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White House Refuses to Cooperate With Impeachment Inquiry; Turkey Deploys Tank Convoy to Syrian Border; NBA Commissioner Heads to China; Man Jailed for Oversleeping Jury Duty Speaks. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House will not cooperate with the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, calling the investigation unconstitutional.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The Turkish military gearing up for a planned military operation in Syria. President Trump insisting the U.S. has not abandoned its allies in the region.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.


ROMANS: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver headed to Shanghai amid the standoff between Chinese economic power and American free speech.


DEANDRE SOMERVILLE, OVERSLEPT AND DID NOT SHOW UP FOR JURY DUTY: I'm not a bad kid. I'm just someone who made a bad mistake.


BRIGGS: A young man sentenced to jail after he slept through jury duty. He's speaking out, getting a clean slate.

We never sleep through EARLY START. Not yet anyway.

Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. We welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, October 9th, it is 4:00 a.m. in New York, 5:00 p.m. in Tokyo, 11:00 a.m. on Turkey's border with Syria.

All right. The White House declaring war against the House impeachment inquiry. White House counsel Pat Cipollone sending House Democrats a lengthy letter slamming them for not taking a formal vote to open impeachment proceedings. Cipollone says that is unfair because it denies the president and House Republicans investigative powers.

He writes: President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances.

BRIGGS: The letter explains the White House decision to block Tuesday's highly anticipated closed-door testimony by ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland. That order came literally an hour before Sondland, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal was set to speak on Capitol Hill.


More now from Jim Acosta at the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the White House is on a collision course with House Democrats over the impeachment inquiry.

The president's legal team has fired off a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing to cooperate with the investigation. The president is stoking those tensions, declaring he won't cooperate with what Republicans are calling a kangaroo court.

CNN has also confirmed the whistleblower at the center of inquiry wrote a memo describing a White House official who listened in on Mr. Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian president and characterizes that conversation as, quote, "crazy and frightening." The official was left, quote, "shaken" by what Mr. Trump was saying on the call.

And that is why House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff says they must get to the bottom of their investigation. Here's what he had to say.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress, a coequal branch of government.

ACOSTA: And senior administration officials held a conference call with reporters about the letter to the House speaker. Officials were asked on the call what Democrats would have to do in order to secure the cooperation of the White House in the impeachment inquiry. One administration official said the White House did not want to get into hypotheticals at this point, an indication the president is digging in his heels -- Christine and Dave.


ROMANS: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you for that.

Nancy Pelosi is threatening the administration with consequences for obstructing the impeachment inquiry. The House speaker releasing a statement that reads, the White House should be warned the continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction. And now, House Democrats have issued a formal subpoena compelling Ambassador Sondland to turn over documents, and that has Democrats trying to toe a difficult line here.

Manu Raju has more.



The Democrats have been arguing all along they don't need a vote to formalize an impeachment inquiry. Nancy Pelosi said she's not going to be pressured by the president to hold a vote. She also has some practical and political realities to deal with the situation.

Practically, it could take up a lot of time. It's difficult to draft resolution like this. It would require a lot of consensus. It could be distraction. It could give the Republicans an opening to argue that they should have subpoena power. That's something past impeachment inquiries, the minority party has been allowed to have subpoena power. They say they should be able to do that, something the Democrats, of course, would almost certainly not allow.

It would also, politically, put Democrats in a difficult position back home, particularly ones who represent districts that Trump carried back in 2016. Now, this all comes amid this push to bring in more witnesses in front of these House committees.


There are questions about whether more witnesses will be blocked from attending after Ambassador Sondland did not appear yesterday. Will others not appear as well? Democrats warning they will essentially roll all of that into an article of impeachment against this president for obstructing Congress and abusing power if he does not comply.

So, we'll see where this ends up. At the moment, Democrats will not get the evidence they're looking for. Even some Democrats say they already have all the evidence they need -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: All right, Manu. Thanks.

Former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy is joined the Trump legal team. He's been tapped to serve as outside counsel to the president as the House impeachment inquiry widens.

Gowdy visited the White House on Tuesday meeting with Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. He was the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and led the congressional investigation of Hillary Clinton and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. He's also a Fox News contributor.

ROMANS: All right. CNN has learned the president ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to go through Rudy Giuliani when Ukraine's president asked for a meeting with Mr. Trump. That is a clear circumvention of official diplomatic channels.

BRIGGS: Perry, Kurt Volker, and Gordon Sondland met with President Trump on May 23rd to offer their favorable impression of the new Ukrainian government and to say America should trust the Zelensky administration. But it quickly became clear President Trump had been convinced otherwise. He had been convinced by Giuliani Ukraine was rampantly corrupt.

Remember, a key accusation in the whistleblower complaint says Giuliani, a private citizen, presented a U.S. policy to Ukraine that was different from the policy conveyed by U.S. diplomats.

ROMANS: A new CNN reporting this morning on the aftermath of Mr. Trump's July 25th phone call with Ukraine's new president. Three sources tell CNN, White House aides scrambled to alert lawyers about what the president had done and to contain the possible fallout. At least one National Security Council official alerted national security lawyers from the White House.

Aides also questioned each other about the need to alert senior officials at the Justice Department since Attorney General Bill Barr's name had been mentioned multiple times during the call.

BRIGGS: Administration lawyers initially believed details of the call could be contained within the walls of the White House. But as more people became aware of the conversation and began raising concerns, the rough transcript of the call was stored away in a highly classified server that few could access. The order to move the transcript came from White House National Security lawyers.

ROMANS: Senator Bernie Sanders said he's trimming his schedule in the aftermath of his heart attack. Here he's taking a walk with his wife in Vermont. Sanders spoke to reporters outside his home in Vermont about the breakneck pace of his events and how that would be changing.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, we were doing in some cases five or six cases a day. I don't think I'm going to do that. But I certainly intend to be actively campaigning. I think we're going to change the nature of the campaign a bit, make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.


ROMANS: Sanders says he regrets ignoring the warning signs of his impending heart attack.


SANDERS: I must confess that I was dumb. I, in the last month or two, just was more fatigued than I usually have been. So -- and I should have listened to those symptoms. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Sanders had a follow-up exam with the cardiologist yesterday. He again promised to release his full medical records.

BRIGGS: Andrew Yang is the eighth Democrat to qualify for the big Democratic debate in November. He did it by receiving three percent support in a new Quinnipiac poll.

That poll has Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden running neck-and-neck at the top, followed by Bernie Sanders among Democrat and Democratic- leaning voters.

Candidates must receive at least three percent support in four qualifying polls, as well as contributions from at least 165,000 individuals to get on the debate stage.

Here's your field of eight for the fifth Democratic debate. It's scheduled for November 20th in Georgia.

ROMANS: All right. The U.S. imposing visa restrictions on Chinese officials linked to human rights abuses against millions of Muslims, heightening tensions with Beijing ahead of trade talks. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the restrictions will apply to the Chinese government and communist party officials as well as their families. The statement did not specify how many or which officials would be targeted.

The spokesperson for the Chinese embassy denounced these restrictions saying, quote, it violates the basic norms governing the international relations, interferes in China's internal affairs, and undermines China's interests.

The State Department has increased its public condemnation camps like these where the Chinese are accused of using technology to round up and mistreat Chinese Muslim minority groups. The restrictions follow the Commerce Department blacklisting 28 Chinese companies, essentially barring from buying U.S. products or reporting American technology to be used in China's police state.


These moves are working both ways the U.S. is showing China it does have more leverage than just tariffs. Here, trade talks are at a pretty tenuous point right now. So trade talks about to begin.

All these moves from Washington about the Chinese, you can see the maximum pressure campaign.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

All right. Ahead, a Turkish tank convoy headed to the border with Syria. Is a military operation in the making? We're live at the border with the latest, next.


BRIGGS: Four-fifteen Eastern Time.

As Turkey threatens a planned military incursion into northeastern Syria, Kurdish-led forces say ISIS sleeper cells are attacking Kurdish positions in Raqqa. The Kurds are calling on the U.S.-led coalition and the international community to implement a no- fly zone over northern Syria.

As violence rages, President Trump tweeted that in no way have we abandoned the Kurds who are special people and wonderful fighters.

Nick Paton Walsh is live at the Turkish-Syrian border.

Nick, good morning. What are you seeing there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, as we stand -- I'm just a few meters away from Tal Abyad, one of two towns most people looking at this think are likely to be the first targets of any Turkish military operation. Now, obviously, the last time I was here, it was in ISIS hands. It's now in Syrian-Kurdish hands.

The real issue, I think, being exactly what has been the impact of the wildly vacillating signals that the Turkish government would have been getting from the Trump administration. Initially, it seemed like a blank check on Sunday night to launch an operation and now suggestions of support for the Syrian Kurds from Donald Trump and even suggestions that if President Erdogan oversteps in the sort of invisible lines that he has, that could result in economic obliteration of Turkey's economy, while at the same time inviting President Erdogan to the White House a month from now.

So, make of that what you will. Certainly the one person who has to make a decision about that from those mixed signals is President Erdogan. His communications minister has said that the operation will begin shortly.

It does appear obviously this has been one of the towns in which U.S. troopers have withdrawn from, along with Ras al-Ain further down the border as well. It does appear jumping by the atmospherics here, there's not a vast amount standing in the way of what would be the second largest military in NATO from moving in there.

In fact, you can see some vehicles just behind us driving toward the border directly. One actually mudded up, an SUV quite commonly seen around here. We're not quite sure why we're seeing them moving in that direction, especially one muddied up like that. That caused quite a bit of excitement behind me here.

But clearly, the question is, how extensive will this be if indeed President Erdogan it is in his interest to try and execute it now? Are they going to take the vast stretch of northwestern Syria that he seems to suggest when he held a map up at UNGA recently, and what kind of distance will they find? Now, the Syrian Kurds themselves when we were inside watching them

fight ISIS, relentlessly complaining about their poor weaponry, the lack of heavy weaponry they had, heavy machine guns lacking, ancient weaponry in their hands, old armor cars. They won't give a tough time for the Turkish military. The question is, does the noise across the Atlantic slow Turkey's ambitions here, or are they going to proceed with a pretty ambitious plan they originally had, Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, and to your point, what is the line that President Trump won't let Turkey cross? We're about to find out.

Nick Paton Walsh, we'll check back with you the next half hour. Thanks.

ROMANS: Yes, he'll keep his cameras rolling so we can figure out what's going on there at the border.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

ROMANS: All right. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver heading to China after his defense of Houston Rockets' general manager. Chinese businesses are still angry over a threat about Hong Kong. CNN has spoken to the commissioner. That's next.



BRIGGS: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is headed to China after defending Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Friday night. Morey tweeted, then deleted support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Chinese state TV responded to the tweet by canceling broadcasts of two preseason games and Chinese businesses are starting to cut ties with the Rockets.

Silver clarified the NBA's position yesterday.


SILVER: I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, his freedom of speech and, you know, we will have to live with those consequences. We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.


BRIGGS: The Rockets practice in Tokyo today.

And CNN's Alex Thomas is there live.

Alex, good morning. You were able to speak with the commissioner. What did he tell you?

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Well, Dave and Christine, if you consider that the Morey tweet that has now been deleted was last Friday, I expected this to have died down by now. Not a bit of it. It seems to be gaining momentum if anything at all.

And, of course, Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, was here in Japan to get involved with the two preseason games, which is the Houston Rockets, which is at the head of this controversy and the reigning NBA champs, the Toronto Raptors. And the core of this whole controversy is those protests that we've talked about so much here on CNN.


Because the government in Beijing see the protesters as separatists who want to see the territory split from mainland China, whereas the reality is, the protesters have many faceless leaders with different names, none of which are independence.

But China is very sensitive on this topic. Initially, Silver and the NBA tried to tread middle grounds. But that didn't work. He was getting criticism from the USA and from China at the time. So, he had to choose freedom of expression, the NBA's values and a very American value as well, ahead of trying to placate China so much, even though he knows he's going to cost the NBA millions if not billions of dollars and really weaken the reputation that's taken decades to build up.

So, I was with Silver in Japan. He's flown to Shanghai where there are two more preseason games involving the L.A. Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets. In the last few minutes, we've just heard the media availability for both of those teams has been canceled abruptly. We already know the broadcaster, CCTV, has canceled the coverage of the game as this round continues to escalate.

So there has to be real concern whether the games are going to go ahead at all. Silver is there to make peace and try to find some common ground going forward. But the two positions are so entrenched that it's hard to see any way forward from here.

BRIGGS: Amazing, they may consider that tweet, can't be seen in China, where they don't have access to Twitter, and also, we should note, a Lakers NBA Cares event has been canceled in Shanghai.

Great reporting. Great interview there with the commissioner. Thank you.

ROMANS: You know, most companies frankly just cave. Most companies say if someone -- for example, Marriott last year, somebody at Marriott liked something about Tibet and that person was fired.


ROMANS: The airlines quickly caved when the Chinese government said, you must say Taiwan, China. You can't just say Taiwan and you dropdown menus. All of the airlines quickly caved.

So, this is an outlier for the NBA. It's been an outlier. BRIGGS: Yes, look, he's getting killed by his critics. The commissioner, I'm not sure why. I thought he's done an excellent line of walking that tightrope.

ROMANS: All right. Back here at Palm Beach County, Florida, a man who spent ten days in jail for oversleeping and missing jury duty will not have a criminal record. The judge found 21-year-old DeAndre Somerville in contempt of court last month. But Judge John Kastrenakes vacated the ruling last weekend and rescinded the young man's probation.


SOMERVILLE: I'm just glad that he did have a change of heart and that my -- that he really knows the real me now and he gets to see that I'm -- you know, I'm not a bad kid. That I'm just someone who made a bad mistake.


ROMANS: Somerville was originally sentenced to 10 days in jail, 150 hours of community service, a written apology of at least 100 words, a year of probation, and $233 in fees. That prompted outrage on social media.

Late last week, Judge Kastrenakes reduced Somerville's punishment, calling him a thoughtful and respectful young man.

BRIGGS: Half a million California customers were without power overnight after PG&A shut down huge parts of its grid to prevent the risk of sparking a wildfire. The power company says the threat of high winds knocking down electric lines and showering sparks is forcing to implement a safety power shut-off in 34 counties, a second phase starting around noon Pacific will affect another 300,000 customers. PG&E says after the winds die down around midday tomorrow, it could take up to five days to fully restore power. Classes at mini schools including UC-Berkeley have been canceled for at least for today.

ROMANS: The White House will not cooperate at all, not at all, with House Democrats impeachment inquiry. What that means now for the investigation, next.