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House Committees Will Question Ambassador to E.U.; Trump Bipartisan Criticism Over Syria Decision; Chinese Businesses Cut Ties with Houston Rockets; "The Irishman" Heads to Broadway. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 8, 2019 - 04:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: In just hours, a key figure in the impeachment inquiry will testify on the Hill. Lawmakers want to ask, what does he know about alleged White House quid pro quo?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not siding with anybody. We've been in Syria for many years.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The president on the defense as Republicans and Democrats both slam his decision to let Turkey invade northern Syria.

ROMANS: Chinese businesses suspending ties with the Houston Rockets, angry over a deleted tweet from the team's general manager supporting Hong Kong protesters. Culture clash there for sure.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Very interesting story.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs, 4:33 Eastern Time. We start with a big day ahead and the House Democrats impeachment inquiry prompted by a whistleblower's accusation that President Trump pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Biden family any exchange for military aid.

ROMANS: In just a few hours, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, will testify behind closed doors to three House committees, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight. Sondland was mentioned in the whistleblower's complaint and gained even more attention for his role in texts released by House Democrats.

BRIGGS: In the texts, Sondland asked Ambassador Bill Taylor to persuade Ukraine's government to announce investigations into the Bidens and election interference conspiracy theories. Sondland suggested that would lead to a meeting between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. But Sondland rejected Taylor's characterization of that arrangement as a quid pro quo.

Manu Raju has more.



Today, yet another key witness in the Ukraine scandal coming to Capitol Hill, Gordon Sondland, someone who was involved in the conversations after President Trump discussed with the president of Ukraine, the president's desire to have the Ukrainian government investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.


Now, we seen from text messages that were released last week by Democrats pushing on the impeachment inquiry that many that he wrote about the aftermath about the push to investigate the Bidens. There will be questions about whether or not he felt it was right, whether or not that he believed the president was seeking a quid pro quo, withholding military aid in order to push for that investigation.

We'll see ultimately what he says behind closed doors. Now, this comes as the Democratic-led effort is ramping up. There were subpoenas that were issued yesterday, both to the White House Office of Management and Budget and to the Pentagon to get more records and documents related to why the Ukrainian aid which was approved by Congress was withheld for some time.

Now, at the same time there are threats about subpoenaing Rudy Giuliani's business associates because they have not turned over the documents or agreed to testify as Democrats have demand. Also, there's outstanding subpoenas for Rudy Giuliani to turn over documents by next week, also for the State Department to turn over records as well. Also questions about how they can pursue this in the days ahead, whether they can get that whistleblower, him or herself to come before the House Intelligence Committee. I'm told they're considering a range of measures, extreme measures to protect the identity of the whistleblower if that individual does agree to ultimately come and testify.

So, a lot of moving parts in this rapidly-moving investigation, but a key witness today, we'll see what Republicans and Democrats who will be sitting in on this day-long hearing ultimately learn.

Back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Manu, thank you for that. The president's tax returns are a step closer to landing in front of a New York grand jury. A federal judge dismissing the president's lawsuit seeking to block a subpoena filed by the Manhattan district attorney. Now, the judge rejected Mr. Trump's effort to keep his taxes under wraps, saying he was making a quote, categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity.

A federal appeals court immediately granted a temporary stay until it completes an expedited review. Even if the president's taxes are handed over in the end, they will be covered by grand be jury secrecy rules. They would likely only become public if they were used as evidence at a trial.

BRIGGS: Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris unveiling a plan that would allow up to six months of paid family and medical leave for all workers. That would include part-timers, independent contractors, and the self-employed. Workers could use the leave for personal health conditions, caring for new babies, sick family members or domestic violence and sexual assault. Harris' plan would be funded through payroll contributions and tax hikes on the top 1 percent and big corporations.

ROMANS: Harris' Democratic presidential rival, Senator Amy Klobuchar pulling in nearly $5 million in third quarter fundraising, an improvement for the Klobuchar campaign from second quarter numbers when she raised $3.9 million but short of her hall in the first quarter of 2019 when she brought in $5.2 million.

By comparison, in the third quarters, Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren raised $25.3 million and $24.6 million respectively. Still, Klobuchar's third quarter fundraising efforts were enough to put her over the threshold for the debate in November. In the past three months, the Minnesota senator's campaign received from 105,000 donors.

Remember when candidate Trump promised to eliminate the federal debt in 2016. Eye-popping numbers from the Congressional Budget Office show the government is spending so much more than it takes in, the budget deficit is now just under a trillion dollars.

Here are the numbers. The deficit estimated at $984 billion for 2019, the highest since 2012 and it comes to almost 5 percent of GDP.

How did we get here? More spending on Medicare, defense, and interest payments. Government spending is growing twice as fast as revenue. Spending twice as much as we bring in.

Those big corporate tax cuts President Trump signed into law in 2017 mean less money coming in. The gap has only ever exceeded a trillion dollars four times in the period immediately following the global financial crisis.

BRIGGS: Stunning numbers.

Striking auto workers are in the fourth week on the picket line. As we told you yesterday, talks between the United Auto Workers Union and General Motors have taken a turn for the worst, according to the union's chief negotiators, suggesting there is no immediate end for the auto industry's strike in decades.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is now on the ground talking with workers.



Talks falling apart over the weekend is really unwelcome news to these picketing workers behind me. They're surviving on $250 a week. That's especially difficult for single mom Jessie Kelly who has been raising her 6-year-old son. She's been saving up money to buy her first home and this strike happened, and she's now having to put her dream on hold.


We asked her how she's feeling.

JESSIE KELLY, GM WORKER: It's devastating. It's very hard. You just see your savings depleting every single day a little bit more and more. Other day, I had to get a new rim on my car and I remember thinking this is my whole strike check for this week is the cost of this rim.

YURVEVICH: Now, negotiations fell apart over one key issue. The union has been insistent than the GM bring back product lines from Mexico to the United States. We know that GM is slated to close four plants here in the United States by the end of 2020, including this one just behind me.

Also in 2020, the next presidential election. President Trump won here in 2016, but auto workers tend to vote with how the economy is doing and whether or not they have a job. We spoke to many striking workers who say they appreciated the 2020 candidates coming and standing in line with them, talking to them about the issues that mattered to them, because at the end of the day, they're willing to get behind a candidate that they say supports them and is willing to stand with them until the end -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: Vanessa Yurkevich, so glad that she's there.

BRIGGS: Great reporting.

ROMANS: You know, Kevin Hassett who used to advise the president and is now a contributor here, he told our Poppy Harlow yesterday that if you have a whole quarter of this GM strike, that would shave one percentage point off GDP.

BRIGGS: That is massive.

ROMANS: It's big. It matters. BRIGGS: Far bigger than what I would have imagined.

ROMANS: All right. Bipartisan anger over the president's decision to remove American troops from Syria. Republicans saying he's abandoning America's allies and breaking our promises.

We're live in the Middle East, next.



ROMANS: President Trump defending his decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of an impending invasion by Turkey. Sharp criticism of the move coming from all quarters, including top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But the president is standing by his decision.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not siding with anybody. We've been in Syria for many years. You know, Syria was supposed to be a short-term hit.

I've told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane, they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy.


ROMANS: Threatening a NATO ally to decimate its economy if he doesn't do what he wants.

Dozens of other Republicans have spoken out against this withdrawal from Syria, including those who are usually the president's strongest defenders.

Here is Senator Lindsey Graham calling into the president's favorite TV show.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I expect American president do what's in our national security interests. It's never in our national security interest to abandon an ally who's helped us fight ISIS. It's never in our national security interest to create conditions for the reemergence of ISIS.


ROMANS: Calling in to "Fox & Friends", which the president watches.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins starts our coverage by explaining the Republicans' unusual criticism.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, what you're seeing here, this reaction to the decision by President Trump to withdraw those forces from Syria is something you have rarely seen since he took office. And that's a widespread rebuke from his own party.

Just over the last few weeks, as we've seen the scandal unfold over the president's call with Ukraine, you've seen how members of his own party have been hesitant to criticize the president. But that did not stop them after the White House made this announcement late Sunday night continuing with the president defending it in a series of tweets into Monday morning.

And you can tell that the White House is hearing this criticism, because it's coming from people like even the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talking about what a grave mistake this would be for the president to follow through with this announcement. You can see that the president has heard that, even though he dismissed criticism at the White House yesterday saying that this is something he promised on the campaign trail, something he talked about last December when, of course, you'll remember the Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in protest over the idea of doing something like this.

But you saw the president kind of pivot yesterday because after the White House issued that statement on Sunday night, the president then pivoted and said that, yes, he would restrain Turkey if it came to it, though he didn't detail exactly what that restraint would look like. What's going to be interesting and what people are watching here in Washington, certainly, members of the party, aides who work in the White House is all of this is unfolding as the president, he is very likely facing impeachment, people say. And, of course, what's going to save him from that are those Senate Republicans. If he does get impeached by the House, it's going to move to that trial in the Senate.

So it will be interesting to watch how they separate their criticism here, the criticism over Syria and what they have to say about all the details unfolding about his calls with Ukraine.


BRIGGS: OK, Kaitlan, thank you.

A senior administration official declining to say if the president directly warned Turkish President Erdogan not to move ahead with the incursion into Syria, a move that would threaten American-backed Kurdish forces. In any case, the senior official says withdrawal of U.S. troops should not be considered, quote, a green light for massacre.

Nick Paton Walsh live in Istanbul with his great and unmatched wisdom.

Nick, good morning to you.

Let's start with the ISIS prisoners held there, more than 10,000. Could they potentially be released?


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's going to be a very perilous few weeks ahead if there is a Turkish operation for those ISIS prisoners, possibly in the low thousands of foreign fighters, but tens of thousands of ISIS supporters held in a displacement camp. It's very hard to keep those facilities entirely secure. More emphasis puts on the foreign fighters, obviously, the highest value ISIS commanders.

But if the Syrian Kurds have to rush their forces north to repel a Turkish invasion, then, yes, that will certainly suffer and part of that White House statement suggested that magically somehow Turkey would take responsibility for those prisoners, there's a big logistical problem, they're all held in facilities far inside Syria/Kurdish territory is. There going to be a Turkish operation? Well, it's unclear what was exactly said. What the kind of green light given by Donald Trump was during that late Sunday phone call to his Turkish counterpart, President Erdogan, it's absolutely clear that he was seemingly in the hours ahead, kind of slightly winded back in again, making that comment that somehow in his great and unmatched wisdom he deemed something that Turkey did to be outside the invisible lines of his head of that what he thought was acceptable he would obliterate their economy.

So, within a scope of 24 hours, he basically gave the Turkish president the biggest gift he could have offered, clearing the way for an operation against the Syrian Kurds, and then suddenly said he'd obliterate his economy if he upset him. So, I think if you're an anchor you're proceeding quite cautiously. Practically, we've not seen the Turkish military move yet. They do not control the airspace over that area, that's still controlled by the Americans and the Americans have pulled back about two dozen troops from the border areas.

I think it may move slowly. We simply don't know how the Turkish president emboldened felt after that phone call. The people who have felt embolden are the people against American policy in this area.

BRIGGS: So, no movement yet. Nick Paton, live for us in Istanbul with the latest, thank you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. Some famous faces headed to Broadway. We don't expect singing and dancing. CNN Business has the details, next.



BRIGGS: New fallout over a tweet by the Houston Rockets' general manager in support of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests. Several Chinese businesses are cutting ties with the NBA team after Daryl Morey tweeted: Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.

Tensions between Hong Kong and mainland China have been fueled for months by political unrest.

David Culver is live for us in Beijing with the latest.

One now deleted tweet putting potentially billions of dollars at stake.

Good morning, David.


Things are getting messier by the home. Just in the past few hours, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was referring to this tweet, this now deleted tweet when he said that essentially he supports Morey's right for freedom of speech without endorsing that tweet in and of itself.

That did not go over well here in mainland China. What we have seen since is that Chinese broadcasters CCTV has decided that they will halt airing all preseason NBA games here in mainland China. It goes beyond just the Rockets. That's every team involved. And they're going to continue to evaluate the relationship with the NBA going forward.

As you point out, billions of dollars at stake. And also a lot of sports fans here who are passionate about this. But it goes beyond that. It goes beyond sports and economics. Underlying here there's this clash that we're seeing that's pinning free speech against profit. That is what's playing out right now.

And it's not just CCTV that has decided to pull out here. We've seen Tencent, which is a giant tech company saying they will no longer stream the Rockets' games. The Chinese Basketball Association severing ties with the Rockets.

And we were just checking today looking online at some of the big retailers, Powwow and, think of your Amazon equivalent, they're no longer selling Rockets' memorabilia -- Dave.

BRIGGS: And LeBron James in China this week, he will have to weigh in. Those words will be very, very heavy.

David, thank you.

ROMANS: Airlines, hotels, Hollywood, everyone's had to deal with this.

BRIGGS: Hollywood, you name it, yes.

ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. You can see markets around the world are essentially mixed here on Wall Street. Futures are leaning a little bit lower but barely. Stocks closed slightly lower ahead of trade talks later this week. Dow fell 95 points. S&P and Nasdaq closed down 2.

Pilots for southwest airlines sued Boeing over $100 million in lost pay they say was caused by the grounding of the 737 max. They claim Boeing deliberately misled pilots about the safety of the aircraft which caused two fatal crashes in less than six months killing 346 people. They say the ongoing grounding has cut the pilots' opportunities for work.

The grounding has forced Southwest to cancel about 180 flights through January 5th. The move could set the stage for lawsuits from other airlines' pilots as well.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ever hit anybody?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so.


ROMANS: All right. Netflix's "The Irishman" is headed to Broadway. And, no, Robert de Niro won't be singing. Netflix will screen Martin Scorsese's new movie at the historic Belasco Theatre for one month starting November 1st. It will be the first film screening ever in the Belasco's 112-year history. Deadline reports that film will play eight times a week following a standard Broadway schedule.

The Irishman debuts on Netflix on November 27th.

BRIGGS: Good stuff.

Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: In just hours, a key figure in the impeachment inquiry heads to Capitol Hill. Lawmakers want to know, did the White House want political dirt in exchange for military aid?