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White House Official to Defend Damaging Claims; Barr Opens Criminal Probe of Russia Investigation; U.S. Weighs Tank Deployment to Eastern Syria; Fire Threat Grows in California. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 05:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: GOP congressional sources tell us that the diplomat's deposition was so detailed and specific, and he is so respected that it has been a game-changer in the impeachment probe.

Here's Manu Raju with more.



Now, we do expect the House impeachment investigators will have a busy upcoming week and we expect a pretty significant moment next Thursday, when a top White House official, someone who serves on National Security Council, Tim Morrison, is expected to testify.

Now, he is a top Russia and Europe adviser, someone who has a lot of knowledge about what exactly happened with that Ukrainian aid. He is expected to back up the account of Bill Taylor, who is the top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine, who testified earlier this week before the House committees and said very clearly that he was told, that the president has withheld vital military aid to Ukraine in exchange for public declaration to announce investigations that could help the president politically.

In Taylor's testimony, he mentioned Morrison's name about 15 times. Expect this to be a key moment in this investigation as Democrats look to fill out their impeachment probe. But expect Republicans to push back. I'm told that there are some concerns among Republicans on Capitol Hill and the White House, but the notion that you may not have heard things in the first hand, you can only have second hand could be one area where the Republicans decide to push back. But ultimately, we'll have to see what he decides to say -- guys.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Manu Raju, thank you.

Democrats are now discussing the scope and scale of articles of impeachment and more testimony could be on the way. "The New York Times" reports attorneys for former national security

adviser John Bolton are negotiating a date for him to appear behind closed doors.

All these closed-door testimony is making Republicans angry even though it's not unusual.


JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST, FOX NEWS: As frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors -- the hearings for which Congressman Schiff is presiding -- they are consistent with the rules.

When were the rules written last? In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner. And who enacted them? A Republican majority.


BRIGGS: Good point by Judge Napolitano.

Still, Trump loyalist, Senator Lindsey Graham, introducing a resolution criticizing the impeachment process and calling for a House vote to initiate a formal inquiry.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The process you're engaging in regarding the attempted impeachment of President Trump is out of bounds and is a substantial deviation from what the House has done in the past regarding impeachment of other presidents.


BRIGGS: Senator Graham supported closed-door depositions during the 1998 impeachment inquiry into President Clinton.

ROMANS: All right. The investigation of the origins of the Russia probe is now a criminal matter. The Justice Department escalating its administrative review to give it the power to subpoena witnesses, convene a grand jury, and file potential criminal charges. This will likely raise concerns that President Trump is using the DOJ to go after his perceived enemies.

The president insists he was the victim of a deep state spy operation in 2016, a conspiracy theory the attorney general has embraced.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal -- it's a big deal.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): You're not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?

BARR: I don't -- well, I guess you could -- I think there's -- spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.


BRIGGS: The federal prosecutor has conducted some interviews in the so-called investigation of the investigators, but he has also been hampered by witnesses who declined to cooperate.

President Trump's eagerness to have the DOJ focus on his critics has caused awkward issues for the department. Officials recently said the A.G. did not know the president mentioned his name in his July phone call with Ukraine's president that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

ROMANS: All right. The vice president with a hard-line on China, a closely watched speech there, where he went after U.S. businesses he claims are siding with the communist Chinese.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly subsidiary of that authoritarian regime.


ROMANS: We have the respond from the response from the NBA commissioner next.



BRIGGS: Another potential about-face by President Trump on Syria. Two Pentagon officials tell CNN plans are now being discussed to deploy tanks in eastern Syria for the first time. A large number of troops would be needed to operate those tanks, the troops the president just ordered out of Syria.

Sam Kiley live near the Turkish/Syrian border trying to derive some strategy from the administration.

Good morning, Sam.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, I think you're absolutely right there. Embedded in your question, what is this all about?

I think ultimately perhaps from the domestic political agenda, Donald Trump is drawing some of the stings he has received from his own party and criticizing his withdrawal from northern Syria, in terms of support of the Syrian Democratic Front, and saying that they may try to reinforce preexisting American and other NATO forces that are co- located with another elements of the SDF in this oil rich southern part of Syria, near the southern end of the Euphrates River, close to the border with Iraq.


Now, this would represent a significant increase in potential firepower, if the Americans did indeed send tanks into that area. Whether or not there'd actually be any particular battlefield use is pretty much open to question because they are extremely vulnerable to manpowered -- or man-carried counter-tank rockets and others.

But nonetheless, it was -- it would be a significant gesture and a suggestion also that they want to protect these oil fields, not only from being recapture by the so-called Islamic State, where the Islamic State used them to generate income. But also, and Donald Trump said this, from being captured by the Assad regime itself, which again where the oil fields be able to return to the control of the Syrian government, again, a useful cash cow for a very cash-strapped nation -- David.

BRIGGS: Sam Kiley live for us near the Turkish-Syria border -- thank you, Sam.

ROMANS: All right. Vice President Mike Pence taking a hard line with China. He backed Hong Kong protesters, and Taiwan's democracy. He called China's military increasingly provocative. He slammed the communist Chinese treatment of Uighur Muslims.

Pence's speech closely watched as President Trump works to complete a partial trade deal.

Pence emphasized the U.S. wants to engage and not fight with China, but he laid out China's bad behavior -- intellectual property theft, Chinese fentanyl flooding the U.S., China's surveillance state.

And then, he blasted U.S. businesses for siding, he says, with China. He pointed to Nike for removing Houston Rockets jerseys from its Hong Kong stores when China complained about a tweet from a team executive.

He claimed Nike and the NBA were muzzling free speech in exchange for business with China.


PENCE: Nike promotes itself as a so-called social justice champion. But when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door.

In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of that authoritarian regime.


ROMANS: Now, worth noting, in 2017, the vice president he walked out of the NFL game after players exercised the same rights to free expression, by taking a knee during the national anthem.

Now, NBA commissioner Adam Silver responded and says the NBA stood up to China. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM SILVER, COMMISSIONER, NBA: Our core values from the first moment, to the extent that there was any doubt about that, we reinforced that those are our core values.

And I'll just say, once again, we're going to double down on engaging with the people of China and India and throughout Africa -- around the world, regardless of their governments.


BRIGGS: I also just want to note that China asked Silver to fire Daryl Morey. He said, no, he's only going to be suspended.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: NBA Hall of Famer and TNT broadcaster Charles Barkley had some words for the vice president. Listen.


CHARLES BARKLEY, RETIRED NBA STAR: Vice President Pence needs to shut the hell up, number one. All American companies are doing business in China. I don't understand why these holier than thou politicians -- if they so want to worry about China why don't they stop all transactions with China?

President Trump has been talking about and been arguing with tariffs for China for the last two years. But I think it's unfair for them to do all their business in China and just because this thing happened, try to make the NBA and our players look bad.


BRIGGS: So, a strange mix of sports and politics. Now, one, the president did not speak out in support of the Hong Kong protesters, has not yet, we believe, because of trade negotiations, right?

ROMANS: And it's interesting. The United States is in the very same position, trying to bite its tongue, I guess, on China human rights because it's trying to do a business deal with China. Although you see there, Mike Pence was the face of the administration. And he was very sharp about China.

BRIGGS: But will he have critical remarks for Boeing, for Starbucks, for Hollywood studios, for U.S. automakers, or just Nike because that's convenient?

ROMANS: The companies that make the president's ties.

BRIGGS: Or that.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the Houston Astros called the claims misleading and irresponsible. But now, an outburst toward female reporters has cost a team executive his job. Coy Wire has that story in "The Bleacher Report", next.


ROMANS: All right. Eighteen million Californians under red flag warnings as the wildfire threat intensifies.


Across the state, nine active fires are burning. A total of nearly 30,000 acres have burned. In northern California, Sonoma County, the Kincaid Fire has burned 16,000 acres and 2,000 residents are under evacuation orders. No word on what sparked it, but utility giant PG&E says a high-power line malfunctioned near the origin point around the time it began. High winds prompting power cuts to 178,000 customers, including businesses facing losses once again. PG&E says it has restored power now to 93 percent of those customers.

North of Los Angeles, the Tick Fire has burned 4,000 acres and 10,000 structures threatened. A local station was with a woman the moment she learned she lost her home.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just now -- it just lit up and I don't know if anybody is up there. I don't know if they're helping or putting out the fire. I don't know. I can see the whole structure is on fire.


ROMANS: About 50,000 people were ordered to evacuate around Santa Clarita. All L.A. unified district schools in the San Fernando Valley closed today.

Across southern California, more than 30,000 customers affected by the pro-active power shut off and more than 380,000 customers are under consideration.

BRIGGS: The Houston Astros fire their assistant manager for an outburst aimed at female reporters.

Coy Wire has that story in "The Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Coy.


This all happened while the Astros were celebrating their American League clinching win on Saturday. Brandon Taubman turned to a group of female reporters and yelled, thank god we got Osuna. That's closer Robert Osuna who served a 75-game suspension last season after being accused of violating baseball's domestic violence policy.

The team initially calls "Sports Illustrated's" reporting of Taubman's conduct misleading and completely irresponsible. But after days of investigations led by Major League Baseball, general manager Jeff Luhnow had to admit that wasn't the case at all.


JEFF LUNHOW, ASTROS GENERAL MANAGER: That original reaction by the Astros was wrong. We own it as an organization. There were many people involved in reviewing that approving that. I'm not going to get in the details of that.

It was wrong. It was the Astros' decision. That's where I'm going to leave that.


WIRE: The team also apologized to the Stephanie Apstein, the "S.I." reporter who broke story. Taubman conceded he used inappropriate language and he was embarrassed by his behavior.

Now, it's not only the major distraction during the World Series. Umpire Rob Drake is apologizing for a tweet about buying an assault rifle and calling for a civil war if President Trump is impeached. Shortly after the tweet, Drake deactivated his Twitter account. In a statement sent to ESPN's Jeff Passan, drake said, quote, once I read what I had tweeted, I realized the violence in those words and have since deleted it. I know that I cannot unsay the words. But please accept my sincerest apologies, unquote.

The umpires union says Drake chose the wrong way to convey his opinion.

Let's go to the NBA, the last NBA MVPs were on the floor in Houston last night. Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks taking on Rockets James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The new power couple looks like an old married couple at times. The stars are in a passionate exchange into the game. The reunion off to a rocky start, they combined for just 43 points. Giannis had 30 on his own as Houston falls 117-111.

Washington, the other city involved in the World Series, also saw one of their other pro teams lose last night, as quarterback Kirk Cousins was on fire in his first game against his former team. Just three incompletions. Minnesota wins 19-9, and they have now won four- straight. They're rolling.

All eyes, though, in D.C., will be focused on the Nationals tonight. They brought their 2-0 lead over the Astros in the World Series to the nation's capital. President Trump says he may go to Sunday's game five, Dave, if it gets that far.

The cheapest tickets for tonight's game are going for 1,000 bucks. It's for standing room only. You know, they're going to break out the best walkup song in baseball, with "Baby Shark." That place is going to be rocking.

BRIGGS: Oh, man, it is quite a scene from the dugout to the stands there.

By the way, President Trump says he won't throw out the first pitch. A lot of folks would like to see him finally do that.


Not going to happen.

Coy Wire, enjoy the weekend, my friend.

WIRE: You too.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, guys.

BRIGGS: Would you like to see him throw out a first pitch, Romans?

ROMANS: Sure, sure. You know I love baseball.

BRIGGS: I know you do. I know.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-five minutes past the hour. He was on the phone call that sparked the impeachment probe. Now, a top White House official is ready to support damaging testimony against the president.


BRIGGS: Take a look at this incredible video of a Phoenix woman saving the lives of a couple pushing a baby stroller. She T-boned a driver who barreled through a red light in a Jeep and was about to run the family over.