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Senate Vote on Witnesses Likely Tomorrow; Rush to Evacuate from China; Kobe Bryant's Widow Breaks Her Silence; Secretary of State Pompeo in United Kingdom. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 30, 2020 - 05:00   ET


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Or a head eating it's own ass because I'm pretty sure you pulled that argument right out of the old Dershy highway.




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's literally for that (INAUDIBLE) --

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, he did set himself up with the circular argument.

ROMANS: All right.

JARRETT: Well, thanks so much to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: Astonishing claims by the president's lawyers. How they played with moderates one day before a critical vote on witnesses in the impeachment trial.

JARRETT: Foreign governments rushing citizens out of China to contain the coronavirus. Hear from one American student trying to get out of Shanghai.

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

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

JARRETT: And Laura Jarrett. It's Thursday, January 30th, 5:00 a.m. in the East, just four days until the Iowa caucuses.

Today will be two of -- today will be 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.


ROMANS: That argument envisions almost unchallenged presidential power. Remember the president is accused of trying to bully Ukraine into announcing political investigations in exchange for military aid Ukraine needs to fend off Russia.

Another noteworthy moment here, 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 election. 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's running for a public office, it's not campaign interference for credible information about wrongdoing to be brought to light.


JARRETT: 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're 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 for us.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Laura, it was a long day but 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 were taken back and forth Republican and Democrat throughout the course of Wednesday, asking questions that have been driving 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 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 on 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 he didn't have the votes yet, but he's been working hard behind the scenes, private meetings with Murkowski, working with all his Republican colleagues. 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: All right. Phil, thanks so much.

Well, at the center of the witness fight, John Bolton's book. Now, the White House is claiming classified information should keep the 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 a lawyer for the former national security advisor.

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 the attorney points out if Bolton does testify, much of the material is sure to come up. Bolton's lawyer is asking for a review of the book to be expedited.

JARRETT: I think what's important to remember here is obviously prepublication review is something you would normally go through before a book like this is published. But the issue here is one of timing and whether they're going to try to hold it up so he can't testify in time.

ROMANS: Right.

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

Stay with us.



JARRETT: The White House is setting up a coronavirus task force to deal with the potential threat to the United States. 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 setup a blanket quarantine for evacuees from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Several foreign governments are evacuating or making plans to repatriate their citizens.

The number of cases in mainland China now tops 7,000, more than doubling since Monday. The virus has also killed more than 170 people.

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

David, I know the World Health Organization is meeting today. What do you expect to come out of that? DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's possible,

Laura, that they could change the assessment of this virus and this outbreak as a whole. It's currently assessed as being a high risk and very high here within China in particular. Globally, they could declare this an emergency.

Now that matters because it could change how much attention it really gets from the international community, also funding which is a huge matter in how they're going to ultimately fight this.

Meantime, I do want to tell you about this. We're just learning according to Russia state media that the far eastern border that Russia shares with China will be shutdown. They are closing that. It comes after Russia has suspended charter flights as well as tour operations.

And you mentioned the flights to get Americans out. I'm hearing through an automated e-mail that the State Department has put out that they're intending to start another flight on February 3rd. So they're trying to get more Americans out of the lockdown zone.

But I've got to tell you, there are other Americans also in other cities here in mainland China that are concerned. They feel like as though they need to get out.

I spoke to one American college student. She's studying abroad and she said the stores are empty. People are fighting over the last items of food on the shelves. She's in Shanghai, a major city. Twenty-four million people live there and she says it feels like a ghost town.

Here's her assessment of it.


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 private places to do not go outside, do not ride the metro. It went from being just a little scary to pretty scary.


CULVER: She spent all of yesterday looking for flights. She found one. I said, where are you going? She said Africa. I said, who do you know there? She says no one, just a flight to get out of here. Her friends are going, Laura, to Hawaii, London.

Likewise, she's trying to get on the plane. Hers costs $2,000. She's hoping to get some reimbursement, but, really, her focus right now, just getting out.

JARRETT: You really get the sense that it's the uncertainty that is so unnerving and scary for folks.

David, thanks so much for all that reporting as usual. ROMANS: And the flu season has been really ugly this year, too.

JARRETT: At the same time --

ROMANS: Yes, don't touch my stuff.


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



JARRETT: 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's 70 feet below ground. There's air ventilation, electricity, even an elevator at each entrance. It was found by Customs and Border Protection after a multiyear investigation.

ROMANS: All right. In her first public comments since Sunday's tragic accident, Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa says she is devastated.

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

Really just a heartbreaking post from her in Instagram, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Christine. Good morning to you.

Vanessa Bryant, of course, lost her husband Kobe and 13-year-old daughter Gigi in that crash Sunday. And she posted on Instagram last night thanking everyone for all the support that she's received.

And along with this family picture, Vanessa said, there aren't enough words to describe our pain right now. She went onto say, I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew 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.

Now, Vanessa also announcing that a fund has been setup to support the other families affected by this tragedy.

To donate you can visit

Now, the Lakers, meanwhile, getting back to practice yesterday afternoon. The players did not speak with the media. The head coach Frank Vogel said they will do so when they're ready. The Lakers will return to the court Friday night at Staples Center. Coach Vogel says this tragedy, it's brought the team closer together.


FRANK VOGEL, LOS ANGELES LAKERS COACH: It's just strengthened what we felt all year about our current group which is a, you know, we've become a family in a very short time and, you know, it's something talked about in the NBA with your teams. But this group in particular has really grown to love each other very rapidly, and you know we understand the importance and opportunity we have this year. And, you know, this has just brought us closer together.


SCHOLES: The Brooklyn Nets meanwhile with a touching tribute. They left the two court side seats Kobe and his daughter Gigi sat in earlier this season empty with flowers on them. Kobe's friend Kyrie Irving getting very emotional. Kyrie considered Kobe a mentor and said their relationship was much deeper than basketball.

Now, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is one of the many players who went to Kobe for advice, and one of the things they talked about was how to commute southern California. Kawhi says since moving to L.A. last year, he began using a helicopter to get to and from his home in San Diego. And Kawhi says Kobe's pilot, Ara Zobayan, who died in Sunday's crash flew him as well many times.


KAWHI LEONARD, NBA PLAYER: He was one of their best pilots. That's a guy who you ask for to fly you from city to city. It's just surreal still for me. He'll drop me off and say he's about to pick up Kobe. Kobe said hello, or he'll, you know, just be like, I just dropped Kobe off, and he said, hello, and vice versa.

So, it's just a crazy interaction. He's a good dude. I'm sorry for everybody.


SCHOLES: All right, here in Miami, preparations continue for Super Bowl LIV. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saying yesterday that the league will honor Kobe in some fashion during the game but he did not offer any details about that.

Now, one of the few players in this game with Super Bowl experience, is the 49ers Richard Sherman. He played in this game twice with the Seahawks.

Sherman's son Rayden's fifth birthday is just three days after the Super Bowl and he actually asked dad for a championship ring for his birthday. And I asked Sherman yesterday how much more special this Super Bowl experience for him now that his son can understand what's going on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD SHERMAN, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS CORNERBACK: It's unbelievable. I mean, that's one of the best parts of this experience and that's what makes it so much different and so much -- and it gives you so much more perspective because he's so aware of it. He's fully aware. He's like, hey, that's a Super Bowl helmet. You got here in Super Bowl, if you win, you get the championship trophy. He completely understands it, and that's what's so cool to me.

It really gives you something to fight for and give you something to go out there and it will be a special memory and something he'll remember forever if we're able to get it done.


SCHOLES: And, Christine, I also asked Sherman, you know, what is the plan if they win? Does the son get the ring? He didn't really elaborate. Maybe he's going to have to get him his own little replica.

ROMANS: I can't imagine that big ring on a five-year-old's hand would stay on too well.

SCHOLES: Yes, take it to school.

ROMANS: Chain around the neck.

All right. Nice to see you, Andy Scholes.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Super Bowl weekend coming up.

Laura, what's coming up?

JARRETT: Your boys would probably love that, right?

ROMANS: Oh, yes, absolutely. They love the Seahawks. They love Sherman from the Seahawks. And now, they have their divided loyalties this weekend.

JARRETT: It's great.

All right. Well, coming up next moderate senators under close watch one day before voting on witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial. What a full day of questions tells us about their next move.



ROMANS: With Brexit just a day away, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the U.K. Security cooperation a critical topic now that the British announced they will allow the Chinese tech company Huawei to help build their 5G network.

Nic Robertson live from London.

And this was a disappointment to the White House, that development.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, it was. I mean, look, I think perhaps the Huawei and that decision is a headline.

Some of the sub-headlines, though is this is a British government that really gets along well with this particular administration of the United States. There's an alignment on Iran pretty much more -- certainly more so than the last British Prime Minister Theresa May. There's alignment more so on Yemen. There's alignment more so, it appears, on the United States Middle East peace plan.

And those were all things that were subject of conversations with the foreign secretary yesterday. But, yes, Huawei is a huge deal here in the U.K. You know, it's really widely recognized that Britain is cutting its bridges with the European Union, and it's going to rely more on its relationship with the United States and that trade deal has yet to be cut in doing something that upsets Donald Trump is not something that sits well with all of Boris Johnson's cabinet.