Return to Transcripts main page


Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg Home And Doing Well; Netanyahu Channels Trump; Israeli Headed For Third Election; Frozen 2 Nabs Record For Disney; Baby Elephants Captured In Zimbabwe For China's Zoo; Stocks End Tough Week On A Positive Note; LVMH Scoops Up Tiffany For $16.2 Billion; Late Night Laughs; Secret Deal Costs Top Official His Job; White House Tried To Justify Ukraine Move; Michael Bloomberg Enters 2020 Presidential Race; Big Night For Taylor Swift; Donald Trump's Impeachment Inquiry; Adam Schiff Leaves Door Open To More Hearings; Trump Pushes Monthly Drug Cost Cap For Seniors; Questions Surround U.S.-China Trade War. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 25, 2019 - 04:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Escalating turmoil between the White House and Defense Department. A top official fired over a secret proposal on a war crimes case.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: A newly uncovered documents show the White House trying to justify withholding military aid to Ukraine, after Trump gave the order to freeze it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Bloomberg became the guy who did good. And now, he's taking on him.


ROMANS: Mike Bloomberg enters the 2020 race. He calls Donald Trump an existential threat. But is it too late to mount a challenge? Welcome back to Early Start, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

COLLINS: And I'm Kaitlan Collins. It is 30 minutes past the hour here in New York. And right now, there's a secret proposal for the White House that is costing the top pentagon leader his job. The force departure of the Navy Secretary Richard Spencer highlights this extraordinary dispute that is playing out over the handling of war crimes against Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. Many at the Pentagon think that the president's involvement in the punishment for Gallagher and other service members might undermine military discipline.

ROMANS: On Thursday, Trump tweeted that the Navy will not be taking away Gallagher's trident pin, the symbol of his membership in the SEALS. Navy Secretary Spencer push back saying, I don't interpret the president's tweets as a formal order. Now that's despite the fact that the president's tweets had dictated policy and the White House has said they should be considered official statements. Spencer said Saturday, he had no plans to quit.


RICHARD SPENCER, THEN-SECRETRAY OF THE NAVY: Contrary to popular belief, I'm still here. I did not threaten to resign. But let's just say that we're here to talk about external threats and Eddie Gallagher is not one of them.


COLLINS: Now, the day after Spencer made those comments, Gallagher himself went on Fox news and attacked his own superiors.


EDDIE GALLAGHER, U.S. NAVY: This is all about ego and retaliation. This has everything to do with good order and discipline. They could have taken by trident at any time they wanted. Now, they're trying to take it after the president restored my rank.


COLLINS: Now the turmoil that's been playing out of the Pentagon has created these three competing narratives to explain why Spencer is being force out of his job. A National Security reporter, Ryan Browne, explains what's going on or at least tries to.


RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY: Good morning, Christine and Kaitlan. Now the Pentagon issuing a statement saying that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was fired because he had had secret talks with the White House about the fate of Gallagher, who was due to face a review over allegations of misconduct, including posing with a picture of a corpse while serving in Iraq.

Now that review was going to go ahead, but the Pentagon claiming that Spencer had come to a secret deal with the White House, where Gallagher would be allowed to retain his status as a Navy SEAL upon departing the Navy.

Now, we've also heard two different explanations. One from President Donald Trump, who tweeted after Spencer's firing was announced, that he had been disappointed with how the Navy had handled the Gallagher case. And then Spencer himself writing a letter and saying that he, in fact, was removed from his post, because he was unwilling to follow an order that he felt was unethical. That he said he believe in the need for good order and discipline within the military saying, that what's set us apart from our adversaries.

Spencer had been a long-time senior member of the Pentagon. He had come in the earliest days of the Trump administration. He had kept a relatively low profile and even served as acting Secretary of Defense for a brief time. So a very, very major development at the Pentagon as the White House's review of the high profile, Eddie Gallagher Navy SEAL case leads to the firing of the top -- the Navy's top civilian. Back to you guys.


ROMANS: All right, Ryan, thank you so much for that. Now, to the impeachment front. A confidential White House review of the freeze on military aid to Ukraine, has uncovered hundreds of documents, revealing extensive efforts to justify the president's actions after the hold was already in place. They also showed there was a debate involving the acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, over whether the delay was even legal. It's not clear whether these records pose any legal problems for the president, but they could be embarrassing. Let's get more now from Jeremy Diamond, at the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The White House has been conducting an internal review of President Trump's decision last summer to withhold nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine. Now according to the Washington Post, that review is turning up hundreds of documents that suggest that White House officials and officials in the Office and Management and Budget, were working to draw up a legal justification for that move after the facts.

Again, this reporting suggest that this was yet another instance of a scramble by officials to essentially catch up with another one of President Trump's decisions. The Office of Management and Budget, though, is denying that anything improper took place. Here's a statement from a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, Rachel Semmel. She said, to be clear, there was a legal consensus at every step of the way that the money could be withheld in order to conduct the policy review.


The Washington Post also highlights an early August exchange between the acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney and the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vogt, in which Mulvaney asks for an update on the legal justification. Now, two administration officials yell me that doesn't mean that Mulvaney was seeking to change that justification or that one wasn't already in place. Christine, Kaitlan.


COLLINS: Now thank you, Jeremy. Those White House officials that he was just talking about that are named in those e-mails include many who have not testified in these impeachment hearings. Also on the no testimony list is former National Security Adviser, John Bolton. Now House Intel Chairman, Adam Schiff says he won't go to court to force Bolton to testify, but he was urging him to follow the lead of his former staffers and come forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): He did not choose to come in and testify.

Notwithstanding the fact that his Deputy, Fiona Hill, and his other Deputy, Colonel Vindman and Tim Morrison, others in the National Security Council have shown the courage to come in. He will have to explain one day if that -- if he maintains that position, why he wanted to wait to put it in a book instead of tell the American people what he knew.


COLLINS: Tough words from Adam Schiff as Democratic aides in the House are spending thanksgiving week preparing a report, spelling out the case for Trump's impeachment. Chairman Schiff is leaving the door open to more hearings or depositions that he says, Democrats are not going to wait months while the administration stalls their efforts.

It's 10 weeks to the Iowa caucuses and Michael Bloomberg is officially in the race.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Bloomberg became the guy who did good. And now, he's taking on him.


COLLINS: Bloomberg says he's laying out this moderate vision and labeling President Trump an existential threat. After he ruled out a run earlier this year, the billionaire New Yorker reversed course recently, because essentially he doesn't think any Democrat in the race can beat Trump.

To kick start his campaign, he's spending at least $37 million on television ads over the next two weeks. The former New York City mayor is deploying an unconventional strategy and trying to build support in states that hold their primaries on Super Tuesday, which fells on March 3rd this year. Those voters though may not be onboard. A recent CBS poll shows only 20 percent of likely Democratic primary voters through Super Tuesday would even consider Bloomberg.

ROMANS: And with Michael Bloomberg entering the 2020 field, Bloomberg news addressed how it will cover the race now that its owner is running. In the note to staffers Sunday, Bloomberg's editor in chief, John (inaudible), said no previous presidential candidate has owned a journalistic organization of this size. Adding, the organization will not investigate Bloomberg or his Democratic rivals in the primaries. He also said, the outlet has suspended its editorial board, because the board has reflected Bloomberg's views. A Blomberg reporter has already been assigned to follow his campaign, much like when he was the mayor of New York. Bloomberg news had a reporter following Michael Bloomberg.

COLLINS: Yes, they're in a tough situation. Right now, there are new health concerns for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The more time you seemed why she spent part of the weekend in the hospital.



ROMANS: Ruth Bader Ginsburg home from the hospital and feeling much better. The 86-year-old Supreme Court justice was treated for chills and a fever at Johns Hopkins Hospital Friday night. She just returned to the bench days earlier after being treated for a stomach bug. Ginsburg is a four-time cancer survivor with a lengthy history of medical issues and overcoming them. In August, she was treated for pancreatic cancer.

COLLINS: Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is channeling his close ally, President Trump, as he is denying charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He called the charges a coup and he criticized the investigation and the media. Sound familiar? Netanyahu's tactics are raising the questions about the integrity of Israel's democracy. Let's go live to Jerusalem and bring in Paula Newton. Paula, what's going on there?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, what's going on here is probably likely to sound very familiar to you covering the White House and President Trump so much. Benjamin Netanyahu is a survivor. And he is fighting. Another piece of this strategy in his fight to remain in office is that he will submit himself to a leadership review. Primaries in his own Likud Party within the next six weeks. That's just the latest political bombshell here from Israel, where people continue to reel, as they listen very carefully to Benjamin Netanyahu's words and can't help to hear President Trump.


NEWTON: When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defiantly denounced the criminal indictment against him --

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We're witnessing an attempted to coup against a serving Prime Minister.

NEWTON: -- it was as if there was an echo in the room.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was a, an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president.

NEWTON: There was no mistaking it.

NETANYAHU: In this poison process, they never look for the truth. They look for me.

TRUMP: This was an illegal witch hunt and everybody knew it.

NEWTON: This is neither coincidental nor superficial. It's not just President Trump's words that Netanyahu is borrowing, but his tactics.

TRUMP: We can never ever let this happen to another president again.

NEWTON: Netanyahu is fighting back Trump-style. Alleging his rivals on the left and the so-called crooked media of inspiring a baseless prosecution against him. Sound familiar?

TRUMP: We fight back. You know why we fight back? Because I knew how illegal this whole thing was. It's a scam.


NEWTON: Netanyahu, the iconic political survivor is punching back, in an unprecedented way in Israel, questioning the integrity of some prosecutors and police.

NETANYAHU: I won't let the lie win. I will continue to lead, according to the law. And with that comeback, some Israelis fear it's the country's Democratic integrity that he's putting at risk.

How do you feel about the state of Israeli politics right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's -- it's a mess. It's a mess.

NEWTON: That may be indisputable, after two inconclusive elections, Israel may be headed for a historic third, with voters sharply divided on who should be the next Prime Minister. There is ambivalence though among many about forcing Netanyahu to step down, especially if his party, Likud, continues to support him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the important thing here. It's what the Likud will do and how they will decide to have a new leader or step down.

NEWTON: To mitigate that, Netanyahu is even planning Trump-style rallies.

TRUMP: Impeachment witch hunt. Now, we go again.

NEWTON: Netanyahu, nicknamed the magician for his impeccable political instincts is now channeling his devoted ally --

TRUMP: To witch hunt.

NEWTON: -- President Trump, and hoping that will work.


NEWTON: What's interesting here is those rallies will begin on Tuesday. And Netanyahu really taking another page from President Trump, and saying, look, I'm going to fight on in these primaries, hoping that he will win and emerge stronger for it. Christine?

COLLINS: It's really something how much his statements echo President Trump's. But thank you for that. Please keep us updated on what happens next.

ROMANS: All right, Kaitlan. Elsa, Anna and Olof, breaking records for Disney.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has Elsa seemed weird to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She seems like Elsa.


ROMANS: CNN Business has the details on how Frozen 2 did at the box office. I'll let you guess.



COLLINS: There are some new heartbreaking images obtained by CNN of caged baby elephants captured by Zimbabwe's government that are being prepared for shipment to zoos in China. Government officials say it's a source of much needed revenue. But conservation groups say there's no evidence of that. CNN's David McKenzie is live on the ground in Johannesburg with the exclusive details. David, what more can you tell us about this striking footage?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kaitlan. Yes, when I got this footage from a source, you know, I had been investigating these issues for years. But even I was shocked at this, at these conditions of these young elephants in China. We went to Zimbabwe to investigate.


MCKENZIE: Pretty young wild African elephants, captured, sold and sent to China, to fill amusement parks and zoos. But first, they will be broken here. This cellphone video is an exclusive look at the latest shipment from Zimbabwe. In cage after metal cage, the signs of suffering are clear.

Just weeks ago, they were among family groups in (inaudible) National Park.

What they do, they come and capture these elephants, they separate the youngsters. Not the very youngest but the young elephant from the rest of the herd. And scientists say that elephants are incredibly social animals. They develop bonds for a lifetime. And by ripping them away from their families and sending them off to a foreign country, they say, it's extremely traumatic for the elephants that go and the elephants that remain.

Despite this concerns, the trade up until now has been legal. But that window is closing. New rules preventing overseas shipments from countries like Zimbabwe come into full effect at the end of November. Zimbabwe park officials say, they will abide by those new rules.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's both transparency anymore.

MCKENZIE: But animal right's inspector Christban (inaudible), says he's already seen a shift towards secrecy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something is not right. MCKENZIE: For the past year, officials blocked his team from entering

the park, claiming they needed special permits that were not actually required. He fears that the already opaque sales won't end, they will just go underground.

What was it like being pushed away?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government-appointed inspector. It's our mandate to see the welfare of those animals. They don't belong to national parks. They belong to the people of Zimbabwe.

MCKENZIE: Now, we got the GPS coordinates of where we think these elephants have been kept. There are some 30 elephants that were shipped to China caused global outrage.

Animal rights activists and park sources told us that just beyond this boom gate, elephants were left behind and were getting prepped to be sent away.

But it is not possible to come in now with you just to have a look?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, this place, for all of the clients who come here, they are cleared by the manager.


MCKENZIE: We went to management and we are repeatedly refused entry. They told us there was nothing to see. But they did agree to an on- camera interview.

Why is Zimbabwe selling elephants to China?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's part of our management plan. We have rangers in this park who will spend 21 days in the bush, protecting these animals. They don't have uniforms. They don't have boots. They don't have tents and they don't have food. We believe that the elephants must pay for the upkeep. They must also pay for their protection.

MCKENZIE: But protection for Zimbabwe's wild elephants is far from assured. Elephants are dying. More than 200 in just the last few months, succumbing to the severe drought that hit the region. In these lean season, elephants in the wild are suffering too. A ranger ask us (inaudible), says, better to let nature take its course.

And do you think it's good that some elephant are sent away to zoos in China, Pakistan, the U.S.?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's wise. It is part of our country, it is our animals, our children.

MCKENZIE: But these elephants taken from Zimbabwe, remain trapped far from home.


MCKENZIE: Well, Kaitlan, two young elephants didn't go with that other group. We've just learned in the last few days that they are still stuck in that enclosure, emaciated and sick. We don't know exactly what will happen to them. As I said there, there will be a ban or a change in the rules coming into effect in the next few days. People worry that the practice will still go on, though, behind the scenes. And when they voted for that ban, the U.S. delegation said that the sales should continue. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: David, those images are just heartbreaking. And people should read more details of your investigation into this on Thank you for bringing us that.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Take a look at markets around the world. There is optimism starting this holiday-shortened week. On Wall Street, right now, you have futures also leaning a little bit higher here. Not really very far from the DOW from a record high 28,036 would be a record-high close, if you could get there today.

Markets bounced back Friday after both President Trump and Chinese President Xi expressed optimism about a phase one trade deal. The DOW rose 109 points, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ were also up. But all three averages fell for the week, down a little bit, breaking a multi- week string. Still stocks are not very far from below those record highs. They hit last week. It is a short trading week on Wall Street. Markets are close Thursday for thanksgiving and will close early on Friday.

Luxury giant, LVMH is adding an iconic little blue box to its portfolio. LVMH and Tiffany announced today that LVMH will but the iconic Manhattan jeweler. The French luxury group will pay 130 bucks a share. That values Tiffany about $16.2 billion. The deal is one of the largest in the history of the luxury sector, LVMH's deep pockets could help Tiffany make a turnaround after a rocky few years and fuel its effort to better connect with millennial consumers.

All right, Anna, Elsa and Olof have grabbed another record for Disney.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has Elsa seemed weird to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She seems like Elsa.


ROMANS: Frozen 2 brought in an estimated $127 million at the Box -- at the weekend box office. The highest grossing debut ever for Walt Disney animation studios. Disney has had five films bring in a record $1 billion at the box office, including Avengers End Game, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Frozen 2 could be on track for number six. Its success comes at the perfect time. The North American box office this year is down roughly 7 percent compared to last year. Now, Disney could have another record with this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People keep telling me they know me.


ROMANS: All right, that's coming up. Star wars: The rise of Skywalker, opens December 20th.

COLLINS: And Saturday Night Live took on the president's views on impeachment and the latest Democratic debate with some surprise guests.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's still great to finally meet you for the first time, by the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, right, right, right. Keep the quid pro quo on the low-low.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got you. No quid pro quo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There definitely was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got mom hosting thanksgiving energy. I'm low to the ground because I thought 10 people were coming and now there's 30 million. But I promise dinner will be ready if you just get out of the kitchen and stop asking questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very proud of the fact that I was the first heart attack patient to show up to the emergency room in a city bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see the faces you all make when I talk. You're scared. Scared I'll say something off-color.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Bloomberg, how did you get in here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I tipped the doorman $30 million. I'd like to see those Trump supporters come up with a conspiracy theory about a Jewish billionaire with his own media company. Good luck making that stick.


COLLINS: You got to love Kate Mckinnon.

ROMANS: I love it.

COLLINS: Early start continues right now.