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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Abandons Kurdish Allies Ahead of Turkey's Expected Advance; Interview with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Consequences of U.S. Pulling Out of Syria; McConnell And Pelosi Blast Trump's Move to Abandon Kurds; Bernie Sanders Out for a Walk After Heart Attack; GOP Homeland Security Chairman Says I Don't Trust The FBI Or CIA; Trump Claims To Be Anti-Corruption Crusader Despite His Past; Judge Dismisses Trump Request to Keep Taxes Secret in New York; Democrats Warn of Subpoenas to Giuliani Associates. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


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BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: President Trump stirring new fears at home and overseas by essentially choosing one ally over another in a war- torn part of the Middle East. These are U.S. forces pulling back from Northern Syria where they have been fighting side by side with Kurdish forces against ISIS. And those Kurdish fighters now feeling back stabbed by the United States President for giving Turkey's President a green light to invade Kurdish controlled areas.

Again this is an ally that's lost some 10,000 fighters helping America defeat ISIS which still is not completely wiped out. Top members of Congress including Republicans say that the U.S. pull back is a mistake. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it will only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, once again, President Trump is disserting an ally in a foolish attempt to appease a strong man. And Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego is with me, he served in Iran and is now with me.

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Thank you so much, sir, for your service to this country and just your knowledge of the region. First and foremost, what is the significance of this immediate move and what are the consequences for our good friends, the Kurds.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Well, there's short term and long-term consequences. The short term is we are potentially destabilizing the whole region. Especially, if Turkey really does move strong against the Kurds in Northern Syria. Long term, it probably will actually serve against our interest because Kurds are now going to try to find a friend. They know that the Shiite militias might be the only allies they have so they might actually align themselves closer to Iran or they actually will get closer to Russia.

So in terms of our footprint, our integrity in that area, it's basically gone. And in the whole scope of it, it makes it more difficult for us to have allies in the future. If allies in the future believe that we're going to cut and run on them like we did with the Kurds, it is going to be very difficult for us to operate in foreign nations or overseas when they believe that at any point we could just give up on them.

BALDWIN: Why, Congressman, do you think the President is just suddenly doing this now?

GALLEGO: I think this is something you've seen in history with this President. He kind of just gets on this whim. He has one phone conversation, maybe, he had a conversation with Erdogan who gave him some bland assurances and he just kind of ordered his men and women apparently to do it. This is not the way to conduct foreign policy.

Number one, you should talk to your advisers. It doesn't mean you have to listen to them, but you should talk to your advisers and actually weigh out what is going to happen. And secondly, this President doesn't really look at the future of this country in foreign policy from a perspective of how this going to affect this country. He looks at how it affects him. And if he believes it's going to affect him in a positive manner then he'll do it. And unfortunately, I think we're seeing that right now.

BALDWIN: But you listen to what the President said and I just want to play everyone this clip. This what the President just said in June about saving the Kurds, convincing the Turkish President not to attack them. This was a couple months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He had a 65,000-man army at the border, and he was going to wipe out the Kurds who helped us with ISIS, we took out the califate. We have 100 percent of the califate. And I called him and I asked him not to do it. They are I guess natural enemies of his or Turkey's. And he hasn't done it. They were lined up to go out and wipe out the people that we just defeated, the ISIS califate with, and I said, you can't do that, you can't do it, and he didn't do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That was just in the end of June.

GALLEGO: Yes.

BALDWIN: What changed in four months?

GALLEGO: Look, you can't tell with this President, and that's the problem. That's actually what's the most destabilizing situation here is that most countries, our allies and our enemies just do not know what we're doing anymore. There's no rhyme or reason to this. We literally asked the Kurds to actually take down the defensive weaponry, their defensive positions and we promised them security versus Turkey. And in the process, once they took down everything, we are now pulling back and basicly putting them up for slaughter, potentially.

This is a very dangerous situation this President has gotten into. And more importantly where is the Secretary of State? Instead of trying to search out for

conspiracy theories against Vice President Biden, he should be out here trying to negotiate an actual exit that brings us both security for us as well as for the Kurds.

BALDWIN: So where is the Secretary of State? To your point also about allies, actually I thought the Republican Senator Ted Cruz had a great point. He tweeted about a lot of this, and he said, other enemies and rivals, Iran, Russia, et cetera, don't abandon their allies. If we want allies to stand with America in the future, we shouldn't either. Honorable nations stand by their friends.

I mean, Congressman Gallego, what message does this send, this sudden pull out, what does this send to our allies?

GALLEGO: I think it certainly sends a message that we are not a trusted ally, that we will be with you for short term gain but not long-term partnership.

BALDWIN: That's so dangerous.

GALLEGO: It's extremely dangerous. We have are as strong nation not just because of a national defense budget, not because we have all the weaponry that we need, because we have strong alliances all over the world. And when we start breaking our trust with those alliances, we become weaker as a nation. And Trump and his administration has certainly weakened us today.

BALDWIN: I just think of our men and women in uniform too, does that put them more so in harm's way? Or I suppose they're --

GALLEGO: Well, absolutely, you always want to have local assistance. When I was in Iraq, I had a lot of help from the Iraqi National Guard and also Iraqi translators. It was their knowledge, their language knowledge, their cultural knowledge that actually helped me stay alive as well as help me be a better Marine out in the field.

You know, we would not have been able as effectively attack and push back on ISIS if the Kurds had not stood up for themselves. When the Iraqi government fell apart, when the Iraqi military fell apart, it was only the Kurds that actually stood strong with the courageous stand at Kobane for example. That was the turning point. And to be honest, outside of Israel, the strongest ally, the most consistent ally that we have had in the Middle East have been the Kurdish people, not even a nation, the Kurdish people --

BALDWIN: Wow.

GALLEGO: -- and we've just lost that.

BALDWIN: Wow. Congressman, thank you very much. Congressman Ruben Gallego, good to see you. Coming up next, we have details on the second whistleblower who has

come forward. Plus, President Trump insists his only motivation for asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was fighting corruption.

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Well, pot meet kettle. We'll break down the many instances where the President and his children have been accused of corruption themselves.

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BALDWIN: Senator Bernie Sanders is speaking to the media today for the first time since he had that heart attack. He has been recovering back home in Burlington, Vermont. In fact, he stepped out today for a walk with his wife, Jane.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you feeling, Senator?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel very good, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When can we see you back on the trail?

SANDERS: Getting back to work a little bit right now. Mostly what I'm trying to -- I used to walk a good distance every day. And I got out of that habit. I'm trying to get back to it. So that's what I'm doing right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: How about that. CNN's Ryan Nobles is following the Sanders campaign for us. How is he doing? What's the story with his schedule?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, he seems to be doing much better, and as you saw there he briefly talked to reporters today and said that he's feeling better. But this is the most that we've seen him since he suffered that heart attack a little less than a week ago in Las Vegas. He took a ten-minute walk with his wife, Jane Sanders, around their neighborhood here in Burlington. He continues to lie low now, staying out of the spotlight as he recovers from this heart attack.

And we don't know for sure when he's going to get back on the campaign trail in earnest, but we do know that the work of the campaign continues. In fact, we learned today that at 1:00 this afternoon Sanders held an all staff conference call, where he talked to his team. He told him that he was going to stay in the race. And he also talked about his own personal experience with his heart attack is part of his motivation to continue on the run and push for his signature plan of Medicare For All. And he's also rolling out pretty big policy proposals. Brooke. This

morning his team are rolling out a pretty comprehensive campaign finance reform plan. It has many different prongs to it, but probably the most significant is the one that would take place the soonest. And that's where Sanders has pledged that if he becomes the Democratic nominee for president, he's going to halt all corporate donations to the Democratic National Convention.

Now that is significant because the DNC has already started soliciting donations to fund this big event. It could cost upwards of $70 million and if Sanders becomes the nominee, he's going to be put at direct odds with the DNC as a result of this. Now Sanders says this is part of his plan to get money out of politics, and even that means going head to head with party leaders, he doesn't have a problem with that. Brooke, I was in communication with DNC leaders last night they did not want to take the bait on this. They said they're just going to work to get a convention in place, that will benefit whichever nominee emerges from this process and one that they hope will help that nominee beat Donald Trump -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Can we just -- the man had a heart attack, is out walking with his wife in the rain, and, you know, is coming to our CNN debate. Not nothing, we wish him well. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much in Vermont.

The President's allies are doing all the they can to defend him. One powerful Republican Senator even casting doubt on the credibility of the FBI and CIA.

Plus, a big legal blow for the President when it comes to turning over his tax returns. Why a federal judge ruled that he cannot keep them secret from a grand jury.

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BALDWIN: One of the many narratives President Trump has tried to push to explain why he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens is that he is simply trying to root out corruption. So how hard is that to believe? CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon with today's reality check.

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JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Donald Trump tried to reframe his re-election around being an anti-corruption crusader.

TRUMP: I don't care about Biden's campaign but I do care about corruption. What I want to do, and I think I have an obligation to do, probably a duty to do it, corruption, we are looking for corruption.

AVLON: OK, that takes brass. I mean, this is a guy whose been called the most corrupt person ever to run for the presidency. A guy whose charitable foundation was shut down after an investigation by the New York Attorney General, found that it was engaging in a, quote, shocking pattern of illegality. He's the only President in decades to refuse to release his tax returns with the Justice Department involved in the effort to make sure they stay secret. And the only President to refuse to divest themselves from business interests. I think even Jimmy Carter felt honor bound to do with his peanut farm.

Instead he's hyped his businesses from the White House pushing his Doral golf resort for the next G-7 summit while Republicans forked over more than $3 million at Trump properties during the midterms and foreign governments to do business there. Not only that, he's cozied up to dictators and autocrats from North Korea to Russia to Egypt. So combating corruption is not exactly an area where he's got core credibility.

So why is he doing this? Well, he already admitted to asking a foreign power to investigate a political rival who's beating him in most 2020 polls. So the initial strategy of denial doesn't work anymore. So now it's an anti-corruption initiative. Of course, the real strategy is deflect and project. Leave folks thinking that everyone is corrupt. It is not true and this isn't normal. Here is just a taste of why the strategy going after the Biden family for corruption is a sign that as Fox put, the irony is dead.

Trump family is reportedly still making foreign deals despite the President's promise not too. For example, Ivanka Trump has been granted 16 new trademarks from the Chinese government including one for voting machines while she worked in the White House. Ivanka released financial statements showing that she made $3.9 million in 2017 from the Trump Hotel in Washington.

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That is just part of the $82 million haul she made with her husband, fellow White House staffer, Jared Kushner, who "The New York Times" reported paid little or no federal taxes for years. But let's take President Trump at his word. A risky proposition I know and say that his administration is uniquely committed to combating corruption around the world. Well if that is the case, it is worth asking why they proposed cutting the budget devoted to fighting corruption by 40 percent. And the amount dedicated to combating international organized crime by 75 percent.

If you want to find the truth, follow the money and the Trump administration's own budget suggests that combating corruption isn't a priority. It's almost as if this whole thing is a political stunt designed to distract from the obvious, Donald Trump doesn't really care about corruption at all.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: John Avlon, thank you very much.

And now to a legal blow to President Trump's fight to keep his tax returns secret. It began early today with a federal judge throwing out the President's lawsuit to stop New York prosecutors from getting their hands on eight years of Trump's taxes and the rejection of the Trump argument that the White House has, quote, absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind, end quote.

The President's lawyers promised an appeal and shortly after the ruling was announced the U.S. Court of Appeals granted a stay giving Trump and his lawyers more time. Former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers is with me and you know reading your piece, Trump's claim of absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind, you say Trump's position is breathtaking in its audacity. Tell me why.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is, Brooke, because not only does it mean you can't investigate the President for anything, it means you can't investigate anyone involved with the President in anything. Including things that he did before he became the President. So that would mean, for example, the Mueller investigation was totally unfounded despite netting some 30 some indictments. You know, Watergate should never have been done as an investigation. I mean the scope of what the President is saying here is just absolutely crazy.

BALDWIN: So if this decision was not unexpected, and his lawyers are presumably quite intelligent, why did they go with this?

RODGERS: I think it is two things really. One is that he has a thing about the tax returns and we're all waiting with bated breath to see if we ever learn why it is he fights so hard to keep the tax returns under wraps. But clearly, he does so he'll go to any lengths to try to keep those secret even if it means a legal hail Mary if you will.

And I think the second thing is it is all about the delay here. We're in an election year. Even if he only gets a few days here and there which leads to, you know, weeks and months, this is the beginning of the investigation for the DA's office. They have to get subpoenas so that they can figure out what else to get, who to interview. It would be months and months and months before they are in a position to charge someone when means you are running up against the election, if they can delay this at the front end.

BALDWIN: So then what happens with -- now it's up to the judges of the Second Circuit and you say they have to move immediately. How do they work through this?

RODGERS: Well, so what will happen is it will be assigned to a three- judge panel for a motion. Motions are heard in the Second Circuit on Tuesdays. So it could be next Tuesday, maybe the following Tuesday. They will hear the arguments. It's already been briefed. So they shouldn't take too long in terms of waiting for more paperwork, although now we know the Department of Justice wants to weigh in so we'll see if they wait for that. But it should be really close to already fully briefed. They can just decide the matter and they should do it quickly given that the legal issues here are not difficult.

BALDWIN: If the grand jury gets to see the tax returns, that still doesn't mean that they would be made public, correct?

RODGERS: That's right. So the grand jury operates in secrecy and anything given to the grand jury is secret until and unless it becomes part of a public criminal case. So only if there are charges here that lead to some sort of public proceeding at which you need to see the tax returns and all of those are big ifs. That's when we'll see them but not before.

BALDWIN: OK, and then let's just talk about the impeachment inquiry. House Democrats now are threatening to subpoena these three associates of Rudy Giuliani. Right. So they're trying to put the pressure on Giuliani to comply. We know -- we've talked so much about the White House's stonewalling. They can't claim attorney/client privilege, right? So what -- would they have to comply?

RODGERS: Well, they can't claim attorney/client privilege as it relates to the privilege between the President and Rudy Giuliani. Maybe they have their own attorney/client relationships. But they can't claim that privilege because that privilege is only between Rudy and the President, and it only involves conversations the two of them have together. They also can't claim executive privilege because if you don't work in the administration you don't have executive privilege, so there's really no excuse. This is all again part of the delay, delay, delay tactic that seems to be governing everything that the White House is doing these days. So eventually they'll have to come in and speak to Congress.

BALDWIN: OK. Jennifer Rodgers, thank you very much for all of that.

RODGERS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And President Trump just walked out at the White House to sign a trade agreement with Japan. We're watching all of this to see if he answers questions from reporters. So keep an eye on that. I'm Brooke Baldwin, thank you for being with me. In the meantime, let's throw it to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

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