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McConnell: Votes Aren't There Yet to Block Witnesses; Hundreds of Americans Heading Home from China; 50 U.S. Troops with Brain Injuries from Iran Attack; Biden Team's Overture to Klobuchar. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 29, 2020 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Mitch McConnell doesn't have the votes to block witnesses yet. What it means for the next phase of the impeachment trial.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Hundreds of Americans on their way home from the epicenter of the coronavirus in China. The number of cases in mainland China exceeds the deadly SARS outbreak.

ROMANS: A jump in American troops who suffered brain injuries in the attack by Iran. Why the Pentagon expects that number to go even higher.

JARRETT: And the surprising overture in Iowa. Why the Biden campaign's looking for an alliance with Senator Amy Klobuchar.

ROMANS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Everyone, this is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Wednesday, January 29, 4:00 a.m. here in New York, 5:00 p.m. in Beijing, 11:00 a.m. in Jerusalem. Just five days to the Iowa caucuses.

ROMANS: We begin this morning, it was as close as we have been to having witnesses testify in the trial to impeach and remove President Trump. But we're not there just yet. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling Republican senators he does not yet have the votes to block witnesses. The GOP weathering the latest storm involving revelations from John Bolton's book manuscript.

JARRETT: One idea being kicked around by Republican Senators James Lankford and Lindsey Graham would let senators look at Bolton's information a secure location to see if it's worth having Bolton testify.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Recommending to the House or the White House, turn it over, put it in one of the SCIFs here so we can go through it, read it, and see for ourselves if there's anything significant there. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Remember, Republicans actually complained about House Democrats holding impeachment interviews in a secure facility. The National Security Council is reviewing Bolton's book for classified information. Not clear if they're open to sharing it.

Democrats CNN spoke with rebuffed this idea completely.

ROMANS: With the Senate vote on witnesses looming later this week, polls show the public at least wants to hear more. Three out of four saying witnesses should be allowed to testify. Even among Republicans, more say yes than no.

And the White House could get some help from across the aisle. CNN has learned some Democratic senators from states that Trump won haven't ruled out voting to acquit him. That raises the possibility of bipartisan opposition to Trump's removal as he gears up for re- election.

With a look at what lies ahead, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.



Now, a critical day ahead in the Senate impeachment trial as we get into the member questions. Senators will ask questions on both sides, expected to go about eight hours today, and then tomorrow also an additional eight hours. But behind the scenes, the debate will continue within the Senate Republican conference about whether to bring forward witnesses. Now in order to get the quick resolution to this trial that Mitch McConnell wants, that the White House wants, they will have to defeat that motion. And that means they will have to ensure that there are not four Republicans who will break ranks and join with 47 Democrats to move ahead with witnesses.

And behind the scenes, Mitch McConnell yesterday made the case to his colleagues that it didn't make sense to go forward on witnesses because it could lead to an endless parade of witnesses, with no obvious way out. And while he doesn't have the votes locked down yet, Republicans emerged confident that they'll ultimately get their members in line. If Republican leaders succeed in defeating this motion to call for witnesses, to subpoena witnesses and subpoena documents, that essentially could lead to the end of the trial within days. And the president presumably could be acquitted by the time of the State of the Union next week.

Back to you.


JARRETT: Manu Raju, thanks so much for laying all that out.

Well, John Bolton certainly up-ended the Senate impeachment trial with his claim he heard the president tie military aid to Ukraine directly to an investigation of the Bidens. Overnight the president tweeted: Why didn't John Bolton complain about this nonsense a long time ago?

ROMANS: One person not disputing Bolton's account, former White House chief of staff John Kelly. He tells a Tampa newspaper: If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton and added this --


JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You may disagree with his politics or what he wants to -- what he wants to do with -- under certain circumstances, but John's a standup guy.


ROMANS: Some are suggesting the White House could invoke executive privilege to keep Bolton from testifying. But House Democrats argue the president waived executive privilege by directly denying Bolton's allegations.

JARRETT: The number of confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus in Mainland China has exceeded that of SARS. Officials say there have been nearly 6,000 cases, up more than 30 percent in a day. That includes 132 deaths so far. About 200 Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, are in the air right now, including U.S. diplomats and their families. They'll land at a military base near Riverside, California, instead of a civilian airport as first planned.


While those Americans leave China, others are preparing to go there.

CNN's David Culver joins us live from Beijing with more on that.

David, what are you hearing today?


Well, this is going to be a group of scientists we expect likely representing the CDC who would come here to Beijing and meet alongside with Chinese scientists, as well as the World Health Organization. Now, we do know the head of the WHO is actually here in Beijing, met with President Xi Jinping yesterday. That was a high-profile gathering because in that, President Xi came out and said that this virus is a demon virus. That's the word he used. He said he would not allow it to hide.

Here's what else is interesting -- he said that he is taking personal responsibility for the containment efforts under way now. That's a huge and significant thing for him to take responsibility of and to say it publicly more than anything else. With regards to those Americans who are en route to California right now, we know roughly 240 are on that flight. It's a flight that left really in the early morning hours local time.

It's mostly U.S. diplomats, their families, and they were evacuated in is worth specifying because the other Americans on board, American civilians, were allowed to apply for open spots. And so there was a limited number. And that means a number of Americans are still within the lockdown zone, still within the city of Wuhan itself, the epicenter of this outbreak.

Now as far as the aircraft that's taking those Americans, they had one screening by Chinese officials here before they left China and Wuhan. Then they had another screening still in Wuhan by U.S. officials, and then they had a third screening by health officials when they landed in anchorage to refuel. And so, we do expect that they could be in quarantine anywhere from 3 to 14 days once they arrive in the U.S.

JARRETT: David Culver, thanks so much. See you soon.

ROMANS: All right. To Iowa now. Trouble brewing for Joe Biden there. The Biden campaign confirms a "New York Times" reports says the campaign is reaching out to Amy Klobuchar's camp to discuss a possible alliance. The plan would involve a pledge to help each other in precincts where one does not have enough support in next week's caucuses.

JARRETT: Klobuchar flew to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a rally between impeachment proceedings. She was quick to dismiss the idea of teaming up with anyone.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: If defeating President Trump is the most important thing, in precincts that you may not be viable in, what would you urge your support force do?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not even getting to that point. I want to be viable in every precinct.

ZELENY: You want to be, of course. That's a lot of precincts out there. Would you urge them to follow their own instinct? Would you urge to leave?

KLOBUCHAR: No, we are not urging them to do anything that I know. I'm just urging people to show up and support me.


JARRETT: So the bottom line here, Klobuchar is not directing her people to do anything. It's more of a sign of recognition on Biden's part that he needs some help in parts of the state to challenge Senator Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg.

ROMANS: All right. There's been a big jump in the number of American troops diagnosed with brain injuries from that Iranian attack on U.S. bases in Iraq this month. Remember last week, President Trump called them headaches and downplayed their severity.

We get more now from Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, the Pentagon now acknowledging it has 16 additional cases of U.S. troops reporting traumatic brain injury and concussion. Those troops now diagnosed with that. That brings the total of troops injured up to 50. Now, 30 of them have been returned to duty in Iraq. So, that is really good news.

But a total of 50 troops injured at the hands of Iran when it launched those ballistic missiles against the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq back on January 8th, that set off this massive blast wave from the thousands of pounds of explosives causing the traumatic brain injury, the concussion symptoms. And in fact, the Pentagon is very much anticipating there could be even additional injuries. They've been assessing about 200 troops that were in the immediate blast area.

So they are very prepared to see additional cases come forwards in the next several days, and they very much want troops if they are experiencing symptoms to report them -- Christine, Laura.


JARRETT: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you so much for that.

And the remains of two U.S. service members have been recovered from the wreckage of a military aircraft that crashed in Afghanistan on Monday. The victims' names are being withheld until the next of kin can be notified. Pentagon officials tell CNN U.S. forces destroyed the remnants of the aircraft and disabled sensitive equipment at the crash site. Reports also indicate there was a distress call from the crew indicating some type of problem here. I know there were a lot of questions about what exactly happened. We weren't getting a lot of answers from the Pentagon. But --

ROMANS: It's a Taliban-controlled area. So, there was a hard time getting in at some point, but two fatalities. That's just a tragedy there.


ROMANS: Well, a critical safety tool was not installed on the helicopter that crashed killing nine people including Kobe Bryant.


Emotional tributes to all of those victims, up next.


ROMANS: The helicopter in that crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other victims did not have a critical safety instrument installed. According to the NTSB, the chopper did not have a terrain warning system. The chopper missed clearing a mine by about only 20 to 30 feet. The pilot said he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer.

Bryant's former Laker teammate Shaquille O'Neal shattered by the sudden loss of his friend.


SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, FORMER NBA PLAYER: We're not going to be able to joke at his hall of fame ceremony. We're not going to be able to say hi, I got five, you got four. The fact that we're not going to be able to say if we would stay together, we could have got ten, those are the things that you can't get back.

And with the loss of might have father, my sister, and -- that's the only thing I wish I could say something to him again.


Last time I talked to him was when we were here last week. Got 50, got 60.

We lost probably the world's greatest Laker, world's greatest basketball player. Just -- listen, people going to say take your time and get better, but it's going to be hard for me.


JARRETT: You can just see the pain there.

CNN has learned from FAA records that the company operating the helicopter, Island Express, was certified only for visual flight rules. That requires pilots to stay clear of clouds. Kobe Bryant's pilot did request special permission to fly that day. CNN has reached out to Island Express for comment.

ROMANS: All right. An impeached president and indicted prime minister trying to make peace in the Middle East. President Trump standing with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to put forward a Mideast plan that he called, quote, realistic two-state solution.

The proposal caters to nearly every major Israeli demand and Palestinian leaders immediately rejected it.

Speaking to CNN, Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner, who helped craft this plan, urged them to take a second look.


JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: It's a big opportunities for the Palestinians. And you know, they have a perfect track record of blowing every opportunity they've had in their past. But perhaps maybe their leadership will read the details of it, stop posturing, and do what's best to try to make the Palestinian people's lives better.

You have five million prints who are really trapped because of bad leadership. So, what we've done is we've created an opportunity for their leadership to either seize or not --

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: CNN's Oren Liebermann has the latest from Jerusalem, where he joins us live.

Oren, how is that going over?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this plan nominally supports a two-state solution. President Trump said the words "Palestinian state," "future Palestinian state," "state of Palestine" a number of times. Make no mistake, this plan is everything Israel wants, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu., Israel's right wing and the settler movement in the West Bank.

Crucially, and this is probably the biggest headline, certainly the biggest immediate headline out of the release of the Trump administration's vision for peace here, it gives Israel a green light to annex the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he's going to move to do that on Sunday. Turns out procedurally it will take just a few extra days, but that is the immediate consequence of this.

And unlike previous moves we've seen from the administration toward Israel, frankly toward Netanyahu, this one isn't symbolic. It is a true game changer in terms of how the Middle East works, the dynamics between Israeli and Palestinians, and exactly what Netanyahu was looking for.

Palestinians were very quick to reject it saying this isn't the deal of the century, it's the slap of the century. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas saying their response is no, a thousand times no.

Excuse me, Saeb Erekat, the PLO secretary general, has said he's heard these points before, every time he's tried to negotiate with Netanyahu. This is exactly what he was looking for. The problem is, at this point, they have what it seems like very little leverage, because the Arab states have apparently thrown some weight behind this, endorsing the plan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, saying the Palestinians should consider it should enter negotiations on the base is of this plan under the auspices of the Trump administration.

That is a severe blow to the Palestinians who are now stuck in a political corner as Israel celebrates.

ROMANS: All right. Oren for us in Jerusalem this morning -- thank you so much.

All right. He paid a few hundred dollars for a watch about 50 years ago. A Rolex. Wait until you see his reaction when he found what that watch is worth today.



JARRETT: The FBI arresting the chairman of Harvard's chemistry and chemical biology department. Dr. Charles Lieber, and two Chinese nationals are charged with lying about their work for several Chinese organizations. Authorities say the case highlights the ongoing threat posed by China using nontraditional collectors like teachers and researchers to steal U.S. technology. Prosecutors allege Dr. Lieber signed a lucrative contract with Wuhan University of Technology and even established a research lab there without Harvard's knowledge.

ROMANS: A 7.7-magnitude earthquake striking between Cuba and Jamaica making it one of the strongest to ever hit the Caribbean, could be felt as far away as Miami where several buildings downtown had to be evacuated because the shaking was so violent. The quake could also be felt at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay. There are no reports of injuries or significant damage.

JARRETT: A Maryland police officer is charged with murder, accused of shooting and killing a suspect handcuffed inside a police cruiser. Forty-three-year-old William Green was shot seven times. Authorities say Michael Owen Jr. and another officer responded to reports of a driver slamming into parked vehicles and believed Green was under the influence of drugs.

But that explanation providing little comfort for Green's family.


SANDRA MATHIS, WILLIAM GREEN'S FIANCE: Obviously, he did not resist arrest because you had him in handcuffs. You placed him in there. His life matters. Damn.


JARRETT: Officer Owen also faces manslaughter and weapons charges.

ROMANS: Too much screen time for your toddler could lead to unhealthy behaviors as they grow. According to a new study, toddlers and young children who spend more than three years a day watching a screen, a TV or on a tablet, are more likely to be sedentary by the time they hit kindergarten. The study authors say their research reinforces existing evidence of the association between screen time and children's health.


JARRETT: Well, a must-see moment on "Antiques Roads Show." David, an Air Force veteran in Fargo, was trying to find out the value of his Rolex watch. He bought it back in 1974 for $346.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A watch like this at auction is worth about $400,000.




JARRETT: It gets even better.

ROMANS: Love that --

JARRETT: David's unworn Oyster Cosmograph was in such pristine condition the appraiser told him it's likely to fetch up to $700,000. David says he purchased the Rolex because he heard it was good for scuba diving. After he took it home, he decided it was a little too nice to submerge in saltwater. Seems like a safe call.

ROMANS: His reaction is so pure. I love it.

JARRETT: Bowled over.

ROMANS: All right.

The next phase of the impeachment trial, senators can submit questions starting today. The biggest question remains, will witnesses have a chance to speak? At this moment, Mitch McConnell doesn't have the votes to block them.