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EARLY START

Team Trump Offers Remarkable Legal Answers; White House Setting Up Coronavirus Task Force; Vanessa Bryant Breaks Her Silence. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 30, 2020 - 05:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:30:00]

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This is not something that sits well with all of Boris Johnson's cabinet.

Last night, Sec. Pompeo had dinner with a bunch of cabinet members at the United States embassy here. Among the cabinet members, the Home Sec. Priti Patel, who's been critical of Britain's Huawei decision. The decision is you can use some Huawei equipment -- 35 percent is the cap -- use it on antennae, on masks (ph), periphery equipment.

But the real question is how much is that going to impact the special relationship with the United States, and that's going to be at the heart of Sec. Pompeo's discussion with the British prime minister and with the foreign secretary. Britain's foreign secretary says because of the research the U.K. has done it knows more than any other country about the security implications.

But this is a major choice right now Britain faces looking forward -- new geostrategic alignments in the world and trying to figure out who's your trusted friend and who's an untrustworthy trading partner in the future. So, no doubt, big stuff on the table.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. All right, Nic Robertson for us in London. Thank you so much for that, Nic.

EARLY START continues right now.

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 impeachment trial.

ROMANS: Foreign governments rushing 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.

Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett. Thanks so much for joining us.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour this Thursday morning.

And 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 -- well, 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 an impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: 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 -- the president's legal team argued information from a foreigner is not foreign interference is that information is credible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 campaigns.

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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 back and forth, Republican to Democrat, throughout the course of Wednesday -- asked the 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 Sens. 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 for witnesses and documents.

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: Before Vice President Biden formally entered the 2020 presidential race in April 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 by bringing -- and 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.

[05:35:20]

MATTINGLY: It's those answers that really underscored why Democrats, during and after the proceedings, made clear they believe 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 listened 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, there's still another full day of questions and answers. Friday there will be a four-hour debate from both sides on whether or not to move to 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 and have a final vote to acquit the president of all charges -- guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Phil.

JARRETT: Thanks so much, Phil.

More ahead on all this. Plus, a desperate search for a missing 1-week- old baby takes some bizarre twists. Who's alive, who's dead, and who else police are looking for.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:40:57]

ROMANS: All right. We could now be entering the final stretch of President Trump's impeachment trial. The big day is tomorrow with a vote expected on whether to call new witnesses. Depending on how that goes, maybe even a verdict.

Today, a second day of questions from senators to lawyers on both sides.

JARRETT: Joining us now, "Washington Post" congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian, a CNN political analyst. Thanks so much for getting up with us, Karoun.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good to see you, Laura.

JARRETT: OK. Alan Dershowitz, the president's lawyer, makes I think just a jaw-dropping claim. The idea that if the president thinks he's doing something in the national interest which, of course, all presidents --

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: -- think that they're doing something in the national interest -- that that can't be impeachable.

I mean, how is this being received on Capitol Hill? You have such great sources. Are Republicans bristling at this?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean, first of all, that argument landed with a shockwave for Democrats.

JARRETT: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: In fact, he's saying that the president believes his reelection is in the national interest and anything he does can't be -- a quid pro quo can't be considered something that's impeachable. That blew a lot of Democrats' minds and kind of set Republicans

reeling. Because remember, at the beginning of this week, Republican senators were saying oh, Alan Dershowitz, he gave us the lens through which to look at this and even if what Bolton is saying is 100 percent true it doesn't matter because it can't be impeachable.

And then Dershowitz goes one step further and basically makes this carte blanche if the president thinks that what he's doing to stay president is in the national interest then we can't question that.

And they were really scrambling. I spoke to a few Republican senators who tried to convince me that no, no, he was just talking about mixed messages. That was a different question entirely.

ROMANS: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: And then, when we finally pinned them on look, this is exactly verbatim what he said -- how do you explain that -- the response was like well, you know, I'm not really a constitutional lawyer. He means it more in the context of Ukraine, which that is not what Dershowitz said.

So it's kind of set Republicans in a little bit of a pirouette mode because Dershowitz gave them this framework and the perfect kind of lens through which to explain why they didn't want to bring in Bolton and other witnesses, and now that's been made very awkward.

But it hasn't necessarily shifted votes and I think that is the main question there. Does the uncomfortableness of what Dershowitz said --

ROMANS: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: -- actually change anybody's opinion. That I haven't seen.

ROMANS: I mean, this is the branch -- a branch of Congress -- a branch of government that is meant to be a check on the power of the presidency and he's making this argument to the very people who are supposed to be a check on the president.

DEMIRJIAN: Right.

ROMANS: If you thought that impeachment was -- would chasten the president's behavior, he's making the argument that no, there's nothing to be chastened. In fact, he should have more power.

So, what -- how does that influence these senators? What is the state of play on these key senators who might be on the fence here about whether to call witnesses?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, I think that you could tell kind of where the mindset -- or at least try to prognosticate a little bit about where the senators might be voting on the witness issue by looking and listening at the -- to the questions that were asked.

I thought it was striking that the first question was put forward by Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney. I mean, we're not watching them or anything, right, of course? Which they were asking about what if the president had two motives -- one that was on the up- and-up and one that was more personally and politically motivated -- what about then?

Phil referred in the last segment to the Collins and Murkowski question about when did the president start to mention the Bidens. There was also the Romney question about when did the president actually start to decide to put the freeze on Ukraine aid.

But you can also start to take cues by who was asking different questions. I mean, Lamar Alexander did not ask a question.

We've been looking at Jerry Moran but he joined with Kennedy to ask if the -- what Hunter Biden did for his Burisma money.

Same deal with looking at -- sorry, I'm just looking at my notes right now -- Mike Crapo, who joined Cruz and Graham to ask if the Burisma investigation was in the national interest.

So those seem like alliances there on questions -- or at least partnerships on questions that maybe suggest that other senators we thought might be in play maybe aren't as much in play as we thought they were.

And it all kind of comes down to whether Mitch McConnell is going to be able to get that last fourth Republican to stay on his side of the fence or if somebody else will end up joining the Democrats. It seems like from the nature of the questions, potentially, Collins, Murkowski, Romney open to voting for witnesses and the fourth one has not yet revealed themself.

JARRETT: You know, we've really just scratched the surface of everything that has happened with all these questions and answers. A lot has actually come out. And for the benefit of our viewers, I just want to walk through a few of these.

[05:45:06]

So, yesterday we learned for the first time, that Congressman Engel actually talked to Bolton and Bolton told him to look into the ouster of the former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch back in September.

We also learned that Mitt Romney -- he was asking questions about when Trump first ordered that hold on the Ukraine aid. The Trump team couldn't respond.

Sen. Rand Paul wanted to talk about the whistleblower -- wanted to out him -- and the chief justice basically wouldn't even ask the question.

We also saw Sen. Manchin. He's open to having Hunter Biden as a witness. Notable, obviously, a red-state Democrat there.

And then finally, Bernie Sanders stepped off the Senate floor while the proceedings were still underway to call into his rally. He might get some pushback there. But I want to focus just if we could, Karoun, on Engel and what he did there with Bolton. I mean, the timing is interesting. He says it was because the president tweeted about Bolton, essentially saying why are we just hearing this now? You didn't complain when you were fired. And, Engel saying well, actually, we did know and he called me.

DEMIRJIAN: Right. I mean, look, if you look at the timing of when this phone call happened on September 23rd -- or excuse me, it was in mid-September. I forget the exact date.

But at that point, the House had already -- Engel's committee, Schiff's committee, and the Oversight Committee already said that look, we're looking into Ukraine here. They had announced that in early September. So the idea that there would be people calling in and saying maybe look at this, that, and the other not that surprising.

But the fact that it was Bolton --

JARRETT: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: -- right after he had left office --

JARRETT: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: -- it shows you that he had these concerns and he was trying to sow -- at least alert people on the Hill that maybe there's something you really should look at here that is untoward.

And the fact that Engel is now bringing this up at this juncture is -- you know, we've been talking in bits and pieces about was Yovanovitch threatened, was there something else going on here with her ouster.

The president -- it's been one of the more -- established, kind of, the president's mindset from early on and how long he was looking at Ukraine and the Giuliani influence campaign to try to get him to potentially push Ambassador Yovanovitch out of the way so he could what he wanted to do in terms of trying to influence the Ukrainian leadership.

Yovanovitch is kind of like a piece of this that goes to the table setting. She's not really the impeachable offense -- alleged impeachable offense because she's not the Ukraine aid being held up.

ROMANS: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: She is not the quid pro quo, right? But she's kind of like the opening chapter in the opening book to establishing what the president's mindset is.

And as you saw through the Dershowitz argument, through other arguments that Philbin was making, what the president's mindset is is very, very pivotal in determining whether people think he should or should not be convicted on these impeachment charges.

And so, that's why this has become such a central part of the conversation happening around the debate on the floor and why it's interesting that Engel puts this out right now as we're nearing the -- basically, the penultimate stage of this trial.

JARRETT: Yes, and she's important. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York --

ROMANS: Yes.

JARRETT: -- are looking at that ouster.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes.

JARRETT: Looking at the security situation.

DEMIRJIAN: Right.

JARRETT: So I think there's more to come on all of this.

ROMANS: Yes.

Karoun Demirjian, congressional reporter from "The Washington Post" and a CNN political analyst. Nice to see you.

JARRETT: Good to see you.

DEMIRJIAN: Good to see you, too.

ROMANS: All right.

The White House is setting up a coronavirus task force to deal with the potential threat to the U.S. Nearly 200 Americans flown out of China will stay at a military base in Southern California for at least three days to be monitored.

Now, officials will not set up a blanket quarantine for evacuees from Wuhan. That's 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 killed more than 170 people.

Let's go live to Beijing and bring in CNN's David Culver. David, we understand Russia now closing its border with China.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christine. We're hearing this just in the past 30 minutes or so and this is according to Russian state media. They're suggesting their far eastern border alongside with China -- they're going to shut that down. They're going to close it.

And it comes after that they have already suspended some tourism that comes really into China from Russia. They've also suspended some charter flights.

Now, add to that what you mentioned as far as the evacuation -- people trying to get out of Mainland China. We know that there are still hundreds of Americans within the city of Wuhan, as well as those who are within Hubei Province as a whole, who are eager to get out of the locked-down area.

But it goes beyond that. There are Americans in other parts of Mainland China that I've spoken with, such as a young American in Qinghai. She's trying to get out.

She describes the situation as she's been studying abroad there as rather desperate. When she tries to go buy food, she says shelves are empty. Folks are kind of clamoring over one another to get the last few items. And she says she's already booked a ticket out but she's nervous about leaving and here's why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNA DAVIDSON, U.S. COLLEGE STUDENT STUDYING IN CHINA: And what's more stressful is, you know, we're leaving. I still don't feel like we're in the clear yet because it's -- I mean, what if we catch it in the taxi or at the airport or on the way home on a plane? We still need to be very careful. It's not over yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:50:03]

CULVER: There's this fear even upon leaving from Qinghai.

But, Christine, I can tell you, she is already booked on a flight that's supposed to leave a few hours from now. She's going to Africa. She doesn't know anybody there but at least it's out of Mainland China. She says her friends are going to Hawaii, London -- anywhere they could get a ticket out of China.

ROMANS: All right. It just shows you the unease and the uncertainty there for all those people trying to figure out what to do.

Thanks so much, David Culver, for that in Beijing.

JARRETT: Well, 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.

The Lakers will host Portland tomorrow night at the Staples Center in what should be an emotional night.

And 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.

"My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who've shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all 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 beautiful, sweet Gianna -- a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are 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 are shining on us to light the way."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:56:37]

ROMANS: Tesla posted a strong fourth quarter thanks to a record number of deliveries, the first time posting an annual profit. Deliveries up 23 percent; revenue just over $7 billion. Tesla said the growth is because of a cheaper version of the Model 3 and some price changes.

Tesla has some big goals for 2020. It plans to deliver more than 500,000 vehicles around the world. That goal relies a lot on its new Shanghai assembly plant. It also plans to start delivering the Model Y later this quarter.

Elon Musk says Tesla won't focus on raising capital and instead, will focus on batteries, increasing production, and lowering the costs.

JARRETT: Several bizarre twists in the disappearance of a 1-week-old baby in Florida. The newborn, Andrew Caballeiro, has been missing from his Miami home since Tuesday. Authorities suspect Andrew was taken by his father, Ernesto. The father was found dead Wednesday in the woods near his van hundreds of miles away.

Now authorities are looking for a woman who might have been with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF CHRIS NOCCO, PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA: And I sit here and pray to God that that is true and that she has the baby. And if that woman is out there -- if there is anybody -- if that is a true fact and that woman is out there, please come forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: And there's more. Three other women were found dead in the baby's home, all from gunshot wounds. Miami-Dade police have not explained the relationship between Caballeiro and the women.

An important recall notice for parents here. Four companies are recalling more than 165,000 infant incline sleepers because of the risk that babies could suffocate. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the companies impacted by that recall are Summer Infant, Graco, Delta Enterprises, and Evenflo.

You can find more information at cnn.com.

ROMANS: Take a look at those pictures -- right.

JARRETT: Yes.

ROMANS: All right.

Popeyes has mastered the chicken sandwich. Now, it's getting into the clothing business with a line called "That Look from Popeyes."

All right, so notice anything familiar. It looks a whole lot like Beyonce's Ivy Park. It does, really.

Bargain hunting fans and Popeyes enthusiasts can now buy a selection of jackets, shirts, hats, hoodies. As of this morning, Popeyes line is almost completely sold out.

And apparently, the Popeyes line began as -- these are what people wear who work there.

JARRETT: Right.

ROMANS: You could buy in. But then, Beyonce fans are noticing real similarities between the two.

JARRETT: Beyonce is actually a huge Popeyes fan. She has a lifetime membership.

ROMANS: I did not know -- I did not know that.

JARRETT: Yes.

ROMANS: Did not know that. Thanks for joining us.

JARRETT: Fun facts here on EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: Everything you need to know. I'm Christine Romans. Thanks for joining us.

JARRETT: Have a great day, everyone. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're headed right to the critical moment -- the vote to determine whether or not there should be witnesses in this trial.

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): If you have any lingering questions about direct evidence, you can subpoena Ambassador Bolton and ask him that question directly.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): We've heard the evidence. They don't have a case. Let's vote.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): My Republican colleagues can't complain about not seeing anything if they put blinders on, and history will haunt them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would really welcome a bipartisan acquittal of President Trump and I want to get that done this week, Friday.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): My gut tells me we're making progress, progress, progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, January 30th, 6:00 here in New York.

And it will be another day of questions and answers in the impeachment trial of President Trump. This morning, Republicans are expressing confidence that they will have the votes they need to block witnesses.

END