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Trump Plans to Keep about 200 Troops in Syria Amid Backlash; Interview with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); Singer R. Kelly Indicted in Cook County, Illinois; Interview with Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 22, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:30:02] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The White House is changing the plan for the total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. They now say they'll leave around 200 troops behind for what they're calling peace- keeping force. This will be in coordination with around 200 other troops from European partners. Right now, there are more than 2,000 American troops in Syria.

We have Maryland Senator Ben Cardin with us from the Foreign Relations Committee.

I'm sorry, I'm demoting you from the promotion I gave you as the chairman of the committee. To be clear, the number-two Democrat.

I wonder, from your perch on the committee, do you consider this a smart move by the president when you would compare it to zero U.S. troops in Syria?

SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D), MARYLAND: Brianna, I'm having a hard time understanding the president's policies in Syria. First, he says we defeated ISIS. Now he's giving the impression that's not the case. And we know, of course, that ISIS is a tricky situation. If we leave any void at all, they can reappear. He said 2,000 troops is too many but didn't talk to our allies in regard to what we do on troop presence. We don't know what these 200 troops will do, coupled with a couple hundred from our own allies. The policy seems to be confusing. And it is certainly bringing about some uncertainty in regard to our traditional partners.

KEILAR: So you don't know what they're going to do. You don't know what the 200 partner troops are going to do. Are you expecting to learn this? Are you expecting to be briefed by the administration?

CARDIN: I certainly hope so. And our Senate Foreign Relations Committee needs to be briefed on this. We need to be in a classified setting. We also need public hearings. At this point, it's difficult to give a judgment because we don't know what the administration's game plan is. We do know that we do want this issue to be resolved. We know that we can't win a military victory alone. We have to deal with the civil war in Syria. And we do need to be mindful that ISIS is not just in Syria, it's in many countries in that region, and we do need to work with our coalition partners to rid the region of ISIS. KEILAR: Next week is going to be a huge week, including because the

president is heading to Vietnam for his summit with Kim Jong-Un. And this is a summit that is going to start, actually, with a one-on-one meeting between the leaders. It will just be the leaders and then their translators. When you hear that, what's your reaction?

CARDIN: Well, this is the second summit between Kim Jong-Un and President Trump. We had thought, after the first, that we would have steps taken to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. That starts with a declaration as to North Korea's current nuclear program. That hasn't taken place yet, nor has there been any understanding of when that will take place. So, again, it's difficult to understand what are the achievable for a second summit between the leaders when the first summit only produced aspirational issues, did not produce concrete results.

KEILAR: Do you worry about there just being translators? The president has come under fire when it's been him and Vladimir Putin and all they've had are their translators and there haven't been other experts in his administration at the table, which is customary. Does it worry you what might happen, what might be agreed to if it's just President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, or not really?

CARDIN: No, absolutely that bothers me. You need to understand that what takes place in that meeting can have major consequences. It's important that it's documented, it's important that the major players that advise the president are aware of what takes place in that room. They don't want to get a third-party account. They should be present. There should be documentation. That information is critically important. It should be made available to Congress, if necessary, in a classified setting. But to do this as he did with president Putin is a major mistake. It was hailed by Moscow when it was dominated by President Putin. My guess is, if he repeats this, it's a big win for North Korea.

KEILAR: I want to ask about your colleague, Bernie Sanders. He's an Independent but he caucuses with Democrats in the Senate. He's running for president. And he's come under fire from some people in your party because of what he said about Venezuela, which is Socialist, a different brand of Socialism than the Democratic Socialism he advocates for. Here's what he said about the embattled president, Nicolas Maduro, who the U.S. is no longer recognizing.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT: No, I think what has to happen right now, I think there are serious questions about the recent election. There are many people who feel it was a fraudulent election. And I think the United States has got to work with the international community to make sure that there's a free and fair election in Venezuela.


SANDERS: I think clearly he has been very, very abusive. That is a decision of the Venezuelan people.


[13:35:13] KEILAR: What did you think about his answer? Should he have said that Maduro has to go?

CARDIN: I disagree with Senator Sanders in regard to the legitimacy of President Maduro. I don't believe he is a legitimate leader. I do agree with Senator Sanders that we need free and fair elections in Venezuela in order to determine its future leader. That has to be done. We met with the current government when they were in Washington. We got a firm commitment that they're going to move to free and fair elections. They understand this is just an interim president and that we need to move toward free and fair elections. But clearly Maduro has lost legitimacy. He was not freely elected. And his legitimacy as leader is no longer there. So I support the president in recognizing the new acting president.

KEILAR: What does that mean if someone says it's up to the Venezuelan people when the elections are not free and fair? Is that missing that entire point?

CARDIN: Well, Venezuela needs to reinstitute its Democratic procedures for free and fair election and choose its leader. Whoever they choose is by the people of Venezuela. But it's got to be a free and fair election. It will never happen under Maduro. It won't happen. So you need to reestablish the democratic principles of that country, and this interim government is committed to doing that. We will oversee this. They have committed to using the Organization of American States as an independent umpire to make sure it's done in a proper way. There will be international observers. All of that needs to be done to guarantee there are free and fair elections. Then when the people decide after the free and fair election, that decision is up to the people of Venezuela.

KEILAR: Senator Ben Cardin, thank you very much for being on. Have a great weekend.

CARDIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: We expect to see the final sentencing memo in the Paul Manafort case today, at least the one that comes from the special counsel. The "New York Times" is now reporting that New York State is also preparing charges against the former Trump campaign chair, even if the president decides to pardon him.

Plus, our breaking news out of Florida. The owner of the New England Patriots charged with soliciting sex and a warrant out for his arrest.


[13:42:05] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: This breaking just now, sources telling CNN that singer, R. Kelly, has just been indicted in Cook County, Illinois.

Let's bring in CNN national correspondent, Sara Sidner, in Chicago.

Tell us what's happening, Sara. Just to reiterate, this just happened, so catch us up with what we know at this point.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It did. What we learned from two sources familiar with the ongoings of the case is there has been an indictment filed on Robert Kelly, also known worldwide as the R&B singer, R. Kelly.

What we have learned, over time, we first reported over the grand jury that has convened. That grand jury convened last week, it also convened this week. And that some of this has to do with the women that have come forward accusing him of some kind of sexual abuse. We also know that, last week, Attorney Michael Avenatti was able to hand over a tape to the state attorney's office here in Chicago. And, indeed, the Cook County state attorney's office has indicted R. Kelly. We do not yet know and we are trying to get ahold of the indictment to find out exactly what he has been indicted with, but this is a huge development.

As you know, R. Kelly, back in 2008, went to trial. He went to trial on 14 counts of child pornography. He was acquitted in that trial. And in that trial, there was also physical evidence, including a tape, a videotape that prosecutors at the time was a girl who was 13 years or 14 years old, and R. Kelly involved in sexual acts that had been recorded by R. Kelly, but he was acquitted on those charges because the jury said they simply could not positively, beyond a reasonable doubt, end up being able to identify R. Kelly or the girl, even though they brought a lot of witnesses to say otherwise. There were witnesses in that particular case that said opposite things, so the jury just could not -- was not able to go forward with a conviction. R. Kelly has always maintained that he is innocent of all the charges and accusations that have been coming at him for the past 20 years. Now here we are in 2019, 11 years after that case went to trial and he was acquitted, we are seeing now more charges against singer, R. Kelly -- Brianna?

KEILAR: What does CNN know about that tape you mentioned that Michael Avenatti turned over to the state attorney's office? This is material that CNN has been able to verify the content of, right?

SIDNER: That is correct. I watched the tape. It was extremely disturbing. On that particular tape, there was a picture that was barely clear. It was much clearer, according to two sources who have seen both tapes, the one that was given to a jury in 2008 and the one that this grand jury apparently saw, according to our sources. On that tape, it was a very, very clear room.

[13:45:14] And I want to warn people about what I am about to say, because it is disturbing information to have to listen to, and I won't go into too many details.

But what we saw was a girl on the tape and a man who appeared to be R. Kelly completely nude, constantly changing the camera, making sure that you could see the entire scene, the entire sex acts that were happening. There were multiple sex acts on that tape. There was urination going on that was videotaped. And we heard the girl say, over and over again, at least six times, she referred to her 14-year- old genitalia. And he in turn, a couple of times, also mentioned her 14-year-old genitalia.

And so we know that that has been in the hands of prosecutors for quite some time now. We understand that that tape was used also with the grand jury. But there have been other witnesses. And we are told by at least two sources that there have been other witnesses who have been coming in and out of the grand jury for several days. This grand jury has been brought together, and they've been listening to details that has to do with R. Kelly and the alleged sexual abuse or sexual acts, potentially, with minors and other women. We will have to get the details for you when it comes to what this indictment actually says, but this is big news.

And as you might imagine, there has been this whole series that came out in January called "Surviving R. Kelly" on Lifetime. That series certainly had to do with some of the people coming forward at this time. You heard from many, many women on that particular series who talked about their relationships and accused R. Kelly of having relationships with them when they were minors. And I have spoken to one of the women that was involved in that series, and she says she feels relieved, but she really wants to see the details of what this is.

But again, we should mention that there has been an indictment, according to two sources with knowledge of this case, that R. Kelly has been indicted. We are trying to get the charges he has been indicted on -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Sara Sidner, stand by for us. Thank you for bringing us all that information on the story that has just broken, R. Kelly indicted.

I want to bring in Areva Martin, CNN legal analyst, and also Clay Cane, Sirius XM host.

Areva, what's your reaction to this? We are awaiting, we have to be very clear -- and Sara was -- we're working to obtain this indictment and see what the charges are. What do you think about what we know so far?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is blockbusting kind of news, Brianna. Women for the last two decades have been talking either privately, publicly and definitely on the documentary that Sara mentioned about being abused by R. Kelly as teenagers. There was just a press conference held with Gloria Allred and two victims who said that R. Kelly had sex with them when they were minors. So there are a lot of women in the #metoo movement, in the mute R. Kelly movement who will feel a sense of relief hearing about this indictment, they will feel that justice has been served. It's been a big issue in terms of some of the women being taken seriously, some of their claims being taken seriously. Some of the women in the movement believe that since these are African-American women, they were not being believed like some women who are not African-American women are believed when they talk about sexual assault. This is a huge story. As you mentioned, Brianna, we don't have all

the details of the indictment. But I can't emphasize enough how many women, I'm sure, are feeling a sense of relief and feeling this day has taken way too long to come, and they're going to anxiously await to see what this indictment may mean for prosecution as well as hopefully some kind of conviction for what we know have been charges against R. Kelly that have been mounting for two decades.

KEILAR: Clay, I know you have been following R. Kelly's carrier. You have been following all of this information coming to light. What's your reaction?

CLAY CANE, RADIO HOST, SIRIUS XM: This is a long time coming. I can recall years ago, I wrote a timeline of R. Kelly's allegations. This goes back 24 years to when he allegedly married a 15-year-old girl, the late, great R&B singer, Alia (ph). He's been doing this reportedly in plain sight. It goes back to what victims aren't being believed, what victims are not being taken seriously. Black women especially are in that group of victims who are not being believed. I truly hope for my soul that time is up for this R&B singer. And I want to shout out executive producer, Green Hampton (ph), who did "Surviving R. Kelly." So many black women who have been at the forefront making sure justice has been served for all the women who have been reportedly abused by R. Kelly. Time is up, hopefully.

[13:50:11] KEILAR: Listening to what Sara said, the awful details about this tape aside, if we can just focus on the fact that she said he appears to be identifiable in this tape as compared to the other tape that a jury saw before when it acquitted him on charges. They said they couldn't be sure that was him, even though -- Areva, you heard Sarah, you're familiar with this -- a lot of people testified that it was him. And yet, a jury still forgave him essentially and didn't believe that this was true, didn't believe that it could be legitimized to the point where they would have found him guilty. Is there a statute of limitations here, though, I wonder? Sara was saying this was a VHS tape.

MARTIN: Yes. There are statutes of limitations that make it sometimes very difficult for prosecutors to bring these cases forward. I think one thing to note, Brianna, about the 2008 case is the victim that was in that videotape, she did not testify in that trial. And jurors who talked about deliberating on that case, they were -- that was a big issue for them. That was a sticking point, the fact that the victim herself did not come forward and testify. And they did talk about not being able to make a positive identification of R. Kelly. Based on what Sara has said about this new videotape, that's not an issue. The issue of identification of R. Kelly appears to be not the issue in this new tape. But we don't know about this victim. We haven't heard a lot, Brianna, about this victim. Is this victim one of the people that testified before the grand jury that has indicted R. Kelly? Is this victim someone who's willing to come forward and testify at a trial?

I agree that the R. Kelly documentary gave voice to so many women and gave women who had been victimized by R. Kelly, I think, the courage to come forward and tell their stories. And apparently the Cook County district attorney was able to talk to the women, talk to other victims and have them tell their stories. That's powerful for what's happening today.

KEILAR: Areva, Clay, Sara, if you could stand by, we have much more ahead.

We're about to hear the specific charges. We know there's been an indictment. We'll hear more on the specific charges of the indictment.

Plus, we have breaking news out of Florida. The owner of the New England Patriots charged with soliciting sex, and a warrant is out for his arrest.


KEILAR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set next Tuesday for a vote on the president's national emergency declaration. It's a resolution that is calling for the cancelation of the president's declaration. Pelosi made the announcement in Texas where she's meeting with border state officials and will get a tour of a key border crossing point in Laredo. The speaker and Republican Texas Governor Abbott will attend a special celebration on Saturday in Laredo that highlights relations between Mexico and the United States.

The House resolution to stop the president's national emergency declaration was authored by Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro. He's joining us from San Antonio.

Sir, thanks for being with us.

[13:55:07] REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D), TEXAS: Yes. Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: How many at this point -- I know the number is growing -- how many co-sponsors do you have, and do you have Republicans?

CASTRO: Yes, we have, the last I saw about 227, 228. We have one Republican so far, Justin Amash, of Michigan. My staff is reaching out to Republican offices for days now. I'm going to be making calls between now and the vote. If you look at how we approach this, we tried to approach it in a very bipartisan way by emphasizing the fact that the president is really making a constitutional power grab and trying to take away the power of Congress, the power of the purse of Congress, and usurping that for himself.

KEILAR: So you -- you have enough co-sponsors to get this passed, right? At this point in time?

CASTRO: Yes. Yes.

KEILAR: There's a partner resolution that would then -- this would prompt a vote in the Senate. The White House is trying to maintain the Republican support. I mean, you said there's one Republican. So far they're doing pretty well. And the likelihood is you're not going to get this veto-proof two-thirds that you need in both chambers. Would you still consider this a success?

CASTRO: Yes, you're right. I mean, I worked on this for about six weeks with the Legislative Council in Congress. And it's a privilege resolution, so we can pass it in the House. It will then go to the Senate. Has to have a vote in the Senate. We think that we can get the votes that we need in the Senate. You're right, it's an uphill battle to pass it after that if the president vetoes it. We're not going to give up. We're going to continue working to try to get the number we need if he, in fact, vetoes it.

KEILAR: Then what? Even if you continue to work, if you don't hit the mark, then what?

CASTRO: You're right. Then at that point, then at least legislatively we will not have been able to terminate the resolution. However, as you saw, there are lawsuits that have been filed, one by Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California. I think 16 states have joined on to that lawsuit. So I have said all along that this is one way that we're going to try to stop the president from his constitutional power grab. We're going to fight him in Congress. We're going to fight him in the courts. And I believe that the American people will fight him.

KEILAR: He has this option to take about $3 billion from the Defense Department's Drug Interdiction Program, to take $600 million from the Treasury Department's asset forfeiture fund. None of that is under this emergency declaration. That can't be stopped by Congress, can't be stopped by the resolution. What do you do in that case? It seems like he can grab money from other places.

CASTRO: Yes. I believe that we're going to figure a way to fight that also. If he tries to do an end around and get the money some other way, and you'll see lawsuits on that, as well.

KEILAR: And you visited one of these senior centers that is housing minors. Can you tell us what you saw?

CASTRO: The one in Florida, in Homestead?

KEILAR: Yes. Tell us about that.

CASTRO: A few days ago? Yes. Yes. I mean, the whole thing is part of what I consider a morally bankrupt system of how we treat migrants in this country. And these are people that are seeking asylum, that are seeking refuge from violent homelands. You know, by now, I've been to processing centers that CBP runs. I've been to ICE detention centers. I've been to shelters like this one in Homestead, Florida, that Health and Human Services runs. And the whole system of how we treat folks, I believe, is oftentimes inhumane. And it's unbecoming of our American values and who we are. And particularly when you go to things like a CBP processing center along the border, if you look at folks there in those -- basically in those steel cages sometimes or in the holding cells and no American would be proud of how we're treating these folks.

KEILAR: I want to ask you, because you're on the House Intelligence Committee, and next week, we're -- we will not see -- but Michael Cohen will appear before your committee. He's also going to have an open hearing the day before, before a different committee. What do you want to hear from him?

CASTRO: Well, I want to know whether the president directed him to lie to Congress. Whether somebody else directed him to lie to Congress, as has been reported. We need to know the answer to that question. I co-led the interview of him with Adam Schiff, my colleague, and the chairman now of the Intelligence Committee, then the ranking member, when Michael cone came in over a year ago now. We're going to be following up on a lot of questions we had for him back then to see whether we can figure out gaps in information and also what he was not honest about in that first interview.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Joaquin Castro, thank you so much. Have a great weekend. We're glad you could be with us.

CASTRO: Thank you.

KEILAR: That is it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[13:59:57] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Brianna, thank you so much.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN.

And R. Kelly -- that's where we're starting. Sources tell CNN that R. Kelly, the Grammy award-winning musician and R&B star, has been indicted by the Cook County --