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Freeze On Ukraine Aid Came 90 Minutes After Call; Explosive Emails; Democrats Want OMB Official To Testify; Impeaching Trump, Pelosi's Position Untenable; America's Choice 2020, Warren Gifted Wine Bottles At Senate Fundraiser; Bloody Weekend In Chicago And Baltimore; Holiday Travel Trouble; U.S. Soldier Killed In Afghanistan; The North Korea Threat; China To Cut Tariffs On Range Of Goods; Beloved Giraffe At Phoenix Zoo Dies; Sex Offenders On Social Media; Reps For Cosby Take On Eddie Murphy. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 23, 2019 - 04:00   ET




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Stop the aid, 91 minutes after Trumps calls Zelensky, and said keep it hush hush.


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Newly released e-mails give some of the strongest proof yet the White House knew the perils and feared backlash over pausing Ukraine's security aid.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Millions heading the roads for the holiday, running into weather trouble. We are going to tell you who gets the worst of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Eddie Murphy.


JOHNS: A sweet SNL homecoming for Eddie Murphy. Now, representatives for Bill Cosby with harsh words, invoking slavery over a joke Murphy made about the comic turned convict.

Welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world, this Early Start. I'm Joe Johns.

KOSIK: Good morning to you and I'm Alison Kosik. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York on this Monday, December 23rd, the first day of Hanukah. Here's the national menorah lighting ceremony last night near the White House. And we wish everybody a happy holiday.

And even after President Trump's impeachment by the House, new details are emerging that could damage him in his eventual Senate trial. Newly released government documents show the effort to freeze aid to Ukraine. That that began only about 90 minutes after the now infamous call between Trump and the leader of Ukraine.

JOHNS: A spokeswoman for the budget office said it would be reckless of the media to tie the hold of funds to the phone call. She notes, the hold had been announced a week before the call and an inter-agency meeting with the new documents also show a White House budget official knew at the time the hold on aid could raise eyebrows. CNN politics reporter Jeremy Herb has more.


JEREMY HERB, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Joe and Alison. Newly released e-mails reveal that the White House's order to freeze Ukraine aid came roughly 90 minutes after President Trump's call with President Zelensky on July 25th. The e-mails provide new detail to our understanding of how exactly the White House held up the aid.

In the July 25th e-mail, White House Budget Official, Michael Duffy, ordered the Pentagon to hold the aid and signaled the decision could be politically explosive. Duffy wrote, given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate you keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction.

We already knew the broad timeline of withholding of these aid. The Security assistance was first ordered held in early July and agencies were notified on July 18th. Then the order was formally sent to July 25th, the day of the president's call. What we learned from these new e-mails is that the two actions occurred roughly 90 minutes apart. The president got off the phone with Zelensky at 9:33. And Duffy sent the e-mail, ordering the aid to be held at 11:04.

Now, the greater context of Duffy's emails, unknown because he defied a subpoena during the House's impeachment inquiry. The question will be now forced into the Senate as to whether to pursue Duffy's testimony as Democrats have demanded. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has not signaled he will accept any witnesses Democrats are pushing for. But the key number is 51. That's how many Senators are needed to approve any witnesses for the trial. Joe and Alison, back to you.


KOSIK: Mike Duffy was the Trump appointee at the Budget Office responsible for overseeing national security money. He's already defied a subpoena from the House impeachment panel. But Senate Democrats, they still want him to testify.


SCHUMER: This e-mail is explosive. A top administration official, one that we requested to saying stop the aid, 91 minutes after Trump called Zelensky and said keep it hush hush. What more do you need to request a witness?


KOSIK: The Senate will only begin a trial once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the articles of impeachment on to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And she is withholding them until McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer reach a deal that Pelosi believes with result in a fair trial. But a top White House official doesn't think Pelosi can sustain that position.


MARK SHORT, CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: We're confident that this position is untenable and she's going to move it along. And that Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell reach a deal and the House will proceed in the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you think that she'll eventually --

SHORT: She will yield. There's no way she can hold this position.



JOHNS: Assuming the Senate does eventually get the case, one moderate Democrat is raising concerns. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, says he's keeping an open mind to, quote, see if the dots get connected.


SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): What I really want to see, though, is fill in the gaps. There are gaps, now people can make up their mind with gaps in testimony. But I would like to see a full and complete picture.


JOHNS: Jones is a key moderate, as Democrats try to keep the party unified through the impeachment process. Even if that happens, 20 Republicans would have to flip sides and vote against President Trump to remove him from office.

KOSIK: Today marks six weeks to the Iowa caucuses, there's new backlash against Elizabeth Warren for her attack on Pete Buttigieg over his high-dollar fundraiser at a California wine cave. Buttigieg called Warren out for holding him to a purity test, she could not pass. Since she took big donor money for her 2018 Senate bid.

And now, the A.P. has revealed she held a fund-raiser in June 2018, where she gave out, you guess it, souvenir wine bottles in exchange for hefty donations. Warren says she's learned her lesson, but will not reveal who those donors were.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), 2020 U.S. DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: I saw how the system worked and I decided when I got in the presidential race that I wanted to do better than that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, no release of the past funders?

WARREN: This is about what we're doing now and the conflicts that people are creating right now.


JOHNS: The case of the smoking wine bottles. The argument from Buttigieg -- private fund-raisers did not corrupt Warren and they aren't corrupting him. He says, he do not worried about how big-money fund-raisers look.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND-IN) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not focusing on optics. I'm focusing on what needs to change in this country. I made my very clear what my positions are, what we are going to do. And anybody chipping into this campaign, no matter their background, their story or how much they can give is supporting that vision.


JOHNS: OK. On the policy front, Buttigieg just rolled out his immigration policy. He plans to pass legislation in his first 100 days he says, that provides a path to citizenship for among other DREAMERS and refugees with temporary protected status.

KOSIK: A bloody weekend in Chicago and Baltimore. Two big cities trying to shake their violent reputations. Chicago police have charged one man who say -- who they say was at the scene with a gun, when 13 people were shot at a home in Englewood earlier on Sunday. But investigators aren't sure if that man actually fired any shots. They say the incident happened during a memorial gathering. Police say some victims remain in critical condition.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't normalize this kind of behavior and tragedy in our City. To call upon the people who were inside, who have information about what happened, to step up and let their faith overcome their fear. That is the only way that we're going to bring down violence across our city.


JOHNS: Meanwhile, Baltimore police are looking for as many as four suspects in a shooting outside of a hookah lounge. They say a blue car pulled up near the lounge and two men walked up to people in line and opened fire. Seven people were shot. The car used in the incident was recovered, but had been set on fire. Three others were shot to death this weekend in Baltimore. The mayor calling this level of violence completely unacceptable.

KOSIK: Ugly weather across the country making for a messy holiday travel. Heavy fog and icy roads leading to a 69-vehicle pileup on Interstate 64 in Eastern Virginia that closed both sides of the highway, 51 people needed medical treatment, two of them are in critical condition. Now, a low pressure system in the southeast is putting more than 7 million people under a flash flood watch. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good morning, guys. An absolute soaker in place two across portions of the Gulf Coast. The storm system here has been very slow to move in the past 24 or so hours. So plenty of rainfall already observed across parts of Florida and to Georgia, as well. But notice, it is going to gradually shift on towards the coastal region of the Carolinas.

Finally, by Christmas Eve, we'll see the storm system offshore. But before it gets there, look how much rainfall we expect from Charleston down towards Savanna. That's three, four and some cases more than five inches of rainfall possible across that region. And it's very localized to that region, as well. So, we'll watch that carefully here for some flooding across that particular area.

But back towards the west, speaking of flooding, look at what's happening in the southwest. Also a potent storm system. In fact, Southern California, namely Los Angeles, as much as two to three inches possible within the next three to four days. So an absolute soaker here, even for their standards of getting in some heavy rainfall.

Some temperatures, only climbed to around 60 degrees for Los Angeles. The middle 40s out of Seattle and about 76 in South Florida. Now, as we go in towards Christmas day, we'll enjoy sunny skies for much of the East Coast. Temperatures, not too bad. Middle 40s around New York City. Guys?



JOHNS: Pedram Javaheri, thank you for that.

Breaking overnight, another victim in America's longest war, a soldier killed just before Christmas.


KOSIK: Breaking overnight, another American soldier killed in Afghanistan. The Taliban claiming responsibility, saying U.S. and Afghan forces were targeted with IED's while conducting a raid. U.S. Officials are withholding the name until next of kin are notified. The U.S. and Taliban had just restarted peace talks. More than 2,400 American troops have died in America's longest war between 12 and 13,000 troops are currently serving in Afghanistan and a drawdown of about 4,000 is expected soon.

[04:15: 08]

JOHNS: Former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, sharply condemning the White House approach to North Korea, in a new interview with Axios. Bolton saying, he does not believe the White House, quote, really means it, when President Trump pledges to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. He says, the idea that were somehow exerting maximum pressure on North Korea is just unfortunately not true. Time is on the side of the proliferator. CNN has learned North Korea may now be preparing to test engines and other missile components. For the latest, we turn to CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul. Paula?


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, there's certain satellite imagery that cite at the moment that officials are pouring over it shows renewed activity around one particular site, where in the past, there has been production of ICBM's, the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles which the U.S. would be concerned about, if that were to be the so-called Christmas gift that North Korea has threatened Washington with.

We know there's also increase activity around the Sohae satellite launch areas. We've seen in past couple of weekends, some suspected engine tests. And Trump administration officials tells CNN, they suspect that there will be potentially other engine tests or some components related to missiles, itself.

Now, just over the weekend, North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un had a meeting with his top military officials. This ahead of what is expected to be a worker party meeting. A significant meeting. It only been said that it's the end of December, no specific date, but where they could potentially decide policy. And the New Year's address from the North Korean leader would likely show the U.S. and the rest of the world which direction they are going in.

But one source telling CNN that they believe there will be more hardline policy. We've already heard from North Korea that they've taken denuclearization off the table. But this source telling CNN also that they believe that it is not likely that there will be a significant test, i.e., a nuclear test or an ICBM test before Christmas. Joe?

JOHNS: Thanks for that. Paula Hancocks in Seoul.

KOSIK: New year, lower tariffs. China's cabinet has approve a plan to lower tariffs on more than 850 products beginning January 1st. Lower tariffs will apply to frozen pork, medicines to treat asthma and diabetes and some hi-tech components. Tariffs on some of the products will go to zero.

The U.S. And China have been in a tit for tat tariff war for almost two years now. But tensions have cooled dramatically. Both sides are now close to signing a phase one trade deal. The U.S. agreed to drop new tariffs on Chinese-made consumer goods while reducing some existing tariffs. The Chinese agreed to buy more U.S. Farm products.

On Friday, President Trump tweeted that he has spoken to President Xi about trade. Adding, a formal signing for the trade deal was quote, being arrange. The White House did not respond to our request for a comment.

JOHNS: New York's governor taking action to keep sex offenders from assuming fake personas online. It's coming up.



KOSIK: A desperate search in Idaho for two siblings missing since September. Police say 7-year-old Joshua Vallow and his 17 year-old sister Tylee Ryan were living with their mother and new stepfather Chad Daybell. The two had recently married. And police say Daybell has since been linked to the suspicious death of his previous life. They believe the children maybe in serious danger. They are asking for the public's help in locating the mother and stepfather for questioning.

JOHNS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says convicted sex offenders should be required to disclose a screen names in dating, gaming and social media aps. The propose legislations would also make a crime for convicted sex offenders to misrepresent themselves online. Currently, the state compiles sex offender's info for social media only, not dating or gaming platforms and then sends the data to social networks, which abuse to purge accounts. The governor's office has not explained what the punishment for violation would be.

KOSIK: A beloved giraffe at the Phoenix zoo has died. Zoo officials say, 14-year-old Makope died after developing sudden neurologic abnormalities. She had been under medical treatment and close observations for several months because of difficulty in navigating her surroundings. The zoo says, she was their most mischievous and outgoing giraffe and the favorite of visitors.

JOHNS: This was a reunion 35 years in the making.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Eddie Murphy.


JOHNS: In his much-anticipated return to Saturday Night Live, for the first time since 1984, Eddie Murphy did not pull any punch lines.


EDDIE MURPHY, ACTOR: My kids are actually pretty much my whole life now. And you know what, but if you had told me 30 years ago that I would be this boring, stay-at-home, you know, House dad, and Bill Cosby would be in jail --


-- even I would have took that bet. Who is America's dad now?





JOHNS: Ouch. One person not laughing at that impersonation of Cosby is Cliff Huxtable, Cosby's indignant publicist who wrote, one would think Mr. Murphy was given his freedom to leave the plantation so that he could make his own decision, but he decided to sell himself back to being a Hollywood slave. As for the rest of the show, Murphy revived some of his most memorable characters.


MURPHY: I am still your neighbor

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ordered a new 72-inch Samsung TV. And they said it was delivered but it's not in the lobby. We were wondering if you knew anything about that.

MURPHY: Don't worry, boys and girls. Mr. Robinson knows just what to say in situations like this. You think I stole your TV because I'm black? Can you believe the nerve of them, boys and girls? There's a special word for that. Racist.


KOSIK: Did you watch it actually live?

JOHNS: No, I did not.

KOSIK: Yeah.

JOHNS: That is hilarious.

KOSIK: He was hilarious. Crossing the p.c. boundaries is often times what makes us laugh. I don't think he was mean-spirited.

JOHNS: And he was very, very funny back then and didn't miss a beat, obviously.

KOSIK: Yes, he was very funny.

All right, some of the strongest proof yet, the White House tried to quiet concerns about Ukraine's security aid. What newly released e- mails show?