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U.S. Officials Believe Iran Shot Down Ukrainian Plane; Families Mourn the Dead from Doomed Ukrainian Flight; U.S. Firefighters Arrive in Australia; Prince Harry Defied Queen's Wishes. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2020 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. officials believe Iran mistakenly shot down a passenger jet that crashed near Tehran. New video of the impact moments away.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had to make a decision. We didn't have time to call up Nancy.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The president rails on Democrats and makes a startling claim after the House passes a symbolic measure preventing military action against Iran.

ROMANS: And is today the day Democrats running short on patience as Nancy Pelosi holds the articles of impeachment.

CNN has reports this morning in Tehran, Moscow, Sydney and London. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Friday, January 10th, 4:00 a.m. in New York, 24 days to the Iowa caucuses.

U.S. officials believe the passenger jet that crashed near Tehran Wednesday with 176 souls on onboard was mistakenly shot out of the sky by Iran. CNN has obtained video that appears to show a missile being fired into the Tehran sky striking an object around the same time a Ukrainian 737 crashed just after takeoff.

A U.S. official familiar with the intel says the plane was shot down by two Russian-made surface-to-air missiles. The U.S. saw Iranian radar signals lock onto the jetliner before it went down. Intelligence later confirmed by Britain, Australia and Canada which lost 63 citizens.


JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: It is now more important than ever that we know exactly how such a tragedy could have happened. The families of the victims and all Canadians want answers. I want answers.


ROMANS: The jet crashed hours after Iran launched a strike against U.S. military bases in Baghdad. Those hostilities have complicated the investigation with American investigators initially kept out. But now a U.S. official tells CNN Iran has invited the National Transportation Safety Board to join. Allowing U.S. investigators is significant here. It allows Boeing to participate. But it also sets up a thorny situation because some sanctions on Iran would have to be waived to allow the U.S. to join in.

Our coverage begins this morning with Frederik Pleitgen in Tehran -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Laura and Christine. The Iranians continue to give some more information as to how they intend to move forward but also where they are at the moment. There was a press conference early this morning from the head of Iran's aviation authority and in that press conference he says that he believes that the theory, as he put it, that the plane may have been hit by a missile is not valid as he says.

He went onto say that the plane apparently took off. It was in the air for about five minutes. At some point it tried to turn around and fly back to the airport. Now the head of the aviation authority also acknowledged that there were all this -- that there was all this information out there about the plane possibly getting hit by a missile from the U.S., from Canada as well. And he said anybody who has any sort of information needs to bring that information forward and officially submit it to the investigation.

So the Iranians are clearly saying that they are willing to take that information into account when they conduct their investigation. So far, however, they are still saying that the plane was not hit by a missile according to their estimations, and we're going to wait and see how they move forward on that.

As far as the black boxes are concerned which obviously is the big issue here, the Iranians say that in general they have the capabilities to read those black boxes. They say they're going to try and do that together with Ukrainian investigators who are already on the ground here. But they also say that one of the black boxes is damaged and therefore it could be difficult to read the data. If they don't have the technical capabilities they say to read that data then they're going to either ask Russia, France or Canada for help in reading that data.

However, it needs to be pointed out right now the Iranians are saying that pretty categorically that the plane was not hit by a missile. That's coming from the head of the aviation authority that's also coming from some other Iranian officials as well, guys.

JARRETT: All right, Ukraine's president will discuss the investigation into the Ukrainian plane crash today with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. As we learned more about some of the 176 people killed in the crash. The pilot's mother grieving at the arrival gate at the Ukrainian airport, while families of victims from Canada are shell- shocked.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first thing that comes to your mind is that you don't believe that. I still don't believe that it happened. You know, and I will miss them forever. I think that there's a hole in my heart now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They described my mom as a very kind and very smart person. I have been told by many people that she was their best friend.

My dad, he was very inquisitive. I always thought to myself that if he had the opportunity to study and get an education in a first world country, he would become a very prestigious researcher, but unfortunately, that wasn't available to him.


JARRETT: It's heart breaking.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us in Moscow. And Matthew, another crisis for Ukraine's president.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, of course, Volodymyr Zelensky is his name, and he's already at the heart of those impeachment allegations -- impeachment proceedings against President Trump and now he's got this massive national -- international tragedy with which he has to deal.

Ukrainian investigators are on the ground in Tehran. They're examining the remains on the salvage operation at the crash site. Within the past couple of hours President Zelensky has issued a statement saying that, you know, he's not ruling out the missile version of the reason why this plane went down, and he's called on the United States, on Canada and on Britain as well. All of those countries saying that they've seen intelligence that indicates it may have been an Iranian missile that inadvertently shot the plane down.

It's calling on those three countries to release any data they have, give it to the investigators so they can get to the bottom of what actually happened. But at the moment there are other areas that are being investigated as well. Not just the missile possibility. Also the possibility of a terrorist bomb. That's being looked at by the investigators. The idea that there was technical failure, an engine failure which is of course one of the things that the Iranians have been pushing as their version as to the most likely scenarios as to what happened.

But they're also looking at the possibility -- a few other possibilities as well. And so, you know, look, we are at the very start of this investigation at the moment. We're going to see how this pans out over the next couple of days.

JARRETT: Yes. Certainly just at the beginning there. Matthew Chance, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump in Ohio last night holding his first rally this election year. He railed against Democrats hours after the House passed a largely symbolic measure to stop him from taking further military action against Iran. The vote fell largely along party lines. Many Democrats questioned the White House justification for the drone strike that killed a top Iranian general that he was planning an imminent attack.

JARRETT: Thursday morning the president said the U.S. took out Qasem Soleimani because he was targeting the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Last night the president went even further.


TRUMP: Soleimani was actively planning new attacks and he was looking very seriously at our embassies, and not just the embassy in Baghdad. But we stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold.


JARRETT: Now, to be clear, so far no public proof Soleimani was targeting embassies, and no members of Congress mentioned that after their briefings. But a senior Defense official says the U.S. was concerned about threats posed by groups linked to Iran. Among possible targets the U.S. embassy in Beirut. That's one reason the U.S. deployed thousands of soldiers closer to Lebanon this week.

ROMANS: Democrats -- excuse me. Democrats and a handful of Republicans remain frustrated by the White House's resistance to involve members of Congress. Last night, the president mocked the idea congressional Democrats should be consulted.


TRUMP: We got a call. We heard where he was. We knew the way he was getting there and we had to make a decision. We didn't have time to call up Nancy who is not operating with a full deck. Shifty Schiff, say, see, Adam, how are you doing? Listen, we have the world's number one terrorist, killed thousands and thousands of people, we'd like to set up a meeting so we can discuss his execution. Would you be willing to meet?


JARRETT: There's a lot of legal uncertainty about whether concurrent resolutions under the War Powers Act are even binding. But it appears House Democrats are trying to force the Senate to vote on the measure.

And patience with Nancy Pelosi's impeachment strategy is running short even among her fellow Democrats. The House speaker has been sitting on articles of impeachment for three weeks now. She remains steadfast that she wants to understand the parameters of the Senate trial first, but a number of Democrats in the House and Senate are publicly saying it's time to move. Pelosi would only say she may send over the articles soon.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm not holding them indefinitely. I'll send them over when I'm ready, and that will probably be soon.


JARRETT: "When I'm ready." At a separate meeting, sources say Pelosi and her top messengers on impeachment discussed polling from six battleground states showing the public support of full trial over a speedy acquittal.


But don't expect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bend here. He says he already has the votes to approve rules for a trial without support from Senate Democrats.

ROMANS: The U.S. and China are preparing to sign phase one of the trade deal next week. But the global economy has been badly damaged by the trade war. Economists say a deal with China won't save it. The World Bank Estimates global growth will rise 2.5 percent this year. That's just under the world economy's trend of 3 percent leaving it in a so-called growth recession.

The organization estimates U.S. GDP for 2020 will be 1.8 percent reflecting the negative impact of earlier tariff increase and elevated uncertainty. A reescalation of trade tensions is one of the major risks of 2020.

Another trade deal the USMCA seems to have stalled here. Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters a full Senate vote on the modernized NAFTA will likely not happen next week. The Finance Committee voted to pass the deal on Tuesday but several more committees must vote on it before it reaches a full Senate vote.

JARRETT: Well, 220,000 residents warned to evacuate one of Australia's most populated areas. Losses are piling up as the fire threat grows. CNN live in Sydney next.



ROMANS: Firefighters from America are arriving to cheers at the airport in Sydney. They're going to need a lot of support because extreme dangerous fire conditions are in the forecast across Australia's southern states.

Will Ripley on the phone for us from Sydney right now. Hey, Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Hey, Christine. I'm in the middle of a huge crowd of protesters here in Sydney. This is one of nine Australian cities where people are out today. Melbourne, Canberra, even the mining town of Perth. Huge crowd gathering demanding that their government and their prime minister, Scott Morrison, do something. I mean Australia right now is essentially on the front lines of the climate crisis. They are living with the impact of climate change.

And an unprecedented bushfire season with dozens and dozens of fires burning right now threatening thousands of peoples' homes and lives. There have been evacuations, more than two dozen people killed, and people out here tell us they're angry. They say their prime minister, you know, he's the guy who went into parliament and held up a lump of coal and said, hey, don't be afraid of coal, fossil fuels help keep Australia's economy afloat.

The point people out here are making there's not going to be an economy with a dead planet. A lot of these protesters young people. I spoke with a 13-year-old activist who says the government needs to transition right now from fossil fuel to renewable energy before it's too late, before, you know, this kind of natural disasters that continue to intensify, keep getting worse not just here in Australia but in the U.S. and around the world.

ROMANS: You can't have an economy if the planet is dead. That's an excellent, excellent point from those young people protesting.

Will Ripley, we'll come back to you again soon. Thank you.

JARRETT: So the queen wasn't just caught off-guard, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's decision to step back from senior royal duties directly defied the Queen's wishes.

CNN's Max Foster is live in London. And Max, we know Meghan is now back in Canada, but Harry had to stay back as we understand it to deal with the fall out?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, so she's gone back to Canada. She is due back here next week because there's an engagement next week and I think she's still sticking to that diary plan but Harry is here, pretty much on his own, dealing with this crisis. And I say on his own because the rest of the family have come together almost in some sort of committee to try to resolve this situation. And the governments involved as well. So these are crisis talks to try to find a way forward for the Sussexs, a role for the Sussexs which they famously outlined on a Web site earlier this week, in great detail what sort of role they're going to have, how their relationship with the media will work, how they'll be financed.

All these sorts of things. It's been made pretty clear to me that the other senior royals are uncomfortable with that. It hasn't been cleared by them. So what we're talking about here is effectively a negotiation about what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be doing in the future. If the couple refused to compromise, it's difficult to see a way out of this where they can keep their royal roles, I think.

JARRETT: All right, Max Foster, our official Megxit reporter there in London, thanks so much. ROMANS: I was calling it as the monarch U-turn. Like a soap opera. In

today's episode of "As the Monarch U-Turns."

Eighteen minutes past the hour. Designed by clowns, supervised by monkeys. Damning e-mails and texts released by Boeing overnight.



ROMANS: Two-thirds of Puerto Rico still without power after a devastating earthquake and a series of powerful aftershocks. Parts of the island are expected to be in the dark for more than a year because of damage to a power plant. The government and the power authority expect the rest of Puerto Rico to be fully energized in the coming days. President Trump signed an emergency declaration to get resources to the island but has not made any public comment about Puerto Rico since those quakes.

JARRETT: And Boeing releasing a trove of troubling documents related to the 737 MAX jet. E-mails and internal communications paint a dark picture of employees' response to problems during the development of the now grounded jet. One message mocks the FAA for approving the jets without requiring enough pilot training. It says, "This airplane is designed by clowns who are in turn supervised by monkeys." Problems with the 737 MAX led to two fatal crashes and 346 deaths. Boeing says the documents are unacceptable and do not reflect, quote, "the company we are and need to be."

ROMANS: That's certainly very troubling.

All right, here's an unlikely collaboration. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reaching out to President Trump to help the homeless. In a letter to the president and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Mayor Garcetti asked for aid to move L.A.'s homeless population into shelters, build permanent housing and services they need to stay in their homes. Secretary Carson signaling a rare spirit of cooperation saying he looks forward to a new partnership to benefit our fellow citizens. The president has been very critical of Los Angeles and San Francisco for their handling of homelessness. Garcetti, by the way, endorsed Joe Biden for president yesterday.

JARRETT: Well, athletes will be sleeping on cardboard beds at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. The general manager of the athletes' village said it's really sturdy cardboard. More sturdy than a wooden bed. The manufacturer claims it can bear the weight of a 440-pound Sumo wrestler. The beds will be recycled after the Olympics. It's all part of a plan by organizers to reduce the game's carbon emissions.


ROMANS: I like that idea. Is it comfortable?

JARRETT: Is it comfortable? They need to be comfortable. They're athletes.

ROMANS: Exactly. All right, 24 minutes past the hour.

U.S. officials believe Iran mistakenly shot down a passenger jet in Tehran. What the Iranians says and new video of the midair impact next.


JARRETT: U.S. officials believe Iran mistakenly shot down a passenger jet that crashed near Tehran. New video of the impact moments away.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had to make a decision. We didn't have time to call up Nancy.