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U.S. Officials Believe Iran Mistaken Downed Plane; Trump Claims Soleimani Targeted Embassies; Pressure Builds on Pelosi to Send Impeachment Articles. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2020 - 05:00   ET


LAURA JARRETT, 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.


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

JARRETT: And today is the day. Democrats running short on patience as Nancy Pelosi holds the articles of impeachment against President Trump.

CNN is live this morning in Tehran, Moscow, Sydney and London.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: Happy Friday.

ROMANS: It's Friday, yes, January 10th.


It is 5:00 a.m. in the East, and 24 days if you're counting to the Iowa caucuses.

But let's begin here. U.S. officials believe the passenger jet that crashed near Tehran Wednesday with 176 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 an Ukrainian 737 crashed just after take off.

A U.S. official familiar with the intelligence 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 -- Canada 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.


JARRETT: 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 in. Allowing U.S. investigators is significant here and 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.

Our coverage begins this morning with Fred Pleitgen live in Tehran.

And, Fred, you know, Iran says this missile theory is all a big lie. But obviously, Canadian intelligence says otherwise. What are you hearing?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Canadian intelligence, U.S. intelligence and European intelligence also saying they believe that the information coming from the U.S. and Canada is credible.

What we have this morning, Laura, was that the Iranian civil aviation authority came out and the head of that authority gave a press conference here in Tehran where he once reiterated the position of the authority that the fury as he put it that a missile may have struck the plane is not valid as he said. We were also able to get in touch with this man last night and he says he believes if a plane would have been struck by a missile its forward progress would have stopped immediately and it would have immediately have fallen from the sky.

Today once again, he added some more to that. He said that he believes if the plane would have been hit by a missile that the debris field would be a lot larger and the debris would be a lot further scattered than it actually was in the end.

Obviously, we do have that video which appears to show some sort of object but again it's very difficult to substantiate that. And he said today he's also seen video of that nature, but he says at this point in time those are not scientifically substantiated as he put it. He did give some more information as to what happened that morning as that plane came down.

He said the plane was in the air for about five minutes, took off from the airport and at some point has to fly to a higher altitude and all of a sudden the pilot made a sharp turn and tried to get back to Imam Khomeini Airport, obviously with some sort of larger issue there. The aviation authority says according to eyewitness accounts and from what we're reading that's accounts from people on the ground and also other planes flying in the area. That they were saying the plane took about 60 to 70 seconds where it was on fire until the plane hit the ground. Just a quick notice for you, the Iranians are now saying it could take up to two months to read the data from the black boxes. They say they have the capabilities to do that, but at least one of the black boxes is pretty damaged so they might have to ask other countries, specifically Russia, France and Canada for help.

Also, a team of Ukrainian investigators is on the ground here in Tehran as well. The Iranians say they are working with them and have invited other nations as well, Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Fred. I know you stay on this, thanks so much, for us.

ROMANS: So, Ukraine's president will discuss the investigation with the Secretary of State Pompeo today. The pilot's mother grieving at the arrival gate at the Ukrainian airport. 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.


ROMANS: CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow.

Matthew, it's just heart breaking to hear those people talk about the lives lost on that -- on that jet.

What happens next here? This is -- this is another crisis for Ukraine's president.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Remember Volodymyr Zelensky, that's the name of the Ukrainian president, he's already at the center of those very disruptive, painful allegations, impeachment allegations in the United States. And now, he's at the heart of this massive national, international

crisis with the loss of so many lives on this airliner. And to make matters worse I think in some ways, it's clear that he hasn't been given the intelligence that other countries like the United States, like Canada and like Britain say that they have which would give some clarity about what happens to this 737-800 which slammed into the ground on the outskirts of the Iranian capital in the past few hours.

There's been a statement from Volodymyr Zelensky saying, look, we haven't ruled out the possibility of a strike but he called on U.S. and Britain to release that information it got, release any data so the investigators can get to the bottom of what actually happened.

Now, until they do that, Ukrainian investigators are already on the ground in Iran looking at a number of other options. Not just the missile theory. Looking at the possibility this could have been a terrorist bomb, looking at the possibility of engine failure. Looking at the possibility the plane could have struck an object like a drone in mid-flight.

They're not ruling anything out in these early stages of this really important accident investigation, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, major, major international aviation tragedy.

All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you for that.

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 and many Democrats questioned the White House's justification for the drone strike that killed a top Iranian general. That justification that he was planning an imminent attack.

ROMANS: Now, 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.


ROMANS: To be clear, so far, no public proof has been revealed that Soleimani was targeting embassies, but he was with the leader of a group that attacked the embassy in Baghdad when he was killed.

JARRETT: 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 would be consulted in the first place.


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, 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 setup a meeting so we can discuss his execution. Would you be willing to --


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

ROMANS: All right, 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: Patience with Nancy Pelosi's impeachment strategy is wearing thin even among fellow Democrats. The House speaker has been sitting on articles of impeachment for three weeks. She remains steadfast she wants to understand the parameters of the Senate trial first.

But a number of Democrats in the House and Senate are saying it's time to move. Pelosi is now suggesting that time is coming.


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


ROMANS: 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. He says he already has the votes to approve rules for a trial without support from Senate Democrats.

JARRETT: Firefighters from America are arriving to cheers at the airport in Sydney. They're going to need a lot of support there. Extreme dangerous fire conditions are in the forecast across Australia's southern states. Thirty thousand people protesting climate change today in Sydney. That's where we find Will Ripley on the ground for us.

And, Will, you know, folks there are not happy with the government response.

What are you hearing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're not, Laura. The protest has now wrapped up for the night. We're back to a Friday night in Sydney, a beautiful Friday night as we stand here under the Sydney harbor bridge, an iconic location. But the people out in droves earlier, tens of thousands of people, with a very clear message all of this is at risk, if they say their government and governments around the world don't do something to address the climate crisis. It was extraordinarily to see the people who are out here in Sydney today.

You had young people like the 13-year-old activist who interviewed who said that this country and its Prime Minister Scott Morrison needs to wean itself off its addiction as they call it to coal. But coal is a crucial part of the Australian economy. Even in the town of Perth in western Australia today, there was another large protest.

Nine protests across this country, in cities like here in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Canberra, and what people are saying is, yes, fossil fuels are important to the Australian economy, but if your planet is dead, you don't have an economy, so you need to find a better way. They're hoping their government will listen.


But, you know, it's obviously a difficult situation because you have lot of political support behind the prime minister who's trying to balance the environment with the economy, but he's getting so much criticism for the way he's handled this bush fire crisis, and those fires continue to burn as we speak. Thousands of people's homes and lives are at risk. The fires have the potential to intensify over the weekend.

And what the people here in Sydney and all the protesters here in Australia today the point they're making is if changes aren't made right now, all of this could go away -- Laura.

JARRETT: Will, thanks for all that great reporting as usual.

ROMANS: All right. Iconic Olympic moments like this won't repeat themselves this summer in Tokyo. New rules from the International Olympic Committee. Andy Scholes tells us what the athletes cannot do in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:20:14] JARRETT: Well, 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 for us in London.

And, Max, you've been doing such great reporting all week on the inside scoop of what is going on in Buckingham palace. What is the latest drama there today?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: The latest drama it emerges the duchess headed back to Canada earlier in the week, so Harry is here on his own to face the music as it were because William, the queen, and Charles have all tasked their teams with trying to find some solution here with the Sussex household with the government involved as well, and they've been asked to do so at pace.

So we expect them to try to come up with some sort of solution by the beginning of next week. And the duchess is expected back by then as soon as there's an engagement in the U.K. on Tuesday she's still scheduled for. But Harry's going to have to do the legwork here and presumably put it past the duchess if there is some sort of compromise to be reached.

If she disagrees, he disagrees and there is no compromise, what is on this website is what they standby, and I think it's very difficult to see how they would find a way forward in their royal roles. They would have to consider their positions and I think it's been made very clear from Charles, William and the queen's side that what is currently there just isn't workable, which means they have to find a compromise if they're all going to be working together in the way Harry and Meghan hope.

JARRETT: I think that's what people have been wondering all week is how is this going to work out, and they're all going to be together there on Tuesday, it's just fascinating.

Thanks so much, Max.

ROMANS: All right. The International Olympic Committee is telling athletes that it is now against the rules to protest on the field or medal stand.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


The IOC releasing these new guidelines ahead of the Tokyo Summer Games that are just months away now. And Rule 50 of the Olympic charter says athletes will engage in no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas. That means demonstrations such as the raised fists of Tommy Smith and John Carlos of the 1968 Olympics are now prohibited. There is no stated punishment for athletes who break the rule. But

athletes are still allowed to express their views on social media and in their interviews. Opening ceremony for the Summer Games is July 24th.

Oklahoma City fans welcoming Russell Westbrook back for the first time since his blockbuster trade to the Rockets. Russell played first 11 seasons in OKC getting standing ovations, MVP chants and a video tribute. It was a special night there.

Russell got a game high, 34 points, but it wasn't enough. Chris Paul who Westbrook was traded for seen there dribbling through the defender's leg. Paul led to a 113-92 win, but that didn't spoil what was a very special night for Westbrook.


RUSSELL WESTBROOK, HOUSTON ROCKETS GUARD: The organization, they do an amazing job of just making you feel home and I feel like I was home. I feel like I left everything out on the floor every single night and did what I could for the city.


SCHOLES: All right. Finally, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne does what many goalies dreamed of right here. Grabs the puck, fires it all the way down the ice and into the empty net for the goal. Only the 12th goalie to score in NHL history and the first to do in six years.

And, Christine, you know, he's got over 16,000 saves in his career.


SCHOLES: But I bet you he's going to tell the grandkids about that one time he scored a goal.

ROMANS: That's one time. That's a really good day in that guy's life.

Al right. Thanks so much, Andy Scholes.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Laura, what's up next?

JARRETT: All right, Christine. Well, officials believe Iran mistakenly shot down a passenger jet in Tehran. What the Iranians say, and the new video of the midair impact, next.



ROMANS: Half of Puerto Rico still without power after a devastating earthquake and powerful after shocks. You can see the difference before and after. Parts of the island are expected to be dark for more than a year because of damage to a power plant. The governor 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 resource Tuesday the island but has not made any public comment about Puerto Rico since the quakes.

JARRETT: 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.

To say the least, right?


JARRETT: Well, EARLY START continues right now.