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House Democrats Ramping Up Impeachment Inquiry; White House Shifting Impeachment Strategy; Turkey Launches Military Offensive In Syria. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 10, 2019 - 05:30   ET




DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: A woman hired to help the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has been indicted for scheming to defraud them, instead.

The federal prosecutor in Buffalo says Keonna Davis used her position as a disaster recovery specialist for the Small Business Administration to collect the personal data of victims. She charged -- she's charged with using that information to open new accounts, purchase items, and apply for loans, including a $4,900 loan for a French bulldog and a $15,000 loan for plastic surgery.

Davis faces 20 years in prison and a half-million-dollar fine. Her public defender declined comments.

EARLY START continues right now.

House Democrats getting ready to demand documents and testimony as they plan the next phase in their impeachment inquiry.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, the Kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand. They didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump dismissing the need to support Kurdish allies in northern Syria, as Turkey launches deadly strikes in the region.

BRIGGS: Bernie Sanders walking back comments he'll slow down after a heart attack, looking towards a, quote, "very vigorous campaign."

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour.

This morning, we begin with House Democrats who are taking a harder line against the Trump administration's stonewalling of their impeachment investigation.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent an eight-page letter to House leaders this week, saying the administration will not cooperate. He wrote it just doesn't view the impeachment inquiry as legitimate, partly because there's been no vote to authorize it.

BRIGGS: Now, a debate is growing in the Democratic caucus. Should the House call the West Wing's bluff with a formal vote for an impeachment inquiry?

CNN's Manu Raju has the latest from Capitol Hill.



Now, Democrats are preparing for the next phase of their impeachment push, including a new wave of subpoenas to compel people to testify.

Expect three of Rudy Giuliani's associates to come before Congress or at least by subpoenaed to come before Congress because they have yet to comply to Democratic demands, both to turn over records and to come in for voluntary interviews.

Some Democrats I'm talking to say what's the point of volunteering interviews? Let's go straight to subpoenas right now because we're not getting any compliance.

This could also pertain to current State Department officials including, potentially, on Friday, when a very important witness is scheduled, at the moment, to come in -- Marie Yovanovitch. She's the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. She was recalled from that post but she's a current State Department employee.

And there are questions about whether she will appear on Friday, and so Democrats are suggesting that perhaps she, too, will need a subpoena. Although, at the moment, she's still expected to come and testify.

Now, behind the scenes, there's also discussions happening with the whistleblower, himself or herself, asking this individual to come in. I'm told that there are extreme measures being considered to secure this person's testimony, including allowing this person to testify in complete secrecy so no one would have any idea whether or not the testimony took place until after the fact.


Now, Democrats behind the scenes are also having this debate -- whether or not to formalize an impeachment inquiry. This is a debate that is going to take place in the coming days ahead, especially as Democrats return to town next week.

Some believe, including John Garamendi of California, that it makes sense to have a vote to formalize the inquiry. REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): I do think that it's time for us to put a vote on the floor -- a resolution for the inquiry -- structured in such a way that it can move forward with full power of the Congress behind it. I think that's probably going to come in the next week or so.

If they want a fight, OK, then let us arm ourselves completely and totally with the full power of Congress. The votes, I'm sure, are there.

RAJU: But one important person is still not on board -- that's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She does not believe it makes sense to go that route. She also does not believe it's necessary because current House rules do not require such a vote and neither does the Constitution.

So expect that debate to continue behind closed doors this week and next -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: OK, Manu Raju, thanks.

Meanwhile, President Trump is still hedging his bets about cooperating with the impeachment inquiry even if a full House vote were held.


REPORTER: If they held a vote -- a vote in the full House and the vote were to authorize --

TRUMP: Again, that's not something --

REPORTER: -- would you -- would you cooperate?

TRUMP: Well, we would if they give us our rights. It depends.


BRIGGS: The administration shifting its strategy as it waits for the House Democrats to make the next move.

Kaitlin Collins at the White House with more.


KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, as Democrats are figuring out what they're next move is going to be, the White House is kind of sitting back watching and waiting to see how they're going to respond to that scathing eight-page letter that the White House counsel sent to them earlier this week.

Now, while they're saying publicly, though, that they're not going to be cooperating, not going to be working with Democrats, what we're seeing behind the scenes is actually the White House start to gear up in case there is an impeachment. You're starting to see a shift a little bit in the White House from aides trying to convince the president that yes, this could potentially be inevitable.

And they feel like the president is starting to respond to that, evident enough by the fact that he has agreed to have Trey Gowdy, that former South Carolina congressman, come on as outside counsel because that was an idea that the president was initially resistant to -- this idea of bringing on any new lawyers or any kind of impeachment defense strategy.

But what they say they're seeing inside the White House is he is starting to realize he's going to need something here in case Democrats do decide to move forward.

What will be interesting to watch going forward is who it is that's running the impeachment defense strategy from inside the West Wing because basically, what we've been speaking to sources about so far -- some say it's Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law; some say it's Mick Mulvaney, the chief of staff; and some people say it's just President Trump, himself.


ROMANS: All right, Kaitlin. Thank you so much for that.

Turkey launching deadly strikes in northern Syria. Senior Defense officials warning the action could hurt the fight against ISIS. We're live on that border, next.



BRIGGS: Turkey's military strike in northern Syria has killed at least eight people, including three fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces and five civilians.

Republicans are slamming President Trump for his decision to pull U.S. troops out of the region.

Senator Lindsey Graham announcing an agreement with Democrats to hit Turkey with, quote, "severe sanctions" and he's calling on the president to turn U.S. troops around.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): And the Kurds are the ground forces that destroyed the caliphate with American airpower. We've abandoned them and that breaks my heart. I hope the president will change his mind and readjust his policy before it's too late.


BRIGGS: President Trump doesn't see it that way. Listen to his reasoning for leaving the Kurds to fend for themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Now, the Kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand -- they're fighting for their land. And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy, as an example. They mentioned names of different battles -- they weren't there. But they're there to help us with their land and that's a different thing.


BRIGGS: For context, an estimated 11,000 Kurds died in the fight against ISIS.

Nick Paton Walsh is live from the Turkish-Syrian border with the latest. Nick, good morning. What are you seeing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dave, in the last two hours, we've seen a Turkish armored convoy -- 12 vehicles -- armored personnel carriers moving towards the border -- coming out.

And on the hill behind me, over there in the distance, there remains a reasonable-sized Turkish position, along with what looks like some, in what the Turkish government refer to as Syrian National Army. That's basically Syrian rebels with Turkish backing who are part of this offensive.

On the roads around Tell Abyad behind me, one of the town's U.S. troops pulled out after that fateful call between Trump and Erdogan, while they appear to be shutting the roads that lead into that town -- or have been -- in the last couple of hours.

It has gone quiet and it's very hard to tell, frankly, if what we've seen behind this -- the theater -- is part of a ground move or potentially, for the cameras of state media of Turkey to my left-hand side here.

But clearly, Turkey is sending a message that it is not deterred by the broad international criticism. Actually, I've been stunned that hearing the different nations coming out and condemning Turkey who would normally be very friendly towards its objectives here.

But the broader question is how deep will they go and what is their broad purpose in all of this. And, is this a short-term move? Are they trying to get fast or are they trying to play this slow and gradual?

You heard Donald Trump there pretty ambivalent about the Syrian Kurds. They were the ones who rid this part of the world of ISIS. They did the fighting with U.S. airpower and special forces behind them and they lost many lives as a result. And now, they're on the receiving end of a NATO ally and member here moving starkly towards them.

We have to see what civilian toll comes in the days ahead.

And the Turkish Defense minister said it has achieved its objectives overnight inside of Syria -- not all of them, but some of them. Whether they continue in the days ahead to speed up their moves or whether we're going to see, as I say, this gradual slowly play out over the months ahead.


But still, most importantly, President Ergodan, despite this barrage of criticism of the U.N.'s National Security Council meeting happening this afternoon, undeterred.

Back to you.

BRIGGS: Yes. Let's remember, the president promised to obliterate the economy of Turkey if they did something that the president considers off-limits. What exactly that is, anybody's guess.

Nick Paton Walsh, terrific reporting there on the border -- thanks.


Joining us now, "Washington Post" columnist and CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin. Josh has a new column about how Trump's decisions have dealt a blow to his own administration's Syria strategy. Josh, welcome this morning.

I want to play a little clip for you from retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen. He spoke to Christiane Amanpour and he -- this is a guy who served in Iraq. He led the allied troops in Afghanistan and was the U.S. envoy to the global coalition in the fight against ISIS.

Here's what he told Christiane.


GEN. JOHN ALLEN (RET.), U.S. MARINE CORPS: This is just chaos, Christiane. We don't do strategy and we shouldn't be doing foreign policy by tweet. And this is what you get when you have a single phone call between world leaders occurring and know when to put the phone down -- no further coordination within the U.S. government.


ROMANS: You have a phone call on Sunday between Erdogan -- President Erdogan and the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Why is the president going against the advice of his Pentagon, pastors who advise him --


ROMANS: -- the foreign policy experts --

BRIGGS: Franklin Graham.

ROMANS: -- around him? What happened that the president has made this move? JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, and I think Gen. Allen and you are both right to point out that President Trump didn't just betray our Kurdish allies, he betrayed the American diplomats and soldiers who are working with our Kurdish allies on what the plan was.

It wasn't a great plan but we had a plan for Syria, and that was to create this buffer zone that would keep the Turks from attacking the Kurds, and the Turks played along with that for a while.

And then when they pressed President Trump -- when Erdogan pressed President Trump in that Sunday phone call and say hey, I think I'm going to go in, Trump said oh, OK. And he kind of bought Erdogan's idea, which is that if Turkey takes over, the U.S. can withdraw.

Now, according to everyone in his own government, that plan is fatally flawed for a number of obvious reasons.

First of all, the Turks are not going to be able to manage that area. Second of all, the Kurds are going to fight back. Third of all, ISIS is going to return.

Fourth of all, it's going to benefit Iran. Fifth of all, it's going to add more violence onto an incredibly violent situation, which can't be good.

But in the end, President Trump just threw in the towel on the strategy that his entire government had been working on for over a year, and that's why we have the chaos we have right now.

BRIGGS: OK. And one point you just touched on that's in your column -- "How Trump just destroyed his own Syria strategy" -- you quote Joel Rayburn, the State Department's special envoy for Syria. And you talk about those who will benefit from this decision.

But let's remember, Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, came out right away and said it's Assad regime, Iran, and Russia who benefits by this decision. How so?

ROGIN: Well, basically, what you have in northeast Syria was like a -- the only semi-stable part that we had any influence over and that's gone, OK? And the Kurds, now under attack without our help, will have no choice but to go to the Assad regime and to Russia for help and our influence will be vanished, and that can't be a good thing.

And the reason that the State Department officials were publicly warning about that is because they thought they had a plan to deal with that until they had their legs cut out from under them by their own boss, the president.

Now, of course, it's President Erdogan's main responsibility for the killing that he's now committing in northeast Syria, but it's Americans who will have to clean up the mess.

ROMANS: Yes. ROGIN: And, what American officials keep saying is well, President Trump can say that we don't have an interest there -- the Kurds are just fighting for themselves -- they didn't help us in Normandy -- but when ISIS comes back it's not going to be Iran or Assad who is going to deal with that, it's going to be American soldiers who are going to have to go back in there and fight them all over again.

ROMANS: I mean, if the Kurds didn't help us in Normandy, the president didn't serve in Vietnam and he's now the commander in chief. So, I mean, there's a whole lot there on that whole -- that whole Normandy comment the president made.

The president also made an interesting comment. He sort of shrugged off the idea these ISIS fighters who had been detained and held captive by the Kurds at the request of the United States -- that they could be released and be a problem and reconstitute ISIS. And this is what he said.


TRUMP: Well, they're going to be escaping to Europe. That's where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes, but Europe didn't want them from us.

We could have given it to them. They could have had trials -- they could have done whatever they wanted.

But, as usual, it's not reciprocal. You know, my favorite word, reciprocal. That's all I want. I don't want an edge, I just want reciprocal.


ROMAN: So we just wash our hands of this -- the United States?

ROGIN: We can try. We can stop fighting the terrorists but it doesn't mean they're going to stop fighting us.


9/11 was planned in a safe harbor where terrorists had the ability to operate, and that's what we're seeing again in Syria now.

So, yes, Europe is closer to these terrorists than we are, but given enough time and space they will organize an attack that will hit us here and at that point, it will be too late.

So, the Europeans share some blame here for not dealing with their citizens who went to fight in Syria and not finding a way to imprison them or try them, and they may pay a price for that. But we may also pay a price --

ROMANS: Right.

ROGIN: -- for our dereliction of duty in protecting our country from these very same terrorists. ROMANS: And --

BRIGGS: Notice the absence of those speaking out in favor of this -- the State Department, Defense Department. Only Rand Paul, all I can find at his juncture.


BRIGGS: Josh Rogin, good stuff -- a great column. We'll tweet that out on "The Washington Post" this morning. Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, Josh.

ROGIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, we'll be right back.



ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Business" this Thursday morning.

A look at markets around the world, pretty much a mixed performance here, barely moving. Stocks finished higher Wednesday but, you know, it was really a mixed bag on trade -- mixed messages all around.

Before the markets opened, reports of a potential partial deal in U.S.-China trade talks boosted investor confidence. But then, just before the closing bell, Reuters reported that China is less optimistic about progress. So again, mixed messages here.

Stocks came off their highs following that report but they hung onto most of their gains. The Dow closed 182 points higher. The S&P and the Nasdaq also up.

Then, there's this, an important recession model is still flashing red. The New York Federal Reserve says there's a 35 percent chance of a recession in the U.S. in the next 12 months. Now, that's down a little bit from August but still above this 30 percent level that typically signals trouble.

Warning signs have been flashing about the strength of the economy. The trade war has hammered the manufacturing sector. That pain has begun to spill into the service sector.

The Fed chief, Jerome Powell, said Wednesday, although the economy, quote, "faces some risks" it is still in a good place.

BRIGGS: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders walking back previous comments that his campaign would slow down following his heart attack.

More from Ryan Nobles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, we're getting mixed messages from the Sanders campaign here in Burlington as he recovers from that heart attack that he suffered a little more than a week ago.

Sanders originally telling us after visiting his cardiologist that he was going to have to scale back his campaign events. That he wasn't going to be able to keep up the robust schedule that he had prior to suffering that heart attack.

But then, in an interview on NBC that was taped yesterday, Sanders said that he misspoke when he said that he was going to change the nature of his campaign and that he was going to be back at it in no time at all, just as busy as he was before. That there would be somewhat of a slow ramp-up to that point but eventually, he would be back up and running no differently than he was before.

Now, this is showing us that this has had an impact on the Sanders campaign and perhaps, the perception that he has with voters. A 78- year-old man now suffering a heart attack -- what does that mean about his fitness for the presidency?

And Sanders is also pushing back on this idea that he and his campaign were not transparent enough in revealing when he suffered that heart attack. They waited until he was released from the hospital to let the public know of his condition.

In that same interview with NBC, this is how Sanders responded to that criticism.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We wanted to have a sense of what the hell was going on, really. So the first thing that we're trying to do is understand what's going on and not run to "The New York Times" and have to report every 15 minutes. You know, it's not a baseball game. So I think we acted absolutely appropriately.

NOBLES: And the Sanders campaign has really pushed back on the idea that they've been anything but transparent in this process. And to -- and there's no doubt that Sanders and his wife, Jane, have been very open with us during our stay here in Burlington about his progress, about how he feels, and about what the next steps for the campaign are.

Now, at this point, Sanders not expected to be back out on the campaign in any real form or fashion until the CNN-New York Times debate on October 15th -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: All right, thanks, Ryan.

CNN is partnering with the Human Rights Campaign for a town hall event, "Equality in America." The 2020 candidates will discuss issues facing the LGBTQ community in back-to-back town halls tonight, starting at 7:30 Eastern on CNN. And next week, CNN and "The New York Times" will present the fourth Democratic presidential debate, live from Ohio. That's October 15th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

ROMANS: All right.

If you're having trouble facing cooler, wetter weather, we have this prescription for you -- hot cider, your coziest sweater, and this awesome video from CNN affiliate WMTW in Portland, Maine. They shot this drone footage over The Forks in the mountains of western Maine with the leaves decked out in full fall colors.

We could watch this all -- let's watch this all morning.

BRIGGS: Ah, apple picking, cider --

ROMANS: That's --

BRIGGS: -- pumpkin spice lattes.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us.

BRIGGS: You're welcome.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Here's "NEW DAY."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House is gearing up for an impeachment fight.

TRUMP: We wrote a letter yesterday and it probably ends up being a big Supreme Court case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their request has no basis in law.

GARAMENDI: I do think that it's time for us to put a vote on the floor.

TRUMP: The Kurds are fighting for their land. They didn't help us in the Second World War or Normandy, as an example.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These people are now fleeing to try to get to safety but they don't know exactly where safety might be.

GRAHAM: If he follows through with this, it would be the biggest mistake of his presidency.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, October 10th -