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EARLY START

Texts Link Ukraine Meeting To 2016 Probe; President Trump Asked Chinese President To Probe Bidens; Iraqi Prime Minister Says We Hear Protesters Legitimate Demands. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 4, 2019 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:30:00]

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- new twist for the White House. The texts show how the U.S. leveraged a possible meeting between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to push for an investigation into the 2016 election.

The texts were provided by former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who testified behind closed doors yesterday.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: On July 25th, the morning of the now- infamous call between the presidents, Volker texted a top Zelensky adviser.

"Heard from White House. Assuming President Z. convinces Trump he will investigate/get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. We will nail down date for visit to Washington."

A source tells us the Ukrainians responded by drafting a public statement committing to investigate corruption. The statement ultimately made it to President Trump's personal attorney and point man on Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani said that statement didn't go far enough and suggested adding references that would imply investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter and the 2016 election.

BRIGGS: The newly-released texts also show a top U.S. diplomat was concerned President Trump was withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid would amount to a quid pro quo.

On September first, the senior U.S. diplomat in the Ukraine, Bill Taylor, texted Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

Taylor wrote, "Are we now saying that security assistance and a White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?"

Sondland responded, "Call me."

ROMANS: There it is there.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: On September ninth, Taylor spelled out his concerns. "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Four and one-half hours later, Sondland replied, "I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quos of any kind."

BRIGGS: Sources say Volker told investigators yesterday he urged Ukraine not interfere in U.S. politics.

"The Washington Post" reports Volker said he warned Giuliani that Ukrainian claims were unreliable.

Today, the inspector general for the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, will testify to House panels behind closed doors.

ROMANS: All right. The texts capped a whirlwind day of developments on the impeachment front.

Perhaps the most shocking, that President Trump, already under investigation for secretly asking a foreign government to interfere in U.S. elections -- he did it again for all the world to see.

CNN's Jim Acosta is at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, it was a remarkable moment -- one for the history books -- as President Trump stood outside the White House and called for foreign interference in the 2020 election.

The president asked China to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden. Unlike his conversation with Ukraine's president, no call transcript is necessary here. The president said the quiet part out loud.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.

ACOSTA: It's become more difficult for the White House and its defenders to accuse the whistleblower complaint of relying upon hearsay to accuse the president of asking a foreign government to interfere in the upcoming election, as the president did that in front of the cameras -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Jim Acosta there at the White House.

The president also saying yesterday that he had not spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping about investigating conspiracy theories about the Bidens. That is not true.

CNN has learned exclusively Mr. Trump did raise Joe Biden with President Xi in a June phone call. The president's suggestion that the Chinese investigate the Bidens thrust his political grudge into the world's most complicated and consequential relationship.

Kylie Atwood, part of the team that broke the story, has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Christine and Dave, now, during a phone call between President Trump and President Xi in June, we are learning that Trump did mention Joe Biden, the former vice president and now his most formidable Democratic opponent leading up to 2020.

He also mentioned Elizabeth Warren, according to sources familiar with this phone call, and it was in the political sense that they were doing well in the polls and that they were the ones opposing him when it comes to 2020.

We are also learning that the transcript of that call was put in the highly sensitive server -- the same server that the Ukrainian transcript was put into that we have consistently reported on over the last few weeks.

I did speak with one Chinese diplomat today who said it was chaotic as they saw these media reports coming in, but also said that China wasn't interested in getting involved in the domestic politics of the U.S. But we are still waiting to see how the Chinese government officially reacts to those statements from President Trump today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Kylie. Thank you for that.

Amid the avalanche of Ukraine-related news Thursday, there was new damaging information about Vice President Mike Pence. Two sources tell us the vice president was told about the July 25th call between presidents Trump and Zelensky the day after it happened.

[05:35:03]

Those two and a third source confirmed Pence was provided a transcript of the call. It's not certain whether the vice president read it, but CNN has reported that Pence prepares and relies on briefings before meetings with foreign leaders and he did meet with President Zelensky weeks after the July 25th call.

BRIGGS: Several key subpoena deadlines today. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he intends to respond to a congressional subpoena calling for documents related to Ukraine by today.

And, House Democrats plan to subpoena the White House if it fails to comply with broad requests for documents, but the White House may have another idea.

Axios reports the White House is planning to send House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter as soon as today arguing President Trump and his team can ignore lawmakers' demands until Pelosi holds a formal House vote approving an impeachment inquiry. Axios reports a letter has been drafted but has not been finalized or signed as of last night.

ROMANS: All right, much more on this. Plus, it could be one of the biggest movies of the year, but social media threats have the Feds warning about safety at theaters showing "Joker."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:40:23]

BRIGGS: New text messages released by House Democrats overnight between U.S. diplomats appear to reveal a quid pro quo between the U.S. and Ukraine, but officials in the two countries seem to have different understandings, shall we say.

Let's bring in "Washington Post" senior political reporter, Aaron Blake. Great to have you here, sir --

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: -- on a --

AARON BLAKE, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good morning.

BRIGGS: -- head-spinning day -- yet another one in this impeachment inquiry.

How do these text messages, broadly speaking, change the equation for the impeachment inquiry?

BLAKE: Well, it certainly is evidence in its favor.

I think the big takeaway from these text messages is that it was broadly understood from these ambassadors and envoys that were serving in Eastern Europe and Ukraine, specifically, that there was some kind of a condition here.

The text message from Kurt Volker, in particular, referred to how he had just spoken with the White House and then referenced how a meeting was conditioned upon pursuing these investigations. It's not a coincidence that all of these people seem to understand these things as conditioned.

Whether it was the meeting, whether it was specifically the military aid, I think we need to find out more. But certainly, Kurt Volker seems to have said some very important things on Thursday.

ROMANS: Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine -- and there's this text message that he sends to the -- to the U.S. ambassador to E.U. He says, "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

It seems, though, at least someone there was seeing what was happening behind the scenes and alarmed.

BLAKE: Yes, and there were two such text messages from Bill Taylor kind of to this effect. It almost seemed like he was gathering evidence or at least trying to cover his backside when it came to what might come out of these text messages one day.

And then you see the response from Gordon Sondland, who was an ambassador in Eastern Europe for the European Union and also a big Trump donor, who basically responds in a way that suggests he knows this is going to be part of a record and is very carefully worded, defended the president, saying there was no quid pro quo.

I think everybody understood that there was something objectionable, potentially, going on here and there was a lot of covering of their backsides.

ROMANS: The president, yesterday, right out there in front of the cameras, 30 seconds apart.

First, he says I have a lot of leverage, I have a lot of options with China in terms of a trade deal. Exactly 30 seconds later he says, "By the way, China should be investigating the Bidens."

That was a remarkable moment. I mean, I think in all of the soup of last week that's something that investigators must really be focused on here. The president, out loud, calling for another country to investigate his political rivals.

BLAKE: Yes, certainly. And, the timing of that that you just mentioned -- the 30 seconds apart.

The president was talking about the trade war with China when he mentioned the leverage that he could have on China. Then he was asked about Ukraine -- he was not asked about China investigating -- and he brings up China investigating the Bidens on his own.

You know, I think it's pretty clear from the president's comments that he understands what leverage is and he understands how to use it. The fact that he would associate those things so closely together -- he would bring up China investigating on his own -- I think he --

The totality of his comments from that call with the Ukraine president and now these public comments about China suggest that he knows how to at least implicitly get his message across that maybe these countries should do him a favor if they want favors in other areas that he can handle from an official perspective.

BRIGGS: OK.

So, on the Republican side, minority leader McCarthy calls Pelosi reckless, calls on her to suspend impeachment. Mitch McConnell is actually fundraising off the impeachment inquiry, vowing to stop it.

Any cracks in that Republican firewall for the president?

BLAKE: Well, I'll say this. I think that Republicans are probably very happy to be on recess right now. If they were in the Halls of Congress being chased down by reporters this would be a much more difficult situation. Look, their go-to after the release of the Ukraine call was to basically say nothing. They said that they were very concerned about potential corruption with Joe Biden but they didn't generally address the substance of the president apparently asking for a foreign country to do something that could play in an election. I think in this case, it's going to be similar.

But those members also have to be asking themselves if they don't speak out, if they don't do something about this, is the president just going to keep taking this further and further as he seemed to do on Thursday with China and really have the situation get out of hand because it's clear that they are uncomfortable with this entire situation.

[05:45:01]

ROMANS: What about -- how does the vice president, Mike Pence, get through this?

I mean, we know that he reviews transcripts of calls to prepare and briefings to prepare for meetings. We know he met with the Ukrainian president. We know that he at least was given a transcript of that phone call between the presidents of the United States and Ukraine.

Where does Mike Pence fit into this?

BLAKE: Well, Mike Pence, throughout the Trump presidency, has kind of been a background figure. He has not been involved in any of the major controversies. In this case, I think he is involved. It's impossible not to involve him.

It's also very difficult to believe that he didn't understand what kind of pressure was being applied and what the specific investigations that they were pressing for were, given that he had a representative on that phone call on July 25th, given that Rudy Giuliani, to a large extent and President Trump to maybe a lesser extent, were publicly pushing for these investigations beforehand.

If you're Mike Pence and you have that planned visit to Ukraine pulled back, then you have a visit with Zelensky in September in which you apply pressure to have him root out corruption in Ukraine, I think it's understood, just as during the Trump Tower meeting it was understood that quote-unquote "adoption." It was not really about adoption; it was about sanctions.

This is something that would be understood by somebody at Vice President Pence's level.

BRIGGS: How quickly do you expect a vote in the House?

BLAKE: You know, I'm surprised by them saying they want to move on this quickly. I think maybe that's an effort for them to say the White House should comply and we want to get through this. I think this is something that's going to have to drag out because the White House is going to put up a lot of fuss about this and is going to fight these subpoenas and depositions. I don't know how Democrats can rush through this without trying to get every piece of evidence they possibly can about Ukraine. And judging by what we saw Thursday, the more they push, the more evidence they gather, the stronger their hand could be.

ROMANS: All right, Aaron Blake, "Washington Post." Nice to see you. Thank you so much.

BLAKE: Thanks, guys.

BRIGGS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, more here. CNN's KFiles unearthed a letter from 2016 that shows Republican senators echoing calls by then-Vice President Joe Biden for Ukraine's president to address corruption in the prosecutor general's office.

The bipartisan letter undercuts a baseless attack made by President Trump. The president claims Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire the prosecutor general to stop investigations into a company that his son, Hunter -- had his son, Hunter Biden, on its board.

Now, the 2016 letter was signed by Republican senators Rob Portman, Mark Kirk, and Ron Johnson. Just last week, Johnson signed onto a letter asking Attorney General William Barr to investigate allegations surrounding Biden and Ukraine.

BRIGGS: New details on another whistleblower complaint. This one coming from the IRS.

According to "The Washington Post," an IRS official alleges he was informed of at least one political appointee at the Treasury Department trying to interfere with the audit of President Trump or Vice President Pence's tax returns. The president, of course, never released his.

The "Post" reports two administration officials describe the IRS complaint as hearsay.

The whistleblower is identified as a career IRS official who denies acting with political motivations.

EARLY START will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:52:28]

BRIGGS: Breaking news out of Hong Kong.

Chief executive Carrie Lam has invoked emergency powers in an attempt to quell protests there. The emergency legislation bans masks used by protesters, citing extensive public danger. The penalty for breaking the anti-mask law is one year in prison and a fine. This is the first time the emergency regulations have been used in more than a half- century. Live pictures from Hong Kong, right now, show some people out on the streets with masks, setting fires before the law takes effect at midnight local time.

ROMANS: Iraqi leaders are trying to ease tensions after days of violent anti-government demonstrations. At least 38 people have been killed and more than 1,600 injured.

Overnight, Iraq's prime minister calling some of the protesters demands righteous and legitimate and says they have been heard.

Let's bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman, live in Beirut -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine.

It does seem that finally, Iraqi officials realize they have a problem on their hands after more than two and one-half days of these protests which have left so many people dead. A curfew around the clock, as well as the closure of the Internet throughout the country.

Now, we did hear Adil Abd Al-Mahdi, who is the prime minister, saying that he doesn't have a magic solution to all of these problems but he suggested, for instance, providing poor families with a basic monthly income.

And we've just heard from a representative of the Council of Iraqi Shiite Scholars saying that it's time for the government to do its job. And it has to do a better job in improving public services, keeping in mind, of course, that in much of Iraq there are daily prolonged power cuts and some parts of the country's water is simply not potable.

He also called for more job opportunities for young Iraqis. Of course, given that the youth unemployment in Iraq is about 40 percent, that's definitely one of the main complaints of these protesters.

And they also called these Shiite scholars for the formation of a committee of impartial non-government individuals to come up with ways to deal with corruption, which is really what has drained so much of the resources of this otherwise very wealthy country.

ROMANS: Yes.

WEDEMAN: Christine.

ROMANS: Rich in natural resources and really struggling.

[05:55:00]

All right, Ben Wedeman for us from Beirut. Thanks, Ben.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOAQUIN PHOENIX, ACTOR, JOKER: When you bring me out, can you introduce me as Joker?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: This weekend's opening of the movie "Joker" has prompted a warning from the FBI. Social media threats have called for mass shootings at showings of the movie. Officials say they flagged local law enforcement out of an abundance of caution and there is no specific or credible threat.

Fears are heightened because of the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado at a midnight showing of the Batman film "The Dark Night Rises."

ROMANS: There are now more than 1,000 cases of vaping-related lung injuries across the U.S. The CDC says 1,080 cases have been reported in 48 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nineteen deaths have been confirmed in 16 states. Additional deaths are under investigation.

This week, the Mayo Clinic reported the lung damage is some victims resembles a chemical burn. A researcher at the clinic said the injuries look like the kind you'd expect to see in toxic chemical spills.

BRIGGS: Frequent flyers beware. Los Angeles International Airport will soon ban rideshare and taxi drivers from curbside pickups and drop-offs at its terminals. Instead, travelers at LAX will have to take a shuttle bus to a designated parking lot to catch their ride. Changes are due to take effect at the end of the month.

Congestion is getting much worse at LAX. The airport is undergoing a massive overhaul of its road network and terminals.

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

Taking a look at global markets, a mixed performance around the world. Chinese markets remain closed for the holiday week. They'll reopen next Tuesday.

On Wall Street, futures barely moving here after what was really a wild day on Thursday -- a volatile day of trading when stocks finished higher. The Dow closed up 122 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also up as well. But that didn't really tell the whole story. They'd been lower earlier in the morning.

Investors are concerned about cracks forming in the American economy. The major averages on track to finish the week lower. For the Dow and the S&P, it's shaping up to be the worst week since early August.

Up next for investors, the September jobs report, which comes out in just about 3 1/2 hours -- 2 1/2 hours.

The alternative meat craze is growing quickly and one of the industry leaders is Beyond Meat.

McDonald's is testing a Beyond Meat patty in Canada and grocery stores are adding it to the shelves. Disney announced plant-based options will be added to every dining location in U.S. theme parks. Advocates say look, it's better for the environment, it doesn't kill animals. Critics say fake meat is too processed.

During a CNN business event series called "The Table," the Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told me that that's one of the biggest misunderstandings about the industry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ETHAN BROWN, FOUNDER AND CEO, BEYOND MEAT: We're not trying to hide anything from you. Like, what we do is we take protein directly from the plant. We run it through heating, cooling, and pressure. That's our process.

Look, it's not a question of process or not processed. It's a tale of two processes and which one do you want?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMAN: Brown also pretty optimistic about the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: We're going to be a $35 billion company. That's absolutely clear in my mind.

And what we're doing is building a platform that will allow us to not only provide all the taste and all the nutrition, but if we get that third pillar, which is price, we should be cheaper than animal protein. It's a $1.4 trillion industry and we can get a significant amount of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And it's a work in progress.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: He says they keep working on it because they're trying to get the taste and the color and the marbling just right. They're not trying to be a veggie patty, they're trying to look, taste, and feel like meat. They're going for meat lovers.

BRIGGS: I've still not tried it -- you have. We've got to get that done soon.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: All right to baseball -- the Division Playoffs last night.

The St. Louis Cardinals rallied to beat the Braves in game one of the NLDS. The Cards scored six runs in the last two innings. Doubles by Marcell Ozuna and Kolten Wong doing much of the damage. The Braves actually rallied to score three in the ninth but the comeback fell short. The Dodgers, meanwhile, had an easier time in their opener, shutting out the Nationals six-nothing. Behind Walker Buehler, the Nats managed just two hits.

And the two American League Playoffs get underway today. Rays-Astros, Yankees-Twins -- four games today, 10 hours of baseball --

ROMANS: That's a lot of baseball.

BRIGGS: -- if you're interested.

ROMANS: I'll pass.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. Have a great weekend.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Here's "NEW DAY."

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, October fourth, 6:00 here in New York.

We begin with an avalanche of breaking developments in the impeachment inquiry.

First, while you were sleeping, bombshell text messages have come out from Kurt Volker. That's the diplomat who quit the State Department just last week. And these texts show how U.S. diplomats dangled a White House visit for Ukraine's president in exchange for Ukraine investigating the 2016 election and the Bidens.

One text from a senior Ukrainian aide to Kurt Volker reads, "Once we have a date, will call for press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of U.S.-Ukraine .

END