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Four National Security Officials to Testify Today; U.S. Recognizes Israeli Settlements; Big Change for Chick-fil-A; Beating the Odds; Violent Clashes in Hong Kong; Chiefs Hold Off Charges in Mexico City. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 19, 2019 - 04:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The impeachment probe back in the spotlight today. Four top officials set to testify. Why they matter and how new revelations from this diplomat make him critical for Democrats.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A major shift for a major brand. Why Chick- fil-A will no longer donate to groups with anti-gay views.

ROMANS: Doctors said this little boy wouldn't live past his 2nd birthday. He just turned 3 and the town is celebrating.

Happy Birthday, Nash.

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 where Democrats are trying to remove Donald Trump and Republicans battling to save him. Both are bracing for the most momentous phase yet in the impeachment inquiry. Four senior national security officials will testify in public today, and that's just a warm up. Five more set to appear later this week.

ROMANS: Democrats now accusing the president of bribery, saying he abused his power to pressure Ukraine for political favors. Republicans are hoping to show Trump is only exercising his sweeping presidential authority. A week of packed testimony will also test Trump who had been blasting witnesses publicly since last week.

Our Phil Mattingly has more from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and David, I hope you're well rested, well fed, have some snacks ready, because week two of public impeachment hearings is going to be a slog. It's going to be a lot. It's going to be nine witnesses over the course of three days starting with four over the course of two separate hearings just today.

Now, here's what you need to know about the first hearing that are happening today. The first hearing will be two White House officials, one, Jennifer Williams, who works in the vice president's office, the other, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, who's the top Ukraine policy expert on the National Security Council.

Now both of these individuals testified in their close door depositions that they had concerns with President Trump's July 25th call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, wondering why certain investigations were brought up, why Vice President Biden's son was brought up, as well as what those two individuals working in their roles inside the White House knew about the broader U.S. policy as it pertained to Ukraine, particularly the kind of outside shadow policy channel that was being run in part by the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Keeping it on the afternoon as well though. These are two witnesses, Kurt Volker, who is the former U.S. special representative to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former top Russia hand on the National Security Council, who were actually witness request from Republicans. One of those individuals Kurt Volker has made very clear in his private deposition, closed door deposition, that there was as Republicans say no quid pro quo.

They didn't believe the president did anything illegal. However, he did raise some concerns about some individuals involved with the foreign policy related to Ukraine. Same goes for Tim Morrison. He made clear that he was on the July 25th call between the two presidents. So, he didn't think anything illegal was said in that call but made clear various elements of the U.S.-Ukraine policy outside of regular channels, whether it's Rudy Giuliani, or U.S. ambassador of the E.U., Gordon Sondland, were problems in their roles. So, that's Tuesday's hearing.

I want to flash forward just real, because there's also a new development. On Thursday, a new individual has been added to the testimony list. That would be David Holmes. He is the U.S. embassy and Ukraine official who overheard the phone call between Sondland and President Trump at an outdoor tavern. That phone call which he testified behind closed doors and rather explicit detail in terms of what was said has now become central to the Democrats' impeachment inquiry. That will come on Thursday. But as I said, it will be a long week, so be ready -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. A long week. Thanks, Phil.

Some of that explicit firsthand detail was revealed overnight in newly released transcripts. David Holmes testified last week he heard Sondland tell President Trump Ukraine was prepared to move forward with the investigation he was demanding. The State Department official says he was taken aback by the conversation and the lack of operational security. BRIGGS: He told investigators, quote, I've never seen anything like

this, someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language. Holmes also admits telling friends about the Sondland Trump call but insists he did not go in detail. That could be ammunition for Republicans since I want raises questions about how much internal government information Holmes shared.

ROMANS: White House officials are looking at moving some of the impeachment probe witnesses out of the White House and back to their home departments. Like many, White House national security and diplomatic staffers several witnesses, including Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, they are actually assigned to the White House. They are on loan to the White House.


Sources tell CNN, President Trump has repeatedly suggested dismissing them even as his advisors warned firing witnesses could be viewed as retaliation. In fact, the president has implied on Twitter that some have already been fired, though, they all still do have their jobs.

BRIGGS: The Supreme Court pressing pause on a ruling that would hand President Trump's financial records to a House committee without the order by Chief Justice John Roberts. The accounting firm Mazars was under orders by a lower court to turn over eight years of personal and business records tomorrow.

In an unrelated major ruling late Monday, a federal judge ordered a two week grace period of House Democrats request of the president's tax returns, under a New York law. The case is one of four in federal courts where the House is seeking Trump's financial records.

ROMANS: The White House has released a letter from President Trump's doctor, claiming that unscheduled checkup at Walter Reed Hospital was routine and planned. CNN has reported the hospital visit did not follow protocol. But the doctor's letter said it was handled the way it was because of scheduling uncertainties. The president has not had any chest pain and was not treated for any urgent or acute issues.

BRIGGS: To 2020 now, Pete Buttigieg taking a critical pitch to black voters -- to the black voters. A new CNN poll puts him open top in overwhelmingly white Iowa. But the latest Quinnipiac poll in South Carolina shows zero percent support among black voters. In Atlanta, ahead of tomorrow's debate, he spoke to students at historically black Morehouse College.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I try not to get too caught up in poll numbers, but I did have a chance to look at the one you're mentioning, and I think I saw that a strong majority of black voters in South Carolina still say that they have not formed an opinion or haven't heard enough to form an opinion at all about my candidacy, all the more indication that it's so important for us to do this engagement. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Buttigieg just released $500 billion college affordability plan that would make a college free for households earning under $100,000 a year. Bernie Sanders proposes wiping out all college debt. Elizabeth Warren wants to wipe out most of it. The New York Fed says U.S. student loan debt climbed last quarter to $1.5 trillion and astonishing 11 percent of that debt is 90 days late.

BRIGGS: And we hear not much about on the Republican side except for a man named A. Wayne Johnson running for Senate in Georgia. He too wants to wipe out student debt, 1 percent corporate tax there in Georgia. So, hopefully, this issue gets more attention in 2020.

ROMANS: All right. Thirty-seven minutes past the hour. Disagreements on tariffs forced him out of the White House. Why Gary Cohn now says the president may have no choice but to follow through on his threat.



BRIGGS: Violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. Petro bombs, Molotov cocktails and tear gas punctuating the political unrest. The latest flash point, the campus of Polytechnic University where a small number of demonstrators remain barricaded inside.

Also inside, Paula Hancocks.

Paula, what are you seeing now this morning?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave, this was really the heart of that bitter battle between protesters and police. We understand that hundreds of those protesters have now left this campus. They know that they are going outside to be arrested by police and will face prosecution. Those over 18, those under the age of 18, we're told, will not be arrested by police.

We understand 1,100 so far have been arrested. That's the police number. But look what's left for those who are staying and there are some who are staying. We spoke to a 16-year-old who said he's not going anywhere.

You can see the amount of petro bombs here. You got boxes, you got crates, you got shopping trolleys filled with them. You have sorts of explosive, chemical concoctions, ethanol, petroleum. We have seen some officials from the university going up to the laboratory to figure out what has been taken. One of them said to us that he's worried that these students and protesters don't know how to mix these kind of chemicals. He's more worried some do know how to.

So, we have heard from the chief executive and from police that if protesters stay peaceful, they will stay peaceful. It's a lot more calm than it was on Monday, that is for sure, but there are some that are saying that they want to stay within here, they want to keep this fight going -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Calm but still petro. Well, it's tenuous situation to say the least.

Paula Hancocks live for us, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Wall Street hinging on any hint of progress in the 17-month-old trade war with China. Former White House adviser Gary Cohn urged the president to sign a phase one trade deal and said without a deal, the president will be forced to slap new big tariffs on China next month.


GARY COHN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: December 15th is a long time from now in terms of tariff negotiation. I think that he thinks that that's a forcing function and if he keeps blinking, you know, he loses credibility in the Chinese eyes.


ROMANS: Cohn left the White House in 2018, remember, because he did not agree with the use of tariffs in the president's trade war. Those scheduled December tariffs include iPhones, video games, toys. These are products popular during the holiday season. These are products consumers would find in their shopping cart and higher prices.

The phase one deal is not the grand course correction that the president promised. This is designed to be a more narrow agreement to keep them talking at least and leave the thorny issues until later.


And even this narrow phase one plan has been very difficult. Until all this is decided, billions of dollars in tariffs remain on U.S. and Chinese goods. That hurts U.S. businesses. Businesses pay the tariffs. It also hurts American farmers. They are the collateral damage of Chinese tariffs.

BRIGGS: The Trump administration upending 40 years of U.S. policy on Israel. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing the U.S. has determined West Bank settlements do not violate international law. The major reversal risks America's decades-long role as a neutral broker.

Pompeo claims the move increased the likelihood of a Middle East peace settlement. That is not the sentiment of Palestinian leaders who view the West Bank as part of their future state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a staunch supporter of settlements.

Pompeo denied the change in U.S. policy was connected to Netanyahu's fight for his political life.

We'll be right back.


BRIGGS: Mahomes and the Chiefs holding off the Chargers for a win in Mexico City.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.

BRIGGS: Buenos dias.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Yes, the field at Aztec Stadium good enough to play this time around. Remember, last year, they had to relocate the Mexico City game because of poor field conditions. Now this is the fourth regular season game to be held in Mexico.

Patrick Mahomes looking to get the Chiefs back on track after a lost with the Titans last week. Third quarter, Travis Kelsey for a 23-yard touchdown. That put the Chiefs up 23-9 at that point.

Chargers tried to mount a come back. Down seven under 30 seconds left, but Philip Rivers picked off. That was his fourth interception of the game, tying a career high.

Chiefs win 24-17. Chargers now lost seven games this season by one score.

All right. The biggest talk in sports right now, the ongoing saga between Colin Kaepernick and the NFL, after not showing up to the NFL workout Saturday and then holding his work out in front of eight teams. Kaepernick remains a free agent.

On Monday, Tom Brady was asked about Kaepernick on his weekly radio show.


TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: You know, it's great he had an opportunity. Hopefully he makes the most of it. Hopefully, he gets an opportunity.

I like Colin. I got to know Colin a little bit. You know, I know he's, obviously, hoping he can play.


SCHOLES: All right. Finally, the Mavs' Luka Doncic grew up idolizing LeBron James. Now, he's right next to LeBron in the record books. Luka poured in a career high 42 points last night against the Spurs, to go along with 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

The 20-year-old Slovenian, the youngest player other than LeBron to have a 40-point triple double. Luka and LeBron, the only two 20 years old, to accomplish the NBA history. The Mavs beat the Spurs 117-110.

Guys, tell you what, 20 years old, Dallas Maverick look like they're going to be in good shape for a long time with Luka.

BRIGGS: Yes, one of those superstars, I think the (INAUDIBLE) will needs to learn more about. Ratings have not been good so far. But he is a superstar. Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Chick-fil-A is changing its approach to charitable giving. The restaurant has been criticized for donating to groups with anti-LGBTQ views. Now, it plan to give to smaller organizations and focus on education, homelessness and hunger. Chick- fil-A said its foundation will donate more than $9 million to those causes next year. It's not ruling out support for faith-based charities moving forward.

SCHOLES: For the seventh time in 12 days, Syracuse University officials are investigating a racist incident at one f their resident halls. This graffiti targeted African-Americans. School announced on Sunday that all fraternity activities have been suspended for the rest of the semester because of these racist incidents. CNN also learned Syracuse is investigating reports of a purported white supremacist manifesto posted in an online forum and sent to several people at the school library.

ROMANS: All right. A 5-year-old brought cocaine to school in Massachusetts. And now, his dad faces charges. Holyoke police say the boy ingested the cocaine and was taken to the hospital. He's expected to be OK.

Listen to prosecutors describe what the 5-year-old boy told his teacher.


MATTHEW GREEN, HAMPDEN COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Kindergarten student told the teacher that when he eats or tastes the powder, he turns into superman.


ROMANS: The boy's father, 29-year-old Vinny Garcia (ph) is being held without bail. He's facing drug possession and other charges.


ROMANS: Now that is a close call. Illinois state police call this the miracle on ice. It happened November 12th. Roads were still icy after a storm. Two troopers were helping to change a tire when they saw the skidding truck. They yanked the car's driver -- look at that, into the ditch and then the truck flew right over her and barely missed the troopers.

BRIGGS: Pacific Gas and Electric has notified more than 300,000 customers in 25 northern California counties it may shut off their power. The outages would start tomorrow morning due to high fire risk conditions through Thursday. Utility implementing the power shutoff to prevent fires caused by sparking equipment. In October, PG&E shut off power to almost 800,000 customers in Northern California.

ROMANS: One flood threat is ending on the east coast, another one is taking shape in the West.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Dave and Christine, good morning.

Yes, certainly going to get a break across the northeast.

But, first, this weather is brought to you by Ninja Foodi Grill, the grill that sears, sizzles and air fry crisps.


And I do want to talk about what's happening here because a system just a few hundred miles offshore producing rainfall and wintry mix across portions of interior New England this morning. But that is about here. As we progress into later this afternoon and certainly over the next couple of days, a drier trend is going to persist and with it, some warmer weather also slated across the Northeast.

Wait until you see the seven day forecast out of D.C. But look at this, across the Southwest, we go large parts of the state of Arizona underneath a flood watch. Portions of Southern California dealing with a similar set up. We do have some remnant tropical moisture streaming in across the south and also a front pushing in from the north.

So, put it together here, not only do we get snow but quite a bit of rainfall across portions of say, San Diego and to Tucson, even in and around Phoenix as well. And, of course, there's going a wind event in place with the upcoming front. So, off the coast of California near the San Francisco Bay, some strongest winds slated in that region.

Lower 50s this afternoon across New York City. Washington, how about we take you up to almost 60 degrees over the next several days before a cooling trend this weekend.


BRIGGS: All right. Pedram, thanks.

Reality-TV-star-turned-billionaire, cosmetics mogul Kylie Jenner has agreed to sell her line for $600 million with plans to stay on as its creative leader. Under the deal, beauty giant Coty which owns CoverGirl will buy a 51 percent stake of Kylie Cosmetics. The companies say the partnership helps Jenner's brand expand globally and enter new categories.

Jenner's team will manage communication. She's just 22.

ROMANS: Six hundred million dollars at 22, wow. The U.S. Postal Service is giving us a chance to be Santa's helpers by

answering gift requests from kids in need. Now, many of these kids asked for a warm coat, new shoes, a favorite toy. Up until last year, less than two dozen cities participated. But this year, letters from every U.S. city may be answered before the post office sends them to the North Pole, right?

To read some of them or answer some of these letters that Santa can't get to, go

BRIGGS: Doctors said a boy with a rare disease wouldn't live past his 2nd birthday. A Chicago suburb held a parade in Nash's honor when he reached his 3rd. More than one hundred trucks, jeeps and cars drove down the street to celebrate.

Nash has a rare neuromuscular disease which affects breathing and the spine. Instead of getting candy he got banana pudding. It's the only food he eats by mouth because he's fed through an I.V. His mom called it a magical day.

ROMANS: Happy Birthday, Nash.

All right. Let's get a check on CNN this morning, taking a look at stock markets around the world. European shares have opened higher here.

On Wall Street, leaning a little bit higher this morning. Investors once again, though, are really watching the state of the U.S.-China trade talks. CNBC reports Beijing is pessimistic, citing government sources, pessimistic because the president doesn't seem to want to roll back tariffs. This contradicts what both sides said over the weekend.

Both sides said talks were constructive. Trade talks have been three steps forward two steps back. It feels like two steps back right now, but we'll see. Another big trench of tariffs going into effect December 15th.

WeWork's 12,000 employees are bracing for mass layoffs. In an email obtained by CNN, the trouble start up confirmed layoffs are coming. Didn't say how many but reports cite at least 4,000.

WeWork has become a cautionary tale for high start ups cancelling its disastrous IPO after investors balked at its growing lawsuit and management. And problems may not be over. New York state attorney general is now investigating the company.

All right. Marie Kondo cleared your homes of clutter. Now she wants to replace the things you got rid of with products that spark joy. The Netflix star launched an online website selling products like aroma therapy, cooking and organization. She said she's not encouraging customers to over-purchase anything but a little bit of irony that she got you --

BRIGGS: A little?

ROMANS: To get rid of a lot of stuff and now selling me something to replace those things.

BRIGGS: But it brings joy.

ROMANS: Sparks joy.

BRIGGS: To her.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: And money.

ROMANS: It brings joy to her.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs.

Here's "NEW DAY".


BRIGGS: The next round of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry hours away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jennifer Williams.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tim Morrison will testify today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This testimony from over a dozen witnesses makes it clear that the president was using a meeting at the White House and taxpayer dollars in order to try to get a foreign government to benefit himself politically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vindman himself has so many problems, whether you come dressed with medals or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is truly a mindboggling corruption of U.S. foreign policy will beyond anything that Richard Nixon and other U.S. president ever possibly did.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.