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WH Ukraine Expert to Testify Today; New Details from U.S. Raid Targeting Baghdadi; Raging California Fires; Astros One Win Away from World Series Title. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 29, 2019 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: New details about the raid that killed the founder of ISIS. The key role America's Kurdish allies played in identifying al-Baghdadi.

ROMANS: Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated as massive fires threaten California. It could get even worse today.

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

BRIGGS: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs. Tuesday, October 29th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

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. He says he was so troubled by it, 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 to testify before Congress.

His opening statement will also address language used by E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland. He says, quote: 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.

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.

More now from Manu Raju.



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.


ROMANS: All right. Manu Raju in Washington.

On Wall Street, a record high for the S&P 500, the first record in three months. A gain of 21 percent for the S&P 500. Most of those gains coming earlier in the year. Stocks have been near highs last week after the trade representative said it was close to a trade deal with China.

President Trump yesterday said the U.S. is ahead of schedule in terms of the deal, and probably sign it. He tweeted about the record in stocks as well. He said this is a big win for jobs, a 401(k)s and everyone.

The U.S. and China reached an agreement a couple weeks ago. Again, this is the first step for a bigger deal. It's good news for investors, yes, but the agreement falls short of the big, comprehensive course correction that the president was looking for.

This deal, this phase one deal is said to include Chinese purchases of American ag goods and agreements on intellectual property. Investors will now turn their focus to the Federal Reserve meeting that starts today. The Fed is expected to lower interest rates for the third meeting in a row. That decision will be announced tomorrow, along with the latest GDP numbers.


And this Friday, we'll see job numbers for October. There's a lot of information about how strong the economy is.

BRIGGS: Fed cut?

ROMANS: It looks like it, 25 basis points.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the parents of slain ISIS hostage, Kayla Mueller, are speaking out.


MARSHA MUELLER, MOTHER OF SLAIN ISIS HOSTAGE: This has been going on for so long I'm not sure about the last 48 hours for me. I'm just searching for Kayla.


BRIGGS: Their reaction to al-Baghdadi's death, next.



BRIGGS: 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 as whimpering and crying before his death.

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.


ROMANS: And 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 the 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.

BRIGGS: 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.

Nick Paton Walsh live for us in Erbil, Iraq, with more.

Nick, good morning.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, interesting to remember that during that press conference, Donald Trump even recognized the fact that while he was effectively green lighting the Turkish incursion in Syria, he was also being briefed on how the operation against Baghdadi closing in. Startling that he didn't see one could possibly negatively impact the other.

But there are U.S. allies at this point without, I must say, U.S. confirmation, trying to suggest how they played a seminal role in tracking down Baghdadi, the key U.S. ally who has lost sons and daughters on the ground trying to kick out ISIS and their caliphate. They are saying that, in fact, it was they that got hold of a mole, an ISIS informant in Baghdadi's inner circle, who seemed to have access to the compound itself, able to draw detailed plans of it and indeed take from it, dirty underwear, belonging to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the blood sample, unclear how they got both.

But at the same time, it seems to have enabled the Americans to do a DNA match. Remember, Baghdadi was held by the U.S. in Camp Bucca in Iraq over a decade ago. So, possibly, that's the DNA has emerged from. As I say, unclear in the U.S. will ratify that version. That seems to be the Kurds trying to remind the world of the key role they played in kicking ISIS back to its reduced position now.

Another country that's been seminal to that fight, Iraq, a senior intelligence official saying, there was aid to Baghdadi, Mohammed Ali Sajet who detained in the outskirts of Baghdad two months, who led into a courier, whose wife had documents that led to location of Baghdadi, again, unconfirmed. But there's been a flurry since his death. A lot of it in a town in the north of Syria, also an area on the heavy Turkish influence like Idlib, where Baghdadi was killed.

We know that there, according to U.S. officials, it's likely that the most senior successor and a spokesperson for ISIS, Abu Hassan al- Muhajir, was, in fact, killed by U.S. air strike. They seem to be working fast on the intelligence they've got. And the ISIS leadership, shattered by the loss of its key figure.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: A lot of details there.

Nick Paton Walsh for us in Erbil, Iraq -- thank you, Nick.

ROMANS: The parents of American aid worker Kayla Mueller is speaking out about al-Baghdadi's death. Kayla was held hostage by ISIS and killed in 2015.

Here's what the Muellers told Fox News.


M. MUELLER: This has been going on for so long I'm not sure about the last 48 hours for me. I'm just searching for Kayla. I was glad that he blew himself up, that no one killed him from our side.


ROMANS: The Muellers also added they hope the mission can shed some light on their unanswered questions.


CARL MUELLER, FATHER OF SLAIN ISIS HOSTAGE: Our hope is to seize this moment and this moment is the fact that al-Baghdadi has been killed, some of his lieutenants have been captured, and we are hoping that they have the information we've been seeking. That is who killed Kayla, where was she killed and where was she buried?


[05:10:03] ROMANS: The operation that targeted Baghdadi was named after Kayla Mueller.

And remember, she was there to help children -- to help children, to work in the hospitals, visiting Doctors Without Borders when she was kidnapped.

BRIGGS: I can't imagine her parents.

All right. Ahead here, Houston could become title town tonight. The Astros one win away from the World Series glory.

Carolyn Manno has that story in "The Bleacher Report", next.

Good morning, my friend.




ROMANS: The raging California wildfires could get worse today, with winds picking up, putting 25 million people in the middle of a red flag warning.

Let's go to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Christine.

The opportunity here for the firefighters to get the upper hand is going to be in the next 12 hours, as winds are expected to pick up again, not only across northern California but also across southern California, the cross portions of the south. Talking about a pretty widespread coverage here, be it the north or the south, about ten active fires around the state of California right now. You work your way into areas around Los Angeles, work your way towards Malibu, winds 50 to 70 miles per hour. That's later tomorrow night to tomorrow morning.

Humidity is expected to drop below 10 percent yet again. So, this is explosive fire weather across this region, that will allow conditions to continue and potentially to grow over the next several days. And you notice, the temperatures also want to warm up with the offshore winds in store, as high as the middle 80s a across southern California. Now, that's the story there.

Across the eastern U.S., we've got multiple fronts beginning to push through with it. Much colder air on the horizon, and heavy rainfall across the Gulf Coast States, but even some Midwestern snow to be had. In fact, the forecast across Chicago on Halloween, snow showers, highs only at 36 degrees. A gradual warming trend into Friday.

But still, a pretty cool temperature trend there across the Windy City -- guys.

BRIGGS: All right. OK. Pedram, thank you.

The Miami Dolphins snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Steelers on Monday night football.

Carolyn Manno, I didn't write that. Good morning.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I was confused by it, as well. I think I get what you're getting at.

BRIGGS: How is tanking going for the Miami Dolphins? They are working hard at it.

MANNO: You said it, not me.

Listen, they opened the game with the best quarter of football we've seen all season. But the key is in the details. Just a quarter, the Dolphins splashing cold water in the face of anybody that thought an upset was remotely possible, certainly after that. The first 15 minutes were glorious. Miami's defense came out swinging. Howard's interception, led to a touchdown.

Looking good so far. Dolphins up early, 14-0. But things started to unravel before halftime. This is under a minute to go. Steelers within in field goal range, Dave. No defense in sight. The rookie, Johnson. They blitz. He heads to the end zone.

The Steelers quarterback, Mason Rudolph, settling in as the game progressed, 26 yards to score. Pittsburgh scored 27 unanswered points. The Dolphins are winless. That's all I will say. They're winless.

Meantime, after a brutal 0-2 start to the season, the Golden State Warriors, no longer winless. The team never trailed against the Pelicans. They led by as many as 29 throughout the fourth quarter. Steph Curry and DeAngelo Russell leading their way on offense against New Orleans. Curry finished with a team-high 26 points on the 11- point win.

The team's best shooting performance of the season was enough to leave Curry and Russell skipping with joy as they begin a four-game home stand tomorrow, where the three best friends (INAUDIBLE).

Russell Westbrook, facing his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunders for the very first time, after a trade that reunited him with James Harden in Houston. He was all-business from the moment he took the floor. Nice chemistry. Less than a minute remaining in the game, finds him in the corner for a three. Westbrook, 21 points in Houston's four-point win.

After the game, he downplayed the significance of that particular match-up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUSSELL WESTBROOK, HOUSTON ROCKETS GUARD: This is how it goes. When I hoop, I have no friends. On the court, they know not to talk to me. Steven is a close friend of mine. Inside the lines, there's no friends. Spalding, that's my friend and my teammates, that's it.


MANNO: And the Houston Astros have a chance to win their second World Series championship in three years tonight. There's going to be a familiar face in the crowd, besides our own Andy Scholes, who has been doing due diligence. Jeff Adams, becoming a legend on Sunday night, when he took a home run off the chest, rather than giving up his two beers.

Bud Light, of course, tracking him down, offering to send him to tonight's game six in Houston.

Not sure where he will be sitting. But he should be pretty easy to find. He's going to be wearing a t-shirt of himself, with the caption, always save the beers.

Good on Bud Light for finding him right away. He's got to be out there, among the people.


He's got to be among the people. Don't put that guy in a suite.

BRIGGS: You have to be near a home run. He's a World Series legend. Jeff -- legendary, Jeff. Thank you, Manno. Good to see you, my friend.

MANNO: You're welcome.

ROMANS: Always save the beers.

A key White House expert set to testify today on Capitol Hill. He will tell investigators he was afraid that Trump's demands to Ukraine's president could undermine U.S. national security. More details, next.


ROMANS: One of the parents sentenced in the college admissions scandal is breaking his silence, saying he feels there were no victims of his crime.