tv CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto CNN September 19, 2019 7:00am-8:00am PDT
good thursday morning to you. i'm jim sciutto, i'm poppy harlow. the house intelligence committee is hearing from the inspector general about a disturbing whistle blower complaint made against the president of the united states. it's a complaint the inspector general appointed by the president has deemed an urgent concern. >> here's why. cnn has learned it came from a u.s. intelligence official who was troubled by something president trump said on the telephone to a foreign leader. according to the "washington post," the complaint was triggered by a promise that the president made. no word yet on exactly what that promise was, to whom it was made, also no response yet from the white house. >> so we're going to dig into this. let begin this hour with our senior national correspondent alex marker. good morning, alex.
which foreign leaders do we know the president met with and talked to on the telephone around this time? >> that's the big question. because it centers around the communication by the president with a foreign leader and the alleged promise that he made to this foreign leader. in looking at the timeline, the complaint was filed august 12th. if we look at the weeks prior to that, he had communications with a number of world leaders, including the russian president, vladimir putin. that was a phone call, the north korean dictator in the form of letters, the emir and the president of ukraine, the prime minister of israel. we don't know, as jim mentioned, which foreign leader is in the complaint, what promise was made. but it was something so disturbing to this intelligence official who the "washington post" said was tea taildetailed
that person felt it necessary to take it to the inspector general. the inspector general felt it was urgent concern that he then took it to the congressional oversight committees in the senate and in the house. now, the chairman of the house intelligence committee, adam schiff, then submitted a subpoena for the acting director of national intelligence to come and tell the intelligence committee what this is all about. just a few days ago, on tuesday, the acting dni defied that, said he wasn't going to show up and hand over the complaints. but they have reached a middle ground. as we are speaking the i.g. is testifying behind closed doors to the house intel committee and the acting dni, joe civseph mcg scheduled to do the same. trying to figure out who the foreign power was and what the promise was. >> thank you for that important
reporting. the intelligence community inspector general, a man appointed by the president is behind closed doors, he's on capitol hill, he agreed to meet with the house intelligence community to brief them on how this complaint has been handled or arguably mishandled. >> the key question is how far the i.g. goes in this hearing. does he give all the details of this complaint or does he try to strike a middle ground, which appears to be the strategy of the dni? >> i can tell you the expectation is that he's not going to be able to provide all of the details of what the whistle blower said in this complaint. but we talk about how the complaint was handled and concerns may have been mishandled in any way and why it was not sent to congress despite the concern from the inspector general that this was an urgent concern, something that the department of -- that the director of national intelligence office said it was
not, didn't need the legal definition of an urgent concern. that process is going to be described behind closed doors here. how far he ultimately goes in describing what the nature of the complaint is, that's a separate question. there's some belief from the members of that i've spoken to, there probably won't be a lot of new revelation bs that. we'll see if he ultimately provides that information. we expect this closed door hearing to take place over the course of several hours. we expect the house intelligence committee chairman adam schiff to talk about it after. we'll see how much detail he gives and the director of national intelligence, how much he says and if we learn anything more, we'll let you know. the moment the members believe this is going to be a description of the process that happened and concerns whether the president or the white house intervened, we'll see if they learn anything about that, too, guys. >> the law seems to be clear here.
manu rah you, thank you. any reaction from the white house on how seriously they're taking this? >> reporter: we're not hearing much from the white house yet. the white house has not commented yet. they're declining to comment. suspicions that -- adam schiff said on sunday that a higher authority, someone higher than the odni was potentially slow walking this complaint. that was his suspicion. the white house's involvement in how the information trickled down to congress will come under scrutiny throughout this process. as manu touched on, there was you have a -- you have a trump appointee saying it's credible and urgent. you have the director of national intelligence, the acting director, joseph mcguire say he does not think it's
urgent concern. lawmakers will hear from both men and hear the extent of white house involvement and this could just deepen president trump's suspicion of the intelligence community. he's lang wharbored suspicions - that's likely to sour the relationship even further, poppy. >> sarah, thank you very much for that reporting. joining us to discuss more, former director of communications for u.s. national intelligence, you have years of experience in this field. so when you hear the words urgent concern and you see a man, the inspector general appointed by the president elevating this and being so worried about national security on this front, what does that tell you about the severity of what happened here, allegedly according to the post? >> well, first thing, poppy, it tells me that this is a very serious issue. what comes to mind immediately is that i want the intelligence committees to be able to
exercise their oversight responsibilities and look into this. when we strip this down and look at what we actually know, this is not likely to be something that we can easily dismiss: we know that the president of the united states has wide authority to declassifying information. if he says something classified to another leader, he's declassified the information. this is not a complaint about classified information. when we think about what's left, people don't often make promises without getting something in return. i'd be interested in hearing not only what the promise was but what so concerned this whistle blower they thought they should go to the i.g. the other thing is, one of the things the intelligence community is sensitive to is anyone in positions of authority saying that they are going to in any way use intelligence resources to support any effort not in line with the intelligence committee's
mandate. a couple different options here. we have to wait and see what the facts tell us. >> shawn, as you know, this is part of a pattern here. the president's interactions with foreign leaders. he has taken putin's side over the ic in helsinki, discussed classified intelligence on more than one occasion with russian official, oval office, july 2017, hamburg meeting are putin. why aren't these instances taken together as a pattern in the way this president deals with foreign leaders? why aren't they sparking bipartisan criticism here? >> well, i think that people have sort of embraced this idea that the president under his article 2 powers has wide authority with regard to national security matters and even if it's ill-advised and causes concern for the intelligence community, he has the authority to share classified information. now, i can tell you just based on my own experience talking to
former colleagues that obviously that is going to be a concern on the part of intelligence officials. and previous administrations, if the president is going to share classified information or wants to share classified information, there is a discussion, there is agreements made that would protect sensitive sources and methods. but in this case, those discussions don't happen. this is a concern, but, again, as the president, he has the authority to do this. something we're just going to have to get used to for the time that he's president. >> but, look, adam schiff, the chair of the house intelligence committee is saying that he acted, that mcguire was out of line in getting any directive here from the justice department. schiff wants to see everything, including potential communications. is schiff right? >> you know, he is, poppy. this is a very important point. look, the intelligence community, whistle blower protection act is very clear when it comes to these matters. the inspector general of the
intelligence community has the authority to assess these kind of complaints and to make a determination as to whether or not they're credible and urgent. if they are, the statute is very clear with regard to what the i.g. is to do next. they have seven days to notify members of congress. there is nothing in the statute that speaks to the dni or anyone else's ability to circumvent the ic, ig's right to do that. in this case for the acting director to go to the justice department and for the conclusion to be made that this was not urgent, to use an overused word, unprecedented. the impression in the eyes of the dni is trying to protect the administration. >> did we break a law then? if the law is clear, he has to report it immediately and with all the details and if the dni is trying to find middle ground that pleases everybody, isn't that breaking the law?
>> well, certainly violating -- it's certainly violating the spirit of the statute. now, i don't know what's going to happen. we don't know what's going to happen with regard to the hearings going on now and the deal made with members of congress. maybe they'll come to some sort of agreement. but the statute is clear. there's absolutely no provision tore the ic/ig to be second-guessed when making a determination that these claims are credible and urgent. so from that perspective, the acting dni is in neutw territor. jim, i got to point out that i worked for the former director of national intelligence for quite some time. it's a difficult job. one of the most important jobs of the dni is to keep the intelligence community out of the political fray. in this case, this is kind of an unforced error on the part frt acting dni. this could have been handled differently and he's actually now getting the intelligence
community into a space we don't like to be in. >> plus, he's acting, like so many trump officials, he's not been approved by the senate, which creates a whole host of other issues. shawn turner, great to have you on. we'll stay on the story. still o to come, speaker nancy pelosi believes that corey lewandowski should have been held in contempt. will democrats act? threatening all-out war if the u.s. or saudi arabia were to launch a military strike against iran. this as tensions mount following the attacks on that saudi oil facility -- multiple saudi oil facilities. we'll show you cnn's exclusive interview with t-- heavy rain hounding parts of texas. homes, hotels, roads, flooded. we'll talk to people stranded by those floodwaters. i'm from cameroon, congo, and...the bantu people. new features. greater details.
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that could bring the three-day total to as high as 3 feet in places. chad myers joins us with more. i feel like so often we're talking b. to you about major events. tell us what tex ex is in for here. >> this is imelda. it was only a tropical storm. didn't turn into a hurricane. that's not the point. it has tropical moisture with it. that's been sitting right from houston and points eastward all the way toward beaumont. i-10 is completely underwater, shut down around beaumont president we're going to see this water, it's going to take a long time for it to runoff. in woodland and houston, getting in on more rainfall from the north here, coming down you'll see heavier rainfall here. the biggest story here is this white area here. this is towards beaumont. there's 350 square miles of 20 inches of rain or more. that's 15 times the size of manhattan covered with 20 inches
of rain or more. and some of these gauges now are out of control. we don't know if we believe them or not. but up to 40 inches of rain in spots there to the southwest of beaumont. the rain is going to continue for the day. it's going to finally start to taper off in three or four hours. some spots, even around con row, they had 5.11 inches of rain in "60 minutes." think about that in one hour. where does that go? that goes into houses and businesses. >> we're going to talk to some of those folks trapped in their homes and their cars in the midst of this in a little bit. chad, thank you very, very much for that reporting. right now, the house intelligence committee is speaking with the inspector general talked about a whistle blower complaint. it was credible and urgent. this is after the acting director, joseph mcguire refused to turn the complaint over to the lawmakers. >> the "washington post" reports
the whistle blower's concerns involve a promise that the president apparently made to a foreign leader. the promise the leader still unidentified. we're joined by white house reporter for the "washington post" and white house editor for axios. margaret, you're covered washington for some time. there was a law here that requires something clear. dni has to report this to the house in a certain time frame. hasn't done either thing. he's testifying behind closed doors. it's not clearest going into detail. what's happening here? why can the administration ignore what the law is? >> jim, we're looking at two things. one is the specific case. is the ig going to feel empowered by law or that it's appropriate to talk behind closed in that confidential setting with lawmakers or is there an effort by the administration to hold that
person back. we really don't have full visibility on that. we have not heard publicly from the white house today. but we know that the acting director, the acting dni is in a dialed back position. then there's the broader issue, we saw it earlier this week in corey lewandowski's testimony about the white house's posture and those close to the president whether they are now or were inside the administration, sort of a reflective posture not to give any more to congress than basically a court tells them that they have to do. so we're seeing case after case get pushed to the courts. this obviously is potentially of higher significance if it involves national security and presidential duties. and what we're seeing with the democrats now, not immediately -- he could have and apparently nancy pelosi thinks he should have.
we may see adam schiff take a different tackle. we won't see a lot of this play out if it's behind closed doors. i expect to hear more from the leader of that democratic committee how he approaches this. >> i think the question then becomes, that's a good point, margaret. what will, sung min, republicans do? how many times has the story played out? jim pointed out the instances time and time again. you'll hear republicans balk about it, but nothing happens. is there any reason to believe if this reporting pans out and the details are learned by republicans on that committee if not the general public that anything will be done about it? >> well it depends on what the promise is and who the foreign leader was and what the president actually said to the world leader which the details
are not known. we're trying to find out. what the president has done has alarmed a congressional republicans and one example obviously was his be summit with vladimir putin in helsinki last year. the whole situation under scores how little we know about the president's private discussions, his phone calls with the key leaders. a lot of times we get readouts of the calls from the white house. they're brief, perfunctory. oftentimes, we find out that the calls even happen from the other country. i believe one of the calls is now getting a renewed look because of our reporting at the "washington post" as of july 31st phone call with vladimir putin. i believe we found out about it from the russians. there's a lot of questions right now that congress is trying to dig into. there's a lot of questions about what exactly is going on in the phone calls and the private closed door conversations between the president and other world leaders. >> the things we don't know.
we do know that the president is -- there's instances where he's discussed classified information with russians, oval office, elsewhere. that can be equally disturbing. another topic, margaret if i can. divisions within the democratic party over how to proceed on impeachment. the first chapter in this official impeachment inquiry did not go as imagined. pelosi saying lewandowski could have been held in contempt. are others regretting he was not? >> this is another divided opinion thing. there's opinions about whether or not to proceed with impeachment and divisions about how to maneuver the procedural rules and really clamp down on stuff. now, you can argue whether or not corey lewandowski helped himself if he goes forward with this senate bid in new hampshire when he gave all the sort of memorable and statements about not having to be forthcoming with the president, so on and so
forth. in the process he managed to diminish the democrats leverage and raise questions about what was the purpose of the hearing, what did they get out of it? i don't think fundamentally that the public's numbers have changed and the numbers in the senate has changed. those are the only numbers from nancy pelosi's perspective that matter at all. if the general public, if the swing voters you're trying to compete, are they staying home or voting for a democrat, might they go for trump a second time, if you're pushing impeachment and they don't want that and the senate is never going to finish the job, what is the point of doing it? that's still pelosi's argument. increasing increasingly, the numbers tick up and the number of house democrats who favor impeachment. >> that was the one poll that president tweeted with confidence. the polling doesn't support impeachment. >> sung min, let's turn to gun control before we go. this was a big moment yesterday. it got a little overshadowed
with the "washington post" reporting. let's keep the spotlight on guns. if anything is going to change this time around, if klecongress going to act, you have bill barr and a memo with suggestions for gun control legislation making the rounds. you tweeted, quote, washington 101. if you want to kill something, leak it. tell me more. >> i mean, that's clearly what happened yesterday. because a lot of the senators that i talked to who were privy to this document of bill barr and a top white house official passing around on capitol hill, they acknowledge that this document was not ready for primetime. it was not supposed to have been leaked. it was one of many ideas that bill barr in con jjunction with others had been batting around and trying to get feedback from senators. clearly, it was put out there and almost immediately all the -- came out for this
document. the nra immediately against it. republican senators reviewing that memo and saying this looks a lot like the mansi chan toome one -- if you're a republican, you say something is man chen toomey. that is a death nell for any bit of background check bill. if anything, it showed how difficult it would be for the president -- for this administration, the white house to advance the most modest background check measure on capitol hillment. >> here we are again. we ask the question after every shooting. will it be different? if you're right, the answer is no. >> margaret, seung, great to have you both. all-out war if a -- what the u.s. secretary of state is saying about that this morning coming up next.
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who conducted the attacks is iran. we're striving to build a coalition. the foreign minister of iran is saying all-out war. we're trying to achieve peace and a peaceful resolution. >> iran foreign minister said he hopes to avoid conflict and is willing to talk to saudi arabia and to the united arab emirates. >> the possibility of a return to negotiations with the u.s. is very uncertain. our senior international correspondent nick payton walsh sat down with -- that was a phenomenal interview, fascinating interview with zarif. lay it out for us. >> in short, they will not be talking to the united states under any conditions unless the sanctions imposed under the nuclear deal that trump hated so much that he tore up. unless those sanctions are lift, there's ate chance that iran and
the united states -- it doesn't seem like they'll be getting on a plane to new york for the assembly. when he was referring to fighting for the last american, he was suggesting that was likely what saudi arabiaians may end up asking the americans to do on their behalf. questioning if they had it in them to do that. here's the interview we had. >> what would be consequence of an america or sound military strike on iran right now? >> an all-out war. >> you make a very serious statement. >> because defending our country. i'm making a very serious statement that we don't want war. we don't want to engage in a military confrontation. we believe that a military confrontation based on deception is awful. will have a lot of casualties. but we won't blink to defend our
territory. >> put yourself in saudi arabia's shoes. if there was an attack on iranian sovereign territory with cruise missiles from saudi arabia, what would iran's response be? >> but they make that up. why do they want to make that up. the yemenese announced responsibility for that. they have provided information for that. they have answered the disinformation campaign about the fact that they launched this attack against saudi arabia in self-defense. now, they want to pin the blame on iran in order to achieve something and that is why i'm saying this is agitation for war. because it's based on lies. it's based on deception. but you lie and deceive it doesn't even serve the interests. >> there's weakness, though to iran's denial about involvement in all of this. that is really the houthi yemen
rebels who say, and they say themselves who are behind this. this is iraq rebels under siege for years, they struggle to get medicines and food. that, indeed, is part of your case why the war must stop. how is the world expected to believe that they were able to magic up drones and cruise missiles of this technology that flew across hundreds of miles of saudi arabia through tens of billions of dollars of their defenses without any external assistance and took out 19 targets? that's a big ask for people to believe. >> well, you see if you want to make your calculations based on this, saudi arabia should have been able to win this war against this group of besieged people exactly when they thought they would four weeks after they started the war. but it's four and a half years, they have not been able to bring the yemenis to their knees. >> you're very sure that the houthis did this. >> i'm very sure iran didn't do
it. >> you're sure that the houthis did this. >> i believe the houthis made a statement they did it. >> you're not sure they did it? >> i cannot have any confidence they did it. >> right. >> because we just had their statement. i know that we didn't do it. i know that the houthis have made a statement that they did it. >> they're showing you no proof? >> i heard that they issued some released some documents last night which i haven't been able to examine for myself and i'm not an expert to examine them anyway, to show that they were able to increase the range of the drones and the missiles by -- by jet engines in them. but i'm not an expert. so i cannot say. >> it puts you in the position to the saudi arabian government, you're saying they did this based on a hunch and you're saying the same thing. >> i'm not accusing anybody.
you can have a lot of accusations based on who may benefit from this. iran wants security in the region, they have nothing to benefit from this. iran wants stability in the region. iran does not want war. iran wants an end to all wars. >> would you call on the houthis to release evidence? >> i think they did. it's not up to us to ask. the houthis know what they did and they know what they need to do. they release some evidence last night. i think it's important for the saudi government to understand what they're trying to achieve. do they want to fight iran until the last american -- is that the -- because if that is --
they can be that is the case? >> why? >> because iran will defend itself. >> now, you hear some of the rhetoric there. a little bellicose. the overall tone is one of hoping the conflict would be avoided saying directly he didn't believe that's what donald trump sought at this point. in fact, at times donald trump he was tried to be coaxed into war from bad advice but stayed away from that particular problem. still, negotiation seems like a slim chance. you heard the reasons why that is the case earlier on. as you heard him responding to the all-out war. it's still a possibility i have to say. >> it was interesting to hear him phrase the president's i am prudence. not something you expect to hear from the iranians. thank you, knick. unrelenting rain in texas. people are trapped in their homes and cars.
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these floodwaters is michael stevens in his apartment about 100 miles east of houston. he joins us on the phone. michael, tell us what you're seeing around you there now. >> it's pretty catastrophic. you have cars that are in the apartment complex that are beginning to float. the lower level apartments, the first floor, those tenants for the most part that can have come up to the second floor and being as neighborly as you can. we have some people elderly and disabled that are still being rescued because we can't get them out of their houses due to the wheelchairs. one lady in particular is on oxygen and her oxygen tank is about to run out or it has right now. we're trying to get rescue out here. highways and roads are shut down. we're literally cut off. >> you know, we're looking at
this video. it's startling to see. we can see why you guys are cut off. one thing that i read. you can talking to our producers and said some people have snakes in their apartments because of this. >> we actually had one of the neighbors downstairs, she had snakes in her apartment. one actually was on her foot. she freaked out. they're now staying upstairs with us. there are people, other apartments that have snakes in their apartment from the creek behind the apartment complex. >> that scares the heck out of me. i got to ask you, i mean, i imagine local authorities overwhelmed. are there any attempts to rescue, to evacuate people like you and your neighbors there? >> we've seen them go by the complex. none have come into the complex. i've been outside and trying to help since about 2:00 a.m. this morning. so have other people. it's just one of those things,
everybody is overwhelmed. we have trucks that are lifted that can't move. they're just stuck. >> wow. >> it's worst than harvey. i can deal with that. vidor, parts of it are under 22 feet of water, not inches, feet. >> worse than harvey is what you're feeling right there. i'm so sorry, michael stevens. thank you for calling in. these images are startling. i hope, i hope that you guys can get some help there very soon. >> absolutely. >> we have breaking news coming in to cnn. president trump has sued his long time accounting firm and the new york district attorney in an attempt to stop his accounting records from being sent to the local prosecutor. it is quite a development. we're going to have more right after this break. stay with us. free wi-fi... ...and the price match guarantee.
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breaking news. president trump sued his long-time accounting firm and the new york district attorney in an attempt to stop his tax returns from being released. >> we have the details. we knew this was likely coming after the subpoena for all the information earlier this week. >> this is not unexpected,
especially when you look at the president's general approach to any subpoenas, whether from the house democrats or from the new york district attorney's office here to gain access to the accounting records, his taxes and his financial records. so this was not unexpected. they're suing here today saying this is an unconstitutional subpoena. even though it's coming from the manhattan's district attorney's office saying it's uncontusion al. -- they're looking for the judge to throw it out saying it has to be put on pause until the president is out of office. >> this is the second effort to get to the accounting firm here. the house committee do it, that lawsuit by trump was rejected. though it's on appeal. but this one has more likelihood of surviving, does it? because it's a grand jury subpoena? >> it's a different path. the first one is challenging the house and congress's attempts to gain access to the president's
records. this is part of a grand jury investigation. grand jury material is secret material, it is protected. it's not likely to leak or become public, which is what the president's concern was, mainly. they argued this in court at the hearing. that congress was going to make all of this public. this is a different process. it's a criminal process. i think a lot of lawyers i've spoken to think that the grand jury would be entitled to this information. it's not going to go without challenge. they found this area to say it's unconstitutional. will ultimately see where a judge comes down on this as part of this investigation. at least as it's playing out so far is looking into hush money payments and whether the trump organization had improperly recognized them in their business records. >> play this out for us. so if this judge moves against the on this, this can elevate up? >> if the judge here throws out
this lawsuit and says the subpoena is valid -- >> they can go ahead with it. >> they can appeal it up the state system. >> it's now currently in the appeals system. tara skin he will, thanks very much. the president just responded to that "washington post" reporting, reporting that a whistle blower made a complaint because of what they say was a promise the president made to a former leader. much more about that as we continue to cover this breaking story. i'm poppy harlow in new york. see you back here tomorrow morning. the president saying it's -- it's going through the whistle blower process as well. at this hour is next. i'm jim sciutto. ery day, we put our latest technology and unrivaled network to work. the united states postal service makes more e-commerce deliveries to homes than anyone else in the country.
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hello everyone. i'm kate bald oun. thanks for joining me. what if any promise did the president make? this has to do with the whistle blower complaint that congress wants to see but the director of national intelligence is refusing -- days ago, they revealed that this complaint was being held in limbo. listen. >> the director has said essentially that he is answering to a higher authority and refusing to turn over the