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GOP Shows Public and Trump They're Fighting for Him; Trump's Lawyer Says Trump Couldn't Be Charged for Shooting Someone; U.S. Envoy Says Turkey May Have Committed War Crimes in Syria; Utility Company Begins New Round of Blackouts Amid Wildfire. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 24, 2019 - 04:30   ET



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

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

Nerd alert. It's a good story but, you know, quantum computing.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: So it's a lot for 4:30 a.m. Eastern Time. I'm Dave Briggs.

We start in the nation's capital. House Democrats looking to pick up the pace 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.


BRIGGS: GOP lawmakers stormed the secure hearing room, stalling the proceedings for five hours. Note that about a quarter of them actually sit on these committees. They were entitled to be there without busting in. 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.

ROMANS: 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 concern 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.

Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly has more on the political mellow drama on Capitol Hill.

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. Thanks.

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 instead 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 --

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): 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 --

BROOKS: You should not be relying on it.

RAJU: Why should I not be relying on a public testimony?


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' testimony --


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.


ROMANS: 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 aid 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, pressure to publicly launch investigations that could help Mr. Trump's re-election prospects.

BRIGGS: 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 subject to executive privilege.

[04:35:02] 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.

ROMANS: All right. Remember when then candidate Donald Trump said this?


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?


ROMANS: Well, now it's become a legal argument for President Trump's attorneys in a case involving the subpoena for Trump tax returns. Asked about the limits of presidential immunity, the president's attorney told a federal judge the president could not be charged or even 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.


ROMANS: 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. This whole case stems from those 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.

BRIGGS: President Trump's so far imaginary wall apparently now extends well beyond the border with Mexico.


TRUMP: And we're building a wall on the border of New Mexico and we're building a wall in Colorado. We're building a beautiful wall, a big one that really works, that you can't get over, you can't get under.


BRIGGS: A wall in my home state of Colorado. Those of you who haven't been --

ROMANS: It's called the Rocky Mountains.

BRIGGS: Show you Colorado on the map. Yes, they have the Rocky Mountains out there. So, Colorado does not share a border with Mexico. Perhaps the president misspoke. Who knows?

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy evoking Sharpie-gate on Twitter. Here's some border realignment. Well done. This from Colorado Governor Jared Polis, "Well, this is awkward. Colorado doesn't border Mexico. Good thing Colorado now offers free full-day kindergarten so our kids can learn basic geography." Youch.

ROMANS: All right. WeWork's former CEO is getting a gigantic payout. Now its staff waiting to hear their own fate. As part of Softbank's deal to rescue WeWork, Adam Newman, the founder, will get the ability to sell up to millions in stock back to Softbank, $500 million for a loan, and $1 million consulting fee. Before the deal is formally announced, reports of its details raised concerns for WeWork employees.

One employee told CNN Business staffers sent dozens of messages discussing the reports in internal Slap Chatroom channels. One message suggested Newman should consider splitting his payoff with his staff. Another included the hashtag wegotplayed. In e-mail, WeWork's new executive chairman Marcelo Claure told a staff, "We have a lot of work ahead of this. This work won't be easy. The path won't always be smooth but we will prevail. No excuses." In that e-mail, he determined there will be an undetermined number of layoffs.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, new sanctions on Turkey lifted by the president even though two top officials say Ankara may have committed war crimes in Syria. CNN is live in Turkey, next.



ROMANS: All right. President Trump lifting all sanctions against Turkey after it agreed to end its attacks on America's former Kurdish allies in Syria. Now 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 just wash his hands of future involvement in Syria.


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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Just a short time earlier, the president's special envoy on Syria and ISIS voiced 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.


ROMANS: All right. 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 near the Turkey-Syria border.

And I think it's so important to remind people the president is taking credit for asking Turkey to end its attacks. But the attacks are there because the U.S. essentially gave the green light in a phone call with Erdogan a couple of weeks ago.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And that is what everyone is saying, Christine, that yes, maybe the commander of the Syrian-Kurdish fighters is thanking President Trump for that pause in fighting. But it was his phone call, essentially, that allowed that offensive to go ahead.


And then, there's all these questions about taking credit for what is a very chaotic and messy situation right now. And the big concern right now is that you've got extremist groups, especially ISIS, that would want to take advantage and exploit this chaotic situation. We have seen these groups in the past do that. You know, there's concern when it comes to the prisoners and the detainees that the Syrian Kurdish fighters have. They have about 12,000 fighters, about 2,000 of them foreign fighters from different countries. And yes, right now, they are secured in detention facilities by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

And, you know, President Trump saying a small number only escaped and that the majority of them have been recaptured. But that contradicts what we've heard from his senior administration officials that say that there are hundreds ISIS fighters who have escaped, ISIS prisoners, and they don't know where they are. So there's a lot of concern about that. Of course Turkey saying it will not allow ISIS to regroup and President Trump saying, well, the Syrian Democratic Forces are going to make sure that ISIS doesn't regroup. They're also going to be securing these facilities and Turkey is going to be the backup plan. But the situation is far more complex on the ground when you have the

Syrian Democratic Forces' facilities not in the area of operations for Turkey. You have the Syrian regime coming in. So a very messy and chaotic situation that many would say ISIS is really going to benefit from all of this -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much for that for us on the border, though, this morning.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, speedier deliveries in tech and stores. What major retailers are doing to prepare for the holiday season. CNN Business, next.



BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, evacuations in Sonoma County, California, ahead of the fast-moving Kincade wildfire. Already up to 5,000 acres, 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 a major utility in Southern California could be following suit.

Here's Dan Simon in Los Angeles.

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 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. Dan Simon, thank you for that. So, lawmakers grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for six hours on

Capitol Hill Wednesday. Sometimes haltingly, sometimes stammering, he defended Facebook's controversial Libra cryptocurrency plans. He faced tough questions about the company's policy of not fact-checking political ads ahead of the 2020 election.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK CEO: From a business perspective, the very small percent of our business that is made up of political ads does not come anywhere close to justifying the controversy that this incurs. On principle, I believe in giving people a voice. I believe that ads can be an important part of voice.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): You plan on doing no fact-checking on political ads?

ZUCKERBERG: Chairwoman, our policy is that we do not fact-check politicians' speech.

WATERS: Let me be clear, you do no fact-checking on any ads? Is that correct?

ZUCKERBERG: Chairwoman, what we do is we work with a set of independent fact-checkers who --

WATERS: Somebody fact-checks on ads? You have -- you contract with someone to do that? Is that right?

ZUCKERBERG: Chairwoman, yes.


BRIGGS: Good stuff there, back and forth. Zuckerberg said Facebook will fact-check ads after someone reports them. Later Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez challenged Zuckerberg with this hypothetical.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Would I be able to run advertisements on Facebook targeting Republicans in primary saying that they voted for the Green New Deal? I mean, if you're not fact- checking political advertisements, I'm just trying to understand the bounds here. What's fair game?

ZUCKERBERG: Congresswoman, I -- I don't know the answer to that off the top of my head. I think probably?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: So you don't know if I will be able to do that.

ZUCKERBERG: I think probably.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?

[04:55:05] ZUCKERBERG: Well, Congresswoman, I think lying is bad. And I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie, that would be bad. That's different from it being -- from -- well, in our position, the right thing to do to prevent your constituents or people in an election from seeing that you had lie.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: So we can -- so you won't take down lies or you will take down lies? I mean, it's just a pretty simple yes or no?


BRIGGS: Zuckerberg also said deep fakes, videos where images of public figures are altered to mislead, are clearly an emerging threat. The video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi manipulated to make her seem drunk for example was viewed millions of times earlier this year.

ROMANS: All right. The FDA wants stronger warnings for breast implants. They say manufacturers need to make women fully aware of the possible risks, the possible complications from breast implants. Officials are recommending a boxed warning on labelling materials as the agency's strongest warning. It's generally used to alert consumers and health care providers to serious risks associated with drugs or medical devices. The FDA also proposing patients considering breast implants review a decision checklist that outlines the risks with their doctors.

BRIGGS: Google claims it's designed a computer that needs only 200 seconds to solve a problem that world's fastest supercomputer would need 10,000 years to figure out. In a paper published in the journal "Nature," Google touts 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.

Can we get it on our cell phones?


BRIGGS: That's all that matters, right?

ROMANS: I already use like 1 percent of my cell phone technology.

Let's check on CNN Business this morning. Looks like leaning higher around the world for global markets. On Wall Street right now, futures barely moving higher here. That's 50 points on the Dow. I would call that waiting for direction.

Look, for the major averages yesterday, the Dow was up 45 points. The S&P also finished slightly higher, as well. Again, this barely moving treading water is really what the stock markets have been doing the last couple of days. Because we're focusing on earnings here.

Ford posted strong third quarter earnings but it warned investors it doesn't expect to do as well in the fourth quarter. Ford said facing --- challenges it's facing include higher than planned incentives to attract North American car buyers and lower sales in China.

Look at Tesla. Tesla shares popped here after a surprise profit. Tesla made money. $342 million for the third quarter. Analysts expect it would post a net loss, its biggest, $257 million. Tesla said it delivered 97,000 cars. Outpacing deliveries it made the two previous quarters. But it still faces the same challenges facing other automakers, slowing economic growth and trade tensions.

In the race for holiday shoppers, major retailers are promising speedy deliveries and technology in stores. And with six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, retailers are starting their sales early. That's why you are seeing the Christmas trees already. They want to draw shoppers away from Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy. They're offering next-day delivery. Walmart is outfitting some workers with mobile checkout scanners to ring up customers on the spot. Now, despite lingering trade tensions with China, the National Retail Federation estimates retail sales in November and December could grow as much as 4.2 percent.

BRIGGS: When is Christmas music officially allowed?

ROMANS: I mean, I think after Halloween?

BRIGGS: To you.

ROMANS: I'd like it to be after Thanksgiving.


ROMANS: But if there's six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, then I guess you've got start at Halloween.

BRIGGS: I would like not until December but that's just wishful thinking on my behalf.

Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. I'm not Grinch, by the way. I like Christmas.

For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.


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? (END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

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

Nerd alert story there.

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, October 24th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.