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House Democrats to Hold Public Hearings in Impeachment Inquiry; Japan's Imperial Couple Greeted by Thousands; "Unprecedented" Fires in Australia's New South Wales; Orangutans Threatened As Borneo Rainforest Burns. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 10, 2019 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome, everyone, live from Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Michael Holmes.

And ahead here on CNN, NEWSROOM Republicans issue their wish list for the impeachment testimony. We'll explain why they probably will not get what they want.

Bush fires in Australia leading to a warning of catastrophic fire danger.

And the royal treatment: Japan's new emperor and empress parade through the streets of Tokyo.


HOLMES: A warm welcome, everyone.

Adam Schiff, the U.S. House Democrat leading the impeachment inquiry, is saying that the whistleblower, whose complaint launched the whole thing, will not be called as a witness. Republicans had included the whistleblower as one of the witnesses that they wanted to question publicly in those hearings that are upcoming.

But in a letter to the Republicans, Schiff said the whistleblower's appearance was unnecessary because the facts of the complaint had already been corroborated by multiple witnesses; in some cases, exceeding the original allegations.

Schiff also cited the danger of public testimony, writing, quote, "In light of the president's threats, the individual's appearance before us would only place their personal safety at grave risk."

Well, the whistleblower's attorneys said they offer to provide Republicans with written answers to their questions under oath is still on the table. Meanwhile, President Trump says he wants to release a transcript of an April phone call he had with Ukraine's president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Now they want to have a transcript of the other called, the second call and I'm willing to provide that. We will probably give it to you on Tuesday, Monday being a holiday, we will probably give it to you on Tuesday but we have another transcript coming out which is very important. They ask for it and I gladly give it.


HOLMES: Well, Republicans say they also want to grill Hunter Biden went public hearings get underway, he of, course is the son of the former U.S. vice president and was on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Democrats are almost certain to turn down that request.

For a recap on the whirlwind developments of the past, week here now is CNN's Tom Foreman.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a hoax. It's a disgraceful thing. It's a witch hunt. It's a crooked deal.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Against an ever-growing army of witnesses raising alarms about the Ukraine scandal President Trump is throwing haymakers.

TRUMP: I mean, for the most part I never even heard of these people. I have no idea who they are.

FOREMAN: Dismissing the bit players attacking the big names.

TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi is a corrupt politician. Shifty Schiff is a double corrupt politician.

FOREMAN: At the Capitol, however, the allegations of presidential misconduct continue gaining momentum. In a dramatic reversal of his early statements largely favorable to Trump, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland now says he recalls telling the Ukrainians resumption of U.S. military aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement we have been discussing."

In other words, another top diplomat, Bill Taylor says he was told for the White House to release the military aid it was withholding from Ukraine, the Ukrainian president would have to go to a microphone and say he's opening an investigation into Joe Biden and 2016 election interference.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): All of the witnesses agree that the president engineered a shakedown of the Ukrainian government.

FOREMAN: Other witnesses raised their own concerns about the transactional nature of the now infamous call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. The former top Russia advisor said she was shocked by the blatant push for investigations. An aide to Vice President Mike Pence said the call was not normal but political. A State Department official accused the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani of waging a campaign of lies against the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, to get her removed from her post and out of the way.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.

FOREMAN: the NSC top Ukraine official, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said he understood acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was coordinating a trade.


FOREMAN: Ukraine would launch the investigations in exchange for meeting Trump.

Sondland just said that he had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney and this is what was required in order to get a meeting. Mulvaney like some others says he won't testify. His lawyer citing absolute immunity. The White House is dismissing all the proceedings as even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham. More Republicans howl for the whistleblower who triggered the probe to be unmasked. The whistleblower's lawyer sent the president a letter demanding he stop attacking his client. He didn't take.

TRUMP: The whistleblower is a disgrace to our country. He should be sued and maybe for treason.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don't mean any disrespect but it must suck to be that dumb.

FOREMAN: At a Trump's rally jabs at Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others drew huge cheers. But closer to the hearing rooms as the evidence mounts, Republican lawmakers are mostly dodging questions about the president's behavior. And when they tried to explain it -- well.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine it was incoherent. It depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo.

FOREMAN: The response from Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's extraordinary. The only thing missing in Lindsey Graham's defense is an insanity plea. Which actually might work better than an incompetence plea.

FOREMAN: And the president --

TRUMP: Despite all that, we are kicking their ass.

FOREMAN: Precisely who is kicking whom is debatable. But this is not the full context. Politics will only get more intense when the impeachment inquiry hearing goes public next week -- Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: CNN legal analyst Ross Garber joins us now from New Orleans.

Good to see you again, Ross. Donald Trump says he will release the transcript of a second call with the Ukrainian president.

What do you make of that?

It seems like it is a bit of a distraction. We would have learned from the last one not to release something that isn't completely innocuous.

What do you make of it?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think you've probably hit the nail on the head, that as you've noted, we've got live hearings with testimony coming up next week.

The plan of the president is to release this transcript of the eve of the first set of testimony, so I think it is likely that this transcript from much earlier is probably pretty innocuous and it probably is intended as a distraction.

HOLMES: And also, you had Donald Trump again saying that the testimony is all third hand knowledge. It is not, is?

It how compelling to you is the case?

GARBER: Yes, so the whistleblower, it seems, did not know anything firsthand but, yes, we have now heard firsthand testimony from people interacting with Ukrainians, from people interacting with high-level U.S. officials.

Perhaps what he means is, there is not much testimony from people who interacted directly with him but again, not no testimony, testimony from a U.S. ambassador to interact with the president on issues way to Ukraine.

HOLMES: And, also his chief of staff refusing to testify. I mean, the Republicans gave their list of witnesses that they would like to call at these public hearings and it is interesting.

You can see the politics in play, can't you?

I, mean the whistleblower, former vice president Joe, Biden; his son, Hunter, what do you think is the strategy there?

It would seem that the president's favorite conspiracy theories are the focus.

GARBER: Yes, so the list, as you noted, is very interesting, although not that surprising. I think there are a few levels of politics going on. The first is one of the things we're going to hear from the Republicans over and over the next few weeks, is that the process, the impeachment process here in the United States, is not fair and it's not thorough.

And so what this list of witnesses is intended to do in part is to sort of support that theme, because, as you noted, the Democrats are not going to call Hunter Biden, for sure, and many of the other witnesses on the list. That will give the Republicans the talking point that the process was not fair or adequate.

The second thing it's going to do is to start to build what the president wants to be the factual defense, that he was legitimately concerned about corruption in Ukraine, was legitimately concerned about potential interference by Ukrainians in the 2016 election. And that is what some of those names are intended to get to.

And the third thing, which is interesting is, as you know we have these two part system here in United States where impeachment, the charges are brought by the House of Representatives, the lower house.


GARBER: But then the trial is in the Senate. And so this list of witnesses is intended to send a message, about who the Republicans, who control the Senate, might call in a Senate trial if the president is impeached.

HOLMES: And Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, had not been shown to do anything improper. Got to leave it there, unfortunately. Ross Garber, thank you very much for your time.

GARBER: Good to see you again, Michael.

HOLMES: Donald Trump spent Saturday afternoon far away from Washington and appeared at a college football game in Alabama.

Mr. Trump has a large and loyal base of supporters across the U.S. South, including Alabama. You can hear roars of approval as he and the first lady were introduced to 100,000 people there for the game.

Among the guests with the Trumps was Republican congressman Bradley Burn. He is running for the U.S. Senate seat once held by the former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions. Alabama lost the game to the LSU Tigers, by the way. That is not a bad thing.

Not too far from the football stadium, protesters had gathered, along with the Baby Trump balloon. You may remember that. It has appeared all over the world in places where Mr. Trump has visited.

But the floating parody did not survive long. It quickly deflated after someone ran up and cut a large gash in it with a knife. A local news outlet reports that an arrest was made.

Well, here is the latest in a long line to sit on Japan's chrysanthemum throne. The latest on the emperor's enthronement parade coming up.

Also, we will have this: firefighters in Australia struggling to get a hold of dozens of bush fires. More danger coming thanks to the weather, we will have a forecast for you a little bit later. Stay with us. We will be right back.




HOLMES: The emperor Naruhito and the empress of Japan greeting their subjects in a parade through the streets of Tokyo a couple of hours ago. The royal event celebrating his enthronement last month but the parade was delayed initially. The original one was delayed because Japan was hit with a deadly typhoon.

For, more CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Hong Kong.

You pointed out last hour that as with most things, Japanese, it went out without a hitch in terms of organization. Give us your sense of what it means for, Japan the importance of this and where the emperor goes from here.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the final of five key ceremonies that have taken place, to finish the transition if you, will from the emperor emeritus Akihito, who abdicated in April to the new emperor Naruhito and empress Moscow, who married in 1993 and has spent almost 30 years practicing, if you will, for this role.

And they carry a very heavy burden to represent Japan as a symbol of the state and the, people it's the kind of job that the emperor was born into. But the empress, she was the daughter of a diplomat. She herself, a promising diplomat, Ivy League educated, who gave up her modern life, if you will, for the much more carefully guarded and in controlled existence of living behind the walls of the imperial, palace.

It is a big, job it can be a stressful job not in terms of necessarily what you can do but what you can't. You give up a lot of freedom when you are a member of Japan's imperial family. You have hundreds of bureaucrats who are responsible for making sure everything you do goes exactly according to plan.

And there is very little freedom to move around within the confines of that role. But the challenge facing emperor Naruhito and empress Moscow will be to kind of find ways to break out of that mold and to make themselves more accessible, much like emperor Akihito did when he ascended to the chrysanthemum throne and became known for his connection with regular Japanese people, especially in times of disaster, in times of national grief and perhaps most famously after the 2011 nuclear meltdown, tsunami and earthquake that really, Japan is in some ways still recovering from.

That was a pivotal moment for emperor Akihito to bond with the Japanese people and for Naruhito, recently had his own moment after the supertyphoon that struck Fukushima prefecture and actually caused the delay of the parade that we saw earlier today. And so the Japanese emperor finding ways to remain relevant and

modern but also to adhere to some 1,200 years of tradition in what claims to be the world's longest running and oldest hereditary monarchy.

HOLMES: Thanks, Will Ripley covering this for us, appreciate it. Thank you very much there in Hong Kong.

Well, an endangered species facing a fiery threat. When we come back, we will find out how humans are putting Borneo's orangutans at risk.




HOLMES: Tropical cyclone Matmo has made landfall in eastern India, packing wind gusts of up to 120 kilometers per hour. It came ashore in the Indian state of West Bengal late on Saturday night.

Authorities in neighboring Bangladesh say a half million people were evacuated before the tropical cyclone hit. The threat of flooding from heavy rain expected to continue in the region through Sunday.

Authorities in Australia warning of what they call catastrophic fire danger later in the week as firefighters battle an unprecedented number of bush fires raging through parts of the eastern side of the country.

More than 70 fires burning in New South Wales alone, 50 more threatening people further north in Queensland. Officials say at least three people have died and in New South Wales, 150 homes have been destroyed. Let's get the latest now on the dangerous conditions.



HOLMES: In Indonesian controlled Borneo, one of the world's most endangered animals is facing a renewed threat to its survival. Forest, fires largely, man-made are putting orangutans on the island at great risk. And as the fires burn and deforestation increases, orangutan populations plummet. CNN's Ivan Watson with more.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grinding battle deep in the jungle. Firefighters on the Indonesian island of Borneo struggle to control a forest fire that threatens a national park.

WATSON (on camera): This is just brutal, brutal work they're doing here.

WATSON (voice-over): Toxic smoke in the tropical heat. KRISYOYO, LAHG SEBANGAU PATROL UNIT MEMBER: The outbreak in here, almost two weeks already in here. Stay in here. Sleep in here.

WATSON (on camera): The rainforests in Indonesia are burning. Firefighters have been battling this blaze for weeks. And at its peak this summer, there were thousands of similar fires in other parts of the country. The fighting on the ground and in the air.

WATSON (on camera): These are aerial firefighters and right now, we're on a water-bombing mission.

WATSON (voice-over): Helicopters dump giant buckets full of water on the flames.

WATSON (on camera): Bombs away.

WATSON (voice-over): Firefighters say this crisis was ignited by man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the fire coming, I think from human, yes.

WATSON (on camera): You think humans started this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course.

WATSON (voice-over): An unusually dry summer fuels this inferno, visible from space. The haze engulfed cities in neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia, while in Indonesia, the smog closed airports and schools, creating apocalyptic skies.

This doctor saw panicked civilians flood his hospital. Indonesian authorities estimate about a million people suffered respiratory problems.

DR. KEVIN SUTRAPURA, PALANGKARAYA HOSPITAL: The air that we have, it is not toxic like this because not everyone can enjoy a fresh air.

WATSON (voice-over): The forest fires also threatening one of Asia's last great rainforests, home to orangutans, symbols of an entire ecosystem under threat.

WATSON (on camera): This is Poppy and she's a 1-year-old example of one of the world's most endangered species. Right now, she's attending a class in jungle school.


WATSON (voice-over): Activists from the Centre for Orangutan Protection take orphaned animals and teach them to survive and hopefully, one day return them to the wild.

As Borneo's rainforests shrink, the orangutan population has plummeted.

FLORA FELISITAS, VETERINARIAN, CENTRE FOR ORANGUTAN PROTECTION: The threat is deforestation maybe because of illegal logging or like conversion of the forest to make building or something by human and also for the forest burning.

WATSON (voice-over): These activists also rescue and relocate orangutans stranded by mass deforestation. The clash between man and nature on display when an ape confronts the heavy machinery ripping down its home.

And this is what's replacing much of Borneo's jungle -- sprawling plantations of palm trees, Indonesia's most lucrative cash crop.

Palm fruit like this makes a vegetable oil used in around half of all household products sold in your neighborhood grocery store. As palm oil exports ballooned over the last 20 years, so did the Indonesian territory used to grow palms. It's now bigger than entire countries, like England or Greece.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's now way out of our control in Indonesia.

WATSON (voice-over): Even this industry insider is calling for a stricter government regulation of the palm oil industry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we just do it halfway we should always expect this forest and land fire in the future.

WATSON (voice-over): But this cash crop has also lifted millions of Indonesians out of poverty -- people like this farmer.

"Before I grew palms, I couldn't even afford to feed my children chicken," he tells me. "Farming palm, I've been able to buy a TV and a refrigerator."

The cheapest way to clear land for farming is to burn it. The government says it's trying to crack down on these manmade fires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For us, forest fire is a serious crime.

WATSON (voice-over): Officials show me how they use thermal satellite imagery to detect fires to then prosecute palm oil companies. They say they've opened cases against 21 companies in the last four years, but some activists fear it's too little too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Please put out the fires.

WATSON (voice-over): Ramadhani (ph) is trying to reintroduce a rescued orangutan named Michelle to the wild. But the island halfway house where she now lives is in the shadow of a growing coal mine. Yet another industry, yet another threat.

Michelle's protectors fear that in 20 years' time there may be no forests left for these incredible animals -- Ivan Watson, CNN Indonesian Borneo.


HOLMES: A sobering report there from Ivan Watson.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. I will have your news in a minute.