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Judge Rules Former White House Counsel Must Testify To Congress; SCOTUS Blocks Access To Trump's Financial Records; Test Of Support For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 26, 2019 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

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

There's been a major victory for House Democrats in their investigations into the president after a federal judge ruled that the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, must testify under congressional subpoena.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is rejecting that 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, "Per 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's going to appeal that ruling from Judge Jackson, which could set the stage for what could be a historic showdown between the executive and legislative branches.

ROMANS: That's right, the decision is bad news for anyone who has ever worked in the Trump White House that is now refusing to testify. House Democrats hope 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, the lawyer -- his lawyer said Bolton was personally involved in matters being investigated.

The House Intel Committee just wrapped up two weeks of public hearings. Chairman Adam Schiff said Monday they could release their report as soon as next week, but he had warned the timetable can be extended.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We don't foreclose the possibility of more depositions, more hearings. We are 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.


COLLINS: Democrats have said those officials, like Bolton, who so far have refused to 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."

ROMANS: So it was a mixed verdict 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 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 has been fighting on several fronts to shield his records from disclosure.

The court's action tees up a potentially 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: Ariane, thank you for that.

Rudy Giuliani's troubles appear to be growing. Federal prosecutors who are investigating his recently-indicted associates have now launched a broad investigation. And according to a subpoena seen by CNN, that investigation could include criminal charges ranging from conspiracy and obstruction of justice to money laundering.

It appears to signal prosecutors are also looking at the associates' relationship with Giuliani and his consulting business. Giuliani has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

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: On Sunday, Giuliani told Fox News he's got insurance just in case the president turns on him and now he claims that comment was him 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 if you're traveling for the holidays, watch out for what forecasters are calling a historic storm. Twenty-one million -- 20 million people are facing brutal rain and snow and already, more than 500 flights have been canceled for today, most of them in and out of Denver where you see those people right now in an airport.

Our meteorologist Karen Maginnis has the latest on what's going on.


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 are going to head out on the highways and going to make good time -- no.

We've got back-to-back storm systems. One ejects of the Rockies and another one moving in across the west coast is going to be lowering snow levels.

By the way, this weather report is sponsored by Ninja Foodi, the grill that sears, sizzles, 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 rather dramatically.

Also, could see the 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.

And for the west coast, look at that. Along with some strong wind gusts, maybe some sections of southeastern Oregon could see wind gusts of over 80 miles an hour.

Drive carefully and have a safe holiday. Back to you guys.


ROMANS: Yes, thank you, Karen.

All right, 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.



ROMANS: A major problem for the White House. A federal judge has ruled former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify when called before Congress. The reasoning in the ruling could apply to anyone who has ever worked in the White House and is refusing to testify.

COLLINS: Let's bring in "Washington Post" congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian, a CNN political analyst. Good morning, Karoun.

What is your take on this ruling that we saw yesterday? And what are the implications going to be not just for Don McGahn but for everyone else who, so far, has refused to testify?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think the implications for others is the really serious part, but I think we could go into appeals further in this particular court case.

But this is a ruling from the courts that basically says there is weight to congressional subpoenas. It does outweigh when the White House declares these overbroad definitions of privilege. And you have to show up, and you have to show up when Congress calls you.


DEMIRJIAN: That has implications for John Bolton in the impeachment inquiry. It's his deputy former national security adviser Charles Kupperman who has the pending lawsuit right now that is almost exactly the same on the merits as the McGahn case.

And remember, there are many other officials who have also received summons -- Mick Mulvaney. I think Mike Pompeo was in the mix.


DEMIRJIAN: Giuliani, certainly.

I mean, this goes all the way up the chain for people who have been subpoenaed for documents or for testimony that have not shown up to actually testify --


DEMIRJIAN: -- in this probe.

So the question is could this open the floodgates and will it open the floodgates fast enough because Democrats are on this schedule that is incredibly speedy. And remember, in any of these cases you can -- you can choose to go through the motions again or file appeals. This is probably not done with McGahn but it is enough that anybody who wants to take a cue from it could.

ROMANS: Yes. I know they're writing -- they're writing their impeachment document as we speak.


ROMANS: The judge here, Judge Ketanju Brown Jackson, was very clear in this ruling that you cannot avoid a congressional subpoena and even added this. "Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings."

That's getting a lot of attention this morning.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes, it's quite the powerful phrase. I mean, look, that is going back to the heart and soul of why the Constitution was written with the balance of powers that it has, right? And the question is how ably those have actually been able to be executed.

And I think that Congress has found that -- you know, it has found difficulty in getting people in the executive branch to actually comply with these subpoenas. That has been off the charts -- a problem during the Trump administration. And so to have that sort of a declarative statement from a judge is kind of trying to bring things back to the center of where these balance of powers are supposed to be.

Of course, like I said before, this is not quite the end of the line for these cases but it does seem that the indication is the congressional subpoena has weight. The courts will eventually back those up. Will that fit the Democrats political timeline? That's the open question --


DEMIRJIAN: -- right now.

COLLINS: And, Karoun, you covered the Hill. I want to get your take on a fascinating walk-back we are now seeing for our Republican friend from Louisiana, Sen. John Kennedy, who, on Sunday, repeated this debunked conspiracy theory, essentially saying he wasn't sure who it was that interfered in the election when, of course, the intelligence agencies have overwhelmingly concluded it was Russia.

He's now walking that back. Listen to what he told Chris Cuomo last night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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: Now, of course, when he asked that question Chris Wallace followed up and asked about whether or not he really didn't think it was Russia that interfered in the DNC hack and the election.

What do you think about why it is he's now walking that back just a day later?

DEMIRJIAN: I mean, this, in one person, is illustrating the problem right now in the GOP with this line of argument of Trump's defense -- of that well, how do we know Ukraine didn't meddle in the election, too, and not just Russia?

That's been debunked by the Intelligence Community. It is a Russian conspiracy theory talking point of disinformation to make the -- to equate, basically, the few Ukrainian officials that came out and voiced their concerns about what Trump was saying about NATO, about Russia, about geopolitics during the campaign to equate that with a concentrated disinformation campaign --


DEMIRJIAN: -- from Russia.

So it just shows you how difficult it is right now for the GOP to defend this piece of Trump's defense and yet, some are taking up that cause. I think that if you'd ask Republicans before we got to this stage of the impeachment fight whether they really believed this, most would have said no. They've made a very strong point of saying look, we found that Russia was meddling, too.

But this Ukraine (INAUDIBLE) has been part of the counternarrative, has been part of Trump's defense. And you're seeing how one person can get stuck in that and realize oh, wait a second, I have just thrown sense out the window on this --


DEMIRJIAN: -- when I've got to course correct.

There are other ways to defend the president right now in the impeachment inquiry, but this one has really been like quicksand for the GOP that have gone there --

ROMANS: I mean --

DEMIRJIAN: -- to try to take up this cause. [05:45:00]

ROMANS: -- he got caught. I mean, he got caught there --


ROMANS: -- sort of red-handed, pun intended, peddling a conspiracy theory for political advantage. A conspiracy theory propagated by the Russian security services.


ROMANS: So he got caught and he walked it back.

Quickly, on SCOTUS -- Supreme Court blocking the House from seeing the president's financial records and his tax returns, at least for now.


ROMANS: That's a good win for the president.

DEMIRJIAN: It is for now. The production schedule for what the Supreme Court wants to see is fairly quick so we could see what this means in terms of the endgame of it in a few weeks. But certainly, it's got to be a little bit of a boost for the president at a time at which decisions are otherwise coming against him and impeachment is moving forward to have this pause.

It's interesting that it's happening at this point. The lower courts have really been all on the side of Congress' rights to get these records. So it's not clear yet if this is an indication that there may be sympathy for the president's case in this review court or they just want to do a thorough vetting of the questions since it does really go to the heart of that constitutional question again about the balance of powers and whose right wins out to have this information.

ROMANS: All right, Karoun Demirjian. So nice to have on bright and early with us this morning. Thank you.

She's the congressional reporter at "The Washington Post." Thanks, Karoun.

DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.

COLLINS: Breaking overnight, the death toll is rising from a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake that rocked Albania. At least eight people are dead and now -- and more than 300 hurt.

The epicenter was in Durres -- it's about 13 miles or so from the capital of Tirana -- and 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 there in the rubble.

There were strong aftershocks felt throughout the capital and several buildings, as you can see there, in the city collapsed.

We're going to bring you more details as we get them.

ROMANS: Crisis in farm country -- falling crop prices, a string of natural disasters, and the U.S.-China trade war. Data from the American Farm Bureau Federation shows farm bankruptcies up 24 percent since September 2018. Soybeans, cotton, and dairy hard-hit by retaliation against the president's tariffs.

Farmers, a key demographic for Trump in the 2020 election. He's often called them patriots for making sacrifices while he negotiates with Beijing.

Now, one of those farmers in distress is taking on one of Trump's biggest backers. Christopher Gibbs, an Ohio farmer, is weighing an Independent run to unseat Rep. Jim Jordan. Gibbs raises cattle and grows soybeans, alfalfa, and corn -- all crops hit by the trade war.

He told CNN's Kate Bolduan a potential run is more about Trump's agricultural policies.


CHRISTOPHER GIBBS, OHIO FARMER: This is bigger than that. Listen, populism -- the destructive nature of populism has crept in both of these parties.


ROMANS: Gibbs, a former local Republican official, voted for Trump in 2016, but he became a critic of the president's trade policies and left the Republican Party.

We'll be right back.



COLLINS: There is a critical test of support today for the embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His backers are holding a 'Stop the Coup' rally in downtown Tel Aviv as the prime minister is facing one count of bribery and three counts of fraud and breach of trust. It's the first time a sitting Israeli leader has been indicted.

Let's go live to Jerusalem where CNN's Paula Newton is. Paula, Netanyahu has faced some pretty tough political tests in the past and survived. Do you think this time is going to be any different?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It's for sure, Kaitlan, that there are few in this country that would ever bet against him. Still, Netanyahu has a strategy here and that is to show people power, right.

They're expecting tens of thousands out in Tel Aviv for that 'Stop the Coup' rally. It is essentially we'll be taking a page from President Trump, right, in having rallies that he can be assured that his base will show people that he still has the support.

And remember, the challenges are coming from both within his own party, Likud. There has been a move to try and get him out of that party as leader and obviously, from his political rivals outside that party.

I have to point out here though that already one media outlet here in Israel is already saying that if there was a primary held today -- and there should be one held in the next few weeks -- Netanyahu would still win.

I want to point out a ruling though yesterday. It was from the attorney general here in Israel. The same man who brought that indictment against Netanyahu now saying that there is no legal impetus for Netanyahu to be removed as prime minister while he remains the caretaker -- in this caretaker role in Israel.

And, Kaitlan, it's important to remind everyone here, right, this is political chaos right now. A stalemate, historical right now. They've gone through two elections in this country. They may be on to a third in March. Throughout that now, Netanyahu remains the caretaker prime minister and now, he has the attorney general saying that there's nothing to say that he has to stop that.

To make another not so subtle point, Netanyahu went to the Golan Heights a couple of days ago, really stressing that he is the man that can keep Israeli safe. Saying that the threats are still there from Iran and he is the one who can ensure Israeli stability.

He is, I'll point out, the longest-serving Israeli prime minister, but right now, a huge battle to see if he can remain in that job -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And he's got a lot of parallels with President Trump, so we'll be watching to see if those continue to happen. Thank you for that, Paula.

ROMANS: All right. A robbery suspect wielding a big machete shot and killed by police in Hollywood, some of it captured on cell phone video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, don't do it. Don't do it.




ROMANS: That suspect first being chased by an officer, then the suspect turned and charged at the police officer. Police think the suspect robbed an auto parts store, then carjacked someone in a drive- thru. He tried to drive away but crashed into two patrol cars. Officials say police used less lethal force before then firing those live rounds.

The officer you saw on that video taking a tumble suffered only minor injuries.

COLLINS: The story of an Alabama sheriff's murder has become even more tragic. It turns out that the son of the fallen Lowndes County sheriff, "Big John" Williams, witnessed his father's murder.


SHERIFF DERRICK CUNNINGHAM, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, ALABAMA: His son was at the gas station the same night. When you're dealing with your loved ones and then you -- your loved one is actually there and witnesses you being shot, that's something.


COLLINS: The 18-year-old suspect, William Chase Johnson, who you see there, is the son of a deputy in neighboring county, Montgomery.

Officials say that Johnson killed Sheriff Williams when the 40-year- old law enforcement veteran approached a truck asking the occupant to turn down the loud music.

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 friends, family, and their legal team.


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


ROMANS: The Conviction Integrity Unit in the Baltimore prosecutor's office 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.




COLLINS: The force has been shaken but it remains unbroken. An actual script for the upcoming new "Star Wars" movie, "The Rise of Skywalker," wound up on eBay. It seems that one of the main actors left the script under his or her bed and it was found by someone who was cleaning the room.

A quick-thinking Disney staffer saw the script on eBay and bought it before it could be sold to somebody else.

ROMANS: J.J. Abrams would not reveal who the actor was but said I would really like to.

Let's get a check on "CNN Business" this morning.

Taking a look at markets around the world, narrowly mixed, I'd call that.

In the United States, Dow futures are up a little -- they've just turned lower now. Oh my gosh, they're not even moving here. That is what I would call directionless, Kaitlan. Stocks closed, though, at record highs on Monday.

China signaled it is willing to tighten intellectual property protections. That could help a U.S.-China trade deal.

The Dow closed up 190 points. The Nasdaq had an even better day. Tech stocks really led this thing here up 1.3 percent.

Some big mergers also moved markets. LVMH confirmed it will buy Tiffany for $16.2 billion, Charles Schwab agreed to buy TD Ameritrade for $26 billion, and eBay sold its StubHub business to Viagogo, a European rival. That's a $4 billion deal.

COLLINS: And to the best story that you are going to see this morning. A man who broke into a Rochester, New York home picked the wrong grandmother.

Eighty-two-year-old Willie Murphy was getting ready for bed last Thursday night when she heard someone pounding on her door. It was a man who was urging her to call an ambulance for him.


WILLIE MURPHY, 82-YEAR-OLD BODYBUILDER: I hear a loud noise and I'm saying to myself, what the heck is that? The 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: In addition to that, Murphy also squirted the intruder in the face with shampoo. She hit him a couple of times with a broom, as well.

And it turns out she's an award-winning bodybuilder who works out almost every single day.

The intruder required medical treatment when the police arrived.

And we should note that she is five feet tall, 105 pounds.

ROMANS: And she began deadlift -- she deadlifts, by the way, 225 pounds and she didn't begin until her mid-70s. So there's hope for all of us couch potatoes out there.

COLLINS: She's award-winning. She needs a few more awards, I think.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

COLLINS: And I'm Kaitlan Collins. Thanks for having me this week. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


COLLINS: A federal judge is ruling that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify under congressional subpoena.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president's claim of absolute immunity is absolute absurdity.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is saying essentially that this decision contradicts longstanding precedent.

DE VOGUE: The Supreme Court said the House will not get President Trump's financial documents, at least for now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their obsession with impeachment is going to cost them their majority next fall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't be held up for months at a time to frivolous appeals.