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Gowdy Expected to Help with Impeachment Fight; Attack on Syria has Begun; Poll Shows Americans Support Impeachment; Sanders Scaling Back Campaign Schedule. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:31:09]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the White House going to war on the House impeachment inquiry and they're recruiting former Congressman Trey Gowdy to help wage it. Two sources tell CNN he would not join the administration but would help them wage the impeachment fight from the outside. You can imagine that would mean a lot of TV appearances.

Joining me now to talk about that, CNN legal analyst Ross Garber. Of course he teaches impeachment law at Tulane. He also has represented four governors who faced impeachment. So you have a little bit of expertise in this arena, Ross. Thank you for being here.

Look, I don't think -- you know, whether you like his politics or not, Trey Gowdy is a skilled litigator. He's a good lawyer, right? And he can make an effective, compelling argument. But remember when he said this? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC) (June 20, 2012): The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you're the party in power or not in power is wrong. Respect for the rule of law must mean something irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Does that, from 2012, make it a little bit harder for him to defend the administration's stonewalling now?

ROSS GARBER, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS AND IMPEACHMENT TEACHER, TULANE LAW SCHOOL: I think we're going to be seeing a lot of that. And I think what we'll also be see is that he and others distinguish what was happening then from what's happening now. And I think one of the things he probably brings to the table is the ability to sort of get the Republicans in Congress really on board. There were some, you know, rumblings yesterday that, you know, maybe Republicans in the House were surprised by the White House's approach to all this. You don't want surprise in your base.

HARLOW: Right. GARBER: And I think Gowdy may help with that. And I think what he'd say is, yes, that was different. You know there we were doing regular oversight. This is an impeachment inquiry and I think what he's say is, you know, the rules from past impeachment inquiries were different than they are in this one, and that makes all the difference.

HARLOW: OK, so let's dig into that a little bit because you have some thoughts on the letter that the White House sent to Democratic leadership and the argument here by White House counsel that sort of absent a vote on -- an official vote on an impeachment inquiry, the president and other members of the executive branch, they're arguing in this letter, will be denied their basic rights, due process, fairness, et cetera.

Is there any merit in that argument?

GARBER: Yes, so there actually is. And that letter played, you know, right to Trump's base. That was not an effort to convince Democrats or probably even centrist voters.

HARLOW: Right.

GARBER: That played to Trump's base.

But there's something there. And it's less about a vote by the full House, although I think they'd say that's a prerequisite. Instead, there's something a little bit different going on.

What they're referring to is in the two previous recent impeachment efforts, Clinton and Nixon, there was a set of rules that applied in the committee once the impeachment process started.

HARLOW: Right.

GARBER: And it was the same, identical set of rules. And under those rules, the president's lawyers got rights to be at all the hearings, to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to participate in the process. And that's lacking here.

And I think their point is, why change the rules? Why is this different? Why not apply the same rules as a Nixon and Clinton?

HARLOW: Right.

GARBER: And why not do this in a fair way? I think that's their point. And it has some merit, actually.

HARLOW: Right. In both of those cases of impeachment, or inquiries, the minority had the right to subpoena witnesses. And there are -- there are some that are arguing that the reason -- one reason why Nancy Pelosi, you know, might not want to risk a vote is not just for, you know, putting vulnerable members on the record, but also having to determine those rules.

GARBER: Yes. And that's been something I've been saying is once you're actually all in on an impeachment, you know, then those issues become much more prominent.

[09:35:08]

And, yes, in addition to the minority having rights, the president's lawyers would have rights, too. And I think they just don't like the idea of the potential spectacle of Rudy Giuliani or another one of the president's lawyers having the ability to participate fully in these processes or even attend, yes.

HARLOW: Quickly before you go, you know, there is the argument that's been made on our air, Mike Quigley -- Congressman Mike Quigley said it to us yesterday about, you know, he sees multiple examples of obstruction here that could be articles of impeachment.

You don't think that's enough for Democrats, though?

GARBER: Yes, it -- I -- yes, it's -- it's not going to work. An article based on obstruction came out of committee in the Nixon case, in the -- but it was never voted on by the full House because Nixon resigned. And Clinton, the full House rejected that kind of article.

You know, here, where it would be based on something that the White House would claim is assertion of executive privilege or executive prerogatives, I just don't think it's going to work and I think it probably doesn't even get a majority of House members to vote for it. They're going to need something of substance to convince the American people that this president should be removed.

And an impeachment process, yes, it leads to a trial in the Senate, but in the minds of the American people, and in the process, it is the first step in removing a president. And I don't think that's going to happen based on refusal to provide witnesses and documents when there are actually legitimate complaints about fairness.

HARLOW: Well, if that's the case, clearly that's what the White House is banking on.

GARBER: Yes.

HARLOW: Ross Garber, we'll have you back a lot I'm sure through this process.

Thank you very much.

GARBER: Good to see you, Poppy.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago this breaking news, Turkey's president, Erdogan, saying the military offensive in northern Syria has begun. This, of course, follows the president's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the area. According to the Syrian Democratic Forces, there is huge panic right now as war planes have started carrying out air strikes on civilian areas as well.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, he is on the scene there at the Turkish/Syrian border. He joins us now by the phone.

Nick, this is swift movement by the Turks here. Tell us about the situation on the ground.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Excellent. Thank you.

Yes, I'm hearing you.

SCIUTTO: Tell me, Nick, tell me what you're seeing and hearing on the ground. I know it's difficult where you.

WALSH: You hearing me all right?

SCIUTTO: We're hearing you now. You're on the air. So give us a picture of the scene on the ground now as this offensive begins.

WALSH: Jim, thank you.

Forgive me.

We still have an idea that things are about to beginning and all our coms went down about half an hour ago. All cell phones went out. Instead, it's patchy.

But when the shelling began about half an hour ago, periodic rumbles in the distance, but now I've been able to see in front of me, in exposed flames there are four or five shells landing in the last ten minutes.

It looks like a convoy of something is moving in the dust. A lot of motion towards the border down here. And we have now heard from Turkish President Erdogan that the operation is underway, which marks, obviously, a substantial change in the environment where I'm standing.

The question one really has to ask is how extensive is what the Turkish military is (INAUDIBLE) and that potentially had 18 miles of territory inside Syria being (INAUDIBLE) by President Erdogan potentially as being seized as part of this operation. And that could potentially take months, really years to sustain.

The question (INAUDIBLE) is around this town of Kalada (ph), I'm on the Turkish side of the border in a town called Atchatali (ph). (INAUDIBLE) is on the other side of the border. But (INAUDIBLE) forces withdrew (INAUDIBLE) after that Sunday night phone call between President Donald Trump and President Erdogan. And (INAUDIBLE) that town of Kalada (ph) and possibly further down the border (INAUDIBLE) we simply don't know at this point. We've seen movements of Turkish military hardware up and down the border as we drove in.

But I have to tell you, in the last few hours, the atmosphere around here changed substantially and now we are clearly seeing shelling beginning on that particular side of the border. The impact is quite clear for us to see from this rooftop. (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: Nick, Nick, it's -- the signal is choppy and folks, so you understand at home, Nick is on the border between Turkey and Syria as this Turkish offensive begins there. A deliberate effort by Turkish forces, it seems, to scramble cell phone signals so as not to allow communication out.

But, Nick, if you can still hear me, just very quickly, what is the situation with America's, until recently, allies on the ground there, the Kurdish forces who were fighting alongside U.S. forces against ISIS, who say they've been abandoned? What's their status?

[09:40:03]

WALSH: No doubt. Certainly they are outnumbered and the Turkish military, the second largest army in NATO, is significantly better equipped and better in numbers. The fight only really has one conclusion. The issue, of course, for the Syrian Kurds is how long they choose to fight back.

They are far more fueled, perhaps, ideologically and that is hard to hold on to what they see as a long-term homeland for themselves. But there are talk -- there's been talk of a general call-up for all civilians to assist in resisting the Turkish, what they call invasion here, and, you know, major (INAUDIBLE) I think concern for those who watched, like myself, Syrian Kurds give hundreds, thousands, 10,000 possibly lives in the fight against ISIS with U.S. backing is exactly the resentment they will feel toward the west, toward the U.S. backers if a NATO member, essentially with a green light it seems certainly in their mind from the White House begins an assault of this extent. We don't know how big it's going to be, but certainly it's now under way.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, Nick Paton Walsh, there on the border for CNN, as this Turkish offensive begins. We're going to continue to bring you updates there. They are difficult circumstances, of course, talking about aerial bombardment, artillery as well.

And again, as Nick was saying there, an invasion okayed, it seemed, by the U.S. president.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:46:10]

SCIUTTO: As the impeach inquiry into President Donald Trump moves through the House, support for the process in some polling gaining steam. In others, the indicator is a little contradictory.

HARLOW: That's right. There are a lot of numbers out there. A new Quinnipiac poll shows support for the impeachment inquiry now stands at 53 percent among American voters. This follows a new poll in "The Washington Post" showing support at 58 percent, up from 37 percent in July.

But some other numbers, when you ask about removal from office, are lower. David Swerdlick is with us.

David, what do you -- what do you see in these numbers, looking at the totality of them, because when you -- when you look at the Quinnipiac poll, when it asked, should the president be impeached and removed from office, more people say, no --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Forty-nine percent say no and 45 percent say yes.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.

So, Poppy, it's always important to remember when you're looking at polls, that polls are a snapshot of where you are at a given time, whether you're talking about an election poll, or, in this case, an impeachment poll. But right now, as you pointed out, the trend is favoring what the Democrats are doing.

Back in July, our "Washington Post" poll only showed 37 percent of people favored an inquiry, now 58 percent favor it. That's a slim majority, but the direction is heading in favor of what the Democrats are doing, right? In neither this poll nor the Quinnipiac poll does a majority of the public favor removing the president, but I still think right now at least this is generally a good sign for what Democrats are doing from their perspective because they know they're not going to remove the president.

Republicans control the Senate. The Senate requires a two-thirds majority vote to remove the president. So the Democrats have narrow support in both the post poll and the q poll for the inquiry. The trend is heading in their direction. And you have a situation where Democrats are going to do the inquiry and probably an impeachment vote, but that's just an indictment, not a removal.

SCIUTTO: Now Republicans, though, look at a different number. There's some internal polling that shows in swing districts, and that, of course, is key to the control of the House --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: That a majority of voters in those swing districts do not support the impeachment inquiry. And I wonder if you see that as what's informing the almost across the board silence from Republican lawmakers on this.

SWERDLICK: Right. Well, I think, in general, with impeachment and with a lot of other issues, many Republicans, whether they're in swing districts or even solidly Republican districts, generally have not found that it's in their interest to cut against President Trump because President Trump, in many cases, is more popular with Republican voters than even their own constituents, and so these members of Congress. So Republicans have to be careful on this, politically, even though, in theory, you would vote for impeachment based on whether or not you find validity to the impeachment charges. That's the situation they're faced with. HARLOW: David, always good to have your insight on it. Thank you so

much.

SWERDLICK: Thanks you guys.

HARLOW: We're going to take a quick break.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:53:48]

SCIUTTO: All right, so Senator Bernie Sanders is vowing to return to the campaign trail just a week after he suffered a heart attack. What his campaign will ultimately look like, though, is really still a big question.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Ryan Nobles, he's been following the Sanders campaign.

So, Ryan, Sanders cutting back his campaign schedule here. This after having to leave the campaign to respond to this heart attack. I wonder, and you've covered this campaign for some time, is this a threat to his campaign continuing?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it's a threat to the campaign continuing at all at this point, Jim. I think it's just a recognition that the breakneck pace that Sanders was on up until this point is going to have to change because of what has happened with his health. You know, he did suffer a heart attack. He is a 78-year-old man. And the schedule that he kept up really outpaced much of the Democratic field. He would travel as many as six days a week, hold as many as four or five different events per day.

So the campaign is recognizing that that perhaps isn't necessary. That he doesn't need to be on the campaign trail that much, especially when you take into account that he has more than $30 million that he can spend on ads and other resources to get his name out there.

It is, though, something that is going to now be in the back of voters' minds. I mean his age was always something that was -- that he had to contend with. Now the fact that he has these health issues is going to make the argument that much more difficult. But Sanders was insistent yesterday, Jim and Poppy, this campaign continues and he's in it for the long haul.

[09:55:08]

SCIUTTO: Ryan Nobles there on the trail. And we should remind you, you'll get a look at sanders and other candidates. CNN/ "The New York Times" hosting the fourth Democratic presidential debate live from the battleground state of Ohio. That is one week from today, Tuesday night, October 15th, 8:00 Eastern Time, only here on CNN.

HARLOW: The White House essentially declaring war, fighting Democrats as this -- as they investigate impeachment and it's setting up a constitutional battle not seen in generations.

Stay with us.

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