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Lawyer: 2nd Whistle-Blower Comes Forward on Trump's Actions; U.S. Military Pulling Out of Syria Near Turkey's Border; Biden Grappling with Trump and Rising Warren Threat. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- not keeping quiet. They're just rallying around the president. It's absolutely disgraceful.


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Bianna Golodryga joins me for a very busy morning.


BERMAN: All right. This morning, the whistle-blower is not alone. In addition to the rough transcript of the phone call, which corroborates the case that the president leaned on the leader of Ukraine to dig up dirt on its political opponent; in addition to the text messages which make clear that diplomats share these same concerns, now CNN has learned that there is a second whistle-blower from the intelligence community who has come forward with what we are told is first-hand knowledge about that phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. This undercuts the arguments from some Republicans who demean the whistle-blower claims as hearsay.

The question now, really, is what else will the second whistle-blower say and how will that affect the impeachment inquiry?

GOLODRYGA: And if that is not enough, also breaking overnight, a significant foreign policy move by the Trump administration. U.S. troops are right now withdrawing from northern Syria. American forces are clearing the way for Turkey to invade the region.

Now, this essentially abandons our allies, Turkish [SIC] fighters who fought alongside the U.S. to defeat ISIS. Why is this happening now?

We begin with the latest developments on the impeachment inquiry.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

And Counselor, I want to start with you here, because look, we have the transcript of the phone call, the rough transcript. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right.

BERMAN: We have the text messages here. We have this mountain of evidence already. And yet, it is interesting that there keep being new witnesses coming forward. And we keep getting new information. Every time you shake the trees here, it seems like there's more, more, more.

TOOBIN: Well, remember, it seems like we have a lot of evidence, but there is a lot we still don't know.

Remember, the first whistle-blower, other than his description, which turned out to be very accurate, of the phone call between the two presidents, he said there were six White House officials who were very concerned about the improper relationship between the United States and Ukraine on this issue. Those people have not been identified.

That is an obvious high priority of the Intelligence Committee and investigating this matter. And it is quite possible that the whistle- blower is one of those six people.

All of which means -- and I know this is not what you're supposed to say on cable news -- but we should wait and see what the evidence is. You know? That these -- is an investigation. These facts exist in the world, what these people will testify to if they're allowed to testify, which is another White House issue to resolve. But that is -- you know, the facts need to come out.

GOLODRYGA: And Dana, we know that these whistle-blowers, both of them, are entitled to protection. But what was interesting was in the last hour, John interviewed a former whistle-blower, who said that he agrees that they should be protected and remain anonymous, for the most part.

But given how special and unique this case is, he suggested may be beneficial for them to come forward. That's also something we also heard from Lindsey Graham. Is this going to be a new narrative that we're going to hear from other Republicans?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Maybe. And you know what? It's possible that they might end up coming forward, depending on, you know, the nature of who they are, what they need to protect. And, you know, what their stories are more broadly.

But I agree with Jeffrey. Obviously, we have to wait to see what the evidence is. What is the second whistle-blower bringing forward? How is he or she going to corroborate what the first one said.

But as important as all of that is, it doesn't even come close to what the president himself continues to say in public. And that, not the transcript, certainly not the whistle-blowers, are what seems to be getting the very few Republican who are speaking out angry. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse. What they are upset about is what the president himself is saying out loud on the South Lawn. In particular, China, come on, investigate my political opponent. I mean, he is making it worse continually, whether or not you can get

those -- get those three to get to the point where they consider it an impeachable offense. That's an open question.

But you have simultaneously this investigation and then the president himself making it worse and making a lot of Republicans I talk to, you know, sigh, roll their eyes, and pull out their hair.

BERMAN: He's, in some ways, his own best whistle-blower. Because every time he speaks in public, he draws new scrutiny to himself and the things he's saying.

Now, even though saying it out loud, even though there is evidence here for all of us to read, there are some Republicans who are saying it's all just a joke. You just don't get it. You don't get the president's incredibly savvy sense of humor. Listen to this.



SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I don't think it's a real request. I think, again, I think he did it to gig you guys.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I doubt if the China comment was serious, to tell you the truth.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You really he was serious about thinking that China is going to investigate the Biden family?


BERMAN: So Jeffrey, how effective is that as an argument? Again, we have You really he was serious about thinking China is going to investigate the Biden family?

So Jeffrey, how effective is that as an argument? Again, when we have the evidence of the president leaning on other world leaders to investigate?

GOLODRYGA: Who has never said he was joking.

TOOBIN: And remember, the joke defense is -- is a big part of the Trump playbook. The famous speech he gave during the campaign. Russia, if you're listening, find Hillary Clinton's emails. He later said that was a joke. That happened to be the day that the Russian hacking began. So Russia didn't apparently take it as a joke.

Look, I mean, you can manufacture defenses. This is why lawyers go to law school is that they learn how to spin something out of, you know, very unpromising material.

I think, ultimately, where the Trump defense is going is not that the relationship between -- between Ukraine and the United States did not exist. It's simply that, I did it and it's OK. And that -- you know, there's nothing wrong with asking for dirt on my political opponent, because the evidence is so overwhelming that that's what happened.

GOLODRYGA: And let's be clear -- let's be clear. Those comments from Republicans, particularly Marco Rubio, who is the first to make that comment late last week, that's deflection. I mean, that is the art of the punt. That's what that is.

BERMAN: That's a nice way of saying it. I mean, it's deflection at a minimum. It doesn't even begin to address the issue.

All you have to say is you shouldn't ask another country to investigate a political opponent.

TOOBIN: But --

BERMAN: And they won't even have the courage to stand up.

GOLODRYGA: Especially from someone like Marco Rubio, who really is a hawk on, of all countries, China.

TOOBIN: And even -- even the more aggressive defenders like Lindsey Graham, you notice they're not defending the conduct. They're attacking the process. They're saying Adam Schiff is a bad -- you know, is doing a bad job. They're saying it's all hearsay evidence. They're saying that this is another whistle-blower like the ones that came after Kavanaugh.

They're not defending the underlying conduct, which appears to be, at least at the moment, indefensible.

BERMAN: There's another moment of this, too, which is what we saw from Ron Johnson, who is the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which as you know, means that one of his jobs is to keep elections safe, like the next one.

But he refuses, it seems, to admit that the Russians attacked the last one. Listen to what he said on "Meet the Press."



SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I just want the truth. The American people want the truth.

CHUCK TODD, HOST, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": So do you not trust the American -- do you not trust the FBI?


TODD: You don't trust the CIA?

JOHNSON: 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 it's a bit of a word salad there, Dana. But remember, the FBI and the CIA, their job among others is to help keep these elections safe. And the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, he just he didn't trust them.

BASH: I'm so glad that this came out, because -- and that you played it. Because Ron Johnson, I've talked to him about this more than once. He fundamentally believes that. This isn't him giving Republican spin. He fundamentally believes that everything that happened is a hoax and that there was -- these are my words, not his -- a deep state in the FBI, CIA, elsewhere in the government, trying to undermine a potential Trump election.

And the reason it's important to hear that from someone with such power as he has, not only a senator from a very important swing state, Wisconsin, but the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, is because that is the feeling and the -- and the perspective of so many of his constituents and other Republican constituents across the country. And therein lies the divide. You have a divide over basic facts. And how do you bridge that? That's the question.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): So when you have the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, when you have a powerful senator in the United States saying flat-out he does not trust the CIA or the FBI. Not the former heads of the CIA, FBI. Not former FBI officials but current. What does that say about where we are as a country right now in our democracy?

TOOBIN: What it says is that there is a FOX News universe. Ron Johnson is very much a resident of that universe. And there is the reality-based community, and that is where we are.

And you know, I make no apology for drawing a distinction between people who actually follow facts and people who are completely agenda- driven and, you know, preaching to their choir constantly.

You know, FOX News is a very important institution. It is not the whole country. You know, Breitbart and -- and Gateway and that whole universe of make-pretend news is -- you know, it's a big factor, but it is not the whole country either.

GOLODRYGA: And it all goes back, as we wrap up, to your piece that I suggest everybody read in "The New Yorker." Trump's Ukraine scandal has its roots in Russia, because Russia benefits from all of this chaos right now.

TOOBIN: And the Mueller report sets the stage for what happened in Ukraine.


BERMAN: And if you don't believe the Russians attacked the last election, how are you going to keep them from doing it again?


BERMAN: Period.

All right. Thank you, guys.

GOLODRYGA: Dana, thank you.

Thank you, Jeffrey.

Well, the U.S. abandoning Kurdish fighters in northern Syria after a phone call last night between President Trump and Turkey's leader, Erdogan. We discuss the implications for the region coming up next.



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

Joining us now is CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General, what message does this send to people who fight alongside the U.S., not just the Middle East but around the world?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This is devastating across the board on so many ways. It's -- it's devastating for anyone who has an alliance with us -- who has had an alliance with us in the past and looks to work for us in the future.

It's devastating for the military planners that are on the ground and the soldiers that are working with the Kurdish allies. It gives a NATO ally, which is part of the complexity of all this, the

opportunity to do some things that will significantly affect not only the Middle East but also the European footprint.

And I think it will certainly provide an impetus for the war against ISIS to be renewed in a much bigger way than it already was being renewed.

So there are so many things you could talk about that are complicated by this action, this spur-of-the-moment action, if you will, by the White House. It's just incredibly jaw-dropping from my perspective.

BERMAN: And let's remember that former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the general, he quit largely over something much like this in the fall, when the president announced unilaterally the U.S. was withdrawing all troops from Syria. Mattis quit. The president then backed off that.

And if you want to talk about real world and instant implications here, we're hearing from the Syrian Democratic forces that what they've done is they've pulled back from guarding ISIS prisoners overnight so they could fight the Turks who are invading right now. Which means what? It means that there will be ISIS prisoners, people who were captive, on the loose again?

HERTLING: Yes, I think that's -- that's an important point to bring out, John. Because as we hear this commentary about, quote, "ISIS prisoners," there are 70,000 ISIS prisoners in one of the camps that's not in the zone of what we anticipate to be the Turkish operation.

So those are going to be released, and they are not just prisoners as we would think of them, you know, in orange jump suits. All men being in jail.

These are families. It's a family concentration camp of those who have come from Iraq and Syria to fight as part of the caliphate. So it is a much more dangerous situation. And that's why I say it will lend to a greater surge within the ISIS opportunities to continue to attack. This is devastatingly bad.

And you add to that the fact that European Command, U.S. European Command last week announced that they would take down the barriers in northern Syria and -- and protect this as a safe zone for the Kurds.

They've already disestablished those barriers, which gives the Turkish army and military a chance to come in a lot more smoothly and without any defenses provided by the Kurds.

The Kurds have been thrown under the bus multiple times by the U.S. government. It's unfortunate. I work with the Kurds in northern Iraq when I was there. They are a great population. And this area is all part of the Turkish -- or the Kurdish diaspora which the Turks have said they wanted to disestablish for decades. This isn't just something that's happened in the last several weeks.

BERMAN: General, who fills the void here? Yes, the Turkish troops are moving in, but what other countries, then, fill this absence?

HERTLING: Well, there's a -- you know, I hate to keep beating the drum on this, John. But this is a recurring theme. Russia could certainly fill the void, not only in contributing to the Turkish operations, but also the Kurds could go -- and there's been indicators that they've gone to them in the past -- and saying that we need help in defending ourselves.

Because from a strategic perspective, that puts America at an even more extreme long-term disadvantage. Russia is stepping in when we step out. So we are made to look like the fools. Our allies think we're idiots, because we have stepped out. And Russia is coming to the rescue, not only with the Kurds. But also, I'd comment this weekend the Russian foreign minister, Lavrov, was with the Iraq prime minister this weekend, talking about partnering in defensive measures.

So every time America steps out of anything in the Middle East, Russia steps in.

BERMAN: Very quickly --

HERTLING: Iran is also benefitting from this in a great way. Because they will continue to man the counter-ISIS approaches.

BERMAN: Very quickly, this is something that we were told that President Trump was trying to convince the Turkish leader, Erdogan, not to do. What does it tell you about the president's strength right now on the international stage if he couldn't convince a U.S. ally of something like this?


HERTLING: Well, President Trump tweeted boldly that he had talked Erdogan out of this several months ago. So yes. If you took a -- take a look at a global perspective in every case where the president has claimed victory -- ISIS, North Korea, Russia, Iran, northern Syria -- he has failed miserably. And it keeps coming back that this is bluster. It's a maximalist strategy with a very minimalist approach, not putting any effort in it.

And Secretary Pompeo has not been that contributing in terms of our foreign policy around the world, as Colin Powell said yesterday on one of the news shows. It's a disaster.

BERMAN: All right. General Mark Hertling, a very significant series of developments overnight. Thank you for coming on this morning and helping us understand it. Appreciate it, sir.

HERTLING: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Well, how are the president's attacks on Joe Biden weighing on the former vice president's 2020 race? We have new reporting from campaign advisers about their strategy moving forward.



BERMAN: All right. Just in, CNN has new reporting this morning on how former Vice President Joe Biden is grappling with the attacks coming from the president. And also, at the same time, the rise of Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic field.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live in Washington with this new development -- Jeff.


I mean, Joe Biden has long wanted nothing more than this moment. A head-to-head matchup with President Trump to show Democrats that he is the strongest person in the party to take on the president.

But now that is a very open question here, if this whole conversation and the impeachment inquiry is actually good for the former vice president.

Over the weekend in Philadelphia, donors gathered. The vice president was there, as well. Spoke to them for about 45 minutes or so, trying to ease any concerns about this moment in the Biden campaign.

Now, the Biden campaign will argue that it is a good moment for them, because it shows that he can stand up to the president. But John, when you talk to people behind the scenes, there is the uncertainty about if this is, indeed, good for Joe Biden going forward.

One long-time confidant we spoke to under the condition of anonymity so we could speak about internal matters inside the campaign told us this. Let's take a look.

He said that "I'm not going to sit here and say there is no concern. As this drags on, we just don't know. No one knows."

Of course, going forward here, the Biden campaign has certainly strengthened their -- the argument that they're making against the president.

Joe Biden was in a "Washington Post" op-ed over the weekend, saying he's not going to back down. But they also don't want to be distracted by this entire conversation.

So we do have a campaign memo that the deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, sent out over the weekend, after that donor meeting, saying this. She said, "This campaign will continue to focus on the issues that impact people's lives while simultaneously hammering Donald Trump for his unprecedented abuse of power and correcting the record on the mountain of lies Trump and his allies continue to spread about Joe Biden."

So John, there's no question they're operating on a variety of fronts here. But Elizabeth Warren could be the biggest threat of all to Joe Biden. She, of course, raised almost $25 million, as did Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden just raised $15 million. So that was a lot of the concern that was discussed over this weekend at this donor retreat in Philadelphia.

So going forward here, Joe Biden is fighting a war, really, on three fronts. But it is that intense argument with the president that is worrying some of his allies the most -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you much for the new reporting this morning.

Joining us now Mark McKinnon, former senior advisor to the George W. Bush and John McCain campaigns, and Jess McIntosh, former director of communications outreach for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

And Mark, I have to say, I've heard both arguments on the Joe Biden front, his response here. People like David Plouffe and others say what Joe Biden's wanted all along is to have this be a one-on-one fight with President Trump here. So that provides an opportunity, if and only if Biden rises to the occasion. But has he?

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO GEORGE W. BUSH AND JOHN MCCAIN CAMPAIGNS: Well, the bad news is that everybody in politics knew that this moment was going to come about Hunter Biden and his son. And so it was surprising to a lot of us that he didn't come off the block stronger. It was pretty wobbling out of the gate on this.

And I understand that, because I've been in a lot of campaigns. You prepare for this, but any time you talk about a candidate's family, there's an emotional response. It's like, don't go -- you don't talk about my family.

Well, you know, the fact is there is kind of an issue here, and it hasn't been well explained. And in fact, there's a "New Yorker" article over the weekend about Hunter Biden's son and the explanation for this. You know, it's kind of old-style politics. But clearly -- you know, but there's a human kind of story here that they haven't told yet.

So the good news for Biden is that over the weekend, at least so far, there seems to be kind of a sympathetic response. And he's doing pretty well in national polling, and he's even doing better in Wisconsin. So we'll see.

GOLODRYGA: But we also know, Jess, that as we've said repeatedly, there's no evidence of wrongdoing --


GOLODRYGA: -- on Hunter Biden's part in his involvement in Ukraine and sitting on the board of Burisma. The prosecutor there said that, as well.

But given the optics alone, Republicans have pounced. But now you have at least three Democratic presidential candidates -- Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar -- saying that they themselves would be uncomfortable if their vice president's children sat on a board of a foreign company. How much does that damage Biden?

MCINTOSH: I think, first of all, when it comes to the children's foreign dealings, Biden is in a much, much stronger position than the current occupant of the White House.


MCINTOSH: But I think, because we have the current occupant of the White House and his children running all over the globe, enriching themselves and their brand, using the White House to do it, I think, probably, Democrats running for office want to make sure that that is not something that gets carried into the next White House.

But I think Joe Biden should be on stronger footing here. It's foreign policy, which is 100 percent where he is the strongest in the field.