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Democrats Close Abuse of Power Case, Move to Obstruction; China Ramps Up efforts to Fight Coronavirus; Trump to Release Middle East Peace Plan Shortly. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2020 - 04:00   ET




REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-NY): Right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats turn to obstruction of Congress today after a powerful presentation on abuse of power at the impeachment trial.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Growing concerns about the deadly coronavirus. It is spreading beyond China. Why are health officials not ready to declare an emergency?

JARRETT: Gripping testimony at the Harvey Weinstein trial. Actress Annabella Sciorra with vivid details of the night she says the producer raped her.

ROMANS: And a quick exit for Serena Williams at the Australian Open.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

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

Today will be the third and final day of opening arguments of Democrats in the trial to impeach and remove President Trump from office. House managers on Thursday made the case the president abused his power. They tried to convince skeptical and tired Republican senators the trial needs more witnesses and documents.

Republicans have said a lot of what they're hearing is repetitive, but at least one admits some of this is fresh. Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana telling "The New York Times," quote, "I've learned a lot, everybody has. Senators didn't know the case, they really didn't. We didn't stay glued to the television. We haven't read the transcripts."

ROMANS: Democrats not shying away from a topic Republicans have tried to use against them. House managers repeatedly mentioned Hunter Biden's position on the board of the Ukrainian energy company at the heart of GOP conspiracy theories. Democrats also displayed elaborate exhibits, Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler using a 1999 clip of Lindsey Graham to make the case an actual crime is not required for impeachment. At the time Graham was a House manager in the Clinton impeachment trial.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It's a high crime. How about if an important person hurts somebody of low means? It's not very scholarly. But I think it's the truth. I think that's what they meant by high crimes. It doesn't have to be a crime. It's just when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people, you committed a high crime.


ROMANS: Senator Graham was not in the chamber yesterday when that clip was played.

JARRETT: Now CNN has learned the president's allies are lobbying behind the scenes pushing wavering Republican senators to oppose any witnesses. A source tells CNN the effort includes calls not only from Capitol Hill but also identifying people back home the senators trust and getting them to call.

Democrats have seven hours, 53 minutes left to open their case. Today they'll move onto article 2, obstruction of Congress.

Senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny has more for us.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, Democratic impeachment managers begin making their last case in their opening arguments against President Trump. It was after a long day on Thursday about going after abuse of power which is laid out in the article one impeachment.

Now throughout the day, the Democratic managers led by Chairman Adam Schiff made the case that President Trump is an ongoing threat to the nation. It was no mistake, they argue, withholding that political aid from Ukraine and they listed through a chronology of events spanning the months throughout the summer into the fall a series of bad judgments and also intentional bad behavior.

But it was at the end of a long day of trial as senators, all of them, were sitting in their seats when Chairman Schiff implored them to do what's right and said this.


SCHIFF: And you know you can't trust this president to do what's right for this country. You can trust he will do what's right for Donald Trump. He'll do it now. He's done it before. He'll do it for the next several months. He'll do it in the election if he's allowed to.

This is why if you find him guilty you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost.


ZELENY: So those powerful words certainly hung heavy in the chamber, but it's unclear if Republicans enough will join Democrats to call for new witnesses or new evidence. Certainly no one is showing their hands to that point. But the final day today for the Democratic managers to make their case. The president's lawyers begin making their case in a shorter session on Saturday -- Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you for that.

President Trump's legal team is ready to present its defense, suggesting it won't even need to allotted three days to do it.


JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: We're going to use a sufficient amount of time to not only defend our case and point out the inconsistencies of their case. We're going to do it in an appropriate manner. We're not going to try to run the clock out.


ROMANS: A growing number of Republican senators pointing to President Trump's threat to invoke executive privilege to make their case for issuing subpoenas for witnesses. That could bode well for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's goal of a swift conclusion to the impeachment trial. Four GOP senators who could force the chamber to call witnesses are not saying much. They're mostly waiting for the Democrats to finish their opening arguments before committing to a vote which could come next week.

JARRETT: Through it all the White House appears to keep stonewalling. New documents reveal the president's team is refusing to answer requests from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The GAO asked the White House last month for factual information and legal views to defend the withholding of military aid to Ukraine. The White House informed the GAO that it would not be responding. The watchdog agency recently said the Trump administration broke the law by withholding that aid.

ROMANS: Chinese officials planning to ramp up efforts to fight the spread of the deadly coronavirus by building a dedicated pneumonia hospital in Wuhan by the middle of next week. Much like one quickly built during the 2003 SARS outbreak. Dozens have died in China. Nearly 850 people have been infected worldwide. But the World Health Organization says coronavirus hasn't spread enough overseas for it to be considered a global health emergency.

CNN's David Culver is live in Beijing.

And, David, not long ago, just over a day ago, you were getting out of Wuhan before they locked that city down. What's the latest now? DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you

we're still in touch with a lot of the folks, Christine, who we were connecting with when we were on the ground there, and it is really becoming a desperate situation. And the images on social media that we're seeing confirm that.

I want to walk you through a few of them. First of all this one here that you're about to see is a set of tents that are set up outside of a hospital according to Chinese social media. And it appears as though the overflow, the overwhelming situation that's going on there, is causing it to be really -- just really difficult to house all those folks. And they have to now create these makeshift setups there.

And another video shows a woman who is shouting at a long line of people who appear to be patients or at least potential coronavirus patients, and they're in line there. The woman is yelling for them to stay in place, and she also says, don't be nervous. Tough to not be nervous when you're in a situation like that.

And lastly one of the videos that's on social media right now that's getting a lot of attention is one from a -- appears to be from a hospital bed angle, perspective. Imagine this, if you're sick and looking up and you see a bunch of medical staff members who are just in hazmat suits. Not very reassuring but you can understand why their staff members are doing that.

Now CNN has not independently verified these videos, but our producers were able to go through, look at some of the images and some of the dialects and determine that they seem to be genuine, but it's adding to this overall narrative that we're hearing, Christine, of just really concern, unease that's growing and really questioning whether or not the government is able to contain this, despite now what we see as these lockdown scenarios that are in place.

Scenarios, by the way, that are happening in the midst of this major holiday, normally when people are coming together, right? Well, now they're saying you can't gather at public venues, you can't go together at movie theaters or any events that would be potential exposure situations. So it's becoming quite disheartening and really discouraging for a lot of folks here -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. And, you know, now the Centers for Disease Control has increased travel precautions for Wuhan to the highest possible level.

David, thank you so much this morning.

JARRETT: A new Trump administration rule banning so-called birth tourism goes into effect today. The State Department will no longer issue visitor visas to women believed to be traveling to the U.S. specifically to gain birthright citizenship for their children. How the rule will be enforced will be mostly up to the discretion of visa officers. And State Department officials have struggled to explain how exactly that will work. The rules say screening officers can't directly ask women if they are pregnant unless they can cite a specific reason for doing so. ROMANS: All right, nine minutes past the hour this Friday morning. The

White House wants more tax cuts.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The president has asked us to start working on what we call Tax 2.0, and that will be additional tax cuts that fuel the economy. There'll be tax cuts for the middle class and we'll be also looking at other incentives to stimulate economic growth.


ROMANS: President Trump has repeatedly dangled more tax cuts including right before the 2018 midterm election. His 2017 tax package slashed corporate rates among other things, but corporate tax cuts were permanent.


Tax cuts for consumers and households were temporary. That 2017 bill and the two-year spending bill has swelled the federal budget deficit despite Trump's 2016 campaign promise to shrink or even eliminate it.

Now usually you blow up the deficit -- the deficits widen during economic downturns, but the U.S. is expanding. Very unusual to have the economy expanding, cutting taxes and blowing up the deficit all at the same time. While Mnuchin talks about tax cuts, Trump said he's open to cutting federal entitlements to reduce the federal deficit despite his campaign promise to protect Medicare and Social Security.

During the 2016 campaign Trump said he wouldn't have to touch Social Security because his plan to boost economic growth to at least 4 percent would take care of the entitlements' long-term problems.

JARRETT: Powerful testimony in the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault trial. Actress Annabella Sciorra describing in terrifying detail how the former Hollywood producer barged into her Manhattan apartment more than 25 years ago and raped her. The "Soprano" star had trouble catching her breath at times telling the court Weinstein gave her a ride home and later forced his way in. She says she tried to run into a bathroom but, quote, "he kept coming at me. I felt overpowered because he was very big."

The actress went on to describe how she kicked and punched Weinstein, trying to fight him off until he held her arms about her head on the bed and raped her. Sciorra telling the court she confronted Weinstein about the attack at a dinner in New York weeks later, and he told her, quote, "That's what all the nice Catholic girls say. This remains between you and I."

ROMANS: In their cross-examination Weinstein's lawyers played a video of her telling David Letterman in 1997 that she has a bad reputation for lying to the press. Her encounter with Weinstein happened too long ago to be charged but prosecutors are using her testimony to establish a pattern of behavior. Weinstein is accused of raping and sexually assaulting young women and actresses over the course of decades.

JARRETT: Well, it's been delayed twice already. Now the president's Middle East peace plan will go public as leaders battling to be Israel's leader head to Washington.

CNN live in Jerusalem.



JARRETT: President Trump says his long-awaited Middle East peace plan will be unveiled in the next few days. It's expected to be released some time before Israel's prime minister and the opposition leader visit the White House on Tuesday.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live for us in Jerusalem.

Oren, what else are you learning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, it looks like the release of this plan seems very much not about peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians but an effort by the White House and the Trump administration to help two people in particular. First, President Donald Trump, and second, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Look at the timing of this release. As impeachment proceedings were going on in Washington, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces indictment on bribery charges, as he faces the immunity hearing he requested, and as they're in the middle of an election campaign here. And after the Trump administration appeared to back away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the September elections, now it looks like they've gone all in on Netanyahu.

And from the administration's perspective, why not? Netanyahu has had -- has been Trump's loudest international cheerleader. He's backed every move Trump has made on Iran, even calling on international leaders to back the administration and follow the administration's lead. And he's never once criticized President Donald Trump. It looks like someone in the administration, whether it's Trump himself or Jared Kushner or Ambassador David Freeman or even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, decided Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel was best for the Trump administration.

Where does this leave Netanyahu's rival, Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White Party? Well, it leaves him in a very difficult position with few options. Before this Gantz was tacking to the right, it seems, to try to steal some votes away from Likud and away from Netanyahu. Now it looks like Gantz has a difficult decision to make. Any support of his peace plan essentially means throwing some support behind Netanyahu, and that is what he stood against. Gantz was positioning himself as the replacement for Netanyahu and now it seems he has few good options with just more than a month until the election.

As for the Palestinians, they're almost certainly to reject any plan the Americans put forward since that plan is likely to tick all of the Israelis' boxes and then some, and very few if any of the Palestinians' boxes.

JARRETT: All right, Oren, thanks so much for laying all that out for us.

ROMANS: All right. Next, remembering an icon of journalism, Jim Lehrer.



ROMANS: An emotional reunion in Florida between a man who nearly died and the two officers who saved him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your car's on fire. You've got to get out of here.


ROMANS: Sheriff's deputies Robert Ricks and Marco Ruiz were at the end of a long shift January 10th when they heard a loud screech, and a crashing noise, and they found Christopher Tossas. He was unconscious inside his overturned car with flames and smoke all around him.


CHRISTOPHER TOSSAS, RESCUED FROM BURNING CAR: We could watch movies and we see super heroes all the time, and these are my heroes. I'm grateful, forever grateful and thankful for them to be here alive today because they put their lives on the line.


ROMANS: Tossas suffered a concussion and some minor injuries.

JARRETT: A stunner down under. Serena Williams eliminated in the third round of the Australian Open by China's Wang Qiang. It's the first time Serena has lost this early in Melbourne since 2006. The defeat extends her drought without a major tennis win. The last Australia Open in 2017 was when she was pregnant with her daughter.

ROMANS: PBS colleagues and news consumers worldwide remembering "Newshour" anchor Jim Lehrer this morning.


JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR: Jim Lehrer, our founding anchor, died this morning. We are heartbroken here at the "Newshour." Jim's legacy of journalism is with us every day.


ROMANS: Lehrer who anchored the flagship Public Broadcasting news show for 36 years died yesterday at his home in Washington. He was known as the dean of moderators for presiding over a dozen presidential debates including this memorable moment.


BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ten days ago John said that the fundamentals of the economy are sound.

JIM LEHRER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Say it -- say it directly to him.

OBAMA: I do not believe that they --

LEHRER: Say it directly to him.


OBAMA: Oh, John, 10 days ago you said the fundamentals of the economy are sound. And --


LEHRER: I'm just determined to get you all to talk to each other. I'm going to try.


JARRETT: Just a month ago Lehrer was on CNN sharing his take on the rapidly changing nature of modern media.


LEHRER: It's a revolution that is based on the division, and we haven't gotten -- we are still -- we are still trying to cope with it and trying to figure it out.


JARRETT: Jim Lehrer started out as a newspaper reporter before switching to broadcast news in the early '70s covering the Watergate hearings. His survivors include his wife, Kate, three daughters and six grandchildren. Jim Lehrer was 85 years old.

ROMANS: All right, 25 minutes past the hour. They have outlined abuse of power, now Democrats will drill down arguing how the president was and is obstructing Congress. How it could change the trajectory of the impeachment trial.