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Judge: Don McGahn Must Testify to Congress; Deadly Earthquake in Albania; Ugly Holiday Forecast; Don't Mess with Grandma; Lamar Jackson Throws 5 TD's in Ravens Win. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 05:00   ET


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House can't keep its former top lawyer from testifying. A big ruling that has major implications for the impeachment witnesses and President Trump.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It's going to be an ugly week for holiday travel. Flights are already canceled as rain and snow move across the country.


COLLINS: Breaking overnight, there was a deadly earthquake in Albania. Hundreds are hurt, and rescue operations under way.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Kaitlan Collins.

ROMANS: Nice to have you here, Kaitlan, this holiday week. I'm Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, November 26th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We begin with 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 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 the Judge Jackson's ruling, setting the stage for a potentially historic confrontation between the executive and legislative branches.

COLLINS: That decision is bad news for anyone who has worked in the Trump White House and is now refusing to testify. House Democrats are hoping 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, Bolton's attorney said he was personally involved in matters that are being investigated. The House Intelligence Committee wrapped up two weeks of public hearings. And Chairman Adam Schiff said they could release the report as soon as next week. But he had warned about the timetable and how it could be expanded.


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

COLLINS: It was a mixed verdict on Monday. President Trump did receive a temporary reprieve on the fight for his financial documents. The court wants to hear from both sides next week before deciding whether or not 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.


COLLINS: Thank you for that, Ariane.

President Trump is defending his decisions to intervene in a high profile war crimes case after he insisted that a Navy SEAL convicted of misconduct shouldn't be punished.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They wanted to take his pin away. I said 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: The Navy SEAL the president is talking about there is Eddie Gallagher, who was convicted of posing for a photo next to a dead ISIS fighter's body, but he was acquitted of 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's firing on Sunday. Now, Spencer has a stark warning about the president's intervention in war crimes 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 a day after 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-review board to look at the case, but 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: A hundred priceless pressures were stolen in a heist in Germany. CNN is live with the manhunt that is captivating Dresden, next.


[05:09:33] COLLINS: A Republican senator is now walking back a debunked conspiracy theory that he repeated. Louisiana's John Kennedy was asked point-blank, who was behind the hack of the Democratic headquarters in 2016.

Here's how he initially answered to Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday".


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Was it Russia or Ukraine?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don't know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us.


WALLACE: The entire intelligence community says it was Russia.

KENNEDY: Right. But it could also be Ukraine.


COLLINS: But last night on CNN with Chris Cuomo, Senator Kennedy reversed himself, claiming he misheard Chris Wallace's question.


KENNEDY: I was answering one of his questions and he interjected a statement and asked me to react to it. What I heard Chris say was, he made the statement, that only Russia had tried to interfere in the election. And I answered the question. That's not what he said.

Chris is right. I was wrong.


COLLINS: Kennedy says he went back and look at the transcript, adding that he had seen no indication that Ukraine tried to hack the DNC servers, a debunked theory that the president has pushed and that Republicans have repeated as a justification for his withholding that military aid to Ukraine. Kennedy now says the evidence is overwhelming, it was Russia.

ROMANS: All right. Forecasters are calling it a historic storm, saying it may disrupt your holiday travel plans. Twenty million people faced brutal rain and snow. Already, more than 500 flights have been canceled for today, most of them out of there in and out of Denver.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis has the latest.


KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine and Kaitlan. We've got big 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: Thank you for that.

Breaking overnight, the death toll is rising from a powerful 6.4 earthquake that has rocked Albania. At least eight people are now dead and more than 300 hurt. 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 was trapped in the rubble.

Strong aftershocks were felt at the capital and several buildings near the city collapsed. We're going to bring you more details as we get them on this breaking story.

ROMANS: All right. To Germany, a manhunt is widening this morning after a Hollywood-ready heist in the city of Dresden. Officials say an unknown number of thieves broke into a castle vault and stole about 100 priceless 18th century pieces of jewelry. Gem stones, historic jewelry, precious ornaments.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Dresden with the very latest.

These are quite literally priceless, one-of-a-kind historical pieces.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're speaking to our experts and trying to put a figure on the amount of jewelry that was taken here from this museum here behind me, the Dresden castle yesterday morning. And they say that is simply impossible not only because the market for these things rises and falls, but also, Christine, because of the immense cultural and historical significance of the pieces of jewelry themselves.

Now, the very thing that makes them so difficult to value will also make them extremely difficult to sell. These are artworks, these are pieces of jewelry that are incredibly well-known. And even if they are dismantled, we're told the diamonds and the gems that make them were cut in a very specific way that again will make them difficult to sell on any open art market.

So, one of the questions we have this morning, more than 30 hours after this most odious heist, is what exactly the robbers were planning to do with this. It was clearly very well thought through. It was about 5:00 a.m. yesterday morning. They made their way in and out within a matter of minutes.

Another question is how armed with just an ax and had access to some of Europe's most priceless jewelry, and it's one of its most extraordinary art elections. Those are questions for the police, as the manhunt continues, as they say, more than 30 hours on. No sign of the robbers and no sign of the immeasurably valuable amount of jewelry they've taken with them.

ROMANS: All right. Melissa Bell, an amazing smash and grab with historical implications. Thank you so much for that, Melissa.

COLLINS: Lamar Jackson is the clear front-runner for NFL MVP after a stunning performance on Monday Night Football. Our Carolyn Manno has the morning's "Bleacher Report" after this.


ROMANS: Good morning.


COLLINS: Baltimore's Lamar Jackson put on a show for the ages and a dominant Monday Night football performance.


ROMANS: Carolyn Manno stayed up late to bring you the report this morning, the "Bleacher Report".


CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: You guys have extra coffee for me?

COLLINS: Yes, exactly.

ROMANS: Good morning.

MANNO: Listen, we're running out of superlatives for what Lamar Jackson is doing this season. It's just remarkable. His head coach may be summing it up best, saying he is operating at the highest level that a quarterback possibly can, in one of the most master performances in Monday Night Football history.

The second-year quarterback's arm on full display, five passing touchdowns in a 45-6 rout of the Rams. Only 22 years old, he is the first player in NFL history with at least 3,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards over his first two seasons. Baltimore has won seven-straight, moving to one game of New England for the top seed in the AFC.

Jackson left the field serenaded by the MVP chant, as he normally does. But he says his focus is elsewhere.


LAMAR JACKSON, RAVENS QUARTERBACK: I'm trying to win a Super Bowl. And we're taking it a game at a time. I'm not worried about MVP. If they call me, I'll be satisfied.

I'm trying to win a Super Bowl. That's a team award. That's what I want.


MANNO: That's the goal.

Four games into his comeback, Carmelo Anthony turned in a vintage performance last night, a season best 25 points and 8 rebounds for the ten-time all-star in the Trail Blazers win over the Bulls. It marked Melo's highest scoring game in over a year.

Anthony credits his wife La La for urging his comeback. So, last night during a timeout, this is her. She snuck in some FaceTime with their son. A little patience paying off here, as well.

Looking for it. Looking for it. Gets the salute from dad, as Portland stops the four-game skid with the win. Not as controversial as missing a snap.

And a touching moment here during a New York Rangers hockey fights cancer night. Rangers fan Bradley Lingad and his brother Ethan dropped the ceremonial first puck and ring the bell to celebrate Bradley being cancer-free. The 7-year-old fought leukemia for 3-1/2 years until having his cancer cells removed just a couple of months ago.

Similar ceremonies have happened all across the NHL this month. This is something that they do annually. And today, the NHL has raised $25 million in the fight against cancer.

ROMANS: Good for them.

MANNO: Nice initiative there. A lot of the leagues do. Really sweet to see that.

ROMANS: It is.

COLLINS: Lamar Jackson is not worried about MVP. He wants a Super Bowl.

MANNO: He's humble.


MANNO: He's humble. He's talented.

ROMANS: He's 22.

MANNON: He's 22. He is the complete package. And he's focused. He's had a phenomenal year.

COLLINS: Yes, he really has.

ROMANS: Absolutely. Carolyn Manno, nice to see you this morning. Thank you.

COLLINS: The White House's claim of immunity does not suffice accord according to a judge who says Don McGahn must testify. What that means for witnesses who have kept their silence so far in the impeachment probe, that's next.



ROMANS: All right. In today's episode of the U.S./China trade war drama, China's foreign ministry telling the U.S. ambassador to China to stop intervening in internal affairs. The ministry strongly urged the U.S. to, quote, correct the mistake of passing the Hong Kong bill of rights and democracy act, saying the U.S. should prevent that bill from becoming law or face all consequences borne entirely by the United States.

The link to trade here, many suggest, the White House does not want to anger China by siding with pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. The ambassador who was summoned, by the way, is Terry Branstad, former governor of Iowa. So, he's very aware of how people at home are feeling on the effects of the trade war.

Some good news, though, China signaled it could reform its intellectual property laws, it's a sticking point in the U.S.-China trade war. That announcement was short on details, but indicates China could introduce stronger protections and toughen punishments for people who steal American intellectual property. Tariffs on $156 billion worth of Chinese goods are scheduled for December 15th if a deal isn't reached.

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 night when she heard someone pound on her front door. It was a man who was urging her to call an ambulance for him.


WILLIE MURPHY, STOPPED HOME INVASION: I heard a loud noise. 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: She's 5 feet tall and 105 pounds. She said she also squirted the intruder in the face with shampoo and whacked him a couple of times with a broom just to make sure. It turns she's an award-winning bodybuilder who works out at a local YMCA nearly every single day. She doesn't plan to press charges against the intruder who we should note required medical treatment when the police arrived.

EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: The White House can't keep its former top lawyer from testifying, a big ruling with major implications for impeachment witnesses and the president.

COLLINS: And it's going to be an ugly week if you travel (INAUDIBLE). Flights are already 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.

Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

COLLINS: And I'm Kaitlan Collins. It is 30 minutes past the hour.