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Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden, For The First Time Has Called For President Trump To Be Impeached; Turkey Launching An Offensive On America's Allies In Syria. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired October 9, 2019 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:11]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for joining me. We begin with this breaking news that the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, just now for the first time has called for President Trump to be impeached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with a congressional inquiry. He has already convicted himself in full view of the world and the American people.

Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation, and committed impeachable acts.

To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached.

That's not only because of what he's done, to answer, whether he is committed acts of sufficient to warn impeachment is obvious.

He believes he can and will get away with anything he does.

We all laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it. It's no joke. He is shooting holes in the Constitution. And we cannot let him get away with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is there on the trail where the former Vice President is speaking in New Hampshire. And I mean, Jeff, these are the strongest words we have heard thus far from Joe Biden. Tell me why he is uttering them now.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, they are indeed. I mean, Joe Biden today essentially did this. He dropped any caveat around this Impeachment Inquiry. It was just three weeks ago today when he said that he supports this inquiry, but he, you know, was going to wait and see where the facts went. But today, he called out in the most forceful manner yet for

impeachment. You heard him right there here in Rochester, New Hampshire.

A couple of things are going on here, Brooke. First of all, he is essentially joining where other Democrats are, certainly other Democratic presidential candidates -- Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, others have been much more forceful than him.

But Joe Biden, of course, has been uniquely tied into all of this for the last three weeks. So he was calling out the President on a variety of fronts there.

But at the same time, he was defending Hunter Biden, his son and defending his family's name and character. He accused the President again and again of lying about him. And he, you know, essentially said, as we just heard, he was shooting holes in the Constitution.

So what Joe Biden is trying to do here, Brooke, is build the argument for impeachment, but it is significant that he dropped any hesitancy toward this.

Now, the question is, what effect will this have? Of course, Democrats in Congress are trying to make this argument to the American people to build their own case for that. A partisan speech like this does not necessarily help that argument, but it certainly galvanizes the seriousness of this moment here with Joe Biden calling for impeachment, but he is also trying to defend himself and defend his family.

He said he would defend his family and he pushed back against all of the attacks that the President has been leveling on him and Brooke, even as Joe Biden was speaking, the President was tweeting about the former Vice President. So clearly, he was watching this speech here in New Hampshire as well, Brooke, but certainly a new moment, a big speech here, big time for Joe Biden -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jeff, thank you very much for setting all of that up. And on this whole issue of impeachment, we may be at the most significant moment in this standoff between President Trump, his administration and House Democrats, since this inquiry was launched over two weeks ago.

In a blistering eight-page letter, the White House, they defied any and all requests to comply with the probe. The man behind it, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone says that the Democrats have quote, "violated civil liberties," and that the probe itself is, quote, "baseless and constitutionally invalid." And that was -- that was just in the first two pages.

The White House also said that the Impeachment Inquiry is, quote, "legally unsupported," an interesting characterization given the fact that many legal scholars have said the same about this letter, and we will discuss that more a bit later.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired back in a statement that while significantly shorter than this letter, delivered just as much of a punch. She slammed President Trump for trying to in her words, normalize lawlessness before saying this, quote, "Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable."

CNN Congressional Reporter, Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill and Lauren, the House Speaker says that the President will be held accountable, but with all of this stonewalling, how do the Democrats plan to do that?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS U.S. CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, of course at this point, Brooke, they are not planning to hold a vote on an Impeachment Inquiry. But I will tell you, the Democratic members who I'm talking to like Gerry Connolly, a member who I talked to just a little bit ago said, you know, at this point, the fact that we are being stonewalled by the White House is basically just more evidence of why the President may need to be impeached.

[14:05:18]

FOX: And so basically, Democrats are arguing look, we have a transcript. We have a whistleblower complaint. We have text messages. What more do we need? If Republicans do not want to bring witnesses up here to Capitol Hill to defend themselves, that's up to them. So that's the statement that we're hearing right now from Democrats. But this is not going to slow them down. At least that's the point that they're trying to make publicly at this point -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Lauren Fox. Thank you. Tim Naftali is a CNN Presidential Historian and a former Director of the Nixon Presidential Library. So Tim, welcome. The subpoenas are flying. The White House continues to Stonewall, you have read this letter.

The third article, since you are our Nixon expert, the third Article of Impeachment against President Nixon was obstruction. Could what's happening today with this White House lead to Trump having a similar fate?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Without a doubt. Richard Nixon was held accountable by the House Judiciary Committee for doing exactly what Donald Trump is doing now.

At a certain point, Richard Nixon through his lawyer said, that's it. I'm not giving anything more to the House Judiciary Committee, no more tapes, nothing. And he was held accountable in the sense that the House Judiciary Committee passed an Article of Impeachment and two members of the GOP, by the way joined in on that.

Here's the problem right now. There is no basis in constitutional history for the argument that the White House lawyers made regarding the unconstitutionality of Speaker Pelosi's approach. There's nothing in the Constitution that says how the House is supposed to impeach. It doesn't say whether there's one committee or six committees.

It also doesn't say how the subpoenas should fly, whether they should come from the Chairs of committees, or whether they should come from the committee as a whole.

So in terms of constitutional history, the argument that this is invalid is just wrong and will be tossed out by some court at some point. I don't think that's what's going on right now. I don't think that the White House actually believes that this is true. What they want to do is slow the process and, and basically allow the 2020 election to happen before this is adjudicated.

BALDWIN: So what about, you know, obviously, I've been talking to a lot of people about this issue of impeachment and Impeachment Inquiry. And you know, folks who we are talking to, Republicans say, really all the pressure is on Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, and how they handle this. You know, public opinion polls may be shifting, but it is not shifting with regard to how these Republicans are feeling.

So my question is, like, what do Schiff and Nancy Pelosi need to do in how they handle this that won't give more political ammunition to Republicans?

NAFTALI: Well, part of it is, let's stop making it the Democrats versus Trump. How about Americans for the rule of law against a lawless presidency? I don't understand why the Democrats are not working with some of the Republicans. There must be some Republicans in the House of Representatives who are concerned about authoritarianism.

BALDWIN: So to have some sort of bipartisan effort.

NAFTALI: Well, what happened in the Nixon period, which I consider to be the gold standard.

BALDWIN: Yes.

NAFTALI: The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee went to Republicans and wanted them on board for the subpoena. The subpoena was a vote by the entire committee.

And by the way, only three -- only three people voted against it. So most of the Republicans voted for the first subpoena against Nixon. Now, that was an era when Republicans actually thought Nixon was innocent. It may be the Republicans know that the President is guilty of abuse of power, and they're just protecting him.

But in any case, the Democrats in 1973-74, bent over backwards to make this appear fair to the American people, and to make sure that they gave cover to Republicans who kept an open mind and ultimately, because of the evidence said, Richard Nixon has to go. I'm not seeing --

BALDWIN: The bending over backwards. You're not seeing --

NAFTALI: I'm not seeing the Democrats -- because in the end --

BALDWIN: That's such an important point.

NAFTALI: Here's the thing. What we want people to do is to look at the evidence and say that this President is a threat, not just to our Republic today, but in setting a standard to future -- to our Republic tomorrow and the day after.

You don't want people to think the only way I'm going to agree with you is to become a Democrat. No, you want Republicans to stay Republicans to say, you know what, this is behavior that's unacceptable, whether by Republican or Democrat, so you've got to give him political cover.

You've got to make the process be more bipartisan. You have to -- when they say that the President's attorney has to be there. There's no constitutional requirement for it. But you know what? They did it in '74.

They let James St. Clair participate because they wanted to send a signal to America, that this is not about the Democrats versus Richard Nixon. This is about America standing up for its Constitution against a lawless President. I think we need a little more of that now.

BALDWIN: I so appreciate you saying that and hopefully the Democrats are listening. I did want to ask you about the other bit in the news today about the Trump D.O.J., right?

[14:10:07]

BALDWIN: So in court yesterday, in Washington, D.C., the Trump Justice Department argued that a Watergate ruling -- this is when a judge allowed Congress to see that secret grand jury report on Richard Nixon. That was incorrect. And this this is also -- to which the judge responded to this. Wow, the Department of Justice is taking an extraordinary position in this case. I mean, are they basically arguing that the President is above the law now? Are we in a constitutional crisis?

NAFTALI: We are in a constitutional crisis. Let me tell you about that decision. That was decision by Judge Sirika. Here is the problem. You have a grand jury that had evidence that was useful to a house -- constitutional House Impeachment Inquiry. There was no indictment of the President because as we have in this case, then as now, the D.O.J. decided, and the prosecutors decided you couldn't indict a sitting President.

So you have this material that is not going to be used for an indictment, but its material relative to a constitutional process. Can the grand jury give it to the Congress? Judge Sirika ended it in an Appeals Court both agreed, yes.

Because in fact, there are other instances, and you'll bring lawyers on here to talk to you about presentment. There are other instances where grand jury information can be shared, even if there's not an indictment.

So the argument that the court has made then was, hey, if we can do this for other reasons, of course, we can do it for a constitutional crisis.

BALDWIN: And now this administration is saying - that I was wrong.

NAFTALI: Well, the reason they're saying it is wrong, I bet besides the fact that they want to throw every spanner into the works is that Richard Nixon did not appeal that decision. It was the defendants in the Watergate trial, Haldeman who appealed. Haldeman lost.

But the fact is, the President in 1974, did not contest this. So what they want to figure out is whether they can contest it and maybe win, but leave it to the lawyers to give you the jurisprudence. I can tell that constitutionally speaking, Judge Sirika did not think he was doing anything extraordinary.

He had this problem. You're not indicting Nixon, but he is guilty of an impeachable offense. Doesn't the Congress have a right to know that under our Constitution? He said, yes. And the Appeals Court agreed.

BALDWIN: Some will remember our history. Tim Naftali, you are so good. Thank you very much.

NAFTALI: Tough time for everything.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much. Now to this breaking news, it is happening. Turkey right now launching and offensive on America's allies in Syria after President Trump abandoned the Kurds, the very fighters who helped the U.S. fight ISIS. We are live from the Turkey- Syria border.

Also ahead, as we mentioned at the top of the show, Joe Biden is for the very first time calling for Trump's impeachment. Why now? I'll talk to a senior adviser on Biden's campaign. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:17:41]

BALDWIN: We are back with more of our breaking news this afternoon. Out of the Middle East now where U.S. allies are under attack. Turkey's President Erdogan says that the military offensive in Northern Syria has officially begun and the situation is developing quickly.

The onslaught is aimed at clearing the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces away from Turkey's border. This is all happening just days after President Trump announced that U.S. troops would move out of Turkey's way, essentially abandoning one of America's closest allies in the fight against ISIS.

According to the Syrian Democratic Forces, there is huge panic right now in this part of the world as warplanes have started to carry out airstrikes. Hundreds of civilians are now being forced to quite literally run for their lives and there are reports already of casualties.

CNN Senior International Correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh is along the Turkish-Syrian border. And so Nick, tell me what you and your crew have been seeing.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, extraordinary beginning to this day, where along the border, a number of shells struck in during the afternoon seemingly to send the message around Akcakale at Tell Abyad. Tell Abyad being the Syrian- Kurdish town that U.S. troops pulled out of in just the last few days, that civilians should move away and then further down the border towards Ras al-Ain, dramatic scenes when shelling did exactly the same, send the same message putting civilians fast out of that populated area.

Where we were near Tell Abyad, much of the shells seem to land in the expanses around that particular town. But surely, as night has fallen now and some of the shelling appears to be continuing. We may overnight possibly see Turkish ground forces move in across the border to start clearing some of that terrain.

But it is an enormous job. These are vast expanses of territory, and it is not without enormous political risk for Turkey. They've long said they need to clear Syrian Kurds from this area. They want to create what they call a safe zone, so they can send Syrian refugees from Syrian Civil War that are living in Turkey, millions of them back across the border to get a life back inside of Syria.

But the broad question is, how will President Erdogan deal with this geopolitical realignment frankly, he's thrown Turkey into?

He rang Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly before he announced the beginning of this operation, and he spoke to Donald Trump on Sunday and got a bit of a green lights, but then a lot of flak from Washington in the days afterwards, even Donald Trump saying if he crossed certain lines, then the economic obliteration of Turkey.

Today, the White House is trying to repeat its lines saying Donald Trump that this is a bad idea. But he expects Turkey to act in a humanitarian way, or there could possibly be consequences and also importantly, Turkey to take prisoners, the ISIS prisoners back into their custody. How on earth that happens in a war zone, given those ISIS prisoners are currently in the custody of the Syrian Kurds that Turkey is fighting? I have no idea.

But we are into uncharted territory here. A lot of reports have continued, shelling along that border, suggestions that Turkish airplanes are in the sky that's leading to the Syrian Kurds asking for a no fly zone. This could take days though.

If Turkey really wants to realize the full scope of its ambitions that is an 18-mile deep zone, all the way along the Turkish-Syrian border, massive territory to clear, large population centers. My hunch is they'll start small, possibly with Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain where they hit today and then slowly build over time.

But pretty much everybody in NATO has moved forward to condemn this operation and this startlingly bold decision by Turkey to even begin it frankly, given the opposition against it. Back to you. BALDWIN: I want to focus on the condemnation Nick Paton Walsh, thank

you. You know, President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of this area has pitted both Democrats and Republicans in Congress against this administration, and that includes one of the President's fiercest and most vocal defenders Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

So in a series of tweets, the Senator called Turkey's operation a quote-unquote "disaster in the making," and said, "Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration. This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS."

Just adding to that, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney also weighed in. She called it sickening, and tweeted that it's impossible to understand why Trump is leaving America's allies to be slaughtered.

Joshua Geltzer is a former Senior Director of Counterterrorism at the National Center Council. So Josh, thank you so much for being with me.

Gosh, there's a lot to get through just beginning with, can you talk to me about how fast this is all happening right now in this part of the world and how this shows the U.S.'s presence in the region or lack thereof made a huge difference?

JOSHUA GELTZER, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM, NATIONAL CENTER COUNCIL: Well, the speed at which this is unfolding is part of what makes it so sickening, you know, the President has, in some ways been consistent about wanting to reduce the U.S. presence and even involvement in Syria.

And those of us who have criticized that and criticized it when it's been too hasty, have our arguments, but here, to do this so abruptly, to have asked so recently, the Syrian Kurds who have been such extraordinary partners, to dismantle defensive things they had built to try to protect themselves from a Turkish onslaught, and suddenly, to now unleash essentially Turkey upon them. That's a humanitarian disaster. It's also bad strategy for the United States.

BALDWIN: I mean, you talk to members of the military, and they will tell you it is a dark day, right? That the Kurds, that our brothers and sisters in arms against ISIS will be massacred. My question to you is, how could the President let this happen? And why do you think he is doing this now?

GELTZER: It really is heartbreaking to see. I mean, the Syrian Kurds lost thousands, thousands in a campaign against ISIS that made Americans safer here at home as well as others safer around the globe.

And people criticize the President for his call with Ukraine as a quid pro quo. This seems like a quid pro nothing. It's not clear that the President got anything back from Erdogan.

Instead, he seems to have followed Trump's own instinct to indulge authoritarian leaders when they ask for something. Here Erdogan seemed to ask for us to get out of the way and give them the green light. Trump seemed to just hand that over. BALDWIN: You heard Nick talking about the airplanes, the airstrikes

already, you know, coming down and is there any turning back or is this done?

GELTZER: There's always a way to make a bad decision less bad. And I hope that there are folks getting to Donald Trump right now urging him to do that and explaining how. If U.S. troops at least remain in parts of Syria, if we continue to, in at least quiet ways, help the Kurds deal with things that are very much in our own interest, like ensuring that the many, many ISIS detainees the Kurds have been guarding don't suddenly escape or get released by Turkey. If we can do that in quiet ways. It's worth it. It mitigates it, but it doesn't stop this from being just a disastrous call.

BALDWIN: Always a way to make a bad situation less bad. Josh Geltzer. Thank you. We will see if they do.

GELTZER: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up for the first time, Joe Biden goes, they are calling for President Trump to be impeached. Why is he doing this now? We'll talk to a top Biden campaign official coming up.

Also, President Trump's inner circle under fire for supporting the White House stonewalling of Congress, when not too long ago, they sang a different tune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREY GOWDY FORMER HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE: The notion that you could withhold information and documents from Congress, no matter whether you're the party in power or not in power is wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:29:44]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Virtually every day he launches a barrage of tweets to disparage, insult, threaten anyone, anyone who not only criticize him but doesn't bathe him in praise.

Now think about it. Do you ever think you'd see a Cabinet Minister who say, yes, Mr. President, you're the greatest person in the world.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: I mean, think about it.

[14:30:09]