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At Least 12 Killed In Kazakhstan Plane Crash; No Sign Of Movement In Impeachment Stalemate; Coast Guard Searching For Missing Tour Helicopter. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 27, 2019 - 05:30   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, a dozen people killed when a plane goes down after takeoff from Kazakhstan. Miraculously, there are survivors. A live report moments away.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Snow and rain moving fast, the west already pummeled. The Plains and Midwest preparing for a very ugly weekend.

PHILLIP: And the president wants answers but Senate leaders are no closer to a deal on the impeachment trial. The latest efforts to break the logjam.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Abby Phillip.

KOSIK: Good morning, I'm Alison Kosik. It's 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

And breaking news overnight. Twelve people were killed in a plane crash in Kazakhstan. Ninety-three passengers and five crew members were onboard the Bek Air flight that went down just seconds after takeoff.

CNN's Nathan Hodge is live for us in Moscow. You know, you think of the turn of events here. I think it was 19 seconds after this plane took off, it had crashed.

NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Alison, you're right. It was a catastrophic situation that could have been far, far worse. Moments after takeoff, the Fokker 100 operated by the airline Bek Air crashed, careening into a concrete wall and hitting a two-story building.

Images that we've seen on the ground have shown that the fuselage of the plane partially had broken up but miraculously, the fuel didn't catch on fire. And I think aviation analysts have been quick to point out that that potentially spared the passengers from a far, far worse fate.

Of course, first responders have been on the scene. They've evacuated those injured to hospitals around the region.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, of Kazakhstan, has declared that Saturday will be a day of mourning in Kazakhstan. The first president of an independent Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has also expressed condolences.

And certainly, we've seen these images which are quite arresting of the scene there on the ground in Kazakhstan after the crash of this plane. Authorities have grounded -- they halted the operations of Bek Air and have grounded them in Kazakhstan -- that airframe. And certainly, we'll be watching to see additional developments as they arise on the ground, Alison.

KOSIK: Such horrific scenes. It is amazing that there are so many survivors.

CNN's Nathan Hodge live for us from Moscow -- thanks.

PHILLIP: Also breaking overnight, the Coast Guard searching for seven people on a tour helicopter that went missing off the coast of Hawaii. Two minors are among the missing. The tour operator says one pilot and six passengers were on board.

The helicopter is equipped with an electronic locator but no signals have been received so far. Officials say weather conditions are challenging as they search for signs of the missing chopper.

KOSIK: China, Russia, and Iran will hold joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman beginning today. The Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman are among the world's leading trade routes.

The Gulf is where two oil tankers were attacked in June. The U.S. blamed Iran.

It is also a short distance from the Strait of Hormuz. That's a major site of contention between Iran and the West over the passage of oil tankers.

The military drills come after the U.S. withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and as it faces geopolitical threats from Russia and China after the end of a key Cold War missile treaty.

PHILLIP: Christmas is in the rearview but now it's time to go home, and for millions of people that trip could be complicated by rain and snow -- lots of it. A major winter storm that brought heavy snow in southern California is rolling toward the Plains and Upper Midwest.

The snow brought traffic to an absolute standstill on Thursday over -- on Interstate 5 over Grapevine Pass, northeast of Los Angeles. The stuck vehicles forcing that freeway to close.

KOSIK: The same system sparking a tornado in Ventura Harbor, California that brought down trees and flooded roads.

As the storm moves east it's expected to intensify over the Central Plains. Winter storm watches are in place. More than a foot of snow could fall in some states through Monday.

Here's meteorologist Derek Van Dam.


Here's the storm system that caused all the havoc across southern California and I want you to see the slew of colors that stretch from southern California all the way through the northern Great Plains. This is all thanks to the storm system's evolution over the next few days.

We have winter storm warnings across the southwestern U.S. and then winter storm watches across the Plains in anticipation of this system moving eastward. And move east it will because you can see how it's going to tap into some Gulf of Mexico moisture and it's going to bring in a lot of warm air ahead of it, so that will keep it predominantly rainfall across the eastern third of the country.


But on the backside of the system where you saw the winter storm watches, that's where we have the potential to see over a foot of snowfall in the northern Plains and across portions of Minnesota as well. You can see the snow accumulation over the next four days or so could really pile up in excess of 12 to 18 inches in some locations.

Now, look at the warm air building ahead of the system. We'll remain in the 50s for the weekend across Chicago all the way to New York City.

Back to you.


KOSIK: OK, Derek Van Dam. Thanks so much.

Imagine being on the slopes when an avalanche bears down on you. What happened to six people in the path.


PHILLIP: Freshly impeached by the House and eager for his Senate trial to begin, President Trump is spending the holidays in a tense intermission filled with tweets as lawmakers argue over their next steps. And it appears that the state of play has not changed. There are no signs of a break in the Christmas impasse over how and when his impeachment trial will unfold.

More from CNN's Phil Mattingly, who is in Washington with the very latest.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alison and Abby, the week coming to a close and still no firm answer on when the articles of impeachment passed by the U.S. House will actually be sent to the U.S. Senate for the -- for them to be considered.

[05:40:05] Don't expect any firm answers anytime soon. The United States Senate isn't coming back into session until January third. Lawmakers aren't expected back for any votes until January sixth. The expectation is sometime in that week of the sixth the articles of impeachment will make their way over and the Senate will start the actual trial process related to impeachment.

Still, they are at an impasse when it comes to the negotiations as to whether or not a bipartisan structure for that trial can be in place.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer making very clear he wants witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed as part of any bipartisan agreement between he and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell making clear he will not budge on that. He wants the start of the trial to just be presentations from the defense -- from the Democratic House managers -- and then if people want witnesses they can vote on those witnesses.

One thing to remember as you've seen one Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, come out and raise some concerns about how McConnell has acted with the White House throughout all this. At this point in time, there is no expectation the votes will be there to remove President Trump at any point during this trial process.

The bigger question right now, raised by Murkowski, is whether or not there are enough Republicans to join with Democrats to vote to actually subpoena witnesses, to subpoena those documents.

Always remember, majority leader Mitch McConnell has pretty good control over his Republican conference. Right now, the vast majority of those members are in line with him and that means decisions will have to be made here in about a week or two -- guys.


KOSIK: Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.

Let's dig in more about all of this. Toluse Olorunnipa joins us now from West Palm Beach.

PHILLIP: Hey, good morning.

KOSIK: You are following the president. Good morning.


KOSIK: So I want to talk about this stalemate between Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. They are clearly digging in on each other's sides.

What do you think is going to be the one thing that could force one of them to cave first? Is there legislation that's coming up that one of them could use as leverage? I mean, is this just a game of chicken and someone's got to -- got to move first?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, it will be interesting to see who blinks first. There is a calendar that these two gentlemen are long -- people who have been in the Senate for quite a long time. They are both institutionalists within the Senate and there will be pressure on them to actually take action and not allow the Senate to look like, in their minds, this clown show of the House where everyone sort of was doing their own thing and there didn't seem to be a lot of organization.

But the fact that President Trump and Nancy Pelosi are also a part of this proxy battle will make it harder for the two of those leaders in the Senate to come to some sort of agreement because President Trump has dug in and has tried to use this fight as a way to get back against Speaker Pelosi. You know, he's tweeting about her and calling her crazy Nancy and criticizing how the impeachment process took place in the House.

So it's not just leader McConnell and Sen. Schumer in a room. I think if it was just that they may be able, at some point, to get to some sort of agreement. But the fact that President Trump is involved and is so personally affected by this is going to make it harder for them to come into some agreement.

But I do think that over time this will start to become a bit worn for them and I think they're going to try to come up with some sort of solution. Because if they don't do this and there are certain -- there's several things on the legislative calendar that will be delayed, including the president's trade deal, the USMCA, which made it out of the House and has not made it out of the -- out of the Senate just yet.

PHILLIP: Yes, it does seem that everybody just wants to get this thing over with. And one of the interesting things has been just the consequences of the impeachment inquiry has not just been for President Trump. It's also been for Vice President Joe Biden, who has been caught up in all of this.

And, Toluse, your colleagues at "The Washington Post" have a really interesting story out now about this collision course and here's what they say about how Biden dealt with all of this.

They say, "He and his advisers did not foresee the degree to which Trump would demonize Biden and his campaign (sic), nor that it would boomerang back on the campaign with unpredictable consequences testing its ability to admit mistakes and combat the misinformation and innuendo spewing from the presidential megaphone."

I mean, it's a little surprising to me that Biden would be caught flat-footed by this. What does this all mean for Biden's chances as we go forward? I mean, is this potentially something that still has the chance of damaging him in this race?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. Biden knew from the earliest moments of his candidacy that his family would be up for grabs -- that there would be political attacks on his family. But it is a little surprising that he did not suspect that President Trump, who has really blown up the political playbook, would go after his family in such sort of harsh terms.

It does present an opportunity for Biden. It allows him to be on a one-on-one stage with President Trump and his campaign has long said that they want to be presented as sort of the statesmanlike figure that can go up against President Trump, even during the primary. But it also is something that could trip him up during this primary as people start asking him questions about his son, about his Ukraine dealings.


Even though this is something that President Trump was impeached for we are seeing some voters in the early states asking Joe Biden about this and whether it would be a liability and a challenge for him even as he's tried to present himself as the most electable candidate.

This is something that voters are starting to think about as well as whether or not President Trump will be able to use this Ukraine issue and the fact that his son worked for a gas company there to attack him and whether that may make Biden a less formidable candidate in the general election.

So there's opportunity for Biden but there's also potential drawbacks. So far, his poll numbers have been steady and it will be -- it will be interesting to see how that plays out in the early states in just a few weeks.

KOSIK: OK, Toluse. As we said, you are following the president. He is at Mar-a-Lago on vacation. But is he really on vacation?

What do you think is his state of mind right now? We saw him -- we've seen him talk about impeachment, we've seen him talk about "Home Alone 2." What is he thinking?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, I've been in the press pool with the president in the last couple of days as he's gone to his golf course. He's had a lot of his friends and acolytes around him -- associates -- people who he's happy to be around, people who praise them.

There are people lining the streets here in West Palm Beach waving pro-Trump flags. So he has a lot of things to sort of coddle his ego.

But at the same time, he's lashing out and tweeting about Nancy Pelosi and tweeting about "Home Alone."

It's clear that the fact that he just became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached is still weighing on his mind, even though in these holiday times. And he is really angered by the fact that he was impeached and now he has no control over the fact that those impeachment articles have not made it over to the Senate yet.

So even though he's on vacation, even though he's been on the golf course, even though he has a lot of friends around him, he's still doing what he did while he was at the White House, which is getting up early in the morning and watching Fox News and tweeting about what he's -- what he's seeing and showing his anger to the world through Twitter.

KOSIK: Same thoughts, different location.

PHILLIP: Some things never change. Thank you so much Toluse for joining us this morning.

KOSIK: Thanks so much.

OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.

PHILLIP: The death toll is rising from a typhoon that struck the Philippines on Christmas Eve. Twenty-eight people are now confirmed dead. Thousands of people who were displaced by the storm are still in temporary evacuation shelters.

Typhoon Phanfone was the equivalent of a category one hurricane when it made landfall on Tuesday, with sustained winds of 93 miles an hour and gusts of 121 miles an hour.

KOSIK: A severe to extreme heat wave is expected to worsen. Catastrophic fires are raging in Australia. Three large fires now threatening communities on the east coast. More than 1.1 million acres have been scorched in the Wollemi National Park, which is on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

In North (sic) South Wales fire service says 77 fires have yet to be contained and that high to severe fire danger is likely early next week.

The fires have killed at least nine people and destroyed more than 800 homes since September.

PHILLIP: Six people are lucky to be alive after an avalanche hit a resort in the Swiss Alps. All six were rescued or freed themselves from the slopes at Ski Arena Resort. Two people with minor injuries were flown to a hospital and rescue crews do not believe any more people are trapped.

An internal safety process has declared the slopes safe but they will remain closed today as police get to the bottom of what happened.

We'll be right back.



KOSIK: Breaking overnight, a tragedy at Los Angeles International Airport. Authorities say a 10-year-old girl died after suffering cardiac arrest. The girl's Delta flight from LAX to Seattle returning to Los Angeles Thursday because of the medical issue. The paramedics were unable to save her life.

Police believe no foul play was involved. The girl's name has not yet been released.

PHILLIP: Police in Brazil are investigating an attack on a comedy group after their film depicting Jesus as gay debuted on Netflix. The comedy group, Porta dos Fundos, says Molotov cocktails were thrown at their production house in Rio de Janeiro. Authorities say a video of a group claiming responsibility is being investigated.

The film, "THE FIRST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST," has sparked outrage in Brazil, which is home to the world's largest Catholic population. More than two million people signed a petition to have the film removed. There has been no comment from Netflix.

KOSIK: The search for a missing autistic boy in Michigan has come to a tragic end. Five-year-old Beau Belson, who went missing on Christmas Day, was found dead near his grandmother's home where he was last seen playing with relatives.

News of Beau's disappearance brought out almost 1,000 volunteers from the community to search. His body was found Thursday in a pond that was partially covered by ice.


LT. DAVID COPE, MICHIGAN STATE POLICE: We're not sure at this point if he just wandered into the water or fell in. We're not sure at this point.


KOSIK: Police say no foul play is suspected in the boy's death.

PHILLIP: Authorities have released a teenager questioned in connection with the stabbing death of Barnard College freshman Tessa Majors.

And a source tells CNN charges against him and another teen who was released are still possible. The 14-year-old was found in the Bronx after a two-week search. And a 13-year-old boy arrested a day after the stabbing faces second-degree murder and other charges.

Majors was walking in a park near the Barnard campus when she was attacked earlier this month.

KOSIK: The FAA now wants to start tracking virtually all drones' locations. Under its plan, drones weighing just over half a pound or more would be required to incorporate tracking technology allowing authorities to track the drone and identify the operator. All registered drones would be required to carry a remote I.D. system that broadcasts over the Internet within 36 months. The proposed legislation will be open for a 60-day comment period before becoming law.

PHILLIP: More reason to get your daily workout in. Getting the recommended amount of physical activity is tied to a lower risk of cancer. That's according to a newly-published study in the "Journal of Clinical Oncology" that shows getting the recommended amount of exercise lowers the risk of seven types of cancer -- colon, breast, kidney, melanoma (sic), liver, endometrial, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Researchers acknowledge that the data came from self-reported physical activity. And since the majority of the people were white in the study, that could limit how broadly their findings can be applied. But previous studies have come to similar conclusions.

KOSIK: Kylie Jenner facing backlash for the extravagant Christmas gift she gave her 1-year-old daughter -- what else, a diamond ring. Kylie posted a video of her daughter Stormi wearing the bling on Instagram. She later deleted it, though.


Jenner was slammed on social media for the over-the-top present. One person blasting the Kardashian-Jenner clan, saying -- for going out of their way -- for buying these stupid, expensive gifts.

PHILLIP: And people in Minneapolis are banding together to help more than 200 neighbors who were displaced by a Christmas Day fire. The fire consuming the Francis Drake Hotel as temperatures dipped into the low 30s.

People who lived in the building, which is used for low-income housing, face an uncertain future. But officials say the response has been so overwhelming they had to stop accepting donations of diapers, sock, mittens, blankets, and other essentials.


BRANDON BRUNDIDGE, CHILD WHO DONATED HIS CHRISTMAS PRESENTS: I decided to give it away because I was so excited to play it.

TIANNA TERRY, FIRE VICTIM: I've lived in Minnesota a long time and I've never seen anything like this. So this made me have more hope in my city.


PHILLIP: The fire burned for nearly 36 hours and destroyed the building, and the cause is still under investigation.

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

Taking a look at markets around the world, the Hang Seng closing at its best level in five months. European markets are opening higher.

And moving on over to Wall Street, futures look like they're pointing to a positive open.

It was another record day for investors. The Dow closing up 106 points so that, yes, logs another record for the Dow. The Nasdaq getting its 10th-straight record in place, closing above 9,000 for the first time ever. The S&P 500 also finishing at a record high. It looks like Santa was very good to Amazon. The online retailer said it had its best holiday season on record, selling tens of millions of popular gadgets like the Echo Dot, LOL Surprise dolls, the Roomba vacuum, and pet treats.

Online sales hit a record high this holiday season and UPS is expecting a record number of shipped returns. The carrier said it expects to process 1.9 million return packages on January second, and that is National Returns Day. It's up from 26 percent from the prior year.

UPS said the returns mark the seventh-straight record as we see online shopping growing and growing. The record number, though, doesn't account for FedEx or other carrier returns.




KOSIK: And his bank account.

The force is strong with the latest "Star Wars" movie. "The Rise of Skywalker" bringing in over $500 million in its first week. The film made $32 million in the U.S. on Wednesday, the biggest Christmas Day for any movie since "The Force Awakens" in 2015. Star Wars movies have made more than $9 billion worldwide, not accounting for inflation.

PHILLIP: And how's this for a Secret Santa? A Michigan woman is enjoying the Secret Santa gift of a lifetime from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. The woman, named Shelby, took part in the annual gift exchange on Reddit Gifts.

And inside was an original manuscript of "The Great Gatsby" that was signed by Gates, book, toys for her cat, "Harry Potter" and "TWIN PEAKS" memorabilia.


SHELBY, RECEIVED GIFTS FROM SECRET SANTA BILL GATES: Well, I logged into my tracking page and I saw that the package weighed 81 pounds. We wheeled the big giant box back into the FedEx location, and everyone was really delighted to get a peek at what was inside.


PHILLIP: It's an uplifting way to end the year for Shelby, whose mother died unexpectedly 10 days before her wedding in April. Shelby says the most personal gift from Gates was a donation to her mother's memory to the American Heart Association.

KOSIK: I think more and more people are going to be participating in that for next season.

PHILLIP: It's going to be pretty packed next year.


Thanks for joining us. I'm Alison Kosik.

PHILLIP: And I'm Abby Phillip. "NEW DAY" starts right now. Have a great day.

KOSIK: Have a good weekend.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, December 27th, 6:00 here in New York.

John Berman is off. John Avlon joins me here this morning.


CAMEROTA: But we're following two breaking air emergencies this morning. A plane carrying 98 people has crashed in Kazakhstan shortly after takeoff. It has killed at least 12 people. You're looking at the aftermath on your screen right now.

Authorities say this Bek Air flight hit a concrete fence and slammed into a two-story building when it went down. Now, dozens of survivors have been taken to the local hospitals, including at least eight children. Kazakhstan is grounding all aircraft of the same model as they investigate the cause of this one.

AVLON: Our other breaking story is unfolding at this hour in Hawaii. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for seven people who were on a tour helicopter that's gone missing in Kauai.

We've got reporters on both of these stories.