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Historic Hearings Begin Today; Turkish President Erdogan Visiting Trump Today; Arctic Weather Freezes Eastern U.S. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired November 13, 2019 - 04:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: History unfolds today. Impeachment hearings begin in just a few hours. Will gripping private testimony resonate in public?

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.


BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday, November 13th. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York.

And today, for just the fourth time in American history, public impeachment hearings begin against a U.S. president. Donald Trump is accused of leveraging $400 million in much-needed military aid to Ukraine, demanding in return an investigation into Joe Biden and his son.

Democrats' first witnesses, two career civil servants, seated together for the entire day. Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, tying the president directly to this pressure campaign, and saying he was told everything depended on Ukraine publicly announcing these investigations. As Taylor put it behind closed doors: That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigation.

BRIGGS: George Kent is the State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy, among other things. These testified that he was concerned about politically motivated prosecutions. He told lawmakers President Trump wanted nothing else than President Zelensky to go to a microphone and say, investigations, Biden, and Clinton.

Even extraordinary times, this certainly will be an extraordinary day. Congressional reporter Phil Mattingly has more on Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Christine and Dave, here were go. This is it. This is what people have been waiting for the last month half.

The public hearing, the first public hearing, one of the several. Two witnesses, both State Department officials, one the top U.S. official in Ukraine, top diplomat in Ukraine, another, George Kent, another Foreign Service officer.

And here's what you're going to be seeing today. You're going to see two very divergent strategies, but with clear goals in mind.

For Democrats, paint the same picture they painted behind closed door. They believe that picture laying out exactly how that Trump administration's Ukraine policy was working, laying out the rogue elements of that policy and all the stresses and pressures that were put on the U.S. government because of that policy, they want out in public, live on television, so the public can actually all see it.

For Republicans, they have made very clear. They have an 18-page strategy memo they've laid out, laying out why they believe key reasons they don't believe is impeachable. They believe most of these witnesses, including the two you're going to hear from today didn't have direct order from the president, didn't have direct interactions with the president.

Those are the two arguments you're going to see. Here's how you're going to see it. When the committee gavels into session, you're going to hear opening statements from the chairman, Adam Schiff, the top Republican, Devin Nunes, and then you're going to see opening statements from the two witnesses.

After that, this is where things change. Instead of five minutes of theatrics and circus-like atmosphere from member after member on the panel, you are going to see 45 minutes straight from the Democrats, likely largely yielded to a staff counsel. Then you are going to see 45 minutes straight from the Republicans, likely yielded to one of their staff counsels.

That will change how the dynamics work, that will change how narratives are presented, that will change how effective either side is on the hearing. This will be different. This matters.

And when you talk to Republicans and Democrats, if there's only one thing they agree on, they agree on the gravity of the moment. The stakes of what this hearing holds and what the hearings further hold on as well.

So, keep an eye on it, it's a big day. I'm sure everybody is going to be watching -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Thanks for that, Phil Mattingly.

Democrats have been taking a low-key approach ahead of the public hearings. They're trying not to promise too much as they did in the run-up to Robert Mueller's testimony. But House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff making it clear, he believes impeachable offenses were committed.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): But on the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there are any number of potentially impeachable offenses, including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors.


ROMANS: And despite mounting evidence, Republicans seem determined to vigorously defend the president.


REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): Second, third, fourth hand, no-hand information in some cases. You can't actually know what was really said when you're relying on third, fourth-hand information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what other people think about a conversation is really secondary to the fact that the two men who were participating in the conversation both said it was a good call.

REP. MIKE CONWAY (R-TX): The burden of proof is on the Dems. They've got a much better risk factor tomorrow than we do. Our Democrat colleagues have got a big issue tomorrow to create some kind of aha moment that's going to be hard to do.


BRIGGS: That, of course, far different from 1973 and from this.


THEN-SEN. HOWARD BAKER (R-TN): What did the president know and when did he know it?



BRIGGS: That was Republican Senator Howard Baker during the Nixon impeachment. Watergate took place in a mass media area. Tens of millions watching and most agreed on the fact.

During this impeachment, Americans will get their information from their preferred cable news channel, late-night TV and social media, so consensus will be hard to find.

ROMANS: And this is more in store next week. Eight additional hearings scheduled most notably, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He is the National Security Council Ukraine expert who was on the July 25th call. He went to his boss and expressed his concerns.

Also, Gordon Sondland. He is the Trump-appointed ambassador to the European Union. He initially denied a quid pro quo, but later amended his testimony, recalling he told a top aide to Ukraine's president that military assistance was likely linked to an investigation.

BRIGGS: President Trump will no doubt be watching some of the impeachment hearing today, but he is counter-programming in a very public way. Turkey's president, Recep Erdogan, visiting the White House today.

Let's go live to Istanbul and bring in CNN's Jomana Karadsheh.

This is dubious counterprogram, Jomana. Good morning.


So, we'll have to wait and see what comes out of this meeting. You know, these two NATO allies have had strained ties over recent years, especially over recent months. The issue of agreement, that really long list for the United States, some of the issues topping the agenda during that meeting is going to be, of course, Turkey's military operation into northern Syria, something that has pretty much united lawmakers from both sides of the aisle with their opposition to Turkey's moves.

Some of the issues that the United States will be discussing is the rising concern when it comes to the behavior of Turkey's -- Syrian- backed forces that have been backed by Turkey on the ground there in Syria. Their behavior, alleged war crimes that could have possibly taken place during the beginning of that military offensive. And then, also, possibly, U.S. efforts to try to reach a permanent cease- fire.

Another critical issue for the United States is that Russian missile defense system, the S-400 that Turkey, a NATO member, acquired this summer. We had the deliveries from Russia back in July. And so, the United States, the Trump administration, really, is under a lot of pressure to sanction Turkey as he's obliged by the law. And there's been by this push by lawmakers to do so. And so far, the feeling has been that President Trump has been shielding Turkey from these sanctions.

So this is going to be on the table today, whether the United States, President Trump, administration officials will be able to resolve that issue, an idea that has been floated that perhaps Turkey would not activate that S-400 missile defense system. But both of these issues for Turkey, as we have heard in the past, they say that this is nonnegotiable. They will not compromise on issues they see as national security issues.

But, you know, you've got two very unpredictable world leaders who will be meeting today, so we'll have to wait and see what comes out of this, Dave.

BRIGGS: Yes, very interesting optics.

Jomana Karadsheh, live for us in Istanbul, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. The president gave a glimpse of his 2020 campaign message during a speech at the Economic Club of New York. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's a story. I don't like you, you don't like me. You have no choice but to vote for me. The truth is, you have no choice, because the people we're running against are crazy. They're crazy.


ROMANS: And the economy, he says, is an economic miracle, built by him. You have no choice but to vote for me in 2020.

Trump building the case for re-election around the economy. He's touting wages, a record number of people working and his tax cuts. Meanwhile, he gave no detail on a trade deal China, beyond saying, quote, it could happen soon.

You know, economists and markets have been waiting for any kind of signals on when a deal happens. A new round of tariffs on about $150 billion in consumer-facing goods is set to kick in December 15th.

Trump also renewed his attack on the Federal Reserve, asking for negative interest rates, claiming the central bank was putting the U.S. as a competitive disadvantage to other countries. Then after claiming the stock market would be up another 25 percent, if not for the Fed, Trump said this, alluding to his choice of Jerome Powell.


TRUMP: But we also make mistakes, don't we? Not too often, we do make them on occasion.


ROMANS: The president admitting a mistake, talking about Jerome Powell. He says, give me some of that money. Give me those negative interest rates.

Those are signs of distress in other countries around the world. It doesn't look like the Fed is going to embrace that and that's something that really rankles this president.

BRIGGS: A doozy of a bumper sticker, you have no choice, Trump 2020.


BRIGGS: See how that plays out.

All right. That sound you hear, 240 million Americans cranking up the heat. I don't know if that's what that sounds like, really? How long will that last for the eastern half of the country?


BRIGGS: Arctic conditions being blamed for at least four deaths in two states, all of them car accidents. Three killed in Michigan, one in Ohio, bitter cold air pushing across the eastern two-thirds of the country. More than 240 million Americans will be at or below freezing overnight.


Hundreds of records set so far. Freeze warnings and watches even reaching to the Florida Panhandle. McAllen, Texas, plunged from a heat index of 92 to a wind chill of 28 in a single day. So, you want to watch those impeachment hearings? You'll have a good excuse to stay inside.

Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.



Let's talk about all this cold air here across the eastern U.S. because high pressure building in its wake, but the typical set-up of bringing these milder temperatures is certainly not happening. In fact, compared to yesterday afternoon's 3:00 p.m. temperatures, it was 33 in New York City. That is in line with the January 15th temperature, Washington's 43 was in line with a January 27th temperature. If you're tuned in across Atlanta, Dallas, or any southern city, temps ran about 20 degrees below where they should be in the coldest time of year.

So it really speaks to the significance of the cold air in place in about 70 percent of the U.S. population dealing with these sub- freezing temperatures to greet themselves Wednesday morning. But look at the trend. A 58-degree afternoon or 58-degree high yesterday, which happened in the morning hours in New York City, giving way to about 35 today. Washington goes far enough 60 to 39. And in places such as Detroit and say Chicago, they trend generally into the mid- to upper 20s.

We have yet another front on the way. This next one, just as cold for some areas, but very little in the way of moisture associated with it. Maybe just a few flurries across portions of the Midwest, but keeping the cold friend into this upcoming weekend -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you for that, Pedram.

Widespread flooding in Venice, Italy. The city of canals was inundated by the highest tides in 50 years. Tourists and locals trying to navigate water more than 6 feet above flood stage.

City officials tell CNN one elderly man was electrocuted trying to run pumps in his home. About 45 percent of the low-lying city was flooded. A huge infrastructure project to protect the city has been under construction since 2003, but it has been plagued by budget overruns and delays.

BRIGGS: A first of its kind in the U.S., a double-lung transplant to save a teenager who got sick from vaping.



BRIGGS: An alarming trend at the University of Southern California. Nine students have died since the start of the semester in August. Three of them have been announced since Friday. U.S. officials -- USC officials say no foul play is suspected and at least three are believed to be suicides. Administrators sent a letter to students and parents acknowledging the tragedies and urging students to seek help if they need it.

ROMANS: The life of a teenager sickened by vaping saved with a double lung transplant, the first of its kind in the U.S. the male patient turned 17 while recovering. He was admitted to Henry Ford health system in Detroit last month with what looked like pneumonia. His doctors now say he is doing very well.


DR. HASSAN NAMEH, SURGICAL DIRECTOR, THORACIC ORGAN TRANSPLANT, HENRY FORD HOSPITAL: New lungs are in place where you can see clearly the shadow of the heart, nice air shadow in the lungs as opposed to that one. This is a totally senseless injury that's preventable. It's totally unnecessary.


ROMANS: Doctors say the teen still has a long and rough recovery ahead of him. The number of vaping-related injuries has climbed to more than 2,000 with at least 40 deaths. On Friday, the CDC said vitamin E acetate may be the cause of the outbreak. That's an additive sometimes used in THC and other vaping capsules.

BRIGGS: For the first time, a Hispanic will lead U.S. bishops. The Conference of Catholic Bishops has elected Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez as the new president. Born in Mexico, his selection comes on the same day that the Supreme Court heard the Trump administration's case for terminating the DACA program.

A pathway to legal immigration is a top priority for Archbishop Gomez. He says he would be happy to meet with President Trump.

Colin Kaepernick may be on the verge of an NFL comeback. The league has notified all 32 teams the former 49er will hold a private workout Saturday in Atlanta. He'll also be available for interviews with interested clubs. Kaepernick claims the NFL and its teams colluded to keep him from playing after he refused to stand for the national anthem. He hasn't played since the 2016 season.

Last night, Kaepernick tweeted, I've been in shape and ready for three years. Can't wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.

ROMANS: A blast from the past for the Golden Globes. Comedian and actor Ricky Gervais will return for the fifth time at the 77 Golden Globes in January. He rose in Hollywood as one of the ceremony -- has hosted ceremony three straight years from 2010 to 2012 and again in 2016. He says he's returning for a fifth and final time because the Hollywood Foreign Press Association again made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

BRIGGS: He already has the coveted EGOT. Now John Legend can add something else to the resume. "People's" sexiest man alive. Apparently, he was prepared for it.


JOHN LEGEND, SINGER: Something I created for myself. It says EGOTSMA. Yes, just a little acronym.


It stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, sexiest man alive. I'm the sexiest man alive.


BRIGGS: EGOTSMA, outstanding. The 40-year-old singer says he's excited and a little bit scared to wear the crown. He says last year's winner, actor Idris Elba is a tough act to follow.

EGOTSMA, do you like it?

ROMANS: EGOTSMA, I like it. I like it a lot.

BRIGGS: That's some swag.

ROMANS: Democrats hope compelling closed-door testimony translates to must-see TV. Public impeachment hearings begin this morning. Will they increase calls to remove the president?