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Two Giuliani Associates Indicted for Campaign Fraud; Democrats Accelerate Impeachment Inquiry; Trump Goes Off the Rails at Minnesota Rally; Iranian Oil Tanker Damaged by Explosion; Deadly Turkish Military Strikes in Syria; 2020 Democrats LGBTQ Town Hall; High Winds Cause Power Shutoff in California. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2019 - 04:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A dramatic arrest at the airport. Two associates of Rudy Giuliani detained over campaign finance violations. They're linked to the growing White House-Ukraine scandal.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: A former ambassador set to testify on Capitol Hill today in the impeachment inquiry. Will she show up or be blocked by the White House?

BRIGGS: Turkey says it's killed hundreds in its operation in northern Syria. The Trump administration trying to broker a cease-fire.

KOSIK: And breaking overnight, an explosion on an Iranian oil tanker near a Saudi port. The company claims it was struck by missiles.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik. Good morning.

BRIGGS: Good morning, Alison. Good morning to all of you. I'm Dave Briggs. Friday, October 11th. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York, 5:00 p.m. in Tokyo, 11:00 a.m. on the Turkey-Syria border. We're live there ahead shortly.

We start, though, in the nation's capital. A stunning and dramatic airport arrest that could have links to the Ukraine scandal currently engulfing the White House. Two associates of Rudy Giuliani were arrested on charges they violated campaign finance laws, including donations they made to a pro-Trump super PAC. The men, both Soviet- born U.S. citizens, were detained at Washington's Dulles Airport on Wednesday after the feds learned they had one-way tickets out of the country.

KOSIK: Giuliani told "The Wall Street Journal" the men were traveling to Vienna where Giuliani was also headed. Giuliani tells CNN that starting in November of last year, the two men helped him in the Ukraine, digging up dirt on Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.

You can see the two men here with Giuliani in a Twitter video. Now we don't know when or where the video was shot. But we do know the three met for lunch on Wednesday before the men headed to the airport.

President Trump denies he knows them.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know those gentlemen. Now it's possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody. I don't know them. I don't know about them. I don't know what they do. But -- I don't know. Maybe they were clients of Rudy. You'd have to ask Rudy.


BRIGGS: As it happens, yes, there is a photo of the president with at least one of the men. And there you see it.

Jessica Schneider has more of the details here.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: These two men arrested, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, they could be key characters in this broader Ukraine impeachment inquiry. That's because of a few things. First of all, Rudy Giuliani has said that they helped dig up dirt in Ukraine on the president's political rivals, including Joe Biden. Also, that these two men introduced Giuliani to former and current Ukrainian officials.

And this indictment alleges that these two men asked for the help of a former U.S. congressman who we've since learned is a Texas Republican, Pete Sessions. They asked him to help with the firing of the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. She, of course, eventually was fired in May, mostly at the behest of Rudy Giuliani.

Now, these two men were arrested late night on Wednesday at Dulles Airport. And we've learned that prosecutors really had to act fast here. That's because they did not intend to unseal their indictment on Thursday, but these two men had one-way tickets. Prosecutors had to act fast to unseal that indictment and to make the arrest.

Now, these two men, along with two others, are facing several charges, including conspiracy and false statements, and also funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. They were accused of giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Trump-aligned PAC. And the indictment says they did it largely at the behest of a Ukrainian official.

The two men are also accused of funneling about $1 million from a Russian national that they then put toward other state candidates in Nevada here. So, these men are ultimately facing charges in New York but they will be held in Virginia on $1 million bond in the meantime. And they are also facing new congressional subpoenas. Congressional investigators really want to know more about their role in Ukraine and also their relationship with Rudy Giuliani.

KOSIK: And as Jessica just mentioned, those two Giuliani associates were subpoenaed by House Democrats in connection with their impeachment inquiry. And they were not the only ones.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with the details. MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Subpoena after

subpoena now coming out to demand documents, as Democrats try to move to wrap up this impeachment probe in the coming weeks. Potentially decide whether or not to impeach this president as soon as Thanksgiving.


Now, what the latest information, subpoena for Rick Perry, the Energy secretary, over conversations that he had with President Zelensky of Ukraine and about with President Trump and Rudy Giuliani, as part of Giuliani and Trump's efforts to investigate -- get the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens.

Now, Perry has said all along he did not speak to Zelensky at all about the Bidens. He said it was all about energy and energy issues. But Democrats have raised concerns about some of those conversations, saying this in their letter to Perry, saying, "These reports have also raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani's push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 elections."

Now this comes amid the subpoenas that have gone out to the White House, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Pentagon, the State Department, Giuliani and Giuliani associates, including those two Giuliani associates who are arrested yesterday. Democrats hope to get information. If they don't, or if the White House continues to deny their demands, expect that ultimately to be rolled into an Article of Impeachment against this president because what they say is that the president is obstructing Congress from doing its job.

So, no matter what happens here, Democrats believe they could get more evidence to go after the president but also potentially more evidence on obstruction of Congress.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: OK, Manu Raju, thank you.

Will she show up? Former Ukraine envoy Marie Yovanovitch is still expected to appear before Congress today. But President Trump is signaling he may try to block her testimony.


TRUMP: I just don't think you're running a country. I just don't think that you can have all of these people testifying about every conversation you've had. No, I don't think people should be allowed. You have to run a country. I don't think you should be allowed to do that.


BRIGGS: Mr. Trump also complained when asked about Energy Secretary Rick Perry's subpoena, asking, quote, "How many people can they talk to?"

KOSIK: With controversy and legal issues consuming the White House, President Trump hit the road for a rally in Minnesota, where he quickly went on the attack.

Jim Acosta was there.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Alison, President Trump held an off-the-rails rally in Minneapolis as he spent much of the night on a long rant about the impeachment inquiry. The president defended his phone call with the leader of Ukraine and he stepped up attacks on former vice president Joe Biden and Biden's son, Hunter. At one point during the evening, the president took the night into the gutter when he talked about Biden's time as vice president. Here's more of what he had to say.


TRUMP: And your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass.


ACOSTA: As for the impeachment inquiry, the president's son, Eric, also got into the act, at one point leading a chant of "lock him up," about former vice president Joe Biden. This on the same day that two of Rudy Giuliani's associates were indicted -- Dave and Alison.

BRIGGS: Jim Acosta, thanks.

Deutsche Bank has informed the federal appeals court it does not have President Trump's tax returns. The House subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for financial documents involving the president and three of his children earlier this year. Court filings show financial documents related to Trump-owned entities were also subpoenaed. But those subpoenas do not include tax returns.

In a court filing last month, the bank said it had the tax returns of two individuals that could be turned over to the House under a subpoena focused on the president if a court ordered it. The news comes as a setback for House Democrats. It also adds to the mystery of whose tax returns the bank does have and whether they'll be revealed as part of the investigation into the president.

KOSIK: A senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is stepping down. No reason is being given for Michael McKinley's departure. The State Department has been swept up in the Ukraine scandal. And a source tells "The Washington Post," like many others, McKinley was disappointed in the secretary's lack of public support for diplomats who have been named in the Ukraine controversy."

The 13th round of U.S. trade talks between the U.S. and China picked up for the first time since July. And there are signs of progress. President Trump called it a big day for the negotiations, adding, "They want to make a deal, but do I?" Trump also said he would meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House today. The two have met face-to-face after previous rounds of talks. According to Chinese state media, the vice premier told business officials that China is approaching the talks with great sincerity, adding, "China is willing to make serious exchanges with the U.S. on issues of common concern."


Officials familiar with the talk say a possible deal would fall short of the sweeping trade deal Trump has repeatedly called for. Instead, there could be a smaller deal that could include China buying more U.S. farm products in exchange for escalating tariffs. Officials expect the positive momentum to continue today.

BRIGGS: All right. So breaking overnight, an Iranian oil tanker set on fire and badly damaged by an explosion in the Red Sea. The tanker company says it was hit by missiles. The latest, just ahead.



KOSIK: Breaking overnight, an Iranian oil tanker set on fire and badly damaged by an explosion near a Saudi port in the Red Sea. The National Iranian Tanker Company claims its vessel was hit by two missiles.

Frederik Pleitgen is tracking the latest developments, live from Moscow.

Now, Frederik, I know that this is an area where tensions have been high. Any idea yet who could be responsible for this attack?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's quite interesting to see, Alison. First of all, good morning. There are some Iranian officials who are coming out and saying that this tanker was hit by either one or two missiles. Now of course this is in the Red Sea, very close to Saudi territory. And the head of the National Iranian Oil Company have come out and said he believes those missiles may have been fired from Saudi territory.

Now so far we haven't heard anything from the Saudis. We haven't heard any Iranian military or actual government officials point the finger of blame at all, either. What we do know is that those tankers was apparently hit, that both of its main compartments for carrying oil, have been damaged. That oil apparently spilled into the Red Sea. It's unclear whether or not that oil is under control.

And so far, we have no reports of casualties. But of course, right now, this incident in and of itself is something that could very much escalate tensions in an already very tense area. You'll recall a couple of weeks ago, two Saudi oil facilities were hit by cruise missiles. The Saudis and the Americans blamed the Iranians. The Iranians said it wasn't them and then there was a string of attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, which also the U.S. and Saudi Arabia blamed on Iran. And the Iranians once again saying it wasn't them. And then of course, the other incident, where the Iranians shot down an American drone, that once again brought those two sides to the brink of open conflict.

So certainly, right now, still very much in the early stages of all this. We do seem to think that this is a major incident, that did take place. Right now, no one really pointing a finger of blame. Still very much in the early stages of trying to find out what went on. But certainly it does appear as though right now this is an incident that could very much have a potential to not only escalate tensions but of course we're also going to have to keep an eye on what this does to world oil prices, as well -- Alison.

KOSIK: And very good point there, Frederik. We're seeing oil prices for Brent Crude up 2 percent on this news. Thanks so much for your reporting.

BRIGGS: All right, just ahead --


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nobody should be threatened with losing their job because of who they are or who they love. This is a basic principle of equality.


BRIGGS: The 2020 Democratic candidates speaking out about issues affecting the LGBTQ in a series of town halls. Their presidential plans, next.



BRIGGS: Turkish officials tweeting overnight that their military operation has killed more than 200 people whom they considered to be terrorists. Among them, Kurdish fighters that helped the U.S. defeat ISIS.

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

Nick, good morning. What are you seeing there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dave, it's quiet this morning, frankly, with the exception -- of a loud exception of occasional Turkish artillery firing. We've been moved from the position where we could see where they landed around the Syrian town of Tal Abyad to here where we can only see for the fact these shells are being fired. We've heard about I would say probably about a dozen so far launched this morning.

And last night, around the town and in the town, we saw I would say possibly as much as a dozen buses of Syrian rebels, backed by Turkey, being ferried in. They went into a base near here and there was also military movements on the road, too. They are presumably part of what Turkey refers to the Syrian National Army that will be sent in to the areas they clear in order to be able to facilitate the Turkish desire to send Syrian refugees back there.

This operation is continuing faster I think than many anticipated. The NATO secretary-general is currently in Turkey, Jens Stoltenberg, will be meeting with Turkish officials, presumably expressing the discontent of pretty much everybody else in NATO, at Turkey. The NATO member's decision to launch this operation.

I can't recall a moment since really Iraq 2003 when NATO was so clearly divided over something. Divided yes, but President Donald Trump still I think trying to straddle the fence here to some degree. Last night, he said bizarrely, after saying he would end endless wars he said that he would send the U.S. military in potentially to fix this or he would damage Turkey economically. Or, his preferred option, he can mediate between the Turkish and the Syrian Kurds, who are fighting this war, a war which frankly began because of this Sunday phone call between the Turkish president and Donald Trump, in which it's seemed to be endorsed as an operation, although now U.S. officials say there was no endorsement.

But today it's clear this operation continues, as does diplomatic pressure and possibly even talks of sanctions against Turkey. Back to you.

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

BRIGGS: The 2020 Democratic presidential field taking part in a groundbreaking town hall, focused on the LGBTQ community and its issues.


CNN's Kyung Lah was at the town hall hosted by CNN and the Human Rights Campaign, and has more from Los Angeles.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave and Alison, over 4 1/2 hours, nine 2020 presidential candidates talked about issues specifically affecting the LGBTQ community. They talked about banning gay conversion therapy. They explained and shared their records. And they called gay rights civil rights.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Transgender men and women, they're in a position where they should be able to do anything anybody else in the world can do. There should be no difference. I mean it sincerely.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of us swear an oath, it will be a nation of liberty and justice for all. Those are aspirational words right now until every LGBTQ American has equal rights. And I will get the Equality Act passed and into law in our country.

BUTTIGIEG: Well, as president I will begin by honoring the principle that nobody should be threatened with losing their job because of who they are or who they love. This is a basic principle of equality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A supporter approaches you and says, Senator, I'm old-fashioned and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman, what is your response?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm going to assume it's a guy who said that.


WARREN: And I'm going to say, then just marry one woman.


WARREN: I'm cool with that.


WARREN: Assuming you can find one.



LAH: There's very little daylight between these candidates when it comes to these issues. This evening, a testament to the power of the LGBTQ vote in the 2020 election -- Dave, Alison.

KOSIK: OK, Kyung, thanks very much.

At least 19 transgender women have been fatally shot or killed in America this year. Seven of them were black. At last night's town hall, protesters interrupted the event to draw attention to their plight. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black transwomen are dying. Our lives matter. I'm an extraordinary black transwoman. And I deserve to be here.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They should grab the mic to stand up for herself and other transwomen of color and transmen of color that she talked about, as well. That's what democracy looks like in America.

BUTTIGIEG: I do want to acknowledge what these demonstrators were speaking about, which is the epidemic of violence against black transwomen in this country right now.


BUTTIGIEG: And I believe or would like to believe that everybody here is committed to ending that epidemic and that does include lifting up its visibility and speaking to it.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There needs to be a safe place for the members of our transgender community to go when they have been exposed to that kind of harm. And we know there's not always a safe place.


KOSIK: According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 26 transgender people in the U.S. were killed in 2018.

BRIGGS: It's the fifth largest economy in the world, home to Silicon Valley, but 1.5 million Californians are still in the dark this morning. The state's largest utility, PG&E, shutting off the power in a wide area over fear high winds could down electric lines and start wildfires. The power company says it may take days for the lights to come back on.


BILL JOHNSON, PG&E PRESIDENT AND CEO: Now we have to wait for the weather to pass. And we have to inspect every line we turned off. That's about 25,000 miles of line. And then when everything is good, we can turn the power back on.


BRIGGS: In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Californians waiting in horrendous lines for gas, picking up groceries at food banks and sitting in the dark waiting.

CNN's Paul Vercammen with more on how people are coping.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in windy California some officials being proactive here in Fillmore. Normally you would see students all over this lawn. This is Fillmore High School. But the superintendent shut it down and the rest of the schools in the district, ahead of what turned out to be a utility shutdown of the power here in the small city of Fillmore.

If you look off in the distance in the hills, you can see power lines. The fear, of course, is if these lines snap, live wire goes into the grass, there could be one spark and that could result in a major brush fire. It has happened before. So, in these cities, precautions are being taken. We talked to a dentist in a nearby city. She had moved up all of her appointments trying to get them done before the end of the week, knowing that there could be a shutdown.

And then the students here, they had nowhere to go during the day. One of them saying you would think that teenagers don't want to go to school. But we actually did want to go to school because it was the end of the quarter and finals. And we just wanted to get that out of the way.

All of these little scenarios part of this wind event in southern California. Now, back to you.

BRIGGS: What a mess. Paul --