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Democrats Marching Ahead to Next Phase, White House, GOP Still Gaming Out Senate Trial; Benjamin Netanyahu Indicted on Corruption Charges. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2019 - 04:00   ET




DR. FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE RUSSIA ADVISER: I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up, and here we are.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The last scheduled impeachment witness has spoken, leaving House Democrats with some decisions to make.




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The trump White House defiant in the face of possible impeachment.

BRIGGS: China's President Xi talking tough in new comments about his trade war with President Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday --


ROMANS: A scare in the sky as passengers see flames shoot from a jet engine in mid-flight.

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. Good morning, everybody. It's Friday, November 22nd, 4:00 a.m. in New York. 10:00 a.m. in Jerusalem. We're live there ahead. But we start in the nation's capital this morning.

Democrats moving full speed into the next phase of impeachment proceedings after hearing the last of the planned public testimony. House leaders say they are undeterred by the White House blocking key documents and testimony from firsthand witnesses. Democrats could fight for court orders, compelling testimony from White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former National Security adviser, John Bolton, or proceed they could proceed with evidence they have. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi making her choice clear yesterday.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No, we're not going to wait until the courts decide. We can't wait for that because again it's a technique. It's obstruction of justice. Obstruction of Congress.


BRIGGS: Democrats say they have the evidence they need to build a solid case to impeach the president for abuse of power, extortion, bribery and obstruction. Two final building blocks in that case came yesterday. The testimony of U.S. Ukrainian embassy official, David Holmes, who overheard that call between the president and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, and more crucially from White House Russia expert Fiona Hill.

Here's Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, lawmakers who had seen Fiona Hill's closed-door deposition were keenly aware of what she was going to bring to the table on Thursday in what would be the last public hearing at least for the House Intelligence Committee's part into the impeachment inquiry.

That wasn't necessarily the case for everybody else, who got to see an individual who knew her subject matter, who was keenly aware of everything that was going on around her, and had some sharp criticisms, not just for Republicans on the committee of jurisdiction, Republicans who had pushed the idea that the Ukrainians had meddled in the 2016 election, but also for the administration with which she served, especially as it related to what had become known as an irregular channel, a channel of individuals led by E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland, who appeared to be operating out of the normal lines when it came to Ukraine policy inside the United States. This was how she framed it.


HILL: He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up. And here we are.


MATTINGLY: Strong words. Very concise words for a problem the Democrats have been exploring in their investigation now for a series of weeks. And that investigation is only going to ramp up going forward. They are done with the public hearing phase. Now comes the report writing phase. Over the course of Thanksgiving week, staff on the House Intelligence Committee will be drafting a report, in which point they will transmit that report to Judiciary Committee where Articles of Impeachment will be drafted.

Here's what we know for a fact. At this point in time, just about everybody involved with this acknowledges that impeachment is coming. There will be Articles of Impeachment. There will be a House floor vote to impeach the president of the United States. That seems to be a foregone conclusion at this point. And Democrats aren't waiting. They are moving over the course of the next couple of weeks to do this and have a vote as early as the week of Christmas.

This is happening in other words. Now where do Republicans stand on all this. They've made very clear their opposition throughout this process. I've talked to a number of senior Republicans after the end of the day and hearings this week, they have made clear, they do not expect to lose any Republicans. Democrats, Republicans, very firm in their positions right now.

Moving forward, very much diverging on how they view this entire process -- guys.

ROMANS: All right, Phil. Thank you for that.

The White House dismissing the importance of those final witnesses. One official tells CNN, the testimony from Pompeo, Bolton or Mulvaney would obviously change things. But the White House says that as things stand now they believe a Senate trial would actually work in the president's favor.


GIDLEY: He wants a trial in the Senate. He wants to be able to bring up witnesses like Adam Schiff, like the whistleblower, like Hunter Biden. Like Joe Biden. And he says if the House moves forward with this sham and they continue to push these fake, illegitimate proceedings on to the American people, then he wants it to go to the Senate and he wants a trial.


ROMANS: More now from CNN's Pamela Brown at the White House.


PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. Here at the White House officials are claiming that the last two witnesses' testimony wasn't very damaging to the president. And they're already looking ahead to the potential Senate trial. In fact sources here at the White House claim that a Senate trial could be good for the president as they make their case, and as one senior White House official told me, have the opportunity to take down the Democrats' weak case, as this official put it.

In fact, the White House had several Republican lawmakers come over, meet with the White House counsel and game out what a potential Senate trial might look like. Now I'm told through sources that White House officials have made clear they do not want a long, drawn-out Senate trial. But at the same time, if it does go there, they want to make sure that the process is thorough enough so that it doesn't give Democrats ammunition to say the process is flawed, as Republicans and the White House have been complaining about, the Democrats' process on the House side.

Also the whistleblower came up as well. There had been talk publicly about whether the whistleblower should be subpoenaed. But these Republican lawmakers sent the message to the White House that there shouldn't be focus on the whistleblower. The whistleblower should not be compelled to testify. But I'm told by officials a lot is still under discussion. Options have not been taken off the table yet. And there's still a ways to go until this happens.

And of course a wild card is the president himself, who will ultimately come up with his own defense. And he hosted Republican lawmakers for lunch here at the White House, as well including those who have been critical of him, like Mitt Romney. But lawmakers say that while impeachment did come up during that lunch, that the president wasn't trying to butter up these Republican lawmakers for their votes if this does go to a Senate trial.

Back to you, Dave and Christine.

BRIGGS: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you.

Possible new fuel for accusations by President Trump and his allies against U.S. intelligence agencies. A former FBI lawyer under criminal investigation accused of altering a document connected to Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Sources briefed on the matter tell CNN the document was part of the package used to get a surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The probe by the Justice Department internal watchdog likely to fuel claims of wrongdoing by the FBI investigating connections between Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign.

ROMANS: All right. Chinese president Xi Jinping speaking on the U.S.-China trade war, Reuters reports Xi said China wants to work out a phase one deal with the U.S. but China is not afraid of a trade war and will not flinch from a fight. Xi said this, "When necessary, we will fight back but we have been working actively to try not to have a trade war. Time is running out. Tariffs on a $156 billion in Chinese-made consumer goods are slated for December 15th.

Now on the American side, a source familiar with the state of play says there are two options on the table. The first option, more tariffs on Chinese goods next month and the current tariffs stand, quote, "to defend American workers from Chinese aggression." All right. The source says the second option is a mini deal. The source calling this deal not skinny. Remember we talked about a skinny deal -- but anorexic.

This deal involves more access to Chinese financial markets and soy beans purchases from China in exchange for rolling back September tariffs and cancelling tariffs scheduled for December. Now the president believes there is room to stand tough on China partly because stocks have been resilient since the trade war. White House very aware of these figures here. Take a look. Since the president first announced the first tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Dow is up 12.8 percent, the S&P 500 up 15.9 percent, the Nasdaq is up 18.4 percent. So amid all those new tariffs, the stock market has been resilient.

Looking at futures right now they are also moving higher here.

BRIGGS: Are the markets baking in a deal?

ROMANS: From time to time they have. But they baked in real reform to just maybe a little symbolic deal to maybe just not having, you know, a new tariff in December. So they've been processing sort of a different set of factors, which is why I think it's interesting that official yesterday was saying that, look, there are only two options on the table. Either the president really sticks to his guns and puts more tariffs on and we keep -- you know, we keep going here status quo, or there's some skinny deal that really is what the Chinese and Wall Street want but maybe isn't really good.

BRIGGS: Right. No structural changes in that one.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, it might be the last thing you want to see from an airline seat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen that before.


BRIGGS: More from this frightening flight, next.



ROMANS: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now facing charges in three separate corruption cases. It is the first time in Israel's history that a sitting prime minister has been indicted in criminal investigations. The defiant prime minister vows to remain in power, calling the charges against him an attempted coup.

CNN's Paula Newton is live in Jerusalem with the latest -- Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Those charges are incredibly serious but right now the stakes are also high. Why? This is a country, Christine, think about it, without a government right now. We will get to that in a minute. I first want to discuss the charges, though, incredibly serious charges. You're talking fraud, breach of trust, but most significantly that charge of bribery which could lead to prison time.

Right now this prime minister is protected because he is the prime minister. It kind of gives him a little immunity. I will get back to that issue in a moment. But in terms of the prime minister himself, as you said, he is accused and denies these allegations of kind of influence peddling.


That he in fact gave official favors as prime minister in exchange for good press coverage and more than that the allegations that he took hundreds and thousands of dollars' worth of gifts. At issue here, though, is whether or not he should step down. Now all his political rivals say it's time for him to do that. He was so defiant and as you said really echoing a lot of the language from President Trump there, right? This is an attempted coup. They are trying to get me to step down. And beyond that also saying that the investigators need to be investigated. He also goes on and says this has been a long, simmering witch hunt.

At issue, though, is no government here in place right now. That leaves everything in limbo, including those charges. A lot at stake here, Christine. This country now waiting to see if they get to new elections in the new year, which may take until at least that time before we know Netanyahu's fate.

ROMANS: All right, good morning, Paula. Thank you so much for that.

BRIGGS: A frightening moment for passengers aboard this flight from Los Angeles to the Philippines when one engine caught fire.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday, Philippine 113, we have a --


BRIGGS: That was the call from the cockpit. This is the view from the passenger cabin, flames shooting from the engine on the wing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blowing fire out of there. I've never seen that before. That doesn't sound good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were panicking, smoke, fire coming out of the right engine.


BRIGGS: The FAA says the plane was able to turn back and land at LAX with one working engine. Without injuries or incident other than blowing some tires and scaring the heck out of some passengers.

ROMANS: Wow. All right. Vaping and its health risks will be the subject of a White House meeting today. President Trump will host a range of groups, including medical professionals and vaping industry representatives. The administration back in September announced plans to ban all flavored e-cigarettes and vape products. And then the president later said he would raise the age for purchases to 21.

But the White House appears to have backed off that plan, reportedly bowing to political pressure. Meantime, the CDC says cases of vaping- related lung injury in the U.S. have risen to nearly 2300. Vaping injuries have been reported in 49 states. There are 47 confirmed deaths.

BRIGGS: All right. Coming up, why a big-time rock band is putting its tour on hold because of the climate crisis.



BRIGGS: Police arresting an 18-year-old freshman at Syracuse University in connection with graffiti that supported student protests. Those protests over two weeks of race-related incidents on campus have now ended after the chancellor agreed to meet students' demands. They wanted better diversity and inclusion programs on campus and more accountability from the university.

The chancellor says 12 cases of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti have been found on or near the Syracuse campus. The police are still investigating four cases. The chancellor said four students were suspended for a verbal attack on an African-American student last week. He also said reports that white supremacist material was sent to various students by AirDrop were probably a hoax.

ROMANS: While impeachment hearings were going on, President Trump awarded the National Medal of Arts and National Medal of Humanities to eight recipients including Oscar winner and staunch Trump supporter, Jon Voight.

That's Voight playing a hustler opposite Dustin Hoffman's con man in "Midnight Cowboy." Other well-known honorees include 27-time Grammy Award-winning musician Alison Krauss and best-selling novelist James Patterson.

BRIGGS: The British band Coldplay is holding off on touring its new album until it can figure out how to make concerts environmentally friendly.

Front man Chris Martin telling the BBC the band wants to take time over the next year or two to consider how future tours can be sustainable and even actively beneficial. He acknowledged that flying is the biggest problem and said he'd be disappointed if the band's tour wasn't carbon-neutral. He added that the dream would be to have a show with no single-use plastic and for it to be largely solar powered.

ROMANS: Wow. Would like to know the carbon footprint for a typical mega concert.

BRIGGS: Massive for a mega concert.

All right. Thursday night Football featuring a battle for first place in an AFC south. The Houston Texans defeated the Indianapolis Colts 20-17. Texas quarterback Deshaun Watson hooking up with star wide receiver Deandre Hopkins on two long touchdowns. With the win, Houston takes the lead in the division at 7-4. Colts a game behind at 6-5.

ROMANS: All right. All the scheduled witnesses have testified in the impeachment hearings. Hear what Democrats and the White House have to say about the next steps, after this.




HILL: I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up. And here we are.


ROMANS: The last scheduled impeachment witness has spoken, leaving House Democrats with some decisions to make.


GIDLEY: He wants a trial in the Senate.


BRIGGS: The Trump White House defiant in the face of possible impeachment.

ROMANS: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren both interrupted by protesters on the campaign trail.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday, mayday, mayday --


BRIGGS: A scare in the sky as passengers see flames shoot from a jet engine in mid-flight.