Return to Transcripts main page


Republicans Storm Impeachment Hearings; Trump Lifts Sanctions Against Turkey; Wildfire Forces Evacuations in California. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired October 24, 2019 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a few questions. My question is, why aren't they letting us in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going in.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: House Republicans with a public stunt over private hearings. Now, Democrats are rethinking the pace of impeachment.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters. OK?


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: That claim was ridiculed. But now, the president's lawyer says it's the reason he can't turn over his tax records.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, a fast-moving wildfire forces evacuations in Northern California. Power companies were already pulling the plug once again.

BRIGGS: And it's a problem that takes 10,000 years to solve. Google says one of its machines did the job in three minutes.

ROMANS: I hurt my brain trying to understand that story. I really was trying to understand that story.


BRIGGS: I'll try and explain it for you.

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 Thursday, October 24th. It

is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

We begin with House Democrats looking to pick up the pace now on impeachment. They want more done in public after their Republican colleagues pulled a political stunt over proceedings held in private.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a few questions. My question is, why aren't they letting us in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going in.


ROMANS: GOP lawmakers stormed the secure hearing room, stalling the proceedings for five full hours. Note that about a quarter of them actually sit on these committees. They were entitled to be there without busting in, a quarter of them. There are Republicans who are hearing this testimony. And now the "Washington Post" reports, House Democrats are feeling the pressure to wrap up the private testimony and plan to move on to public hearings as soon as mid-November.

BRIGGS: Among the witnesses Democrats hope to question in front of the whole country the top diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and his predecessor Marie Yovanovitch, both expressed outrage over the White House plan to withhold military aid from Ukraine until Ukraine publicly committed to investigating Joe Biden and his son.

Also, on the radar for Democrats, John Bolton, the president's former National Security adviser. Bolton made his steadfast opposition to pressuring Ukraine well known around the White House.

Here's congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, Republicans have made no secret of their frustration about the fact that much of the Democratic impeachment inquiry up to this point, one month in, is taking place behind closed doors. And well, they decided to let that frustration come out a little bit.

Going into a closed-door deposition, interrupting that closed-door deposition, inside a secured complex, inside a secured conference room, including bringing, some of them, some of their electronic devices in, something that is total no-no when it comes to these complexes. All to make the point that they don't believe the Democratic investigation is on the up and up.

It was, to say the least, a piece of theater, one with an intent. And that is kind of twofold. One to show that frustration in public, make a big show of it, but also to make clear to the president who many of those members had met with the day before at the White House, that they are fighting for him.

What it did? Well, it postponed, for hours, the deposition of a top Pentagon official, Laura Cooper, who had oversight of the Ukraine portfolio which is at the crux of this investigation. Now Democrats are going to continue those closed-door depositions in the week ahead as they continue to move forward on their impeachment inquiry. But there's no question about it, after the testimony of the top diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, making clear in very, very detailed way, that he believed that there had in fact been a quid pro quo related to that Ukrainian aid, something the president has denied.

Democrats believe that their case is as strong as ever. This point in time, House Republicans, at least, making clear they're going to be fighting for the president, even if it's in a very public manner in a very secure conference room -- guys.

BRIGGS: All right, Phil Mattingly. Glad you're back, Phil.

Republicans are also demanding House Intel chairman Adam Schiff bring the whistleblower before Congress to testify in public. GOP lawmakers focusing their rage not on the substance of the impeachment inquiry but the process.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): It should be the people of this country, who decide who's going to be the president, not Nancy Pelosi and not Adam Schiff in secret, behind closed doors.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The opening statement says very clear, this is not --

The opening statement doesn't make any difference.

RAJU: Hold on, let me -- let me finish what I'm saying. Let me finish my question. He says very clearly --

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): You should not be relying on it.

RAJU: Why --


BROOKS: If you're in a court of law, would you rely just on the opening statement of an attorney?

RAJU: But let me ask you --

BROOKS: On the first witness?

RAJU: Can I ask you --

BROOKS: Or would you have cross examination? Would you allow rebuttal witnesses to determine, to explore, whether the first witness --


RAJU: I'm asking on the -- I'm asking about the substance of what he said. He said that --

BROOKS: That didn't make any difference. We don't know whether what he said is true or not because of the sham process that's being used.



BRIGGS: The "New York Times" reports top-level Ukrainian officials were aware by August that President Trump was withholding nearly $400 million in military aid. That directly undermines arguments by the president and his allies that the Ukrainians could not have been bullied into investigations because they weren't aware security was being withheld.

CNN has also learned that two weeks before taking office in May Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky and his team discussed the pressure they were already feeling from the Trump administration and Rudy Giuliani to publicly launch investigations that could help Mr. Trump's re-election prospects.

ROMANS: All right. One of Rudy Giuliani's two indicted associates is tying his case now directly to President Trump. A lawyer for Lev Parnas told the judge on Wednesday that some of the evidence gathered in his client's campaign finance investigation could be a subject to executive privilege. Parnas and Igor Fruman pleaded not guilty to federal charges of making illegal campaign contributions in the U.S. in exchange for political influence. Prosecutors are also investigating whether Giuliani violated lobbying laws with his activities in Ukraine.

BRIGGS: Do you remember when then candidate Trump infamously said this?


TRUMP: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters. OK?


BRIGGS: Now it's become a legal argument for President Trump's attorneys in a case involving a subpoena for Trump tax returns. Asked about the limits in presidential immunity, the president's attorney told a federal judge the president could not be charged nor investigated if he shot someone in the street.


JUDGE DENNY CHIN, SECOND CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: What's your view on the Fifth Avenue example? Local authorities couldn't investigate? They couldn't do anything about it?

WILLIAM CONSOVOY, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I think once a president is removed from office, any local authority -- this is not a permanent immunity.

CHIN: Well, I'm talking about while in office.


CHINA: That's the hypo. Nothing could be done? That's your position?

CONSOVOY: That is correct.


BRIGGS: The judge appeared skeptical of the sweeping claims of presidential immunity. The president's attorney asked the court to block a subpoena for private financial records. The case stems from hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and another woman before the 2016 election. The matter could end up at the Supreme Court during an election year.

ROMANS: All right, this is what a trade war looks like. Caterpillar, Harley Davidson, Polaris and Hasbro, all reported to investors the trade war with China is biting. If the earnings trend everyone saw coming and warned about, and it's here. The tit-for-tat on tariffs between the U.S. and Beijing has disrupted supply chains, raised costs, squeezed margins for companies.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's, told me the higher tariffs act like a tax increase on businesses and their customers. If President Trump raises tariffs again on Chinese goods December 15th, Zandi calculated they would amount to more than $100 billion tax increase on American consumers next year. Some executives are directly blaming higher costs on the tariffs. Others blamed global uncertainty about how deep and how long the tariff regime will last.

And these tariffs will hurt shoppers. Hasbro warned it may raise prices if those December tariffs kick in. The president's trade advisers have said the economy is strong enough to absorb any disruptions from these tariffs. But CEOs would like this clarity on how and how deep this thing will last.

BRIGGS: All right, coming up here, possible war crimes by Turkey not enough for President Trump to keep sanctions on for Turkey's assault on U.S. allies in Syria. CNN live in Turkey, next.



BRIGGS: President Trump lifting all sanctions against Turkey after it agreed to end its attacks on America's former Kurdish allies in Syria. The announcement came the day after Russia and Turkey agreed to hold joint patrols on the Turkish-Syrian border.

The Kremlin moving in as the U.S. withdraws. President Trump seeming to wash his hands of future involvement in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Supposed to be a very quick hit and let's get out. And it was a quick hit except they stayed for almost 10 years. Let someone else fight over this long blood-stained sand.


BRIGGS: Just a short time earlier, the president's special envoy on Syria and ISIS voicing his concerns to Congress.


JAMES JEFFREY, U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR SYRIA, SPECIAL ENVOY TO COALITION FIGHTING ISIS: We obviously had troops there for a mission. The mission was defeating ISIS. So, if you remove those troops before that mission is complete, then you have a problem. And we do have a problem right now.


BRIGGS: Syrian envoy James Jeffrey and Defense Secretary Mark Esper both say Turkish-backed rebels have likely committed multiple war crimes.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh live for us from the Turkey-Syria border.

Good morning.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave. And of course, there's a lot of concerns when it comes to those status of ISIS, ISIS detainees in northeastern Syria. And we again have a classic case of where the president is contradicting what his senior officials are saying. On the other hand, you have President Trump saying that only a small number of ISIS prisoners escaped and that they have been mostly recaptured.


But at the same time, we're hearing from senior officials, including his top envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, who's saying that more than 100 ISIS detainees have escaped. And they don't know where they are right now.

There's been a lot of concern being voiced and rightly so about the status of the fight against ISIS. You know, you've got two issues here. One, when it comes to the actual fight. Yes, ISIS has been defeated territorially. They've lost the territory they used to control. But there's always that concern that they would be able to regroup. You've got so many sleeper cells there and the concern is that it was the Syrian Kurds who were the main fighting force on the ground. And they suspended their operations, their fight against ISIS, because of the current situation.

And then, also, there's the issue of the prisons and the camps. They're holding more than 12,000 ISIS prisoners. You've got the camps that have tens of thousands of displaced people, many of them are family members of these ISIS detainees. So the concern is, what happens now? You've got this very messy and chaotic situation and as we have seen, historically, whether it's ISIS or any extremist group, this is the kind of situation they do exploit -- Dave.

BRIGGS: 11:16 along the Turkish-Syrian border.

Jomana Karadsheh, live for us, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Two aces for the Astros. No match for the surging Nationals. Game two highlights from the World Series, next.



BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, evacuations in Sonoma County, California, ahead of the fast-moving Kincade wildfires. 1700 people and almost 600 homes east of Geyserville have been asked to leave immediately. And now a recurring nightmare for hundreds of thousands of power customers in California. The Pacific Gas and Electric cutting electricity to more than a dozen counties in the Northern part of the state to reduce the risk of wildfires. It's the second time this month that a major utility in Southern California could be following suit.

Dan Simon in Los Angeles for us.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, folks here in Northern California, once again, firing up those portable generators as PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric, once again shutting off power for thousands of people. About 180,000 customers expected to lose power this time around. And this happening because of the strong winds. Forecasters say the winds could be as strong as 60 miles per hour, enough to topple over utility poles and cause a catastrophic wildfire.

Of course, this is angering a lot of folks, angering a lot of businesses. Businesses are of course are going to lose money. And it's no fun for anybody when you lose electricity. One of the biggest critics towards PG&E for all of this has been the governor, Gavin Newsom, who has been saying that for decades, PG&E has been prioritizing profits over public safety.

In the meantime, Southern California could be impacted, as well. A couple of utilities there saying that about 300,000 or so customers could lose power over the next day or so because of the Santa Ana winds. And all this, once again a reaction to some of the state's worst and most destructive wildfires in recent years including the Camp Fire which killed 85 people last year and a PG&E power line is believed to be the main culprit in terms of what cost that wildfire.

Dave and Christine, we'll send it back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks. Dan Simon, thanks for that.

Google claims it has designed a computer that needs only 200 seconds to solve a problem that the world's fastest supercomputer would need 10,000 years to figure out. Think about that for a moment. I know it's early. In a paper published in the journal "Nature," Google tells a breakthrough in quantum computing. The new technology can manipulate much more information than regular computers, which are limited to calculations using ones and zeroes. Google says the next step is to make quantum computing practical which won't be easy. The technology could be applied to encryption, new medicines and developing lightweight car batteries.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's into center field and a couple more will score.


BRIGGS: Sizzling hot Washington Nationals heading home with a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series. The offense erupted in game two last night with six runs in the seventh inning, on the way to a 12-3 beatdown of the Houston Astros. 55 teams have raced to a 2-0 lead in the history of the World Series. 44 of them have won it all. Best performance by an Astros player or a fan, right there, Simone Biles, the Olympic champ, the greatest of all time, stuck the landing on the flip there in the ceremonial first pitch.

ROMANS: Awesome.

BRIGGS: A perfect 10 once again for Biles.


ROMANS: That's awesome.

All right, Democrats want to speed up the pace of the impeachment probe. House Republicans pull a stunt to get private hearings into public view.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a few questions. My question is, why aren't they letting us in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going in.


BRIGGS: House Republicans with a public stunt over private hearings. Now, Democrats are rethinking the pace of impeachment.


TRUMP: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters. OK?


ROMANS: That claim was ridiculed at the time. But now the president's lawyer says it's the reason he can't turn over his tax records.

BRIGGS: And breaking overnight, a fast-moving wildfire forces evacuations in Northern California. Power companies were already pulling the plug once again.