Return to Transcripts main page

THE BRIEF WITH BIANCA NOBILO

U.S. Troops Pull Out of Northern Syria Ahead of Turkish Incursion; U.S. House Democrats Issue New Subpoenas; UK PM Says He'll Discuss Fatal Crash With U.S.; North Korea Casts Doubt on Continuing Talks With U.S.; Iraq's Army Admits to Excessive Force Against Protestors; China Cuts Ties With Houston Rockets over GM's Hong Kong Tweet. Aired 5-5.30p ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

That we finally found some 2019 foreign interference in the U.S. that Republican Senators find intolerable. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and

Twitter at @jaketapper. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tonight on "The Brief," the U.S. is pulling troops out of Northern Syria, just as Turkey moves in, how this move could upend the

Middle East. Democrats subpoena documents from the Pentagon for the impeachment inquiry into the President's call with Ukraine. And outrage at

the NBA, after China blasted a team's general manager for tweeting support for the Hong Kong protests.

BIANCA NOBILO, HOST, CNN: Live from London, I'm Bianca Nobilo and welcome to the show. A major foreign policy shift by U.S. President Donald Trump

has set off alarm bells in Washington and in capitals across the western world.

Mr. Trump abruptly ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from Northern Syria, ahead of a long threatened Turkish incursion to cleanse the area of Kurdish

fighters. Those same fighters were crucial U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS. And critics say they're now being abandoned to a potentially deadly

fate.

In a very rare move, some of the President's top Republican defenders in Congress are publicly rebuking his decision. Senate Majority leader Mitch

McConnell says a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime, and it would increase the

risk that ISIS other terrorist groups regroup.

Mr. Trump spoke a short time ago denying that he is siding with Turkey in its fight against the Kurds. He also gave this warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Right now, we are at a position where if Turkey does anything out of what they should be doing, we

will hit them so hard in the economy. But when you talk about soldiers, we only had 50 soldiers in the area. I think the area was, it's a very small

area, very small area. But we only had 50 soldiers there. I don't want them to be in a bad or compromising position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: Kurdish fighters spent years on the frontlines in Syria, proving themselves to be the most effective fighting force against ISIS. But, as

our Ben Wedeman reports, they now feel vulnerable and betrayed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN'S LEAD CORRESPONDENT: U.S. troops are pulling back from the Syrian-Turkish border, making way for a looming Turkish invasion, an

invasion aimed at the Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, which the U.S. armed, trained and fought alongside in the war against ISIS.

In 2015, President Barack Obama sent U.S. troops to Syria to help defeat the terror group, which in the vacuum left by the war between the Syrian

government and its opponents, had seized large parts of Northern Syria.

In the Kurds, the Americans found a reliable and enthusiastic alley, but Turkey saw them as merely the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party,

the PKK, which has fought a low intensity war against Ankara since 1984. Despite this complication, the U.S. deepened its alliance with the Syrian

Kurds under Donald Trump, who as a candidate made clear he would pull out all the stops.

TRUMP: I would bomb the [bleep] out of them.

(APPLAUSE)

WEDEMAN: The U.S. did exactly that, driving ISIS out of its de facto capital, Raqqah, in the fall of 2017. But President Trump wanted out,

declaring suddenly late last year he would be pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria.

He ran into stiff opposition from his own inner circle. His Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in protest, saying allies would be

betrayed. Trump relented, but it was clear the desire to extract the U.S. from Syria was always there.

After intense U.S.-led coalition bombing, in March of this year, the last bastion of ISIS' caliphate in the town of Baghuz fell to the Syrian

Democratic Forces, with Turkey calling for a buffer zone along its border with Syria, free of any Kurdish forces.

By August, the U.S. and Turkey had worked out a mechanism for joint patrols along the border. But that wasn't enough for President Recep Tayyip

Erdogan, who has much bigger plans including the resettlements of perhaps more than a million Syrian refugees now in Turkey in the proposed buffer

zone. The Kurds have reacted angrily to the new Turkish-American arrangement, calling it a stab in the back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: Let's get more now from Nick Paton Walsh, who is in Istanbul. Nick, you have written a piece in cnn.com which says that Mr. Trump's move is a

gift to Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. Explain why.

[17:05:00]

NICK PATON WALSH, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT WITH CNN: In short, the U.S. troops there have been kind of acting as a blocking mechanism to

some degree, stopping the Syrian Kurds getting into clash with the Turkish army, but also making it pretty tough for other main players in that region

to get what they want out of the kind of end state of Syria's civil war.

Why is it a gift to Vladimir Putin? Well, it's pretty likely that when the Syrian Kurds, who really always saw this moment coming since Donald Trump

first said he wanted to move out of Syria, but I don't think they ever thought it would be quite this weirdly telegraphed and bleakly delivered

through a White House statement later on Sunday.

The Syrian Kurds have always known they probably have to make a difficult phone call to the Syrian regime in Damascus and its Moscow backers to get

back to where they were before this fight against ISIS started and that was a pretty uneasy accommodation when they kind of let live each other to some

degree.

That will be a gift to Russia, because it will extend their influence around Syria. They'll have to work out how they interact with the Turkish

forces and then of course as well there's what happens to that kind of highway - that Iranian militias and Iran had running through Iraq and Syria

towards the Mediterranean Coast above Israel, which they had been exploiting over the past years.

All the geopolitics and the kind of winners from the Syrian civil war could massively change because of the American departure. As I say, I think the

Syrian Kurds knew this was coming. I have to say, it hasn't happened yet, it could still change. Turkey could still pull back from the brink. But we

are looking at a very stark 24 hours in which a singular announcement from Donald Trump has really completely changed the balance of power, or

certainly the vision of it in the Middle East. Bianca?

NOBILO: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much. You can read more about Nick's analysis on cnn.com.

Turning now to the fast moving developments in the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump, several sources say the House Intelligence

Committee and lawyers for the whistle-blower who filed the complaint are discussing extreme measures to protect that person's identity. Also, a

second whistle-blower has come forward, who claims to have firsthand knowledge backing up the complaint filed by the original whistle-blower.

Meanwhile, House Democrats have issued new subpoena to the Pentagon and the U.S. Budget Office. They're also threatening to subpoena three associates

of President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

This week, House panels will hear testimony from former Ambassador to Ukraine, who was removed from her position by President Trump. But first,

on Tuesday, lawmakers will hear from the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

That Ambassador, Gordon Sondland, as you may remember, was brought into the spotlight after texts were given to Congress that appeared to show

diplomats talking about possible conditions put on U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Our Congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty joins us now live from Washington. Sunlen, Gordon's name is the one that's on everybody's lips

now, we are talking about this investigation into President Trump and Ukraine. What do you think Democrats are hoping to gain from his testimony

in particular?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT WITH CNN: Yes, this could potentially be a significant moment up here on Capitol Hill, Bianca.

Democrats potentially hoping for new information and potentially new leads in their ongoing impeachment investigation, when they hear from Sondland

behind closed doors tomorrow up here on Capitol Hill.

He was of course one of the people named in the whistle-blower's complaint according to the whistle-blower, to have provided advice to Ukrainian

leadership about how to navigate the demands that President Trump was making of the Ukrainians.

And the texts that were released late last week from Kurt Volker really reveal how much pressure was being exerted behind the scenes, how much that

he as well as Volker really tried to make it known that the U.S. relationship with the Ukraine was contingent on the Ukrainians launching

their investigation, so potentially a huge day up here on the Hill tomorrow. Bianca?

NOBILO: Serfaty on Capitol Hill. Thank you. We'll be sure to check in with you tomorrow to bring you the very latest on Gordon Sondland.

The British Prime Minster is urging a U.S. diplomat's wife suspected in the car accident that killed a teenager to come back to the United Kingdom. In

August, 19-year-old Harry Dunn was struck on his motorcycle by a car that police say was on the wrong side of the road.

Boris Johnson says it was driven by Anne Sacoolas who has returned to the United States. Mr. Johnson says that the U.S. won't lift her diplomatic

immunity that he'll appeal to the highest levels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I do not think that it can be right to use the process of diplomat immunity for this time of purpose, and I

hope that Anne Sacoolas will come back and will engage properly with the processes of laws that are carried out in this country. If we can't resolve

it, then of course I'll be raising myself personally with the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:10:00]

NOBILO: The State Department says diplomatic immunity is rarely waived. Meanwhile, there's been an outpouring of support for the young man's family

on social media. Dunn's mother says that they may use the money raised to fly to the United States to pressure President Trump for justice for their

son.

Staying with Boris Johnson now, an American businesswoman is refusing to divulge the nature of her relationship with the British Prime Minster.

Jennifer Arcuri admitted to being close with Boris Johnson and sharing a mutual love of Shakespeare, but she's flatly denying that her friendship

with him played any part in her getting tens of thousands of dollars in public funding for her tech company, when Johnson was Mayor of London.

Arcuri appeared on ITV's morning talk show when she refused to answer whether or not she had a sexual relationship with Johnson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER ARCURI, ACTRESS: And because the press have made me this objectified ex-model pole dancer, I really am not going to answer that

question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you won't deny it?

ARCURI: I'm sorry. I'm not going to be putting myself in a position for you to weaponize my answer. I'm being used as a pawn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: Arcuri says, other than the occasional text message, she's not been in regular contact with Mr. Johnson since 2016.

After working level talks between United States and North Korea wrapped up over the weekend in Sweden, there's a stark difference between how both

countries perceive the negotiations. North Korea's foreign ministry says it's skeptical about U.S. political will, casting doubt on whether the

talks will continue, while U.S. officials say they had a, "good discussion."

CNN's Will Ripley, who has reported extensively from inside North Korea, joins me now live from Hong Kong. So Will, where do these talks go from

here? It seems that both sides have a very different interpretation of how they went.

Will Ripley, correspondent, CNN: Yes, Bianca, this was like - the talks in Stockholm this weekend was like one of those dates where one person walks

away and says, hey that was pretty good, we had a good conversation, and the other person walks away and says, that was awful.

Well, the North Koreans are the ones who said it was awful. And I think the problem was, there were these news reports unconfirmed, CNN did not report,

but there were some outlets saying that the U.S. was prepared to go in and offer sanctions relief sooner than what the United States stance has

previously been, which is they want North Korea to give up substantial nuclear assets before they consider lifting any sanctions.

Some news outlets were reporting that the U.S. was thinking about changing course. And I do believe that there are inside the Trump administration who

want to do that. But in the end, apparently when the Americans sat down across the table from the North Koreans, it was a very different situation.

The U.S. said, nope we are sticking to our guns, we are digging in our heels. And of course the North Koreans then put out a statement saying they

were disappointed, that they went in with high expectations, those expectations have essentially been dashed.

The Swedish who hosted this event along with the U.S. talked about continuing discussions in two weeks. The North Koreans over the weekend

basically poured cold water all over that, saying the U.S. needs to drastically change its approach or the deadline at the end of year before

who knows what, missile launch, nuclear missile, who knows, it's coming up quickly.

NOBILO: Will Ripley, good to speak to you, thank you.

Moving on to Iraq, where at least 104 people have been killed in violent anti-government protests across the country, and more than 6 thousand

others have been injured. Now, Iraq's army is admitting it used excessive force towards protesters in one district of Baghdad. The Prime Minister has

ordered the withdrawal of those troops, replacing them with federal police. CNN's Arwa Damon is in Baghdad and she spoke with the protesters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARWA DAMON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: We want a country we can live in. It's been 16 years, this young man yells. I am a university

graduate.

He doesn't have work. Many of the demonstrators are the country's young adults, among whom unemployment is especially high.

Another man here says he studied law. The only work he found is in a hair salon. He says he's been demonstrating for days.

His friend was just killed.

They shout over each other about the government's use of force, their friends who were killed in the demonstrations, the injustice.

This man, who doesn't want his identity disclosed, has been filming from the start.

This is the first day. You can see in the video all of it. There's nothing. He's saying, like, the people weren't attacking the security forces.

Our only weapon was to physically block off the street so that the security forces couldn't advance.

The demonstrators' demands are not unreasonable, he says, end corruption, provide employment and improve basic services.

[17:15:00]

But the protests have grown more violent, threatening the country's already fragile security, and the rising death toll has incensed those trying to

take to the streets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: Activists called on the United Nations Secretary to take action. On Friday, the UN urged dialog between the government and protestors.

Coming up on the program, NBA basketball has found a second home in China, but some fans are rethinking that after one team's General Manager

expressed his opinion on the Hong Kong protests.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOBILO: Anti-government protests in Hong Kong are in their 18th week. Now, fallout has reached as far as the world of professional basketball, after

the General Manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted support for the demonstrators and then later apologized.

CNN's David Culver explains in today's China Debrief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CULVER, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: China's passion for basketball can be seen in a neighborly game of pickup. When he's not

shooting hoops with his friends in Beijing, 15 year old Eric Qu is closely following the NBA.

ERIK QU, BASKETBALL FAN: Toronto Raptors.

CULVER: Toronto raptors?

QU: Yes, because they win the championship.

CULVER: But a team that's no longer on his preferred watchlist, the Houston Rockets, because of a now deleted tweet sent out Friday by team General

Manager Daryl Morey. The Rockets' GM tweeting a photo that read, fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong, referring to the months long democracy

protests underway in Hong Kong, protests that have both embarrassed and angered China's government.

Over the weekend, Morey's tweet unleashed a strong response in Mainland China. The Chinese Basketball Association severing ties with the Rockets,

CCTV, the Chinese state-run broadcaster, no longer planning to air upcoming games, and the Chinese tech giant Tencent suspending its deal to livestream

Rockets' games.

The reaction led to an apology by Morey, tweeting in part, I've always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have

provided, and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention.

CNN was in Tokyo as the Rockets hit the court on Monday, Rockets guard, James Harden, echoing his team's apology.

JAMES HARDEN JR., AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER FOR THE HOUSTON ROCKETS: We love China. We love playing there. I know, for both of us

individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most support and love, so we appreciate them as a fan base and--

CULVER: The NBA acknowledging Morey's tweet deeply offended many in China and called it regrettable. But that has U.S. lawmakers on both sides upset.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz tweeting, human rights shouldn't be for sale and the NBA shouldn't be assisting Chinese Communist censorship.

Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski called the NBA's response shameful. Back on the streets of Beijing, Erik and his friends trying to see past the

off-court drama.

CULVER: Does it make you think differently about the Rockets?

[17:20:00]

QU: Just OK. I didn't change my opinion. I still like Harden, and - but maybe I won't watch them too often.

CULVER: Basketball has been a big deal here in China for decades but their love for the support really intensified in 2002 when Yao Ming, one of their

own, signed with a NBA team, the Houston Rockets. Yao today is the President of the Chinese Basketball Association, the same association that

severed ties with the Rockets, his former team. David Culver, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: As debrief, the geopolitical impact of all of this, Josh Rogin is a CNN political analyst and Washington Post columnist. Josh, I personally

want to read you some of the criticism from U.S. lawmakers. Republican Senator Marco Rubio said that NBA players have no problem speaking out on

politics and social issues in America, but they apologize to China for a pro-democracy tweet from an NBA team executive; hypocrites. And Democratic

presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke tweeted, "The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over

human rights; what an embarrassment."

So, Josh, first my question to you is lately not very much has been bringing the Democrats and Republicans together. So, why was their reaction

to this so swift, unified and determined?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Well, I think what you're seeing in Washington is a bipartisan awakening to the

Chinese government's strategy of trying to export its political repression and enforce it against Americans. I mean, the NBA has come under criticism

for the way they handled this, but by far they're not the first to deal with Chinese government punishment - economic punishment, for something one

of their employees said not even in China - remember, Twitter is banned in China. So - and the Chinese government has come down on the Rockets. And

that's the kind of economic coercion that Washington is objecting to.

NOBILO: Josh, you've raised in your recent article for The Washington Post, it's not the NBA's job the stand up to the Chinese government; that's the

job for the U.S. government. So, do you think it's unfair for people and politicians to be mad at the NBA, when in fact lots of U.S. companies make

similar types of cost/benefit analysis themselves and also the tone set at the top, and CNN has reported that the President intimated in a

conversation with Xi Jinping that he would keep quiet on the Hong Kong protests because trade deals are being negotiated between the two

countries.

ROGIN: Well, it's true that companies, including the NBA, tend to be hypocritical when it comes to China because there's just so much money to

be made there. But--

NOBILO: Yes.

ROGIN: We have to see this as a comprehensive problem, and this is the China government's strategy to sort of punish anyone, anywhere in the

world, who criticizes them. And that's not something the NBA or any one company can deal with. And we have to see that this is not just the Chinese

Basketball Association and CCTV, this is the Chinese government telling everyone in China that they can't do business with the Rockets because of

one tweet.

And if we allow that to stand, then every company will be in that same position, and I think that's why you are seeing the reaction you see today

because this is such a big problem that even the NBA is not strong enough to stand up to Chinese economic aggression and coercion.

NOBILO: That was going to be my next question really, is that is it a necessary condition of doing business and having access to the Chinese

market to reflect China's world view or at the very least go along with it?

ROGIN: We see increasingly that the Chinese Communist Party is enforcing its rule that no one outside of China is allowed to criticize the party,

lest if they want to business in China. It wasn't always this way, but it's getting worse and worse. Marriott, Mercedes-Benz, United Airlines, those

are just three companies, coach (ph), who have found themselves - put in the squeeze, okay, and they are being punished for exercising free speech.

Here in America, we don't punish people economically for exercising free speech and that's why this is a really whole of society problem that

mandates a whole of society response.

NOBILO: Josh Rogin in Washington, thank you very much for joining the program.

ROGIN: Anytime.

NOBILO: When The Brief returns, how the world could change for the Catholic Church. A special Vatican Summit is discussing, among other things, the

controversial issue of priests who are married.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOBILO: We end the show with a Vatican Summit that could change the world of Catholicism. Officially, Catholic priests are required to maintain a

life of celibacy. Now, the contentious question of whether that could change is front and center once again. The summit is being asked whether

some respected married elder men could be ordained to help overcome a shortage of priests in remote areas in the depths of the Amazon rain

forests. And that has led to vociferous debate.

Conservatives are outraged, protesting and joining senior clergies' calls for a crusade of prayer and fasting for 40 days throughout the meeting.

But, Pope Francis says if everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that this is the way things have always been, then the gift

vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo. The summit will last three weeks and any proposals approved

will be sent to Pope Francis for a final decision. That's The Brief. I'm Bianca Nobilo, and World Sport is up next.

[17:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAIN ASHER, NEWS ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: I'm Zain Asher, this is CNN.

DON RIDDELL, NEWS ANCHOR AND SPORTS JOURNALIST, CNN INTERNATIONAL: You know what they say, be careful what you tweet. If you're a NBA executive,

perhaps you might not want to upset a deal that's worth millions of dollars. The Houston Rockets have had a fantastic relationship with the

country of China, but have they just burned it with seven words?

And also on World Sport today, what does it take to be an Ironman Champion? And when you have kids, what are they made of?

Hello there and welcome to World Sport. We are coming to you live from CNN Center.

END