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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to Enter 2020 Presidential Race; U.K.'s Theresa May Faces No-Confidence Vote After Brexit Defeat; Mueller Filings Lay Out Evidence of Manafort's Alleged Lies; Stocks Set to Rise Despite Brexit Uncertainty. Aired 9-9:30
Aired January 16, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. We are following the breaking news this hour. The northern Syrian city of Manbij, this is an area patrolled by U.S. forces. The spokesman for U.S. forces in the area tweeted a short time ago that U.S. forces were patrolling that area today. Details still pouring in this hour.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. All right. We're going to get you the latest. Let's go straight to the Pentagon. Our reporter Barbara Starr is there. We also are joined by our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh who has reported extensively in the area.
Barbara, just you first on what do we know at this hour.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you just said, Poppy and Jim, details are still coming in, the reports are very initial. Here at the Pentagon they are in fact trying to put together the exact details of what did happen in Manbij. This is a city in northern Syria where there have been a dozen joint patrols by U.S. and Turkish forces. The U.S. Military spokesman put out a tweet out a short time ago that could be foretelling.
The spokesman says that they are aware of open-source reports regarding an explosion in Syria. Coalition forces conducted a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time. These routine patrols in Manbij in northern Syria have been going on for some time but this is right now a very unsettled situation along this border region.
The U.S., President Trump has said that U.S. troops will be coming out of Syria and just this week he talked about a 20-mile safe zone across the border because the Turks to the north want the Kurdish forces that the U.S. backs and other Kurdish forces to be pushed back away from their border. They worry that all of this is terrorist activity by Kurdish forces. The U.S. is not agreeing with that, but is talking about that Turkish demand for a pushback from the border, and at the same time the Russians are saying this is an area of Syria where the regime of Bashar al-Assad will take over. So this right now is a very unsettled situation in the area and by all
accounts there has been some type of bombing attack there. More details expected in the coming hours.
SCIUTTO: Barbara, just for our viewers' sake, when the military says open source they mean what's out in the public realm. There have been a lot of tweets about this. I believe a video has surfaced, what purports to be this attack. I think we can show that to our viewers here but as we do, Barbara, of course the president announced last month the withdrawal of U.S. forces from there.
Has that -- have those withdrawal plans affected patrols like this yet? Doesn't seem like it. It seems like these patrols have been continuing. Has the withdrawal plan affected the activities of U.S. forces on the ground there yet?
STARR: Not that we know of in particular. And you raise a very good point. As everyone looks at these videos that are posted on social media, they do appear to show Manbij. They do appear to show a massive suicide blast in a market area of the city earlier today.
As far as the withdrawal goes, right now what we know is some, shall we say, non-essential equipment and gear and cargo is being withdrawn. They're starting with the nonessential and they will work towards the rest of it. It is expected at this point that the first withdrawals may in fact come from northern Syria because they felt that this was a relatively calm area and the Turks, of course, want to get this settled and take control of that swath of the border -- Jim.
HARLOW: Barbara Starr, thank you very much. Stand by and let us know as you have more.
Let's go now to our colleague and senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.
And Nick, when you have important perspective on this given that you were there less than a year ago reporting in this region.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it shows you quite how more vulnerable potentially U.S. troops could be there, although we don't have the details at this point. As Barbara said, that tweet was perhaps telling of maybe bad news in the hours ahead.
Back in February, I walked around the main market of Manbij with the U.S. commander of Special Forces at the time. We were not wearing body armor or helmets, it was a relaxed atmosphere. But there was clear tension nearby.
The reason why Manbij is so important is that the Syrian Kurds who have been fighting ISIS with America, obviously a global fight there, were pretty much facing off against Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, often a matter of 100 yards or so away from each other, occasionally pot shots fired at each other, and the Americans were kind of there to calm things down because nobody felt Turkey would move with the possibility of hitting U.S. soldiers. Since the tweet of Donald Trump saying that they are pulling out and
the subsequent resignation of secretary of Defense -- former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and now the clarification that it may take a little bit longer than previously thought, although some equipment has already begun to move out and this talk of a buffer zone, clearly things are in great flux here.
[09:05:14] Now it's unclear who's behind this particular attack. The broad question, of course, being what were those troops doing there? Were there adequate force protection members if it turns out, in fact, that American troops were in fact targeted in this particular attack. But it certainly puts renewed focus on exactly what their mission will be going forward, and precisely what they do in an area where they have Turkish, sort to say, backed Syrian rebels moving potentially towards those Syrian Kurds but also the Russian-backed Syrian regime in that area, too.
A very complicated battleground indeed, and one of course which when you hear a force is potentially leaving but often leaves them open potentially to more vulnerabilities, so we don't know what's happening here. We do know the Americans did everything they could to keep themselves safe. We also know they felt in central Manbij pretty safe. Even in central Raqqah, they were walking around buying kebabs when I was there back in February, but potentially a very significant moment here. The details are at this point unclear.
HARLOW: Yes. And will it change the president's calculation on all of this? Right?
Nick, thank you. Barbara, as well. We'll bring you more of course as we have it.
Now to the shutdown, it is day 26, the federal workers are feeling the brunt. One-fourth of the government affected and while there's still no movement to speak of here in Washington for a deal, the impact of almost a million missed paychecks is taking its toll across this country.
The U.S. Coast Guard this morning has now become the first Armed Services to go unpaid in the government shutdown. That is because it falls under the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense. The nation's food banks are seeing a surge in demand from furloughed federal workers, those forced to work unpaid. The latter group, including TSA workers, many of whom have protested by calling in sick, causing huge lines at airport check points, and food inspections have taken a big hit as well. But now the FDA is calling back hundreds more inspectors but they, too, will not get paid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is earning his paycheck but he's just not getting it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shutdown isn't just a Washington, D.C. problem. It's affecting real people here in Iowa. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting our pay stubs on Thursday and seeing zero
dollars is just very disheartening. It makes it hard to wake up and want to go to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Imagine going to work, spending a lot of time not getting paid for it.
With tax filing season now just days away, the Treasury Department is calling back 36,000 IRS workers, unpaid we should note, and the FAA says it is now appropriate to call back 3,000 airplane inspectors and engineers, also unpaid.
A federal judge here in Washington has denied at least for now three separate bids to force the administration to pay the workers it deems essential. As we mentioned, those workers include the U.S. Coast Guard.
The White House itself has now doubled its estimated impact of the shutdown on the nation's economic growth and in a phone call yesterday with supporters, President Trump admitted that everything we just mentioned will only get worse. The president in that call will be out for a long time.
I have to say, Poppy, I was up on the hill.
SCIUTTO: I spoke to Democrats and Republicans, and they both threw their hands up in the air in terms of finding a way out of this. At least in the near term.
HARLOW: Unbelievable. All right. The union representing air traffic controllers is among the parties suing for a lack of pay. A judge did deny all those requests to intervene for now but did schedule further hearings. We'll see where that goes.
SCIUTTO: We're joined now by Trish Gilbert, she's the executive vice president of National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Trish, if I could begin on the safety issue because that is the one that my friends and family, and I'm sure many of our viewers are most concerned now. In the air, is there any reason why people flying should be concerned that there's not enough man and woman power to keep planes safe as they're flying?
TRISH GILBERT, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: Well, you know, each day that this shutdown continues the situation gets worse and worse. There are several complicated complex layers in our system to ensure that it maintains the critical safety components that we all rely on when we fly. What we don't want to see is a catastrophic event occur and for us to come to you and say we told you that controllers are working longer hours,. They -- now they don't have their support staff. They're going to work unpaid. So they're not sleeping at night. They're looking for other jobs, maybe they're driving Uber before or after their shift.
This is unacceptable and we cannot come to this country and expect these people to continue to work without pay. How long can they do that?
SCIUTTO: Quite alarming to raise the possibility of a catastrophic event. Are you saying that the effect of this shutdown just in terms of folks not sleeping, not having -- some people have been called back but not all those workers have been called back. Are you saying that that is -- is a reasonable credible concern?
GILBERT: I'm saying the system is disrupted and the people need to be focused on the job that they're paid to do.
[09:10:01] Unfortunately they're not getting paid to do it right now. They need 100 percent focused. They need not to be fatigued. They need not to be worried about whether they're going to have to sell their house, whether they're going to have to leave this profession all together.
HARLOW: Given all that you just laid out, and it is alarming to hear. Bottom line, would you say, Trish, that flying is less safe today than it was a month ago?
GILBERT: I would say it is less safe today than it was a month ago. Absolutely. We do not have the professionals on the job. We are working with bare bones crews. We have controllers there doing what they do very, very well but how long can you expect them to do it without all of the systems behind them to keep the system safe? And the planes in the air -- it's not just the air carriers that were working through the system, it's life flights with organs, it's packages with cargo flights, it's the military.
All of this is very important to this country. It's an economic engine, the air traffic control system in this country, and right now you're putting this incredible strain on the system which is unacceptable and unreasonable. This is a horrible game of chicken than we're in the middle of and we need to get out of it and we need to get out of it today.
SCIUTTO: Goodness. An air traffic controller tweeted his concerns.
SCIUTTO: Specifically, this was last week, about maintenance of the communications systems. He was saying that because people aren't checking out these systems, he's having trouble communicating with pilots at times which is a remarkable thing for an air traffic controller to say.
Beyond security screening on the ground, where there's been a lot of focus, are you concerned about issues like that?
GILBERT: Absolutely. We have a very robust voluntary system, safety reporting system where all of the work force -- when they're all there, they're not all there right now -- are able to report safety concerns. We can still do that today but there's nobody underneath to take any action with the things that were reported. And we have, you know, dozens of things reported every single day so that process is completely torn away from the work force. Maintenance of our infrastructure. New technologies that would improve safety.
A piece of technology that is going to help controllers identify aircraft that are lined up on the wrong taxiway or runway which was a critical event that we almost saw, you know, tragic event in San Francisco last year when we had the Airbus lined up on the taxiway.
GILBERT: So all of those things are very concerning to us.
HARLOW: Look, I think that you said it all when you said flying is less safe now than it was a month ago, that is something every American and every member of Congress and in the White House should be thinking a lot about.
Thank you, good luck and thanks to all of the people you represent.
GILBERT: Thank you very much.
HARLOW: Doing their job unpaid.
Wow. All right. So Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell once touted his deal-making skills in statements like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm the guy that gets us out of shutdowns. Remember me? I'm the guy who gets us out of shutdowns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Well, so where is that deal-making now? Phil Mattingly joining us on Capitol Hill.
So, Phil, what is the way out? This is the question I'm sure you're getting from friends and family as well, but like I said, I spoke to Democrats and Republicans and they were throwing their hands up in the air as to when. Do you see any building of a critical mass among Republicans in particular to go against their president in effect here?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The short answer is no. And if people want to know where Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is, he's waiting and he's reflecting the will of his conference right now.
In closed door meetings Republicans have continually told me that they have made clear they don't want to break with the president and as long as Senate Republicans don't want to break with the president at least en masse, a couple have mentioned some concerns about it, but the majority leader don't want to, the majority leader is not going to put anything on the floor that the president disagrees with.
Here's the problem with that. McConnell is basically waiting and has said this publicly for Democrats and the president to agree on something or at least start the process of negotiating. I'm told the Democrats and the president have not communicated at least to the leadership level in more than a week.
Now the White House has kind of launched a strategy over the course of the last 48 hours to try and peel off rank-and-file Democrats, moderate Democrats, Democrats from maybe districts that President Trump won in 2016. Yesterday they tried that. Every single Democrat they invited to the White House for lunch with the president turned it down. They're going to give it another shot today.
A bipartisan group known as the problem solvers caucus, kind of a group of centrist Republicans and Democrats, are expected to head over to the White House at 11:30 but it's important to know when talking is good, conversations are good, Jim, as you know, from being up on the Hill, it's better than anything else that's going on right now. But those members are not in power to make a deal and the reality remains, as long as the leadership remains dug in, there's no way out of this any time soon, guys.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.
HARLOW: Geez. All right. As you said, sort of take two today. We got the problem solvers caucus, one of the members, will join us tomorrow. Let's see if they can make some headway.
Phil, thanks very much.
SCIUTTO: And to be clear Democratic leadership is digging in their heels on this as well.
HARLOW: A thousand percent. It's both.
SCIUTTO: It is. As Trish was just saying, there's a game of chicken.
SCIUTTO: Other news we're following. The Special Counsel Robert Mueller says that Paul Manafort lied about contacts with the administration and that he, the special counsel, has the evidence to prove it. We have the latest on those developments.
HARLOW: Also Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the latest contender entering the 2020 presidential race. She will speak with reporters momentarily. We're on that. And a major U.S. ally in turmoil today.
[09:15:00] British Prime Minister Theresa May faces another no- confidence vote after her Brexit plan ends in a crushing defeat. We're live in London.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCIUTTO: In just moments, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin
day two of its confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee William Barr. Barr however will not be there today, instead several law experts, analysts and former justice official will testify.
HARLOW: And so yesterday, you saw Barr break with the president on a number of key points involving the Mueller probe, the Russia investigation. One being that he does not think the special counsel is involved in a witch-hunt. Those words very important, you heard them often from the president.
He said no, that's not the case yesterday. He also promised that he would, quote, "provide as much transparency as he can about the probe, but he didn't as you noticed him, he didn't say, yes, you know, you, the public will have the whole report --
SCIUTTO: Right --
[09:20:00] HARLOW: So that matters. Also today, a new court filing from the special counsel details how former Trump campaign Chair Paul Manafort allegedly lied about his contacts with the Trump administrations after he was indicted. This 31-page document was redacted a lot, mostly redacted.
But it does reveal that Manafort spoke to a federal grand jury about his conversations Russian associates Konstantin Kilimnik.
SCIUTTO: The two men began communicating in August 2016 just weeks before Manafort stepped down as Trump's campaign chair, but right in the midst of the election, but the special counsel just keeping the purpose of that communication under wraps.
Let's bring in former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers and former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney Shan Wu. Mike, give us the significance of this because again, we're getting kind of smoke signals from the special counsel's investigation here, but those smoke signals keep pointing to conversations between the president's campaign chairman and a Russian known to be working for a Russian military intelligence and communications that Manafort repeatedly lied about -- significance, yes.
MIKE ROGERS, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Yes, but very significant. You've got a couple of reasons, one, this happened well into 2018, so this is well down the track of both the president being elected and seated and going through the process of his administration.
Number one, but number two, this to me shows as an old FBI guy that the same kind of attitude that got him in trouble in the first place got him in trouble the second round.
He thought he was going to outsmart the prosecutor, you would thought he was going to outsmart the folks, because he had this guy from overseas who is a trained -- probably had some training, at least some limited training in intelligence if he had a relationship as they state with the intelligence services of Russia. He was running his office in Ukraine, I mean, all of that smells bad
to me, and it means that there's probably a whole -- under that redaction is some really interesting reading that we're not going to get to see at least right away.
HARLOW: To that point though, you see it a little bit differently, Shan, just in that you believe that some of Manafort's defenses here are plausible.
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I think in Manafort's defense and his legal team's defense, it's a lot of detail, it's a lot of debriefings, and it's possible to make some mistakes. However, I would agree with Mike, the overall picture looks bad.
I mean, when I bring in someone to cooperate --
HARLOW: Right --
WU: We are meticulous in going through the material, and most importantly, you have to have a degree of rapport and trust with the prosecution. If there's any questions you can tell what areas your client is going to be unclear on --
HARLOW: Right --
WU: That's got to be flagged. So this whole picture looks very bad for him.
HARLOW: Can I just ask you as a follow up, because you were -- I should note this just for transparency. You did represent Rick Gates --
WU: Right --
HARLOW: And we did learn also yesterday --
ROGERS: Yes --
HARLOW: Rick Gates is still cooperating and Manafort's is at I think -- not Manafort, excuse me, Mueller's team said at least two more months of that. Significance?
WU: Right, I think that is very significant. I'm not commenting on anything confidential or privileged, but the fact that Gates has been silenced and now this information and service that he's still cooperating on a number of investigations, that means a lot to me, also signal that we're not as close to the end as we are speculating with regards to that --
SCIUTTO: Yes, there's been a lot of that, like bringing --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: The troops home for Christmas, right, they always get pushed out.
SCIUTTO: But Mike Rogers, for folks at home who are not following the intricacies of every development, give us kind of a big picture update as to what we know, what's been revealed from this black box of the Mueller investigation on that essential question.
Is there evidence that you've seen as a former Republican member of Congress that is at least it's still an open question as to whether there was cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia?
ROGERS: Well, I'm not, it's not clear to me even after seeing all of this evidence that it wasn't an individual who had contracts in Russia. That -- you have to remember, this is what made him a millionaire --
SCIUTTO: Right --
ROGERS: Excuse me --
SCIUTTO: Manafort --
ROGERS: In the Ukraine -- in Manafort. This is what got him rich over the years. He was really out of the political consulting business domestically for ten years or something. And so this is the kind of thing -- and he just sold his soul to the devil, clearly, when you read the material that you see before you that he decided he didn't care that he was going to work for a pro-Kremlin candidate in Ukraine --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
ROGERS: And everything that was entailed. And by the way, you can't -- you know, it's really difficult to walk down the street and not bump into somebody that works for Russia intelligence in Kiev.
SCIUTTO: Yes --
ROGERS: Right? And so he would know that. And the way that they structured the money, so this is a guy that clearly had his vested interest in his future in these grey area, if not corrupt area of dealing politically over there. So what I saw here is, when he went to Spain, which was the big revelation of late to meet with Kilimnik and gave him --
HARLOW: After the election.
ROGERS: After the election, and gave him polling information actually --
HARLOW: Yes --
ROGERS: During -- there was a
SCIUTTO: During the campaign. HARLOW: Yes --
ROGERS: He wouldn't -- gave him polling information. Was he doing that for his own self-interest or was he doing that at the behest of the campaign?
HARLOW: Right, yes --
ROGERS: That's what I haven't seen yet, and I wouldn't make the jump that the campaign said yes --
HARLOW: Yes --
ROGERS: Go do this quite yet, I just --
HARLOW: Yes --
ROGERS: Haven't seen that much.
HARLOW: And we wouldn't know that had the redactions on that, been a little bit better --
ROGERS: Yes, exactly --
HARLOW: Or is fool proof as redactions on this one --
[09:25:00] ROGERS: Well, I have a feeling -- I have a feeling Mr. Wu's client is probably going to be found in some of those redactions. I would -- I'm going to --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: I'll bet my last paycheck on that --
WU: No comment on that.
HARLOW: Because we know that Manafort's lawyers have accidentally revealed through these non-redacted -- what should have been redactions that he did share the polling data with Kilimnik, but now we know, Shan, that the two men were communicating while Manafort was still working for the campaigns.
So does connecting those dots take you any further in your belief?
WU: It does, I mean, factually, yes, you don't have that last bit of nexus, did somebody in the campaign, did the president OK those contacts, but I think the problem at this point is the campaign was in touch with the Russian intelligence --
SCIUTTO: Right --
WU: People, because Manafort was the campaign chair. I mean, that's sort of like a closed book at this point. So that has been established, the only question is how deep, how much knowledge, who had the knowledge now?
SCIUTTO: Right --
WU: So I think that bridge has really been crossed at this point.
SCIUTTO: And also to be clear that wasn't the only line of communication between --
WU: Right --
SCIUTTO: Trump world, Trump campaign and Russians --
HARLOW: Yes --
SCIUTTO: That both before and after the election because you had the Trump Tower meeting, you had Michael Flynn lying about contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition.
ROGERS: And the interesting part of this is, you know from the intelligence side that the Russians wanted to make contact with the --
SCIUTTO: That's right --
ROGERS: Campaign. And so you have that piece of hanging out there that I think we haven't seen yet. Now, that part of that investigation would -- is not public yet. I imagine that that's going to be really interesting to see how successful they were.
Remember, just because the Russians wanted to do it doesn't mean the campaign wanted to do it. But we know that made --
HARLOW: Fair enough, yes --
ROGERS: Made it, that effort and now you know that Manafort certainly had these connections not only --
SCIUTTO: Yes --
ROGERS: Before the campaign, during the campaign and now after the campaign.
HARLOW: Yes --
ROGERS: You know, it's -- the story is certainly getting muddy.
WU: It's really the roots of it are in counter-intelligence, that's --
HARLOW: There you go, gentlemen, thank you, nice to have you both.
WU: Yes --
HARLOW: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announcing her plans to enter the 2020 presidential race. The race getting more crowded, who will stand out? SCIUTTO: And we're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall
Street. Stocks expected to rise slightly at the start of trading. You see that green arrow there, the market is calm just despite grave uncertainty over Brexit.
Some investors believe a delay in that decision could be coming.