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EARLY START

Senate Vote on Witnesses and Documents to Likely Fail; 9,709 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases in China; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Travels to Ukraine. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 31, 2020 - 04:00   ET

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


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[04:02:22]

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The impeachment trial is all but over. A key Republican says Democrats prove their case but it's not enough to remove President Trump.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Do not travel to China. A dire warning from the State Department after coronavirus was declared a public health emergency.

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

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's January 31st, 4:00 a.m. in New York. It's Friday. The Iowa caucuses are on Monday. We made it.

This morning it looks like President Trump is all but off the hook in the trial to impeach and remove him for abusing his power. Senator Lamar Alexander says he's a no on new witnesses and documents. The late-night announcement from the retiring Tennessee Republican concedes the president's conduct was wrong, but he says it's not up to the Senate to act. That means a Senate vote today on whether to subpoena witnesses is likely to fail.

ROMANS: Now most Republicans have coalesced around Majority Leader McConnell's argument. He says allowing witnesses would cause a long delay and have no effect on the outcome. Now assuming Republican leaders block new evidence, sources say they will press late into the night and early Saturday morning to get that final vote to acquit the president. All this means President Trump will likely head into the 2020 election unrestrained.

Congressional reporter Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we got the statement from Lamar Alexander and he is a no. That means that he's going to vote against moving forward on witnesses and documents and that could mean the swift end to the president's impeachment trial.

He says this. "I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution's high bar for an impeachable offense. The Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year's ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.

"The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make the decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday."

So what that means is that the votes are simply not there at the moment to move forward on impeachment documents and probably will not be there tomorrow, assuming there's nothing that happens to break a potential tiebreaking vote if it does come to that because looking at the math here there are 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats. Two Republicans are expected to vote for moving ahead.

They need -- Lamar Alexander is a no, so the only person who there's still a question about is Lisa Murkowski. And if it's 50-50, she votes -- decides to vote with the Democrats, does the chief justice vote to break a tie?

[04:05:08]

The expectation here is that it's not going to happen, which means that if he doesn't break a tie and she's a no, then even if she votes for it, that means that the president's impeachment trial could be over.

Back to you.

JARRETT: All right, Manu, thanks so much.

Well, the decision by Senator Alexander against calling witnesses only widens the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats say the retiring senator forever tarnishes his reputation. Republicans believe his decision took courage. Listen.

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MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it -- I think it reflects what a lot of Americans believe and it certainly reflects what a lot of Senate Republicans believe, which is this may have been inappropriate. Had this -- had the Democrats not overreached and perhaps brought censure as a vote to the Senate, maybe we would have voted for this. They went too far and tried to remove him in an election year. It doesn't rise to the level of impeachment.

That's a principle thing for him to say. You may disagree with it but it's a principle thing for him to say and it's the view that a lot of Americans also hold.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Look, it was Donald Trump, who as a candidate, said I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone dead and get away with it. Sadly, predictions of his unrestrained behavior from his campaign are coming true. And while I understand some of my Republican colleagues may like the results of his policies or may agree with some of his initiatives, you certainly can't think it's good for the American people or our standing in the world or rule of law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: The first sign of how Senator Alexander might vote came during the final hour of the Senate question and answer session. He and Lindsey Graham asked the president's lawyers whether the allegations made by John Bolton if true would still not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

ROMANS: It is now virtually certain John Bolton will not testify in the impeachment probe, but the former National Security adviser is talking behind closed doors. According to CNN affiliate KXAN, Bolton to defending the Trump administration officials who did testify in the impeachment hearings. At an event in Austin, Bolton told guests all of them acted in the best interest of the country as they saw it and consistent to what they thought our policies were.

He says members of the administration should feel they're able to speak their minds without retribution. The White House has been trying to keep Bolton quiet both by pushing against witnesses and trying to blocking the release of his upcoming book containing it claims -- containing it contains classified information.

JARRETT: Breaking overnight, the State Department advising Americans not to travel to China over concerns about the coronavirus. That means the U.S. is now classifying travel to China as dangerous as North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Somalia, though for a very different reason.

The State Department warning coming hours after the first person-to- person transmission of the coronavirus in the U.S. and the World Health Organization declaring a global public health emergency. Not because of the outbreak in China but out of fear it could spread to countries that do not have the ability to contain it.

There are now just over 9700 confirmed cases in mainland China, a spike of almost 2,000 from just a day earlier. There've also been 213 deaths, and the global isolation of China stretches into another day.

CNN's David Culver is live for us in Beijing.

David, what's the latest?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Laura. Yes, it seems that mainland China in particular is becoming increasingly isolated. We talked about Russia closing its far eastern border. You see all these airlines now suspending flights to and from mainland China, which explains the mass exodus that we've seen not only from the lockdown zone but also from major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

And we're also seeing concerns how things are being portrayed here from a media perspective, if you will. If you look at how state media, an official state media in particular, is showcasing mostly the massive containment effort, President Xi Jinping's strong stance and determination to stop the spread and showing what seemed to be very attractive videos of building these hospitals, which seem to be quite true, and doing so in a rapid time.

But also if you're to contrast it to the concerns that are being raised on social media, in particular here. And so it's a question of reality versus what's being portrayed and it's a little bit nuanced, too, because it's not just state media that's portraying things one way. You also have Chinese media that's doing some investigative research, too, and showing things as they actually are. So it's an interesting dynamic that's playing out here and one that's causing a lot of questions as to what the real concerns are on the ground and how that's being showcased.

Also on social media around the world there's concerns of so-called fake news, things that are just not true about this virus that's spreading as well. And, Laura, that's something that officials are trying to come out in front of. But overall now the focus here is on the World Health Organization's new declaration of this being a global emergency and perhaps bringing more attention to this and then perhaps even more funding in trying to figure out what this virus is all about.

[04:10:04]

JARRETT: Yes. More attention, more resources.

David, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. American Airlines pilots have sued the carrier to stop flights between the U.S. and China citing serious and in many ways still unknown health threats posed by the coronavirus. On Wednesday, Americans said it would suspend two routes from Los Angeles to China starting February 9th because of a significant decline in demand. The pilot's lawsuit claims the airline hasn't taken any action to cancel or suspend flights before then. They also want immediate action taken on flights from its largest hub in Dallas Fort Worth.

The outbreak is creating uncertainty for the industry. Earlier this week United Airlines says it is suspending some flights between three Chinese cities and its U.S. hubs. Global airlines are adjusting their schedules. British Airways, Air Canada, Air Asia, Air India and Kenya Airways have all suspended some flights. Now the pilots union is telling the pilots to decline any assignments to operate flights between the U.S. and China.

JARRETT: Well, the Lakers take the court tonight for the very first time since Kobe Bryant's death. What the team has in store and how he'll be remembered at the Super Bowl.

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[04:15:10] ROMANS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touching down in Ukraine this morning with the Senate impeachment trial possibly nearing its end. America's top diplomat is meeting with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and other leaders. Pompeo is the first administration official to visit Ukraine since President Trump's impeachment.

CNN international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has the latest from Kiev.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. Yes, it could be a bit of a tough visit for the secretary of State here in Ukraine which is, of course, the country at the heart of the impeachment proceedings. And the secretary sort of set himself up for a bit of a tough time himself after that interview with NPR sort of questioning whether or not America actually cares about Ukraine.

So, here in Kiev, he's going to be meeting with the foreign minister, the defense minister and also, of course, President Zelensky. We expect the Ukrainians to play nice with the secretary of State because, of course, they still very much rely on American military aid. One of the things that they're going to be looking for is whether or not the secretary is actually going to give President Zelensky a date for a visit in the White House to meet President Trump.

The other thing that's going to be important, guys, is that the secretary of State is also going to be going to the U.S. embassy here and speaking with embassy personnel. Of course, that's something that's going to be key after the ousting of Ambassador Yovanovitch and then, also, the stepping down of Bill Taylor as well. So, we'll keep you updated as things go along here in Kiev -- Laura and Christine.

JARRETT: Fred, thanks so much for that.

The Pentagon once again raising the number of U.S. service members with traumatic brain injuries from that Iranian strike on an Iraqi airbase earlier this month. The military now revising the number up to 64. Earlier this week officials have said it was 50 after saying it was 34 last week. About 40 of those service members of the group have returned to active duty. Medical assessments on nearly 250 others at the base are still ongoing.

Last week before the numbers were released President Trump downplayed the severity of the injuries saying he does not consider potential brain injuries as serious as physical combat wounds.

ROMANS: The L.A. Lakers will be back on the court tonight for the first time since Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter crash. The team will pay tribute to the Laker legend during the game at the Staples Center. Meantime, the company that owns the helicopter that crashed, Island Express, says it's suspending flight operations indefinitely.

JARRETT: Kobe will also be honored Sunday during the Super Bowl halftime show headlined by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER LOPEZ, SUPER BOWL HALFTIME PERFORMER: I think about Vanessa as a mom and losing her best friend and partner, and losing her child. And I think, you know, how awful that must be for her right now.

SHAKIRA, SUPER BOWL HALFTIME PERFORMER: We'll be celebrating life and celebrating diversity in this country. I'm sure he will be very proud to see how we're going to -- the message that we're going to be trying to convey on stage.

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JARRETT: Officials say a public memorial in Los Angeles for Kobe Bryant and the other crash victims won't be held for at least two weeks, maybe even longer.

We'll be right back.

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[04:22:39]

JARRETT: Reports of sexual assaults are rising sharply at U.S. military's elite service academies. According to the Pentagon, there was a 27 percent increase in the last school year over the previous school year. In 2018 through 2019, 149 sexual assaults were reported at the academies. That's 32 more than the year before. 57 of the incidents were reported at West Point, 33 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and 40 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Pentagon officials characterize the findings as encouraging. They say the jump in reporting should not be interpreted as an increase in the crime rate.

ROMANS: Delta Airlines spending millions to replace the uniforms that many employees complain are causing health problems. More than 500 employees, most of them flight attendants, filed a federal lawsuit against Lands' End which makes the uniforms. They complain the garments cause voice and breathing problems, blisters and rashes, blurred vision and other issues. Delta and Lands' End both say testing showed the uniforms are safe but the airline is replacing them anyway starting in late 2021 with interim clothing available in May.

JARRETT: The big question in New England this morning, what does this mean? Speculation over Tom Brady's future with the Patriots was already rampant. Now Brady throwing gasoline on the fire. An uncaptioned black and white photo there, he's seen walking away from something or to something. The six-time Super Bowl winner has spent nearly his entire 20-year career with the Patriots. Brady will be a free agent in March.

ROMANS: You might say Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson is finally in the club. The rapper, actor, producer was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a ceremony Thursday. His friend and fellow artist Eminem made a rare public appearance to pay tribute.

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EMINEM, RAPPER: This is not only like a business partner to me, it's one of the best friends I've ever known in the world. And I would say that it's much more fun to be his friend than it is to be his enemy.

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ROMANS: 50 Cent rose to fame in 2003 with his debut album "Get Rich or Die Trying" which sold 12 million copies worldwide. Good for him.

JARRETT: The president did everything he's accused of but apparently it's not worth throwing him out of office. How a key GOP senator's decision could unleash a new Donald Trump just as he starts his re- election bid.

[04:25:09]

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ROMANS: The impeachment trial is all but over. A key Republican says Democrats proved their case but it's not enough to remove President Trump.

JARRETT: And do not travel to China. A dire warning from the State Department after coronavirus was declared a public health emergency.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: Good morning, everybody. I'm Christine Romans. It's Friday, we made it. 30 minutes past the hour here in New York and this morning it looks like President Trump is all but off the hook --

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