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GOP Leaders Argue Against Witnesses In Senate Impeachment Trial; Wuhan Coronavirus Continues Global Spread; 50 Troops Now Diagnosed With Brain Injuries. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 29, 2020 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: After he took it home, he decided no, it's too nice to submerge that in saltwater. That's a good call -- a great investment.

All right, EARLY START continues right now.

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 now exceeds the deadly SARS outbreak.

ROMANS: A big 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 a surprising overture in Iowa. Why is the Biden campaign looking for an alliance with Sen. Amy Klobuchar?

ROMANS: That's what caucuses are all about.

JARRETT: It's that time.


JARRETT: Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 -- almost 31 minutes past the hour.

Just days ago, Republicans were confident they had the votes to avoid witnesses at the trial to impeach and remove President Trump. 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 book manuscript.

JARRETT: 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 him testify.


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


JARRETT: Remember, Republicans actually complained about House Democrats holding impeachment interviews in a secure facility.

The National Security Council is still reviewing Bolton's book for classified information. Not clear if they're open to sharing it.

Democrats CNN spoke with rebuffed the idea entirely.

ROMANS: With a 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. And look at this, even among Republicans, more say yes than no.

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

With a look at all of this and 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. It's 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 that 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 a sort of 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 the members in line.

But if Republicans 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: All right, Manu Raju. Another busy day on Capitol Hill.

Well, some trouble brewing for -- some trouble brewing in Iowa for Joe Biden. The Biden campaign confirms a "New York Times" report that says it's reaching out to Sen. Amy Klobuchar's campaign to discuss a possible alliance. The plan would involve a pledge to help each other in precincts where one of them doesn't have enough support in next week's caucuses.

ROMANS: Klobuchar flew to Council Bluffs, Iowa for a rally between the impeachment proceedings and she dismissed the idea of teaming up with anyone.


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

AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), 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. It's a lot of precincts out there. Would you urge them to follow their own instinct? Would you urge them to leave?

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


ROMANS: The bottom line, Klobuchar not directing her people to do anything. It's far more of a sign of recognition on the Biden campaign's part that he needs help in some parts of the state to challenge Bernie Sander and Pete Buttigieg. And this is how caucuses work, right?

JARRETT: Right, but it's interesting that it's now playing out in public.

ROMANS: That's absolutely right.

JARRETT: A little bit more on the behind-the-scenes of what we all know actually happens.


JARRETT: Well, more ahead on all of this.


Plus, the NPR reporter who faced the wrath of Mike Pompeo speaking out after her colleague was banished from the Secretary of State's next trip.


ROMANS: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell telling Republicans in a closed-door meeting he does not currently have the votes to block witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial. Now, Republicans had assumed blocking witnesses wouldn't be a problem until revelations this week about former national security adviser John Bolton's book manuscript.


A person at the meeting emphasizes the vote count is still in flux. The White House pushing hard to wrap up the impeachment trial by the end of this week.

JARRETT: Let's bring in CNN POLITICS senior writer Zach Wolf, live for us this morning in Washington. Zach, good to see you this morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.


JARRETT: So, one thing is clear. The people want to hear witnesses at this trial. Let's look at the latest poll. Look at that -- 75 percent of registered voters think you need to hear from witnesses. And even Republicans think you need to hear from witnesses to make this a real trial.

But just play this out for a little bit. We've talked so much about the House managers -- the Democrats -- pushing for it. If they don't get them after all is said and done -- after Bolton has now put out this trial balloon of sorts -- if the Democrats don't get a single witness, doesn't that help them going forward into an election year?

WOLF: Well, I think what it'll do is help their argument that this has essentially been a coverup by Republicans and by the White House. That they've effectively covered up what President Trump did. That's what you'll hear from Democrats if they don't get any witnesses.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing for them politically. You could say look at it from the perspective of the country and whether we need to know the truth, and then maybe it is. But I think politically, it's not necessarily going to hurt them.

JARRETT: Well, and I think -- I raise the point also because we've made this assumption that witnesses would automatically be good for the Democrats. But Democrats don't know exactly what -- ROMANS: Yes.

JARRETT: -- any of these people would say.

ROMANS: That's a good point.

JARRETT: We now know Bolton, obviously, would provide testimony directly contradicting the president's position on this. But anybody else, we have no idea that they would even be helpful to the Democrats' case.

WOLF: That's right, and we don't know -- like, every -- we talk about witnesses and we mean John Bolton.


ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: It's clear if you listen to what Republicans say that they won't accept just John Bolton. They would want to have Hunter Biden.


WOLF: They would want to call somebody like the whistleblower, maybe.


WOLF: They would want to have someone who they thought would help bolster their case. And that also could hurt Democrats, ultimately -- just particularly with the Bidens, I think, if it became an issue of Hunter Biden having to come up and testify.

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: That is not something Democrats are going to want to allow.

ROMANS: Let's talk a little bit about the GOP strategy here. First, it was sort of -- and I'm paraphrasing that the president didn't do this. It was all perfect and fine. There was nothing -- there's nothing wrong here.

And then it's morphed into but if he did do it, it's not impeachable and we don't want witnesses, but maybe we don't have the votes to prevent witnesses.

What is the risk here of the GOP strategy?

WOLF: Well, and even further than that, after the Bolton revelations, essentially they're saying well, we see what he's done but it's not a big deal. We'll just -- we'll just kind of ignore it.

I think -- you know, they've sort of created a strategy to fit the scenario and it's had to evolve as --

ROMANS: Right. WOLF: -- we've gotten repeated revelations that confirm the basic storyline of the pressure that the president exerted on the Ukrainian -- you know, on the Ukrainian president to the point where you can't deny that pressure existed. It is impossible to say that they didn't hold up military aid for political favors, essentially, at this point.

And so, Republicans have gotten to the point where they've basically just had to say well, we just have to be OK with it.

JARRETT: Zach, we got a blast from the past. John Kelly, the president's former chief of staff, backing John Bolton. Not somebody who was necessarily a friend of his in the White House. They used to clash when he was there.

Take a listen to what he told a Tampa newspaper yesterday.


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: He didn't have to say that. What do you make of him coming out and especially, the timing of this?

WOLF: You know, I think that that is really an important point because as you said, they weren't exactly the best of friends in the White House. However, they did work in the White House together.

John Kelly knows all of the players involved in this intimately --


WOLF: -- and all of the people who are still there who are backing the president and essentially denying what Bolton says or attacking his credibility.

John Kelly is saying that's not true -- you have to listen to John Bolton -- which basically confirms for a lot of people the entire storyline that Bolton is --

ROMANS: Right.

WOLF: -- apparently selling.

ROMANS: Thanks, Zach Wolf, CNN POLITICS senior writer. Thanks for getting up early for us. Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Thank you.

JARRETT: Good to see you, Zach.

Well, the number of confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in Mainland China has now 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 all of that -- David.


Yes, the Americans you're referencing who are likely to come here to China are scientists. We expect them to be part of the CDC and they will likely work alongside with Chinese scientists and members of the World Health Organization in trying to figure out more about this deadly virus. They're trying to figure out, in particular, how exactly it transmits from one person to another.

And they hope to understand a little bit better what the quarantine situation should be for folks going forward. And that's particularly pertinent, for example, as Americans who are currently on that plane headed to that military base in California. Right now, the quarantine period for them is expected to be anywhere from three days all the way until two weeks' time. That's when it's really considered to be likely that the virus won't transmit.

But still, they don't know, and that's what the scientists working together and collaborating on this would likely bring some resolution to.

Meantime, there were some Americans who did not make it on that flight -- Americans who are still within the epicenter of all of this -- the city of Wuhan. And they are determined to try to find a way out. I mean, they don't know if that's going to be by ground or if there are going to be other flights that'll be offered to them.

But rather, they're kind of hopeless right now, I can tell you, Laura -- that they're trying to figure out which way they could go from here so that they're no longer exposing themselves and their families. As of now, they're still kind of hunkering down and just hoping for the best really -- Laura.

JARRETT: Yes, the quarantine effort is really key here and how it affects the economy. American businesses telling folks to stay home if they have been, obviously, in Wuhan.

David, thank you so much.

ROMANS: A grim milestone for the Trump economy. New estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show under current law, debt held by the public will rise from a post-war record 80 percent of the economy to above 98 percent by the year 2030. Now, the president campaigned to shrink or even eliminate the deficit and boom times, in theory, should make that easier -- but not this time. The deficit is ballooning because of the 2017 tax cuts and the two-year budget deal that increased federal spending. That deficit, of course, adds to the pile of national debt, which has topped $22 trillion in the first two years of the Trump administration and is forecast to hit $31.4 trillion in the next decade.

Now, the CBO warns too much debt reduces national savings, reduces national income. It costs the government more in interest payments. It limits policymakers' ability to respond to unexpected events, and it raises the likelihood of a fiscal crisis.

We'll be right back.



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

CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us.


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 and 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-Assad air base in Iraq back on January eighth. That set off this massive blast wave from 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 forward 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. Thanks so much for that report.

And now to this. A National Public Radio reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, with a fierce defense of the First Amendment after that dustup with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Kelly writing in a "New York Times" op-ed "There is a reason it

matters that people in positions of power be held to account. The stakes are too high for their impulses and decisions not to be examined in as thoughtful and rigorous an interview as is possible."

She says Pompeo shouted and swore at her after an interview where she questioned him about Iran and the Ukraine scandal.

ROMANS: Now, Pompeo claims Kelly lied about the questions she would ask. E-mails appear to refute that claim, but President Trump has the secretary's back.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That reporter couldn't have done too good a job on you yesterday, huh? I think you did a good job on here, actually.



ROMANS: Laughter in the room. Journalists in the room looked at each other in disbelief in the back. Again, this was a press briefing about Middle East peace.

The State Department has yet to explain why a different NPR reporter was removed from Pompeo's travel pool for a trip he is leaving for as we speak. The State Department Correspondents' Association says it looks like retaliation because the Secretary of State did not like the tough questions he was asked. NPR has not been told whether it's a one-off or a full-blown ban.

JARRETT: That helicopter in the crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others 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 mountain by 20 to 30 feet. The pilot said he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer.


Christina Mauser was also killed in that crash. She was an assistant girls' basketball coach in Corona Del Mar, California. Her husband Matt spoke to CNN about how their kids are coping.


MATT MAUSER, HUSBAND OF HELICOPTER CRASH VICTIM CHRISTINA MAUSER: My little one, her birthday's next week. That's the hard part. She's going to be four. And so, her birthdays on the fourth and so I'm trying to navigate that.

And she kind of doesn't understand but she does know -- she used to -- I mean, I'd walk in and she would call for mom -- where's mom? I want mom -- mommy, mommy. And now I walk in and she doesn't call for her. So, it's bittersweet because I want her to still call for her mom. But it's hard to put her down when she's calling for mom, so I think she gets it. And she knows we're grieving. She says don't cry.

And then my son is a little more quiet. He has outbursts. He's very sensitive.

So, I try to do physical activities with him. I let him hit a pillow. I kind of let him get it out.

And I hold him and I hug him, and I kiss him and I tell him mom loves you and I love you. I give him a hug from mom and I give him a hug from me and I move on.

And then my daughter is -- she's 11 and her friends are really important, so that's nice. Because she played on Kobe's smaller team, the Mamba -- Little Mambas -- so she knows the whole -- she knows everybody as well.

And, Kobe absolutely loved my daughter.


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

JARRETT: A Maryland police officer is charged with murder, accused of shooting and killing a suspect handcuffed inside his 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 that Green was under the influence of drugs. Owen also faces manslaughter and weapons charges.

ROMANS: Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves shutting down a notoriously violent unit of a state prison where nine inmates have died in the past month. The Department of Corrections will close Unit 29 of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

Three prisoners were found hanging in their cells in just the last week. A lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of more than two dozen inmates, citing inhumane conditions.

JARRETT: Kansas lawmakers are making a bipartisan effort to make sexual battery of a spouse illegal. Incredibly, it is not against the law in the state right now. The existing law defines sexual battery as the touching of a victim who is not the spouse.

Kansas' House Judiciary Committee just voted to advance a bill that amends the law to remove that spousal exception. Last year, the identical bill was floated and did not pass in committee. And a must-see moment on "ANTIQUES ROADSHOW." David, an Air Force veteran in Fargo, North Dakota, was trying to find out the value of his Rolex watch. He bought it back in 1974 for just $346.00.


APPRAISER, "ANTIQUES ROADSHOW": A watch like this at auction is worth about $400,000.

DAVID, AIR FORCE VETERAN: (Falls to the ground).



JARRETT: I think he is OK because it gets even better. 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 too nice to submerge in saltwater.

ROMANS: Wow, I love that story. I love his reaction.

JARRETT: It's just the fact that he doesn't even say anything. He just keels over.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY ON PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: Danger, danger, danger. These articles must be rejected. The Constitution requires it.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): The conscience of the Senate ought to be to seek the truth.

JARRETT: Sen. Mitch McConnell is telling Republicans he does not have the votes to block witnesses.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Is there a chance that we might get a vote to allow witnesses and documents, yes. Is it also an uphill fight, yes.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): When Chuck Schumer says I just want to be fair, that's such baloney.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): They just want to drag this on. They're playing a delay game.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Are we going to say that in order to get relevant witnesses we're going to let the president's team turn this into some kind of a circus? I don't think the senators want that.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.