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Today's Impeachment Hearing Akin To A Trial; Pivotal One-On-One Expected Between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky; FBI Investigating Pensacola Attack As Act Of Terror. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 9, 2019 - 05:30   ET



DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats risk adding details from the Mueller probe into articles of impeachment?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI is investigating the Pensacola shooting as an act of terror. Why the gunman's time in Saudi Arabia is being examined.

BRIGGS: And, his legendary characters defined our childhood. Fans around the world are mourning the loss of "SESAME STREET" puppeteer Caroll Spinney.

Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs trying to be Big Bird, but I'm more Oscar the Grouch, generally.

WALKER: And you're grouchy.

BRIGGS: And it is early.

WALKER: I can tell you're a grouch --


WALKER: -- this early, at least.

BRIGGS: It's 5:30.

WALKER: Good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker, half past the hour.

Democrats facing a momentous impeachment finale as they set the scope of the charges against President Trump. Judiciary Committee Democrats spent the weekend mapping out a crucial hearing today. Party leaders still debating whether to include evidence from the Russia investigation, which included potential examples of obstruction by the president.

BRIGGS: Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler confident in his case but cautious about using Robert Mueller's evidence.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you feel comfortable that this whole thing was directed --

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Yes, absolutely.

BASH: -- by the president, himself?

NADLER: Yes, yes.

BASH: Still, that you have a rock-solid case?

NADLER: We have a very rock-solid case. I think the case we have if presented to a jury, would be a guilty verdict in about three minutes flat.

BASH: As you are talking about this, you keep bringing up the 2016 election and Russia. It certainly sounds to me like you want that to be included going forward.

NADLER: Well, I wouldn't draw any conclusions. It is part of the pattern, which is why I bring it up.


BRIGGS: Reviving Mueller's evidence could cause political headaches for Democrats in swing districts. They must balance a push to defeat the president with the needs of their constituents less than a year before the election.

For more on what to expect today, here's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill.


LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Dave and Amara, a huge day on Capitol Hill with the House Judiciary Committee hearing slated to take place in just a couple of hours.

This hearing is going to look a little bit more like a trial with House Judiciary Committee lawyers laying out what they believe is the evidence to impeach Donald Trump. Republicans, of course, will refute that. Then, the House Intelligence Committee lawyers will also lay out the evidence that they documented in that 300-page House Intelligence Committee report.

We know that President Donald Trump's lawyers had an opportunity to participate. They declined that opportunity on Friday.

And it could be a huge week in the House Judiciary Committee because they could unveil articles of impeachment and they could vote on them as soon as the end of this week. Then there could be a full vote in the House of Representatives on whether or not to impeach Donald Trump before Christmas -- Dave and Amara.


BRIGGS: Lauren Fox, thank you.

Attorney General Bill Barr warning President Trump his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has become a liability. This, according to "The Washington Post." Concerns are escalating among the president's advisers now that the former New York City mayor is becoming a key player in the impeachment inquiry.

Giuliani is already under investigation in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine. The "Post" also reporting Giuliani attempted to replace the ambassador to Qatar and pursued a backchannel between President Trump and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

WALKER: In just hours, a pivotal face-to-face meeting in Paris between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. The hope is to ease five years of violence along the border, but Ukrainians fear peace will happen on Putin's terms as questions swirl over U.S. support.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Paris with more on this meeting where the stakes are quite high.

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Amara. And, of course, all eyes on Ukraine, very much on how far President Zelensky is going to go during this meeting later today. It is to an extremely windy Paris that the German, Ukrainian, and Russian leaders will be arriving later today for those discussions.

Now, as a prerequisite to this -- the first meeting within the so- called Normandy format in three years -- already, President Zelensky had to accept a formula that essentially involved elections being held in parts of eastern Ukraine. And then, a certain degree of autonomy for those same parts, post-those elections.

Now, one of his red lines he's made clear is that for him, the question of the Ukrainian border with Russia -- all 400 kilometers of it -- needs to be secured and brought back under Ukrainian control before those elections can take place. President Putin arriving with a very different idea that, in fact, the elections need to take place first before that border can be handed back to full Ukrainian control.

Now, the problem for President Zelensky, as he comes here, is that so much has changed ever since those three years have passed and the past time these leaders met, with President Macron already making very clear that his position on this is a reset of relations with Russia. And on that question of the formula that's being talked about for eastern Ukraine, he is far closer to the Russian position than he is to the Ukrainian.


So it is without terribly many cards in his hand that President Zelensky arrives. Already, last night in Kiev, protests that he has gone so far already in accepting this and he could be facing difficulty back home should he go further than that in the direction of Russia -- Amara.

WALKER: All right, Melissa Bell, live for us there where it's getting windy in Paris. Thanks so much. BRIGGS: All right, a lot more ahead on this. Plus, breaking overnight, the death toll climbing after a massive volcanic eruption in New Zealand.


WALKER: A crucial impeachment hearing this morning. Judiciary and Intelligence Committee Democrats will lay out their case against the president. After last week's hearing with constitutional experts, this will be the first impeachment hearing comparable to a trial proceeding.

BRIGGS: Joining us this morning, historian and professor Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst. Good to see you, sir, and happy belated birthday, my friend -- a big one --


BRIGGS: -- over the weekend. Happy, happy birthday.

ZELIZER: Yes, the big 50.

BRIGGS: All right, so you get to celebrate by watching the Judiciary impeachment hearing. And the question really, as we start this, is will the Democrats or will they not introduce Mueller evidence?


Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary chairman, said they could make their case in three minutes. So what's the risk, then, of going back to 2016?

ZELIZER: Look, on the merits, the idea as you solidify the case, you show with the Mueller report there is a pattern of behavior that makes this even worse than simply Ukraine. But the risk for Speaker Pelosi is that you lose the moderate Democrats who have made it clear they don't want to talk about this and they already have enough to move forward with a vote.

So that's the debate that's going on among Democrats. It's political.

WALKER: Yes, so obviously, there's a little bit of disagreement there with the Democrats.

Regarding the Republicans, we're seeing them unite more and more behind President Trump. And also now seeing Sen. Ted Cruz joining in on peddling disinformation, saying that Ukraine also meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Are we getting a preview here of just what the president's defense is going to be once the Senate trial starts -- you know, spreading more misinformation and making it hyperpartisan?

ZELIZER: Absolutely, and this is part of why some say there's no use in adding the Mueller report. It's not going to change minds. The Republicans are going to go on the floor. It's very predictable what they're going to do.

They're going to spread disinformation, they're going to talk about Hunter Biden. They're going to continue with the same playbook regardless of what the Democrats say. So there's not a lot of persuasion that's going to go on in this Senate trial within the Senate chamber, itself.

BRIGGS: All right, let's turn to 2020 and Joe Biden campaigning on this "No Malarkey" tour. He's 77; he brings on 75-year-old John Kerry. No malarkey -- two 75-plus-year-old men. Not sure how helpful that is.

But here is a John Kerry reference I want to get your perspective on. Julian Zelizer knows all about sports. So, John Kerry comparing Biden and the Patriots -- listen.


JOHN KERRY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Experience, wisdom, muscle memory. Joe Biden is a little bit like the New England Patriots, I think. Fun to watch -- fun to watch the promise and potential of young quarterbacks. But come February, I like having an experienced quarterback like Tom Brady calling those plays.


BRIGGS: OK, he's in Patriots country so I get it. Brady lost to another young quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, on Sunday.

What do you make of the analogy?

ZELIZER: Well, the most important is that the Patriots tend to win in the big games and Joe Biden hasn't won. So it does raise a question about can he actually deliver. Is he like Brady or is he like my New York Jets -- in the end, won't deliver?

But the point of having Kerry is to try to bolster this image of being the experienced candidate.


ZELIZER: Being the candidate with the gravitas. It doesn't win the young voters or the base voters who aren't particularly excited about the direction of the party.

BRIGGS: If I -- yes, and if I could my sports sense to this it's you don't need another Tom Brady on the stage. What you need is a Lamar Jackson, Mahomes, Deshaun Watson. That's what Joe Biden's issue is. He needs to generate some young enthusiasm. He doesn't exactly check that box with John Kerry.

WALKER: Well, let's talk about a younger candidate then, Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. I mean, she's now intensifying her attacks. I mean, she had said before that she wouldn't attack a fellow Democrat. Now she is when it comes to his, what she says is a lack of transparency, his fundraising, who is donating to his campaign, and who his clients were when he was working for McKinsey.

Here is some sound with their back-and-forth.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He should release who is bundling for him. He should make clear who is on his finance team. This is about the conflicts that he is creating every single day right now.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This, above all, is competition for the nominee to take on Donald Trump, and I will put my professional history -- civilian and military, public and private -- up against his any day.


WALKER: So is his lack of transparency going to hurt Buttigieg in the end? Is Warren's attacks -- are they being effective?

ZELIZER: It might hurt him a little bit in that it opens up questions about this candidate nobody knows about. I don't think it helps Sen. Warren. It's like the Medicare for All debate in that it takes her away from her core issue -- I'm going to help middle-class families who are struggling. Once again, she's not talking about that and I think that's a problem.

WALKER: Her strength is the issues that she talks about.

ZELIZER: And that's where caucus politics and primary politics can take you away from the issues that probably are the strongest things that you have when you bring to the table.

BRIGGS: And it felt a little desperate for me, elevating Buttigieg a little bit, but we shall see how that works.

Julian Zelizer, good to see you again.


WALKER: Thanks for coming in.

BRIGGS: Again, happy birthday, sir.


WALKER: Appreciate it.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

BRIGGS: Happy 5-0.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

WALKER: You don't even look 5-0. I thought you would have been 4-0.

Still no official motive for Friday's deadly shooting at a Pensacola naval base, killing three people. Federal investigators with this grave assessment.



RACHEL ROJAS, SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: -- work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism. This allows us to take advantage of investigative techniques that can help us more quickly identify and then eliminate any additional potential threats.


WALKER: A 21-year-old second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force opened fire at a classroom building Friday. He was killed in an exchange of gunfire with two deputies.

There was a dignified transfer last night for his three victims, Joshua Kaleb Watson, Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Cameron Scott Walters.

Now, law enforcement is looking into the shooter's recent time in Saudi Arabia, and the president's relationship with the Saudi Kingdom is back under a microscope.

Nic Robertson live now with the very latest from Riyadh. And a lot of questions about what happened during the shooter's time when he spent -- in Saudi Arabia.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, this would have been the time that many of these sort of long-term military students from Saudi Arabia do when they go to the United States. They come back home -- they have their holidays back home with their families in Saudi Arabia.

So we had the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman here calling President Trump yesterday promising absolute cooperation with the Saudi authorities and the FBI investigators here. But quite simply, what does that mean, absolute cooperation? It kind of, here, gets a bit murky as to precisely what that will be. The officials here aren't saying as what that cooperation will look like.

But I think what we can expect it to look like from past practice, the Saudi investigators will be the ones who will be talking to his family, talking to his friends trying to figure out what he was doing, where he was going, who he was meeting, had he changed his behavior. His family says his behavior hadn't changed.

Of course, the FBI will be able to look into a trove of Twitter accounts and figure out which one is his and what he was following and kind of really get into his social media, such as it was, and try to figure out more about him and his state of mind to get a sense of the motive. But, you know, that sort of hands-on that the FBI might want to have with his family here, that may be a little difficult to achieve than previous investigations. At least we don't know, in this one. Details aren't forthcoming.

But, of course, this absolute cooperation that the Crown Prince is talking about in his conversation with President Trump is really going to put President Trump's passing, if you will, of the king's version of what Saudi Arabia will do -- that phone call coming on Friday. It's really going to put that under a microscope again if the Saudis don't measure up to expectations.

WALKER: All right, Nic Robertson, appreciate you reporting live for us there in Riyadh.

BRIGGS: The man that shaped the characters that millions of us grew up on, Caroll Spinney -- he was the puppeteer who brought the iconic Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life -- has died. He brought those voices to life on "SESAME STREET."


CAROLL SPINNEY, PUPPETEER, "SESAME STREET" (OSCAR THE GROUCH): I love it because it's trash. Yes, I love trash.

SPINNEY, (BIG BIRD): I've got a great idea. Since you're here playing with me, why don't we go through my old toy trunk and we'll see what's in there? I haven't looked in there for a long time.


BRIGGS: Spinney died Sunday at this Connecticut home after battling dystonia, a movement disorder. He was 85.

"SESAME STREET" co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney says, "We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world."

WALKER: Spinney's passing came the same day "SESAME STREET" became the first television show to receive Kennedy Center honors.


MATT VOGEL, BIG BIRD, "SESAME STREET": I think you're in my seat.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Sorry, I'll just go. I'll go -- I'll go backstage.

MATT VOGEL, PUPPETEER, (BIG BIRD) "SESAME STREET": Oh, that's OK, that's OK. I know that song.

HANKS: All right.

VOGEL: That's about my favorite street.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WALKER: Matt Vogel filled Big Bird's shoes when Spinney retired last October. Before the Kennedy Center event, he tweeted he would be thinking about his mentor and friend.

And we'll be right back.



BRIGGS: Five fifty-four Eastern time.

And if you live in the northeast, brace for rain on your drive home from work. Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, guys. Certainly going to see some showers and, of course, the big-time cold air over the next couple of days.

But this weather today is brought to you by Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker, the pressure cooker that crisps.

And, you know, when you take a look at the forecast over the next couple of days across portions of the country, not going to seem that bad, at least initially. The showers -- certainly can take that here because temps are going to warm up to almost 60 degrees across New York City in advance of this incoming front.


But with it, not only some wintry weather across portions of the Midwest, plenty of wet weather down across parts of the Gulf Coast states as well. But once the front arrives -- we think sometime as early as, say, Wednesday into Thursday -- we get the coldest blast of air here in these last couple of weeks of autumn that we've seen all season. And, in fact, temperatures in places could be 25 or more degrees below average.

So, snow showers -- yes, they are possible across portions of the major metro cities of the northeast on Wednesday. But generally speaking minimal amounts, at best, since there's not much moisture left for that region.

But the cold air -- certainly plenty of it left over the next couple of days. And you'll notice places such as Minneapolis, an afternoon high on Tuesday, 25 degrees below average. An afternoon high of five and that is colder than what is happening up in Alaska.

And then notice, again, climbing up to 60 and dropping down into the lower 30s by Thursday -- guys.


WALKER: At least five people are dead in the eruption overnight of a New Zealand volcano popular with tourists. Officials say about 50 people were on White Island when the volcano exploded. More than 30 of them were traveling on a Royal Caribbean cruise liner out of Australia.

The explosion sent people rushing away by boat. Police say the dead are among 23 victims evacuated from the island earlier and more fatalities are expected. It's too dangerous for rescue teams to approach the island.

BRIGGS: "Star Trek" actor Rene Auberjonois has died at 79. Best known for key supporting roles in "BENSON" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Auberjonois' big break in Hollywood came in the original 1970 version of "MASH." His youngest fans will know him from this.




BRIGGS: His son, Remy, says he died of metastatic lung cancer. Besides his son and daughter and several grandchildren, he leaves behind Judith, his wife of 56 years.

WALKER: Twenty nineteen's CNN Hero of the Year, Freweini Mebrahtu.


FREWEINI MEBRAHTU, CNN HERO OF THE YEAR: This is for all the girls and women everywhere -- dignity for all. This moment is not just for me, this moment is for every girl.


WALKER: Mebrahtu has dedicated her life to keeping girls in school by designing a reusable menstrual pad. She partnered with the nonprofit Dignity Period to end the cultural stigma around the issue.

All of the top 10 CNN Heroes received a $10,000 cash award.

BRIGGS: All right, 5:57. A check on "CNN Business" this morning.

First, a quick look at markets around the world mostly lower as investors look for a potential trade deal on Wall Street. Futures are lower.

Stocks finished the week strong after that solid jobs reports. The economy adding 266,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remains at a 50- year low.

The strong report also means the Federal Reserve is likely to leave rates unchanged. They meet this week.

Investors are also watching for progress on President Trump's North American trade deal, USMCA. According to people close to the talks, House Democrats and the administration nearing a deal after negotiating with the Mexican government over changes to labor enforcement and other provisions.




BRIGGS: The Peloton wife is trading her bike for a drink.




BRIGGS: A new ad for Aviation Gin, actor Ryan Reynolds' liquor company, appears to make light of the controversial Peloton holiday ad by showing the wife, played by actress Monica Ruiz, drinking away her sorrows at a bar with her girlfriends. The ad stars Ruiz staring blankly ahead, completely different from that energetic mom she played in the Peloton ad.

Peloton received a lot of backlash for its holiday ad, in case you did not notice. Critics accuse the company of peddling negative body image and gross martial dynamics.

I am one of the few people who liked that ad --

WALKER: Did you?

BRIGGS: -- because, of course, I guess I bought my wife a Peloton bike.

WALKER: She did ask for it? Did she ask for it?

BRIGGS: She did ask for it.

WALKER: OK, then that's OK.

BRIGGS: That's the key, right?

WALKER: If she didn't ask for it and you bought her a bike, then I have an issue with that.

BRIGGS: Then you've got issues.


Thanks for joining us.

BRIGGS: I agree with that.

WALKER: I'm Amara Walker.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Here's "NEW DAY."


BRIGGS: A momentous finale to the House impeachment hearings set to begin in just hours.

NADLER: The evidence shows overwhelmingly that the president put his own personal interests above the interests of his country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This president has gone through so much. They've been making accusations that not only are not based on facts, they're false.



MEGRAHTU: This moment is not just for me. This moment is for every girl -- dignity for all.