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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; Bloomberg Apologizes For Backing Stop and Frisk Program; At Least 10 Shot, Four Dead In Fresno; Questions Over President Trump Hospital Trip; U.K. Papers And Social Media Slam Prince Andrew; FedEx CEO Challenges New York Times Publisher To Public Debate; Dunkin Tossing Out Styrofoam Cups; Two Yacht Destroyed In Florida Fire; Wall Street Set For Another Record Day; H.P. Rejects $33 Billion Takeover Bid From Xerox; Ford takes Aim At Tesla With Electric Mustang SUV; Late Night Laughs. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 18, 2019 - 04:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, 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.

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

ROMANS: And the president backing off a major commitment to curb vaping. Does his re-election bid come before teenagers' health? That was quite a reversal. He was very firm on this before. Welcome back to Early Start. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. 4:30 Eastern Time. We start in the nation's capital this morning.

There are eight public impeachment hearings this week, 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. And I have news for everybody, get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: 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 that 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.


BRIGGS: And the president attacking another witness 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. He went after her as a never-Trumper, she is set to testify tomorrow.

ROMANS: Now, Williams listened in on the president infamous July 25th phone call with the leader of 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, David thank you so much for that.

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 it 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.


BRIGGS: The biggest challenge facing Buttigieg is a growing 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 of warning from former President Obama at a high dollar event. He spoked about going too far on certain policies. Saying voters want ideas quote, 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.


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

ROMANS: All right. If Michael Bloomberg is running for president, insiders are expecting him to make an announcement in the next few days. But the former New York City mayor may have tip his hand this weekend by reversing his position on stop and frisk. Bloomberg, of course, supported the controversial police policy during his tenure as mayor, insisting it help reduced the murder rate. But on Sunday, he apologized for his position, and an African-American megachurch in Brooklyn.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, CEO, BLOOMBERG: I got something really important --really wrong. I didn't understand that back then, the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities. I was totally focused on saving lives. But as we know, good intentions aren't good enough. I now see that we could and should have acted sooner and acted faster to put the stops.


ROMANS: Some Democrats say Bloomberg's apology rings hollow, because he was still publicly defending this stop and frisk program earlier this year.

BRIGGS: 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. Students 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 is live for us from Hong Kong with the latest. Paula, hi there, what are you seeing?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, we are a couple of blocks away from that campus at this point. And this is really what we have been seeing all day, a game of cat and mouse between these protesters and the police. What they are trying to do, they've been throwing petrol bombs at the police, the police have been responding with teargas over recent hours. They are trying to draw the police away from that Polytechnic University.

The police have fairly strict clamped down and cordon around that university and these protesters are trying to pull them away so that fellow protesters inside that campus can escape. Now, we did see earlier on this morning, we saw dozens of protesters manage to sneak out of the campus and disperse and just disappear. The police are trying to extend the cordon to try and catch up with them and try to arrest as many as they can.

Now, we do understand from police. They just had a press conference. They say that Red Cross has been allowed into the Polytechnic University. Now, you would imagine that that does sound like a good sign. The fact that there could possibly be negotiations. But what we're also hearing at the same time and seeing from live feeds the fact that there have been fire started by many of these protesters. They are trying to keep the police out.

We spoke to one protester inside and he said that he and 20 others were just sitting there, waiting to be arrested by the police. Now, the police say -- that people have been allowed to come and go into the campus. We know that is not true, because we've tried to get inside and they have a very strike cordon on who can get inside. But we're really seeing an escalation over the recent days in this battle. And it's very difficult to see where the (inaudible) to either side at this point.

BRIGGS: Indeed. A small win for protesters, as the anti-mask law there ruled unconstitutional by the high court. Paula Hancocks live for us in Hong Kong. Thank you.

ROMANS: President Trump is backing off his proposed ban on most flavored vaping products, a ban he announced with 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.


ROMANS: The White House and a Trump campaign officials tell the Washington Post, the president changed his mind, because he fears upsetting vapers that 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.


BRIGGS: Breaking overnight. A manhunt under way after at least 10 people were shot, four of them killed, at a football viewing party in Fresno, California. Police telling CNN affiliate KSEE, that about 35 people were gathered in a backyard of home when a suspect snuck in and open fire in the crowd. Police say there is no indications that the suspect knew the victims at this point of the investigations.

ROMANS: All right, 40 minutes pass the hour. The president with a mysterious visit to Walter Reed Medical Center this weekend. The White House says it was for physical. So, why wasn't protocol followed?


BRIGGS: British papers and social media slamming Prince Andrew after he was grilled on television about his relationship with late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The prince denied accusations he slept with an underage girl who was on orders from Epstein. The queen's second son saying he had no recollection of ever meeting Virginia Roberts Giuffre. He also told the BBC at one point he and Epstein home planning to break ties with him.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were staying at the House, a convicted sex offender.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a convenient place to stay. I mean, I've gone through this in my mind so many times. At the end of the day, with the benefit of all the hindsight that one could have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time, I felt it was the honorable and right thing to do. I admit fully that my judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable. That's just the way it is.


BRIGGS: CNN's Hadas Gold, live in London. So, Hadas, that went well.

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, Dave. It's Prince Andrew itself that is sitting down with the BBC for the extensive interview that somehow draw a line under this controversy. Since we've only fan the flames further and brought up even more questions. For example, in that clip you aired, he says, that he had to go break up the friendship with Jeffrey Epstein in person.

But earlier, he claims they weren't actually that good of friends. So it brings to mind some questions like why can't you just call him up on the phone and break up over the phone. This is also the first time we got some what we could call alibis to some of these allegations brought for by Virginia Roberts Giuffre who you reference earlier.

One of the interesting alibis that is getting a lot of attention is that, he said, on one of the nights that Virginia Roberts Giuffre claimed that they were together, he was actually taking his daughter, Princess Beatrice to a party at a pizza restaurant just outside of central London. Now, the reaction has been absolutely brutal. You saw some of the headlines there earlier, one royal commentator, Charlie Proctor, the editor in chief of the Royal Center website wrote, I expected a train wreck. That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad.

Now, just the fact, Dave, that this interview even took place is notable, because it is so rare that members of the royal family sit down for an extensive interview, especially when they're are not connected to their charity work or anything like that. And especially when it is such a sensitive topic. That what took place in Buckingham Palace. That is the seat of the monarchy. So, you have understand that the queen, of course, probably, at least, knew about it. Dave.

BRIGGS: Bad to worse for Prince Andrew. Hadas Gold live for us in London this morning, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, 47 minutes past the hour. FedEx is challenging a news outlet to a public debate over coverage it doesn't like. The New York Times reported that FedEx paid zero dollars in taxes in 2018 citing financial records. That's thanks to the Trump administration tax cuts, which the Times says, the company lobbied heavily for. The report also said FedEx is $1.6 billion in tax savings didn't go into investments, it went directly to shareholders.

Now, FedEx did not dispute the low tax bill when the Times asked for comments. However, FedEx's CEO, Frederick Smith is hitting back now in a public statement, calling the report a distorted and factually incorrect story. He also challenge the Times publisher and business editor to a public debate. The focus, Smith said, should be federal tax policy and the societal benefits of business investments on the U.S. economy. The New York Times had no immediate response to this challenge -- direct challenge from FedEx.

BRIGGS: Questions are being raised after an unconventional visit by President Trump to Walter Reed Medical Center. The White House insists it was for an annual physical, but it came less than a year after the last one and did not follow protocol. More from Jeremy Diamond at the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Dave and Christine. President Trump on Saturday, making an unusual visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, for what the White House was saying is the first part of his annual physical exam. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham insisting that the president simply had a free weekend in Washington and wanted to get ahead of a busy 2020 schedule coming up and decided to go to Walter Reed to have the first part of his physical done.

But the weigh in which this visit took place was unusual. The White House did not announced the president's plans to go to Walter Reed ahead of time. In fact reporters traveling in a motorcade with the president did not know where they were going until they arrived at Walter Reed. And they were under direction not to report that the president had actually left the White House until arriving at Walter Reed.

And now, I'm also told according to a source familiar with the matter, that the president's visit to Walter Reed did not follow the typical protocol for a routine medical examination. Typically I'm told the staff, the medical staff at Walter Reed would have been informed ahead of time. That there was a VIP coming to Walter Reed. That certain parts of the hospital would be closed off.

None of that occurred this time. Another source also telling us, that the president's visit to Walter Reed was not even on his internal public schedule as of Saturday morning.

[04:50:02] White House Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham responded saying, we're

not going to get into security and movement protocols when it comes to the president. But as my statement says, he is in good health. And it was a routine checkup as part of his annual physical. He said, I've been given plenty of on-the-record statements that were truthful and accurate. Actively trying to find and report conspiracy theories really needs to stop.

And despite saying that the president had a free weekend in Washington, Grisham did not respond to my question about why the president wasn't then able to complete the full physical, which typically takes about four hours for him to complete. Again, this is taking place just nine months after his last physical. The president though said that he will complete his physical next year. Dave? Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Jeremy, thank you so much for that.

All right, a Dunkin' is tossing out Styrofoam cups for good. The chain says it's breaking up with its easily identifiable foam cups. More on CNN business, next.



BRIGGS: Two yachts with a combined worth of more than $20 million destroyed by a fire in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. More than 60 firefighters and three fireboats called to the Universal Marine Center docks early Saturday morning. Officials believe the first fire started on a 160 foot yacht named Ohanian, then spread to a nearly 100 foot yacht name Reflections. They say it looks like the vessels were undergoing construction work at the time of the fire.

ROMANS: Let's go check on CNN Business this morning. Take a look at markets around the world. Starting a new week pretty much mixed. Asian and European stocks will try to lean higher here, despite violence over the weekend in Hong Kong. The Hang Seng rose 1.3 percent, that's a rebound from last week's nearly 5 percent drop. It could be another record day on Wall Street if these indications hold. Markets are hungry for any news of a U.S./China trade deal. Chinese state media on Sunday said the two sides held constructive discussions about a face on deal. Last week, all major U.S. indices hit record highs when Economic Adviser, Larry Kudlow said, Washington and Beijing were close to a deal. And the DOW cross 28,000 for the first time putting recession worries away in the rear-view mirror.

A Hewlett-Packard rejecting a takeover bid from Xerox, but a merger is on the table. Xerox made that offer for H.P., a company more than three times its size on November 5th. On Sunday, H.P.'s board voted down Xerox $33.5 billion offer saying, that the bid significantly undervalued the company. However, the board said it is still open to a merger. Both aging tech companies are in cost-cutting mode, the deal could streamline their business and shed expenses.

Ford is coming for Tesla, unveiling a fully electric SUV with a storied pedigree. The all-electric Mustang Mac E, will keep the look and horsepower of the classic muscle car line, but now to electric motors and able it to drive 0-60 in less than four seconds. It is Ford's biggest bet yet on a mass market electric car, but in a size most Americans prefer. Nearly half of all U.S. auto sales are SUV's. Did you know that? Half of the cars sold in the United States are SUV's. Prices for this Mustang started around 45 grand.

A Dunkin' is tossing out Styrofoam cups for good. It's an effort to be more ecofriendly. The chain is ditching the distinctive foam cup. A move that also ends the tradition of double cup and that's when Dunkin fans place the foam cup around a cold plastic cup. Dunkin playfully tweeted that it was breaking up with the double-cup. Instead Dunkin will now offer customers double-walled paper cups. Dunkin' first announced plans eliminate foam cups last year, it plans to phase out Styrofoam completely by 2020.

BRIGGS: Not hard to imagine impeachment as a soap opera. Saturday Night Live gave it a shot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Days of our impeachment, where the only thing at stake is democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yeah. I love the glamour and the spotlight. That's why I spent my career in Ukraine and Somalia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tried to do that thing where you like, hold up a magnifying glass and you say, I'm going to look into that. But instead I grab the hammer and I took my own eye out. Not my best day. Not my worst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. It's a bad beer. Is Rudy OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he actually may have fixed me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Well, as long as we're talking about track records, Trump started off in Atlantic City, how did that go? Even Fox News started attacking Yovanovitch was a bad move.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should the president be tweeting at her with hearing? No. It makes him look like a big, dumb baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's what they're saying on his favorite channel. That's like your kid turned on Nickelodeon and Dora was like, hey, you'll never learned to read, fatty.


ROMANS: Oh come one. Dora would never say that.

BRIGGS: Dora would never say that.

ROMANS: Never. Don't bring Dora into this, please. BRIGGS: Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a

great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers, Early Start continues right now.