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Republicans Condemn Trump Military Decision; Lindsey Graham to Invite Rudy Giuliani to Testify Before Senate; China Suspends All NBA Pre-Season Broadcasts. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 8, 2019 - 10:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Well, remember this big story yesterday? President Trump is defending his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. This, ahead of an impending Turkish invasion.

TEXT: Republican backlash to Trump removing troops from Syria: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R), majority leader: "... would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) South Carolina: "... short-sighted and irresponsible..." Nikki Haley (R), former U.N. ambassador: Leaves U.S. allies "to die." Rep. Liz Cheney (R) Wyoming: "... undeserved gift to the Erdogan regime."

SCIUTTO: The president's move came in spite of strong opposition from several top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Their criticism, very noteworthy, especially since most Republicans have stayed silent on another key issue, the president's public call for foreign governments to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Doug Heye is here, Republican strategist, former RNC communications director and our political commentator. Good morning, Doug.


HARLOW: So you ran comms for the RNC, you were the deputy chief of staff for Communications for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Would you advise such stunning silence?

HEYE: Well, I think it depends on the issue. What we saw yesterday, was a lot of Republicans including Mitch McConnell, coming out on the issue with the Kurds and Turkey. That's an issue -- that's a policy issue --


HEYE: -- Republicans feel comfortable doing that. When it's going (ph) --

HARLOW: No, I hear you. And I meant on the phone call. But the phone call, I mean --

HEYE: Yes.

HARLOW: -- that's about such a critical thing to our democracy. Like, do we ask --

HEYE: Sure.

HARLOW: -- foreign governments to interfere or not? So how is that not a policy issue?

HEYE: Sure. And you'd -- look, that should be low-hanging fruit, as should be -- and I say this as somebody who helped set up the Benghazi committee -- if Democrats said, we're not testifying to the Benghazi special committee, obviously, Republicans would have had a real problem with it. There's a silence right now.

I find it troubling, but I also find it understandable, having worked in communications roles on the Hill, where your job is to protect your boss, your job is to make sure that your boss gets re-elected. And what we see, we often hear about Republicans having problems in primaries. Having worked for Eric Cantor, I know that's true.

But there are also -- there are also potential problems in general elections if you are running in swing districts or, really, swing states in Senate races, where you don't get any reward from your base if you speak out against Trump, and you --


HEYE: -- don't really get any political reward from Democrats or independents if you do so as well. So you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't as well.

And it's as a staffer, why I know a lot of Republican staffers on the Hill are getting requests for interviews and sliding it into the trash can and telling their boss, we didn't get any requests today. I'll let you know about tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: OK. So imagine that, self-preservation matters in politics, in Washington, for both parties here. But I wonder, as you see the polling change on this -- you know, "The Washington Post" poll out this morning, now 58 percent of Americans say they support the impeachment inquiry. That's up dramatically --

HEYE: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- up 21 points in just --


SCIUTTO: -- two, three months now. But notable are -- David Chalian noted this, that among the GOP, that as you know has been rock-solid behind this president, support for impeachment has gone from 7 percent -- negligible -- to 28 percent. Still a minority, but that's a big jump among Republicans. [10:35:09]

Do Republican lawmakers see those numbers and start to reconsider?

HEYE: Not yet. They will if we see that in two or three more polls. Right now, we want to know, is that an outlier or is that a trend. If we get that answer --


HEYE: -- you might begin to see some more cracks. Look, obviously, Mitt Romney came out very forcefully over the weekend. That gives more permission -- members shouldn't need permission, but the political reality is that's what they look for -- for them to speak out. And if you do, you'll see one or two and then maybe the dam will burst.

But I would tell you, again, having worked on the Hill and sometimes hidden interview requests from my own bosses in the past, you're not going to see a lot of Republicans speaking out because, you know, you see members speaking out in favor of Trump, members look at that negatively and say, I don't want to do that. And they are very mindful that you don't score points with Donald Trump.


HEYE: Donald Trump doesn't give points, he only takes them away, one at a time.


SCIUTTO: Doug Heye, you never his requests from Poppy and I, I assume? No interview --


HARLOW: I used to like you, Doug.


HEYE: Never, absolutely not.

HARLOW: All right, let me get --

HEYE: And I don't (ph) say that to everybody.


HARLOW: Let me get your take -- fingers crossed behind your back.

Let me get your take on this. The "L.A. Times" piece this morning was striking. It was interesting to me, the headline, why Republicans may want a House vote on an impeachment inquiry, and Pelosi doesn't. And it reminds us of the history, that in the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings, the majority gave the minority the right to subpoena. Now, those subpoenas were also party to a vote. But it gave them that power.

And what it's suggesting here, is that Nancy Pelosi is essentially scared of giving that power to the minority because they could --

HEYE: Yes.

HARLOW: -- say, subpoena Joe Biden.

HEYE: Yes. I think that's a fair point to make. And if you look at -- you know, it's troubling when you have people not showing up, when they've been subpoenaed to hearings, and it should be troubling whether that's a Republican House or a Democratic House or regardless of what party the administration is in.

But also, I think if you looked at hearings over the past few weeks, they've been terrible for Democrats, they've been terrible for Republicans, obviously terrible for the country. We've not learned the information that we need to. I'd love to tell you that there's a good clear path forward, but I just don't see it right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes.

HARLOW: OK. Goodness gracious, as Jim says.

HEYE: Uplifting, sorry.

HARLOW: Doug Heye, thank you.

SCUITTO: That's my mantra. Goodness gracious.

HARLOW: That is his mantra.

HEYE: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. Coming up, much more on that breaking news, the Trump administration's blocking the testimony of a key witness in this impeachment inquiry of the president. Stay right there.



HARLOW: All right, welcome back. So we've just learned that one of the president's key allies on Capitol Hill would like the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to now testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SCIUTTO: Our Manu Raju, live now to explain. Of course, Republicans control those committees in the Senate. So does this happen? And how do Democrats respond?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It could certainly happen, now that the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Lindsey Graham, has made clear that he's inviting Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, to testify before his committee. Now, he said in a series of tweets that he wants to give Giuliani the

opportunity to answer questions. This is not a subpoena, but this is an invitation for him to come. So ultimately, it will be Giuliani's decision.

And Giuliani just responded to our colleague Michael Warren, saying, love Lindsey but I am still a lawyer and I will have to deal with privilege. But also says, given the nature of this invitation about my concerns, I might be able to do it without discussing privileged information.

Now, House Democrats have so far resisted the notion of bringing forward Giuliani to testify. They have not gone down that path yet because, in part, they're concerned about a spectacle being -- happening if Giuliani were to testify, something that they, at the moment, have sought to avoid. But they have subpoenaed Giuliani for documents to be turned over by next week, all about his efforts to urge the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens.

There's no indication that Giuliani will comply with that. Plus, there are three Giuliani associates who have been scheduled to be -- to come for interviews, and also asked to turn over documents. And those individuals have not complied yet with the House Democrats' request.

So Giuliani perhaps may work with a Republican chairman, answer questions in that committee, but of course Democratic senators would have an opportunity to ask questions of Giuliani as well. But just the latest development, you know (ph), a sign of how Republicans are trying to get involved and trying to push back and defend the president. One way they believe doing so could be bringing Rudy Giuliani forward. But, of course, that's a big risk, too, guys.

HARLOW: Manu, thank you very much for that update. We appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Well, there is a lot going on today. And here's "What to Watch."

TEXT: What to Watch... 11:30 a.m. Eastern, Pelosi speaks at event in Seattle; 12:30 p.m. Eastern, Fed chair delivers remarks; 4:30 p.m. Eastern, Trump awards Medal of Freedom



SCIUTTO: This morning, the commissioner of the NBA, weighing in on the backlash over a controversial tweet by an executive. Adam Silver says he is defending our freedom of expression. But how costly could that be for the NBA in China?


HARLOW: All right. While you were sleeping, Chinese state television suspended all NBA pre-season broadcasts. That is a big deal. Hundreds of millions of Chinese people watch the NBA. This all follows a tweet from the Houston Rockets' general manager that was later deleted, supporting those who are protesting in Hong Kong.


Just hours ago, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the controversy, now pledging his support for free speech. Listen to this.


ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression. I regret, again, having communicated directly with many friends in China, that so many people are upset, including millions and millions of our fans.


HARLOW: CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan is with me. Look a lot has changed in 24 hours. Adam Silver has reversed course here, I think being very clear. Let's listen to what he said because there are huge financial implications of this, huge, for the NBA. But it seems like he is saying, our values and our interests as a society trump money. Listen.


SILVER: I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, his freedom of speech. And, you know, we will have to live with those consequences.


HARLOW: What is your read on what has transpired in the last 36 hours?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Poppy, the NBA is doing the right thing now. They should have been saying -- and Adam Silver, the commissioner, should have been saying this 24, 36 hours ago. But he's saying it now, that's important.

The blowback here in the United States was tremendous, from journalists, from politicians. And the NBA needed to remember that the bedrock of the entire league is in the U.S., and it's about democracy and free speech. Which is, of all things, the NBA is known for that much more than our other pro leagues. The business side is important but I'm glad that Silver finally has settled in this position.

HARLOW: Talk about the -- you know, the outcry. Initially, you had Republican senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley, tweeting that this was essentially groveling to the Chinese Communist Party.

TEXT: Josh Hawley: Let's make this real simple. @NBA should apologize for groveling to Chinese Communist Party and cancel all exhibition games in China until the situation in Hong Kong is resolved. Peacefully. With the rights of Hong Kong's people protected. HARLOW: You have an editorial from "The Washington Post" that says, quote, "If the NBA can so easily cave, who will resist the censorship of Communist dictators?"

TEXT: The Washington Post Editorial Board: China is attempting to enforce its version of the truth all around the world -- bullying Chinese-language newspapers in Canada and the United States, patrolling the speech of its students abroad, demanding that foreign airlines and hotel chains wipe Taiwan off their maps.

Some of its targets don't have the wherewithal to stand up to this assault -- which is why the NBA's cravenness is so damaging. With all its financial muscle, its enormous popularity and its moral preening, if the NBA can cave so easily, who will resist the censorship of the Communist dictators?

HARLOW: But the NBA, Adam Silver has reversed course and taken a stand here. What does this mean for the league? I mean, you've got so much revenue that comes in from China.

BRENNAN: That is true. But I'm anxious to see, Poppy, how long before Chinese sports fans are not happy that they can't see the NBA. It's pre-season right now --


BRENNAN: -- but we may see another shift in this story in terms of the fans in China, 500 million watched the NBA last year, better ratings, in some cases, than in the U.S. They're not going to be happy if they can't watch their beloved NBA.

So this may have another turn yet, that may benefit the NBA. China needs the NBA more than the NBA needs China. And I'm glad that Silver has finally come to that position --

HARLOW: That should -- that should be the headline of your next column, Christine. It's a fascinating argument, when you play it out.

Let's talk about Adam Silver's leadership in this. Remember, when he came in as commissioner, he was confronted, within weeks, by the Donald Sterling controversy, and the bigger question of racism in America. And the way that he handled that said so much about him as a leader, I think. So what does this tell you about him as a leader?

BRENNAN: Again, that he was able to make this decision. That he -- it took a while. I'm sure that he wishes, now, in hindsight, that they had come out stronger, quicker, in defense of Daryl Morey and his ability to have free speech. And, of course, much more important, the Hong Kong protestors, his defense of them.

But they're there now. And I think that shows the pivoting -- you know, moving a league can be like trying to turn a cruise ship. And so the fact that it did happen this way is a very positive development.

And these sports organizations need to understand something the International Olympic Committee did not. They gave the Olympics to Beijing in 2008, but they did not demand human rights changes. And unfortunately, that is a black mark in the international Olympic world. Here, the NBA has said, we've got power and we are going to make sure we say these things.

HARLOW: Christine Brennan, well said. Thank you so much.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Another story we're following, the parents of a British teenager, killed in a fatal car crash, are calling on President Trump, now, to intervene. This, after the woman suspected in that crash, the wife of an American diplomat in the U.K., fled the country.

Harry Dunn was killed in August after crashing head-on with a car driving on the wrong side of the road. Investigators say the driver of that car was originally cooperating, but then left the country, claiming diplomatic immunity. Let's listen now to the parents of the victim, just this morning, on CNN.


CHARLOTTE CHARLES, MOTHER OF HARRY DUNN: We don't know how she's feeling, we don't know whether she's remorseful, whether she's just managing to ignore it, get on with her life. So anything -- any contact from her would be a crumb of hope.


TIM DUNN, FATHER OF HARRY DUNN: Our understanding of the law is that diplomats is immune if they are in (ph) threat, not immune if they have caused an accident or actually killed somebody. Look and listen to what has happened, and try and see it from our point of view in our hearts.


SCIUTTO: Family that lost their young son. Well, the State Department tells CNN that diplomatic immunity is rarely waived.

HARLOW: We'll, of course, stay on top of that for you.

We are learning a lot more about the Trump administration's latest and last-minute decision to block the Capitol Hill deposition of the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland.

SCIUTTO: And what's the next move for Democrats? Not clear there's a strategy here for forcing the White House hand.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Stay with CNN. A lot more to come.