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House Democrats Taking Impeachment Inquiry to the Next Level; Trump Administration Gears Up for Impeachment; Turkey Moves into Syria; Joe Biden Calls for Trump's Impeachment. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 04:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We would, if they give us our rights. It depends.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: As Democrats debate an impeachment vote, President Trump is less than clear on whether he'd cooperate.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: At least eight dead after Turkey launches strikes in northern Syria. A senior Defense official tells CNN, it's already hurt the ability to fight and contain ISIS.

BRIGGS: A new lawsuit against online e-cigarette vendors that are being accused of giving minors access to vaping liquid.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, October 10th. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York, 11:00 a.m. on the Turkish border with Syria. We'll go there in a moment.

But, first, this morning, House Democrats are taking a harder line against Trump administration's stonewalling of their impeachment investigation. White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent an eight-page letter to House leaders this week saying the administration will not cooperate. He wrote, "It just does not view this impeachment inquiry as legitimate, partly because there's been no vote to authorize it."

Now a debate is growing in the Democratic caucus. Should the House call the West Wing's bluff with a formal vote for an impeachment inquiry?

CNN's Manu Raju has the latest from Capitol Hill.


Now, Democrats are preparing for the next phase of their impeachment push, including a new wave of subpoenas to compel people to testify. Expect three of Rudy Giuliani's associates to come before Congress or at least by subpoenaed to come before Congress because they have yet to comply to Democratic demands, both to turn over records and to come in for voluntary interviews.

Some Democrats I'm talking to say what's the point of voluntary interviews? Let's go straight to subpoenas right now because we're not getting any compliance. This could also pertain to current State Department officials including, potentially, on Friday, when a very important witness is scheduled at the moment to come in, Marie Yovanovitch. She's the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

She was recalled from that post but she's a current State Department employee, and there are questions about whether she will appear on Friday, and so Democrats are suggesting that perhaps she, too, will need a subpoena, although at the moment she's still expected to come and testify.

Now, behind the scenes, there's also discussions happening with the whistleblower himself or herself, asking this individual to come in. I am told that there are extreme measures being considered to secure this person's testimony, including allowing this person to testify in complete secrecy so no one would have any idea whether or not the testimony took place until after the fact.

Now, Democrats behind the scenes are also having this debate, whether or not to formalize an impeachment inquiry. This is a debate that is going to take place in the coming days ahead, especially as Democrats return to town next week. Some believe, including John Garamendi of California, that it makes sense to have a vote to formalize the inquiry.


REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): I do think that it's time for us to put a vote on the floor, a resolution for the inquiry, structured in such a way that it can move forward with full power of the Congress behind it. I think that's probably going to come in the next week or so.

If they want a fight, OK, then let us arm ourselves completely and totally with the full power of Congress. The votes, I'm sure, are there.


RAJU: But one important person is still not on board. That's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She does not believe it makes sense to go that route. She also does not believe it's necessary because current House rules do not require such a vote, neither does the Constitution. So expect that debate to continue behind closed doors this week and next -- Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: Manu Raju, on Capitol Hill, thanks. Meanwhile, President Trump is still hedging his bets about cooperating

with the impeachment inquiry even if a full House vote were held.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If they held a vote, a vote in the full House and the vote were to authorize, would you --

TRUMP: Well, that's --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you cooperate?

TRUMP: Well, we would if they give us our rights. It depends.


BRIGGS: The administration shifting its strategy as it waits for House Democrats to make the next move.

Kaitlan Collins at the White House with that story.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, as Democrats are figuring out what their next move is going to be, the White House is kind of sitting back watching and waiting to see how they're going to respond to that scathing eight-page letter that the White House counsel sent to them earlier this week.

Now, while they're saying publicly, though, that they're not going to be cooperating, not going to be working with Democrats, what we're seeing behind the scenes is actually the White House start to gear up in case there is an impeachment. You're starting to see a shift a little bit in the White House from aides trying to convince the president that yes, this could potentially be inevitable.

And they feel like the president is starting to respond to that, evident enough by the fact that he has agreed to have Trey Gowdy, that former South Carolina congressman, come on as outside counsel because that was an idea that the president was initially resistant to.


This idea of bringing on any new lawyers or any kind of impeachment defense strategy. But what they say they're seeing inside the White House is he's starting to realize he's going to need something here in case Democrats do decide to move forward.

What will be interesting to watch going forward is who it is that's running the impeachment defense strategy from inside the West Wing because basically what we've been speaking to sources about so far, some say it's Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law; some say it's Mick Mulvaney, the chief of staff; and some people say it's just President Trump himself.

ROMANS: All right, Kaitlan at the White House last night. Thank you for that. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promising the State Department will

follow the law in the impeachment inquiry. His comments coming after the Trump administration blocked a diplomat from appearing as a key witness at a House deposition.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've made clear, I think the White House has made very clear, we will ensure that we do everything we're required to do by the law and the Constitution. Every time.


BRIGGS: Pompeo, though, offering little clarity whether the department will allow its diplomats to cooperate with the probe. In a separate interview Wednesday, the secretary said this, quote, "The White House made a decision yesterday. They issued an extended letter talking about this process that the House is engaged in, making clear that the White House's view is that this is not a legitimate impeachment proceeding. We'll take our guidance from them in terms of how we respond."

Pompeo says the State Department still has a mission and objectives to achieve in Ukraine and it is focused on that.

ROMANS: All right. Meantime, Vice President Mike Pence is defending the administration's actions on Ukraine. But he says he never discussed Joe or Hunter Biden with President Volodymyr Zelensky. Pence was pressed by reporters after an event in Iowa Wednesday on whether he knew President Trump asked the Ukrainian leader asked to investigate his political rival, the Bidens.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I can tell you is that all of our discussions internally, the president, our team, in our context, in my office, with Ukraine were entirely focused on the broader issues of the lack of European support and corruption.


ROMANS: Pence also says he has no objections to releasing transcripts of his calls with Zelensky. He says it would show that the White House was focused on ending corruption in Ukraine.

BRIGGS: More than half of all U.S. voters want President Trump impeached and removed from office. So according to the latest FOX News poll. Take a look at the numbers, 51 percent want the president out and another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed. 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether. Note the numbers are trending in the wrong direction for the president. Since July support for impeachment is up 11 points among Democrats, five points among Republicans, and 3 points among independents.

Explosive new allegations against President Trump. According to Bloomberg News the president asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pressure the Justice Department into dropping a criminal case against an Iranian Turkish gold trader who happened to be a client of Rudy Giuliani. According to the report, the request was made during an Oval Office meeting in 2017, leaving the other people in the room shocked. Tillerson refused the president's request and later voiced his objections to then-chief of staff, John Kelly.

ROMANS: Last month Giuliani denied to ever bringing that up the case with President Trump but that story seems to be changing. Now Giuliani says this. "Suppose I did talk to Trump about it, so what? I was a private lawyer at a time. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe at some point I dropped his name in a conversation or maybe one of his people. Talked to him about it because I was trying to do a prisoner swap."

The White House is not commenting on the report. Kelly and Tillerson also not commenting.

BRIGGS: Another Republican senator publicly speaking out about President Trump's July 25th phone call with the leader of Ukraine. Arizona Senator Martha McSally was asked whether it was appropriate for the president to solicit help from Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden. Here's how she responded.


SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): What I'm concerned about is how there were decisions made about moving forward and using the "I" word which is very serious business for our country. It's a very solemn topic that's only happened a few times, without them even seeing the facts. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and others. So let's do this in a bipartisan way, if anybody has any concerns. And that's what the Senate Intelligence Committee is doing.


BRIGGS: McSally went on to say her job is to, quote, "look at the facts," since she could sit in the judgment of the president if he's impeached. She was appointed in 2018 to fill the seat of the late John McCain and she's up for election in 2020 in a state Trump won in 2016, but where Democrats think they can be competitive.

ROMANS: All right, today begins the 13th round of trade talks between the U.S. and China, and hopes of a major deal are dimming. Officials familiar with talks say the American trade team is setting expectations low for progress. Negativity inside the administration's team is based on signs the Chinese are unlikely to make major concessions.


President Trump, though, appeared a little more optimistic.


TRUMP: I think China is having a hard time at this moment. And I think they'd like to make a deal very badly.


ROMANS: There are speculations both sides may try to reach a smaller deal that could include additional agricultural purchases in exchange for not escalating tariffs.

The White House has leverage here. The president delayed raising tariffs to 30 percent on $250 billion on Chinese goods because of 70th anniversary of the Communist Party. So they delayed that until October 15th. So that's right around the corner. The White House also pushed back tariffs on $160 billion of consumer facing goods, waiting until December 15th. Those are goods on things like laptops, smartphones, footwear, clothes, things that consumers would feel before Christmas.

Deputy level officials have been meeting this week but one person familiar with those talks said there's been little progress on core issues like technology and industrial policy. Without agreement on those things, getting the big deal seems impossible. Getting even a small deal seems more unlikely.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, Turkey's military strikes in northern Syria, killing at least eight. We're live on the Turkish border with what's next.



BRIGGS: Turkey's military strike in northern Syria has killed at least eight people including three fighters from the Syria Democratic Forces and five civilians. Republicans are slamming President Trump for his decision to pull U.S. troops out of the region. Senator Lindsey Graham announcing an agreement with Democrats to hit Turkey with severe sanctions and he's calling on the president to turn U.S. troops around.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The Kurds are the ground forces that destroyed the caliphate with American airpower. We've abandoned them. That breaks my heart. I hope the president will change and readjust his policy before it's too late.


BRIGGS: President Trump doesn't see it that way. Listen to his reasoning for leaving the Kurds to fend for themselves.


TRUMP: Now the Kurds are fighting for their land. Just so you understand. They're fighting for their land. And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn't help us in the Second World War. They didn't help us with Normandy as an example. They mentioned names of different battles, they were there. But they're there to help us with their land. And that's a different thing.


BRIGGS: It is important to note an estimated 11,000 Kurds died in the fight against ISIS.

Nick Paton Walsh is live for us from the Turkish-Syrian border with the latest.

Nick, good morning. What are you seeing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Interestingly, in just the last few minutes, we have seen a convoy of about 12 Turkish armored personnel carriers, moving from what looked like pretty far inside the Syrian border and cross over into Turkey proper. That adds some weight to the Turkish Defense Ministry statement that a ground invasion has begun.

Clearly that may be part of that and is unclear how far into Syria they had in fact ventured. The Turkish Defense Ministry also saying just in the last few minutes, as well, that they have achieved some of their targets inside Syria, as part of what they call Operation Spring Peace.

Now how extensive that operation will be, how fast it will move, how much of Syria it hopes to take, are very key questions here. As you said, there is mounting now in Washington, move toward sanctions. If, for example, what we saw yesterday and today proves to be the opening flourish, and maybe we see a pause over the next week or months or so, will that slow down criticism?

It's been remarkable, I have to say, how unified most of the countries you would normally expect to have kind words for Turkey, how unified they've been in criticism of this operation. Turkey, as I say, considers this vital to protect its southern border from what they called terrorists, but of course, as you said yourself, the Syrian Kurds gave so many lives in defeating ISIS, a terrorist group, consider themselves to be enormously betrayed by the United States.

Where does it go today? Well, there are being reports of shelling over -- yesterday along lots of parts of the border. Very hard to confirm here given part of the Turkish military strategy is being to cut coms and cell phone networks along the border, much of which Syrian Kurds depend upon as well. But I think today we'll get a clearer idea of the scope. A top official in the Erdogan government said that Donald Trump knew about the scope before it was launched. We'll have to see what it really is. Back to you.

BRIGGS: Yes. Lindsey Graham warned the Turkish government this is a red line you should not cross. Should be interesting to see what Congress can do.

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

BRIGGS: All right. A deadly attack near a synagogue in Germany on the holiest day of the year for Jews. Two people killed in a shooting rampage near a synagogue in the eastern German town of Hala. One woman was killed near the town synagogue then the gunman opened fire at a nearby kebab shop fatally wounding a man. The shooter, a 27- year-old, appears to have live streamed the attack on Twitch, an online video streaming platform. In the video, the gunman launched into an anti-Semitic rant. Police confirmed to CNN they believed the suspect had an extreme far-right and anti-Semitic motive.

Nineteen minutes past the hour. Joe Biden speaking out.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, I believe he should be impeached.



ROMANS: His first direct call for the president's impeachment. More next.



ROMANS: All right, Joe Biden ramping up his campaign for the White House with his first direct call for impeaching President Trump. The former vice president also took on his closest competitor for the Democratic nomination.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in New Hampshire where Biden spoke with the latest.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, former vice president Joe Biden getting a standing ovation here in Manchester, New Hampshire, when he did give his first call for the impeachment of President Trump.

Now Joe Biden has been talking for a few weeks now how he supports the inquiry that House investigation. But he was withholding judgment until the outcome of that was known. No more.


BIDEN: In the full view of the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed the nation and committed impeachable acts. To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, I believe he should be impeached.


ZELENY: Of course he's pushing back against all of this controversy, as well, involving his son Hunter Biden in Ukraine. Joe Biden saying that the president flat-out is lying. He's afraid of him.


BIDEN: He's afraid to face me head-on. That's why he's trying to pick his opponent in the Democratic primary.

Here's what Trump and his special interest paying for his campaign know. They know. I've beaten him in the past and I will beat them again.


ZELENY: Now, Joe Biden is also doing a couple of things. He's also fighting a two-front war. Elizabeth Warren, a tough competitor here in New Hampshire, particularly. She's been leading him in the polls here. Last night he also had a new line against Senator Warren.


BIDEN: It takes a proven ability to get things done. We're not electing a planner.


ZELENY: So clearly Joe Biden fighting against the president on one hand. Trying to make him look like he's the strongest Democrat in the race, but also pushing back against Elizabeth Warren. All of this means a very interesting Democratic debate next Tuesday in Ohio -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny in New Hampshire.

CNN is partnering with the Human Rights Campaign for a groundbreaking town hall event, "Equality in America." The 2020 candidates will discuss issues facing the LGBTQ community in back-to-back town halls, tonight, starting at 7:30 Eastern on CNN. And next week, as Jeff said, CNN and the "New York Times" will present the fourth Democratic presidential debate live from the battleground state of Ohio. That's Tuesday night, October 15th, 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

BRIGGS: New York City filing a federal lawsuit against nearly two dozen national online e-cigarette vendors. The suit alleges the online retailers do not have age verification systems in place and markets to minors in violation of the city's law. Meantime, the Washington State Board of Health approved an emergency ban on the sale of flavored vaping products. The ban takes effect today and will last 120.

Last month, Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order for state health officials to take emergency steps to address the vaping crisis.

ROMANS: All right. Democrats getting ready to take their impeachment inquiry to the next level. Their next steps in bringing witnesses to Capitol Hill. That's just ahead.