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White House Official Will Confirm Key Testimony; U.S. Weighs Tank Deployment To Eastern Syria; California Fighting Nine Major Wildfires. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 25, 2019 - 05:30   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: -- a baby stroller. She had t-boned a drunk driver who barreled through a red light in a Jeep and was about to run the family over.

Police are calling Shannon Vivar an angel in the form of a Chevy Cruze. She says she's no hero -- it was unintentional but, quote, "meant to happen."

Twenty-eight-year-old Ernest Oveso was taken into custody after a foot chase and processed for DUI.

EARLY START continues right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A top official inside the White House ready to back up damaging impeachment testimony. Who he is and what he knows.

BRIGGS: An investigation of the Russia investigators now a criminal matter. Is the president misusing the Justice Department?

ROMANS: Eighteen million Californians under an increased fire threat. Nine big fires now burning. One of them sparked near a broken power line.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, 5:30 on a Friday. Happy Friday, everybody.

We start with the latest from the nation's capital. Incriminating testimony in the impeachment inquiry soon to be confirmed by a witness inside the White House.

Tim Morrison is a top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council. He was on the call that sparked the impeachment probe. His testimony planned for next week would be the first from someone who heard the call directly.

Sources say he will corroborate key elements from the deposition of the top diplomat in Ukraine.

ROMANS: That diplomat, Bill Taylor, testified President Trump pressured Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Joe Biden and his son before the president would release U.S. military aid.

Taylor's testimony is reverberating among Republicans on Capitol Hill. GOP congressional sources telling us the diplomat's deposition was so detailed, so specific, and he is so respected it has been a game changer in the impeachment probe.

BRIGGS: Democrats are now discussing the scope and scale of potential articles of impeachment and more explosive testimony could be on the way.

"The New York Times" reports attorneys for former national security adviser John Bolton negotiating a date for him to appear behind closed doors.

All the 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.


ROMANS: Still, Trump loyalist, Sen. 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): 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.


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

BRIGGS: 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 says he was the victim of a deep state spy operation in 2016, a conspiracy theory the attorney general has embraced.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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 some spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.


ROMANS: 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.

BRIGGS: All right, more on all this ahead. Plus, Joe Biden had sworn off super PACs, but his campaign making a radical shift as his war chest things.



ROMANS: A top adviser on the National Security Council expected to testify to the House impeachment inquiry committees next week. Sources say he will corroborate key elements of the testimony by the career diplomat who confirmed a quid pro quo in the Ukraine scandal.

Let's bring in "Washington Post" White House correspondent Toluse Olorunnipa, live this morning for us in Washington. Nice to see you this morning.

BRIGGS: Good to see you, sir.

ROMANS: All right. There have been so many impeachment developments this week I feel like we just to kind of pause for a second and reflect on where we are.

We have heard from Bill Taylor, Marie Yovanovitch. We're going to hear from this gentleman named Tim Morrison next week.

If the president is tweeting "Where is the whistleblower and why did he or she write such a fictitious and incorrect account of my phone call with the Ukrainian president? Why did the I.G. allow this to happen?

Who is the so-called informant? Who was so inaccurate? A giant scam!"

I feel like outside of the whistleblower there have been so many first -- you know, first-person sources about what happened. Do we -- do we still need the whistleblower?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, we have seen much of the original whistleblower report confirmed by various people who were involved in the Ukraine dealings. And, Democrats are saying they no longer need the actual whistleblower to testify.


We have seen the president putting pressure on the whistleblower -- basically, intimidating this anonymous official. And, Democrats do not want to put this person in danger. They don't want this person to have to testify publicly since they've already provided a lot of information that has formed the basis of the impeachment inquiry.

And since we have seen people from the State Department and now, even from the White House -- from the NSC -- confirming or about to confirm what the whistleblower originally said about the president pressuring Ukraine and this quid pro quo to get political investigations in exchange for military aid, it's not clear that the whistleblower is needed to testify.

We've already seen the roadmap in the whistleblower report. That roadmap has been followed by Democrats on the committee. And the various people who have testified have confirmed a lot of the things that were in the original report.

BRIGGS: "The New York Times" reporting that John Bolton could be soon to come.

Quote, "Among the star witnesses who could deliver explosive public testimony in front of live television cameras could be John Bolton, the president's former national security adviser, who has been described in testimony as alarmed by what appeared to be pressure on the Ukrainians by Mr. Trump and his allies."

How would that be a game changer in this process?

OLORUNNIPA: That would definitely be a game changer. You heard a lot of Republicans early in the process saying the whistleblower had second- of third-hand information. Well, John Bolton would have definitely firsthand information.

And some of the testimony that we've seen so far indicates that John Bolton was very concerned about what was happening with the Ukraine deal. He had tried to take a hands-off approach. He had even told his -- told his advisers I do not want to be a part of this, quote, "drug deal" between --


OLORUNNIPA: -- what's happening with the president's closest advisers and Ukraine.

And if he was concerned about what was going on from the inside of the White House he would be able to fill out some of the holes in this testimony and provide some of the details about what was happening behind closed doors.

ROMANS: Republicans, meanwhile, continue to complain about the process, even though the process is pretty standard right here.

BRIGGS: The John Boehner process.

ROMANS: Right. The -- they complain about the process, not necessarily the facts behind this case.

And also, there is this investigation of the investigators -- another kind of tact has been to focus on the investigation. The original investigation, investigating the investigators, now a criminal probe.

Is there some concern here that the president has weaponized his DOJ?

OLORUNNIPA: There's a lot of concern definitely among Democrats that the president is using the DOJ to pursue his political benefit.

There is -- it would be unprecedented, really, for the Justice Department to be investigating itself over what appeared to be by all accounts a legitimate investigation into ties between the Russia government -- Russian government and the Trump campaign.

We saw multiple ties back in 2016. We have multiple people close to the Trump administration who either lied about their connections to Russia or were involved in some relations with Russia, and some of them have even gone to jail since then.

So to say that this probe was illegitimate or that it was founded based on an attempt to undermine the presidency or undermine his campaign, it doesn't necessarily pass the smell test. But we'll have to wait and see what the Justice Department finds as it investigates itself.

This is definitely a political benefit for the president who selected an attorney general who he wanted to pursue his political enemies -- pursue the idea that he was framed and that this entire Russia probe was a witch hunt that was illegitimate from the start.

BRIGGS: Toluse, long Friday for you, man. World Series in 14 hours. You got tickets?

OLORUNNIPA: Go, Nats. I'll be watching it on T.V. like a lot of us.

BRIGGS: All right, me too, buddy. Enjoy the weekend. Go, Nats!

ROMANS: All right, good luck, Toluse.

OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, a major reversal by Joe Biden. Just a month ago, in New Hampshire, Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No super PACs. No money at all coming from people that you don't know where it's coming from.


ROMANS: Well now, the Biden campaign has dropped its resistance to the creation of an outside group. The campaign is facing big fundraising shortfalls. It spent more in the third quarter than it took in.

But solving the problem this was could create complications in a primary fight where some of Biden's rivals are railing against outside money.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't need a super PAC. I am not going to be controlled by a handful of wealthy people. I will be controlled by the working people of this country.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no room for political action committees or super PACs. There's no truth to the idea that corporations are people and money is speech.


BRIGGS: Moments ago, the Biden campaign out with a plan to grow the middle-class by strengthening unions. Biden promises to check the abuse of corporate power and make it illegal to classify workers as independent contractors.

In other 2020 news, Rep. Tim Ryan dropped out of the 2020 race. His campaign failed to gain much traction in a large field of better- financed, better-known Democrats. Ryan will, instead, run for reelection to his Ohio congressional seat.

Not running for reelection to the House, Tulsi Gabbard. The Hawaii congresswoman says she's all in on the White House bid despite the fact that she's hovering around one percent.


ROMANS: All right.

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

Now, 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 flood the U.S., China's growing 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.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: All right. NBA commissioner Adam Silver responded this way.


ADAM SILVER, COMMISSIONER, NBA: You've adhered to 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.


ROMANS: I mean, maybe he has supported the team exec, but didn't China wanted that executive fired? The NBA did not do that.

BRIGGS: I would argue Silver supported him more so than the Rockets' owner. And I think he's been very strong in pushing back -- walking that tightrope here.

Here's what NBA Hall of Famer and TNT broadcaster Charles Barkley had to say to the vice president.


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: Charles believes that companies should put profits and business first. Look, this story is not over. It's an interesting collision.

ROMANS: It is.

BRIGGS: Daryl Morey continues to say no comment. He's the Rockets' G.M. show started all this with a now-deleted tweet.

ROMANS: And the vice president, Mike Pence, has said there's no effort underway to decouple the U.S. from China, but he was very critical. He was the China hawk yesterday --


ROMANS: -- for this administration.

All right, here's what to watch today.


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ROMANS: Confusion surrounding the president's strategy on Syria. First, the president ordered U.S. troops out of Syria. Now, two Pentagon officials tell CNN there is discussion of deploying American tanks in eastern Syria for the first time. A large number of troops would be needed to operate those tanks.

Nick Paton Walsh live from Erbil, Iraq with the latest developments -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it isn't clear, Christine, exactly how this deployment will look on the ground.

There have been discussion -- potentially, as well -- about no using tanks, which you might say is overkill but would certainly provide a lot of protection for that small number of U.S. troops somewhat stuck out on their own in the southeastern part of Syria around those oil fields. But they could also possibly send lighter Bradley armored fighting vehicles.

But this is not the reduction of U.S. footprint, necessarily, that President Trump initially advertised and it is the ultimate consequence, really, of sending troops to protect these oil fields. Bear in mind, oil is not a big deal for the U.S. in Syria. It isn't a strategic reason to be there but it seems to be a reason that the commander in chief likes that would permit this continued presence of 200 to 300 troops there or so.

They will also continue to fight against ISIS with their colleagues across the border in northern Iraq -- in Iraq, in Kurdistan. And the Iraqi government have made it quite clear they think that contingent is passing through on its way out.

So, a complex presence here complicated, frankly, by the White House's decision to pull troops back and allow this Turkish incursion that has led to this continued mission against ISIS in much worse tactical circumstances.

Another question, too, on U.S. officials' plate are the persistent allegations of war crimes against Syrian rebels backed by Turkey levied directly by the most senior Syrian envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey. You said he believed that war crimes are being committed and the U.S. secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, saying that Turkey could be held accountable because it is backing these groups.

Turkey has denied this. It said much of it is misinformation. Says they are investigating some of these alleged atrocities.

But still, great tension with NATO because of how this has played out -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, thank you so much for that. Nick Paton Walsh for us in Erbil, Iraq.

BRIGGS: All right.

Back here, 18 million Californians under red flag warnings. Nine active wildfires across the state -- nearly 30,000 acres have burned.

In Northern California, Sonoma County, the Kincade Fire has burned 16,000 acres. Two thousand residents under evacuation orders. No word yet what sparked it but utility giant PG&E says a high-voltage power line malfunction near the point of origin.

High winds prompting power cuts to 178,000 customers, including businesses facing steep losses, once again. PG&E says it has restored power to 93 percent of those customers.


ROMANS: North of Los Angeles the Tick Fire has consumed close to 4,000 acres. Ten thousand structures are threatened.

A local -- a local television 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: About 50,000 people were ordered to evacuate.

Across Southern California more than 30,000 customers had their power shut off proactively, and more than 380,000 customers are under consideration for that.

BRIGGS: The final farewell to longtime Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings. His funeral will be held today in Baltimore and former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will be among those eulogizing Cummings, who died last week at age 68.

Yesterday, Cummings' body was lying in state at the U.S. Capitol. He is the first African-American lawmaker to receive the honor, which is typically reserved for presidents.

ROMANS: Let's get a check -- Friday edition of "CNN Business."

Taking a look around the world you can see markets pretty much mixed. European shares opened a few hours ago slightly lower, but not dramatically so.

In the U.S. right now, futures barely moving -- directionless, I would say, to end the week. Stocks ended mixed Thursday, also pretty directionless. The Dow down just 28 points. The S&P and the Nasdaq rose slightly.

But a lot of movement within individual stocks because it's earning season.

Twitter plunged nearly 21 percent. The platform attracted users in the third quarter but struggled to sell advertising to market to them.

3M fell four percent due to a weak outlook. Sales are expected to be under pressure in China.

Amazon is spending a lot of money to deliver your packages faster and that's hurting its profits. Profits down nearly 28 percent -- $2.1 billion is the final tally in the third quarter. That's the first profit decline since 2017.

Shipping costs for the quarter nearly $10 billion. Look how much -- that's up 46 percent from the year earlier.

The investment comes as Amazon Web Services, one of its key profit drivers, is experiencing slower growth. CEO Jeff Bezos said that investment will be worth it in the long run.

BRIGGS: A rough week off the field for Major League Baseball during the World Series.

The Houston Astros announcing assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was fired for an outburst at female reporters after the Astros won the ALCS. Taubman was celebrating the acquisition of a pitcher who had previously been suspended 75 games for violating Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy.

The team initially called the reporting on Taubman's conduct misleading and completely irresponsible.


JEFF LUHNOW, GENERAL MANAGER, HOUSTON ASTROS: That original reaction by the Astros was wrong and we own it as an organization. There's a lot of really talented female journalists in baseball and other sports and journalism in general, and I hope that continues. And there's no reason to think that this is a setback, I hope.


BRIGGS: I'm not sure that will quiet the critics.

But it's not the only Major League distraction during the World Series. Umpire Rob Drake apologizing for a tweet about buying an assault rifle and calling for a civil war if President Trump is impeached. Drake says he especially wants to apologize to every person who has been affected by gun violence.

The Umpires Union says Drake chose the wrong way to convey his opinion.

And before we go, Stephen Colbert revealed something last night on "LATE NIGHT" -- that he had never --

ROMANS: Oh, no.

BRIGGS: -- seen the movie "Shawshank Redemption," which blew my mind until this one.

ROMANS: I've never --

BRIGGS: Christine Romans revealed the same.

ROMANS: I've never seen "Shawshank Redemption."

BRIGGS: Nor "Forrest Gump."

ROMANS: Yes, I have not seen those two movies. I'm sorry.

BRIGGS: So what do you do when people say life is like a box of chocolates or quote either movie? Do you just chuckle along?

ROMANS: Well, I know the cultural references because they're everywhere, but I have not seen those movies.

I am a little bit of a contrarian. When something is -- when people say you have to do something, sometimes I don't do it.

BRIGGS: You have to see them this weekend. It's your duty as an American. "Forrest Gump" and "Shawshank Redemption."

ROMANS: I have to wrap and not see that movie this weekend. BRIGGS: Tweet my friend, Christine Romans --

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us.

BRIGGS: -- please.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. I've seen all the "Star Wars" movies 25 times.

BRIGGS: Whatever.

I'm Dave Briggs. Here's "NEW DAY." Have a good weekend.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We do expect Tim Morrison will appear before House investigators next week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the first time this has actually reached the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill Taylor's testimony was devastating to the president. We expect Morrison to corroborate parts of it.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN, PENNSYLVANIA: If the facts are not on your side -- well, then, you argue process and procedure. That's what's happening here.

GRAHAM: I'm not here to tell you anything other than that the way they're going about it is really dangerous for the country.

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): My message to Sen. Graham is you stay in your lane. It seems as though when the president says jump, they ask how high.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, October 25th. It's 6:00 here in New York.

And new this morning -- what's the word I'm looking for -- flurry, bevy --


BERMAN: Panoply.

CAMEROTA: Plethora.

BERMAN: Deluge.