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McConnell: Votes Aren't There Yet to Block Witnesses; 200 Americans Evacuated from Wuhan, China; 50 U.S. Troops with Brain Injuries from Iran Attack; Biden Team's Overture to Klobuchar; Trump Unveils Mideast Peace Plan; Super Bowl LIV: 49ers Versus Chiefs. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 29, 2020 - 05:00   ET


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

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

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

ROMANS: And the surprising overture in Iowa. Why is the Biden campaign looking for an alliance with Amy Klobuchar. Cue the caucuses. The horse trading begins.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett, it's Wednesday, January 29th, 5:00 a.m. in the East. Just five days until the Iowa caucuses.

Just days ago, Republicans were confident they had the votes to avoid witnesses at the trial to impeach and remove President Trump. But now, not so much. 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 draft book manuscript.

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


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


ROMANS: Remember, Republicans 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. And Democrats CNN spoke with rebuffed the idea.

JARRETT: With the Senate vote on witnesses looming later this week, polls showing 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, CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us.



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.


ROMANS: All right, Manu. Thank you for that. John Bolton upended 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?

JARRETT: 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.


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

ROMANS: All right. To the coronavirus now. 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 will 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.

Good morning, David.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christine, good morning to you. Yes, the Americans who are expected to come would likely be scientists, likely part of the CDC, so as to better understand this virus.

President Xi Jinping met with the head of the world health organization yesterday. In that meeting, decided to allow international scientists to come together in a collaborative effort to try to figure out what more they could learn about the coronavirus. This could obviously help as they figure out how it transmits from one person to another, and they could figure out what really is effective as far as quarantine is concerned.

Now you mentioned that flight of Americans, 240 Americans, mostly U.S. diplomats and their family members, headed back to California where they will likely be quarantined from anywhere from 3 to 14 days. But they went through a lot of rigorous health tests really to get to the U.S. we know two of the health tests happened in Wuhan, before they left. They went through one conducted by Chinese officials, another by U.S. officials.

And then when they stopped at Anchorage, Alaska, to refuel, they went through a third screening. In fact, we were looking at images at one point that showed people on the grounds, the ground crew in kind of containment -- really protective suits, if you will, the hazmat suits that you see.


That's what they were wearing, showing you how cautious they're being.

And other Americans are still eager to get out. We know there are roughly 1,000 U.S. citizens within the city of Wuhan. I have talked to several who did not make it on to that aircraft because they opened up a select number of seats for folks who could apply to be on it.

But they're desperate to get out. I can tell you they're trying to figure out other means. One person telling me they're going to try to reach out to the U.K. and see if British authorities could help them get on one of their flights. But as of now, we know that the U.S. embassy says they're trying to work out ground transportation, Christine. We're not really clear what exactly that will look like.

ROMANS: And we know companies -- big companies are saying if you've been in China and you're back in your home country now, stay -- stay home for a couple of weeks. You know, don't come into the office, work from home.

All right. David culver, thank you so much from Beijing.


JARRETT: Well, there's trouble brewing in Iowa for Joe Biden. The former vice president's campaign confirms a "New York Times" report that says it's reaching out to Senator 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.

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


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.


ROMANS: Bottom line, Klobuchar's not directing her people to do anything. It's far more a sign of a recognition on Biden's part that he needs help in some parts of the state to challenge Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. And --

JARRETT: This is how caucuses works.

ROMANS: A reminder that this is how caucusing works. You start with your guy or woman in this case, right. If you don't have enough in the room, then your group of supporters goes someplace else and you bulk up someplace --

JARRETT: The second choice matters --

ROMANS: That's how caucusing works.

JARRETT: Well, the president's plan for the Middle East -- embraced by the Israelis, dismissed by the Palestinians. Hear from the president's top adviser who crafted the plan, Jared Kushner. Just wait until you hear what he had to say.



ROMANS: 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.

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.

Well, the remains of two U.S. service members have been recovered from the wreckage of that military aircraft that crashed in Afghanistan on Monday. The victims' names are being withheld until their next of kin have been notified. Pentagon officials tell CNN U.S. forces destroyed remnants of the aircraft and disabled sensitive equipment at the crash site. Reports also indicates there was a distress call from the crew indicating some type of problem.

ROMANS: All right. Two NBA legends pay tribute to their fellow Laker great inside the house that Kobe built.

Andy Scholes with the "Bleacher Report", next.



JARRETT: An impeached president and indicted prime minister trying to make peace in the Middle East.

President Trump standing with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu put forward a Mideast plan that he called, quote, realistic two-state solution. But the proposal caters to nearly every major Israeli demand, and Palestinian leaders immediately rejected it.

Speaking to CNN, Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, who helped craft the 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 --


JARRETT: Not holding back there.

CNN's Oren Liebermann has the latest from Jerusalem where he joins us live.

Oren, it's clearly why the Israelis would like the plan. What do the Palestinians get out of it?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Palestinians, at least according to the Trump administration's vision for Middle East peace, get massive investment to the tune of $50 billion, about half of that going to the Palestinians, half going to other countries in the region.

They get nominally their own state. President Trump did say the words "two-state solution," and talked about a future state of Palestine, but that's about it. Other than that, they get a few neighborhoods in the outskirts of Jerusalem, not close to what the international consensus is on east Jerusalem as the future of the capital of a Palestinian state. So there's very little in this for the Palestinians to like or any reason for them to come back to the table when it comes to speaking with the U.S.

Meanwhile, for Israel, this is exactly what they were looking for. There is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vision for peace. It is essentially the status quo as it is, formulized as parts of Israel. Israel's allowed to annex all of the Jordan Valley and all of the settlements in the west bank.


The Trump administration giving Israel the green light to proceed with that next week.

Netanyahu had promised on Sunday because of procedural reasons, it will be delayed by a few days, but this is the dream of not only Netanyahu but Israel's right wing and the settlement movement in the West Bank. This is exactly what they were looking for.

The question is, at this point, what opportunities do the Palestinians have? That answer is not all that much. They needed or wanted to see an outright rejection from the Arab states. Instead they heard the Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE urging them to come to the negotiating table on this plan under the auspices of the U.S.

JARRETT: Oren, thanks so much. See you soon.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty minutes past the hour. The NBA on TNT crew paid an emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant during last night's pregame show.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report" from Miami -- Andy.


The Lakers, you know, they haven't played since Sunday's tragic crash. And they postponed last night's scheduled game against the Clippers as the organization just remains in a state of shock. Instead of the game, the "Inside the NBA" guys holding an emotional tribute to Kobe, sitting at center court at Staple Center. And grief-stricken NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal and Jerry West, they teared up as they continue to mourn Kobe's death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, KOBE BRYANT'S FORMER TEAMMATE: We're not going to be able to joke at his hall of fame ceremony. We're not going to be able to say, ha, I got five, you got four. The fact that we're not going to be able to say if we could stay together we would have got ten, those are the things you can't get back. And with the loss of my father and my sister, that's the only thing I wish I could say something to him.

JERRY WEST, FORMER LAKERS GENERAL MANAGER: Honestly, I felt like his father for two years. I don't know if I can get over this. I really don't.


SCHOLES: Lakers' next home game is scheduled for Friday night against the Portland Trailblazers.

Now, meanwhile, just two days after losing coach John Altobelli, Orange Coast college's baseball team honored him with a moment of silence before yesterday's season opener. Altobelli, his wife Keri, and daughter were among the nine killed in the crash. Pilots players wore orange shirts with the number 14 on their backs and the words "forever a pirate" on the front of those shirts. Altobelli leaves behind a 16-year-old daughter and 29-year-old son.

All right. Meanwhile here in Miami, the Chiefs and 49ers continue to prepare for Super Bowl LIV. The 49ers trying to win their sixth Super Bowl title, that would tie them for most all time.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, they've only won once, that was way back in 1969. Their fans, they waited a long time for this game. The team knows how much it would mean to the city of Kansas City to deliver their first title in 50 years.


ERIC FISHER, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS OFFENSIVE TACKLE: The good, the bad, the ugly. Chiefs fans, Chiefs kingdom is there, supporting us. And you know, we're just -- we're doing our best for them.

FRANK CLARK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS DEFENSIVE END: It would mean the world. 50 years, man, guys haven't seen the championship. It's about time we put a -- put the Lombardi trophy in our museum.

PATRICK MAHONES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QUARTERBACK: The passion that they show every single time we're at Arrowhead it really is amazing. We want to make sure we can bring a trophy home to them.


SCHOLES: You know, Christine, 50 years say long time.

ROMANS: Sure is.

SCHOLES: Chiefs fans -- many waiting their whole lives for this moment. That's why the tickets for the Super Bowl are out of control. A nosebleed seat right now, Christine, on StubHub, going to cost more than $5,000.

ROMANS: For nosebleed seat. Wow. All right. Andy Scholes. Nice to see you from Miami. Thanks.

Laura, what's coming up?

JARRETT: Neither one of us is going to Super Bowl clearly.


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



JARRETT: The FBI arresting the chairman of Harvard's chemistry and chemical biology report. 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. Leber signed a lucrative contract with Wuhan University of Technology and even established a research lab there without Harvard's knowledge.

ROMANS: All right. A must-see moment on "Antiques Road Show." David, an air force veteran in Fargo, North Dakota, was trying to figure out the value of his Rolex watch. He bought it in 1974 for $346.


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




ROMANS: That reaction is just so wonderful.

JARRETT: No words.

ROMANS: It gets even better. David's unworn Oyster Cosmograph was in such pristine condition, it's likely to fetch up to $700,000. He says -- David says he bought the watch, the Rolex because he heard it was good for scuba diving. After he took it home he decided it's too nice to submerge that in saltwater. That's a good call, great investment.

All right. EARLY START continues right now."