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Democrats Subpoena White House for Ukraine Documents; Republicans Respond to Trump's Comments on Ukraine; At Least 41 Deaths in Iraqi Demonstrations; Prince Harry Sues U.K. Tabloids over Phone Hack. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 5, 2019 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, welcome. Live from Studio 7, I am Michael Holmes.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, the impeachment probe escalates. House Democrats slap the White House with a subpoena with documents related to Ukraine.

Plus protesting the ban, shops close as the city braces for more demonstrations in Hong Kong over a new rule outlawing face masks.

And later, the prime minister responds; the Iraqi government lifting the curfew in Baghdad after days of violent clashes.


HOLMES: Welcome, everyone.

Momentum is building on Capitol Hill in the impeachment investigation of President Trump. There is a report of a second potential whistleblower, who has firsthand knowledge of the president's actions on Ukraine,

"The New York Times'" front page says the U.S. intelligence officer is considering filing a formal complaint against the Trump White House. So congressional Democrats are full speed ahead on other fronts as well

The White House has now been subpoenaed for Ukraine documents after ignoring a congressional request to do so voluntarily. Vice president Mike Pence is also being dragged into the mess with Democrats requesting information about his meeting in Poland with Ukraine's new leader.

Three chairman of the relevant House committees explain why they made the move.

"We deeply regret that President Trump has put us and the nation in this position but his actions have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena." This is what happens if the White House refuses. Here is one Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee. Said.


REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA), MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think Chairman Schiff has made it abundantly clear that defiance of this act constitutes obstruction of a legitimate congressional inquiry in pursuit of impeachment.

And as a consequence of that, we will assume or infer that he is not innocent of whatever it is that we're out to verify with the documentation. There is no other reason for him to withhold it, to hide it, unless, of course, he's guilty.


HOLMES: The White House response to all of this remarkably blase, quote, "This subpoena changes nothing, just more document requests, wasted time and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the president did nothing wrong."

But they're not them handing over. Yet

As the impeachment inquiry heats up, President Trump, trying out a new defense strategy, he now claims his actions were motivated by a desire to fight corruption, not by politics. Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With mounting evidence he solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election, President Trump is changing his story, insisting he's now more interested in rooting out corruption than investigating former Vice President Joe Biden.

TRUMP: I don't care about Biden's campaign, but I do care about corruption. His campaign, that's up to him. Politics, that's up to them. I don't care about politics. And so we are looking at corruption. We're not looking at politics. We're looking at corruption.

ACOSTA: But that's not how the president laid it out the day before, when he directly called on Ukraine and China to dig up some Biden family dirt.

TRUMP: It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens. By the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.

ACOSTA: Now the president is claiming he never thought Biden would win the Democratic nomination.

TRUMP: I think he would be an easy opponent. But I never thought Biden was going to win. I don't care about politics. But I do care about corruption.

ACOSTA: And Mr. Trump could not answer whether he was seeking corruption probes in foreign countries that don't include Democratic candidates.

QUESTION: Have you asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don't involve your political opponents?


TRUMP: We would have to look.

ACOSTA: So far, at least one Republican is not buying it, as Utah Senator Mitt Romney tweeted, "By all appearances, the president's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling."

But Romney is mostly alone in the GOP. Florida Senator Marco Rubio tells CNN affiliate WFOR Mr. Trump is just trolling the media.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I don't know if that's a real request or him just needling the press, knowing that you guys were going to get outraged by it. He's gotten -- he's pretty good at getting everybody fired up. And he's been doing that for a while. And the media responded right on -- right on -- right on task.

ACOSTA: That may explain why the president is confident the Republican-controlled Senate will hold its ground and keep Mr. Trump in office if House Democrats vote to impeach.

TRUMP: They have no choice. They have to follow their leader, Jeff. And then we will get it to the Senate and we're going to win. The Republicans have been very unified.

ACOSTA: But the impeachment inquiry has found its way to congressional town halls. Iowa's Joni Ernst got an earful at one in her state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is the line?

When are you guys going to say, enough?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): Yes, good question. So...

ACOSTA (on camera): Aren't you breaking the law, asking for foreign help?

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is also not answering whether he had violated the law.

The chair of the Federal Election Commission says the law is clear, "It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election."

Mr. Trump appears to be relishing his latest firestorm, claiming his battles with the media have invigorated the Christian faith.

TRUMP: I got a call the other night from pastors, the big -- the biggest pastors, evangelical Christians. They said, we have never seen our religion or any religion so electrified.

ACOSTA: The president is describing the latest job numbers in almost Biblical terms.

TRUMP: Asia is doing poorly, to put it mildly. And we continue to do very well with a miracle.

ACOSTA: President Trump threatened to fire off a letter, saying the White House won't cooperate until House Democrats hold a vote on their impeachment inquiry. We are still waiting to see that letter. A source close to the matter tells us that letter may come out on Monday -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


HOLMES: The House subpoena comes on the heels of explosive congressional testimony by former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. The most damaging evidence, a cache of text messages between Volker and other U.S. diplomats and, the senior Ukrainian official.

Now they laid bare how U.S. military aid to Ukraine and the promise of a face-to-face meeting with President Trump was being leveraged to compel Kiev, to dig up political dirt on President Trump's potential rival in 2020. CNN's Jessica Schneider has that part of the story.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker's opening statement to lawmakers obtained by CNN details Rudy Giuliani's influence on President Trump's perception of Ukraine, as he tried to convince the president that Ukraine's new government was serious about stopping corruption.

Volker revealed that he met in late May with President Trump, who insisted Ukraine was a corrupt country full of terrible people. The president said, "They tried to take me down."

The president referring to a theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election. That has been debunked. Volker also released pages of texts that show how the Trump administration, with the help of Rudy Giuliani, was determined to push Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, as well as that debunked theory.

On July 25, the day of Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, Volker texted Zelensky's aide, "Heard from the 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."

But Volker insisted in his statement he never took part in an effort to encourage Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, saying, "The suggestion that he would be influenced in his duties as vice president by money for his son simply has no credibility to me. I know him as a man of integrity and dedication to our country."

But Volker's involvement in influencing Ukrainian policy is clear from this text in early August to Rudy Giuliani, "Hi, Mr. Mayor. Had a good chat with Yermak last night. He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z correctly as to what he should be saying?"

The statement was supposed to lay out how Ukraine would pursue corruption investigations into the 2016 election and a company Hunter Biden was involved in. But that statement was never released.

On August 30, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, tells Volker that the president has canceled his trip to Ukraine. The next day, Taylor texts Gordon Sondland, a prominent Republican donor and U.S. ambassador to the European Union, "Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?"

Sondland responds, "Call me."

On September 9, Taylor again brings up the point, "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Sondland texts back hours later, defending the president, "I believe you're incorrect about President Trump's intentions.


SCHNEIDER: "The president has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind."

Volker also said in his opening statement that he didn't become aware that foreign aid to Ukraine was being held up at the same time he was connecting Ukrainian leadership aides with Rudy Giuliani. But Volker said he did not perceive those two issues to be linked in any way -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: To Hong Kong now, grocery stores, shopping malls and the city's entire subway system are all closed, the city bracing for more demonstrations a day after protesters vandalized, metro stations and shops, the 18th straight weekend of protests. These are live pictures coming to us as the protests get underway. Paula Hancocks is in Hong Kong.

What do you see in the context of what we saw last night with all the damage that's done?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael at this point you have got several hundred people in the streets here and this is the anti-mask march, they wanted to show the chief executive, Carrie Lam, and the government that they're not happy that the emergency law has been invoked and they have to now not wear masks. You can see plenty of people here wearing masks. Technically, the police can come and arrest, them, they're within their rights to do that but we haven't seen much of a police presence here. This is a peaceful march.

We heard from Carrie Lam herself. She was talking about how what happened on Friday night were extremely scary riots, destruction in many parts of the city, the subway stations are shut down, 161 stations are closed.

We're seeing a few locals who are pretty annoyed that they can't get home, they cannot get anywhere. The city is paralyzed. You can see the destruction here, plenty of graffiti, which you would never have seen, just 18 weeks ago. So this is becoming a bit of a cycle at this point.

HOLMES: In terms of where it's headed, you have reports of another protester shot by live fire, an off duty police officer beaten up, you have some details on that.

And where is this heading?

HANCOCKS: That's right, this happened on Friday. Carrie Lam alluded to it as well. There was a undercover or plainclothes police officer who was dragged from his, car and was beaten up by some protesters.

According to police there was also a petrol bomb thrown at him. And as far as they are concerned, he's fully within his rights and it was reasonable force that he decided to fire a shot.

A 14-year-old boy was shot in the thigh. The hospital said he's in non-critical condition, in stable condition. But this is the second time there has been live fire and the police actually hit someone.

There has been live fire in the past, the, police said they had no choice to try, to help the isolated police officers who are under attack. But this speaks to the narrative of the protesters, they believe the police are using excessive force. And this just plays into that -- Michael.

HOLMES: Thank you so much, Paula Hancocks there in Hong Kong for us.

Protests of different kind, in Iraq, taking another violent turn. When we come back, new clashes erupting despite calls for peace. We'll hear from a former ambassador to Iraq about the unrest.





HOLMES: Gunfire on the street in Iraq, sending protesters running for cover, clashes breaking out again between demonstrators and security forces on Friday, the violence has been raging for the fourth straight day, at least 41 people have been killed and 1,600 injured.

To appease the demonstrators, the government lifted the curfew in Baghdad a few hours ago. It says it will create a committee to address the grievances.

Christopher Hill is a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and professor at the University of Denver; he joins me via Skype, for more on this.

Always a pleasure to see, you Ambassador. Power, sewage, water supplies, they've been a problem for years. I was in Baghdad in 2003 with the Marines and it a major issue then.

Why have subsequent governments not able to provide for the people even basic services?

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA AND IRAQ: You've got it. It's been a long-standing problem, frankly the governments have always said basic services are what they are concerned about.

The president of Iraq recently in New York saying the same thing. But you're absolutely right, they just haven't addressed it. There are a lot of problems with it, a lot issues on, for example, electricity, whether people don't want to pay for it but they want it on a 24-hour basis.

And when the electricity goes out, air conditioners go out and it's pretty grim there. We're talking upwards of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. So one would think the government would say, this is our main task. But I guess when you have an ISIS invasion and other things, this just doesn't end up as a main task.

HOLMES: It's interesting you mention the insurgency and the various terror groups that Iraq deals with. That surely is a risk here. We've seen these extremists seize on the dissatisfaction to recruit be it Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Are there risks of that here?

HILL: There's no question there is the risks of, it but I don't see any resurgents have proved to be better electrical engineers than the government. So I think it's an enormous frustration for people.

You get -- there are engineers, in Iraq and this is not a, question of they don't have, people. But they don't get the job done and people are talking about the hardy perennial of Iraq politics, that's corruption.

Everyone has got corruption in Iraq so it's a serious problem. I have a lot of confidence, in the new government of Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Barham Salih. I think over the past 10 years, certainly when I was there, we never had a government that's as effective and positive as this one. But so far they have not been able to solve this perennial issue.

HOLMES: In a broader sense regionally, we're seeing the same sort of stuff across the region. There are protests in Egypt, in Lebanon and even in Jordan, for goodness sake. There's a lot of anger across the region in terms of, the people not being provided for basic things.

HILL: That is right, it was one of the animating issues in the whole Arab Spring. People often talk about the politics of the Arab Spring, these are really about these basic services that weren't being provided.

I would say Iraq has been worse, they've had so much destruction of their infrastructure, it's been hard to deal with. They got their oil going so they, have oil exports.


HILL: So they can earn some funds for dealing with this but they never really figure out the markets for these things and they've just had a real tough time dealing with it.

And I'm not saying if I were advising the Arab government right now, I would say, look you are going to have insurgencies. The best way to deal with that is to start these public services and try to protect them, too, because often the insurgents know precisely this thank goodness because they know that this is such a source of frustration, .

HOLMES: I've been there 7-8 times over the years. Every year, the war and afterwards and what can they do, what should happen?

Dare I say the outside world will offer some help because it has not worked over the years, billions have been spent, what needs to be done to get the infrastructure working?

HILL: It's very tough. I remember my first couple of days in Iraq and I got briefed on the electrical situation and I sort of asked, what are they charging, how much, is it, how much are people paying for this thing?

And I remember the brief looked like at me like I was from, the planet Mars or something, did you not know, nobody pays for any of this stuff.

So I think that's part of the problem. They don't really have any price mechanism for managing scarcity, I think that's a big part of the problem.

The other thing is --


HOLMES: -- have jobs?

HILL: No, they don't, and in Iraq, with freedom came a lot of air conditioners, the number of the draw on the grid was far greater than ever before in the past.

So I think they need to have, they need to look at the economics, of energy. I don't mean to pick on that because there are a lot of issues here but the energy is what really frustrates people, when whole parts of Baghdad would go out at night and the temperature was so incredibly high.

So I think they really need to focus on this in terms of laying out some new lines and figuring out if they can invest in it and make sure that there's some notion that people are paying for it because if they don't pay for it, there's no sense that it's a scarce good that needs to be allocated.

So I do not know when these things will end, I was shocked the other day when I saw it. Here it comes again, it's like nothing learned, nothing forgotten. But I think, this government in Iraq, if there's any government that can handle this, I think this government can deal with it and deal with it in the future.

HOLMES: Common thread regionally seems to be hope. And a lot of people feel they don't have hope, don't have jobs, don't have an outlook and they don't have a voice, that is difficult. I wish we had more time but we do not. Ambassador Christopher Hill, thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

HILL: Thank. You Pleasure.

HOLMES: A second day of working level talks between the U.S. and North Korea is due to take place in the Swedish capital. The media in Stockholm, the first formal face to face contact between the two countries since U.S. president Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong- un met in June at the Korean demilitarized zone.

That's where they vowed to restart negotiations that had stalled after their failed summit in February.

These current talks come days after Pyongyang said it has successfully test-fired a ballistic missile designed to be launched from a submarine.

Just days after an emotional plea to U.K. tabloids, Prince Harry taking action, filing a lawsuit, we will have that and more when we come back.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

Prince Harry and his wife are going after the British tabloids again, just days after his wife filed suit. He is now suing two U.K. newspapers, accusing them of tapping his phone. CNN's Anna Stewart has more from. London.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's just days since Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, launched legal proceedings against "The Mail" on Sunday, for allegedly publishing a private letter to her father.

And now her husband, Prince Harry, has filed new claims against tabloid newspapers. Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the lawsuit regards the illegal interception of voicemail messages.

newsgroup newspapers, the parent company of "The Sun," have confirmed they have received a claim. The publisher of "The Mirror" says it's aware of the legal proceedings but hasn't yet received official notification.

Both papers have declined to comment on the allegations at this time. The big question here is, when did the voicemail interception take place?

Does it date back to the so-called hacking scandal of 2005-2006?

That was the hacking of royal and celebrity phones. And it engulfed those newspapers as well as the now defunct "News of the World." The scandal resulted in numerous lawsuits, settlements, criminal charges and even jail time for some journalists as well as a multimillion- dollar wide-ranging inquiry into press standards by Lord Leveson.

Prince Harry's decision to sue tabloid papers comes days after his wife's and his extraordinary and emotional statement on the tabloid press, in which he criticized the double standards of a specific press pack which gave positive coverage of their recent trip in Africa and of his wife. But he says they vilified her for the last nine months.

It feels like the first shots of a new royal battle against the British media -- Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


HOLMES: What an amazing story now of this man.

A man, who lost the use, of all four limbs in a fall four years ago. Well, he's been able to walk and move his limbs again, it's extraordinary.

He's a, 28 year old Frenchman, he's known only as Thibault. He's been working with virtual simulators and an exoskeleton for two years. He has now walked 145 meters, and he can reach for targets with his arms.

Researchers implanted a recording device in his head that translates brain signals into movements of the suit. Thibault said he felt like the first man on the moon.

What a great story, extraordinary stuff, thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Michael Holmes, I will have the headlines in just a moment.