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Gordon Sondland Under The Microscope; CNN Poll, Pete Buttigieg Leads In Iowa; Backing Away From Vaping; Major Week Of Public Testimony Ahead; Hong Kong Protesters Set Fire To University; Vaping Epidemic; Vigil For Victims Of Saugus High Shooting; Iran Protest Over Gas Prices; U.S./China Held Constructive Talks About Deal; FAA, NSTB New Certification Rules; Syracuse University Suspends Frat Activities; Real-Life Breaking Bad In Arkansas; Trending Now, Eight Year-Old Makes Hero-Bags. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2019 - 04:00   ET




DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The E.U. Ambassador under scrutiny, ahead of testimony on Capitol Hill. Eight witnesses on the schedule. The president attacking yet another one.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A new leader for the Democrats in Iowa. What a rise of Pete Buttigieg means for the 2020 field.

BRIGGS: And the president backing off a major commitment to curb vaping. Does his re-election bid come before teenagers' health? Welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world. This is Early Start, I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Monday, good morning, November 18. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York, 9:00 a.m. in London and 5:00 p.m. in Hong Kong.

All right. There are eight public impeachment hearings this week, but the focus is really increasing on one, Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the E.U. ahead of his testimony Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reporting Sondland frequently updated several top officials on efforts to convince Ukraine to launch investigations the president was demanding. Among them, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who famously said this about Trump's pressure campaign?


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We do that all the time, with foreign policy. I have news for everybody, get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.


BRIGGS: Also new this weekend the released of the deposition from former top National Security Council official, Tim Morrison. He told investigators Sondland was acting at the direction of the president at that Sondland's spoke to a top Ukrainian officials about exchanging military aid for political investigations. Republicans trying to shift the blame for mounting trouble away from the president.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Those individuals who leaked this, you know, if there interest was a strong relationship to Ukraine, they didn't accomplished this having this all come out into public has weakened that relationship. It has exposed things that didn't need to be exposed. This would have been far better off if we would just taking care of this behind the scenes. This would never would had been exposed, that funding would have been restored and our relationship to Ukraine would be far better off than it is today.


ROMANS: The president apparently did not get the message that intimidating witnesses is a bad thing. After demonizing former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch while she testified Friday. The president on Sunday lashed out at another witness. Career diplomat Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence. She is set to testify tomorrow.

BRIGGS: Williams listened in on the president infamous July 25th phone call with the leader to Ukraine. She testified privately that Trump's request for investigation struck her as, quote, unusual and inappropriate. The president's latest attacks on a witness threatens to deepen his trouble in a frenetic week ahead. CNN's David Shortell has more from Washington.


DAVID SHORTELL, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Good morning Dave and Christine. Eight witnesses set to testify publicly this week before the House Intelligence Committee, including a number of highly credentialed National Security officials, making this week out potentially to be one of the most consequential of the Trump presidency.

I want to focus in on two of the witnesses who are expected to provide some of the most critical testimony so far in this impeachment inquiry, that's Gordon Sondland, the close ally of the president and the ambassador to the European Union and then, Timothy Morrison, who is the top White House expert on Russia up until his resignation late last month.

Sondland, you'll remember was a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million to the President Trump's inauguration committee and later became his top envoy to the E.U. While his testimony on Wednesday is not expected to be a home run for the Democrats. That's because, we'll likely hear him describe a call that he had had with President Trump, in which the president told him explicitly that he was not looking for a quid pro quo with the Ukrainians. Sondland also likely to be quiz by Democrats about a conversation he

had with his colleagues over the summer that we only recently learned about. In that conversation, at a restaurant in Kiev in July, Sondland allegedly told other officials that Trump did not care about Ukraine and was only concerned with the opening of an investigation into the Bidens.

Morrison, the former NSC official, is scheduled to testify on Tuesday. And what we expect him to do is really build the credentials of Sondland as someone who was working directly with President Trump on this shadow Ukraine policy. Really establishing Sondland as the witness with the most direct role in this effort that we've heard from so far. Dave and Christine?


ROMANS: All right. One of the question answered over the weekend, who ordered the April Trump/Zelensky call transcript move to a highly classified system. It turn out that was a mistake. In his testimony, Tim Morrison relayed an explanation from top National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg. He said Eisenberg's executive secretary put it on the highly classified server after misunderstanding some instructions. They discovered it was misplaced when they tried to used it to prep the president for a plan Warsaw trip in September, a trip that was later cancelled.


BRIGGS: A stunning rise from obscurity to the top of the field in Iowa, for Pete Buttigieg. The South Bend, Indiana mayor, pulling to a nine-point lead in the new CNN Des Moines register polls. That's a 16- point surge in Iowa since September. With 11 weeks to go before the caucuses, it's a close race for second with Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND-IN) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On the ground, for weeks, I have been feeling that there's more and more support. I've been feeling momentum and a sense of when people hear the message. They connect with and they get more and more interested in supporting this campaign. I know that we've got the biggest hills to climb right ahead of us. And we'll stay discipline and focus on doing that.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), 2020 U.S. DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: I don't do polls. But I know what I'm fighting for and I know that we need ideas that match the problems in this country.


ROMANS: A challenge facing Buttigieg is a lack of support in the black community. He will speak today at Moore House College, the historic black university in Atlanta. The entire Democratic field also getting a word, warning from former President Obama at a high dollar event. He spoked about going too far on certain policies. Saying voters want ideas rooted in reality.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement. They like seeing things improve. But the average American doesn't think that we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it's important for us not to lose sight of that.


ROMANS: Expect Buttigieg to be the target of increased attacks at the next Democratic debate this Wednesday night.

Bloody protest over the weekend in Hong Kong. Anti-government demonstrators setting fire to the entrance of the city's Polytechnic University to stop riot police form entering. It seems also throwing petrol bombs at Hong Kong police who deployed water cannons and warned they will use live rounds if they have to. Paula Hancocks live from Hong Kong with the very latest. I know you've been following this pretty much all weekend. And those protesters have been dug in with food and water and supplies inside that University. Where do things stand now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, as far as we know at this point, inside the University, there could well be hundreds of protesters still there. We just spoke to one pro-democracy lawmaker who is holed up inside with them. He believes there are more like 1,000. But it's very difficult to tell. The police have it on lockdown at this point.

There have been a number of fires that protesters have started to try and keep police out. But police have got them on lockdown and in a wide cordon is starting to arrest people and saying that those protesters should leave.

Now, what we're seeing outside -- this is only a couple of blocks from this campus. We're seeing other protesters trying to make a distraction. We are seeing them -- this is a scene of a battle that ended just a matter of minutes ago. There were plenty of petrol bombs being thrown by the protesters, teargas by the police. They have now disbursed a little further down the road.

But what they say they are trying to do is to try to draw the police away from the campus, so that their colleagues, other protesters can leave that campus. Now, this morning, we saw dozens of protesters escaping from the campus, running across the road, before police could stop them. So, they widened that cordon police, to make sure they could try and catch up with everybody. And they have made a number of arrest as we understand.

So, it is still a very fluid situation. There are clashes that are popping up between protesters and police everywhere throughout this particular area and around the cordon of that campus. But there are still many people inside of the campus itself. We spoke to one protesters. He says he's a 23-year-old. His parents don't know he's in there. He's pretended that he's staying with his girlfriend, saying that he is exhausted and he is just waiting to be arrested by the police.

ROMANS: Quickly, this are, these are Hong Kong-based police. Tell us about the law enforcement there. Because a lot of us who had been watching the trade talks have been wondering if mainland Chinese forces are there.

HANCOCKS: Yes, these are Hong Kong police that are out on the streets. We did see yesterday some of the PLA, some of the Chinese military in track suits, and t-shirts coming to help. Part of the clean-up. They were trying to get some of the bricks out of the street. That did not go down well with pro-democracy lawmakers. They say that should never have happened. But the government here in Hong Kong insisted they didn't ask them to do it. They did it of their own back.

ROMANS: All right, Paula Hancocks in Hong Kong, thank you for that.

BRIGGS: President Trump, backing off a proposed ban on most flavored vaping products, a ban he announced with some fanfare just two months ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't allow people to get sick. And we can't have our youth be so affected.


BRIGGS: White House and Trump campaign officials tell the Washington Post, the president changed his mind because he fears upsetting vapers could hurt his re-election chances.


The post says, Trump also believes job losses in the vaping industry could dampen the economic growth. He constantly touts. Juul has already announced plans to stop selling all flavored pod, other than tobacco and menthol. The CDC reports nearly 2200 cases of lung injury linked to vaping. As of last week, there have been 42 confirmed deaths.

ROMANS: Thousands gathered Sunday night to mourn an honored victims, the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California.

Family and friends gathering to remember 14-year-old, Dominick Michael Blackwell and 15-year-old, Gracie Anne Muehlenberger -- Muehlberger, rather. The suspect shot himself in the head and died the next day. Officials say all schools in the heart school district except Saugus High School resumes classes today. Suagus High will remain close until after thanksgiving.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead here, deadly protest on the streets of Iran. Gas prices surging between 50 and 300 percent. Why and what police are doing to settle things down, straight ahead.



BRIGGS: 4:15 Eastern Time and Iran is warning security forces may act against protesters angry about a sharp rise in gas prices. At least one person was killed over three days of protests. As gas prices surged, 50 to 300 percent across the country. International security editor, Nick Paton Walsh live in London with the latest. Nick, good morning. What are we learning?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave, interesting to see protests on this scale. We haven't seen this for at least over a year certainly. And because of the internet blackout currently in Iran and a little of restrictions on reporting there, it is unclear quite how widespread these are.

But we are seeing social media videos despite that blackout, suggesting multiple cities are being impacted by these protests. And they do appear to be in some sort of confrontations between security officials who say, they will do everything to try and clamp down, or what they refer to as rioters and the protesters.

Cheap gas, cheap oil, an essential part of Iranian life. Too much of a degree, people depend on it for their daily lives. And these shocking price rises, about six-times, some of the gas will be more expensive than it has been in the past, will impact every part of daily life for ordinary Iranians who are already feeling the squeeze, because of long-term sanctions.

Now the Iranian government clearly backed into this. Difficult to reverse their course, even the supreme leader (inaudible), saying, he accept that this was, perhaps, something that was necessary, accepting too, the people have lost their lives in this ensuing protest was lead to a conclusion that there must be some financial crisis, frankly, at the heart of Iran's government.

They felt compelled to make this move. Will it sustain? We've seen protest in the past being tampered out by security forces, we've seen them lose momentum as well. But clearly, there's another reminder of the economic peril at the heart of Iran here. Some of that, because of U.S. sanctions. The U.S. is very clear to say it supports the Iranian people, like it said 18 months ago. That didn't change the matter.

One important thing to point out here though, if the current Iranian government does find itself in difficulty, it's unlikely a more moderate version is going to step forward afterwards, more likely hard liners would use this opportunity. So, people, I think are looking to see if this could be calmed on the streets without further loss of life. But a real sure sign, I think of the problems Iran is facing economically. Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, live for us with the latest in London. Thank you. ROMANS: All right, China and the U.S. held constructive discussions

about a face one trade deal amid reports that negotiations would hit a rough path. That progress according to Chinese state media on Sunday. The tow side held a high level phone call Friday night in the U.S. markets are hungry for new of a deal here. Stocks hit record high Friday after economic adviser, Larry Kudlow said, Washington and Beijing were close. White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro repeated Sunday with high praised for trade representative Robert Lighthizer.


PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING TARIFFS: This talks continued to be constructive, but Lighthizer rule is all negotiations should be behind closed doors. So, we're on a glide path to a deal.


ROMANS: A glide path to a deal. And Navarro would not say if a deal would come by the end of this year. Until then, billions of dollar in tariffs remain on U.S. goods, including many egg products. On Twitter, President Trump, promised quote, another major round of cash for U.S. farmers before thanksgiving. The Agriculture Department said, Friday, would begin the second round of bailouts for farmers this year. That's $16 billion packages is meant to compensate farmers for losses from the trade war. Farmers really have been the collateral damage in the president's trade war.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, are Boeing's days of self-certification coming to an end? Revealing new comments from the head of the FAA.



ROMANS: The head of the FAA says he is considering an overhaul of it's plane 3approval process in awake of two Boeing 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people. Steven Dickson, tells the Wall Street Journal that he is willing to change the initial certification process. His calls to focus more on pilot reaction, other human factors echoes new recommendations from the NTSB. Dickson says, the present system gives manufacturers a list of rules with the FAA, only coming in at the end of the process to assess the design. The FAA has been also been criticized for essentially outsourcing much of its certification to plane makers themselves.

BRIGGS: Syracuse University is suspending all fraternity activities for the rest for the semester after at least 10 racist incidents this month. Students protest and citizens breaking out on the upstate New York campus, leading to $50,000 in rewards for information on the responsible parties. The latest incident involves members and guests of a fraternity who is subjected of black female to a racial slur. Choose Asians and African-Americans have also been targeted in a disturbing videos like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I solemnly swear, I always have hatred in my heart

for. To always have hatred n my heart for (BEEP).



BRIGGS: The University is increasing security around the campus and adding shuttle service for students' safety.

ROMANS: A possible real-life version of breaking bad. Two Arkansas chemistry professors are arrested, accused of making meth. The Clark County Sheriffs says 45 year-old, Terry Bateman and 40 year-old Bradley Roland face charges of manufacturing methamphetamine and using drug paraphernalia.


Both works as associate professors at Henderson State University in (inaudible), Arkansas. A university officials says, the science center was closed October 8th after someone reported a chemical odor. Bateman and Roland are both on administrative leave.

BRIGGS: An 8-year-old boy in Maryland is helping nearly 3,000 homeless veterans by providing them with hero bags. Tyler Stalling comes from the family of veterans and he couldn't understand how returning heroes could be homeless. At first, he wanted to build houses for them, but his mom said no. So, he settled for raising more than $50,000 in donations over the past four years to make and deliver hero bags, stuffed with hygiene and grooming gifts, along with hats, gloves and blankets.

ROMANS: What a great idea.

BRIGGS: Well done Tyler.

ROMANS: Well done.

BRIGGS: Great stuff.

ROMANS: All right. The president attacks yet another witness in the impeachment probe. Eight officials set to testify this week. We will tell you why the E.U. Ambassador is under renewed scrutiny.