrow the government -- that sort of goes back to the whole conspiracy theory idea that Trump has been fostering since -- essentially, since he took office. That the government wants to overthrow him.

And that's clearly not what's happening. If somebody's a whistleblower they're needing to be protected from the government rather than part of a large conspiracy.

ROMANS: Chuck Grassley with his -- not directly worded at the president, but Chuck Grassley with his defense of whistleblower laws yesterday, I think. This is the highest-ranking Republican on the -- on the -- on the Judiciary Committee, right?

What does -- is that the Republicans standing up to this kind of language?

WOLF: It's as much standing up as we've seen from Republicans so far. But I think it's critically important because it shows that -- a level of independence, at least from the rhetoric of the White House, in attacking the whistleblower. They're not essentially -- Republicans aren't circling the wagons against the whistleblower.

And ultimately, it would take Republicans to go forward and make an impeachment inquiry and ultimately remove Trump from office. I don't think that's necessarily going to happen in the current climate but it is certainly interesting to see some Republicans at least give a little bit of rhetorical distance between themselves and Trump's bonkers rhetoric.

BRIGGS: A little bit.

Check this piece, "Trump impeachment effort will be different from all others" on, by Zach. More historical perspective on where we are now.

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach.

BRIGGS: Good to see you, sir -- thanks.

WOLF: Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right, just another aspect of the surreal mood around the Ukraine scandal.

Ukraine's president may have been dragged into the Trump administration's mess but he still found time to meet Tom Cruise this week. Volodymyr Zelensky hosted Cruise in his office on Monday. Take a look.



VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: You're good looking. I like your movies (ph).

CRUISE: It pays the rent.


BRIGGS: You're good looking -- it pays the rent.

ROMANS: It pays the rent.

BRIGGS: Well said, Cruise.

Ukraine's government said that Zelensky invited him -- invited Cruise, himself. Cruise said he was interested in scouting for film locations in Ukraine. Ethan Hunt is now on the Ukraine case.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Business" this morning.

First, a look at markets around the world. Shanghai is closed for the week due to the holiday there. But markets -- European markets have opened lower here.

Look, the problem is a key economic report showing the trade war is hurting American factories. Manufacturing activity suffered the worst month in a decade. Investors did not like that news.

The Dow ended the day down 1.3 percent. The S&P closed down 1.2 percent. The Nasdaq also 1.3 percent lower.

Also, the auto industry, some bad news there. Toyota and Hyundai reported a sharp drop in sales for September. There's a calendar quirk here. Too fewer selling days and an early Labor Day holiday slowed down sales.

Toyota sales dropped 16.5 percent. Hyundai sales fell nine percent last month.

But look, decline in demand for minivans also hurt dealers. Automakers are focusing on selling larger SUVs and trucks that are more profitable. Analysts expect lower interest rates, though, could boost sales for the rest of the year.

UPS one step closer to making drone deliveries nationwide. The FAA has granted a certificate to UPS to operate limited drone delivery services.

Over the past six months, UPS has made 1,100 medical sample deliveries at a North Carolina hospital. This is under a government program. It plans to expand to more than 20 hospitals over the next two years.

It will be a while before UPS drones are dropping packages off at your foot -- at your doorstep, though. The FAA is still developing rules for drone delivery, including a way for authorities actually to remotely identify drones.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, North Korea flexing more military muscle, reportedly firing a ballistic missile from an underwater launch platform. The latest aggression coming just a day after North Korea agreed to resume nuclear talks with the United States.

Paula Hancocks live in Seoul, South Korea with the latest. Paula, what are you learning?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, this is the 11th test that we've seen from North Korea since May but this is going one step further. This isn't just a short-range missile or a testing of a weapons system.

This particular one, according to a U.S. official -- a missile being launched from an underwater launch platform. Now, it wasn't launched from a submarine but certainly, this technology would be used potentially for a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Now, we had a response from the State Department -- a spokesperson saying that the DPRK needs to refrain from provocations, also pointing out that it needs to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Now, this is something very similar to what Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, saying that it does violate those resolutions -- that North Korea was not allowed to use ballistic technology.

They also said that it was one missile. It broke into two pieces and one of those pieces landed in Japan's economic exclusive zone. So certainly, a big concern for those in the region.

We also heard from the South Koreans, saying that they're concerned at the timing of this. The fact that it comes just after the U.S. and North Korea have finally given a date for those working-level talks. We're hearing potentially October the fifth from the North Korean side. We don't know where exactly that will take place at this point.


But, of course, the timing is interesting. Some observers saying it could be North Korea flexing its muscles ahead of that, suggesting that it doesn't want these kind of weaponry to be part of negotiations or even just pointing out what could happen if negotiations don't go well -- Dave.

BRIGGS: A critical day for the State Department, both here and there.

Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul, thanks.

ROMANS: All right.

Unfolding this morning, pre-indictment hearings in three corruption cases against the Israeli prime minister, and Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyers, they are fighting back. The prime minister maintains he is the victim of a witch hunt.

Netanyahu is expected to concede that his attempt to form a unity government is all but over, a huge setback for him.

Let's go to CNN's Oren Liebermann. He is live in Jerusalem at the Justice Ministry where these hearings are being held. Oren, does this mean Israelis face another round of elections?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's certainly possible, especially from the viewpoint today where you look at it because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's legal and political problems have very much collided.

Here behind me at the Justice Ministry, Netanyahu's high-powered legal team is trying to convince the attorney general in preliminary hearings to drop some or all of the charges against him. This started hours ago and it's expected to continue not only for hours but for days, perhaps even into next week and maybe even beyond.

Today, the focus of the case is what's known as case 4,000, one of the most serious cases against the prime minister in which prosecutors say he advanced some $330 million of regulatory benefits and breaks in exchange for more favorable news coverage from a friend of his. This is one of the cases in which Netanyahu faces potential charges of bribery and breach of trust.

Netanyahu's lawyers, this morning, outwardly displayed confidence but it's not expected that all of the charges that Netanyahu faces will be dropped.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu, in a last-ditch attempt to form a unity government, had his meeting canceled on him with his rival, former chief of staff and head of the Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz. And that now leaves Netanyahu few options for trying to form a unity government or any other government for that matter.

He met with some of the other parties on the right and the religious, and now it's a question of what does he do here. Does he give up in the second failed attempt to try to form a government and give somebody else a chance or does he keep fighting -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Oren Liebermann live for us in Jerusalem.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for that.

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

Court documents reveal Dvorsky took bribes from Rick Singer, the consultant at the center of the admissions scandal. Dvorsky allowed a test-fixing fraud to continue at his school for years.

He faces up to 30 months in prison. Prosecutors say they would recommend a lower sentence if he provides substantial assistance.

BRIGGS: The Bronx Zoo now responding after stunning Instagram video surfaces of an unidentified woman inside a lion enclosure. She climbed over a safety barrier Saturday at the African lion exhibit. The Bronx Zoo called it a serious violation and stated the obvious, that it could have resulted in serious injury or death.

It is not known how long the woman was in there or whether she was removed by zoo staff or if she left on her own.

ROMANS: A homeless opera singer has become a viral sensation.




ROMANS: After the LAPD tweeted this video recorded by an officer in a subway station, CNN affiliate KTLA reports her name is Emily Zamourka.

The 52-year-old moved to the U.S. from Russia nearly three decades ago. She taught music and performed on sidewalks until her violin was stolen three years ago and she was forced to live on the street.

Now, two separate GoFundMe accounts have raised a total of nearly $75,000 and a charity is ready to put her up in a hotel.

A real reminder -- a real reminder when you see the homeless crisis in so many American cities. There are so many people who are so talented, right --

BRIGGS: Yes. That's remarkable.

ROMANS: -- and on the streets for so many different reasons.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I needed that.

I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Key committees on the Hill have received an urgent request from the State Department inspector general.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's highly unusual for the inspector general of the State Department to ask to brief this committee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know exactly what they want to discuss with the Hill but we know that it has to do with Ukraine and the State Department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears to be in response to the letter that Sec. Pompeo sent to Congress. He thinks that he has some kind of protective privilege blanket that he can draw down over all of the documents that we are requesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a duty to protect certain information that's coming out of the State Department -- classified information -- and he's doing that.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, October -