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CNN Democratic Debate Tonight; Former Trump Aide's Damning Testimony; Trump Levies Sanctions on Turkey; LeBron: NBA GM's Hong Kong Tweet Was "Misinformed". Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 15, 2019 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Twelve candidates, one battleground stage. Can anyone break out in the largest presidential primary debate in history, tonight on CNN?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade and a White House operation resembles a drug deal. Damning details from closed- door testimony on impeachment.

ROMANS: New sanctions on Turkey and new trouble for U.S. allies in Syria. The U.S. scrambling to remove troops from a worsening situation.


LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: When you're misinformed or you're not educated about something -- and I'm just talking about, you know, the tweet itself -- you know, you never know the ramifications that can happen.


BRIGGS: LeBron James finally addresses the controversy that followed the NBA to China, but now he's the one facing big pushback.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, October 15th, it is 4:00 a.m. in New York.

And breaking overnight, stunning, new details from closed-door testimony in the impeachment inquiry.

President Trump's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, raising serious concerns about Rudy Giuliani's role in U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Multiple sources say Hill told lawmakers she tried to report wrongdoing, including to the attorney for the National Security Council.

One source tells CNN, Hill testified former national security adviser John Bolton referred to Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, as a, quote, hand grenade who was going to blow everybody up.

BRIGGS: Hill also told lawmakers Bolton characterized a rogue operation by U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as being like a, quote, drug deal.

Another source says Hill drew a link between Sondland and President Trump that went beyond the text messages we already know about, whereas Sondland said there was no quid pro quo on Ukraine.

After 10 hours of testimony, Democrats came out backing Fiona Hill, Republicans complained about the process.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Rudy Giuliani has clearly been a leading force for the administration in defining a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): You have these witnesses, with their attorney, trying to scratch their head and figure out what they could say and what they can't say. There's a reason why White House counsel should be present.


ROMANS: Hill told lawmakers the public squabbling that sowed confusion on U.S. policy was a corruption the Russians could exploit.

This was just the start of a very full week of testimony in the inquiry. There's a lineup. Today, the impeachment committees hear from a senior State Department official. Tomorrow, a departed top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And on Thursday, they'll have a chance to question ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, himself.

BRIGGS: A dozen Democrats face high stakes on the biggest primary debate stage ever. The CNN presidential debate is just hours away.

Political reporter Arlette Saenz has a preview from Westerville, Ohio.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Dave and Christine, it is debate day here in Westerville, Ohio where later tonight 12 of the Democratic presidential candidates will be taking the stage to face off in CNN's Democratic primary debate. Front and center on stage will be Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

Biden, in recent days, has ramped up his pressure on President Trump and also defending his son, Hunter, who has faced attacks from the president for weeks over his business dealings in Ukraine and China.

Over the weekend, Biden vowing that his son or other members of his families will not be working for foreign corporations or sit on boards of foreign companies if he becomes president. Now, Elizabeth Warren is also going to be in the spotlight. She has been rising in the polls. So one thing to watch tonight is will more candidates, particularly the moderates on that stage -- will they go after Elizabeth Warren, trying to draw contrasts with her?

One other part to watch is what are those candidates on the outer edges of that stage going to do tonight? Are they looking for those big make or break moments, especially as we're getting closer to that next debate in November where the field will be whittled down and fewer candidates will be making the stage?

Also tonight, Bernie Sanders is making his return to the campaign trail after suffering a heart attack nearly two weeks ago.

This is all going to play out in a few hours here in Westerville, Ohio for the next Democratic primary debate -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: Arlette Saenz, thanks.

The fourth Democratic presidential debate presented by CNN and "The New York Times," live tonight, 8:00 Eastern Time, only on CNN.


ROMANS: All right.

President Trump has signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Turkey. Vice President Mike Pence saying Mr. Trump spoke to Turkey's president about his country's attack on the Kurds, a U.S. ally in Syria.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States of America wants Turkey to stop the invasion, to implement an immediate ceasefire, and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence.


ROMANS: Pence says the president has directed him to travel to Turkey to help start negotiations.

Trump has faced intense criticism, even from leading Republicans, for his decision to pull U.S. forces from northern Syria. The situation on the ground is deteriorating.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has the latest. He's live from Erbil, Iraq -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The sanctions announced yesterday, well, they're not really the economic obliteration that Donald Trump threatens Turkey with. It's tariffs on steel. It's a trade deal not going to happen. There are some key ministers in defense and energy targeted, along with parts of the ministry.

But it isn't going to cripple the Turkish economy. Far from it. In fact, Mike Pence on his way to Turkey, imminently, to perhaps mediate. But, really, Turkey's capacity to be persuaded by the United States is significantly reduced, as is that of the Syria Kurds who used to be their ally, who are now moving towards the Syrian regime.

So, difficult really to see how they can take assurances from Turkey, that this key city held by the Syrian Kurds now isolate Kobani won't be assaulted by the Turkish, as some think this is written in stone. U.S. troops are moving fast now. This announcement that they are leaving, not normally you expect. Normally the departure happens and then you say that you've left.

So, a scramble to get them out safely. I understand there will be air assets involved in doing that. But a real concern I think about what happens to civilians caught between these two moving sides here. Can Turkey keep the Syrian rebels that are mostly extremists and doing a lot of the ground for them and check, can they avoid scenes of brutality like we've seen.

And where does Russia fit into this? It's backing the Syrian regime. The Syrian regime is moving very faction to grab parts of land that the Syrian Kurds used to hold kind of exclusively because of that political deal that seems to have been done between the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian regime. And in the larger, more troubling question here, what of ISIS? Donald Trump accused the Syrian Kurds bizarrely of deliberately releasing ISIS detainees to perhaps drag the United States in. There's no indication of that. The U.S. official I've spoken to has said perhaps ISIS prisoners are being brought to central locations to make it easier to detain them.

It does seem the regime maybe moving close to some of those locations. Turkey has been suggesting that large numbers have perhaps been released. There's no evidence for that necessarily at this point, too. And, in fact, one U.S. official said that the numbers in some of the facilities that are said to have been liberated simply don't match their understanding.

A lot of confusion. One thing that is not confusing is Turkey emboldened and whether or not the diplomacy of the United States can make a difference at this late stage.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. What a mess. Thanks so much for that, Nick Paton Walsh, in Erbil, Iraq.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, a now-former Fort Worth police officer has been charged with murder for fatally shooting a woman in her own home.

Aaron Dean was arrested Monday after resigning from the police force. He later posted bail.

The family of the victim, Atatiana Jefferson, is relieved by that arrest but they know there's a long way, too.


ADARIUS CARR, BROTHER OF ATATIANA JEFFERSON: This is only the start. There's no way this is enough. We know this is a good step in the direction there where we want to go but it's definitely not the end.

It's been a lot. It's been quite a bit of -- today, itself, has been speech -- I'm speechless about it. I can't put it into words.


BRIGGS: The arrest capping a day of rapid fire developments in the case.

More now from CNN's Lucy Kafanov in Fort Worth.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Dave, good morning.

It's been fascinating to watch just how quickly all of this unfolded over the course of Monday.

That morning, Aaron Dean was a Fort Worth Police Department officer who quit just moments before he got fired, depriving investigators a chance to properly interrogate, to properly question him. That evening, he was behind bars, arrested, charged with the murder of 28- year-old Atatiana Jefferson inside her own home.

At the end of the day, the strongest evidence against him might just be that heavily-edited police body cam footage which shows him flashing a light through a darkened window, shouting a verbal command, and two seconds later, opening deadly fire.

Atatiana Jefferson died in her own bedroom in front of, according to the police department, her 8-year-old nephew who she was babysitting.


The community torn apart.

Now, we know that Aaron Dean is a rookie officer. He graduated from the academy about two years ago, joining the police force last April.

We also know that the interim chief has launched a criminal investigation into the shooting and has asked the FBI to look into a civil rights investigation. We are expecting a press conference later today with more of those details.

Guys, back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Lucy, thank you so much for that. YouTube says a video of a fake Donald Trump shooting media figures

does not violate its rules because the content is really fictional. The video has been circulating on YouTube and Facebook for more than a year, but it came to national attention after "The New York Times" reported it was shown at a pro-Trump group's conference, held at the president's Miami resort. YouTube said it put an age restriction and a warning on this fake video after users notified it.

Facebook also has a policy banning material that incites serious violence. The company tells CNN, it is reviewing this video.

BRIGGS: The president's rhetoric has been blamed for violence targeting journalists, including nail bombs a Trump supporter sent to prominent Democrats and CNN. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Monday the president had not yet seen the video but would watch it. He did 33 times Monday but did not mention the video.

How early is too early to start school? Students in California will get a little extra sleep. We are jealous. We'll tell you why ahead.



ROMANS: All right. Oil prices fell Monday, as investors reconsider that U.S.-China trade truce, temporary truce. The Brent crude, the global oil benchmark closed down almost 2 percent, $59.35 a barrel.

Take a look at the energy sector. You can see declines there. Prices fell on reports that China wants more talks as early as the end of the month, before President Xi Jinping agrees to sign this phase one of this sort of deal.

Investors originally cheered the deal announcement. Now, they're not sure. One warning sign is a lack of an actual paper agreement and specific details of this currency and intellectual property commitment. Those have not been revealed.

Then, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: This is like when you buy a building, you've reached an agreement to buy a building and now, you've got to negotiate the contract. There's execution work to be done on the document. But this document is substantially done.


ROMANS: OK. It's not a deal. It's an agreement to talk about a deal. Pantheon Economics called the trade deal a nothingburger. It's an agreement to not make things worse and to keep talking, but damage from tariffs continues with another round still scheduled for December. Leaving some key issues unresolved as the possibility of another flare-up looms.

BRIGGS: So, you're impressed.

At this hour, an enormous search and rescue operation underway in Japan. More than 110,000 personnel looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis. A storm hit over the weekend, bringing widespread flooding and mudslides. Fifty-eight people confirmed dead, 200 injured, at least 12 missing. Thirteen thousand police officers, 66,000 fire personnel and 31,000 defense force staffers helping with the operation. More than 80,000 households in the country were still without power as of last night.

ROMANS: All right. Should California's largest utility company credit customers whose power was cut to prevent wildfires? The governor says yes.



BRIGGS: LeBron James speaking out for the first time about the pro- Hong Kong tweet by Rockets' GM Daryl Morey that sparked outrage in China.

And now, LeBron is the one feeling the heat.

Here's what he said about Morey's tweet.


JAMES: When you're misinformed or you're not educated about something -- and I'm just talking about, you know, the tweet itself -- you never know the ramifications that can happen -- and, you know, we all seen what that did not only did for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. And sometimes you have to think through things that you say.


BRIGGS: Let me just say ooph.

LeBron's Lakers were in China last week for two exhibition games. Amid the international furor, players were not made available to the media.

Some observers thought James was taking China's side against the pro- democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Last night, he attempted to clarify on Twitter, quote: Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet. I'm not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that.

ROMANS: I'm not even sure what all that means.

BRIGGS: Me neither.

ROMANS: All right. The governor of California calling on Pacific Gas and Electric to give rebates or credits to nearly 800,000 customers affected by last week's power shut off. PG&E deliberately cut the electricity to prevent utility lines from causing wildfires in the dry, windy conditions.

Governor Gavin Newsom is suggesting $100 to each residential customer, $250 to small businesses. The CEO of PG&E says the utility carried out the shutoffs under a plan that was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

BRIGGS: A little extra sleep for California students and delayed openings for California schools permanently.


California becoming the first state to mandate later start times for middle and high schools. The changes will phase in so middle schoolers will not be allowed to begin earlier than 8:00 a.m. And high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Some rural schools are exempt.

The governor says the measure brings the state in line with research that shows teenagers benefit academically in another ways from a later start to their school day. Changes take effect in the 2022-2023 school year.

ROMANS: Four hundred Florida students no longer need to worry about their lunch debt. A local mom from Jupiter says she was tired to hear about kids who couldn't afford lunch at school. She asked local officials from the numbers and posted them online. Those numbers made it to local real estate agent Andrew Levy, who paid the $944 bill in full.


ANDREW LEVY, PAID OFF STUDENTS' LUNCH DEBT: Food is something that you shouldn't have to think about. You know, children shouldn't have to learn hungry.


ROMANS: He's not stopping with one act of kindness. He says he plans to start a fund-raising page to raise money each quarter so the school lunch debt never accumulates.

BRIGGS: To baseball, another dominant pitching performance has the Washington Nationals one win from their first-ever World Series.

Listen to that roar.

Steven Strausbaugh striking out 12 in seven innings. Starting pitchers for the Nats have allowed no earned runs in almost 22 innings against the Cardinals in the NLCS. Ryan Zimmerman drove in two runs, Howie Kendrick, three.

Nats win 8-1. They go for the sweep tonight at Nationals Park.

You'll need a second screen, I guess for the nation's capital, right, between the debate between the debate and baseball.


BRIGGS: Tough call for those folks.

ROMANS: Back and forth.

All right. We're counting down to that CNN Democratic debate. A pivotal night for candidates looking to break out or event stay in this race.


And a stark picture painted by a former top aide to the president. She says Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade and revealed a White House operation resembles a drug deal.