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Judge: White House Can't Block McGahn; Deadly Earthquake in Albania; Ugly Holiday Forecast; Don't Mess with Grandma. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House cannot keep its former top lawyer from testifying. A big ruling with major implications for impeachment witnesses and the president.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And it's going to be an ugly week for holiday travel. Flights are being canceled as rain and snow are moving across the country.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, a deadly earthquake in Albania. Hundreds are hurt. Rescue operations under way.


WILLIE MURPHY, STOPPED HOME INVASION: I'm alone and I'm old. But guess what. I'm tough. I took that table and I went to working on him.


COLLINS: And one upstate New York burglar messed with the wrong woman. How an 82-year-old grandma took care of business.

ROMANS: Helps when you're a dead lifter. Wow. We love her this morning.

COLLINS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. And I'm Kaitlan Collins.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, November 26th, 4:00 a.m. in New York, 10:00 a.m. in Germany, 11:00 a.m. in Jerusalem.

Good morning, everyone.

A major victory for House Democrats and their investigations into the president. A federal judge ruling former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify under congressional subpoena.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is rejecting the sweeping White House claim that aides are, quote, absolutely immune from testifying. The judge says the subpoena is not political, but part of the legal system, and, quote, for the Constitution, no one is above the law. Jackson ruled that if McGahn wants to refuse to testify, like by claiming executive privilege, he must do so in person and question by question.

The Justice Department says it will appeal Judge Jackson's ruling, setting the stage for a showdown between the executive and legislative branches.

COLLINS: The decision can be bad news for anyone who has worked in the Trump White House and is refusing to testify. House Democrats hoped the ruling could pave the way for some of them, like former National Security Adviser John Bolton, to testify in the impeachment probe. Earlier this month, his attorney said Bolton was personally involved in matters that are being investigated.

The House Intelligence Committee just wrapped up two weeks of public hearings. And Chairman Adam Schiff said Monday that they could release the report as soon as next week. He warned that that timetable might extend.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We don't foreclose the possibility of more depositions and more hearings. We're in the process of getting more documents all the time. So, that investigative work is going to go on. What we're not prepared to do is wait months and months while the administration plays a game of rope-a-dope in an effort to try to stall.


ROMANS: Democrats say those who won't testify might find themselves named in additional articles of impeachment. Judge Jackson noting that even the president may not be immune from having to testify. She writes, stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings.

COLLINS: And it was a mixed verdict Monday at the courts. President Trump did receive a temporary reprieve on the fight for his financial documents. The court wants to hear from both sides before deciding whether or not they're going to conduct a full review.

Let's get more, now, from CNN's Ariane De Vogue.


ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Christine, Kaitlan, the Supreme Court said the House will not get President Trump's financial documents, at least for now. That's a win for the president. Now, a House subpoena has been put on hold. And President Trump will ask the justices to take up the case this term.

He's been fighting on several fronts to shield his records from disclosure. The court's action tees up a landmark separation of powers case. It also delays at least for several weeks the House's ability to obtain the information it says is critical to congressional oversight. How the court rules in this case, could impact several other lower

court cases, as well as the impeachment proceedings -- Kaitlan, Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Ariane, thank you for that.

Rudy Giuliani's troubles appear to be growing. Federal prosecutors who are investigating his recently indicated associates have now launched a broad investigation. And according to a subpoena seen by CNN, that investigation could include criminal charges ranging from conspiracy, obstruction of justice, campaign finance violations, and money laundering. It appears to signal the prosecutors are also looking at the associates' a relationship with Giuliani and his consulting business.

Giuliani has not been accused of any wrongdoing. And for now, the president's support for his personal attorney is not wavering.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rudy is the best mayor in the history of New York. In my opinion, the strongest mayor, the best mayor. Rudy is a great crime fighter. Rudy is a great person.


ROMANS: Giuliani told Fox News he's got insurance just in case the president turns on him. Now, he claims he was being sarcastic. Remember, the president's last personal attorney, Michael Cohen, did have insurance. He recorded Mr. Trump talking about payoffs to women who allegedly had affairs with him.


He is now serving a three-year prison sentence for campaign finance crimes.

COLLINS: And President Trump is defending his decision to intervene in a high profile war crimes case after he insisted that a Navy SEAL convicted of misconduct should not be punished.


TRUMP: They wanted to take his pin away, and I said, no, you're not going to take it away. He was a great fighter. He was one of the ultimate fighters. Tough guy. We're going to protect our war fighters.


COLLINS: Eddie Gallagher, who the president was referencing there, was convicted of posing next to a photo with a dead ISIS body. He was acquitted for more serious war crime charges. A secret proposal to the White House to resolve the status of his SEAL pin led to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer being fired on Sunday. Now, Spencer has a stark warning about the president's intervention in these kinds of war crime cases.


RICHARD SPENCER, FIRED NAVY SECRETARY: What message does that send to the troops?

REPORTER: Well, what message does it send?

SPENCER: That you can get away with things. We have to have good order and discipline. It's the backbone of what we do. I don't think he really understands the full definition of a war fighter. A war fighter is a profession of arms. And a profession of arms has standards.


ROMANS: Spencer's comments come the day after the secretary of defense, Mark Esper, forced him out for going around the chain of command. Here's what Esper told reporters.


MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Secretary Esper broke these rules and thus lost my trust and confidence. We had no knowledge whatsoever. We were flabbergasted by it and quite surprised and caught completely off guard.


ROMANS: Esper says he wanted the Navy peer-reviewed board to evaluate the case, that when President Trump ordered him not to pursue that route, he did as he was told. Esper did not say whether he agreed or disagreed with the president.

COLLINS: Forecasters are calling it a historic storm. It may disrupt your holiday travel plans. Twenty-one million people are facing brutal rain and snow. Already, more than 500 flights have been canceled for today. And most of them are in and out of Denver.

Our meteorologist Karen Maginnis has the latest.


KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine and Kaitlan.

We've got problems on the roadways. Lots of travelers. AAA says about 55 million people, about 90 percent of those 55 million people going to head out on the highways. Going to make good time.

No. We have back-to-back storm systems. One ejects out of the Rockies. Another one moving in across the West Coast, going to be lowering snow levels.

By the way, this weather report brought by Ninja Foodi, the grill the sears, sizzle and air fry crisps.

All right. Big problems, interstate 70 across Colorado. That will be problematic. Right around Denver, could see a foot of snowfall there. Also, Interstate 80, right around Reno, Minneapolis, you're looking at Interstate 94, big problems there, the temperature really drops dramatically.

Also, could see potential for some strong storms all the way from southern Missouri into Arkansas and into Louisiana. If you're traveling to Des Moines, watch out. You'll see poor visibility.

After the West Coast, look at that, along with strong wind gusts, maybe some sections of southeast Oregon could see wind gusts up over 80 miles an hour. Drive carefully. Have a safe holiday.

Back to you, guys.


COLLINS: Yes, definitely stay safe for traveling.

But breaking overnight, there was a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked Albania, killing at least four people and injuring more than 300. The epicenter was in Durres, about 13 miles from the capital of Tirana. It's the strongest quake to hit the country in decades.

Video from a CNN affiliate shows an attempted rescue of a woman who got trapped in the rubble. There were strong aftershocks that were felt throughout the capital and several buildings near the city collapsed. We're going to bring you more details as we're learning them. But a lot of this is still fluid.

ROMANS: Yes, at least six people dead so far.

All right. A hundred priceless treasures stolen in a movie-worthy heist in Germany. CNN live with a manhunt that's captivating Dresden.



ROMANS: In today's episode of the U.S./China trade war drama, good news. China signaled it could reform its intellectual property laws, a sticking point in the U.S./China trade war. Beijing unveiled new guidelines Sunday. The announcement was short on details but indicates China could introduce stronger I.P. protections and toughen punishment for those who break them. President Trump has repeatedly voiced his concerns about Chinese government stealing American technology and protecting intellectual property is a core demand in trade talks.

Analysts say China's announcement suggests that officials are eager to reach a deal. The trade war has damaged China's economy, and it could take another hit soon. Tariffs on $156 billion Chinese goods are scheduled for December 15th. But, Kaitlan, my reporting this week is there's two kind of options on

the table. One is the president just sticks to his guns, puts more tariffs and we punt this into next year for some kind of a deal. The other is a very slender deal that includes maybe soybean purchases for some promises from the Chinese and dropping some tariffs. But it's anybody's guess what happens next.

COLLINS: And that's one of those frustrating people -- things that people used to speak within the White House is that they thought in March they were getting this trade deal. Now, the dynamic and what the end result could look like is doing a 180.

ROMANS: That's right.

COLLINS: It's not exactly arbitrary.

ROMANS: It's not the big course correction and the trade relationship that the president wants.

COLLINS: Not at all. And now, he's considering going into an election year. There's a lot on his plate right now. It doesn't look like what they thought it was going to.

ROMANS: Stay tuned to that.


This morning, a manhunt is widening after a Hollywood-ready heist in the German city of Dresden.


Officials say that an unknown number of thieves broke into a castle vault and stole about 100 pieces of priceless 18th century jewelry, gem stones, historic jewelry and precious ornaments.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Dresden, in front of the castle, where this went down.

What can you tell us about what's happening? And what are the authorities on the ground saying?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been more 24 hours and this manhunt is still under way. What authorities are telling us is that they're looking not only for those two men that you can see clearly on that CCTV footage that was released by German police yesterday, but also that they believe that others might have been involved. This looked coordinated. It was a fire in an electrical grid that caused all of the lights to be switched off when the robbery happened.

Let me show you behind me, Dresden castle there. It was on the ground floor about 5:00 a.m. morning, that they broke in, making their way past the security grilles on the window, through the window, into the vault. And that's when you see them with an ax breaking into one of the glass cases that showcases some of the precious jewelry. Now, the times that have been missing, some of them were tweeted out

by police yesterday. You can really see how intricate they are, how incredibly full of diamonds and gems they are. These are antiques that are of inestimable value. And that is the point really, is that the very things that made these pieces of jewelry so exceptional, that make them so valuable also made them very difficult to sell on any open market.

Hence, the question this morning, and again, more than 24 hours later, we have no answer to this. What the robbers who clearly carried out a very well-coordinated robbery were hoping to achieve once they made their way out with those pieces of jewelry. Very unclear to see at this point how they could possibly sell them without taking them apart first.

COLLINS: Right. And, Melissa, it seems like it was so sophisticated. But am I right that one of those famous pieces of this collection, that 42 carat green diamond was not in the museum at the time of this heist, right?

BELL: That's right. It's a 41 green carat diamond, that was luckily on loan to the metropolitan museum of New York. It was not here. So, luckily, it was spared. Clearly, the green vault's most famous piece of jewelry.

But, really, what they did make off is more than 100 pieces of jewelry, again, of a value that we simply haven't been able to put a figure on because of their historical and cultural significance. These are works of art that are quite literally priceless.

COLLINS: Seems like it's out of a movie. Thank you for that. And please keep us updated, Melissa.

ROMANS: All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour.

They spent 36 years locked up. Now, they're home for the holidays, cleared of a crime they did not commit. We'll hear from them next.



COLLINS: In southern California, the so-called Cave Fire is growing and threatening homes in Santa Barbara County. The fire started yesterday in Los Padres National Forest, and fire officials say it was driven by strong winds across the highway near the Santa Barbara City limits. And now, it's burned 3,300 acres so far with zero percent containment. Southern California Edison has cut power from more than 400 homes and is considering expanding that cutoff to thousands more customers.

ROMANS: After 36 years behind bars, three men will be home for Thanksgiving. They have been exonerated from a wrongful murder conviction when they were in their mid-teens. Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart left the courthouse surrounded by their friends, family and legal team. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW STEWART, EXONERATED AFTER 36 YEARS IN PRISON: I didn't know how to stop crime until a friend of mine came to me and said to me, your journey is coming to an end. But it's not. My journey is just beginning.


ROMANS: The Baltimore prosecutors conviction integrity unit uncovered a flawed case. They now say police encouraged false witness testimony in the 1983 murder of a 14-year-old shot in a school hallway for his jacket. The freed men say they want those involved held accountable for their wrongful convictions.

COLLINS: And a man who broke into a Rochester, New York, home picked the wrong granny. Eighty-two-year-old Willie Murphy was getting ready for bed last Thursday when she heard someone pounding on her front door. He was urging her to call an ambulance for him, she says.


MURPHY: I heard a loud noise. And I'm saying to myself, what the heck is that? A young man is in my home. I'm alone and I'm old. But guess what? I'm tough.

I took that table and I went to working on him. And guess what? The table broke. I had really did a number on that man.


COLLINS: Not only did she do that, Murphy also squirted the intruder in the face with shampoo and whacked him a couple of times with a broom. It turns out she's an award-winning bodybuilder who works out at the local YMCA almost every, single day.

She doesn't plan to press charges against the intruder who required medical treatment when police arrived.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about another one? This time, it's Ingram.



ROMANS: All right. The Ravens keep on rolling, led by star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Baltimore routed the L.A. Rams 45-6 on Monday Night Football. Jackson threw five touchdowns, matching his career high. He also ran for 95 yards. The win was the Ravens' seventh straight. The low is a blow to playoff hopes for the Rams, the defending NFC champions.

All right. Good for them. The White House claim of absolute immunity does not suffice. Federal judge says former White House counsel Don McGahn can testify. What it meant for the witnesses who kept silent in the impeachment probe.