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War With Russia-Backed Fighters Rages In Ukraine; Thousands Worldwide Demand Action On Climate Change; U.K. P.M. Urges Return Of U.S. Diplomat's Wife Over Fatal Crash; Democrats Subpoena Pentagon, Office Of Management and Budget; U.S. Pulls Troops From Syria Before Turkish Invasion. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired October 8, 2019 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers joining us and at 9:00 pm in Ankara and 2:00 pm in Beijing. From CNN Headquarters in Atlanta we have the next 90 minutes of CNN NEWSROOM, let's get started.
The Trump administration accused of betraying the Kurds after an abrupt decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria.
Meantime, the president is feeling the pressure of the impeachment inquiry after a another whistleblower comes forward apparently with firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you want?
When do you want it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: A global call to action: activists engage in a worldwide campaign to push governments to declare a climate emergency.
CHURCH: Good to have you with us.
U.S. president Donald Trump is being accused of turning his back on a reliable partner and faithful ally in the battle against ISIS. He announced he's pulling troops from northern Syria and essentially giving Turkey the green light to invade the region and attack the now vulnerable Kurds the, same forces that lead the fight against ISIS and helped defeat the terror group. Even the president's staunches Republican allies are urging him to
reconsider. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says that a withdrawal of U.S. forces would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime. Senator Lindsey Graham agrees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This impulsive decision by the President has undone all the gains we've made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And if I'm an ISIS fighter, I've got a second lease on life. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated, you will soon see.
I hope I'm making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is, in my view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Republican senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent out a statement about the withdrawal, saying, "This bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children. I hope the president will listen to his generals and reconsider."
In an apparent attempt to calm the criticism, Mr. Trump tweeted, "If Turkey does anything that I and my and great and unmatched wisdom considered to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey."
Turkey is hoping to create a buffer zone with the border with Syria claiming its goal is to resettle more than 1 million refugees it's taken in during the Syrian civil war. It's also complained that the U.S. safe zone set up for the Kurds along the border are not working. CNN's Ben Wedeman lays out the complexities and consequences of President Trump's decision.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL 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 hell out of them.
WEDEMAN: The U.S. did exactly that, driving ISIS out of its de facto capital, Raqqah, in the fall of 2017.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): 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 Baghouz 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.
A new opportunity may be opening up for a rapprochement between Syria's Kurds and the government in Damascus. President Bashar al- Assad and his two main backers, Russia and Iran, may come out the winners in this mess -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.
CHURCH: Colonel Cedric Leighton joins me now from Washington, he's a CNN military analyst and a retired Air Force colonel.
Always good have you with us.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thank you for having me, Rosemary, it's good to be with you.
CHURCH: I want to start by asking what your military assessment is of President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria?
And what the ramifications of such a decision would likely be?
LEIGHTON: I think it's a big mistake at this point in time. Everyone wants to have American troops come back home.
But the problem with that is it gives us a tremendous vacuum in this part of the world. You have Turkish forces going after Kurds, the Syrians, and you have ISIS and it is coming in and can reclaim a lot of what had been lost in the caliphate.
So I think it is a very big mistake at this particular point in time and the political situation is not one in which this is a viable solution at this point.
CHURCH: How likely is it that Russia would step into that vacuum?
LEIGHTON: Very likely indeed. We look at what Russia has been doing in Syria and what Iran has been doing in Syria and the Russians are very poised to see this as an opportunity and they can work with the Turks.
They sold them the S-400 air defense system and the Turks are using that in spite of the fact that they are a NATO member. And what that does is it binds Turkey and Russia closer together and that's one of President Putin's goals, to make the southeastern flank of NATO a lot weaker and to strengthen Russia's hold in the northern Middle East, which is an area that's fairly close to Russian interests anyway.
When he does that, when Putin does this kind of operation or thinks about this kind of operation, he's looking for a much broader reach into the Middle East. And it's a perfect -- Syria and Turkey are perfect jumping off points for him to do that.
CHURCH: Unlike the Ukraine controversy that has dogged the U.S. president, this decision on Syria has ignited a lot of criticism within Republican ranks but could that force Mr. Trump to reverse his decision?
Or do you think that his threat to destroy Turkey's economy if they do the wrong thing signals that he's standing firmly behind his decision on this?
LEIGHTON: I think initially President Trump will stand as firmly as he can behind his decision but I also think he's very surprised that the Republican reaction was so vociferous and so widespread. And that does make a difference in his political calculations.
And when you have the Republican establishment as well as religious leaders like Pat Robertson, who are coming out against this kind of a move, it has to give President Trump some pause.
And we see White House officials that are beginning to walk back the statements that have been made about the president's move here. And the president's move is designed to be a bit more flexible than it originally sounded, according to some of these officials and that could spell a change in the way they're doing this.
CHURCH: How do you think they're likely to change this?
Because it's very difficult once you start a withdrawal process to reverse this.
LEIGHTON: It sure is. And especially when you're dealing with military equipment, military personnel and the good news, if President Trump wants to reverse this decision is that the numbers of American troops are somewhere around 50 that are part of this withdrawal.
So that's not a very big number and it can be moved around fairly quickly. But if he's talking about the larger contingent in Syria, that's a bigger issue and we're talking about a couple of thousand people. And that is a lot tougher to do.
CHURCH: If you had an opportunity to advise the president, what would you be telling him right now?
LEIGHTON: I would tell him to reverse course immediately because it's a vacuum that he's creating in northern Syria, a nature of course a vacuum as we've often said and you know, it's also true that geopolitics is a discipline that abhor a vacuum as well.
And given that fact, it's very dangerous for the Turks to be given a free hand in this area and it's particularly dangerous with regard to the Kurdish forces, specifically the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are primarily composed of these Turkish YPG forces.
These are great allies of the United States and not only in the Kurdish areas of Syria but throughout the Middle East and throughout the world. It is extremely important that the United States be seen as a reliable partner.
The minute or the second that the United States is not seen as a reliable partner, we lose a lot of leverage and we lose the ability to influence events. That's precisely what our rivals want and it's precisely what we should not have happen.
CHURCH: Colonel Cedric Leighton, we always appreciate your military analysis and many thanks.
LEIGHTON: You bet, Rosemary, anytime.
CHURCH: Let's get you caught up on the impeachment inquiry facing President Trump. In the coming hours, his E.U. ambassador is set to testify before House lawmakers. Later in the week, the former ambassador to Ukraine will do the same.
At the heart of the scandal is a whistleblower complaint revealing Mr. Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden. It's not clear when that whistleblower might testify but we are learning extreme measures are being considered to protect their identity and that's in part because of efforts by President Trump and his allies who have tried to discredit the whistleblower and demand to know who is.
A second whistleblower has also come forward, supposedly with firsthand knowledge backing the claims made by the initial one and still Mr. Trump insists that he did nothing wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was a perfect call and you had people knew that it was a perfect call and it's just a scam by the Democrats to try to win a election that they're not going to it anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Democrats are also expanding their probe to include the Pentagon and Office of Management and Budget with interest about the role played by the Energy Secretary as well. Kaitlan Collins explains.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As House Democrats ramped up their Impeachment Inquiry today by issuing new subpoenas for the Pentagon and Budget Office, President Trump tried to turn the firestorm around on them, accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of treason, insisting she's the one who should be removed from office, not him, though members of Congress can't be impeached.
The president is shifting his defense, still insisting that call with the Ukrainian president was perfect, but now claiming it was Energy Secretary Rick Perry who urged him to call Volodymyr Zelensky.
RICK PERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: Absolutely. I asked the president multiple times, Mr. President, we think it is in the United States and in Ukraine's best interest.
COLLINS: Perry says it's true he wanted Trump to call Zelensky, about energy, not the Bidens.
PERRY: Not once, not once, as God is my witness, not once was a Biden name, not the former vice president, not his son, ever mentioned.
COLLINS: The energy secretary wasn't on the July call at the center of the impeachment probe, but Democrats may still want to talk to him.
In addition to the new subpoenas for the Pentagon and Budget Office today about that hold on the Ukrainian military aid package, two more key witnesses are expected to testify this week.
The president spent the weekend firing off dozens of tweets, as Republicans struggle to defend his actions.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): When I asked the president about that, he completely denied it. He adamantly denied it. He vehemently, angrily denied it. He said, I would never do that.
COLLINS: Not a single White House official went on television Sunday, leaving the task up to Republican lawmakers, who struggled with this shaky defense:
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You really think he was serious about thinking that China is going to investigate the Biden family?
COLLINS (voice-over): Even the White House hasn't claimed Trump was kidding when he suggested China should investigate the Biden. LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I don't honestly know.
COLLINS: CNN has confirmed that the chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, during a senior staff meeting, told people in the room that he thought if President Trump was impeached by the House that he would win 45 states in the 2020 election, a statement that caught some people off guard.
That is confirming Axios reporting, but also follows CNN reporting that the president was frustrated when he thought aides were trying to form this impeachment defense strategy, because he argues it makes him look weak. One of the people involved was the chief of staff, Rick Mulvaney -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.
CHURCH: British prime minister Boris Johnson is vowing to go to the White House if necessary to seek justice for a teenager killed in a car crash. Mr. Johnson says that the collision involved the wife of U.S. diplomat, who left the U.K. and is claiming diplomatic immunity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I do not think that it can be right to use the process of diplomatic immunity for this type of purpose. And I hope that Anne Sacoolas will come back and will engage properly with the processes of laws that carried out in this country.
If we can't resolve it, then of course I will be raising it myself personally with the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Police say the car was on the wrong side of the road when it collided with the teen.
We'll take a short break here, still to come, the embattled leader in Hong Kong is searching for solutions to the escalating unrest. Up next, why Carrie Lam says her government is still calling the shots and not Beijing.
And why the National Basketball Association is facing backlash from both Chinese and U.S. leaders for two completely different reasons. It all boils down to one tweet.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.
Hong Kong's chief executive said it is too early to say whether her new antimask law is a failure. The escalating unrest became even more violent after Carrie Lam banned face masks at public gatherings.
CHURCH: Lam spoke with reporters shortly after China's Hong Kong garrison had a direct confrontation with protesters, raising a flag, warning them against targeting the barracks with lasers like the ones they regularly point at police. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong.
And it's good to see you, Kristie.
What's the latest on these rising tensions and what is Carrie Lam saying about their future role in Hong Kong?
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Rosemary, in the last few hours, we heard from Carrie Lam at a press conference that took place right behind me. It was the first press conference she's done since the introduction of that ban on face masks.
And despite more violence and more sense of chaos here in Hong Kong, she insists that the measure is not a failure and just needs more time to be effective.
Over the weekend we saw tens of thousands of protesters defy the ban on face masks in public gatherings. They set up barricades blocking roads and attacked subway stations and, at one point, the mass rapid transit system, that supports up to 5 million commuters a day, was forced to shut down. Shops, businesses, restaurants and entire shopping centers forced to close early.
With the ongoing unrest and chaos here in Hong Kong, I raised the question to Carrie Lam and said, what is it going to take and how bad is it going to get before she feels compelled to call on the government and help restore law and order?
Listen carefully to her response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: At this point in time, I feel strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves. That is also the position of the central government, that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on their own.
But if the situation become so bad that no options could be ruled out (ph) if we want Hong Kong to at least to have another chance. But at this moment, I and my team, we are still very committed to making sure that we can use our own instruments, legal instrument, political instruments like continuing dialogue, policy instruments like addressing some of the deep-seated problems on the livelihood and the economy side to restore calm and order in Hong Kong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: That was the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, insisting Hong Kong can handle the situation on her own, adding that Beijing agrees with that decision. When that ban on face masks took place on Friday, the emergency measure, it was a dramatic escalation by the government here in Hong Kong.
But the government believes that it would eventually be effective because they think it will discourage protesters, especially young people and students, from taking to the streets but we have yet to see just that. Back to you.
STOUT: Kristie Lu Stout, monitoring the rising tensions in Hong Kong, many thanks as always.
The National Basketball Association or NBA is facing backlash from U.S. lawmakers for its reaction to this tweet by the Houston Rockets' general manager backing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The NBA, which makes billions of dollars in the Chinese market, has sided with Beijing, calling Daryl Morey's tweet "regrettable." Despite his apology several Chinese businesses are suspending ties with the Houston Rockets because of that tweet.
The NBA's response is raising questions about the lengths businesses in the United States will go to in order to cater to China. It's drawing bipartisan criticism from U.S. politicians, who say that the league are bowing to pressure from Beijing.
In the upcoming hours the, NBA commissioner will hold a news conference where he's expected to address the controversy surrounding Morey's tweet. His comments are scheduled just ahead of the Rockets game against the Toronto Raptors, which is being played in Japan.
Joining me now to discuss the backlash CNN "WORLD SPORT" anchor Alex Thomas who's in Japan, and CNN correspondent David Culver in Beijing.
Good to see you both.
Alex, I, want to start with you. What's the very latest?
What is the NBA commissioner likely to say about it when he addresses this controversy in the upcoming hours?
ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly have to choose his words carefully Rosemary. We're at the super arena on the outskirts of Tokyo, about an hour's drive out of town. It's where we'll see the first NBA game in this country in Japan in 13 years or, sorry, 16 years. The used to play regular season games here, the first of those outside the United States.
THOMAS: But increasingly over the last decade or so, it's China who has been the more important market to the NBA because of the sheer amount of people and the fact it's a faster and more developing economy over there and that's the crux of the problem the NBA has itself in now.
It was the Houston Rockets' general manager who tweeted last Friday in support of the Hong Kong protesters, deleted it but the damage was already done and in the four days since then the growing storm of criticism has gained momentum.
And I went to the Houston Rockets' practice on Monday to talk to James Harden, a globally famous NBA star, and Westbrook, the pair of them put up together, Westbrook newly arrived from the Oklahoma City Thunder, where they were teammates.
They talked about their sporty things but Harden, asked about this China row, he ended up saying sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES HARDEN JR., HOUSTON ROCKETS: Yes, we apologize -- you know, we love China, we love playing here and 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 we leave everything thereabout.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS: Harden's general manager has taken to social media to apologize for the tweet that was deleted, saying that's his own view, not the team's or the league's.
"I was merely voicing one thought based on one interpretation of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives."
Part of an NBA statement read, "We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together."
Essentially they're getting criticized from both corners and I think the NBA is struggling to toe the line between business interests in China and the American belief of freedom of expression.
CHURCH: Yes, it's a delicate dance, no doubt, Alex Thomas, thanks for that.
David we turn to you now in Beijing. U.S. politicians are furious with the NBA appearing to pander to China for financial game rather than supporting freedom of expression.
What does this all mean?
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is so much frustration now growing into a geopolitical mess to be quite frank, Rosemary. Starting off with that initial tweet that went out Friday and that caused a backlash here in China.
What we saw after that was Chinese broadcasters and the largest broadcaster, CCTV, severing ties with the Houston Rockets, saying we're not going to broadcast the games. Tencent, a giant tech company which does the live streaming saying we're not going to livestream the games and the Chinese Basketball Association severing ties.
Then this apology comes forward and Alex read some of that apology for you. What you would think would calm things a bit only make things worse and it started a firestorm in the U.S.
And that's where lawmakers have been reacting. Rarely have we seen U.S. lawmakers agreeing on things from opposite sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans have been coming together and condemning the NBA's response and apology to China.
And I want to read one from Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat who is running in the 2020 campaign and he represented Texas as a congressman. So where the Rockets are based.
He said the only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights.
On the other end of the aisle, Ted Cruz, senator in Texas, said this is big money, all about big money and the NBA is shamefully retreating.
So this is the U.S. response to things that is now adding to this massive mess of geopolitics.
CHURCH: What will the NBA commissioner need to say?
CULVER: It's interesting to see what he is going to come out and say because can he bring healing to this?
That's the question.
Can he make it so that there is amends when it comes to the Rockets and their many fans here in China?
Because the reality is, Rosemary, Yao Ming, who played for the Rockets since 2002, a Chinese citizen, he brought love for the game here. So it's doubtful that they can repair that, as we were checking a short time ago, that Rockets memorabilia has disappeared from some of the online retail websites here in China.
So it's unclear if they are able to mend that and can he say something that will likewise appease U.S. politicians?
It's a difficult situation and one that's unclear will be resolved anytime soon.
CHURCH: We'll be watching this one very closely. David Culver, many thanks to you from Beijing and we appreciate it.
We'll take a short break here. Still to come, he's called it a scam, a hoax, a witch hunt, but it's clear the impeachment inquiry is weighing on Donald Trump. He's -- we will dig deeper into the latest scandals and controversies facing the U.S. President. Plus, climate change protests are bringing major cities to a standstill. See the drastic measures demonstrators are taking to raise awareness worldwide. We're back in just a moment.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone, I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the top stories we've been following this hour. U.S. President Donald Trump is getting nearly universal backlash over his decision to pull troops out of Northern Syria. It essentially opens the door for a Turkish attack on Kurds in the region. Those forces helped the U.S. defeat ISIS, though, Turkey sees them as terrorists.
The British Prime Minister says he will go straight to the White House if necessary after a car crash killed a British teenager. Boris Johnson says a U.S. diplomat's wife is a suspect. She has since left the country protected by her diplomatic immunity. Police say she was driving on the wrong side of the road when her car fatally strike 19- year-old Harry Dunn.
President Trump's ambassador to the E.U. is set to testify Tuesday in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. House Democrats have questions about text messages from Gordon Sondland related to Mr. Trump's July phone call with the Ukrainian President, and the freezing of military aid to Ukraine.
CNN's Jim Acosta has more now on the foreign policy controversies dogging the U.S. President.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is complaining that the prospect of being impeached is making life in the Oval Office more difficult.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, the impeachment inquiry is a scam. I think it makes it harder to do my job. But I do my job and I do it better than anybody's done it for the first 2-1/2 years.
ACOSTA: But the Trump administration is sinking deeper into the impeachment quicksand up on Capitol Hill. As House Democrats have issued new subpoenas to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget for information about the President's phone call with the leader of Ukraine that included a request for dirt on Joe Biden. The letter doesn't mince words, insisting each subpoena compels you to produce the documents by October 15th, 2019. With a second whistleblower coming forward, White House allies are trotting out shifting explanations for the President's comments with some of the GOP claiming Mr. Trump was only joking when he asked China to investigate Biden.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Do you really think he was serious about thinking that China is going to investigate the Biden family?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said it right there in public. JORDAN: I think -- I think -- I think he's getting -- I think Senator Rubio said a couple days ago, I think he's getting the press all spun up about this.
ACOSTA: Though economic advisor Larry Kudlow wasn't sure about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the President joking or in any way not serious when he suggested the Chinese should investigate the Bidens?
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I don't honestly know. I don't honestly know.
ACOSTA: But the President is also claiming Energy Secretary Rick Perry urged him to turn to the Ukrainians.
RICK PERRY, SECRETARY OF U.S. ENERGY: Absolutely. I asked the President multiple times, Mr. President, we think it is in the United States and in Ukraine's best interest, that you and the President of Ukraine have conversations that you discuss the options that are there. So, absolutely, yes.
ACOSTA: Even though Perry insisted Biden didn't come up.
PERRY: It's not once. As God is my witness, not once was a Biden name, not the former Vice President, not his son ever mentioned.
ACOSTA: The President and his defenders sounded unhinged at times over the weekend with Mr. Trump tweeting, house speaker Nancy Pelosi was guilty of treason, and that Utah Senator Mitt Romney is a pompous ass. GOP Senator Ron Johnson, chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee stood by Mr. Trump by saying he doesn't trust parts of the intelligence community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't believe the FBI and the CIA, these government agencies?
JOHNSON: John Brennan? No, I don't trust any of these guys in the Obama administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
JOHNSON: I haven't trust any of --
ACOSTA: The President offered up a new distraction from the impeachment drama, announcing he will allow Turkey to sweep into Syria, withdrawing U.S. forces and jeopardizing Kurdish fighters who have helped in the battle against ISIS. But Mr. Trump warned that, "if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, considered to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took issue with the president stating, "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 and other terrorist groups regroup. A rare moment of dissent from inside the GOP. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): ISIS is not defeated, my friend. The biggest lie being told by the administration that ISIS is defeated. This impulsive decision by the President has undone all the gains we've made, thrown the region into further chaos --
ACOSTA: The President was asked why he's siding with autocratic leaders over the nation's Kurdish allies.
TRUMP: Well, I'm not siding with anybody. We want to bring our troops back home. And I got elected on that.
ACOSTA: There's one more Republican Senator to emerge to criticize Mr. Trump's phone call with the President of Ukraine. Ohio Senator Rob Portman told the Columbus Dispatch, the president should not have raised the Biden issue on that call, period. But the senator said the President's actions do not warrant impeachment. Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
CHURCH: Joining me now is Linda Feldmann, she is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Christian Science Monitor. Good to have you with us.
LINDA FELDMANN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Hi, my pleasure.
CHURCH: So, we're seeing pressure mounting on the U.S. President over the impeachment inquiry with the second whistleblower now coming forward and confirming details provided by the first whistleblower. When might this take the enquirer with the Democrats now issuing more subpoenas for information relating to that controversial Ukraine call?
FELDMANN: Right. So, things -- it feels like the walls are closing in on the President. So, now we've got a second whistleblower, and you've got the White House rejecting all subpoenas. We had a flurry of subpoenas last Friday, we had two more today. One to the Department of Defense, the other to the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. This is related to -- they're trying to get at more information on the aid that was withheld to Ukraine right before the phone call that President Trump had with President Zelensky. So, things are moving quickly, the President is defiant, and, you know, there's only so much that he can -- that he can hold off. He is not omnipotent.
CHURCH: Right. And, of course, what's been very noticeable here is that most Republicans have remained silent in the midst of the Ukraine saga. That's not the same, though. The same cannot be said when it comes to the announcement over the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Northern Syria.
CHURCH: Why did this issue mobilized them, particularly Senator Lindsey Graham, and they've really started to push back on President Trump. FELDMANN: Yes.
CHURCH: But what changed everything?
FELDMANN: Well, there has long been bipartisan support for the U.S. President presence in Northern Syria. That's where the Kurds are. The Kurds have long been U.S. allies in that effort.
And the feeling is that the U.S. presence is important to hold Iran, the Assad regime, the Russians, ISIS, there are lots of adversaries to the U.S. position, that if we withdraw, and we already are withdrawing, that that will be bad for the American position in the Middle East, and particularly for the Kurds. And this is a -- you know, it feels like the President has the Republican Party under his thumb, but there are moments when people speak up, and really express themselves quite forcefully, even Lindsey Graham, who is a big ally of the President, usually.
CHURCH: Yes, and as you said, we're talking about the Republicans and the Democrats standing firm on this particular issue. And they know the importance of this, why doesn't the President understand it?
FELDMANN: The President campaigned on getting the United States out of its foreign entanglements. And this is something he is intent on fulfilling his campaign promises. And this is something that the rank-and-file Republican voters want. They don't like the idea that America is spending its blood and treasure overseas. So, they like the idea of pulling out and there isn't, I think, a lot of understanding of the geostrategic reasons to stay there. And thus, we have the President really going against the Washington establishment writ large and just announcing abruptly that we're pulling out of Northern Syria.
CHURCH: And presumably, none of his aides have said to him, this isn't a wise decision.
FELDMANN: Right. So, the President does what he wants, he operates on gut and instinct. And when he wants to do something, he just does it. And it's possible that he decided to do this now because he wants a distraction from the whole impeachment inquiry. It's -- you know, it's a great trick, but you can only do it once. I don't know that, you know, the impeachment investigation is going to go on for, you know, several weeks at least. And there are only so many of these tricks you can pull.
CHURCH: Yes. But with President Trump, we have seen him do this before, make these bold decisions, and then, of course, enough pressure is applied to him and he pulls back. How likely is it that Mr. Trump will cave under the pressure of GOP criticism of his Syria withdrawal, particularly with Senator Lindsey Graham, who he's relied on on very many other topics. And this, he's left him standing alone.
FELDMANN: Right, exactly. No, I think there's going to be a resolution in the Senate when they come back opposing this move. The President could reverse himself, though, you know, the withdrawal is already underway. The Turks are reportedly already engaged in military battles in Northern Syria. And, you know, the President can reverse himself, but it's very tricky militarily, to withdraw and then start to go back. I mean, it's making a lot of people vulnerable, including American troops. If there's a lot of bad stories out of that region with the withdrawal underway, it's possible he'll reverse. I mean, with Donald Trump, anything is possible.
CHURCH: We have certainly learned that, haven't we?
CHURCH: Linda Feldmann, many thanks to you for your analysis and perspective, appreciate it.
FELDMANN: Sure. Thank you.
CHURCH: And we'll take a short break. Here still to come, as a civil war continues to rage in Ukraine. Those caught in the crossfire blamed both the U.S. and Russia. We will explain why, just ahead.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Iraq's army admits it used excessive force against protesters in Baghdad al-Sadr district. The military withdrew troops from the district early Monday. Authorities promised to hold to account any security forces who acted improperly. The interior ministry says, at least, 104 people have been killed in demonstrations across the country over the past week.
A U.S. congressman wants the U.S. to forget plans to withdraw from a key international agreement. The 2002 Open Skies Treaty allows flights over countries to collect data on military activities. For example, Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel has written a letter in response to the Trump administrations planned to withdraw from the treaty. He writes, "Withdrawal risks dividing the transatlantic alliance and would further undermine America's reliability as a stable and predictable partner when it comes to European security."
Engel adds the treaty is an important check against further Russian aggression against Ukraine. But that hasn't stopped the bloodshed there with the U.S. withholding military and recently many in Ukraine say, the U.S. president is playing with Ukrainian life. Sam Kiley explains.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ukrainian soldiers say farewell to a comrade killed by rebels. Another casualty in a five-year Russian-backed separatist's war.
Oleg Reminny was 33, a volunteer, and a father. To his mother, there's no doubt about who's the villain here.
OLGA REMINNY, MOTHER OF OLEG REMINNY (through translator): What does this Putin lack? Russia is such a huge country, they have so much oil and gas in Siberia. I'm saying when will this scum have taken his fill?
KILEY: Half a decade into a civil war that's killed 13,000 people, this is trench warfare. Ukrainian forces fought the rebels to a stalemate, helped by $1.5 billion in U.S. military aid since 2014.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just like you throw a ball, just like that.
KILEY: But this summer, Donald Trump suspended nearly $400 million of that support and sought help from Ukraine's new president to investigate the roles that his domestic political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter have played here.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has mostly resisted Trump's demands. He is focused on a controversial peace plan that's running into widespread opposition.
This demonstration hear in Kiev's famous Maidan is against proposals from President Zelensky to make peace with the east of the country -- with the rebels in the East that would give them a high degree of autonomy from the perspective here of the demonstrators too much influence of Russia, a capitulation they say to Russian aggression.
But there's also a high degree of frustration even contempt for Donald Trump's efforts to suspend military aid to them right in the middle of this conflict.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He plays not with of Zelensky, he played with like the lives of our soldiers because we really need to this help because Ukraine has no a lot of support from Europe or from another countries. And so this aim is very important for us to resist against Russian soldiers and Russian troops.
KILEY: American military aid is once again flowing to Ukraine. But Trump's own legacy here may have been dealt a fatal blow. Sam Kiley, CNN, Kiev.
CHURCH: All right. We shift to the weather now, and a super typhoon has rapidly intensified in the western Pacific and will threaten Japan later this week.
Now, meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us now in the studio to talk more about this. How bad this going to be?
IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, if the fact that it intensified that quickly it's just something you don't see. I mean, this has been decades since it happened. The good thing is, is that it's over open water right now. So, it's not bothering too many folks.
So, let's talk about it Rosemary, because eventually, you're right, it is going to be headed up towards Japan. So, what do we have? Hagibis here 250-kilometer-per-hour winds. This is the archipelago of Guam, you see there some of the islands getting battered with those outer winds. But the destructive 250-kilometer-per-hour winds are right near the center there.
So that has not been going through the islands, it is moving west- northwest at 24. Or broaden the view should be able to see get some perspective on where this thing is and how far away still it is from Japan. And at that speed, it's going to take it the entire week to get there. But it will eventually get there.
How it gets there is a good thing. Well, we'd rather this go out to sea obviously. But, if it's going to hit Japan that we want it to weakening. That's exactly what's going to happen.
As it gains latitude, you see the wind speeds beginning to go down. So that in 72 hours, were down at 250 which is still a lot. But by the time I think it threatens the island here, we're looking at 150- kilometer-per-hour winds and that's going to be enough. And then, eventually, heading it into Tokyo as well.
We'll take you can watch the clock is that we'll be able to show you exactly when this is going to approach. I mean, again, it's going to take all week. And then eventually, there it is, at local time. So, this is going to be a weekend event.
I think conditions start deteriorating certainly on Friday, but the main event will be through the day on Saturday. And then, heading into Sunday and the potential of getting a 150-kilometer-per-hour winds and windswept rain is going to be there.
And, by the way, it is going to be a hefty amount of rain as we follow the cone here you see beginning to get into some of the pink here, that's where we're going to have the strongest winds and that is also we're going to have the heaviest rain as well.
We could be looking at the potential for 250 millimeters of rainfall -- that's going to be a lot. A quarter meter rainfall nothing to sneeze at here.
By the way, how we're doing so far in this season where average as far as how many tropical storms we've had. But now, we've had three super typhoons, Rosemary. You normally get two in an average season. And folks asked about, well, what's going on? Well, I think as the oceans continue to warm here, we are going to see these storms continue to intensify, and they have the potential to not just stay as typhoons but have become quite devastating. So, we'll have to watch that.
CHURCH: So, it gets back to climate change again?
CABRERA: Exactly. Always does.
CHURCH: All right. Ivan, always great to chat with you. CABRERA: You bet.
CHURCH: Many thanks.
CABRERA: You too.
CHURCH: Well, more to come on CNN including hundreds of arrests around the world. Climate crusaders known as the Extinction Rebellion, shutting down city centers, demanding action. We'll have that on our return.
CHURCH: Well, around the world, thousands of climate change protesters are bringing cities to a standstill. It's part of a two- week movement by the group Extinction Rebellion, demanding governments do more to cut carbon emissions and avoid an ecological disaster.
In Berlin, thousands of protesters blocked two main roundabouts. Some forming a human chain as they brave the bitter cold weather. In the U.S. State of South Dakota, teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg led a march in downtown Rapid City and spoke to her fellow activists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA THUNBERG, STUDENT AND CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Because we know what is at stake --
We'll standing up right now and we will not back down because we know what is at stake and we will never give up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And check out this protester in Brisbane, Australia, he chose to hang from a hammock attached to the Story Bridge, 74 meters over the Brisbane River.
In New York City, CNN captured video of these protesters covered in fake blood to call attention to climate change. That fake blood was also poured over the iconic charging bull statue in New York's financial district. At least, 90 people were arrested for civil disobedience.
Well, in London, demonstrators blocked roads bridges and squares around Westminster. Police arrested nearly 300 protesters there on Monday. Some of whom glued themselves to the ground and scaffolding in Trafalgar Square. CNN's Matthew Chance has more on the unrest over climate change.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Like well, hundreds of people have come here to central London as part of this Extinction Rebellion protests.
They're here, of course, the highlight climate change and the dangers that pose. They've got all these signs that stop war, stop climate chaos, everything will change. People are full of (INAUDIBLE) and optimism.
They want three things, though. Firstly, they want the government to in their words to tell the truth to declare a climate emergency because that's their biggest concern that this is not being taken seriously enough.
Secondly, they want firm action from the government as well, a reduction in net emissions of greenhouse gases to zero by 2025. And that's, of course, very optimistic, critics say, it's totally unrealistic. But nevertheless, that's one of their demands.
Finally, they want a citizen's advisory council to oversee government implementation of environmental policies, and it is incredibly urgent. These protesters say that action is taken now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Climate justice!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we want it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now!
CHANCE: Why now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because now is this -- the only time we have. We are out of time. The government has to act, we all have to act.
It's not enough me and you doing -- or recycling and doing our (INAUDIBLE) there. The government needs to put things in place. It needs to demand changes.
CHANCE: Do you think people are going to listen though, to those? Because it's not just in London, it's all over the world, isn't it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think people at this --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so. I think the cities come to a standstill in the middle. We've got a really positive group of people. And what they're all saying is we want things to change.
CHANCE: Right, well, the tactics that the Extinction Rebellion movements (INAUDIBLE) are classic. They're not just blocking streets here in central London and elsewhere, but rather well -- but also -- but also key government installations, government buildings, train stations, even airports.
And obviously, that attracts a big police presence already there who've made multiple arrests. And the organizers of this say, they're expecting many more in the weeks ahead.
Matthew Chance, CNN, central London.
CHURCH: And thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on Twitter and I'll be back with more news in just a moment. You're watching CNN. Do stick around.