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Democratic 2020 Candidates Take on Impeachment Inquiry; Ambassador Gordon Sondland Links Trump to Ukraine Quid Pro Quo; Democrats Clash During Debate. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 21, 2019 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: -- the College Scorecard. This is created by the Obama administration live now gives visitors earnings information on more than 36,000 programs at about 4,000 colleges. Looking into an Ivy League school? While students at Harvard, Brown and Yale typically earn high salaries, Columbia University students who majored in writing studies graduate with a median $28,556 in student debt but earn just $19,700 in their first year.

Now for the record, I don't care at all about the Ivy Leagues. What I care about are the schools --

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you do but then relative.

ROMANS: I do. But the schools that we're likely to send our kids to, the, you know, American families are trying to save for.


ROMANS: And three-quarters of students will be able to get a salary high enough to pay for their student debt. You know, the student debt problem is concentrated on the far ends, where people take -- go to a really expensive school and major in something that doesn't pay very much. So this is a lot of data that can help to sort of look at what you're studying, where you're studying and whether you can actually balance that debt load.

BRIGGS: College Scorecard. Check it out.

EARLY START continues right now.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to establish the principle no one is above the law. We have a constitutional responsibility and we need to meet it.


ROMANS: 2020 candidates take on impeachment right out of the gate during last night's debate.


GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.


BRIGGS: A diplomat hand-picked by President Trump delivers what might be the most damaging impeachment testimony yet.

ROMANS: A dramatic moment caught on camera, as a Starship prototype blows up during testing.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, November 21st, 4:00 a.m. in New York, 1:00 a.m. on the West Coast.

We start with the big Democratic debate. Democrats taking on each other but even more blasting President Trump at their fifth presidential debate in Atlanta. First question out of the gate focused on the impeachment inquiry and the hearings that had just wrapped up minutes earlier on Capitol Hill.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me make very clear that what this impeachment proceeding about is really our democracy at stake.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is likely the most corrupt president in the modern history of America. But we cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump. Because if we are, you know what? We're going to lose the election.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a criminal living in the White House. What it means when I watch this is that there are clearly two different set of rules for two different groups of people in America. The powerful people, with their arrogance, think they can get away with this. And then everybody else.

WARREN: Read the Mueller report, all 442 pages of it that showed how the president tried to obstruct justice, and when Congress failed to act at that moment, and that the president felt free to break the law again and again and again.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are absolutely going to confront this president for his wrongdoing. But we will also each running to be the president who will lead the country after the Trump presidency comes to an end one way or the other.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I learned something about these impeachment trials. I learned, number one, that Donald Trump doesn't want me to be a nominee. That's pretty clear. I think we have to ask ourselves, the honest question, who is most likely to do what needs to be done -- produce a Democratic majority in the United States Senate, maintain the House and beat Trump?


ROMANS: We're going to give you many more key moments from last night's debate. But first the most damning testimony so far in the House impeachment hearings. U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, directly implicating President Trump in a campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Sondland telling lawmakers there was a quid pro quo for Ukraine to launch the investigation into Joe Biden and his son. He testified the orders came via Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the president's expressed direction.


SONDLAND: It was abundantly clear to everyone that there was a link and that we were discussing the chicken-and-egg issue of should the Ukrainians go out on a ledge and make the statement that President Trump wanted them to make and then they still don't get their White House visit and their aid. That would be really bad for our credibility.


ROMANS: The third and likely final day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry begins this morning.

Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly has more from Washington.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Christine and Dave, this is the last day or at least very likely to be the last day of this stage of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry. You're going to have two witnesses today. Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser on the National Security Council, and David Holmes, who obviously became famous just less than a week ago when he flew to the United States for a closed-door deposition where he talked about a phone call that he overheard between Ambassador Gordon Sondland and President Trump while in Ukraine.


They will both be testifying publicly. And there are no shortage of issues for them to address, questions for them to answer from lawmakers. But there's one thing to be certain, I mentioned Gordon Sondland. His testimony from Wednesday will most certainly carry into today as well. Take a listen to this very important moment.


SONDLAND: Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now for Democrats, that sound, what Gordon Sondland said there, what he said repeatedly particularly at the beginning of his testimony, was reason enough for them to say that they have all the evidence they need to move forward. No final decision has been made yet. But they have what they need. Gordon Sondland gave them first- person testimony, a first-person witness, who had conversations with President Trump and had conversations with Rudy Giuliani. That was what they had been looking for.

Now it's worth noting, Republicans made clear that there was one point that he continued to make. When it came to the U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, there was never a clear linkage to the investigations that he was talking about, to the quid pro quo related to a White House meeting. Long story short, there's a lot of confusing details here and a lot of different winding roads, certainly a lot of names.

One thing is clear, though, Democrats, very confident in the case they're making, a case they are going to try and close out at least in the public hearing phase of the inquiry today. Republicans completely unbowed.

Guys, I've not talked to a single House Republican who thinks they're going to jump ship. A single House Republican who while privately may be somewhat unsettled by what they're hearing, not publicly going to say that in any shape -- way, shape or form. This is partisan camps at this point in time. It's not going to change, at least not anytime soon -- guys.

BRIGGS: True indeed, Phil.

And as he mentioned, Republicans seizing on the fact that Ambassador Sondland did not explicitly link the $400 million in withheld military aid to Ukrainian investigations. He distinguished that carrot dangled in front of Ukraine's president from a different one, a possible face- to-face meeting between President Zelensky and President Trump, a meeting Ukraine very much wanted.


SONDLAND: President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from Giuliani was that the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting. The aid was my own personal, you know, guess based again on your analogy two plus two equals four.


ROMANS: President Trump himself also trying to spin Ambassador Gordon Sondland's damning impeachment testimony that directly tied the president to the Ukraine pressure campaign. The president claims the Sondland testimony actually vindicates him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He asked me, where -- what should he do? I said, I want nothing, then I repeated it. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Why didn't he put this statement into his opening remarks? That's the most important statement there are.


ROMANS: The president contends Wednesday's testimony was a win and he says it's time for the impeachment hearings to end.

BRIGGS: Sondland's testimony puts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the heart of the Ukraine pressure campaign. But when asked about it Wednesday, Pompeo dodged.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How do you respond to Ambassador Sondland's evidence today that you directed and coordinated Ukraine policy with the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The second one is easy. I didn't see a single thing that I was working. Sounds like you might not have been. I was in meetings all day and haven't had a chance to see any of -- of that testimony.


BRIGGS: Sondland testified that not only was Pompeo in the loop about activities connected to Ukraine pressure campaign, but Vice President Mike Pence and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were as well.

ROMANS: After his bombshell testimony, Sondland headed to the airport for his return flight to Brussels and said he is not resigning.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have any plans to resign, sir?

SONDLAND: Absolutely not. Going back to work.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How do you believe your testimony went today? Do you believe you were (INAUDIBLE) your concerns?

SONDLAND: I told the truth.


ROMANS: Testimony resumes at 9:00 Eastern, with White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill and David Holmes, the diplomat who overheard President Trump's call to Sondland while sitting in a Ukraine restaurant.

BRIGGS: All right, ahead, sparks fly during last night's Democratic debate.


HARRIS: It's unfortunate that we have someone on the stage who is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, who during the Obama administration spent four years full time on FOX News criticizing President Obama who has spent full time --


REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- Senator Harris. That's ridiculous.

HARRIS: Who has spent full time --



BRIGGS: That, plus other key moments, next.


BRIGGS: South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg entering last night's Democratic debate as the frontrunner in Iowa according to a recent poll. But he still struggles with African-American voters. Mayor Pete tried to reach out to those voters from the debate stage last night.


BUTTIGIEG: While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country.


Turning on the news and seeing my own rights come up for debate. And seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here wearing this wedding ring in a way that couldn't have happened two elections ago, lets me know just how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line every day even if they are nothing like me in their experience.


ROMANS: There were also some intense clashes. Senator Kamala Harris lashed back at Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard after Gabbard was asked about what she described as the rot in her own party.


GABBARD: That our Democratic Party, unfortunately, is not the party that is of by and for the people.

HARRIS: I think that it's unfortunate that we have someone on this stage who is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States who, during the Obama administration, spent four years, full time on FOX News, criticizing President Obama, who spent full-time --


GABBARD: -- Senator Harris. That's ridiculous.

HARRIS: Who has spent full time criticizing people on this stage, as affiliated with the Democratic Party. When Donald Trump was elected, not even sworn in, buddied up to Steve Bannon to get a meeting with Donald Trump.

GABBARD: What Senator Harris is doing is unfortunately continuing to traffic in lies and smears and innuendos because she cannot challenge the substance of the argument that I'm making. The leadership and the change that I'm seeking to bring.


BRIGGS: Joe Biden, meanwhile, on his 77th birthday, reinforcing his reputation as a bit of a gaffe machine for this remark on stopping violence against women.


BIDEN: No man has a right to raise a hand to a woman in anger other than in self-defense and that rarely ever occurs. And so we have to just change the culture, period, and keep punching at it and punching at it and punching at it. It'll be a big -- I really mean it. It's a gigantic issue.


BRIGGS: Unfortunate choice of word there. The next debate is set for December 19th on PBS.

ROMANS: All right. Trade uncertainty is back on Wall Street. The Dow fell 113 points. It was a Reuters headline that really shook the markets. A headline that reported a phase one trade deal might not happen this year. President Trump said this about the status of trade talks.


TRUMP: China would much rather make a trade deal than I would.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Then why haven't they?

TRUMP: Because I haven't wanted to do it yet.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And why haven't you wanted to do it yet?

TRUMP: Because I don't think they're stepping up to the level that I want.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Both sides still divided on some pretty important issues. Beijing wants extensive rollbacks on tariffs that are already in place. The U.S. wants promises on agriculture purchases, intellectual property protections, enforcement.

Trump and President Xi were supposed to be in Chile this week to sign the deal at a conference that was actually canceled. New locations have been floated but nothing set in stone. And negotiations appeared to be getting harder. And the clock is ticking down, a new round of tariffs on $156 billion in Chinese-made goods looms December 15th.

I mean, this thing -- October 11th is when the president said that a deal in principle had been reached. And it would take three to five weeks to write it all up, maybe they go to Iowa and sign it in farm country. Now, people who are watching these trade talks are really concerned that if you get something, it's symbolic and small and that's it.

BRIGGS: Right. Mainly purchases by the Chinese.

ROMANS: Maybe -- but are you going to get that? Unclear.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, a driver pulling a man from a burning car. A last-second save captured on camera, next.



ROMANS: A life-saving rescue caught on video in Connecticut. The Stafford Fire Department releasing this video that shows a car exploding into flames. Edward Cyr was driving by in the other direction. You can see him pull his car over, get out, run to the burning vehicle and somehow pull the driver out of it to safety. It happened earlier this month. The man who was saved, 61-year-old Glennwood Little, joined town officials on Wednesday for a ceremony to honor Edward Cyr as a bona fide hero.

BRIGGS: A prototype upper stage for the planned SpaceX Starship blew up during a test at the company's Texas launch complex. In a statement SpaceX says the purpose of the test was to, quote, "pressurize systems to the max" so the blast wasn't entirely unexpected. The private space launch company says there was no injuries and it doesn't view the explosions as a serious setback. The SpaceX Starship is intended to carry passengers and cargo to orbit, the moon and eventually mars.

ROMANS: The nominations for 2020 Grammy Awards are out and there's a new class in town.


Lizzo, one of three newcomers, leads the way with eight nominations, including Album, Song and Record of the Year. She's also up for Best New Artist. Seventeen-year-old Billie Eilish was right behind with six

nominations. The two will go head-to-head in all the major categories.

That song has been in my head. Lil Nas X who has the blockbuster hit of the year with "Old Town Road" also picked up six Grammy nominations. And former first lady Michelle Obama was nominated for a Grammy. She will compete in a Best Spoken Word category for her work on the audio book of her memoir "Becoming." The Grammy Awards will be handed out on January 26th.

BRIGGS: Very cool. All right. 2020 Democrats debate in Atlanta just hours after a pivotal impeachment witness testifies on Capitol Hill. You'll hear from both big events next.