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Trump on Trial: Senate GOP Likely to Block Witness Testimony; Secretary of State Pompeo Arrives in Ukraine; U.S. Advises Americans Against China Travel; Lakers Take the Court Tonight. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 31, 2020 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: 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 work with other senators to make sure that we have a right to ask for documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and 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 of the American people should decide what to do about what he did.

I believe that the Constitution provides the people should make the decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.

So that means that the votes are simply not there at the moment to move forward on impeachment documents, and it probably will not be there tomorrow, assuming there's nothing that happens to break a potential tie breaking 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 there's still a question about is Lisa Murkowski. And if it's 50-50, she votes with the Democrats, there's a chief justice vote to break a tie.

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

Back to you.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Manu, thank you so much for that.

The decision by Senator Alexander against calling witnesses drew a predictably partisan response.


MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: 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 the Democrats not overreached and perhaps brought censure to the Senate, maybe we would have voted for this. They went too far trying to remove him in an election year and it doesn't rise to that level of impeachment.

That's a principled thing for them to say, you may disagree with it, but it's a principled thing for him to say, and it's a view a lot of Americans also hold.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Look, it was Donald Trump who as candidate said, I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody 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 our American people or standing in the world or rule of law.


ROMANS: The first hint of how Senator Alexander might vote came during the final hour of the Senate question and answer questions. He and Lindsey Graham submitted a question. They asked the president's lawyers whether the allegations made by Bolton, if true, would still not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

JARRETT: It's virtually certain now that John Bolton will not testify in the Senate impeachment probe, but the former national security advisor is doing some talking behind closed doors.

According to CNN affiliate KXAN, Bolton is defending the Trump administration officials who did testify in 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 block the release of Bolton's upcoming book, claiming it contains classified information.

ROMANS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Ukraine this morning with the Senate impeachment trial possibly nearing its end. America's top diplomat there, live pictures meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other leaders. There they are with the press conference.

Pompeo was the first administration official to visit Ukraine since President Trump's impeachment and just days after saying behind closed doors, do you really think Americans care about Ukraine? Well, he's there now.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has the latest from Kiev.



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. Then, the secretary sort of set himself up for 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 date 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.


ROMANS: All right, Fred. Thanks for that.

JARRETT: It'll be interesting to see whether his previous comments come up there at all.


JARRETT: A year of campaigning comes down to this -- candidates making their final push in Iowa ahead of the caucus on Monday. CNN is on the ground there, next.


JARRETT: Breaking overnight, the State Department advising Americans not to travel to China about concerns over 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 9,700 confirmed cases in mainland China, a spike from almost 2,000 of a day earlier. There have also been 213 deaths, and the global isolation of China stretches into another day.

CNN's David Culver live in Beijing with the very latest.

And, David, we're hearing now that the government in Hong Kong is considering using tracking devices to track patients who are considered to be in isolation?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura, it explains some of the fear behind this spreading virus and the concern that other countries are having they could see outbreaks within their own jurisdictions. What we're seeing here in mainland China is that this is a country of 1.4 billion people becoming increasingly isolated in this region and in the world. You'd seen airlines either cutting back or cutting off altogether flights to and from China.

And then we're seeing folks even within mainland China, even major cities outside of the lockdown area trying to get out, out of places like Beijing, out of Shanghai, over concern that this virus will spread even quicker than it already has.

Meantime, state media is reporting the world health organization is urging there should not be as many trade and travel restricts against China. That's something they're trying to push out there because they're trying to protect the image a bit of China.

However, state media has also been portraying the containment effort more than anything else over some of the realities that we're hearing on the ground.

And this is an important distinction, because state media and their flagship broadcast, CCTV, will show what's happening, it's the reality of these hospitals going up of the deployment of medical personnel, of supplies going in. But we're hearing on the ground, there's also a desperately need for the supplies once they're in to actually get to the people they need to get to -- the hospital staff, nurses and doctors.

And we're hearing that some of the medical personnel are on the front lines really without that armor, so to speak. And so, they themselves are getting infect.

And that -- it's not necessarily coming across on official state media, Laura, but it is coming across on more independent Chinese media, we should point out, and social media. A lot of folks are getting their information on that.

Meantime, speaking of social media, I should tell you, in the U.S., there's concern over some false information that's been going out with regards to outbreaks in the U.S. and California and Arizona. Officials there are saying despite the fact some of those have CDC logos and World Health Organization logos, that's fake news. It is not accurate and it should not be spread -- Laura.

JARRETT: David, thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right. American Airlines pilots sued the carrier to stop flight between the U.S. and citing serious and in many ways still unknown health threats posed by the coronavirus. On Wednesday, American Airlines said it would suspend two routes from Los Angeles to China starting February 9th because of significant decline in demand.

The pilots' lawsuit claims the airlines hasn't -- the airline hasn't taken any action to cancel or suspend flights before then. They also want immediate action taken on flights from the largest hub in Dallas- Fort Worth.

The outbreak is creating uncertainty for the airline industry. Earlier this week, United -- United Airlines said it was suspending some flights between three Chinese cities and U.S. hubs. Global airlines are adjusting their schedules. British Airways, Air Canada, Air Asia, Air India, and Kenya Airways have also suspended some flights.

The union is telling pilots to decline any assignments to operate flights between the U.S. and China.

JARRETT: The Lakers take the court tonight for the first time since Kobe Bryant's death. How the NBA will honor the NBA legend.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report", up next.



JARRETT: Just three days to go until the Iowa caucuses and with four senators off the campaign trail serving as jurors in the impeachment trial, the remaining candidates are taking advantage of the opportunity for a little face time with Iowa voters in the final hours.

Jeff Zeleny is on the ground in Waukee, Iowa.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, three days to go before the Iowa caucuses open the voting in the Democratic primary fight. Candidates are fanning out across the state making appeals to voters.

Joe Biden making an appeal that he's the strongest candidate to take on President Trump. He sharpened that argument on Thursday. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Welcome to Donald Trump's

world. Up is down, lies are the truth, allies are enemies -- everything is through the looking glass.

Ladies and gentlemen, on November, America will have a chance to answer the question, does the character of a president matter? Yes or no?

ZELENY: But his rivals also making some of the same arguments. Pete Buttigieg said it's time for something new. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders also pressing their case.

The question here is turnout. How many Iowans will come out on Monday night in caucus? There are 1,700 precincts across the state. Those are small town meetings, if you will, where Iowans come together and make their preference known.

Now, in the final weekend push here, all candidates coming back to the state, including those senators who have been stuck in the impeachment trial. Clearly too close to call, but we will be looking Saturday night at "The Des Moines Register"/CNN poll to see who is leading the way. It is all about organization and turnout as we're nearing the end of the beginning of the 2020 voting -- Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Iowa, thanks, Jeff.

The Lakers set to take the court tonight for the first time since Sunday's tragic accident that killed Kobe Bryant.

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

Good morning, Andy.


Yes, it's going to be a very emotional night at Staples Center as LeBron and the Lakers play for the first time since Kobe's death.

And the Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka who was Kobe's good friend, long time agent and Gigi's godfather, speaking out for the first time since Sunday's accident.


Pelinka saying in a statement: I lost my best friend and my sweet goddaughter. With that, there's been an amputation of a part of my soul.

He went on to say: All of us touched by them will now try to become torch carriers of their legacies. And while we do that, we can be certain of this: Kobe and Gigi will continue on forever playing a joy filled game of basketball in heaven above.

Now, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss meanwhile posting a letter to Kobe, to Instagram, saying in part: Kobe, I don't know how to express what you mean to my, and my family and the Los Angeles Lakers. My father loved you like a son, which makes us family.

Now, Lakers are expected to have an on court tribute for Kobe before they play tonight against the Blazers at 10:00 Eastern.

SCHOLES: All right. Meanwhile here in Miami, we're just two days away from Super Bowl LIV.

Patrick Mahomes is trying to etch his way into the record books with a win. He'd be one of the first quarterbacks ever to win an MVP and a Super Bowl before turning 25 years old. Now, Mahomes may have been destined for greatness at a young age. He got to be around pro sports as a kid. His dad, Pat Mahomes Sr., was a pitcher for 11 seasons.

Mahomes says, you know, growing up in baseball helped shape him into the player he is today.


PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QUARTERBACK: Definitely an advantage because I got to see a lot of things not a lot of kids got to see. I got to see players like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter and how hard they trained when they were at the top of their game. It really wasn't just a grind. And you don't see that as a little kid, I mean, you see the guys going out there performing and being great but you don't understand how much hard work it takes. So that instilled in me at a young age that I'm going to have to work hard if I want to be where I want to be at.


SCHOLES: And we'll have more on Mahomes, the Chiefs and the 49ers, tomorrow on our CNN "Bleacher Report" special kick off in Miami. Coy Wire, myself going to get you ready for the big game. We're going to be joined by Jerry Rice, Rob Gronkowski and many more. That's tomorrow 2:30 Eastern right here on CNN.

All right. Finally, you know, this is the first Super Bowl in four years without Tom Brady, but he's still making his way into the news. Brady posting this cryptic picture to social media yesterday. No caption.

Christine, is he walking towards the field? Is he walking away from the field? You can't tell. Does this mean is he going to retire? Is he leaving the Patriots?

There was panic all over social media. Questions need to be answered. We'll wait and see what comes of this. But, of course, this sent NFL fans into a frenzy. This little picture.


ROMANS: Absolutely. Tom Brady playing us all, he really is.

SCHOLES: Yes. ROMANS: All right, Andy Scholes, thanks so much.

Laura, what's coming up next?

JARRETT: All right, Christine.

Well, let's assume for a moment the president's done everything he's accused of -- well, apparently it's not worth throwing him out of office. How a key GOP senator's decision could unleash a new Trump as he starts his re-election bid.



JARRETT: The Pentagon once again raising the number of U.S. service members with traumatic brain injuries from that Iranian strike at an Iraqi airbase earlier this month. The military now revising the number, up to 64. Earlier this week, officials had said it was 50 after saying it was 34 last week. About 40 of those service members 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: It appears the Taliban and other anti-government forces are ramping up their attacks in Afghanistan as the U.S. considers reducing its presence in the region. A new report from a government watchdog on government reconstruction says the more than 8,200 attacks in the last three months of 2018 mark a record high. The U.S. is mulling a plan to pull more than 3,000 soldiers from the region. That would still leave approximately 8,600 troops on the ground.

JARRETT: The White House has named its next target for environmental deregulation, birds. The Trump administration proposing to end criminal penalties for companies whose operations accidently kill migratory birds. The change to Obama era interpretation would impose criminal sanctions only for intentionally injuring birds.

Wildlife groups attacking the change, and Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen says it could allow big corporations to, quote, get off scot-free when oil spills and other commercial disasters cause the massive loss of bird life.

EARLY START continues right now.


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

ROMANS: Do not travel to China. A dire warning from the State Department after coronavirus was declared a public health emergency. All right. Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine


JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour here in New York.

The U.S. Constitution, this country's founding document says Congress can impeach and remove a president for high crimes and misdemeanors. Evidently pressuring a vulnerable ally to investigate.