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Soleimani's Hometown Mourns Slain Commander; Top General: U.S. Troops Not Pulling Out Of Iraq; Rain Eases Conditions In Parts Of New South Wales; Bolton Ready to Testify in Impeachment Trial; Weinstein Hit with New Sex Crime Charges as Trial Starts; Chinese Officials Trying to Identify Pneumonia Strain. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 7, 2020 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[01:00:00]

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John Vause. This is a CNN NEWSROOM live from Studio 7 at CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta. Ahead this hour, the Iran dilemma. Can the U.S. live with a nuclear Iran or will it start a war to prevent it? The exact scenario, the 2015 nuclear deal was designed to prevent.

The escalating costs and unimaginable heartbreak from Australia's unprecedented bushfires. Thousands of homes damaged or destroyed. And with dozens in China falling ill to a mystery virus, the rest of Asia goes on alert.

It is 9:30 a.m. in Iran where huge crowds are mourning the country's slain military commander. And there are concerns that grief could turn into calls for revenge against the United States. Funeral services are underway in the hometown of General Qassem Soleimani. He was killed Friday by an American drone strike in neighboring Iraq.

Hundreds of thousands of mourners filled the streets Monday in Tehran, the capital, to pay their respects to Soleimani. Some were chanting Death to America. Meantime, U.S. military commanders are in cleanup and just to clarify mode after suggesting American forces would be leaving Iraq.

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley strongly denied that saying that it was poorly worded and released by mistake. Iraq's parliament voted over the weekend to force the government to work towards removing all foreign troops, that would include the Americans. They want them to leave the country. It was a non-binding resolution.

CNN's International Diplomatic Nic Robertson is live this hour in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, but we begin with correspondent Jomana Karadsheh in Baghdad. So Jomana, first to you, so after this initial mistake, the reported memo, U.S. troops is saying put, but will they be deployed in a way which lowers their profile because on a list of Iranian targets for retaliation, I imagined the U.S. troops is somewhere near the top. JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what

you would expect. I mean, the threat level has increased here even before this recent unprecedented escalation with the killing of Soleimani and also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis a top leader within the Iranian backed paramilitary forces here.

We have seen over recent months more and more attacks by Iranian proxies here targeting U.S. basis. And you know, as we've heard from our Fred Pleitgen in an interview with a senior Iranian official saying that military, you know, their targets would be military when it comes to retaliation. I mean, the concern right now, John, is you hear the U.S. military saying there is no plans for withdrawal, that they're staying put.

But at the same time, we've heard from the Iraqi Prime Minister here when, you know, in that shocking move when he explained to Parliament why he wants them to vote for a resolution to have U.S. forces leave the country, he was saying it's because they have gotten to a point where Iraq is turning into a battlefield between Iran and the United States.

And, you know, considering the current situation, the current threat level, the Iraqis are not going to be able to guarantee the protection of these coalition forces, these U.S. forces on its soil so they're left with no choice but to ask them to leave the country.

And we have heard the threats coming from these Iranian backed proxies, these paramilitary groups in the past couple of days initially telling Iraqi forces to stay away from U.S. basis in the country. And then just two days ago, we heard from the head of (INAUDIBLE). This is a group that has been designated as a terror organization by the United States. It's one of the top Iranian back paramilitary groups here.

And the threat from them was saying that unless the United States and its forces leave this country immediately based on that parliamentary decision, (INAUDIBLE) their leader said that they will be considered occupying forces and they will be treated as such.

Obviously, here making the point that they will go back to the days of the sectarian violence here and the all-out conflict where U.S. forces were being targeted by these Iranian backed groups, John.

VAUSE: Yes, Jomana, remember the days when it was -- the Iraq was a less than stable country. Certainly, nothing what was committed to down but it could always go back to those days of old. Nic Robertson is in Riyadh. So Nic, we have the Saudis right now trying to ease tensions between Iran and the United States, but does Riyadh have the credibility to have the influence to play this role in any meaningful manner?

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NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They have some credibility on this. So if you go back to September when they were attacked by what was widely internationally accepted, and the United States said at the time as an Iranian attack using a complex array of drones and missiles on two oil facilities here.

The Saudis never actually went public, even though privately they were saying something different. Never went public, and said, absolutely this came from Iranian soil, and we demand a reaction. They didn't want to escalate tensions at that time. And in the same vein, they don't want to escalate tensions right now, because they've been a subject of attack by Iran because they think that they could be potentially as a strong ally of the United States in the region be the subject of another attack.

And what they're calling for and what Khalid bin Salman, the Deputy Defense Minister, brother to the Crown Prince, effectively the sort of third in line in this country, said when he met with Secretary of State Pompeo yesterday in Washington was to urge restraint and de- escalation because they don't want to see chaos in the region.

So can they be credible on this? They've already, in essence, not sort of escalated, what for many countries would be a very obvious provocation because they don't want to get engaged in an escalation in the region. So in those terms, they have credibility with the narrative of calling for de-escalation and a reduction of tensions. And what help can they really bring to that with President Trump in the White House is another question altogether.

They certainly recognize that while President Trump is a good ally for their interests in the region, he is unpredictable and, you know, is not always going to do what they would expect. So there is, if you will, in the background, always that level of concern.

Certainly, in the region here, Saudi Arabia does carry influence. But I think they're on the same page as other players in this region like the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, and although they're not friendly with Qatar at the moment, the same feeling there.

No one here wants to escalate because they know that the consequences could be massively damaging for the regional economy. And none of these countries can afford that. That tips them towards a bad place. It tips them towards where their populations will question their power. No one wants to go there right now. John?

VAUSE: No one ever wants to escalate it, but it's always the law of unintended consequences as to how these things kick-off, I guess. Nic, thank you, and Jomana in Baghdad, thank you as well. I appreciate it. Joining us from Washington is Ariane Tabatabai with the global policy think tank, the RAND Corporation. Ariane, thanks for coming in.

ARIANE TABATABAI, ASSOCIATE POLITICAL SCIENTIST, RAND CORPORATION: Thanks for having me, John.

VAUSE: OK, so we've seen the streets of Tehran filled with mourners at the funeral for General Soleimani. Just a few weeks ago, though, the Iran regime was dealing with nationwide protests which began over high fuel prices and escalated a whole bunch of other issues. So, if the U.S. president was looking for a way to rally the people of Iran behind the government to show the regime survival for a little longer, would there be many ways more effective than assassinating the head of the Revolutionary Guard?

TABATABAI: Yes. I mean, you know, this has backfired in a few different ways, but this is certainly one of them. The Iranian government was, as you were mentioning, facing a lot of criticism at home. And in the space of just a few days, it actually had it killed several hundred people, because it felt very much threatened by the protests.

And now, things have turned around for the regime. Seemingly people are coming out and hundreds of thousands, possibly millions as it's been reported, to lend their support to the government. Though I would be careful to characterize this and state that not all of the movement that we're seeing inside Iran right now is necessarily a shrinking endorsement of Iran's policies, not it is geared towards supporting Soleimani's legacy.

A lot of it is actually because of fear. People are afraid in Iran about what might happen next, that there's a prospect of a military exchange with the United States. And so, in the face of a foreign adversary, they're rallying around the flag. It's more about nationalism than it is about the regime being people's top choice for a government.

VAUSE: Good point. You had an op-ed just leading on to this in New York Times on Monday. It's a good read. And you lay out, you know, the very limited choices facing the Trump Administration. You're right, if the Trump administration does not move to reduce tensions, it will soon find itself facing the very dilemma the nuclear deal was designed to avoid, the choice between a nuclear Iran or the need to start a war to prevent one.

There seems like two separate issues here though. You know, Congress alone, his allies have abandoned the president, and unlikely to support further military action in the short term. Do you believe the action taken by the Trump administration over the past week means that Iran is safe for military action over its nuclear program as well? It'd be U.S. action Europeans or Israeli?

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TABATABAI: Well, the implementation of the nuclear deal is actually continuing. Iran has not withdrawn from the nuclear deal, which means that the remaining parties to the deal, which includes the Europeans, France, Germany, and the U.K., as well as Russia, and China, still have channels there that they can use in order to make sure that Iran does stay within the deal.

The likelihood of that as small though. Iran is slowly but surely taking more steps to push the envelope to remove some of the restrictions that it has accepted under the nuclear deal. And we will see what happens in the next few weeks. The statement that Iran put out over the weekend saying that it was going to start taking the next step, to dial down its implementation of the nuclear deal was quite vague.

So we have to wait to see what the concrete steps that it takes next are going to be. But the nuclear deal is still there. Now, the issue that we raised in the op-ed, for the times is that if things continue as they are over the next few months, and Iran continues to push forward with resuming certain activities that have curved under the JCPOA, under the nuclear deal, we may be going back to the situation as it was before the nuclear deal in the 2012, 2013 timeframe. And that would be incredibly challenging for the president where he may have to take -- to make a very hard decision.

VAUSE: I'm just wondering if you know, the chances of sort of resurrecting the nuclear deal is now dead and gone because there's an election coming up in the U.S. in November 2020. You know, if there is a new administration, a new president, would it be possible for that administrator to renegotiate a nuclear deal or that horse is bolted?

TABATABAI: It's really, really hard to predict. We still have 11 months ago in 2020 until -- and a bit less until the elections here, but a lot can happen. I mean, you know, we have started 2020 with quite a bang. So who knows what will happen next and what situation will be in in the region, on Iran's nuclear program, and also in domestic politics in both countries.

Let's remind remember that Iran will have parliamentary elections in just a few weeks. We're forgetting that because it's getting overshadowed by everything that is happening right now. Iran may take more and more steps that the international community finds challenging. It may actually drop out of the deal altogether. That is certainly an option that they can take.

They could even pull out of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty which would be incredibly concerning, not just for the United States, but for the entirety of the international community. And lastly, we could actually face some sort of military exchange between the United States and Iran.

So all of those things would make it very difficult to predict whether or not the United States under a Democrat in 2021 would be able to go back to the JCPOA as we know it today.

VAUSE: And when it comes to the nuclear deal, you know, Donald Trump has made the same complaints over and over and over again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: But what has never been made clear is exactly what in that deal that makes it so bad, which raises the issue of you know one dispatch from Britain's former ambassador to Washington. It read, "the ambassador wrote that Mr. Trump appears to be abandoning the deal for personality reasons because he'd been agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama." You know, that's one diplomat's opinion. It does ring true in some ways, but does it also suggest another war in the Middle East, it could be on the horizon to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, simply because of this President's very fragile ego?

TABATABAI: You know, it's very hard to speculate for me what the President wanted to achieve exactly. I do think that again, there were real concerns about some of the limits of the nuclear deal. Now, again, I believe that having that deal, even with those limitations was better than not having any kind of deal or any kind of restrictions on Iran's nuclear program. But there were real concerns that have been raised for a number of years now since the deal was actually reached and before that even when the contours of the deal were becoming -- we're becoming apparent. But I'm sure that there is also politics that played into it.

VAUSE: OK, Ariane, thanks so much. Good to have you with us. I appreciate it.

TABATABAI: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Thomas Wolfe wrote, you can't go home again. And that's true for many Australians who are fighting twisted and charred debris where their once stood. More on that in just a moment.

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PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Thank you for making time for CNN. I'm Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. CNN weather watch here on this January day and generally the southern tier of the United States expecting some sunny skies and warm weather, in fact, for this time of year. But to the north we go where it is going to be dreary cold and at times windy across the region, but changes in store.

Look at New York City, five down to four down to one. Almost resembles what you'd see in the autumn season where you have kind of dramatic fluctuations and temperatures but we are of course approaching the heart of winter inside the next two to three weeks. And notice this climb of temperatures and incredible warming trend in New York City.

The average for this time of year, a cold three degrees, will climb up to potentially in here record values there up to 17. There's showers of course in store across the region as southerly flow returns across the north and east of the U.S. But to the north and west we go where we do have wet weather, snow showers abound across the high cascades, certainly into the Sierra as well over the next couple of days.

Vancouver B.C. though nine degrees there on Tuesday afternoon, Los Angeles, one of the warmer spots at 25 degrees. Dallas, Texas climbs up to 17, Chicago not too bad, anytime you can get some sunshine out of the forecast in January, we'll take it. Three degrees will be expected there.

Belize City will take a few showers at 26. Into the Bahamas, we go where the middle 20s are very typical for this time of year. It's also expecting some dry weather. Salvador, thanks for tuning in, highs there around 30 degrees.

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VAUSE: Light rain and cool weather is helping fire crews as they struggle to contain deadly bushfires across Australia. The favorable conditions are forecast to last and Friday. But the weekend will see a return of the severe fire threat with high temperatures and gusty winds. The official death toll remains at 24 and thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed.

CNN Anna Coren joins us now live from Cobargo on the New South Wales southeastern coast. Anna, you know, it's never easy to understand how some homes are totally destroyed, nothing is left yet others in the same street survive almost untouched.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I was speaking to one firefighter, John, and he said fire is fickle, and it is. It's absolutely indiscriminate. One home as you say untouched, the other in absolute ruins. We're here in the township of Cobargo on the southeast coast of New South Wales, and this was hit with such ferocious force on New Year's Eve, acclaim the lives of three residents. It's such a tight-knit community.

Well, as you say the conditions are easing. They are enjoying this reprieve. And it's also allowing residents who evacuated from their homes to return because roads are opening, trees that have fallen have been cleared, some returning to scenes of devastation, like the couple that we accompanied. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[01:20:21]

COREN: Heading up the driveway towards his home through the burnt-out bush, Bruce Honeyman knew what was waiting for him.

BRUCE HONEYMAN, HOME DESTROYED IN BUSHFIRE: The house is all gone. It's all gone.

COREN: The mud-brick home he shared with his partner Julian Grimer reduced to smoldering rubble after the border fire that cross Victoria into New South Wales rolled through townships, including (INAUDIBLE), west of Eden just a few days ago.

HONEYMAN: The ferocity of this fire is unbelievable. And we made the right decision to evacuate. For that I'm thankful.

COREN: They were preparing for the worst. The reality, however, devastating. The speed of the fire evidence from its indiscriminate nature. It completely raise the house while leaving the newly built pergola intact just a few meters away. The battle-weary firefighters who've been in the thick of it for months, the magnitude of this crisis clearly taking its toll. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get a lump in my throat sometimes. It's seeing

people coming to this. And it makes me think, what would I feel if it was me.

COREN: Julian and Bruce, one of thousands of families that have returned to their homes that are no longer there. And while the rain has arrived, it's only short-lived. Those dry hot conditions are expected to return, and there are still months remaining of Australia's fire season. Their bush sanctuary, the result of 10 years hard work now a memory. But their results rebuild and restore their life in his natural habitat, unwavering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the risk we have when you're in -- when you're in the bush and this is Australia. We will reassess what we do from here and this will still be home. We've got -- we've got more things than what some people have gotten. We got to be thankful for that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: And Anna, the Prime Minister who's been vilified and widely condemned and criticize simply for vacationing in Hawaii while the country was burning has announced there will be significant government help for bush fire victims.

COREN: Yes, that's right, John. A $2 billion bushfire recovery agency has been announced. And that's going to help communities like Cabargo rebuild. Dozens of homes have been lost here, livelihoods absolutely decimated. It is going to take so much to rebuild these communities.

But the anger, John, it is palpable. People are seething. You mentioned his trip to Hawaii, his trip to Cabargo after the fires rolled through here on New Year's Eve. He was hailed with abuse. People feel that he has abandoned them. And the assets that he's throwing at the bushfire crisis, they are welcomed. Of course, people need help, they need resources, they need money. But in many people's minds, it's too little too late. Why didn't he --

VAUSE: OK, looks like we have a few problems there with our connection with Anna on the New South Wales southeast coast, but you get the gist of the story. Scott Morrison has been -- has been the center of all criticism, the villain if you like emerging from this bushfire crisis. But let's stay with the forecast and the weather because that's what's important.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is with us with more. So we've got a bit of a break right now. Next couple of days, good, low temperatures, you know, it's fairly calm, a bit of rain.

JAVAHERI: Yes.

VAUSE: So that won't stay like that for what, coming weekend?

JAVAHERI: That's the concern, right? You know, of course, you look at the calendar, we're still talking early January, so many, many months of extensive heat expect that across this region, as is often the case, at least in other say 30 to 50 days, a big-time heat in store climatologically speaking.

But the immediate forecast really as good as we've seen it going back in the last, say three or so weeks. So we've seen a shot of showers, some periods of heavy rainfall across portions of New South Wales in the last couple of days and even on into the northern tier of the continent where of course much of this entire continent is drought- stricken, some beneficial rains have come down.

But the amount of rainfall compared to what is happening on the ground as far as the scale of these fires is what's really just the limiting amount of rain. But you take a look, here we go as far as numbers. 140 active brush fires when you combine New South Wales and Victoria. We put them together, this number is down from nearly 200.

This time yesterday, the fires that were considered out of control this time yesterday was closer to 60. They've dropped down to 24. So once again, with the temperatures dropping from the 40s on Sunday, across portions of New South Wales down into the 20s on Monday and Tuesday, pretty significant difference here as far as firefighting efforts and the recovery the firefighters have been able to make across this region.

But you notice, we get another disturbance here, so marine influence going to be expected through at least much of the latter portion of this week. There will be periods of heat and also windy weather. Notice the forecast, the icons introduce at least the possibility of showers. Again, just negligible amounts, but you put this together, it is certainly better than seeing a forecast that we saw from much of December which had a sense of the middle and upper 40s and a lot of areas across Australia.

So yes, we're getting a brief break and it looks like at least by the number of the fires and the containment numbers, John, the efforts are certainly working in the immediate term there across Australia.

VAUSE: Yes, but as we've been saying, you know, this seems to be the start of something big and a real change in those weather patterns in those bushfire seasons. You'd have to imagine what's worse to come in, you know, the next couple of years, but we'll take this for now. Thanks, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: For more information on how you can help with the victims of Australia's devastating bushfires, visit cnn.com/impact. Up next, John Bolton would like to talk now it seems. Trump's former National Security Advisor infamously likened the administration's Ukraine policy to a drug deal. He says if subpoenaed, he'll testify. But why now? Is this a game-changer or a (INAUDIBLE).

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[01:30:11]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Funeral services for the slain Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani are underway in his hometown. Huge crowds have turned out to pay their respects in Tehran and the holy city of Qom on Monday. Iran is vowing to retaliate against the U.S. for the drone strike that killed Soleimani on Friday.

Former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton says he is willing to testify if subpoenaed in the Senate impeachment trial. Democrats are eager to hear from him saying he has first hand knowledge of the President's dealings with Ukraine. But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has been very reluctant to allow witnesses at the trial.

Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst. He's also senior editor at "The Atlantic". And he is with us from Los Angels.

So Ron -- on Monday the U.S. President spending a lot of time on Twitter. In one tweet he demanded a quick end to this impeachment calling it a hoax and a con -- the usual stuff. But it seemed here as Trump wants to wrap up the impeachment, the dilemma for Democrats is how do you deal with both Iran and the impeachment at the same time? Can you be remove a president from office, or at least try to, with a possible looming military confrontation? And in so many ways, this is the microcosm (ph) of the past three years of the Trump presidency.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, of course, we had a similar issue, as you may recall, with Bill Clinton's impeachment, when he took military action right on the edge of the impeachment proceedings. I think the two things can proceed, you know, on separate tracks. The -- you know, the core issue is are there four (ph) Republicans who will agree to a more open process. I, you know, I think like most people, find it hard to imagine that there are going to be four Republicans willing to defy the White House over what the rules should be.

But John Bolton saying that he wants to testify although it is entirely possible that he will not deliver the kind of decisive blow that many Democrats are kind fantasizing about, does make it I think tougher on Republicans. I mean what is the justification at this point for failing to hear from someone whose own aide said that he described this as a drug deal and whose lawyer has said that he has direct, firsthand knowledge of key events?

I mean what would be the justification for saying, we don't need to, we don't want to hear from him?

VAUSE: Good question. You know, it will be interesting to hear what the answer is.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

VAUSE: But you know, you just --

(CROSSTALKING) BROWNSTEIN: By the way, there is a question for him too, real quick, which is that -- I mean he could still --

(CROSSTALKING)

BROWNSTEIN: -- testify before the House.

VAUSE: Or he could just call a press conference. I mean, this is ridiculous. Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

VAUSE: But just staying with Iran, you know, there is no support for another military confrontation in the -- there are exceptions to that. And in particular Evangelical Christians.

The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is an Iran hawk and an Evangelical Christian, he gives a little window in the support for, you know, military action. It was during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. Here's part of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this just like Queen Esther to help save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: As a Christian, I certainly believe that's possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You know, it's hard not to imagine that President Trump has not done the political math here and realizing that, you know, being tough with Iran and, you know, military action is good for part of the base and will be helpful come November.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first, I mean if you go all the way back to his presidency to the Muslim travel ban, the strongest supporters of that where white evangelical Christians. If you ask are the values of Islam incompatible with American values, the voters in America who are most likely to say that are white evangelical Christians.

I mean there's enormous skepticism and even hostility in that, you know, in that portion of the Republican coalition towards immigration in general, but particularly towards the Islamic world. And so it is not surprising that you get the kind of questions that you saw on the Christian Broadcasting -- or you know, what is more surprising is the answer from the Secretary of State of the United States, kind of framing this in those kind of -- or you know, accepting the framing of this in those kind of religious terms.

It's just one of many ways in which, you know, Donald Trump has been a president really for half of America or slightly less than America. He is the President of red America with very little interest in kind of speaking to or reaching out to much beyond that. VAUSE: Yes. Pompeo's answer kind of by -- you know, went through the

keeper, as we say in Australia. Didn't get a lot of publicity.

But I want to finish up with what was essentially the good knee slapper of the day. Senator Cornyn on the former national security adviser John Bolton willing to testify on the Ukraine scandal, if he is subpoenaed. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, I think it's entirely likely that his testimony would be helpful to the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Yes, because the White House has been holding back all the good evidence which would exonerate Donald Trump and, you know, if he does testify, if he is allowed though -- I mean seriously, how much damage could he do?

[01:35:02]

VAUSE: And if he is not called by the Senate, you touched on this, what is the political price they will pay, the Republicans will pay if they do not call him to testify?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of, I mean you know, the timing has to make Democrats a little nervous. The fact that President Trump has just taken the kind of aggressive action against Iran that Bolton has long, you know, urged and this is the moment he says he wants to testify. That kind of sequence of events doesn't lead you to think that he is preparing to deliver the decisive blow.

But there is also the reality of what his aides have heard him say he described this as a drug deal. It's hard to imagine that he is going to come and say that he was entirely comfortable with everything that happened.

I think this is a challenge for Republicans, you know in 2020. There are a number of Republicans in Maine, North Carolina, Arizona and Colorado, maybe Iowa, maybe Georgia, who have competitive races. And while, you know, it's very unlikely they ultimately reach the point of voting to remove the President of their own party from office -- no one did that in Bill Clinton's impeachment, no one did that in Andrew Johnson's impeachment -- from their own party. If they seem to be just simply sweeping this under the rug, not taking it seriously, that seems to me a political risk.

VAUSE: Ron -- good to see you. Thank you very much for being with us.

Still to come here, the long-awaited rape trial of Harvey Weinstein begins in New York and across the country, the disgraced movie producer is facing new sexual assault charges.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four, three, two, one, zero. Ignition, lift off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: SpaceX is beginning the new year with a successful rocket launch. The private spaceflight company sent about 60 satellites into orbit on Monday evening from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The satellites will be part of the company's Starlink constellation service which is hoping to bring affordable broadband Internet to users across the world. SpaceX is hoping to launch that new service by the middle of the year.

Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is facing new sexual assault charges. Prosecutors in Los Angeles made the announcement just hours after Weinstein appeared in a New York court for the start of another trial for another sex crime.

Weinstein has denied allegations of nonconsensual sexual activity in that New York case but some of his accusers say the trials just simply marks a moment of justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSE MCGOWAN, ACTRESS: The trial means so much to so many, but it will mean the most to the brave women testifying, and to all of us silence breakers. I thank those testifying for standing not just for themselves but for all of us who will never have even one day in court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Weinstein was once one of Hollywood's most powerful producers until news reports broke in October of 2018 outlining numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. Since then, more than 80 women have come forward and accused him of various sexual abuse and crimes.

[01:39:58]

VAUSE: Health officials in China are trying to identify a mysterious strain of pneumonia which has infected dozens of people since last month. They have ruled out a return of the SARS virus which killed almost 800 people worldwide in the early 2000s.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us now from Hong Kong with the very latest.

Ok. So how do they know it is not SARS. How is it that they could be so certain in all of this?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I guess they identified the samples that they had and said it is not the corona virus so the ruled out SARS, they ruled out MERS. But they don't know what it is. And one health expert that we talked to here at the Chinese University of Hong Kong says it's likely a brand-new viral pneumonia. This mysterious new cluster of pneumonia cases is raising deep concerns here and across the region.

The Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, she held her weekly press conference today not with an update on the Hong Kong protests but on how her government is dealing with this. How it is taking, in her words, immediate action to help prevent the spread of this virus that first emerged in the city of Wuhan, China in mid-December.

And we know that flights and trains from the Chinese city of Wuhan are coming into Hong Kong. We also learned that relevant authorities here are stepping up control and health inspection at the border using those handheld infrared devices to gauge temperature.

Carrie Lam also announced that this week there will be a law revised under the Prevention and Control of Diseases Ordinance. And that will require doctors to declare those who have suspected symptoms like respiratory illnesses.

The chief executive Carrie Lam also confirmed that 21 people here in Hong Kong have been admitted to hospital. Seven of those cases have been discharged, but she also added that those cases here are not related to the Wuhan cases.

There are a total of at least 59 cases of the Wuhan pneumonia. Seven patients reported to be currently in serious condition. No deaths reported. And China has not been able to identify what this strain is. But as reported at the top of the segment, it has ruled out SARS. It has ruled out MERS.

Now, several countries -- they've also issued travel advisories and --

VAUSE: Yes.

STOUT: -- increasing many checks on the border including South Korea and Singapore. But a lot of concern being raised right, now -- John, especially with the mass migration event that takes place every year, Chinese New Year just only a few weeks away.

VAUSE: Yes -- a very busy travel time. Right now there seems to be a link, at least according to the World Health Organization, between this virus and live fish markets and live animal markets. What are they talking about there?

STOUT: Now, they are talking about how they traced it back to a fish market in Wuhan where that cluster of cases first began. I should also add that this fish market, the seafood market not only sells fish it also sells poultry, also other types of animal products as well.

So more investigation is needed to find just the cause of this. But it is raising a lot of concern, again we don't know the cause of it. We also don't know what it is capable of.

Human to human transmission concern is very high even though no reports of that have been indicated just yet. But on the other side, no deaths have been reported which is encouraging given the fact that this virus has been circulating out and about since it emerged in Wuhan from that seafood market in mid-December.

But one caveat that I do want to add and the point that you will appreciate -- John. One major point of concern is information reliability and censorship. Most of the information that we are getting about this virus is coming from the Chinese government and Chinese government officials. And here is hoping that they learned one of the major lessons from the SARS outbreak almost 20 years ago, that transparency is key. Transparency can save lives.

Back to you.

VAUSE: Well, they didn't learn during the baby powder milk crisis. They didn't learn it through all the other health scares. I mean they didn't learn from a whole bunch of other stuff. But maybe this time.

Kristie -- thank you.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

"WORLD SPORT" starts after the break.

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