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WH Refuses to Cooperate With Impeachment Inquiry; Turkey Deploys Tank Convoy to Syrian Border; NBA Commissioner Heads to China; New Delay Returning Boeing 737 MAX to Service. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Pain at the pump for drivers in California. Gas prices almost double what Americans elsewhere are paying to fill up. AAA reports the average price of regular in California now $4.18 a gallon, the highest price since May 2014. The national average is $2.64.

The reason for the high prices in California, a number of refinery outages, tighten gas supply in the market. Analysts expect prices to stabilize toward the end of the week as refineries work to resume the production. But in California, that's the big story on the West Coast, high gas prices.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of the day.

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


BRIGGS: The White House won't cooperate with the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, calling the investigation unconstitutional.

ROMANS: 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.


BRIGGS: NBA commissioner Adam Silver in shanghai amid a standoff between Chinese economic power and American free speech.

ROMANS: And Boeing set to miss its deadline to bring the troubled 737 MAX back into service. It could affect the holiday travel season. That has been really a slow motion crisis.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

I'm Dave Briggs. Wednesday, October 9th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we start in the nation's capital, with 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.

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

More now from CNN's 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.


BRIGGS: Jim Acosta there, thank you.

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.


ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju, thank you for that. Another busy day on Capitol Hill. A Turkish tank convoy headed to the border of Syria. Is a military operation in the making? We're live at the border right now watching the movements next.



ROMANS: All right. The U.S. will restrict visas for Chinese officials linked to human rights abuses against millions of Muslims, heightening tensions with Beijing ahead of trade talks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the restrictions will apply to the Chinese government and communist party officials as well as their families. No word on how many or which officials would be targeted.

The spokesperson for the Chinese embassy denounced the 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 at this point. The Chinese are still expected to come this week for trade talks, but the two sides seemed to be far apart here.

BRIGGS: OK. 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.

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

Nick Paton Walsh live on the Turkish/Syrian border for us.

Nick, any movement at this point?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dave, I know when we spoke about an hour ago, we saw SUV vehicles drive down the wall past there, wondering quite who they were. They just return and made it a little clear, one of them waving a Free Syrian Army flag, a flag of rebellion this dials back in 2011.

I think, clearly, a deliberate signal to media that there are rebels who are now potentially part of this operation. We don't know the numbers and we don't know if he was genuinely a Syrian rebel. We certainly know that he wanted that message to be given off. That further adds to this complex nature of the operation here. The Turkish military want to clear Syrian Kurds out to villages like Tal Abyad behind me. That's where U.S. troops have withdrawn in the last days after that phone call between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Erdogan on Sunday night and that's the potential target.

There's a talk they will get on their side, Syrian rebels that they've been backing for a long time to do some of the fighting, particularly the Kurds making this a complex ethnic question. The town behind me has in the past been held by Sunni Arabs and the Syrian Kurds. They moved in after they kicked ISIS. In fact, I was last here watching an ISIS flag fly over it.

But the real urgent pressing question now, is when does this operation begin if it begins, if the negative noises across from across the Atlantic of President Erdogan off, have extensive, will it also potentially be. There has been a suggestion of maybe an 18-mile buffer zone being created inside Northern Syria.

But the Turkish military, it's unclear if they have the number at this moment as we've driven around the border. We have not seen those kind of forces readily visible, although much access is restricted around here and whether President Erdogan has the stomach for a lengthy fight with an attrition with the Syrian Kurd he regards as terrorists, remember, they're the ones that did a lot of fighting against ISIS.

Or whether in the next few days, we'll see a symbolic land grab to try to capitalize on the conversation he had with President Trump, all of that really unclear, but so much geopolitics hanging in the balance. I have to tell you since we've been here, it's become increasingly obvious that something is certainly afoot amongst the Turkish military. We don't know when, Dave.

BRIGGS: Right. How far will Turkey go, and where President Trump drew the line. Neither is clear yet.

Nick Paton Walsh along the Syrian/Turkish border, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Fourteen minutes past the hour.

Boeing will miss its own target for returning the 737 MAX to service again.


A source tells CNN the assumption is FAA likely won't unground that jet until at least December. That will leave U.S. airlines without the MAX for the busy holiday season. Until recently, Boeing had been saying it expected the plane to be back in the skies in the early fourth quarter. The MAX was grounded after two crashes killed 346 people.

BRIGGS: Ahead, the Houston Astros beaten again by the upstart Tampa Bay Rays, setting up a decisive game five with the Yankees awaiting the winner.

Coy Wire has that story in the "Bleacher Report."



BRIGGS: The Tampa Rays keep their season alive with a must win against Houston Astros. Coy Wire has that story in the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, my friend. Lowest payroll in baseball, the big World Series favorite, this one looked to be quick.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but the Rays are rolling now, right, Dave? They had their backs against the wall. They're facing elimination with a team with the best record in baseball. The Astros who have one of the best pitchers in the game, Justin Verlander.

He was starting on short rest for the first time in his 15-year career, and Tampa Bay made him pay. The Rays jumping out with a solo home run. Tampa ended up being 3-0 in the first inning. The Rays got it done on defense too.

Check out the arm of two-time gold glover Kevin Kiermaier from the warning track in the fourth inning, firing it to Willy Adames who makes the perfect relay home just in time to nail Jose Altuve trying to score.

The team, as Dave mentioned, with the smallest payroll in baseball, a 4-1, forcing the winner to take game five tomorrow in Houston. Tonight, though, two more elimination games on our sister channel, TBS. The Cardinals and Braves getting things started just after 5:00 p.m. Eastern and then the Nationals and Dodgers at 8:37.

Different sport, same story, Connecticut Sun force as game five in the WNBA Finals. Tied in the fourth, Jasmine Thomas from way downtown drilling the three. Next time down the car, Washington mystic Emma answering over own three pointer. But on the very next position came the dagger, Shekinna Stricklen.

Sun hold on some late-game heroics winning 90-86. Game five tomorrow night for the title. It would be a first for either team. That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Gymnast Simone Biles making history again as Team USA wins a fifth straight world team title in Germany. Look at this, Dave. This is incredible. Biles got her 21st metal at the world championships, the most ever for a female gymnast. Biles also the favorite to win the individual all-around title tomorrow. After that, she'll be able to elevate the bar again at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Finally, if you ever wants to break everything in sight after having a bad day, the Philadelphia Flyers seem to have you covered. The hockey team opening up a rage room inside their arena. Who better to break it in and break things up than Gritty. Fans at Wells Fargo Center can take their frustration out by

destroying everything from mirrors to computers to TVs. Five minutes of smashing costing 35 bucks per person. I think we're going to have some terrifying nightmares with Halloween coming around.

You may see some memes in our future. I don't go with the rage route. I want some peace in my life, especially in the morning.

I want some Christine Romans, I want some Dave Briggs. Bring me all the good vibes.

BRIGGS: That's just terrifying. That's as bad as Gritty at 5:23.

I'm a rage-aholic, man, put me in that room.

Thank you, Coy. Appreciate it. Great stuff.

ROMANS: The rage room --


BRIGGS: -- Romans on a sticker, from Coy Wire.

ROMANS: I need the rage room and then we need the stretcher with yoga mat after, you know? Just like let it out.

BRIGGS: I like that.

ROMANS: A little restorative yoga.

All right, Coy. You win. Thank you.

Twenty-four minutes past the hour this Wednesday morning.

The White House refuses to cooperate with the Democrats' impeachment inquiry. What that means for the investigation next.



ROMANS: A third vaping death has been confirmed in California. That brings the total now to 24 deaths nationwide, including a 17-year-old from the Bronx, the first reported death of a teenager.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says it is aware of more than 1,000 confirmed and probable cases of lung injuries to e- cigarette use as of October 1st. At least three school districts have filed a complaint against e-cigarette maker Juul, claiming they have to use valuable resources to address students with nicotine issues.

EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: The White House won't Cooperate with house Democrats, calling their impeachment inquiry unconstitutional.

BRIGGS: Turkey saying it will launch a military operation in northern Syria shortly. America's allies, the Kurds, asking for international help.


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


ROMANS: The NBA commissioner on his way to shanghai. Adam Silver in the middle of American free speech and Chinese economic power.


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.