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Second Whistle-Blower Comes Forward on Trump's Ukraine Dealings; U.S. Troops Begin Pullout from Syria Near Turkey's Border. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A second person is coming forward to corroborate whistleblower claims.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is Kavanaugh all over again. And what is it about the intel community and Trump that is so off-base here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot ignore what is painfully right or obviously right in front of us. The president dangerously abused his oath of office and his administrative powers.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): There were 67 pages of text messages. Why just a few hand-pulled, selected, highlighted by the Democrats?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): This is wild, the lengths to which Republicans are going to try to avoid being criticized by this president.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, October 7. It's 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Bianna Golodryga joins me this morning.


BERMAN: Indeed, it is.

Here's the thing. There's more. That much we know. There is more detail, more information about the president's efforts to lean on a foreign leader for personal political gain.

CNN has learned that a second whistle-blower from the intelligence community has come forward with what we are told is first-hand knowledge about the phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. This undercuts the arguments from some Republicans who demean the first whistle-blower's claims as hearsay.

Also breaking overnight, a group of 90 former national security officials who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, they issued an open letter of support for the initial whistle-blower, saying, quote, "A responsible whistle-blower makes all Americans safer by ensuring that serious wrongdoing can be investigated and addressed, thus advancing the cause of national security to which we have devoted our careers. Being a responsible whistle-blower means that, by law, one is protected from certain egregious forms of retaliation."

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, former CIA Director Michael Hayden are among those who signed this letter.

GOLODRYGA: Major developments on that front.

Also, major developments breaking overnight. A significant foreign policy move by the Trump administration. U.S. troops are right now withdrawing from northern Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to invade the region and abandoning Kurdish fighters who fought alongside the U.S. to defeat ISIS.

But let's begin with our coverage with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, who is live on Capitol Hill.

Good morning, Suzanne.


Well, of course, the impeachment process is now moving at lightning speed as Democrats present their case, a case that they believe is getting stronger by the day. Now that they not have just one whistle- blower but two come forward.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): A second whistle-blower coming forward, intensifying the accusations President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Their attorney telling CNN this whistle-blower works in the intelligence community, has first-hand knowledge supporting claims made in the first whistle-blower's complaint, and has already been interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): People around the president, professionals who were in the Oval Office, who were in the Situation Room, are watching what is happening and are finally saying, my God, this cannot happen anymore. And they are coming forward.

MALVEAUX: The White House continues to spin, writing in a statement, "It doesn't matter how many people decide to call themselves whistle- blowers about the same telephone call, a call the president already made public. It doesn't change the fact that he has done nothing wrong."

But the White House transcript summary of that call shows President Trump repeatedly pressuring Ukraine's new leader to investigate his rival.

Trump feels confident he can survive an impeachment vote if it goes to the Senate.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have no choice. They have to follow their leadership. And then we'll get it to the Senate, and we're going to win. The Republicans have been very unified.

MALVEAUX: But he's facing harsh criticism from some Republican senators after this.

TRUMP: China should start an investigation into the Bidens.

MALVEAUX: Senator Susan Collins joining Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse in rebuking the president's comment.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): It's completely inappropriate.

MALVEAUX: Romney taking it a step further, calling the president's China request "brazen, wrong, and appalling," sparking Trump's fury on Twitter, assailing the former GOP presidential nominee's lack of loyalty by writing, "The Democrats are lucky they don't have any Mitt Romney types. They may be lousy politicians, but they stick together!"

Most Republican lawmakers falling in line.

GRAHAM: Remember Kavanaugh? It started with one complaint that wound up being unverifiable. This is Kavanaugh all over again.

CHUCK TODD, HOST, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": Do you not trust the American -- do you not trust the FBI? You don't trust the CIA?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): No. No, I don't.

TODD: I'm just very confused here.

JOHNSON: Absolutely not.

TODD: You don't trust either of those entities.

JOHNSON: After Peter Strzok and Lisa Page?


JOHNSON: After James Comey --

TODD: You believe the FBI and the CIA --

JOHNSON: -- Peter Strzok, John Brennan?

TODD: -- these government agencies? OK.

JOHNSON: No, I don't trust any of these guys in the Obama administration. I don't trust any of them. TODD: You don't trust them now? Do you trust them now?

JOHNSON: No. I didn't trust them back then.

MALVEAUX: Some Democrats claiming the Republican colleagues are treating Trump like he's a dictator.

MURPHY: This is wild, the lengths to which Republicans are going to try to avoid being criticized by this president.


MALVEAUX: And it's going to be another incredibly busy week here as two more diplomats will be deposed to the impeachment House committees behind closed doors. We're talking about tomorrow. That is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and then, on Friday, the former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine, who was abruptly recalled in May -- John.

BERMAN: What stories does she have to tell? Much more on all these developments. Suzanne, thank you very much. Just ahead.

Also overnight, the president made a decision so controversial that one official who used to work for him said bluntly, President Trump is not a commander in chief. What he did and the life-and-death consequences next.



BERMAN: All right. This morning a second whistle-blower has come forward with first-hand knowledge about President Trump's dealings with Ukraine. The phone call where he leaned on the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on a political opponent.

This all comes as two more diplomats will answer questions to Congress this week.

Joining us now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.

Elie, here's the thing. So we have this second whistle-blower who has come forward. What more can this person add to the picture, given?

we have this second whistle-blower who has come forward. What more can this person add to the picture? Given that we have a transcript, albeit, you know, a rough transcript of the phone call where President Trump leans on the Ukrainian leader?


BERMAN: We have text messages where there are diplomats talking about quid pro quos. So what does this second whistle-blower add?

HONIG: I agree with you. We already have quite a bit to go on. But generally speaking, more whistle-blowers is more problems for Donald Trump. It's more leads for investigators to follow up on.

The main thing that whistle-blowers do is point investigators. Look here, look there. Now, the one whistle-blower already led to this devastating evidence. Who knows where this second whistle-blower goes? The main thing we do know is this person has first-hand evidence. So he or she may have even more leads for investigators to follow up on.

And I think Trump and his people are really feeling the heat. And you can tell, because they're launching this attack-the-messenger campaign. They're going after the whistle-blower.

And I've seen this happen. When the evidence starts to get really strong in my experience as a prosecutor, that's when the personal attacks start flying. That's when the distraction starts happening. We're seeing that happen now. But everyone needs to focus.

Forget about the attacks on the whistle-blower. Look at the actual evidence, the calls, the documents. That's what's going to make the case here.

GOLODRYGA: So what is the White House's response to this now? Clearly, the president first said that the initial whistle-blower wasn't there, is not credible. This whistle-blower has first-hand knowledge, was assumedly one of the six people that were in the room to witness the call. What is the White House's take now?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, claimed in a statement that the second whistle- blower doesn't matter, because the president did nothing wrong in the first place.

What's interesting about that is that that's an argument, actually, that very few people around the president in terms of lawmakers in Congress are even willing to make. They're not even touching the substance of what President Trump did on that call or said on that call.

They're pivoting to this idea that there is some kind of vast conspiracy theory centered on Ukraine where all the answers about what happened in the 2016 election are.

The White House is just trying to ignore the facts here by focusing on the whistle-blower, suggesting that these claims are not valid, because somehow these individuals don't have direct enough knowledge. We'll find out if that's the case.

If this second person really does have more direct knowledge, I really do think it makes it much harder for that argument to be made. And critically, they can fill in some of the blanks about what are some of these other conversations that were happening within the administration that were alluded to in the text message exchanges that were released last week? They suggest that there were a lot of other conversations happening around this issue.

Does this second whistle-blower know more about that? I think it will add more meat to the bones of the already pretty damning report that we have and the information that we have coming out of these people who have testified so far.

BERMAN: We're going to have a chance to talk about the different Republican responses we've seen over the last few days.

But there is one I'd like to hone in on, if I can for a second. And that comes from Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who is the chair, the chair, I believe, of the Homeland Security Committee, which means that one of his jobs would be to keep elections safe --


BERMAN: -- going forward.

GOLODRYGA: Depending on our U.S. intelligence to do that.

BERMAN: Exactly. Listen to him attack the FBI and the CIA here.


JOHNSON: I just want the truth. The American people want the truth.

TODD: Do you not trust the American -- do you not trust the FBI?


TODD: You don't trust the CIA?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): No. No, I don't.

TODD: I'm just very confused here.

JOHNSON: Absolutely not.

TODD: You don't trust either of those entities.

JOHNSON: After Peter Strzok and Lisa Page?


JOHNSON: After James Comey --

TODD: You believe the FBI and the CIA --

JOHNSON: -- Peter Strzok, John Brennan?

TODD: -- these government agencies? OK.

JOHNSON: No, I don't trust any of these guys in the Obama administration. I don't trust any of them.

TODD: You don't trust them now? Do you trust them now?

JOHNSON: No. I didn't trust them back then.


BERMAN: So this is the guy, Elie, one of the guys who we're counting on to keep the 2020 elections safe. And he's refusing to accept it sounds like all the evidence from Robert Mueller and out there that Russia attacked the 2016 election.

HONIG: It's mind-boggling, and it's really just deep-state conspiracy stuff, but it's coming from inside the government, the people responsible for keeping us safe from this kind of attack. And it's really incredible to see.

And Abby used the phrase "pivot." I mean, we've never seen so much pivoting from straightforward questions as we have the last couple weeks.

Do you think it's OK what the president does on that call to talk to Ukraine and --? You can't debate this fact. The president got on the phone, asked the president of Ukraine to investigate an American citizen, his political opponent, period. There's room for debate about why and how it went down and what the motives were, but that fact is unavoidable. And you see right there the dilemma that Republicans are facing and are going to face when they have to vote on this in Congress.

GOLODRYGA: And quickly, if I could just add, this seems to be a new narrative. It's not what the former narrative was, which was, we didn't trust the old leadership, right, in intelligence? He's now stating that he doesn't trust current leadership. Gina Haskell, Chris Wray. I'm sure they have -- they have response to this, too.


BERMAN: All right, guys. Stand by, if you will. Much more to discuss.

But we do want to get to the breaking news overnight. A major shift in U.S. foreign policy. The White House announced U.S. troops are moving out of northern Syria, which would allow Turkey to invade the region. And most importantly -- and this is what we need to focus on -- the move essentially abandons U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS.

CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with the breaking details here.

Barbara, the U.S. fought alongside these Kurdish allies to defeat ISIS. At least their land holdings in Syria. And now it seems as if the U.S. is hanging them out to dry.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now the president is -- President Trump is saying U.S. troops are leaving this area. The first images emerging. You see them there, a U.S. convoy pulling out the American flag there at their base near the border, and they are moving back.

In fact, the White House overnight confirming this in a statement partially saying that the U.S. forces having defeated the ISIS territorial caliphate will no longer be in the immediate area.

What is really happening here? Turkey says it's going to cross the border and try and move these Kurdish forces out. Now the U.S. saying these forces were supported only, of course, to fight ISIS. So now saying that they will move out, U.S. forces pulling back.

This leaves the Kurdish forces on their own. It is actually a loss for President Trump. He has been unable to convince the Turkish leader, a NATO ally, not to move into northern Syria. And overnight, it appears the Turks are very determined to do this. It also opens the door for Iran and Russia to exert their influence in the area.

But there's an even bigger nightmare scenario, if you can believe it. U.S. military officials are very deeply worried this morning that more of these Kurdish fighters, who right now are guarding thousands, thousands of ISIS detainees, they will leave their positions to go north to fight the Turks. And ISIS may be back out on the street -- John, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: That's right. It's important to note that Turkey does view these Kurdish fighters as terrorists.


GOLODRYGA: Barbara Starr, thanks to you.

Well, the United States abandoning Kurdish fighters in northern Syria as Turkey gets ready to invade. So what's behind this move? We're going to assess this up next.



BERMAN: Breaking overnight, U.S. troops have begun withdrawing from northern Syria, which clears the way for Turkey to invade the region. And this move essentially abandons the Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces in the battle to defeat ISIS.

Joining us now is CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He was President Clinton's press secretary, including during impeachment.

And Joe, I want to read you a statement from Brett McGurk, who was, until December when he quit, the U.S. point person dealing with the war in Syria. He wrote, "Donald Trump is not a commander in chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm's way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call."

Just as you wake up this morning, your reaction to this move overnight. And is there anything to the timing of it, given the president's domestic political issues?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know if there's much to it on the timing domestically, because I think this will be harshly criticized. We'll see if Republicans can find the will to criticize him.

But Ambassador McGurk is exactly right. You know, this is not a single incident of, oh, I want to pull these troops out. The Kurds have proved over decades to be a bulwark against the influence of Iran and Russia in the region. That's one of the reasons we fought with them not just against ISIS. We have -- we have protected them for a very long time.

BERMAN: And they've protected us and our interests.

LOCKHART: And they have protected our interests. And to stand up and, without consulting our allies, without there being a process within the administration, for the president to just say, we're leaving, you know, sort of will leave them, you know, viciously exposed to the Turks, who have been waiting for this moment for -- for decades.

And it -- it just shows the sort of capriciousness of -- and the lack of understanding the president has. And I guess the last point is, is it helps the Russians. And if you look for a commonality in decisions that the president has made that don't seem to make sense on their face, is it helps the Russians.

GOLODRYGA: And so here's a president who hates to look weak. Yet many are questioning why give into the Turks right now? What leverage do they have over this president? Especially given that you say this is a win for Russia.


GOLODRYGA: They just purchased Russian military equipment.

LOCKHART: That's right. Well, listen, I don't know to the extent that the Turks might have anything, but I think we do know that, when the president goes looking for national security advice, he does not trust the people around him. He does not trust the intelligence agencies. He's been through now how many national security advisers. He trusts Vladimir Putin. And that -- that should scare all of us.

BERMAN: Joe, if I can pivot back to the impeachment investigation, Tucker Carlson from FOX TV wrote an interesting op-ed, which didn't get as much attention as I think it should have, because I think it might be a road map for Republicans in defense of the president.


He basically said the president's actions are not defensible, but they're not impeachable. Bad but not impeachable. How effective could that argument be if they stick to it?

LOCKHART: Well, we spent a lot of last week of me saying the Republicans' and the president's defenses were not sustainable, because facts kept undercutting them.

And I think both the president and the Hill now have hit upon something that -- where they. You know, that that is sustainable and they can live with.

I think the Republicans' -- there's echoes in Tucker Carlson's line. I think he was signaling to the Hill, you know, follow me on this. There's echoes of where the Democrats were in 1998 which was, you know, we don't approve of what the president did, but boy, you're sure not going to turn him -- turn him out of office for this.

Now, comparing the two are, on its face, ridiculous. But I think that the Republicans can stick with that if they show some discipline.

The president, for his part, can stick with I didn't do anything wrong, as opposed to trying to say, I didn't do it, or trying to say, it's the deep state coming after me. It's a very simple message: I just didn't do anything wrong.

GOLODRYGA: So you think that can work, with the president saying, I didn't do anything wrong, Republicans sticking to the Tucker Carlson narrative, which is he did something wrong but it's not impeachable?

LOCKHART: Well, listen, I think politically, you just want to have something you can repeat over and over again. You want to have a message. You want to -- you want to try and drive the narrative. This is much better than where they were this time last week.

The problem for all of this is the revelations that are going to continue to come out of the House investigation. So at some point, the president doesn't have to change his tune. But Republicans on the Hill might feel the heat of there being too much and it's not sustainable to say it doesn't rise.

GOLODRYGA: They don't know what's coming next.

LOCKHART: They don't know what's coming next.

BERMAN: All right, Joe. Thank you very much.

A really interesting story in the world of sports and international relations overnight. The Houston Rockets in a battle with China. This tweet that set off an international firestorm and the astonishing retreat by the NBA, next.