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Former Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland Set to Testify on Wednesday; Pete Buttigieg Surges to Lead in Iowa in a New CNN Poll; Hong Kong Protesters Set Fire to University. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 18, 2019 - 05:00   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: The E.U. ambassador under scrutiny ahead of testimony on Capitol Hill. Eight witnesses on the schedule. The president attacking yet another one.

BRIGGS: A new leader for Democrats in Iowa. What the rise of Pete Buttigieg means for the 2020 field.

ROMANS: The president backing off a major commitment to curb vaping. Does his re-election bid come before teenagers' health? Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, I'm Christine Romans --

BRIGGS: Good morning, good morning everyone, I'm Dave Briggs, Monday, November 18th, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East. We start in the nation's Capitol this morning. There are eight public impeachment hearings this week, but the focus is really increasing on one, Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the EU.

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, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF, WHITE HOUSE: We do -- 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.


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


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Those individuals that leaked this, you know, if their interest was a stronger relationship to Ukraine, they didn't accomplish this, having all come out into public has weakened that relationship. This has exposed things that didn't need to be exposed. This would have been far better off if we were just taken care of this behind the scenes.

This never would have been exposed, that funding would have been restored, and our relationship with 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 to testify tomorrow.

ROMANS: Williams listened in on the president's infamous July 25th phone call with the leader of Ukraine. She testified privately that Trump's request for investigations 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 & 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 of 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 a million dollars to 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 is also likely to be quizzed 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 Shortell, thank you for that. Now, to the race for the White House. A stunning rise from obscurity to the top of the field in Iowa for Pete Buttigieg. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor, pulling to a 9-point lead in a CNN-Des Moines Register poll as 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, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On the ground for weeks, I've 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 disciplined and focused on doing that.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): 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: One challenge facing Buttigieg is a glaring lack of support in the black community, just 4 percent in a recent Quinnipiac poll. He will speak today at Morehouse College; a historically black university at Atlanta. The entire Democratic field also getting a word of warning from former President Obama. At a high dollar event, he spoke 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.


BRIGGS: That led to a trending hashtag all weekend too far left. Expect Buttigieg to be the target of increased attacks in the next Democratic debate this Wednesday night.

ROMANS: All right, a very violent weekend in Hong Kong. Protesters barricading, university police threatening to use live rounds if things don't calm down. We go live to Hong Kong.



ROMANS: Bloody protests over the weekend in Hong Kong. Anti- government demonstrators setting fire to the entrance of the city's polytechnic university to stop riot police from 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.

After months of this, the U.S. remains mostly quiet on the conflict. Concerns about trade negotiations with China, perhaps a factor there. Paula Hancocks live from Hong Kong with the latest developments. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, I know that protesters here would certainly like to hear more vocal support from the U.S. president. They're calling on support from Europe as well. They want the international community to get involved. Now, we're just a couple of blocks away from that polytechnic university where hundreds, potentially more protesters are still holed up inside.

Now, we have spoken to one of the protesters inside. He said he's sitting with a number of his other protesters, just waiting to be arrested, saying that they want to leave, but believe the police cordon will prevent them from doing so. Now, that definitely is a police lockdown on this campus at this point.

We do know there are more radical, more violent elements within that campus, as you say. We have seen fires being lit to try and keep the police out. We've seen petrol bombs being used against police. We've seen a bow and arrow being used against police.

One policeman having an arrow in his leg. And we heard from police officers about that, saying that if protesters use these lethal weapons, they believe a bow and arrow is a lethal weapon, they will have no choice but to use minimum force and potentially even live fire. Now, here, what we are seeing is thousands of protesters trying to distract the police.

There has been a cat and mouse game all day for many hours. There's been petrol bombs from the protests side, and there has been teargas and rubber bullets from the police side. They're trying to draw the police away from the campus, they say. Trying to see if they can allow some of those protesters to escape.

Now, earlier this morning, we saw dozens of the protesters manage to sneak out of the campus and just disappear. So, the police extended the cordon, trying to pick up every, single one of them. And that's what they say they wanted to do. They want to make sure that they can arrest as many of those people as possible. They say they should come out, drop their weapons, but they will be arrested. Christine?

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

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 saying Trump campaign officials tell "The Washington Post", the Trump 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 pods other than tobacco and menthol. The CDC reports nearly 2,200 cases of lung injury linked to vaping, as of last week, there have been 42 confirmed deaths.

ROMANS: All right, to those trade talks now, China and the U.S. held constructive discussions about a phase one trade deal amid reports that negotiations hit a rough patch. That positivity coming from Chinese state media. The two sides held a high level phone call on Friday night. U.S. markets frankly are hungry for news of a deal, stocks hit record highs Friday, after economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Washington and Beijing were close to a settlement.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro repeated Sunday with high praise for the negotiating style of trade representative Robert Lighthizer.


PETER NAVARRO, TRADE ADVISER, WHITE HOUSE: These talks continue to be constructive, but my Lighthizer rule is all negotiations should be behind closed doors. So, we're on a glide path to a deal.


ROMANS: He's always says, don't believe the leaks. They'll never believe the leaks. The day in-day out leaks on what's happening on the trade deal. Navarro would not say if a deal would be reached this year. Until then, billions of dollars in tariffs remain on U.S. goods, including many agricultural projects.

On Twitter, President Trump promised another major round of cash for U.S. farmers before thanksgiving. The Agriculture Department begins a second round of bailouts for farmers next week. The $16 billion bailout package is to compensate for trade losses from the war -- the trade war here. You know, and it has been farmers have been right here in the middle of this.

BRIGGS: Yes --

ROMANS: You see farm bankruptcies rising. It has been really devastating for some of these communities and family farms trying to hold on. And in some cases, the bailout money they're getting is not --



ROMANS: Compensating them --

BRIGGS: Not going to do it --

ROMANS: A 100 percent. And the president still says that the bailout money is coming from the Chinese who pay the tariffs -- the Chinese don't pay the tariffs. So, there's a redistribution of wealth --

BRIGGS: U.S. businesses --

ROMANS: Going on right now from U.S. businesses --

BRIGGS: Hit it there --

ROMANS: To farmers who frankly do need it.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, another chapter in the Lamar Jackson story. It sure has been an entertaining one. Andy Scholes has that story in the "BLEACHER REPORT" next.



ROMANS: Two storm systems that hit the U.S. over the weekend joining forces today, and more than 10 million people in New England are under a Winter weather advisory. Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, guys. Another system here lined up, and the energy here essentially come together later on tonight into the early morning hours of Tuesday, and that's when we have the elements in place. It produced at least some Wintry weather and you noticed across the Ohio Valley, the incoming front here, not impressive at least, not at this hour.

But models do suggest a decent amount of rainfall that he had across some of the major metro cities in the northeast and then work your way into the interior portion of New England and then gradually transitions from a Wintry mix into some snow showers.

And certainly, you've got to go north of say, Burlington, on to northern Maine, Presque Isle, these are the areas that see any snowfall accumulate. But you know, a uniform trend here of temperatures in the 40s, whether it's Minneapolis or Chicago or New York or Boston, generally between 40 and 45 degrees over the next couple of days.

And kind of hit additional reinforcing shots of colder air at least for the northern states while down towards the south, a milder trend begins to develop. So, Chicago gradually climbs out of the 30s and stays into the middle and upper 40s, even gets up to 50 or so degrees by later in the week.

And New York City kind of remains between 45 and 55 this week for much of this week. So, we'll call it a seasonally cool week across the northeast and Midwest, guys?

BRIGGS: All right, Pedram, thanks. The Ravens put a beat-down on the Texans on what was supposed to be the match-up of the weekend. Once again, pass interference is a big problem for the NFL. Andy Scholes has those stories in the "BLEACHER REPORT". Houston's own, Andy Scholes, you must have been surprised, my friend, I thought we had a great game in store.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Yes, actually as a Texans fan, Dave, I'm absolutely not surprised by what happened on Sunday.

BRIGGS: Wow --

SCHOLES: Texans always routinely don't show up for big games. But you know, a big play early in this one was a non-pass interference call. You know, the NFL made it to where you could challenge if pass interference wasn't called after the Saints got cheated out of the Super Bowl last year.

But the way the league is enforcing it right now, it's just ridiculous. The latest prime example coming in the first quarter of this Ravens-Texans game, Deshaun Watson going to go deep to DeAndre Hopkins, and Hopkins at the end of this play is just going to get tackled in the end zone.

No flag was thrown. The Texans challenged it, and it was upheld, no pass interference. Now, when that happened, only 6 of 58 pass interference challenges had been overturned. Hopkins tweeting after the game. Someone new needs to be making these decisions in New York. Now, ask for the game, Lamar Jackson out-dueling Deshaun Watson. He ran for 86 yards and threw for four touchdowns.

Ravens win big, 41-7. And Jackson's teammate Mark Ingram has got no doubts who the MVP should be right now.


MARK INGRAM II, RUNNING BACK, BALTIMORE RAVENS: The MVP front-runner, I mean, anybody else got to say something different about that, they come see me. I'm right here, be more outside of the bank. If you've got an issue with that, come see me.


SCHOLES: Reigning Super Bowl MVP making plays with his arm yesterday for New England. Not Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, the Patriot using a trick play there. Brady to Edelman who found Phillip Dorsett for the touchdown. Now, Edelman, a former quarterback at Kent State University -- now, that was a game-winning touchdown, New England wins the rematch to Super Bowl 52, 17-10.

Cowboys and Lions, Dak Prescott's pre-game dance routine was the talk of the NFL a week ago. Well, now, it's become a touchdown celebration. Ezekiel Elliott getting this screen pass here from Dak in the fourth quarter. Takes it in for the score, and then as they say, now, he does the Dak. Cowboys all-smiles, they would get the win, 35-27.

Now, over the weekend, the biggest story in the NFL was the Colin Kaepernick workout that turned into a very eventful day. And in an unprecedented move, the league was holding a workout for Kaepernick at the Atlanta Falcons' practice facility.

Twenty five scouts had arrived, the media had gathered outside in 30 minutes before it was to start, it was called off by Kaepernick's team. They announced they were doing it an hour later and moving it to a high school stadium about 60 miles away from that Falcons practice facility.

Now, Kaepernick's team said the NFL workout fell apart because they wanted to film it themselves, have it open to the media and sign a generic liability waiver, not a waiver with employment-related clauses in it, which is what the NFL wanted them to sign. Dave, I talked to Kaepernick's agent at the workout.

I was at both of them. He said in the end, he felt like the NFL workout was just a PR stunt like many said. And once it got moved, only eight teams were represented at the workout that was 60 miles south at the Atlanta Falcons practice facility.


BRIGGS: And you were there, the tragedies, he threw the ball really well, 55, 60 yards downfield, hit guys in stride, but he's his own worst enemy, a lot like the politician we talk a lot about.

SCHOLES: Well, yes, he looked sharp. But I'll tell you what, Dave, There's so much mistrust between Kaepernick and the NFL, that workout that was set up, it seemed like it was doomed from the start.

BRIGGS: Yes, I think he blew it up for good this time, but we shall see. Andy Scholes, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

BRIGGS: Romans, what's coming up?

ROMANS: All right, the president attacks yet another witness in the impeachment probe. Eight officials set to testify this week. We'll tell you why the EU ambassador is under renewed scrutiny.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Syracuse University is suspending all fraternity activities for the rest of the semester, after at least ten racist incidents this month.




ROMANS: Student protests and sit-ins breaking out on the Upstate, New York campus leading to $50,000 in rewards for information on the responsible parties. Now, the latest incident involves members and guests of a fraternity who subjected a black female to a racial slur.