Return to Transcripts main page


Day One of Senate Questions; American Students Trying to Get Out of Shanghai, China; Secretary of State Pompeo in United Kingdom. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 30, 2020 - 04:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Astonishing claims by the president's lawyers. How they played with moderates one day before a critical vote on witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Foreign governments are rushing their citizens out of China to contain the coronavirus. Hear from one American student trying to get out of Shanghai.

JARRETT: And Kobe Bryant's widow breaks her silence. Her emotional tribute to the late NBA legend.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: Good morning, everyone. I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, January 30th, 4:00 a.m. in New York and just four days now to the Iowa caucuses.

Today will be day two of questions for senators in the trial to impeach and remove President Trump. If the 93 questions on day one were any indication, many senators are still waiting for answers. One of Tuesday's more remarkable moments came when Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz rolled out, let's call it a novel legal argument, that before an election, the president's personal interests and the national interests are the same thing.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you're right. Your election is in the public interest. And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.


JARRETT: Let's be crystal clear about what Dershowitz is saying there. That argument envisions almost unchallenged presidential power. Remember the president is accused of trying to bully Ukraine into announcing political investigations against his political rival in exchange for military aid Ukraine needs to fend off Russia.

Another noteworthy moment, the president's legal team argued information from a foreigner is not foreign interference if that information is credible.


PATRICK PHILBIN, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think Congress has specified specific ways in which foreigners cannot be involved in elections. Foreigners can't vote in elections. There are restrictions on foreign contributions to campaign.

Mere information is not something that would violate the campaign finance laws, and if there is credible information, credible information of wrongdoing by someone who is running for a public office, it's not campaign interference for credible information about wrongdoing to be brought to light.


ROMANS: Note that no credible evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden was brought to light even though the president tried to solicit it.

We are inching closer to a make-or-break moment in this trial, a vote on new witnesses. With that in mind maybe the most important question yesterday came from two moderates still on the fence.

Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Laura, it was a long day but it was one that actually had and served a very real purpose for senators on both sides of the aisle, for the House managers and for the president's lawyers. An opportunity, the first opportunity for the senators themselves to ask questions of both sides.

Now, the Chief Justice John Roberts was the one actually asking the questions but senators from both sides, rotating taken back and forth, Republican to Democrat, throughout the course of Wednesday, asked the questions that have been dragging their thought process throughout this process.

And one of the most interesting by far out of dozens upon dozens of questions was a question from Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two moderate Republicans who have made clear they are considering voting yes with Democrats to move forward on considering subpoenas and for witnesses and documents.


JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: Before Vice President Biden formally entered the 2020 presidential race in April of 2019, did President Trump ever mention Joe or Hunter Biden in connection with corruption in Ukraine to former Ukrainian President Poroshenko or other Ukrainian officials, President Trump's cabinet members or top aides or others?

PHILBIN: I think it's important at the outset to frame the answer saying I'm limited to what's in the record and what's in the record is determined by what the House of Representatives sought. So I can't point to something in the record that shows President Trump at an earlier time mentioning specifically something related to Joe or Hunter Biden.


MATTINGLY: It's those answers that really underscored why Democrats during and after the proceedings made clear they believed that the question and answer piece, at least the first part of it on Wednesday, underscored the need for witnesses and for documents. I'm told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is right on the brink of having the votes to defeat that motion to move forward to consider witnesses and documents.

Obviously, this is one day after McConnell said that he didn't have the votes yet, but he's been working hard behind the scenes, private meetings with Murkowski, working with all of his Republican colleagues.


And I should note, if you listen very closely to the White House counsel's arguments throughout the course of Wednesday, they repeatedly made the point that moving forward on witnesses and documents would be problematic because it would make the trial significantly longer, because it would set potential precedent issues that Republicans may come to regret later, a lot of the same arguments McConnell has been making behind closed doors, I'm told.

That said, they still have another full day of questions and answers. Friday, there will be a four-hour debate from both sides on whether or not to move the witnesses and documents. And then there will be a vote. And if that vote goes down, I'm told right now, McConnell plans to move very quickly to try to have a final vote to acquit the president of all charges -- guys.

JARRETT: Phil Mattingly, thanks so much.

So at the center of the witness fight, John Bolton's book. Now, the White House is using an argument about classified information to keep the former National Security adviser's book from seeing the light of the day. Bolton submitted a draft manuscript to the National Security Council for review to make sure no classified material was compromised. Now, a formal threat has been sent to Bolton's lawyer.

ROMANS: A top official at the NSC writes, "The book appears to contain significant amounts of classified information and that could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security."

Bolton's attorney pushing back, saying, "Of the Ukraine related chapter, we do not believe that any of that information could be reasonably considered classified." And it points that if Bolton does testify, much of this matter is sure to come up. Bolton's lawyer is asking for a review of the book to be expedited.

JARRETT: The White House is setting up a coronavirus task force to deal with the potential threat to the United States. President Trump claiming he recently spoke to Chinese President Xi about containing the virus. But that may not be true. The White House confirms the two leaders haven't talked since December.

Nearly 200 Americans flown out of China will stay at a military base in Southern California for at least three days to be monitored. Officials will not set up a blanket quarantine for evacuees from Wuhan, that epicenter of the outbreak. The number of cases in mainland China now tops 7,000, more than doubling since Monday. The virus has killed more than 170 people.

Let's go live to Beijing and bring in CNN's David Culver.

David, what is the latest we're learning from officials there.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that the World Health Organization is going to be holding an emergency meeting today, Laura, and that's possibly where they're going to change the assessment of this from very high here in China and a high risk globally to potentially even a global emergency.

So often when we're talking, we're talking about what's happening within the lockdown and rightfully so. I mean, this is 15 cities, 60 million people and at the core of this, the epicenter it's the city of Wuhan. But outside of that there are also struggles for people. In fact one American student who was studying abroad, who's part of this exchange program, just got to China, to Shanghai, a massive city of 24 million people, three weeks ago.

She's encountering it to be increasingly eerie as she puts it. She says it's almost like a ghost town and it's disturbing for her to see because it's also for her and her classmates in a college that's now closed, becoming increasingly difficult for them to venture out and get food and she says it's risky too because they're risking exposure of themselves.

I want you to listen to her assessment of life in Shanghai as a college student and why she's getting out.


JENNA DAVIDSON, U.S. COLLEGE STUDENT STUDYING IN CHINA: You know, we got here before the outbreak and it went south really quick. I think things unfolded a lot faster than we thought they would. We went from just being, you know, encouraged not to go outside and not go to, like, private places to do not go outside, do not ride the metro. It went from being just a little scary to pretty scary.


CULVER: I asked her what are the stores like when you go there. And Laura, she says it's like zombie land. That's the way she described it. People are fighting over some of the last things on the shelves. She also says that she has booked a flight out, I said where are you going, she said Africa. I said who do you know there? She said no one. It was one of the flights I could get on and I'm leaving. $2,000 is what is costing her to get out but she's determined to do so.

JARRETT: Wow. That's obviously prohibitive for a lot of people. $2,000 is a lot of money.

David, thank you so much. See you soon.

ROMANS: Nine minutes past the hour, the Trump economy is looking a lot like the Obama recovery. Just last week President Trump said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.


ROMANS: And the problem is growth statistics don't show it. In the third quarter of 2019 the economy grew at 2.1 percent. That is not the 3 percent, 4 percent, even 5 percent the president promised from his tax cuts and deregulation. Now GDP figures for the fourth quarter and for the full year of 2019 will be released in just a few hours. Growth in the fourth quarter is likely to be around 2 percent. We've seeing economists lower their expectations for growth at the end of the year.


So far Trump's promises of super charge growth have been elusive. And now there are new uncertainties for 2020. The Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has acknowledged that Boeing's 737 MAX crisis will ding economic growth. Wednesday Boeing posted a net loss of $636 million last year, the first time it has lost money in 22 years because of this crisis. Its core commercial aircraft operation lost $6.7 billion. The coronavirus outbreak is another uncertainty for investors and the global economy.

JARRETT: And obviously just they can't figure out the scope yet so that adds just like that uncertainty to the market.

ROMANS: That's right.

JARRETT: Well, the longest drug smuggling tunnel ever discovered along the Mexico border.


JARRETT: With the team and the city still grieving over Kobe Bryant's death the L.A. Lakers returned to the court Wednesday practicing for the first time since Kobe, his daughter and seven others perished in a helicopter crash. [04:15:02]

Lakers coach Frank Vogel talks about the breaking -- breaking the tragic news to his players.


FRANK VOGEL, LOS ANGELES LAKERS COACH: Some of them had heard -- you know, have seen the reports, some have not. So it's just a daunting task of just grabbing these guys one-on-one. We've become a family in a very short time and, you know, it's something you talk about in the NBA with your team. But this group in particular has really grown to love each other very rapidly.


JARRETT: The Lakers will host Portland tomorrow night at the Staples Center in which should be an emotional night to remember. Also we're hearing from Vanessa Bryant for the first time since her husband and daughter died. Kobe's widow posting a lengthy and heartfelt message on Instagram. It says in part, "My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who have shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all of the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe, the amazing father of our children, and my sweet -- my beautiful sweet Gianna, a loving, thoughtful and wonderful daughter, an amazing sister to Natalia, Bianca and Capri.

"We're also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday and we share in their grief intimately. There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives, I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I'm not sure what our lives hold beyond today and it's impossible to imagine life without them but we wake up each day trying to keep pushing because Kobe and our baby girl Gigi is shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless and that to say immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. I have them here with us forever."

ROMANS: Just tragic.


ROMANS: Just so sorry for all of them and wish them well as they begin this long process to grief.

JARRETT: A long journey. Yes.

ROMANS: All right, 17 minutes past the hour. The secretary of State in the U.K. this morning. Why security cooperation between the U.S. and the United Kingdom could be tested. CNN is live in London.


ROMANS: Just a day away, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the U.K. He'll be speaking to British leaders about security cooperation between the two countries. It's a credible topic now that the British have announced they will announce the Chinese tech company Huawei to help build their 5G network.

Nic Robertson live from London. All right, we've just lost our live chat from Nic but we will come back to him in a moment and get that update on the secretary of State's trip there and these new wrinkles in the relationship between the U.K. and the U.S.

All right. Meanwhile, a drug smuggling tunnel three quarters of a mile long has been discovered between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego County. It's the longest tunnel ever seen along the southwest border. It is 70 feet below ground, there's air ventilation, there's electricity, even an elevator at each entrance, a cart system and rail. It was found by Customs and Border Protection after a multiyear investigation.

JARRETT: And fire at a high rise apartment building in Los Angeles injured 11 people including a 3-month old baby. Officials say the fire started on the sixth floor and quickly spread to the seventh floor of this 25-story building. Video shows people being airlifted to safety from the rooftop. The building has no sprinklers. The fire is considered suspicious and the L.A. arson unit is now investigating.

ROMANS: A Mississippi man accused of faking his own death to avoid prosecution for child rape. Jacob Blaire Scott faces a 14-count indictment for allegedly raping and impregnating his teenage stepdaughter. After failing to appear for a court hearing authorities found his abandoned boat with a suicide note but no evidence he actually killed himself. They believe Scott, an Army veteran, may be living off the grid. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his arrest.

JARRETT: And with Brexit just a day away Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the U.K. He'll be speaking to British leaders about security cooperation between the two countries. It's a critical topic now that the British have announced they will allow Chinese tech company Huawei to build their 5G network.

Nic Robertson is live in London for us.

And Nic, what is the latest you're hearing there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Laura. I mean, just as Britain leaves tomorrow the European Union and it needs that special relationship with the United States to be as strong as ever. There are two major points of -- of discontent of contention here. One of those is over Anne Sacoolas who knocked down and killed allegedly the British -- young British murder cyclist, Harry Dunn, outside an Air Force base and went back to the United States. And of course British authorities trying to get her back to the U.K. to face trial for that.

That is a bone of contentions but the real big issue of course is the Huawei decision. You know, on his way over to the U.K. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he really needed to see what the British decision was going to be and what the implications of it are going to be, and the British who were already sort of committed to the Huawei track and the decision earlier this week by the government to say that Huawei could have access to the British 5G network, to be capped at 35 percent of equipment but only equipment on the periphery. We're talking here about massive antennas.

This likely is going to be the hot topic of conversation. What does it mean? The British think that it's not going to have a knock-on effect on security cooperation between the two countries indeed between all the Five Eyes intelligence -- major intelligence sharers.


And this is a concern. But at the moment the way that it's being played by both sides that we're hearing publicly is that it's just these very general terms and discussions about economic and security issues and future relationships but not anyone saying there's a major falling out over this issue right now. But I don't think it was lost on anyone that the secretary of State had dinner last night at the U.S. embassy and invited significant numbers of the British Cabinet along to that meeting. That's the way to get people's ear and influence but that decision on the Huawei already made. The British committed to it.

JARRETT: Well, there you have it. Thank so much, Nic.

ROMANS: All right, in an ominous sign for the newspaper business Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway is selling its portfolio of 30 local dailies and dozens of weeklies for $140 million. Buffet famously loves the newspaper business. His first job was as paperboy, delivering the "Washington Post." His giving up on the industry is significant and symbolic. The buyer Lee Enterprises adding the titles to its portfolio in new parts of the U.S. including Buffett's town of Omaha. The newspaper business has been declining for decades as the rise of the internet has drained away billions of dollars in advertising money.

JARRETT: All right, moderate senators under close watch one day before voting on witnesses in Donald Trump's impeachment trial. What a full day of questions tells us about their next move.