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Israel: About 190 Rockets Fired Out of Gaza Tuesday; What to Expect When Public Hearings Convene; Trump: Deal 'Could Happen Soon' If It Benefits U.S.; Impeachment Inquiry Public Hearings Hours Away; Rockets Fired at Israel after Killing of Islamic Jihad Leader; Dozens of Homes Destroyed in Australia Fires. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired November 13, 2019 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause, live from Studio 7 at CNN World Headquarters.

Coming up this hour on CNN NEWSROOM, hours away from public impeachment hearings, Republicans decide on the best defense for the president: ignore the facts, disregard his confession and plea he did not really mean to do anything wrong.

Bolivia has a new self-declared leader, Madame President Jeanine Anez now wearing the presidential sash but it seems the previous owner wants it back.

And counting the cost of unprecedented bush fires in Australia. Residents returned to where their homes stood just a day ago.


VAUSE: The public case for the impeachment of U.S. president Donald Trump begins just a few hours now on Capitol Hill. House Democrats will try to build a narrative that the president committed extortion, bribery and coercion by withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations of his political rivals.

Two career diplomats will be the first witnesses. Bill Taylor and George Kent have already testified behind closed doors. President Trump is tweeting his defense already, saying this ridiculous impeachment is a travesty, it's not an inquiry. Just read the transcript. Republicans are raising their defense of the president, which has been laid out in a detailed memo. Alex Marquardt begins our coverage.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): With historic impeachment hearings just hours away, Republicans are now outlining four broad arguments to defend the president.

They first argue that the transcript of the July 25th call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky showed no conditionality or pressure to announce investigations into the Bidens before getting anything in return.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We know there was nothing wrong in the call transcript. We got the two guys on the call who said there was no pressure, no pushing, no quid pro quo.

MARQUARDT: But on the call, when the Ukrainian president asks for military aid, Trump says, "I would like you to do us a favor, though."

Trump makes it clear he wants Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and a conspiracy theory about Democrats and the 2016 election.

Zelensky responds, "I guarantee, as the president of Ukraine, that all of the investigations will be done openly and candidly."

Second, the GOP argues both presidents have said there was no pressure.


MARQUARDT: Before Zelensky took office, a source told CNN that he and his aides had a meeting in which they discussed the pressure they were already feeling to open investigations that the Trump administration wanted. And there was $400 million in aid on the line.

Third, when the president spoke on July 25th, Republicans say the Ukrainian government was not aware the aid was being held up. But it wasn't just about aid. The Ukrainians wanted a White House meeting as well and it was made clear to them in multiple conversations with the president's team before that call they would not get it unless they launched investigations.

Finally, they argue the aid was released and the Ukrainians got the meeting without Ukraine launching investigations.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): When the aid was released, was there anything that was ever given to this president or the American people on behalf of any connection to releasing that aid?

And the answer is no.

MARQUARDT: The aid was released on September 11th, only after the hold had been reported and there was pressure on the White House, including from Republican senators.

And it was just two days before President Zelensky had planned to announce the investigations that Trump wanted.

Those arguments will be on full display on Wednesday, when the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Ambassador Bill Taylor and his boss, George Kent, testify in front of the cameras alongside each other. To prepare, Republicans held a mock hearing on Tuesday, with Republican congressman Lee Zeldin playing the part of Chairman Adam Schiff, who will start the questioning.

Taylor and Kent have both said already that, even as Rudy Giuliani conducted a shadow policy on behalf of the president in Ukraine, they were told it was the president's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who was directing Trump's envoys to tell the Ukrainians everything depended on the investigations.

"So, if they don't do this," Taylor was asked, "they're not going to get that was your understanding?"

Taylor responded "Yes, sir."

This first open hearing will be gaveled into session at 10:00 am Eastern time.

Ambassador Bill Taylor, who is the most senior diplomat in Ukraine, and his boss, George Kent, are going together, because Democrats are saying that the two men were witnesses to the full scope of the president's misconduct.

Then next, on Friday, will be Marie Yovanovitch. She, of course, is the former ambassador to Ukraine.


MARQUARDT: She was recalled by Trump in May after what she called a concerted campaign against her. Democrats say she is the first victim of the president's scheme -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: David Katz is a former assistant U.S. attorney from Los Angeles and he joins us now from Los Angeles.

David, thanks for coming in. A lot to get to this hour. So along with those four talking points aimed at undermining the evidence against the president, the website Axios reports that the plan for Republicans is to try and explain essentially what was in the president's head.

This is part of the memo. To appropriately understand the events in question and most importantly assess the president's state of mind during his interaction with Ukrainian President Zelensky, context is necessary. That is taken from a staff memo circulated last night.

How do you see this tactic playing out?

Essentially what they're saying, don't focus on tangibles like evidence, witnesses, confessions but look at intention and motive.

DAVID KATZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, I was an assistant U.S. attorney here in Los Angeles with Adam Schiff. And when you prosecute people with overwhelming, evidence which is what House intelligence chairman Schiff is going to start doing tomorrow morning, you can present enough evidence that, after a while the person has a videotape of them committing the, crime they have their fingerprints and about all their defense attorney can say at that, point if they don't want to just plead guilty and obviously Trump does not want to surrender, he does not want to give up his office like Nixon ultimately had to do, is to say, well, my heart was pure.

That was not what was going through my mind. I know it looks like I'm awfully guilty here.

But Trump has a few other problems, besides, I don't think people, even his supporters,, think he has what you would call good intentions or he is not like a mellow fellow who does things kind of -- what is he going to say, that he does things he does not know what he's doing?

That will not look good with his base. He's supposed to be this omnipotent, always in charge guy.

So he's also got the problem that is conduct does not fit with that and he said out loud, he said right out, I want the Chinese to help. He said right on the rough summary that we have of the conversation and there is a witness to it, but I want a favor, though.

So you can argue that what's in your mind is pure and everything coming out of your mouth and everything you're doing is bad, it just does not add, up John.

VAUSE: Yes, Colonel Vindman who is the Ukrainian expert in the White House, he said that when that "favor" was translated by the Ukrainians, it was roughly translated into the world "demand," which adds to all of this.

There is another strategy we could see from Republicans on Wednesday, the questioning of the firsthand accounts and secondhand accounts. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're relying on people like Bill Taylor as the star witness he was going to tell us something that is third or fourth and information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said what he heard. You are saying that is not admissible?


VAUSE: So it is all about hearsay. This is not a criminal trial but, even in criminal trials, there are exceptions to the rule against not allowing hearsay.

KATZ: Well the clearest exception is an admission. You have an admission by the person who is accused, which is Donald Trump. He admitted those things out of his own mouth.

Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is going to come in in his uniform, explain how he won the Purple Heart and risked his life for decades for this country. And he's going to say, I was sitting, there along with nine or 10 other people. I heard Trump make those statements.

An admission has never been hearsay. This argument about process is a total loser. This is what they stormed the secure SCIF of the House about and it is really all nonsense.

Even tonight, chairman Schiff announced he is going to call three of the witnesses that Republicans asked for, who actually make sense and who know something. What Schiff and the Democrats are not going to do is to run down some rabbit hole over what supposedly happened in 2016, which, whatever happened in 2016, the point is not that Trump really wanted to look into corruption. I think nobody really believes that.

He wanted something to be ginned up on Biden or Biden's son, too, and the worst of it is that he wanted to put this new Ukrainian president in what he called a public box. He actually wanted him to go on CNN on September 13th. He would've been on CNN, caving in and going along with this really dastardly quid pro quo, this extortion.

He would've been giving this bribe of something of value, political fodder for Trump in the next election, except the whistleblower became known. And the senators, even the Republicans, yelled. And I believe the Republican senators who yelled then, I've always said this, are people of honor. They're going to look at the polls. They're going to see what the public wants.

I don't think that the trial, which is going to occur, is a foregone conclusion. I think it's going to be a nail biter.

VAUSE: Very quickly, it seems maybe the least bad defense option was voiced by the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, during an interview with NBC. Here it is.



NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I think it's never a good practice for us to ask a foreign country to investigate in America, it's just not a good practice.

Having said that, there's no insistence on that call, there are no demands on that call, it is a conversation between two presidents that's casual in nature. And you know it's just hard to find anywhere the president of Ukraine would've thought funds were being held and that he had to do this.


VAUSE: You, know it's not a great argument but at least it's an argument that maybe you could make something out of but the can't go down that road because Trump refuses to admit the call is anything but perfect.

KATZ: On top of, that it's going to blow, up because it's not just the call but it is the whole context. It's the fact that they are holding back the money, it is the fact ambassador Sondland now finally admitted in a retraction that he did speak to one of Zelensky's top aides and said, you are not going to get that money until you come through with that political favor for Trump.

It's Giuliani meeting in Madrid with another aide to the head of the Ukraine. None of this makes any sense. And if the shoe were on the other foot, the Republicans would be screaming so loud, you would hear it right here in our studios, if Obama had done this or someone else. This is an outrage.

VAUSE: We're almost out of time. But very quickly, an exclusive report in "The New York Times," surprising pretty much no, one I guess, about President Trump, "has discussed dismissing the intelligence community's inspector general Michael Atkinson because Mr. Atkinson reported a whistleblower's complaint about Trump's interactions with Ukraine to Congress after concluding it was credible."

Apparently Trump saw the IG as being disloyal. All that rings true, really, given the president history.

Does it add anything to the argument of the president's state of mind and his motive?

KATZ: I think it may be another article of impeachment, just like telling the witnesses like Bolton and people from the National Security Council and from the Budget Office not to come testify to defy Congress. It will be other articles of impeachment.

But this by itself is terrible, again, it is the hypocrisy; the Republicans screamed and yelled when a lower ranked official, a lower ranked inspector general was dismissed by Obama. They screamed and yelled and this is obviously reeking of political retaliation. It's, you brought bad news as was is your duty. You followed your duty, you did not kiss my ring. I'm the king.

He is not a king. There is a rule of, law, a balance of, power, a separation of powers and this gentleman Atkinson was merely doing his duty. He would've been derelict, he would've been in trouble had he not brought this whistleblower complaint forward, which by the way, is credible and has been checked out.

Of course, you move past the whistleblower now because we have a direct witness, Colonel Vindman, to exactly what Trump said during the conversation.

VAUSE: There are many witnesses, a lot of testimony out there, all under oath and we are about to get some of it in the coming hours. David, we very much appreciate you being with us, on what will be a historical day in the United States. Thanks, David.

KATZ: Thank you, John.

Stay tuned everyone.

VAUSE: Absolutely, good programming note, David, nice segue.

Tune in to CNN on Wednesday for live coverage throughout the entire day. Starting at 8:00 am in New York, 1:00 pm in London. Stay with, us afterwards to find out what it all means, as well.

Australia's high court will hear an appeal from a convicted child molester, George Pell. The former Vatican treasurer was convicted last December of child sexual abuse in the 1990s. He has always maintained his innocence. This appeal is set for next year and is his last chance to overturn the conviction and the six year sentence. No response yet from the Holy See which had previously said it would wait for any appeal before considering his future within the clergy.

Palestinian officials say at least 10 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, that includes the senior leader of the Islamic Jihad group, Bahaa Abu al-Atta. Militants launched a barrage of rockets at Israel after news of his death. The Israelis responded with attacks of their own. Oren Liebermann has more now.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bahaa Abu al-Atta was carried through the streets as a martyr, the senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader killed early Tuesday morning when the Israeli military struck his home.

AVIV KOCHAVI, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES CHIEF OF STAFF (through translator): This man was a live ticking bomb. Even in recent days he worked and planned attacks and was meaning to carry them out.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The response came quickly, the idea of accusing Islamic Jihad of firing more than 100 rockets into southern and central Israel. During a televised statement, Islamic Jihad's leader warned Israel that it will pay a high price.

Sirens sounding as far away as Tel Aviv and beyond A traffic camera picked up this rocket, landing on a road south of Tel Aviv. There seemed no clear way out of the fighting.

LIEBERMANN: That indicates this isn't over yet. As of this point, and we just heard a loud explosion behind us, you can see there a plume of smoke; I don't know which way that fire was coming.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): A mattress factory near Gaza was hit by a rocket as smoke poured into the sky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are staying like 15 years in the same situation. catastrophe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a catastrophe because the effect on us is terrible.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): But this wasn't the same situation. Israel blamed Islamic Jihad for the rocket fire in an unusual move, not pointing the finger at Hamas. Analysts in Gaza say Hamas is far more interested in calm than Islamic Jihad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the past many months, the Islamic Jihad have tried to provoke Israel many times, which wasn't in the interest of Hamas, who is responsible for the well-being of 2 million Palestinians in Gaza and has to take care of their daily life.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): This may be part of a wider move against the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad. Syria's state-run Sanaa news agency said Israel targeted an Islamic Jihad leader there as well. He survived but his son was killed. Israel would not comment on the foreign report -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, on the Gaza border.


VAUSE: Bolivia's political crisis has taken a new twist, the second vice president of the senate declared herself interim president. After three would-be successors all resigned, Jeanine Anez said she was next in line. So why not?

Bolivia has been without leader since Sunday, when former president Evo Morales resigned after weeks of protests over election fraud. Morales is calling Anez's move the most crafty and disastrous coup in history. He is now in Mexico where he was granted political asylum but he is vowing to stay in politics.


EVO MORALES, FORMER BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are here safe, thanks to Mexico and its authorities but I also want to tell you, sisters and brothers, as long as I am alive, we will continue in politics. As long as I am alive, the fight continues and we are sure that the people of the world can liberate themselves.


VAUSE: He also thanked the Mexican president for saving his life.

Jimmy Carter, the oldest living former U.S. president, is recovering from surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. The Carter Center in Atlanta says there were no complications from Tuesday's procedure.

The 95-year old was with his wife and they are expressing their thanks for all the good wishes and support for the 39th president and his family. Carter was in the hospital twice last month after a fall at his home and has previously survived bouts of brain and liver cancer.

Still to come, Australia's raging bush fires have destroyed millions of homes but not their hope.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got our families, we've got our lives.

VAUSE (voice-over): But up next, the fire chief of New South Wales warns the worst is yet to come.


VAUSE: Also, a much different story in the United States where an early arctic blast is bringing record low temperatures.





VAUSE: Welcome back. Officials in Australia are warning the worst bush fire season in decades is not done yet; 85 active fires were still burning as of Tuesday evening. The flames reached the other side of Sydney and police believe some of the fires may have been deliberately lit.

New South Wales' fire chief is warning, with more hot weather on the way, the worst is yet to come.


SHANE FITZSIMMONS, NSW FIRE CHIEF: We will not have all these fires contained and locked up for many, many weeks, given the enormity of the firefighting effort. Unfortunately, what we need is rain, what we need is meaningful rain and there's certainly nothing in the forecast for the foreseeable future that will make any discernible difference to the conditions we are experiencing.


VAUSE: More than 300 homes have been destroyed and now harrowing stories of survival are starting to emerge. Here is Seven Network journalist, Bryan Seymour.


BRYAN SEYMOUR, SEVEN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trapped in the middle of a fire storm. Surrounded by flames, Anthony Thornhill takes refuge in a tiny paddock at his home in Koorainghat just south of Taree.

As the fire races towards him, he desperately tries to calm his horses, 11 in total, safe by his side. The challenge, keeping them from bolting back into the bush and into the path of the inferno.


SEYMOUR: Engulfed by the flames, Anthony started filming. A record of their final moments in case they didn't make it.

THORNHILL: That's why I sort of grabbed the camera out and videoed a little bit. So this is the last bit. So I'm like, so that's it. Sorry about that, sweetheart.

SEYMOUR: Lynn and Peter Iversen returned to their place in Rainbow Flat this morning. This is all that's left.

LYNN IVERSEN, RESIDENT: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.

THORNHILL: Their neighbors fought to save their house but couldn't.

PETER IVERSEN, RESIDENT: It's only things. It's only things. We've got family and we've got our lives.

LYNN IVERSEN: And we're lucky we've got each other. Some people don't even have anything, so we're blessed.

SEYMOUR: Further north in Wytaliba a town broken by the death of two of their own, one, George Noll, remembered today.

STORM SPARKS, WYTALIBA RESIDENT: He was a very interesting character. That's for sure. Lots of loud classical music and afternoon coffees.

SEYMOUR: Those who have lost everything are seeking refuge in evacuation centers. Holding tight now to the things that matter most. Their homes badly damaged, Peter Thornhill and his partner, Julianne, are there now, too, like so many preparing for tomorrow.

SEYMOUR (on camera): Today the owners of at least 150 homes are working out where to go.

What's next?

Grateful for the community support they are receiving, but many, almost all angry that more hazard reduction burns weren't done ahead of this fire season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no maintenance because of legislation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things need to change, obviously, mate.

SEYMOUR (voice-over): Today he's the eye of this fire storm. Without a change in the weather, it could yet become far worse.


VAUSE: Thanks to Bryan Seymour with Seven Network for that report.



VAUSE: In one day, 200 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel and they're going further than ever before. When we come back, how Palestinian militants are improving their missile making skills.

Also, we will have all of the game day rules for the impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. We are back in a moment.



VAUSE: Welcome. Back I'm John Vause.


VAUSE: During the Second Intifada, Israel was hit by a wave of suicide bombings. Palestinian militants with high powered explosives strapped to their bodies, time and time again, they crossed into Israel from the West Bank in Gaza, killing more than 1,000 Israeli civilians over five years.

Part of Israel's response was the construction of a security barrier along the West Bank and then came a high tech security fence around Gaza, dramatically reducing the number of suicide bombers.

And, true to Newton's third law that for every action there is an opposite reaction, in 2007, the military group Hamas took power in Gaza and focused on not just building rockets but improving their range and reliability.

The first Qassam rocket was fired by Hamas in 2001, at the time it was more like a glorified fireworks with a range of less than two miles.


But six years later came the Qassam 2, range four and a half miles; the Qassam 3 a few years after that, range just over six miles. And the Qassam 4, almost ten miles range.

Keep in mind: Israel is a tiny country. Gaza to Tel Aviv, 40 miles. Gaza to Jerusalem, 60 miles.

In March this year, the Israeli military said a House in Tel Aviv, which was hit by a Palestinian missile, had a range of 75 miles. And on Tuesday, a Palestinian-made missile fired from Gaza reportedly landed north of Tel Aviv.

And Palestinians have made the slow but steady improvements to their arsenal of rockets and missiles, despite Gaza being under an Israeli blockade, all but sealed off from the rest of the world.

Ian Williams is the deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It's a Washington-based think tank, and he is joining us now.

So Ian, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: OK, so how has Hamas and, you know, the other militant groups in Gaza, like Islamic Jihad, been able to make -- make this slow, steady improvement? There has to be a certain level of skill involved here, as well. You know, it's not easy to build a missile, even one as basic as these, right? WILLIAMS: Right. And there's a lot of skill and a lot of

determination, for sure. But you know, I don't think you can under -- undercount the fact that they have been getting a lot of support from outside actors, particularly Iran. You know, despite the blockade, despite Gaza being very isolated, they are very able to get a lot of -- some of the more complex manufactured components to these weapons that are built in -- that are built in Iran, smuggled in piece by piece, and then assembled in Gaza.

And we see this, you know, Iran doing this not just in Gaza but in Lebanon, with Hezbollah, in Yemen, for example, with the Houthi forces there, so they've become very good at -- at getting this stuff through the net.

VAUSE: The missiles that we're talking about here, these homemade ones, if you like, as opposed to, you know, maybe the ground (ph) institution rockets, which are smuggled in, the Hamas homemade ones are pretty basic. They're unguided. At times, they're unreliable. In terms of armed conflicts, are they more effective as a weapon of terror, as opposed to a weapon of war? Fear versus body count?

WILLIAMS: Right. I mean, they're not going to be effective military weapons, which require you to have some level of accuracy to be able to hit the target you're going for.

The kind of Qassam rockets, the unguarded rockets, are really terror weapons. They're meant, in some cases, not even to -- I think with the advent of Iron Dome, I don't think that there's much hope to even get these -- a lot of these rockets through. It's about getting the air-raid sirens blaring and to get people kind of afraid on the shelters.

You know, one interesting statistic that I read recently from the 2014 Gaza conflict, was that most of the injuries of Israeli citizens were not actually from the rockets, but from people falling on their way to the bomb -- on the way to the bomb shelters. So --

VAUSE: It is interesting. There's also just simply the cost of these missiles, reportedly just a few hundred dollars each to build, which again, it's a huge strategic advantage, when you consider that every time one is shot down by the Iron Dome defense system, it costs Israel tens of thousands of dollars. And at times, the Palestinians have been able to overwhelm the Iron Dome, just with sheer numbers of rockets.

WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, I think -- I don't know if the Iron Dome has been actually overwhelmed by these rockets, because they're so inaccurate. You know, one of the strengths of the Iron Dome system is it's able to track these rockets as they're coming in and be able to discern which ones are actually going to hit in a civilian area, and which ones are just going to land somewhere in the desert.

And they only engage those that -- that are actually a threat. And that's, you know, approximately 20 to 25 percent of the rockets that engage. If you look at this trend, the numbers of intercepts that Israel is claiming right now is about 50 or so rockets, it intersects with the engagement rate of past conflicts, which tells me that they aren't making much improvement of their accuracy.

It's also the range of the rocket, which have been plenty of short range missiles, how many of those longer range missiles they have, which can reach Tel Aviv and beyond.

WILLIAMS: Well, those -- those missiles are -- are very much sourced, at least particularly the component parts, a source outside of Gaza, probably smuggled in from Iran, maybe assembled in Gaza but smuggled in by -- by the Iranians.

You know, I found it interesting that -- that they have actually been hit, you know, firing some rockets as far as -- as Tel Aviv, in this particular conflict, ongoing right now, which kind of says that they are actually bringing out some of their bigger and heavier stuff at this particular point, which you know, could indicate that it's going to go on for a long time up there. There's oftentimes you'll see a kind of symbolic response to an Israeli strike without firing back a handful of very short-range kind of expendable rockets.

The fact that they're using some of their rarer assets, some of their bigger stuff, which they don't have as many, suggests that they are kind of isolating them. They're trying to -- to do as much damage as they can.

VAUSE: So they're a statement with those missiles, when those sirens are heard in Tel Aviv, and those missiles are landing just north of, you know, the main city there.

And Ian, we are out of time, but thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate your analysis.

WILLIAMS: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: When millions of viewers around the world tune into Wednesday's public impeachment hearings, they won't see the usual ping-pong between Democrats and Republicans, asking questions and often grandstanding. There are new rules of the road, a new format and a stern warning. CNN's Isa Soares has details.


ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The stakes couldn't be higher for Democrats and Republicans this week, as the public impeachment hearings get underway.

Democrats publicly laying out the evidence that President Trump may have committed impeachable offenses, and then Republicans hoping to convince the American people that, in fact, he didn't.

First, though, let's talk about the witnesses: Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, and George Kent, the former senior State Department official. These first witnesses will reset the tone for these public hearings.

Now, we expect some of the most damning testimony from Taylor. He's expected to say he had a clear understanding that military aid would not be related to Ukraine unless Kiev announced investigations into Trump's political rivals.

Then, Kent. He's expected to say he understood a White House meeting between the Ukrainian president and President Trump was contingent on those investigations.

Now, it will all happen in this room, in the Longworth Building of the Capitol. That is the largest room, in fact, in the House. And both witnesses will sit in one panel, fielding, really, questions from members and committee lawyers.

Now critically, to the questions. The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- that's Adam Schiff -- and ranking Republican Devin Nunes will get most of the time for the questions. They get 45 minutes each. Democrats hope to prevent this from becoming a partisan circus and making it so there's an uninterrupted flow of questions, really, from each side.

Now, the remaining members, 12 Democrats you're seeing here and the eight Republicans here, they will get five minutes each. At the end, the Democrats will draw up a report with their findings, and they expect to have the full House vote on impeachment and send it to the Senate for trial -- get this -- by Christmas.

Isa Soares, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM. That elusive trade deal between the U.S. and China, it might be close again. At least, that's what Donald Trump is saying, so who really knows?


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

President Trump says the U.S. and China are close to making a trade deal, but that was Tuesday, and he's making no promises.

A new round of tariffs are set to take effect next month. Fifteen percent on $156 billion of consumer goods. And analysts warn that in the real world, where the laws of economics are a reality, that could be a disaster for the American economy.

CNN's Clare Sebastian has details.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A month after Trump shook hands with the Chinese vice premier on a phase one trade deal, the markets were really hoping for a concrete update Tuesday, and they didn't really get it.

President Trump saying the two sides are, quote, "close to a deal." It could happen soon. But the U.S. will only accept a deal that's good for the United States. And if that doesn't happen, he even floated the option of raising tariffs. The speech, though, was mostly a chance for President Trump to tout

his economic achievements, especially going into the first public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill this week.

He said the U.S. is in an economic boom, the likes of which, it's never seen. Not entirely accurate, since U.S. economic growth slowed in the third quarter, coming in under 2 percent.

Now, the U.S. consumer is still strong, but the trade war has helped lead to three straight months of shrinking manufacturing activity and a decline in business investment.

Now, in a Q&A portion of the event, the president glossed over the decline in those sectors.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They haven't been heard. They were totally down. Now they are a little bit down because a little bit, perhaps, the uncertainty of trade wars, but there is no uncertainty.

We're the bank that everyone wants to take from. We're the source that everybody needs and everybody wants all over the world. The real cost, John, would be if we did nothing. The cost of doing nothing was killing us as a country.

SEBASTIAN: Well, China actually got off fairly lightly, compared to the Federal Reserve. In what's now become a regular refrain, the president blasted the Fed, saying it hiked rates too fast and cut too slow, and that puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.

And he didn't miss an opportunity to make a campaign pitch, telling the audience of New York business leaders that the biggest risk for them was the election.

Clear Sebastian, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. WORLD SPORT is up next after a break. You're watching CNN.







VAUSE: Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Studio 7 at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta. Ahead this hour, you're about to enter the ultimate spin zone. Donald Trump, Republican lawmakers and an 18-page plan to distract from the obvious.

With each skirmish, the missile fly further. Palestinians in Gaza are building rockets more advanced than ever before.

And the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Disney launches Disney+, but the streaming juggernaut blew it with technical problems and thousands of unhappy subscribers.