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White House Declares War On Impeachment Probe; ISIS Sleeper Cells Attack Kurdish Fighters In Raqqa; NBA Commissioner Heads To China Amid Tweet Backlash. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The NBA commissioner is 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 somehow who made a bad mistake.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A young man sentenced to jail after he slept through jury duty is speaking out and getting a clean slate.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good morning, I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: It is 30 minutes past the hour.

We begin, though, in Washington and impeachment. The White House declaring war against the House impeachment inquiry.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone sending House Democrats a lengthy letter slamming them for failing to take 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. He is at the center of the Ukraine scandal. That order came literally an hour before Sondland 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.


BRIGGS: All right, Jim, thanks.

Former South Carolina congressman Trey Gowdy is joining 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 chairman of the House Oversight Committee and led the congressional investigation of Hillary Clinton and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. He is also a Fox News contributor.

ROMANS: CNN has learned the president ordered energy Sec. 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.

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.

BRIGGS: New CNN reporting this morning on the aftermath of Mr. Trump's July 25th phone call with Ukraine's new president. Three sources tell us White House aides scrambled to alert lawmakers -- lawyer, excuse me, 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.

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 stored away in a highly classified server that few could access. The order to move the transcript came from White House National Security lawyers.

Coming up here, Nancy Pelosi warning the president that blocking the impeachment inquiry could have consequences. What can House Democrats do as the White House refuses to cooperate? That's next.



BRIGGS: Nancy Pelosi threatening the administration for obstructing the impeachment inquiry. The House Speaker releasing a statement that reads, "The White House should be warned that 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 testify and turn over documents. That has Democrats trying to tow a very difficult line.

Joining us now is CNN POLITICS senior writer, Zach Wolf. Zach now writes a daily impeachment tracker newsletter for CNN.


BRIGGS: You should subscribe to that.

ROMANS: I just did.

BRIGGS: You did?

ROMANS: I did.

BRIGGS: That should keep you very busy --

ROMANS: I did. It's really good.

BRIGGS: -- for several months.

So, Republicans want Democrats to hold the vote on an impeachment to move forward. Why won't they, and once they do, what will actually change here in your estimation?

ZACHARY WOLF, DIGITAL DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICS: They seem to have a lot of different reasons for not wanting to hold this vote. They don't want to put some of their more moderate members into a tough spot. They don't want to give Republicans subpoena power which -- that seems to be kind of one of the big sticking points there. So they have a couple of different reasons.


But it's giving so much ammunition to Trump that it almost doesn't make sense. Why not just have the vote --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- and get it over with? Take away the argument.

On the other hand, let's not kid ourselves. If they do hold the vote it's not like the White House is all of a sudden going to cooperate --



WOLF: -- with the impeachment.


WOLF: So this is an excuse, I think, for the Republicans, but you might as well just do it.

ROMANS: So -- right. So, look, this letter from the White House -- from the White House lawyers saying we're not going to play ball with you. We're not going to even entertain walking down this impeachment road with you, Democrats.

What can the Democrats do now to compel them to -- you know, to do what you're supposed -- I mean, the Executive Branch -- the branches of government -- there's always tension. This seems like they're broken -- the relationship between the two.

WOLF: It does. It's been like that a couple of times over the last few years.

I think, ultimately, this is going to have to go to court and we'll have to have the federal justice system weigh in on either compel people to --

ROMANS: Another branch of government in there.

WOLF: Right -- the one who's supposed to -- who is supposed to be the referee between the two.

And that -- this could have been a process that was going to be over in a couple of months that will certainly drag it out.

And as we get closer and closer to the election, the other frustration with the White House is that this is being done before -- just before an election. So this move by them is certainly not going to help that.

BRIGGS: All right. So where is the country in all of this is the question and there's some polling out.

First, let's start with an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll that says 49 percent of the country says we should not impeach Trump. He should remain in office. Forty-three percent should impeach him and remove him from office, a very high number.

"The Washington Post" shows 58 percent of the country supports the beginning of an inquiry. And what's interesting within those numbers is the Republican number -- 28 percent. Seems like a pretty large number of Republicans that support the beginning of an impeachment inquiry.

What do you make of the Republican movement in that poll?

WOLF: I think it's really -- you know, those two numbers that you put up are really important. We have to view them separately.

There are people in this country who automatically just want to impeach him and get rid of him -- President Trump. That is a smaller number of people than the majority, it seems like, of people who think that this impeachment inquiry is valid and that we at least need to consider it and do some sort of investigation.

So the country is not there yet, clearly, but the movement amongst Republicans when it comes to looking at an impeachment inquiry --


WOLF: -- is like the big number for the last day. That is a remarkable thing considering he keeps talking about how high his approval rating is with the Republicans. That's like a big selling point for him.

ROMANS: Yes, even though sometimes he's quoting approval numbers among Republicans that we don't know where they come from, to be fair.

WOLF: Right.

ROMANS: But, you know, he does have them consistently high.

When you look at House Republicans and you look at Republicans writ large, there have been only a few voices. I would say the only like real -- Mitt Romney, for example. He's the only one who has really come out there and condemned this president --


ROMANS: -- for his behavior with Ukraine and China.

And, Joni Ernst, the Iowa senator, was confronted by our Randi Kaye about this and she was very careful, again, not to condemn this president -- listen.


SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): Again, I think we're going to have to go back, just as I said last week. We'll have to wait. All of that information is going to go to Senate Intelligence.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is it appropriate -- just the ask itself? Is it appropriate?

ERNST: Well, we -- again, we don't have all the facts in front of us and what we see pushed out through the media. We don't know what's accurate at this point.


ROMANS: "What we see pushed out through the media." We have the president's own words in a transcript of the call.

What -- why are Republicans being so careful about how they -- how they treat this?

WOLF: Because despite that shift that we talked about just a minute ago, he is still the leader of the party -- an extremely important voice in the party. He is -- he sways the Republican Party -- the Republican base -- regardless of Independents and more moderate Republicans. He is totally behind them and thinks that this is all a whitewash.

So you don't want to, I think if you're Joni Ernst, just reject Trump out of hand because he is the leader of the party.

I do -- I also think it's really important what she was doing there. She wasn't condemning him. She also wasn't really defending him --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- which I think that's important to note.

So while the country is moving towards let's consider this, that's an important sort of shift.

ROMANS: She's getting more pushback at town halls from her constituents --



ROMANS: -- who are saying why aren't you guys doing something? BRIGGS: Just for clarity, she will be the jury in the Senate if, in fact, he's impeached in the House. Chuck Hagel was there -- I mean, Chuck Grassley --

ROMANS: Chuck Grassley.

BRIGGS: -- was there as well. So they are the jury if this moves to the Senate.

Zach, good to see you, sir. Sign up for his impeachment --

WOLF: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- daily tracker --


BRIGGS: -- as Romans just did. It's my turn.

ROMANS: With a cup of coffee and a Danish, a great way to start your day with Zach Wolf.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right.

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 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: First, one week from tomorrow, what could be a make or break moment in this 2020 race. The fourth Democratic presidential debate, live on CNN from the battleground state of Ohio.

Will one candidate break away? Find out on the CNN and "New York Times" Democratic presidential debate, Tuesday, October 15th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

We'll be right back.


[05:50:42] BRIGGS: 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 tweeting that in " way have we abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters."

Nick Paton Walsh is live on the Turkish-Syrian border. Nick, we're about to find out the limits to all of what President Trump tweeted there. What are you seeing now?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in the last hour or so, we saw a bit of activity here on the border -- some SUVs -- one of them covered in mud, a typical kind of -- form of (INAUDIBLE) drove past, then came back an hour later. Somebody inside waving out of the car a free Syrian army flag.

Now that is very significant because it is obviously a signal designed here in an area very much under Turkish military control to show that part of this Turkish military operation, there are likely to be Turkish-backed Syrian rebels. They're all Syrian rebels who once fought the Syrian regime now backed by the Turkish government, and they may become part of whatever operation we see in the hours or days ahead.

Now, I have to tell you before we got to the border my personal hunch had been that the negative sounds being made across the Atlantic in Washington about any Turkish incursion against the Syrian Kurds would potentially have changed the calculus.

But it's pretty clear here that something is afoot. It's unclear what the scale is. We've seen military hardware on the move. There's a palpable sense, I think, of tension here and readiness for something.

Tell Abyad right across there from me -- that is Syria. You can see behind me the Turkish flag hanging limp there.

The last time I was here, ISIS controlled it and now, the Syrian Kurds control it -- they're not there. And the U.S. troops were there with them to kind of act as a buffer to stop anything like this from happening. They pulled out of there as a result of that Sunday night phone call between Donald Trump and President Erdogan.

How big are the Turkish military going to go? How long are they willing to sustain potential combat here? What's the extent of their ambition? We're going to find out, I'll just say, Dave, in the days ahead.

BRIGGS: We'll find out the limit that President Trump will draw.

Nick Paton Walsh live along the Turkish-Syrian border. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Business" this Wednesday morning. Looking at markets around the world you can see European shares have opened higher and Asian markets, flat to lower.

On Wall Street right now, what's going to happen? Futures leaning up here. It looks like a bounce or attempt to a bounce after a tough day yesterday. Stocks actually down two days in a row on trade tensions between the U.S. and China ahead of these really important trade talks this week.

The Dow closed 314 points lower. The S&P fell 1.6 percent. The Nasdaq down 1.7 percent.

Investors are also paying attention to the Federal Reserve -- moves there. The Fed chief, Jerome Powell, said the Fed will soon start buying short-term treasuries to help stabilize short-term lending markets.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: And my colleagues and I will soon announce measures to add to the supply of reserves over time.


ROMANS: Powell didn't go into specifics about those plans.

Pain at the pump for drivers in California. Gas prices almost double what most of the rest of the country pays to fill up.

AAA reports the average price of regular in California now $4.18 a gallon, the highest since May 2014. The national average is currently $2.64, up a little bit over the past few months but down over the past year.

The reason for the higher prices, a number of refinery outages tightening up gas supply in the market. Analysts expect prices to stabilize toward the end of the week as refineries work to resume production.

Domino's is losing the pizza wars on Wall Street. U.S. sales grew just 2.4 percent in the third quarter, way less than last year. The chain is facing tough competition from rivals. Pizza Hut has benefited from its sponsorship deal with the NFL.

Domino's is also falling behind in the delivery wars. While it relies on its own drivers, Pizza Hut has partnered with Grubhub. And, Papa John's has a deal with DoorDash.

The competition is hurting Domino's stock and lifting its rivals. Shares of Domino's were down eight percent so far this year, while Yum is up nearly 25 percent. That's the owner of Pizza Hut and Papa John's and has soared more than 35 percent.

BRIGGS: NBA commissioner Adam Silver 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 T.V. 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.


ADAM SILVER, COMMISSIONER, NBA: 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 have practice in Tokyo today. Alex Thomas is there live. Alex, good morning.

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, hello, Dave, and the interesting thing about this is the NBA season will start as normal in just under two weeks' time. But certainly, the league's global expansion has been hit by this row.

And the man at the center of it all, Daryl Morey, the Houston's G.M. -- general manager -- is nowhere to be seen. His team is still here in Japan about to play a second preseason game against the reigning NBA champs, the Toronto Raptors.

Rockets' star player James Harden speaking, saying he's pleased the NBA has stuck to its values.


JAMES HARDEN, GUARD, HOUSTON ROCKETS: We all have freedom of speech. That's the world we live in and everybody should -- how they feel and their though process -- be able to speak it.

You know, obviously, some people are going to feel some type of way and some people don't agree. That's just the world we live in. So, you know, I'm here for Adam Silver.


THOMAS: So, Harden now backing the NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who has flown to China where there were due to be two more preseason games involving the L.A. Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets. Media events for that have been canceled at the last minute. A fans' event has been canceled, too. Our team on the ground in Shanghai said they've seen giant game posters being torn down as well.

Adam Silver with his work cut out if he's going to smooth things over -- very contentious for them. I think he's erred on the side of freedom of expression instead of placating China, even though he knows it could cost the league millions, if not billions of dollars. A really costly tweet, that one.

BRIGGS: Yes, indeed. And, LeBron James will have to weigh in at some point, even though no media availability yet.

Alex, thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

A kayaker came up and personal with a great white off the coast of California Saturday -- a little too up-close. Danny McDaniel and his friend, Jon Chamber, were kayaking near Catalina Island when Daniel felt something hitting the side of his kayak. He looked back and saw an enormous great white shark.


DANNY MCDANIEL, KAYAKER, ENCOUNTERED GREAT WHITE SHARK: Clearly, I froze and I had my oar up like this. The primary thought on top of everything else was don't fall into the water. Other thoughts were oh my God, this is -- this thing is giant.

JON CHAMBERS, KAYAKER, ENCOUNTERED GREAT WHITE SHARK: Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap -- and then I yelled at him for him to hit it. It let go and then churned between the two of us and dropped, and we didn't see it again.


ROMANS: When inspecting his kayak later, McDaniel found some souvenirs -- two giant shark teeth and a huge jaw imprint.


A Palm Beach County, Florida man who spent 10 days in jail for oversleeping and missing jury duty will not have a criminal record. A 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.


BRIGGS: 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.

DeAndre we understand the desire to sleep in on occasion. We feel it here at EARLY START.

ROMANS: Yes, I know. But, boy, they really give you a hard time at jury duty, you know.


ROMANS: They're like you have to do this.

BRIGGS: They don't mess around.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Here's "NEW DAY."


ACOSTA: Escalating a standoff with House Democrats, President Trump is refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could it be that the Constitution gives Congress the right to impeach, but if you pursue impeachment it's unconstitutional?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president is obstructing Congress from getting the facts that we need.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You think about what the Democrats are trying to do -- impeach the President of the United States 13 months prior to an election.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): If the president thinks by delaying this that he's going to prevent us from moving forward, he's sadly mistaken.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, October ninth. It is 6:00 here in New York.

And this is war. That is the message from the White House to Democrats who are leading the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. But the important thing is that this is not just war on Democrats --