Return to Transcripts main page


WH Ukraine Expert to Testify He Reported Concerns Over Trump Call; New Details from U.S. Raid Targeting Baghdadi; Raging California Fires Force Thousands to Evacuate; Apple Unveils New AirPods. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 29, 2019 - 04:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: In just a few hours, a key witness set to tell the impeachment inquiry what he heard on the president's call to Ukraine's leader. He says that phone call was so disturbing he reported it twice.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: New details about the raid that killed the founder of ISIS. Kurdish-led allies played a key role in the lead up to the operation.

ROMANS: Hundreds of thousands of Californians now under evacuation orders as fires rage. The National Weather Service says it could get worse.

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

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs, 4:34 Eastern Time here on a Tuesday.

We begin with breaking news in the impeachment inquiry. A top White House Ukraine expert will testify today that he heard President Trump ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was on the July 25th phone call between the president and Ukrainian President Zelensky, says he was so troubled he reported his concerns to superiors at the National Security Council twice.


ROMANS: CNN has obtained a copy of Vindman's opening statement in which he says: I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and I was worried about the implications for U.S. government's support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play, which undoubtedly would result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security. BRIGGS: Vindman says he is not the whistle-blower, but he is the

first person who was on the call which is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry to testify before Congress.

His opening statement will also address language used by E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland. He says: Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short. I stated to Ambassador Sondland that his comments were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push.

ROMANS: All right. This stunning new development comes as House Democrats announced the next step in their impeachment inquiry, setting up a vote later this week to formalize impeachment procedures.

We get more from CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.



Now, House Democrats taking a significant step making it very clear that they're prepared to move in a more public posture in this impeachment inquiry, setting a vote for later this week that would set the ground rules for what that next phase of this inquiry would look like -- public hearings, the release of transcripts, the release of a report, and also how evidence will be shared with the House Judiciary Committee.

And that is significant because the House Judiciary Committee is the panel that will first take a crack at voting on articles of impeachment against the President of the United States. And that is expected to happen potentially in a matter of weeks as the Democrats press forward on this investigation and plan to move forward on public hearings.

Now, Republicans have been demanding for some time a vote to formally authorize an impeachment inquiry. Now, they say that this resolution simply falls short of what they have been demanding. But, Democrats say that it is not actually authorizing any impeachment inquiry. They say they don't even need to do that.

But nevertheless, they are in some ways calling the president's bluff in his refusal -- the White House's refusal to provide information, turn over documents, and try to prevent witnesses from coming forward.

Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told me they still plan to conduct more closed-door depositions -- several more scheduled for this week -- some have been subpoenaed for next week -- and then we can see that more public phase before Democrats push to potentially impeach this president this fall or even this winter -- Christine and Dave. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: OK, Manu, thanks.

The White House is responding to the move on impeachment by House Democrats. The press secretary in a statement calling it unauthorized, secret and shady.

Kaitlan Collins has more from the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dave and Christine. It didn't take the White House long to respond to this latest development on Capitol Hill. But, privately, we're hearing from officials who have been insisting still even behind-the-scenes they do not believe this was a legitimate impeachment inquiry, they believe this could actually put them in a bind if these votes with these procedures do move forward and you see these hearings happening not behind closed doors in the basement as they have been but instead out in the public for everyone to see and on camera.

I want to see what these officials current and former are actually saying. The benefits for the White House is they will be able to have someone present in the room as these examinations, these depositions are happening and they could question these witnesses themselves. They will also likely be able to get their hands on the evidence so far Democrats have been gathering.

Right now, they say they have not been able to do that. But we should stress, the bottom line here is the White House is waiting to see exactly what it is Democrats are going to do before they take any further steps essentially publicly beyond that statement from the press secretary.


BRIGGS: Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

2020 presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris, heads back to Iowa for a town hall this evening. And during a late night appearance Monday, she told Seth Meyers about a candid campaign moment in which her conversation with Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono revealed her passion for the Hawkeye State.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I was at the capitol, you know polls go up and down, right? And so, I saw Mazie (ph) as I was walking down the stairs. It was she and I, or so I thought.

And so, I see Mazie, she gives me a hug, Kamala, how are you doing? I'm like, Macy (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Iowa.

People are -- they show up at events. They are serious about love of country. They are going to eye ball you. They want to know, are going to talk, you know, in a way that is relevant. It's good stuff.


BRIGGS: Also, fellow 2020 Democrat Beto O'Rourke talking to the "Daily Show's" Trevor Noah about his showing in the polls.



TREVOR NOAH, HOST, DAILY SHOW: Are you where you hope to be in the presidential race?

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I would love to be doing a lot better. That's for sure.

I wish that enthusiasm and dedication was reflected in the polls. To answer your question, I don't think the polling reflects the passion and the commitment and the resolve of our supporters from all over the country. I really feel it.


BRIGGS: Most recent CNN polling has Beto O'Rourke at just 3 percent.

ROMANS: All right. Streaming wars are heating up. AT&T hosting a presentation today to introduce new streaming service, HBO Max. The brand name and spring 2020 launch window have already been announced. Shows like "Friends" and "West Wing" will be available to watch.

But the company has held back other details. It hasn't said how much it will cost or what will happen to HBO's existing streaming service, HBO Now. AT&T said it will spend $2 billion on HBO Max the next couple of years. It's hoping to have 50 million subscribers by 2025.

And there is a crowded field out there, companies like Netflix and Hulu have a head start. Others are trying to find their way into this business. Apple is launching its own streaming service called Apple TV Plus. That begins Friday.

Disney will also launch a similar service in mid-November. AT&T CEO said the product is a result of breaking down divisions within Time Warner, the media company previously had three separate brands, HBO, Warner Brothers and Turner.

AT&T, of course, is the parent company of CNN.

BRIGGS: Ahead here, hundreds of employees of Facebook protesting the social media company's policy on political ads. They say Facebook is not protecting its users. What Facebook has to say in response, ahead.


[04:46:23] ROMANS: Brand new details emerging about the military operation that target ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Officials say six enemy fighters were killed in a raid and that Baghdadi's remains have been buried at sea.

Meantime, another key defense figure is contradicting President Trump's account of Baghdadi. Remember the president he was whimpering and crying before his death.

But here's what General Mark Milley says about those details.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Certainly, I was asked that same question yesterday. I know that the president had planned to talk to you unit and unit members. So -- but I don't know what the source of that was. I assume it was directly talking to unit members.

REPORTER: You haven't talked to any unit members that described to you.

MILLEY: I have not talked to unit members, no, that's correct. I've talked to the commanders, CentCom, and others, but not down to unit members.


BRIGGS: Defense Secretary Mark Esper also said Monday he doesn't know the source of the comments. Other officials say it would be impossible for President Trump to hear that on the feeds he watched. General Milley also said images of the raids will be released in the coming days.

As for now, President Trump HAS declassified a photo of a dog he says was involved in the raid. The president said its name, however, is still classified and an official said the dog suffered electrocution injuries but is recovering.

ROMANS: Also, a senior State Department official is now saying Syrian Democratic Forces played a key role in the Baghdadi raid. The Kurdish-led U.S. allies helped the U.S. defeat ISIS but their relationship now tenuous at best after the Trump administration announced a U.S. troop withdrawal in Syria, opening the door to a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held areas.

Turkey and Russia expected to start joint patrols along much of the Turkish and Syrian border as early as today.

Let's go back to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He is in Erbil, Iraq, with more.

And, Nick, there's a U.S. version of events but you're hearing more details are emerging from where you are about who helped this U.S. military raid and who got so close to Baghdadi that they were able to be the human intelligence on the ground. NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We

got a little extra detail out of the Pentagon yesterday. Donald Trump having divulged quite a lot, frankly. Remember, he too also thanked Russia, Turkey and Iraq, authoritarian governments there before he thanked the Syrian Kurds. He said they played a role.

The Syrian Kurds said actually and not been confirmed by U.S. officials they provided the ISIS informant who was inside Baghdadi's inner circle that said where the compound was, gave details of it, even stole Baghdadi's dirty underwear and a blood sample so the Americans can do DNA testing to make sure it was Baghdadi in the compound. That, of course, is the Syrian Kurds are trying to remind people they played a key role in the defeat of ISIS, losing over 10,000 sons and daughters in the bloody ground campaign to get rid of what ISIS called their caliphate.

But at the same time, too, the Iraqis through a senior intelligence official are saying they, in fact, assisted in tracking down key Baghdadi aide two months ago, arrested on the outskirts of Baghdadi. Mohammed Ali Sajet is his name, and apparently, his arrest led to a courier whose wife had documents that pinpointed where Baghdadi was.

Obviously, this key moment in the Middle East right now many countries blighted by ISIS, a lot of people want their hands potentially on the final results or show their hand in how it came through. The U.S. tight lipped so far how they came to find Baghdadi. It was incredibly close to the Turkish border certainly, an area where al Qaeda are known to be very strong.

There's a lot of questions to answer there. But now, the key question is whether or not the cease-fire a key moment for which comes today at 6:00 when the Syrian Kurds have to pull back 30 kilometers from the border and Russian and Turkish patrols pick up.


We'll have to see how smoothly that goes. Back to you.

ROMANS: Nick Paton Walsh for us in Erbil, thank you so much, Nick.

About 50 minutes past the hour, Facebook employees voicing concern over the company's policy towards political ads. "The New York Times" reports hundreds of employees signed a letter to Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives criticizing the decision to allow politicians to essentially lie in ads that run on the social network.

BRIGGS: The letter says, quote: Our goal is to bring awareness to our leadership that a large part of the employee body does not agree with this policy. It doesn't protect voices but instead allow politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.

They suggest changes to the political ad policy including holding campaign advertising to the same standard as other ads.

Facebook responding to the employees' letter in a statement saying: We remain committed to not censoring political speech and will continue to explore additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads.

ROMANS: President Trump slamming the second city on his first visit to Chicago as president. Here's some of what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Police officers of Chicago, and I know some of them. They are the most incredible people. They can solve this problem quickly. It's embarrassing to us as a nation all over the world, they are talking about Chicago. Afghanistan is a safe place in comparison.


ROMANS: That was part of a blistering attack on Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Johnson boycotted the president's address said it was not in his or the city's values.

BRIGGS: One of those critical of the president's comments, 2020 Democratic frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden. He told the "Chicago Sun-Times," Donald Trump is in Chicago spewing lies, embracing hate and dividing the country. But regardless of his attempts at distraction, people in Illinois remember that he's threatened their health care time and time again.

The Biden comments, one of the tougher tones he's taken against President Trump in recent weeks.

ROMANS: More than 400 murders this year in Chicago. There is seriously an issue, a problem but those numbers are down over the past few years.

All right. People said AirPods looked like electronic toothbrushes when they came out. Now, Apple is unveiling a premium version. CNN Business is next.



BRIGGS: While you were sleeping, Arnold Schwarzenegger told Jimmy Kimmel about he tricked '80s rival Sylvester Stallone into doing the forgettable movie, "Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot".


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: Hollywood knew that I was wanting to get out just doing action movies. So they came to me with this other movie and -- I've forgotten what it was called.


SCHWARZENEGGER: "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot" -- exactly. That's right.

And so, I read the script and it was a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And so, I said to myself, I'm not going to do this movie.

So then, they went to Sly and then Sly called me and he says, hey, have they ever talked to you about this movie? And I said, yes, I was thinking about doing it. I said, this is a really brilliant idea, this movie.

And so, when he heard that -- because he was in competition, he immediately called them and says, look, whatever it takes, I do the movie. So he did the movie.



SCHWARZENEGGER: The movie went major into the toilet.


ROMANS: Major into the toilet.

All right. Let's get a check on CNN business this morning. Take a look at global markets.

You can see a little bit of a retreat in some of the -- in some of the markets around the world here after a couple of good days. Asian stocks closed mix. Investors riding developments after the U.S. and China reached a phase one trade deal they say are getting close to signing that. On Wall Street, futures are down a little bit. Mixed I would say. Stocks closed higher yesterday.

Outside of trade news, investors saw earnings from companies like Google's parent Alphabet. It reported higher ad revenue despite regulatory scrutiny. Still, it missed investor expectations in part because of losses on its investments.

Juul is planning to cut 500 workers. According to "The Wall Street Journal", the company's new chief executive said it is undergoing a necessary reset. It's facing a proposed ban on flavored e-cigarettes. That category makes up 80 percent of its sales in the U.S. Juul is trying to fix it's difficult relationship with regulators. Many blamed it for a rising teenage vaping.

It's also the subject of several federal investigations, including a criminal probe by California prosecutors. The company has little over 4,000 total employees.

Apple released a new high end version of its AirPods yesterday. The product will have a new design, new features like noise cancelling technology and also comes with a higher price tag. The premium version will cost $249, 90 bucks more expensive than the current AirPods.

Apple said the AirPods are the best selling head phones in the world. And while it wouldn't say how many it has sold, CEO Tim Cook has previously called the demand phenomenal. The new model will hit stores tomorrow.

BRIGGS: How long will they last? The last ones I hear two to three years. They're done.

ROMANS: So, I have a problem with losing things, right? So, 250 bucks for something I'll lose that's very small is a problem for me.

BRIGGS: I'm with you. I'll leave them on a plane somewhere.

Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

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


ROMANS: In just hours, the White House Ukraine expert is set to testify in the impeachment inquiry. He says he was so disturbed by White House request for investigation into Biden, he reported it twice.